Monday, January 22, 2018

Learning About President Nelson FHE

I've just got to say, I love FHE.  

I didn't even realize that I did until recently.  

I realized it because I noticed how much my children anticipate spending this crucial time together.  Our children haven't had to go to school for any of the Mondays in January this year (awesome, right?). That's four Mondays off in a row!  So a couple of times they've asked, so what are we doing for FHE and I'll say, well, we'll be together all day Monday, isn't that enough?  "NO!" is their reply.

Hearing their disappointed responses to the idea that we might not have a formal FHE, I thought, "Wow, THIS is the glue for our family. The absolute glue."  This is not to say that they always act like angels while we're doing it, but I'm so glad we didn't miss the chance to fortify our relationships through this inspired program. 

We've plowed through having home evening EVERY WEEK, not just when it's convenient, not just when the kids feel like it, not just when I have a fun plan in mind or when we don't have anything else going on, but every week, basically without fail.  We did it every week as an act of obedience at first and a proof of our faith and trust in our leaders, and a hope that the promises attached to holding family home evening will come through, and I believe that they have been coming through for us.  We've had to say no to some things in order to preserve Monday night for our family, but it has been worth it.

Deciding together how we will spend Sunday and how we will spend Monday night makes us feel like we have control over certain aspects of our lives.  We aren't running on anyone else's schedules.  Whatever else happens during the week those are still our times, sacred times.

So, enough rambling, tonight I knew I wanted to learn more about President Nelson, because we had discussed what the topic for FHE would be last night at family council.  However, I hadn't really prepared a lesson.  Thank goodness we have so many online resources!  What a blessing!  

I quickly found this article called "11 Things You Didn't Know About President Nelson."

Since we were starting later, we started FHE as dinner was wrapping up. I asked everyone to write down as many things as they thought they knew about President Nelson in two minutes.

I was surprised by how much they did know:

They were able to recall a few of the lessons we've learned from his General Conference talks, etc. But I also had a good laugh when my daughter asked, "Isn't he a heart virgin?"

Close...(He's a heart surgeon, of course!)

After we shared what we thought we knew about President Nelson, we read the article I mentioned above.

Before I read each point, I gave them the chance to guess what I'd say next.

As we read, we were delighted to learn these and more fun facts about our new prophet...(pictured as a child below.)

Honor, who earlier today, hid her sandwich that she didn't want to eat in the garbage, was tickled pink to learn that President Nelson used to hide food he didn't like in his pockets so he could avoid eating it! (The food he hates to eat is liver!)

Scarlett, my daughter who is always singing, will now always remember that President Nelson has perfect pitch!

Guy guessed correctly that President Nelson was a convert to the church, baptized at the age of 16.

And we all took note of how obedient President Nelson is when we learned that when President Kimball suggested during a meeting that all should take up learning Chinese, President Nelson went out and learned Mandarin, which I am sure is no small feat.

I bore my testimony to our children that I know that President Nelson is a prophet of God and the one chosen to lead His church at this time.  I promised them that I would follow this good man and I hoped that they would as well.

Then I promised if they cleared the dishes and got ready for bed they could enjoy a handful of sweet tart candy hearts.

Our family home evening lessons are usually just this simple, but I'm glad to know that every Monday night we spend together brings us together in more ways that I can count.

I hope you are also having a good cummulative experience with Monday nights.  It will pay off, I promise!

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Covenant Path

We experienced a spiritual milestone on the covenant path yesterday as we participated with our son Guy by doing baptisms in the temple for the first time.

As with all temple service, it took sacrifice to be able to be in the temple together.  The whole family drove down to Columbus together--a three-hour drive--nothing compared to the eight-hour drive we made as kids to the DC temple, but a sacrifice still.

And it was totally worth it.  Thanks to my Mom for sitting with the other children so Steve, Guy, and I could have this brief moment together in temple service...the first of many, I hope.  Guy was baptized for a family member, a relation of my great uncle, but in addition to that, the temple worker there asked Guy if he would be baptized for three of her close family members--her father, grandfather, and an uncle.

It was a sweet and special moment to do this work for her and to watch Guy embark on his own temple journey.

I have had many special moments in the Columbus Temple.  It's where I took out my own endowments, where I went to learn and grow in my early 20's as a young single adult, and where with my family I witnessed President Hinckley's dedication of the first temple in The Ohio again after the Kirtland temple.

So I'm really an Ohio girl at heart, and it is amazing that no matter how long you're away from a place, you can always see a familiar face at the temple...and yesterday, in addition to my family, I saw two familiar faces--sisters and friends I knew in two different singles wards.

Guy enjoyed his time there and is anxious to time with lots more family names!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

To Know, Know, Know Him...

We're getting lots of snow over here in Western Pennsylvania, so part of my efforts to cultivate a feeling of #hygge today was to watch the snowfall, while holding my baby, and listening to the announcement that President Nelson has been ordained and set apart as the new prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I remember when President Hinckley passed, I was so sad and wondered how different things would be without this vibrant leader.  I remember watching President Monson talking at a similar media event announcing that he had taken the mantel and thinking, ok, but he's no President Hinckley.

You see, I didn't KNOW President Monson, like I had come to know President Hinckley, so my acceptance of him at first was more obligatory than out of truly knowing and loving him as God's chosen least not right away.

Not long after he became prophet, however, I was asked to teach a Relief Society lesson about the first talk President Monson gave in General Conference after becoming the prophet called "Looking Back and Moving Forward."

Preparing for this lesson gave me a chance to learn about President Monson and to really consider him for the first time. I realized that his talk was something of an inaugural address in which he laid out a roadmap for what the things he felt impressed to touch on often in his ministry as president and prophet of the church.  

As I studied his talk in preparation to teach it to my fellow ward sisters, I offered a sincere prayer asking Heavenly Father to help me to know that President Monson was his chosen leader of the church at this time.  Of course, we know how leaders are chosen by the Lord way in advance, but I wanted that witness for myself.  And I got it.

As I carefully considered his teachings in a purposeful way, the spirit came over me in a strong but brief moment and in that moment I suddenly knew that President Monson was God's chosen servant, that I could trust him, and that I wouldn't go wrong by following his counsel.  He was the one.

I am so glad that I took that time to ask God to tell me who this man really was, because over his years as prophet I have gained so much wisdom and strength by studying and living by his teachings in my life.  

And our family has gained so much in studying the words of all of the Apostles and general authorities, so much so that this time around I already know President Nelson and what he teaches.  I already have a love for him, because I have already been blessed by following his counsel.  I know he is the one God wants to lead the church right now.  However, I will review what he has already said and I will encourage my children to pray for their own witness of this man and to pray FOR him as he takes on this huge responsibility for which he has been preparin his entire life.

For now, I'm going to share here some of my favorite lessons we've done as a family based on the General Conference teachings of President Nelson in recent years.  I plan on reviewing them with my children at our next Family Home Evening. (Read them by clicking on the links below...)

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Monday, January 15, 2018

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

I had a proud Mama moment last week when a friend of mine told me that my 5-year old daughter has been sharing gospel truths with her during their rides in the car to preschool each day.  

Our children attend a Christian preschool together, and it's fun to hear them retell the Bible stories they learn, so I figured my friend was going to tell me a cute story along these lines.  But instead, she told me that Honor often points to a cemetery that they pass and says, "Do you know that after we die, we will get to live in bodies again?"

My friend had a lot of questions for me about this.  She asked, "What does that mean?  Will we have a dog body or something?"

I assured her that because Christ was resurrected and lives in a body, (we know this because he ate and drank to demonstrate this) we will live in our own immortal bodies after this life too.  We will also get the opportunity to live forever with our families.

My friend thought this teaching about resurrection sounded familiar and affirmed that she believed she would live with her family forever some day.  I said that in my experience many people do believe this, but most churches don't actually teach this, however, ours does.

I am grateful for the faith of little children.  And I am grateful to Honor for reminding me how easy it can be to share gospel truths with others when we simply and unabashedly share what we know in our daily conversations.
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

On my honor, I will TRY...and keep trying...

This has been my view for the last nearly 11 weeks, so can you blame me for not wanting to put him aside to hold a boring old computer?

What a blessing it has been to hold him, to experience his first smiles, just to feel his sweet spirit, and get to know this little creature.  What an honor and a blessing it is to be his Mother.

It's been a lot of work trying to keep our little world spinning.  It takes all of my time, all of my concentration and planning and continual work to move our family toward what resembles the best routine for our now family of eight.  There are a lot of needs, but I find peace in slowing down to carefully consider and meet them all as best I can in the quiet moments.  I am finding peace in being patient in responding to each child...and not forcing them to go at my pace or to respond immediately in the way I want them to, but waiting for them to willingly comply or not.  This feels right.  When I am able to do it, it feels like what God wants me to do.

After the tumultuous year we had in 2017, I was eager to turn the page and looking forward to setting and working toward some goals I personally wanted to achieve for myself in 2018.  2018 was going to be MY year, so I thought, until 2018 actually arrived bringing with it one of the hardest challenges for me yet.

What was it someone said in conference in recent years...if it were fair it wouldn't be a trial?

That's how I would characterize the trial I've been staring in the face during the first two weeks of 2018.  Unfair, hard-hitting blind-side, personal.  Also, basically, out of my control to fix, undo, or erase.

I realized that a funny thing happens as soon as you decide you want to grow in a particular area.  The Lord is more than happy to send you situations that will help you grow...but you might not like it.

And I really haven't liked all.  I would have much prefered to have an easy start to 2018, but easy wouldn't have taught me what I now understand much better than I did before.

As I was going through it, I just kept rolling around in my head how unfair it was, and I kept going back and forth between being sad and being mad.

Luckily, I was realizing that being sad wasn't helping me, being mad was definitely going to hurt me, and being proud was going to keep me from moving past what had happened.

So, my first thought today was the need for me to accept what had happened without feeling the need to retaliate or right the wrong that had been done to me.  I needed to be humble.  I remembered that Jesus Christ was wrongly accused in his life, he suffered for things he did not do, but he humbly accepted it.  I began to see that my small suffering could be a blessing to me, if it allowed me to understand the Savior more.

My second thought was that I needed to forgive, because holding on to my bad feelings was only going to prolong my own suffering, so I've been praying for that as well.

But it wasn't until tonight when my husband and I were studying President Uchtdorf's talk "Three Sisters" that I heard all of the words that would help me really reach the peace I wanted to achieve.

This first quote helped me to put myself in context and realize that I had an all-powerful Being on my side ready to help me through:

"If you find yourself worrying about what other people say about you, may I suggest this antidote: remember who you are. Remember that you are of the royal house of the kingdom of God, daughters of Heavenly Parents, who reign throughout the universe.
You have the spiritual DNA of God. You have unique gifts that originated in your spiritual creation and that were developed during the vast span of your premortal life. You are the child of our merciful and everlasting Father in Heaven, the Lord of Hosts, the One who created the universe, spread the spinning stars across the vast expanse of space, and placed the planets in their appointed orbits.
You are in His hands.
Very good hands.
Loving hands.
Caring hands.
And nothing anyone ever says about you can change that. Their words are meaningless compared to what God has said about you.
You are His precious child.
He loves you.
Even when you stumble, even when you turn away from Him, God loves you. If you are feeling lost, abandoned, or forgotten—fear not. The Good Shepherd will find you. He will lift you upon His shoulders. And He will carry you home."
This second quote helped me to learn that demonizing my opposition was making it harder for me to forgive and move on.
"When someone opposes or disagrees with us, it’s tempting to assume that there must be something wrong with them. And from there it’s a small step to attach the worst of motives to their words and actions.
Of course, we must always stand for what is right, and there are times when we must raise our voices for that cause. However, when we do so with anger or hate in our hearts—when we lash out at others to hurt, shame, or silence them—chances are we are not doing so in righteousness.
What did the Savior teach?
“I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”4
This is the Savior’s way. It is the first step in breaking down the barriers that create so much anger, hatred, division, and violence in the world.
Yes,” you might say, “I would be willing to love my enemies—if only they were willing to do the same.”
But that doesn’t really matter, does it? We are responsible for our own discipleship, and it has little—if anything—to do with the way others treat us. We obviously hope that they will be understanding and charitable in return, but our love for them is independent of their feelings toward us.
Perhaps our effort to love our enemies will soften their hearts and influence them for good. Perhaps it will not. But that does not change our commitment to follow Jesus Christ.
So, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we will love our enemies.
We will overcome anger or hate.
We will fill our hearts with love for all of God’s children.
We will reach out to bless others and minister to them—even those who might “despitefully use [us] and persecute [us].”
It's funny how quickly peace was restored to my soul tonight upon simply re-reading and listening to these words of truth.
I received the answers I was searching and praying for simply by looking to the words of our dear church leaders.  And I now know how to proceed.  Two weeks in and I can already tell, this year is going to be a doozey!
P.S. Thanks to the reader-friend who emailed me out of the blue words of encouragement and support last week.  Whenever you guys do that for me, I know that you are following a spiritual prompting and your words come to me just when I need it most and do so much good. So thank you!!!
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Covenants We Make

Whew!  It's been quite a week.  I hope you all enjoyed your Turkey Day.  Our week was all about making and keeping sacred covenants.  From renewing our temple recommends to blessing our new baby to seeing our first-born ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, it has been nothing short of a spiritually action-packed week.

I'll start with today and work backwards, I guess.  This was Coy and my first Sunday back at church after his arrival into our family.  Luckily, my Dad was able to join us for Guy's ordination.

He also stayed a while and played with us after church.  It's neat to see my family which 18 months ago looked like a family of mostly girls, suddenly blossom into a family of equal parts women & equal parts future priesthood brethren! :)  It's truly amazing what God can do with our lives in a very short amount of time.

Anyway, I'm happy for Guy.  He advanced from Primary to the Young Men's program and also received his Faith in God award which we've worked on together pretty consistently over the years.

Age 11/12 has been a bit of a trying time for us.  Has anyone else found this to be the case?  I'm so glad Guy now has the structure and principles of the Priesthood to help guide him through this next part of his adolescence, because I was truly running out of ideas.  More and more, I see the need to step back and let the principles that we have taught him rest upon his soul and let him take these next steps as independently as he seems to want.  Some steps in life must be taken alone (although I'm of course always here for when he will eventually need me again! :)  

As for our other children, we're all settling in ok with having a new baby around.  My 19-month old Val loves the baby.  My girls do too.

Scarlett, my ten-year old is so very helpful...beyond helpful, she is my second in command...always willing to jump up and see to every need.  What a blessing she is to me.

The other great event of the week is that we blessed Coy the day after Thanksgiving.  I have to say that although it didn't happen exactly the way I would have had it, what mattered most was that my husband had the power and authority to bless him with the priesthood.  And above all else, these are the things that matter.

 When my mother-in-law came to visit last week, she kept pointing out that I have "two families" now, my older children (ages 12, 10, 9) and my younger children (ages 5, 19 months, and newborn).  While I tend to not want to see it that way, in a way her point is valid.  One group is advancing to spiritual and personal independence, while the other is almost completely dependent on me for everything.  One group has been instructed well and taught over years of family home evenings, scripture study, made covenants, etc and must now put what they've been taught into practice, while with the other group, we are basically starting over from scratch!

The great promise in all of this is that we have all of these varied personalities, experiences, and testimonies now in our family to help each other along the path from oldest to youngest.  It will be very interesting to see how the next chapter of our parenting and family journey unfolds!  Wish us luck...we'll need it!!! :)

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