Monday, April 24, 2017

Making the Sacrament Count

I enjoyed teaching Relief Society in my new ward yesterday. I am the new TFOT teacher, and the lesson was about Elder Peter F. Meurs' October 2016 General Conference talk "The Sacrament Can Help Us Become Holy".

To start off the lesson, I had written "Easter Every Sunday" on the board. (Which is a concept I learned from my Seminary teacher who shared some of her ideas about that right here.)

To begin the lesson, we talked about what special preparations we each made for Easter Sunday (last week).  Answers such as: we made special food, wore our best/new clothes, talked about the spiritual significance of the weekend, and made sure we were at church on time, were given. I asked if Easter were every Sunday would the world go out of its way to do these things or would it become old hat?  

I then suggested that we do celebrate Easter every Sunday when we take the Sacrament. Has the Sacrament become routine and old hat?  There are, compared to Easter celebrations, relatively small/inward spiritual preparations that we should be making each week, but are we doing those things?  Or have we become relaxed and complacent about the Sacrament because it happens every week and not once a year?

I asked the class to think about what they love about partaking of the sacrament. We listed their answers on the board, which included: feeling new, opportunity to repent, to think about Jesus, and review the past and set goals for the coming week, singing the sacrament hymn, the feeling of coming to Christ and being a part of His fold.

I then asked the class to think of their best time taking the Sacrament, a time when the Sacrament was most spiritually impactful for them personally.  What factors made it so?

I then asked them to think of a time when it wasn't so spiritual or potent for them.  What factors caused this to be the case?

The class easily lead into the first of Elder Meurs five points which was personal preparation for the Sacrament.

We spent time talking about his points as follows.  In order to make partaking of the Sacrament a more powerful experience, Elder Meurs suggests trying the following:

1.  Advance Preparation (pray & repent)

2.  Arrive Early (listen to the prelude music/do not text)

3. Sing and Learn from the Sacrament Hymn

4. Participate in the Prayers

5. Ponder the Emblems

As I was preparing the lesson, I felt prompted to do two things, which we did during the lesson.  I focused on helping them appreciate that Sacrament hymns, which when sung and pondered can teach us powerful doctrine about Christ and put us in the right state of mind to partake of the Sacrament. 

I printed off copies of the Sacrament hymns and asked each sister to take a few minutes to review the hymn and then share doctrine they learned from the song as well as any testimony they might want to share.

The second thing I felt prompted to do was to create a "Sacrament Journal" using the five questions Elder Meurs asks us to consider for the sisters to use for the next month to track their Sacrament experience.  I will share that journal below, if you'd like to use it.

Elder Meurs asks us to consider these questions:

1. What will I do this week to better prepare for the sacrament?
2.  Could I contribute more to the reverence and revelation that can accompany the beginning of Sacrament meeting?
3. What doctrine was taught in the Sacrament hymn?
4. What did I hear and feel as I listened to the Sacrament prayers?
5. What did I think about as the Sacrament was passed?

I presented the women with the option of accepting 1 of 2 challenges in the coming week, which I also wrote on the back of their journals.  They could either keep their Sacrament journals for the next four weeks and either report back or journal about it--or-- they could memorize the firsts verse of one of the Sacrament hymns and then take the Sacrament the next week and journal about their experience.

Sorry this is just a quick synopsis of the lesson, but I wanted to quickly share it with you guys. I will be printing off journals for my kids to use and we will be using this for our family home evening lesson tonight!

Journal Instructions:

1. Print the journal double-sided.
2. The first page is the outer cover.
3. The second page is the inner pages for recording your thoughts.
4. Fold them in half the tall way and nestle one inside the other. Very simple.

I encouraged the women to read the sacrament prayers as they are being said and to fill in the journal each week (not necessarily during sacrament, but after).

This journal activity can be used for an extra YW Faith experience, if desired.

Download below:
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To Remember & to Be Remembered

I was sitting in church this week, and I suddenly remembered all of my old church friends, and missed them something awful!  I've wanted to write a post about each and every one of them and all of the things I love about them and everything they've ever done to make my life a better one...but that would be a very long post and a very extensive list.  So, instead, I just had myself a little cry right there in the pew and probably freaked out the good people of my new ward!

Anyway, yesterday, much to our surprise, a package arrived for the kids from their lovely former ward Primary President.  It was filled with notes and drawings from all of their old Primary pals.  There was also a group photo which they had all signed.  One of the primary kids was "hiding" in the shot, and the children had to find her like in a "Where's Waldo" poste  It was so sweet!

This is the same sister who used to be my kids' nursery leader, who always sent letters or personally stopped by our house if we ever missed church.  She was such an example of love, service, and compassion!

We ARE doing better every day.  But it's still heart-warming to be remembered this way.  The other night, during family prayer, Scarlett actually said, "We're grateful we moved to Cranberry," which shocked both Steve and me, but we'll take it!

I just thought this was such a sign of true love and friendship and great leadership, and I thought I'd pass this on for Primary leaders out there.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

This is the House that Faith Built

Things are really coming along with the house.  I enjoy driving by (at least) daily and noting the progress.  I was excited to see the siding go up last week, and now the stone and soon brick.

But there was something that I wanted to be sure to do before the drywall was installed. I wanted a piece of us to be a part of the contruction of the house, so one night last week, we snuck in and wrote our names on the wall studs and slipped family photos and a copy of the Family Proclamation into the insulation!


It was just a silly thing, but it was our silly thing, and it was fun to do as a family.  This move has made it really hard to do our regular adventures in gospel learning at home, but I'm looking forward to resuming that in our new house...and building a house built on faith in Jesus Christ!  With his help and hard work...we will!

In what ways have you tried to make faith and the gospel and cornerstone of your home?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Fast or Not to Fast, That is the Question

My kids are growing up, if you haven't noticed.  I've been writing this blog for nearly nine years now, which means when I started writing, Guy was 2, Scarlett was 1, and Autumn was in the womb!  My how we've changed.  We've gone from learning to walk and talk, to braces and first ventures into noticing members of the opposite sex!  My, my, my.

We've also become our very own little people, with opinions of our own for sure, and wills of our own, definitely.  And we've had to learn to back up and give them each space to explore the God-given agency that we each do have.

One of the areas lately has been fasting...whether or not to do it. 

Now, I'm sure that I wasn't very pro-fasting as a kid either.  It's not even something I'm super great at as an adult, as I've been pregnant a lot over the years, although I do have a testimony of it and have had my own powerful experiences with it.  It's something we all come to, learn to do, develop an understanding of on our own, and in our own time.

For any non-LDS readers of my blog, when I talk about fasting, it is the practice of going without food or drink for typically 24 hours or two meals usually on the first Sunday of every month  (*although you can do it as needed for your own special reasons).  We try to fast for a purpose, starting with a prayer, usually seeking answers to questions, spiritual strength or comfort, etc.  Then we donate the cost of the meals that we've skipped to the church to help those in need.  This is called a "fast offering."  Typically, children don't fast, pregnant people don't fast or people with medical conditions might do a modified fast, but children over the age of 8, who have been baptized, start to consider fasting as they are able.

So, fasting helps us exercise dominance of our spirit over the urges of our body, which helps us overcome temptation of many varieties.  And usually it is easier to feel spiritual promptings when we are fasting, because of the sacrifice we've made.  I often fast when I am preparing to give a talk in church, as it helps me clear my mind to receive revelation.

Anyway, on the flip-side, it feels funny to try to convince my kids to fast, "Yeah, try fasting!  You'll love it!!"  I mean, who loves NOT eating food???  Probably not many of us!

It's something that they really can't take my word for...until they make a decision to faithfully put forth an effort, and perhaps even long after that, they won't really get it.  So, we just keep encouraging them to try, even for a small amount of time.  *This Sunday, 10 minutes was all Scarlett could go, before she forgot she was fasting and popped one of the baby's cheerios in her mouth, then promptly spit it out!!

So, anyway, I thought it was cute how Scarlett summed up her decision to fast last week. 

You all know our love of whiteboards around here, well, Scarlett created sort of a flow-chart of her decision to fast.  (pictured above)  Perhaps it'll help you as you decided whether or not to fast!

How have you helped your children learn to fast?  I'm interested to hear and learn from your experiences!
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Prayed that She Would Feel the Spirit

This past Saturday, we had an opportunity to attend a fireside with Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the General Young Women's President and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon , 2nd Counselor in the General Primary Presidency, as well as Elder Kuntz who is our area authority.

All of the youth age 8 and up were invited to hear them speak, but because our family had been out on a big adventure for the better part of the day, half of my kids were less than excited about going to a fireside, no matter who was there!

My most excited child was my four-year old, and technically, she wasn't even invited.  So I ended up driving in to Pittsburgh with just Scarlett (my 9 year old) and Honor (my 4 year old) to hear these church leaders speak.

Scarlett was in such a bad mood about it.  She kept writing me these angry notes saying, "I want to go home.  I'm leaving. I don't like it here." etc, etc.

I said a silent prayer, "Please, help her to feel the Holy Ghost at some point this evening."

I know how she felt, frankly I was tired and a little bored too, not so excited to sit and listen for almost 2 hours, but I listened hard to the things they were presenting and tried to actively participate while simultaneously trying to keep my 4-year old daughter from licking her hand and pulling up her dress! 

Still scowling, I wasn't sure if Scarlett was picking up anything from the talks.

One of the things that I latched on to was when Sister Cordon asked us to sing "I am a Child of God" and then discuss principles taught in the song.  She said that someone in another meeting suggested that the line "He has sent me here," meant to them that God has sent each of us HERE (for a reason)...not just to random places on this earth, but to specific places, and that he has a plan for us and a work for us to do.  I am eager to learn what our purpose is HERE in Pittsburgh!  It's still a mystery to me!

After the meeting, we almost rushed out, but I decided to see if the girls were interested in meeting the speakers, which we usually do if we can when an authority visits.

Scarlett suddenly seemed excited about this, so we walked up to the front and met both Bonnies and Elder Kunz (who we've met before).

I put out my hand to shake, but both women prefered to hug, which I thought was really different and sweet.  They were so warm and friendly.  They embraced my girls right away.  They talked to the girls mostly, not to me, and made them both feel so special.

From that moment on, Scarlett was different.  She was seemingly glad she came, she was excited about recanting some of the stories that she heard, and of course, they were more than happy to go out for milkshakes late on a Saturday night before returning home.

I'm not sure that Scarlett will remember much of what was taught from the pulpit during the fireside, but I suspect that she will always remember how these women made her feel.  I too was impressed with how warm they were.  Later, we took a picture with Sister Oscarson sitting on the couch outside of the chapel.  I can't believe how casually I spoke with her.  I kind of wish I had been more prepared and thought of some great question to ask her or compliment to pay her, but what an example she was to me of being approachable and showing love to all, even little children.
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shaking Up Scripture Study

Since the move, and probably, if I'm being honest, some time before the move, our family scripture study has really gotten pretty lame.  Although we're on our third time through the Book of Mormon as a family, I feel like we've been stuck on the same chapters in Alma for weeks, maybe months?

What happened?  Was it that our routine got blown out of the water?  Was it the stress of moving into an apartment?  Is it that my husband leaves so early and returns so late? Is it because my children are growing up and moving into a new stage of development?

Yes to it all.

And it's gone on long enough.

We talked about it during family council on Sunday, and I suggested that instead of trying to plow through the scriptures chronologically that we instead have a "question of the week."

We'll introduce the question at the beginning of the week at family council, and every member of the family is expected to search the scriptures on their own to find answers to the question to share in family scripture study each day.

This will hopefully help us turn the corner in our study, while encouraging all members of the family to dive into personal study and also take personal responsibility for how our family scripture study goes.

In my previous post, I mentioned how the kids were locked out of the house.  I told them that we want them to be spiritually prepared to survive in the future, that we didn't want them to be figuratively "locked out" in a spiritual emergency not knowing where to turn for answers.  So we were going to practice getting answers now.

We spent the rest of our time in family council practicing looking up scriptures by topic, and the kids helped me write a list of ways we can find answers to our questions.

I'm excited to see how this change affects our spirituality and participation during family scripture study.  And I hope that my three oldest take our challenge to search the scriptures more diligently on their own!  I will let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear ideas of how you've approached family scripture study or ways you've tried to encourage your children to read on their own!
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Sunday, March 5, 2017

So Many Twists and Turns

After my previous post, I was really thinking we were on the upswing of this whole moving process and that things would just continue to get better, and maybe even easier.  So, imagine my surprise when I realized Friday morning that my children had been locked out of our apartment for nearly two hours in 20 degree weather, because I didn't realize it was a 2-hour emergency delay at school!!!  

Nothing was normal that morning. We were completely out of our routine, and by the time I was ready to leave for our 8:30am appointment to walk-through our newly framed house, my husband had already allowed the children to run down to the bus stop.  Somehow, I did not receive the text or voicemail that I normally get from the school district notifying me of a delay, so while we were touring our, albeit cold, soon-to-be new house, my kids were cold and alone trying to seek shelter in a carboard box house that they had worked together to build and insulate with packing paper on our patio!!!

When I realized the mishap, I was horrified...horrified!!  If there was a school delay, then where were my kids???  I rushed home, calling the school on my way. I ran down to our apartment, and, upon seeing their cardboard hut adorned with backpacks and schoolbooks, I smiled for just a moment at their ingenuity.  

But they were no where to be seen, so I started calling their names.  They came out of the storage area where they had gone to get warmer, and they were crying with relief that I had finally come home. I was so sad for them and all of us collectively, and it just brought all the sad/moving feelings up to the surface all over again!

I really felt awful and beat myself up about my failure of my poor babies, but as I've stepped back from it, I've realized that I think the Lord had a purpose in allowing this situation to transpire.  He could have stopped it from happening.  He could have warned me, as he has done so many times in the past, but he didn't, and in the process, the children learned many important things.  

They learned to survive on their own, to work together in a scary situation that they had not considered previously.  They shared their mittens with each other. Scarlett shared her lunch with the other siblings. Guy watched over and kept everyone calm and gathered materials to build the shelters as Autumn read books.  They prayed together twice for help and peace. As a result they learned compassion for others, as they now want to give their money to help homeless people! Scarlett shared in her testimony today that she knows that when we pray God won't just leave us alone, He will comfort us: another hard-earned piece of wisdom. 

I am so grateful that they were all safe and no one got frost-bite.  And I'm sure this was a wake-up call for me also to fill in some holes in our emergency plans which we obviously never updated upon moving (such as giving all of the children keys to our new residence, etc.)

Another thing that helped settle my mind about this situation was an experience that happened the day prior.  

I had spoken with a new friend of mine who was pretty devastated that a house they hoped to buy was probably going to fall through because they discovered too many repairs that the seller didn't want to fix.  I felt compassion for her.  Her growing family is getting too large for their current rental, she is about to give birth, they already told their rental property they were moving, and now the house they wanted isn't going to work out.

As I went home that afternoon, this woman's name kept coming to mind.  Even as I baked (for my own enjoyment) her name kept coming up.  So I texted her, finally, and offered to take her daughter so she could get some things done (or nap~!)  She declined.  

I found myself accidentally putting too much sugar in my recipe so I had to double it.  I suddenly had more than enough Easter bread to share, so as soon as it came out of the oven, my daughters and I raced across town to deliver some bread to her family. The promptings were even so specific that I was to give her more bread than I was planning.

It wasn't a big deal, but we instantly felt a good feeling when we left her house!  

In church, she bore testimony today that she knew the Lord loved her and knew her, because he prompted three women in the ward to reach out to her, even with just a text asking to take her daughter, and that she was so grateful that these women followed those promptings.  I knew what she said was true because I had experienced it.  

The Lord does know her name.  I know this because he whispered it to me over and over again until I got the message.  He wanted me (and others) to go show His love for this woman.  

Because I know He knows her name, I know that he knows mine.  And because I witnessed him making things happen for one of His daughters, I know that he could have easily notified me of my mistake missing the two-hour delay...but he didn't.  And it's ok that he didn't.  It's just one of those things that happens.  Sometimes the Lord saves us from mishaps, sometimes he allows us to experience the hard things, because He knows the end from the beginning.  There are reasons we experience hard things.  It doesn't mean He loves us any less because he allows us to go through hard, even heartbreaking things.  

Quite the opposite.  It means that He loves us more.

PS - Here's a little look at the inside of our new house.  Two of my sisters were so kind to call and make sure that I was ok after my incident with the kids. My younger sister knew I was upset, but she still took the opportunity to laugh at the irony that while my kids were taking shelter in a little carboard box, we were touring our new home.  Well, it was freezing there too because there is no power yet, but still!  Funny!  So, here's a look at our sun room. I'm excited about the view and look forward to moving in mid-May.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

It's a Work in Progress

It's been nine weeks since we moved.  In some ways it feels like only yesterday we were back home in Lewisburg, in other ways it feels like an eternity.  My children have definitely grown a lot emotionally, they've had to.  And our house is starting to take shape.  

Phew! And that is a very good thing.  Just being able to see a house going up is a huge relief.  There's nothing like jamming seven people in an apartment to put a magnifying glass on your many weaknesses as a family!  Like our house, we're a work in progress.  This is more apparent than ever.

One cool fact about our house is that it was started on my Mom's birthday, and it should be finished (and signed for) on my Dad's birthday.  Kinda cool.

Although January was a special sort of train wreck full of emotions and homesickness, I am strangely proud to say that February was the best February on record if I look back on my nearly 12 years in Pennsylvania. While much of the west had snow and cold temperatures, we had day after day of warm, Spring-like, even sunny, days.  This made some people grumpy (they wanted at least one good snow), it made others anxious (as they waited for the other shoe to drop.)  Me?  It just made me happy and better able to handle my life right now.  My sister is having our family try to run or walk 2017 miles collectively this year, so I walked outside every chance I got.  And it was good for my mental well-being.

So, I don't know what your February was like, but I know that in nothing doth man offend God than in not recognizing his hand in all things, so I'm going to list some of the things that made me happy during the month of February, things that I know God had a hand in:

1.  The trip back to Lewisburg for the Ice Festival kicked things off nicely with hugs from friends and a time-out from the stress of every day reality.

2.  The awesome weather!  Last Friday, my car dashboard said it was 84 degrees.  I don't know if that was accurate, but I'm not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth either.

3.  I've been able to meet some really nice people here who were also nice enough to actually be my friend.  This has been huge.

4.  As a family, we went to our "first dance" together at our children's elementary/middle school on Valentine's Day, and it was hilariously off-the-hook.  

5.  Because we snagged a good girl to babysit for us from the wealth of babysitters in the ward, my husband and I have gone on more dates together this month than we probably have in the last year.  I'm not proud of that fact, but there you have it.

6.  I started crossing off the days on our family calendar and my personal planner.  It's not something that I normally do.  It's what my daughters do on their calendars, however, in my current state of mood, it gives me great satisfaction to watch the days pass (or to put them in the past!)

7.  I got two callings.  I was excited to receive one, and honestly hoped that the Bishop just misspoke when he said, we have "some callings" to extend to you.  But I accepted both and will do my best.  When I finally was set apart, I liked what was said in my blessing and found it to be helpful.  One calling is TFOT teacher in Relief Society.  The other is being a member of the "meetings committee" to help plan monthly RS activities.  It's interesting to be in a ward that does so much.

8.  I took all of my kids to the doctor for check-ups, all my kids to the dentist, and Scarlett got braces, which look cute on her.  I even took myself to the doctor for a check-up.  That was a lot of work, but I like all of the physicians and dentists we've signed on with, so that is a plus.

9.  My husband and I gave talks in Sacrament meeting on "Standing as a Witness." I invited my new friend to come listen to my talk, and she actually came. Both accepting the invitation and actually coming are things to celebrate.  And she didn't go running from the building after listening to my talk on sharing the gospel, so that's a good thing!  Haha.

10.  I had a really good day last week, where, for a moment, I realized that my apartment felt almost home-like.  Honor had had a friend over to play earlier in the day.  Val was napping.  Honor and I were able to sit restfully on the couch together and were starting to make cookies.  A warm breeze was blowing through the open patio door.  And I felt calm and comfortable, and it felt peaceful and good.  And I realized it felt like I'd feel if I were at home and I hadn't felt that way in a long, long time.  And it felt good, even if for a moment.

So these are all of the good things.  We all still cry when we're reminded of home. Or if we don't cry, we just get quiet and let the moment pass. It feels like one of those really sad break-ups, where just the mention of our dear home's name or the names of our friends tends to bring that lump right back in our throats, so I tend to train my thoughts on the present, but all of that aside, I can say we're embracing our new life, and just trying hard to "fall in love" again with a new place, while still holding a candle for the old.  I even signed my kids up for soccer for the very first time, which will surely make my friends who know me laugh as I was never one to buy in to that whole scene!  Anyway, we can easily see the blessings.  We can see the blue skies and many other important blessings not mentioned here.  We know that we are being watched over.  And we are doing everything we know how to settle in to this new life.  So, how was your February?

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Unfreezing Our Frozen Hearts

It's been six weeks since we moved here to Cranberry Township, PA...just outside of Pittsburgh.  Six weeks of being crammed in an apartment.  Six weeks of sickness.  Six weeks of trying to find a new routine and learning the ropes at school.  The children have been missing their friends a lot, so I decided it was time to head home for a quick visit...only I didn't tell them!  It was a total surprise.

Our old hometown Lewisburg, PA has a fun Ice Festival every February, and the kids and I have been going for years.  I wasn't about to miss it.  Turns out it was a great opportunity not only to hug our friends and blow off steam, but also to step back and realize how far we've come in six weeks and how much we've each grown.  My favorite moment was watching Scarlett jump into the arms of her friend who was also totally surprised to see her come for a visit.  (I'll share that video on my Facebook page!)

It was so refreshing.  There is something about being in a familiar place that is very rejuvenating.  It's hard being somewhere where everything, even driving to the grocery store takes a lot of brainwork. It's exhausting.

But being home and knowing that their friends are STILL there for them was good for the children.  And for me.

Lately, Scarlett has been writing uplifting messages and leaving them for us to see.  Yesterday, during church, she stood before the congregation and said, "I know that when I'm going through hard things I can pray to Heavenly Father and he will help me through."  That's something we can all gain a knowledge of as we face our individual challenges, and if it took moving ot learn that then it will have been totally worth it!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Many Mansions

Today is a happy day.  This morning, we met with our new home builder to have the "groundbreaking" meeting, which officially starts the build of our new home.  What a relief it is to know that we won't be living in an apartment indefinitely.

But today is also tinged with sadness for me, as we just received news that our former home, which we loved so much, has also sold.  Of course, this is good news financially, and a blessing to have it sell so quickly (and over Christmas!), but it's just making me a little teary this afternoon.

Have I ever told you the story about our old house?  It's a good one, and one that is full of proof that God knows who we are and knows the end from the beginning.

When we first moved to Lewisburg Pennsylvania, about 10 years ago, we bought our first home.  And it was wonderful.  But originally, I didn't want to look at it because it didn't have any trees or any landscaping on the property.  Over the five and a half years that we lived there, my husband and I worked tirelessly to landscape and put in trees.  We like to do things ourselves, so we bought the largest trees we could find and stayed up way past dark digging holes and putting them in the ground.  I spent many hours with my three little children running around, through, and to and from greehouses in our area, bringing home all sorts of plants to try and make our yard more private, lush, beautiful, and fun.

Soon, we were pretty happy and proud of (at least the back yard). Although, not every plant took, because of the poor soil, it was becoming quite lovely.

I remember destinctly one day, I went to a playgroup at a local Mom's house. I parked in her cul-de-sac, which was tucked away in a wooded neighborhood that I didn't even know existed.  I remember stepping out of the car and noticing the house next to hers.  It was only partially exposed, because the vegetation around it was so thick, lush, and green.  It was the strangest feeling, as if someone had taken my face with their hands and turned it toward this mysteriously hidden gem-of-a-house.  I stopped completely in my tracks, and thought, "Someday, we'll live in a house like that."  Then, of course, I immediately stopped myself.  "No, you won't.  Why are you even thinking like that??"  We weren't in the market for a home.  This house wasn't for sale. And there were no other properties that I knew of like this one in our town.

I forgot about that moment completely and a few years passed before I ever thought of it again.

Then about four years ago, right after the birth of my 4th child, I found that my husband had been looking for houses online sort of on the down-low. One day, soon after giving birth, he said to me, "I've found the perfect house for us, do you want to see it?"

I looked at him with disbelief.  Why would he be looking at houses? We loved our neighborhood, dearly loved our friends on our street, we'd made memories here, I had just had a baby and was in no condition to pack up and move, and it was almost Christmas for crying out loud.

But I looked...just to humor him.

He turned his laptop toward me, and in about .5 seconds I saw what I had seen that day in the cul-de-sac outside of my friend's house.  

I said, "I know exactly what house that is. I've seen it...It's amazing."

And so the story goes.  I cried when I left my first home, but I was able to move on to the next place that God had waiting for me, because I had had that spiritual impression years earlier.

When we moved in to what my Dad calls "the sacred grove house" it was nearly spring.  What I was able to see when the trees and bushes bloomed was that trees which I had painstakingly planted at our old house were already in my yard (only there were nine of them, instead of one), the soil was rich and every type of beautiful, flowering, evergreen plant you would want was growing there.

There were like 5-10 different things about that house that were absolutely fulfilling things that were on my wishlist...things that only God could have known would make me personally happy.  And the thing was that those "things" were put there 20-30 years before we ever lived there.

I came to respect the fact that God really does know the end from the beginning, and admire the fact that He loves us so much that He orchestrates so many small details in this world to create a place for us to grow to love Him in...whether He is giving us our dreams or asking us to wait for them...or even only letting us experience them for time...He has it all in His scope.

I also came to understand that we are all just stewards of this life and the things in it.  We landscaped our home for another family to enjoy.  Other people came before me and created something beautiful that our family was able to enjoy.

Now we have passed that beautiful property and all of its blessings on to another family to appreciate (and I hope that they do!)  Either way, our turn is up and we've traded the beauty of the woods for what is, for the moment, a three bedroom apartment and a pile of rocks...that will soon be the foundation of another new home in which we will learn and grow together.

It isn't easy to leave the old and familiar behind for the unknown, but having a past to look to gives me more capacity to hope for an eternal future.  I never thought the Lord could create something so particilar to me, something that I would love so much. It was a masterpiece that took years of foresight to make...and yet, because He proved to me He was capable, I leave open the door to trust that He can do it again....and I can open my imagination--just a little bit--to believe that just like he prepared our last house for us, He prepares Mansions in eternity for us to inhabit some day.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

So Many Ways to See

Yesterday, as I watched my husband hold out our baby so that a blind woman sitting near us in church could feel his baby tie and then his chubby hand and finally his soft face and silky, fine hair, I was reminded that magic really does exist. 

With each gentle touch she smiled brighter and exclaimed, "You're just so beautiful." 

This whole interaction began when the woman in front of her turned around to help her take the sacrament (which was also so sweet, kinds, and magical) and mentioned to her, "You can't see this but there is a baby next to you wearing a sweet little tie..." 

So much was magical in this moment but the happiness she found in experiencing something she could not see with her eyes is what I'll always remember.

Have a great week, guys!  And take time to slow down and "see" the blessings that are right in front of you!

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Work and work and wait and see...

Well, we made it to Pittsburgh.  We moved two days before Christmas.  I picked the kids up right after their last day of school.  They bawled.  It was the saddest sound I've ever heard.  It was the sound of their first broken heart.  

Other details about our move.  My baby threw up in the packed car, but, thankfully, didn't make too much of a mess.  We headed back to say good-bye to our house and clean up the baby.  While there, my 4-year-old started throwing up all over the kitchen.  She threw up all the way to Pittsburgh. I stopped 5 times in four hours to empty the barf bowl and clean it out with snow from the side of the road.  But even that wasn't that bad.

There have been many tender mercies, but still it's been really hard. We're living in an apartment until our house is built.  But we've all been sick over Christmas and New Year's, especially my baby who threw up for a week straight, had a cold, and now is battling a fever. And the kids, who are all sharing a room, never want to go to bed nicely.  Not at all.

I know that the Lord is watching out for us though, as he sent many friends to help me move (My husband was already in Pittsburgh. He came a month earlier.).  He has sent other people to befriend us.  In fact, the first night here, I met a woman in Target at like 10:30pm.  I asked her to be my friend because, well, we kept getting in each other's way, and I was feeling like I just needed a friend, and she agreed. (It turned out her son is my son's age and in his "teaching team" at school.)

One night soon after, I found myself making a late-night Walmart run.  I suddenly realized I didn't know a soul (and at Walmart back home, I usually know many of the people working and shopping!)  I felt really lonely, so I said something about it on facebook.  Wouldn't you know, the friend I met in Target invited me out for pie at like midnight.  She dropped everything for me, a stranger, and came out in the cold at midnight to cheer me up.  Super cool, good woman.

I had to stay home from church today to tend my sick baby.  As he slept, something caught my eye.  There were three deer running past our apartment window...something that happened frequently at my old house.  It might not mean much to someone else, but to me it meant something.  

I know the Lord is watching over me.  I know He sees me struggle and feel sad and miss old friends and old ways and the comfort of a home and my things around me.  But I know He knows what's best for me and for my family, and so I keep going.  One day at a time until I learn the lessons He wants me to learn and arrive at the places He wants to lead me through.

It's a little scary.  It's a lot lonely.  It's very draining.  But I trust in Him.

And for now, we work and work and wait and see...what the Lord has waiting for me.
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