Sunday, December 27, 2009
Yesterday morning I awoke with a talk coming to mind. You have no idea how relieved I was this happened, as my husband was to speak in church today and I'd yet to figure out how to put all the info he wanted into just one talk. I put in my earplugs to drown out most noisy distractions, came out into the living room, sat down at the amazingly empty computer desk, and less than an hour later I could not believe what the Lord had directed me to put together. Most of the talk is taken from the words of our Church leaders, but I am grateful to my Lord for helping me figure out how to best put everything together.
To my surprise this morning I felt a great need to open my scriptures. After flipping through a few pages I came upon Revelation 3:19-21.
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne."
We are taught through the footnotes that to 'chasten' is akin to being instructed and admonished. Thus, when the Lord chastens us, he is trying to teach us the right way. But we must be the ones to open the door to the Lord and let him in. Let this settle in the back of your mind as you read the talk my husband gave today.
It's been difficult trying to figure out what to speak to your about this day. As we end one year and prepare to begin another, I tried to think about what message Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior would have me give you. For many of us here it's been a challenging year. We've been given trials and temptations as never before. For others of us the strength of our faith has been tested to the breaking point. This has truly been a year of being put through a refiners fire.
Yet this was not what I felt inspired to speak to you about today. Two messages came repeatedly to my mind - messages that the Lord feels our ward needs to hear, to learn, and to put into practice. I feel the best way to teach is through the words of our Church leaders so most of my talk will be taken from them. Please listen carefully to the messages I was asked to share with you today, for we may be in strong need of them for the new year.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: "I wish today to speak of forgiveness. I think it may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern."
President Hinckley tells of the Pharisees who brought a woman before Christ who had been taken in adultery, hoping they might entrap Him. "But Jesus stopped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
In our day the Lord has said in revelation: "Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you is it required to forgive all men" (D&C 64:9-10).
The Lord has offered a marvelous promise. Said He, "He who has repented of his sings, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more" (D&C 58:42).
"There are so many in our day who are unwilling to forgive and forget. Children cry and wives weep because fathers and husbands continue to bring up little shortcomings that are really of no importance. And there also are many women who would make a mountain out of every little offending molehill of word or deed."
President Hinckley once clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen.
"How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after, learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal - and that you ought to feel lucky you didn't die or suffer permanent brain damage?
"And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? ...
"The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. 'Death doesn't even satisfy them,' he said.
"Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered the prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.
"Had he been convicted of first-degree assault - the charge most fitting for the crime - he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.
"But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.
"According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. 'I'm so sorry for what I did to you.'
"Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, 'It's OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.' According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears" ("Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future," Deseret Morning News, Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).
"What a great story that is, greater because it actually happened, and that it happened in tough old New York. Who can feel anything but admiration for this woman who forgave the young man who might have taken her life?"
President James E. Faust tells us: "Forgiveness is not always instantaneous. When innocent children have been molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to 'get even' with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family.
"Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as is applies to human relationships: "Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves."
President Faust continues to counsel us by saying: "Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.
"Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic.
"Forgiveness comes more readily when we have faith in God and trust in His word. Such faith 'enables people to withstand the worst of humanity. It also enables people to look beyond themselves. More importantly, it enables them to forgive.'
"All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand them or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord. But because it happens, it must be endured. President Howard W. Hunter said that 'God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.'
"President Brigham Young offered this profound insight that at least some of our suffering has a purpose when he said: 'Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. ...Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.'
"If we can find forgiveness in our hearts," President Faust continues, "for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become 'less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,' which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes 'that forgiveness ... is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.'"
But what happens when we are the ones needing forgiveness? None of us here are perfect. Regardless of how hard we work to stay on the straight and narrow path, each of us will slip along the way. Sometimes it'll be a slight stumble from which we can quickly recover, while other times we'll be thrown to the ground, taking out others around us, finding ourselves with spiritual scrapes, bruises, and perhaps a few broken bones both on ourselves as well as those we've hurt. We will need to ask for forgiveness of those around us, it is true. But first and foremost we need to seek help to heal ourselves.
Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Seventy gives us a most beautiful thought on how we can begin this road.
"I have though of the Lord's invitation to come unto Him and to spiritually be wrapped in His arms. He said, 'Behold, [my arms] of mercy [are] extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.'
"The scriptures speak of His arms being open, extended, stretched out, and encircling. They are described as mighty and holy, arms of mercy, arms of safety, arms of love, 'lengthened out all the day long.'
"We have each felt to some extent these spiritual arms around us. We have felt His forgiveness, His love and comfort. The Lord has said, 'I am he [who] comforteth you.'
"The Lord's desire that we come unto Him and be wrapped in His arms is often an invitation to repent. 'Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.'
"When we sin, we turn away from God. When we repent, we turn back toward God.
"The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and 're-turn' toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments. Being disciples of Christ, we rejoice in the blessing of repenting and the joy of being forgiven. They become part of us, shaping the way we think and feel."
Elder Anderson then relates: "Years ago, I was asked to meet with a man who, long before our visit, had had a period of riotous living. As a result of his bad choices, he lost his membership in the Church. He had long since returned to the Church and was faithfully keeping the commandments, but his previous actions haunted him. Meeting with him, I felt his shame and his deep remorse at having set his covenants aside. Following our interview, I placed my hands upon his head to give him a priesthood blessing. Before speaking a word, I felt an overpowering sense of the Savior's love and forgiveness for him. Following the blessing, we embraced and the man wept openly.
"I am amazed at the Savior's encircling arms of mercy and love for the repentant, no matter how selfish the forsaken sin. I testify that the Savior is able and eager to forgive our sins. Except for me the sins of those few who choose perdition after having known a fullness, there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. What a marvelous privilege for each of us to turn away from our sins and to come unto Christ. Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience. Jesus declares, 'Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?'
"For most, repentance ism ore a journey than a one-time event. It is not easy. To change is difficult. It requires running into the wind, swimming upstream. Jesus said, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.' Repentance is turning away from some things, such as dishonesty, pride, anger, and impure thoughts, and turning toward other things, such as kindness, unselfishness, patience, and spirituality. It is 're-turning' toward God.
"How do we decide where our repentance should be focused? The best approach is to humbly petition the Lord: 'Father, what wouldst Thou have me do?' The answers come. We feel the changes we need to make. The Lord tells us in our mind and in our heart.
"We then are allowed to choose: will we repent, or will we pull the shades down over our open window into heaven?
"Alma warned, 'Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point.' When we 'pull the shades down,' we stop believing that spiritual voice inviting us to change. We pray but we listen less. Our prayers lack that faith that leads to repentance.
"At this very moment, someone is saying, 'you don't understand. You can't feel what I have felt. It is too difficult to change.'
"You are correct; I don't fully understand. But there is One who does. He knows. He has felt your pain. He has declared, 'I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.' The Savior is there, reaching out to each of us, begging us: 'Come unto me.' We can repent.
"Realizing where we need to change, we sorrow for the sadness we have caused. This leads to sincere and heartfelt confession to the Lord and, when needed, to others. When possible, we restore what we have wrongly harmed or taken.
"Repentance becomes part of our daily lives. Our weekly taking of the sacrament is so important - to come meekly, humbly before the Lord, acknowledging our dependence upon Him, asking Him to forgive and to renew us, and promising to always remember Him.
"Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we were climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don't see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don't be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting.
"Sometimes we wonder why we remember our sins long after we have forsaken them. Why does the sadness for our mistakes at times continue following our repentance?
"You might remember a tender story told by President James E. Faust. 'As a small boy on the farm ... , I remember my grandmother ... cooking our delicious meals on a hot wood stove. When the wood box next to the stove became empty, Grandmother would silently pick up the box, go out to refill it from the pile of cedar wood outside, and bring the heavily laden box back into the house.'
"President Faust's voice then filled with emotion as he continued: 'I was so insensitive ... I sat there and let my beloved grandmother refill the kitchen wood box. I feel ashamed of myself and have regretted my [sin of] omission for all of my life. I hope someday to ask for her forgiveness.'
"More than 65 years had passed. If President Faust still remembered and regretted not helping his grandmother after all those years, should we be surprised with some of the things we still remember and regret?
"The scriptures do not say that we will forget our forsaken sins in mortality. Rather, they declare that the Lord will forget.
"The forsaking of sins implies never returning. Forsaking requires time. To help us, the Lord at times allows the residue of our mistakes to rest in our memory. It is a vital part of our mortal learning.
"As we honestly confess our sins, restore what we can to the offended, and forsake our sins by keeping the commandments, we are in the process of receiving forgiveness. With time, we will feel the anguish of our sorrow subside, taking 'away the guilt from our hearts' and bringing 'peace of conscience.'
"For those who are truly repentant but seem unable to feel relief: continue keeping the commandments. I promise you, relief will come in the timetable of the Lord. Healing also requires time. If you are concerned, counsel with your bishop. A bishop has the power of discernment. He will help you.
"The scriptures warn us, 'Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance.' But, in this life, it is never too late to repent.
"Once I was asked to meet an older couple returning to the Church. They had been taught the gospel by their parents. After their marriage, they left the Church. Now, 50 years later, they were returning. I remember the husband coming into the office pulling an oxygen tank. They expressed regret at not having remained faithful. I told them of our happiness because of their return, assuring them of the Lord's welcoming arms to those who repent. The elderly man responded, 'We know this. But our sadness is that our children and grandchildren do not have the blessings of the gospel. We are back, but we are back alone.'
"They were not back alone. Repentance not only changes us, but it also blesses our families and those we love. With out righteous repentance, in the timetable of the Lord, the lengthened-out arms of the Savior will not only encircle us but will also extend into the lives of our children and posterity. Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead."
Don't let the chance to repent pass you by. Even the little things, when not dealt with, can build up and up until they press like a great weight on the soul. Seek to forgive others, even if they are not seeking that forgiveness.
If you seek to be happy, re-turn to the Lord. I can promise you His arms are open, eager for you to come unto Him. And in His arms there will be peace, rest, and happiness.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Over the course of this last year a very talented young filmmaker by the name of Matt Black has been doing a project with the handicapped members of his work in making different spoofs of favorite movies. For his last project this year, he was inspired to do a take on the Nativity Story. Please trust me when I tell you this is beyond worth watching.
While you may chuckle when it first starts out, it would not be a stretch to say you could find yourself fighting back tears near the end. Another co-worker and friend of mine, LizAdams, wrote the script. I hope as we draw nearer to Christmas day, you'll watch and rewatch this beautiful video. Watch it yourself, share it with family and friends. I believe it will touch the hearts of every person who experiences it.
Oh Holy Night - the Nativity
Merry Christmas everyone!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Like today, hubby and I decided after taping up the exposed wires on the computer speakers a few times over and STILL not being able to get the right one to work, it was time to get new speakers. Walmart had some for only twelve dollars, so we "splurged," lol.
These twelve dollar speakers are AWESOME! (This should go a long way to telling you a- how often we don't get ourselves anything new and b- how excited I get over the littlest of things). First of all, they plug in an outlet so there will be NO MORE BUYING OF BATTERIES!!! How fantastic is that! And then, are you ready for the greatness of what I'm about to tell you? The earphones jack work, which means no more listening to whatever the kids are listening to while trying to watch television. That is so awesome it HAD to be in italics.
So instead of shredding zucchini, or putting away the yarn I bought so hubby can't see I spent more than I'd kinda sorta said I'd spend, or making the scarf my mother requested, I'm listening to Taylor Swift on the headphones and playing on Facebook. Oh yeah, baby.
Silly, you might say? Perhaps, but it's still good times for me. I'm a little obsessive about gadgets. Get a new digital watch? Hand it over so I can set it. Got a new television? Get me the instructions and get out of my way! Is that a new power drill? Whaddya want me to build?
Most of the time others are happy to do so, except when it comes to two certain people: my daddy and my son, B. For his birthday this month I got my dad a marshmallow shooter. He wouldn't even let me help get it out of the tangle of wires meant to put off would be thieves. Hmph. For rude, right?
Okay not really, but it took all sorts of control not to rip that thing out of his hands, lol. B is much the same way. He'd rather try to do it himself, and seems to think I'm a little abrupt when I promptly take his new toys and figure out how to do them for him! Some people's children, right?! B takes far too much after me for my own good, lol.
Can't wait for Christmas to come, though. Who knows what sort of gadgets Santa will bring my family this year (giggle).
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Ah ha, I thought. A teaching opportunity ready-made! "Guess what," says I. "In everything you have a choice. And here you can choose to let it go so no one else gets hurt, or to react and hurt back."
He thought about it for a moment before responding, "I'd rather react and get him back."
I chuckled and said, "Yes, but when you react most often you get in trouble too, and more people get hurt."
Little did I realize this would become the theme of the day. Our ward is struggling with a heavy load, all surrounding a small group of people who are reacting to a troublesome situation, rather than acting in a way we've been taught by the Savior. Gossip and rumors are running rampant through a group of people who have, up to now, been a very loving entity. And my poor, sweet, gentle husband - as the spiritual leader to both parties - is in the thick of it.
Due to a childish need to react to the situation, both parties have said and done things that have only served to make the situation even worse, neither wanting to admit fault and both thinking the other to be guilty. Not only are they looking to find other members who will believe them all innocent, but they're wanting their bishop to take sides as well. Things are so bad one of the parties involved went home today in tears.
Amid all this I was experiencing my own problem with a friend and ward member. It's true she has quite a potty mouth, but lately I seem to be surrounded by people with potty mouths. On Facebook - one of my favorite places to go and enjoy some relaxing time online - several people have gotten worse when it comes to swearing and crudeness. It may not seem like a big deal to others, but I am incredibly affected by the words others say. After hearing a group of schoolgirls go at it for several minutes, I found myself unable to pull out of the dark feeling that had come upon me for days.
So imagine how hard it was for me to be affronted by some less than sweet words on Facebook first thing in the morning, and by a family member no less. There was no way to put it nicely, but I couldn't take another nasty word, so I asked my friends and family to please watch their language.
My friend took this far too personally, believing I had not so subtly singled her out. I felt so bad and was ready to apologize when I saw a post she'd put up, using my own words to make fun of me, and inadvertently inviting certain of her friends to make fun as well. I was devastated. A various array of nasty responses came to my mind throughout the day, but I didn't have the heart to say anything to her - a good thing, as it turns out. The very next night was our ward Christmas party. We spent the evening ignoring each other, which ripped my heart out. Hers as well, though neither of us had the time nor courage to do anything about it then.
And then comes today. By the time I walked into our main meeting too many bad things had happened due to not hashing out problems and coming to the truth. People were getting hurt - people who didn't have anything to do with the original problem - and all because individuals were reacting, going with their gut instinct to hurt back, rather than face the situation head on.
So when I saw my friend, I went up to her and gave her a big hug, telling her how sorry I was because I knew I had hurt her feelings. I let her know she wasn't the only one, and that if I'd had a problem with just her I would have come to just her. We took a few moments to re conciliate, but by the time I left both of us felt so much better! All because I chose how to act in the situation, rather than react to the hurt.
My friends, there is too much hate in this world for us to hang on to the awful things others inflict on us. You'd better believe when the time comes these individuals will have to tell their Lord and Savior why they chose to do what they did. But you know what? So will we! Christ led a life of consistently turning the other cheek. He even blessed those who intended him harm (healing the ear of the soldier who was to take him away). Can we honestly stand before Him and feel justified in saying, "But this is what he/she did!"
When we react to situations, other people get hurt, and we don't leave feeling better. When we think about how to act - all the while keeping our Savior in mind - the hurt can stop with us, and we can live with a clear conscience.
I dedicate this post to my father, whose words many years ago has stuck with me and been witnessed today: it's how we act, not react, in a situation who tells who we really are.
Friday, December 11, 2009
I'm woman enough to admit...she's right. I've been an absolute Scrooge these last several weeks. I blame everything else, of course, as any Scrooge should. After all, I've been sick since the beginning of October. Things surrounding certain members of our ward have brought out the saddies in me. And by-gummit - I REFUSE to listen to Christmas songs when I haven't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet!!!
Once Thanksgiving passed, however, I was still in grumpus mood. There was no tinsel in my town. No twinkle in my lights. No jingle in my bells. Not even deck to my halls (whatever that means).
I couldn't stand the thought of stringing up one strand of mini-lights. Those who have ever passed by our house the day after Thanksgiving might know how unusual this is. I typically start plotting and planning what color will wrap around which post a good week before I'm even ready to start. One year I even had the lights up before Thanksgiving so we wouldn't have to worry about putting them up the day after. Not this year.
I've Scrooged my way through the first few weeks of Christmas-time. I wanted to pull out of it. But when we've got sick kids, sick mom, and sick hubby...nothing could get me to do more than was basically necessary. Like laundry. Loads, and loads, and even more loads of laundry.
I made my friend Erin a promise to at least put up a wreath. "Do it for the kids," she said. I don't think the kids cared, to be honest, and it took me a few days of coaxing, but the wreath was finally up on the screen door. Then it just looked sad...outside...all alone. One solitary decoration in a vast yard of empty canvas. It really needed some love.
Well, thought I, you did pick up two new strands of lights. Why not just put those up? It wouldn't seem so sad and lonely then. So up they went. In the process I happened to find two other strands of multi-colored lights. Seemed a waste not to put those two suckers up. After all, they were just sitting around, all ready to be used. Why not?
As I wound the strands around a few more posts my hubby came home. "Want me to go under the house and get the rest of the lights?" "Oh no," says I. "Don't worry about it. I just wanted to put these up." Not good enough, apparently, as he promptly went through the gigantic hassle of moving the dryer to uncover the entrance to the crawlspace where we spent a good ten minutes dragging up boxes of Christmas decorations. It would seem hubby likes to see the Christmas lights up as well. Know what? It turns out I was SO EXCITED to start putting them up!
Not only did I get more lights put up, as well as our outside nativity (which A seems to think is her personal life-sized play set), but lights and decorations have made their way into the house as well.
I still have a ways to go, but the Scrooge in me is finally starting to disappear.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Typically by the time the kids go to bed at night my brain is so tired I'm lucky to put more than a few sentences together. Tonight, however, the thoughts I've had running through my head since yesterday are still hanging around. I've got to figure this means the message that struck me so hard yesterday is something someone out there needs to hear.
I was asked to speak at a baptism yesterday. As part of my talk a scripture came to mind.
"Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:36-39).
The phrase, "love thy neighbor as thyself" stuck out at me in a way it never had before. Not the part where we need to love our neighbor, but the idea of loving ourselves. It sounds like an easy enough thing to do, right? Think about it. Maybe it's not as easy as it sounds.
Those of us who have been born to righteous and loving parents have been gifted with positive messages from the time we are little. We are told how precious we are, and praised for big accomplishments like learning to tie our shoes, singing the ABC's, or saying our first word. Yet the moment we go out into the world messages teaching us to hate everything about ourselves come flying at us without caring what effects may be incurred.
We're too tall or too short. Too fat, or too skinny. Too smart, or too dumb. Overqualified, or don't have enough experience. We dress too nice, we don't dress nice enough. We're too light, or too dark. In essence, nothing we are is good enough, and we will never fit in.
Of course we realize it's all a part of Satan's plan, but have you ever stopped to think about why? It sure hit me hard yesterday as I was reading through that scripture. People, it's a commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. In other words, the love we share for those around us can only be as great as the love we have for ourselves!
That means mistakes and all! That's right, I mean all. I am by no means anywhere near perfect, but you know what? I love the person I've become. I love my silly sense of humor and subtle flair for the dramatic. I love my overactive imagination and the way I can use it to make up odd stories for my kids. I love my intense chocolate cravings and even that I sometimes stay up too late at night because I can't get enough of the newest Facebook game.
Okay so maybe I don't love it when I let my temper get the better of me, but I've decided it's part of what makes me who I am, and love that it sure takes a lot to make me upset enough to lose it. I don't necessarily love all my fat rolls, but do love that I can appreciate it when I've found something that looks really good on me.
There are so many things to hate about ourselves, but that's the world - and by 'the world' I mean Satan - talking at us. For every bad thing we can't stand, there are a billion wonderful and extraordinary things about us we forget to love. And if we can't love ourselves, how can we love those around us? How can we help them to see the wonderful and extraordinary talents and gifts they posses?
Yet I think the biggest contradiction is in saying we love God, but we hate what He's created. We are His creations. We are His beloved children. Regardless of what certain people have been taught, He does not make mistakes. His creations are just as He knows they need to be. It's up to us to figure out what purpose our supposed imperfections hold.
This week's challenge? Every time you say or think something about yourself that is uncomplimentary, you have to - and I do mean HAVE TO - come up with five things you love about yourself. Go on...you can do it!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
A few surprises hit us with J. Okay, so his C- in handwriting wasn't a shocker. Reading his scribbles requires a rosetta stone...on a good day. It was, however, a shock to be told of the results of last year's CRT scores on math. He tested TWO LEVELS above his grade! Can you imagine how puffed up my feathers were with that news?!?!?! I knew he was smart in math, though. As I've been helping him with homework lately I've watched as he does most of the calculations in his head. Oh, and by "help him with homework" I basically mean keep his attention focused on the work and not what Dominique (or whoever) did during recess that was SO FUNNY! Concentrate young man! He's also doing great in reading and has almost hit the level they hope the kids will reach at the end of the year.
What a little braniac encompassed in a tiny ball of overwhelming energy.
Last, but certainly not least, is our big girl M. No suprise to see an A in English/writing and science. What DID surprise us was the change in her grade in math. My eldest has not had the funnest times with math...it would not be a stretch to call them mortal enemies. It's one of those situations where if you don't stay on top of things you get a little behind. And then a little more behind. And then a lot more. We didn't realize how bad things were with her and math until about two years ago, and we've been playing catch up ever since. Getting her above a failing grade seemed like an impossible goal at times...UNTIL NOW! My daughter pulled off a C- in math, and could have gotten an even better grade if she'd gotten all her assignments in on time. OH what a good feeling :) I think she's in as much shock as we are. Needless to say, she got to watch an extra episode of Ghost Whisperer as a reward.
Oh what a proud parent am I :D
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Over the last two months I simply haven't felt well. Little to no energy, constant coughing, losing my voice every other week, among other things. My delightfully darling hubby can only do so much to help me out. I mean, he can't be the one to constantly work all day long only to come home and see the dishes still aren't done and a wife with no desire to make dinner. And then there are the kids who need help with homework and eventually forced into the tub to clean themselves. Crazy kids. Add to that all the hectic goings on of his being a bishop and you can just imagine how hard this has been on him.
I didn't realize how much this was affecting me until I finally began to get better this last week. Suddenly all those things that had been bugging me I at last had the energy to fix!
Laundry piled up a billion times over is almost caught up (I say almost because, seriously people, is it ever really caught up?). The computer desk - normally a scene of complete and utter chaos, just had two small trash bags of needless garbage purged from it's system. A giant box of Primary music paraphernalia that's been making a weekly trek between my washing machine and the kitchen table so I can do a load of clothes here and there has at last been tackled!!!
And baby does it make me feel GOOD!!! Of course, there's still oodles and oodles to do, but at least there's been a beginning. Let's hope it lasts just a little longer...
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Knowing today would also be pretty busy, I sat down last night with the intention of posting something just so I could claim to have done it, when a still, small voice whispered to me, "Not yet." It's been a while since I've heard the voice tell me to wait when it comes to my posting. Perhaps this is why I listened.
This morning I received a beautiful e-mail from a very dear friend of mine. It was greatly needed during a time when I've been feeling bombarded by harsh words, bad news, and overwhelming expectations. One particular couple in our ward (local congregation) has been giving us and other members quite a bit of trouble. They have not treated us with kindness, and have been more likely to accept and spread false things pertaining to my husband rather than come and talk to him themselves. There is a part of me that can understand why, yet the part that hurt both my husband and I the most is this couple - whom we have done so much for during difficult times - believed the false statements, instead of thinking to themselves, "Well, that doesn't sound like the Walkers. Maybe we should go talk to them."
And they haven't approached either one of us...until desperation caused the wife to finally ask to see my husband as her bishop. I went along to the church, as he is required to have the presence of another person with him when he sees any woman, and sat in the foyer to crochet and think. I thought back to the words my husband spoke to me when we were in the midst of all this crud. "Honey," he said, "the only reason I can sleep at night is because I have a clear conscience. I know I've done the right thing, and I have to hold tight to it." Truer words could not have been spoken by this common judge of Israel. He had done everything the way the Holy Spirit had guided him to do.
But what about me? I have a difficult time letting go of the hurt others cause my family, especially when the attitude of the offenders is blantantly unrepentant. Yet I knew this sister was suffering in ways I could never imagine enduring myself. So I focused on what she must be feeling. When she came out of my husband's office, face red and tear-stained, I immediately took her into my arms and held her while she cried and tried to compose herself. This sister clung to me like I was a lifeline to love, even if it only lasted for a minute or so.
As I related all this to my friend, who had sensed my discouragement these last few weeks, he wrote me words that opened my eyes and my heart as to my purpose as a Mormon bishop's wife.
"The hug you gave the wife was perhaps, for you, a spontaneous act of love and compassion. But to her it was, I think, much more. At her lowest ebb, here was not just a loving and understanding bishop giving his all for the welfare of her and her husband, but right outside his office was his wife, taking her in her arms and showing her the love of not just a woman, but the love that emanates from Jesus Christ. At that precise moment Laurie, you became proxy for Jesus Christ. The woman got more than a hug. She got the blessings of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual lift which will sustain her. I do not think, little sis, that you fully understand your potential as the wife of a bishop."
Standing as a proxy for Christ, in the simple form of a hug. I had not thought of it that way even for a moment, and suddenly my entire outlook on the experience changed. One of the main purposes in my life as the wife of a bishop came into focus. To love the members, with open abandon, forgiving even when it feels impossible, as my Savior has done for me. I certainly won't fool myself into thinking this change in perspective will come easily and without challenge, but it will come.
And so I ask you to think about where you are in your life right now. Have you seen a change in your own perspective regarding a purpose you hold in a calling, or job, or a new friend or co-worker? Would you be willing to share it with us?
We are all born with a massive amount of potential, gifts and talents God has blessed us with, to be used in furthing His work and His plan. Part of that plan involves loving those around us, as we are all brothers and sisters in spirit. I do pray you know of my love for you out there, and deeply thank you all for the love you have shown me ♥
Friday, November 27, 2009
Many (many) years later I still have all those earrings in the hopes I might find myself able to wear them once again. They sit in a drawer, all sad and lonely, dreaming of being oohed and awed over. Too bad their sparkles are hidden under a layer of dust. Yeah, it's been that long.
My oldest has been flip-flopping around the idea of getting her own ears pierced for about two years now, loving the idea of having sparklies hanging from her own lobes. There's just one problem standing between her and this ultimate dream: the fear of actually shooting little rods through her ears. Silly girl, where does she come up with crazy ideas like this?
Instead of admitting her fear, M comes up with loads of other excuses. She can't find a pair she really likes; or she doesn't think she's ready to take care of earrings; the earrings might get lost; or her ears might become infected. I can understand each and every one of her reasons, but one in particular seems to pop up repeatedly. Fear.
Of course I'm not heartless and can understand that sort of fear. My concern stems around M allowing this fear to stop her from doing something she'd really like to try. Now I promise I'm not looking to force her into that chair and hold her down, blatantly ignoring the screaming of my firstborn until her ears are pierced. I simply want her to learn to face her fears, for one simple reason: I did not.
Growing up I was riddled with fears. So many fears. Add to this the annoying trait of being painfully shy, and I spent far to many years living with regrets. I regret not trying for more solos in choir due to the fear I'd be horrible and promptly rejected. I regret not trying out for Madrigals, the special singing group in our high school, as I was afraid of the time commitment as well as some of the other people who were accepted (you know, the mean popular girls). I regret not dating more due to the fear of doing or saying something stupid. Oh my, there are too many regrets to mention here.
So when I see my daughter not doing something she really wants to do because she's afraid, it plucks the strings of regret living inside me. Therefore, as a part of my birthday present, I asked all of my children to be present and watching as my ears were pierced. Hee, hee, hee.
To be honest it didn't hurt all that much. My hubby had to hold M in place and keep her hands off her eyes, silly girl, but I didn't even flinch. The next thing the kids knew I was done. Ears shot through with metal bullets disguised as sparklies. And you know what? M is thinking about getting them pierced again. Who knows, maybe she will...in another three or four years.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I began to chant "Please don't blow away" as I watched it flutter while driving down the street. This money could go so far in helping pay a few things off, or buy some clothes for the kids at the Deseret Industries, or - or - whatever!!!!
A few seconds of wild imaginings later and I began to notice something a bit off about this "gift." If an actual bill had been folded in half, and then in half again, it would not be as wide as the one happily perched on my windshield.
CRUD! That was my immediate thought. Sure enough, the "100 dollar bill" opened up just once. The only thing it would give me was the question, "Isn't this the best sales tactic?" followed by a pitch. Grrr.
I didn't think it was great at all, especially considering how bad off so many of us are financially. It felt more like a mean joke. I don't even know what it advertized as the moment realization hit I tossed the thing.
So there's my answer. If you want me to read your notice, don't taunt me with something before taking it away.
Stepping off my soapbox now.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We have several birthdays coming up during the next six weeks, two being my dad and my daddy-in-law. Knowing there were some fun things on sale over at Valley Fair Mall, I headed on over with my littlest in the hopes of finding some awesome presents. And I did, hoorah! By the time I was done my littlest was ssssoooooo hhhuuuunnnngryyyy!!!!! So we headed down towards the food court in the hopes of finding an ice cream cone or other such treat to satisfy her growly tummy.
I was stopped just south of the customer service desk by a good-looking young man offering a sample of something. I'm not a huge fan of free samples as they tend to make me obligated to stay and hear what they have to say and odds are buy something. Therefore I declined with every intention of moving on, when the man said, "May I see your hands?"
Well that request stopped me in my tracks (my first mistake). I showed him my hands and he cooed over my nails, taking one of my hands and out of thin air (or a pocket in his apron) produced a buffer. He began to run this across my nail while talking to me about being from Israel and was I married and oh, I was? Too bad. Happily married? Darn. (Uh, yeah, 'cause I'm sure the sight of a chunky redhead with bad skin and a baby in tow was just too much for him to resist.) Of course, in order to see the effect of his buffing just right I needed to follow him over to his kiosk so we could see better. Was my nail buffed to a marvelous shine? Of course! Would I like to buy one of their kits so I might do this at home? Oh no - I really don't have the money, I say as I start backing away. At this point I realize he's still got a hold of my hand.
"Wait, wait," he says in his thick Israeli accent. At this point he begins to rub his fingers lightly over my face, analyzing it. "You have a beautiful skin, but you have the acne and a little bit of rosacea." So my skin is beautifully full of problems, I thought. When he asked his partner-in-crime, uh, I mean co-worker to put something on it I tried backing away again, as my skin is super-sensitive and I don't put anything on it I don't trust.
Telling him this he says, "Give me your arm." I didn't want to but he frankly still had a hold of my hand and simply turned it over so the underside of my arm faced up. At this point his cohort began rubbing some sort of gel on my skin. As the younger guy continued the master of manipulation held the little jar of his magical face gel really quite high up in the air - something he did more than once. I don't get why.
As he's telling me the virtues of this amazing cosmetic the other guy is now rubbing the gel into my skin. Can you say creepy? 'Cause that's what I was thinking. They cleaned the gel off my arm, applied a lotion, and told me to look at the difference between my two arms. Was there a difference? Oh yeah, but at this point I knew that if the tiny bottle was supposed to last me an entire year we were talking huge money.
Sure enough, that one bottle was two hundred dollars. Oh - you read that right! When you included the lotion it upped the price to three hundred dollars. Uh, no way mister!
And thus the haggling began. I tried to tell him over and over I couldn't afford it, my husband would never agree to it, I didn't like spending that sort of money on something I could live without especially when we were talking about birthdays and Christmas to buy for!
I should have just walked away - I know this now - but it's not in my nature to rudely walk away from someone. I was trying my hardest to give them a way out of the situation. "May I give you my card?" he asked. "Sure," I said, relieved we could leave it at that. I realized something was off when he pulled out a receipt book and seemed to write in it. What sort of "card" was this supposed to be?
"Wait," he says, as though inspiration had struck his brain. "What if I..." and the haggling went on. He offered deal after deal, conversing with his partner in English when it was convenient ("But we'll lose this much money if you do that"). I was analyzing their sale tactics even as they were being practiced on me.
It got to the point my littlest was pulling on my arm, begging to be taken for a treat. The haggling was going on and on until they finally came to a deal I could say yes to and not feel bad about until I'd taken at least five steps away from the kiosk. $102 later I held in my hand a bag of things I didn't want.
If only it could have stopped there. I stewed over this the rest of the afternoon. By the time my hubby got home I was pretty frustrated with how I'd been handled. The two of us went back to the mall to try and fix the situation. ONLY THEN did we see there were no returns. Oh no, this hadn't been pointed out to me. Sure it was on their kiosk - over the cash register in rather small letters surrounded by other things. Sure he'd written it on my receipt - but he never told me about it beforehand. So we couldn't return the stuff.
Do you know what the guy said (the co-worker) when we complained? "No one forced her to buy anything." I wanted to yell at the man! "I've never felt so pressured to buy something in my life!" I said, my emotions starting to get the better of me.
My husband and I headed over to the customer service desk to lodge a complaint. Of course it was there I lost it and burst into tears. The woman called over mall security where I signed a witness report, going into all sorts of detail about what happened. As I wrote everything out I began to see even more of their intimidation and manipulation tactics, and I just got angry. By the time we were driving home I was almost hyperventilating when I thought of the way the man kept a hold of me, towered over me, and touched me without permission. MAN it took a while to deal with all those emotions that night.
Today I'm feeling better about things. Just a few minutes ago I received a message from one of the mall managers, who is working to get a refund for me. I'd like to give the products back, as I am honestly not looking to cheat the company out of anything.
The security guy told me something I want to share with anyone on the off-chance you find yourselves accosted by someone like this: if they touch you without your permission, back away and in a loud voice say, "NO!" If they come after you again you have the right to push them away and immediately go to find customer service or security.
My biggest advice (especially as I've learned they're like this in many malls), do everything you can to avoid Dead Sea Cosmetics!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Back near the end of 2007 I received a call from Church Magazines (those printed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) saying they wanted to publish one of the articles they'd purchased from me some time ago. It would be printed in the New Era, a magazine geared towards teens within our church.
I was beyond delighted, and subsequently crushed when only a month before it was to be published the beloved president of our worldwide church passed away. He had been such an inspiration to me over many years' time, and the article was forgotten in heartache and change.
After a very bad week, and feeling as though nothing could possibly lift my mood, my Heavenly Father gave me a sweet, sweet blessing: my article on modesty was published in the November New Era (link will be provided later).
I'm a big proponent of modesty, as I have seen how the way we dress can affect the personna we portray. In other words, we act the way we dress. If our clothing is full of holes, wrinkles and has an overall appearance of shabbiness, our attitudes will easily turn to laziness, uncouth behaviors, and can come off as simply not caring.
If our clothes look as though they've come off the most expensive rack, our jewelry comes off gaudy and overdone, and we put more care into what's on our outside than our inside, this will seep into our behavior as well. How many times have we been warned through scripture how the love of fine silks and gold been involved in the downfall of entire nations?
One thing we have to worry about the most, in particular with our pre-teens and youth, is the issue of modesty. This was brought foremost to my mind - and that of other youth leaders I was working with - a few years ago when we began to have a problem with certain teen girls dressing in ways that were simply not appropriate.
At that same time there was a special get-together put on for teens on how to check one's clothes for modesty, and how to help fix those clothes that were not so modest. The couple who were asked to speak were both LDS, though the husband - a fashion designer - had been converted. With his conversion came a desire to make modest and stylish clothes.
After this talk the president of our young women began taking many of them "shopping" for modesty. She would have them pick out a few outfits, would have them stand in front of the provided mirrors and played a game of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." You'll hear more about this in the article.
It opened the eyes of a lot of our young teens, not to mention the leaders as well. I was so inspired by the influence this one little act had on many of our girls, and have strived to teach my children the same principles.
If we want to have the Holy Spirit close to us, we need to follow the guidelines the Father has set up for us, and this includes dressing modestly.
So follow me over to read what playing one simple game can do help us remember to dress in a way that will please our Heavenly Father.
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Okay, so maybe they're not for sale. I have become rather attached to them over the years. So if you're in the market for kids, I'm afraid you're out of luck! However, if you're looking for little Christmas ideas, I might have something pretty for you.
The truth is I made a lot of stuff for the boutiques this year, and may have (MAY have) spent a bit of money on them. So I'm putting everything on sale, and basically giving it away at the price it cost to make them. If you see something you like (or think you might like as I was NOT in good picture taking mode today), let me know and I'll work with you.
Please note - these prices are certainly subject to bargaining, though I'm selling them for much lower than the original prices.
Let's start with necklaces. The first is the "Inspire" necklace. 20 inches long on a gold chain. I'm saying $7 for this one.
This next necklace is done with braided hemp cord - a peachy color better displayed in the second picture. I need to do some work on the pendant portion, but that's an easy fix. I forgot to measure this one, sorry. I'm only asking for $5 on this necklace.
They can be done in all sorts of fun colors, which I have tons of ribbon, but don't want to use it unless I can sell it.
I also have these super cute crocheted scrunchies. They come in small and large sizes. I even made them in BYU and UTAH colors just for fun. I'm selling them both - big and small - for $2 a piece.
Some of these I've tried to get a picture of down below, so if you see repeats, that's why.
Here's an example of one of the little bracelets I have. Got a pretty good close up pic with this one. These are 2 inches across, and made for little girls. Like toddler age and maybe a bit older. The great thing about these bracelets is the girls honestly can't break them. It's fantastic! I'm selling these for just fifty cents a piece (I only have one pictured).My surprise hit this year has been the bookmarks, or "Book Belts", as a friend so aptly named them. I've pictured them many times on my creativity blog (you can find the link on the right, and then you can click on the bookmarks tab to see more). These are so fantastic because they wrap around the book. So no matter where you take the book, or who gets their grubby paws on it (yes, I'm thinking of those wonderfully helpful children), you'll find it really hard to lose your place with these. I've been selling them for anywhere from $3.50 for the smaller ribbons to $4.50 for the biggest. I'm going to sell them all for $3.50. Trust me when I tell you I'm losing money by doing so, but I don't care. I'm willing to do it if it means I can get them out of the house, lol.
And last, but certainly not least because I LOVE them, are my scarves. Here are some of my crocheted scarves. They measure to appr 90 inches, perfect for wrapping around the neck at least once, still leaving it nice and long. Trust me when I tell you these are far more gorgeous in person than what you see in these pictures. These I'll let go for $10 a piece.
These are my knitted boa scarves. They also measure about 90 inches, but are far more appropriate for girls rather than adults. These are the last three I have on hand: dark blue, a yellow/orange/red/purple combination, and a very light brown. These I'll sell for $5 a piece.
These three are also knitted, but not so boa-like. The first two have an incredible striped effect, which looks as though I did it on purpose, but was simply the way the yarn worked. The third - which can hardly be seen - is a very light blue. Not as long as the others, and might be considered for a girl. These are going for $5.
Those are all my "completed" items. In anticipation of things that never worked out, I have a bunch of extras I'd be willing to put together or sell to you for the price I paid. I'm happy to work these pendants and things into a necklace with cord or braided hemp, or plain hemp, of which I have a few colors. Or I have some silver/gold chains I could use instead.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
On this day, take a few minutes out to remember the veteran's in your own family or circle of friends. Visit gravesites if possible. Find some way to honor their memories. If they are still alive, give them a sincere offer of gratitude.
It's the least we can do.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
In both the LDS Hymnbook and the Children's Songbook, at the end of every song there is a scripture verse - sometimes more than one - connecting the music to the Word of God. A hymn is one of the most fantastic ways to bring the Spirit of the Lord in to our meetings, a room, or just into our hearts. It easily drives away any bad or frightening feelings, as it has been called a form of prayer.
"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads" Doctrine & Covenants 25:12.
Sacred songs and the Word of God go hand in hand. They teach us to do right, they invite the Holy Spirit, they praise our Lord and Savior, and help us to bear our testimony. There is something so beautiful about hearing my children come home from church still singing songs they learned that day.
This month children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormons) all the world over have been learning about how families can serve one another. A short, sweet, and fun song our own ward (local congregation) has learned is called Quickly I'll Obey. For those of you who are able, click on the title and take some time to listen to the music. The words teach children the principle (and commandment) of obeying their parents.
"When my mother calls me, quickly I'll obey.
I want to do just what is best, each and every day.
When my father calls me, quickly I'll obey.
I want to do just what is best, each and every day.
My Heavenly Father loves me, blesses me each day,
I want to do just what is best, each and every day."
Words by Thelma J. Harrison, 1906-1991
There are two scriptures listed with this song. The first can be found in Colossians 3:20 - "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord."
The second can be found in the book of Alma 37:35 - "O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God."
As the children and I went through this song and the related scriptures, we learned it's important to obey our righteous mothers and fathers because it helps prepare us to obey Heavenly Father's commandments as well. So easily taught, so easily learned, and done in a way that will stick with the children.
It's my hope to take each of our new songs and read through the scriptures listed with them, so as to help tie the two together in such a way that the children will keep the tradition going.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Our one lone tree out near the street needed some spooking up as well. I love the green spider webs.
Miss A looks stunning as a little angel.
And here is the awesomest couple in the WHOLE WORLD!!! My hubby was so sweet to let me dress him up! We darkened his eyes and cheeks, and I found this hilarious goatee that my hubby honestly LOVED! Okay so it didn't last the whole night, but that was due to lame adhesive. You can't really see them, but he's also wearing fake tattoo sleeves on his arms.