Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Inspirations June 28, 2009

My husband and I are speaking today in our main church meeting (Sacrament Meeting). I have to admit to feeling a bit daunted with the subject he gave me: The Prophet Joseph Smith and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon and the Purpose of the Book of Mormon. Yeah, tell me about it.

Fortunately for me there were several fairly fantastic articles written by the leaders of our Church I was able to work from. One of those talks was given many years ago by a late president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), a great man by the name of Ezra Taft Benson. Instead of giving you my own inspirations this morning, I decided to share with you one of the men who inspired me this last week.

The Keystone of Our Religion

Please read it for some insight into this marvelous gift we've been given - the Book of Mormon - and how it can bless our lives!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Books Recommendation: Summer Bridge Series

Yeah, sure, no kid wants to do homework while being off for the summer, but neither does any parent want their child to completely forget everything before heading into a higher - and harder - grade.

Last year my hubbs and I found a series of books that are PERFECT for helping your kids have fun keeping up, and maybe even getting a little ahead. They're called the Summer Bridge Activities, and they're fantastic!

Beginning as early as Pre-K (and going up through 8th), these books help kids learn/keep up on basic skills they began in their previous grade, and helps them to transition into a few things they'll need heading into the new grade. They're split up into 3 sections: Days 1-15 is section 1, then 1-20 for section 2, and one last section with 15 days. Each of these sections will take your children through math, reading, writing, language arts, and science.

The Summer Bridge Activities site (the link provided above) has some fun online activities for the kids to play and read, but trust me when I tell you the books are far more worth having, for the simple reason that YOU get to work with your child. YOU will be able to see where your child's strengths and weaknesses are. YOU will be able to give praise as well as help where necessary.
I highly recommend these series of books. You should have no problem in finding them in local bookstores, on, or from the original site itself. Trust me when I tell you, they're worth the money you put into them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Inspirations June 21, 2009

First and foremost I'd like to offer a hearty and utterly sincere

This goes out to every dad, granddad, brother, uncle, teacher and leader of youth and children. Whether you have your own kids or not, the role of father is automatically placed upon any man who assumes the role of loving guide and guardian over our beloved young ones.

I'm going to cheat a little on today's post. I hope you'll forgive me.

My first offering today is a beautiful testament to what having a loving and dedicated father can mean to a family, especially a family who has special needs. Please check it out!

A Father Indeed

The second piece I'd like to share with you is the same thing I posted on this day last year. I'd been given the opportunity to speak in our main church meeting (in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it's common for members of the congregation to give a talk) on Father's Day. I hope you don't mind if I share it with you again.

One of my earliest memories of my father is of a night when I was desperately sick. I don’t even recall how old I was. I simply remember the night my door was opened, the bright light of the kitchen across the hall blinding me. I was frightened for a moment, unsure of who the tall shadows were who boldlywalked into my room, each one looming at either side of my bed. It wasn’t until the soft whisper of my father’s voice was heard that I became calm. I felt his considerable hands press gently upon my fevered brow as he and a trusted friend gave me a blessing.

Those hands have been a symbol of love, of gentleness, and of power from that day. I recall those hands gently lifting me up out of my bed on Sunday mornings, cradling me to his chest as he would rock me awake. Just like many other fathers, he worked an awful lot, and our time together was rare and precious. I loved to go on odd jobs with him, to watch those hands fixing a swamp cooler or a heater. Those hands showed me what it meant to serve my fellow men.

My father-in-law is another special man who knows what it means to use his hands in righteous works. Like my own father, most days you can find him in the home of a friend, family, or ward member who is in need of help. I can’t begin to tell you what it’s meant to watch as those hands, perhaps not so steady as the years have gone by, help to give healing to my sick children. Those hands also stand as a testament to what a good and righteous father can do for those he loves.

I recall the moment my husband took our daughter, so scrawny and gray and weird looking as she first came into this world, and with wonder in his eyes held her for the first time. It was a miraculous moment for him, and for me as well. I remember the day our first son was born. With agony he laid his hands on his son’s head, followed by my father’s and my older brother’s, and together in a crowded hospital room, amid the sniffling and crying of doctors and nurses, they gave this precious boy a name and a blessing. My husband held our child only once in this life.

Since that time two more rambunctious boys and a vivacious little girl have come to grace our home. I love to watch as each child embraces their father as he comes home from work, or takes his hand with their own, anxious to keep hold of him. I count myself as one of the most fortunate of women to have this remarkable man as the father of our children. Like both of our fathers, he is rarely able to be home as his life is spent in working to help those in need, either through his jobs or through his church callings. I know my children are watching as those hands bless not only their lives, but others as well.

I believe it is in these precious moments we can witness a small portion of what it might be like to be a child of God. It is not the material gifts we present to our children, the movies we take them to, or how many times we all go to get a Slurpee. It is in the moments when the bond between children and their fathers are brought into sharp focus.

There is a time in the life of Jesus Christ where my appreciation and love for our Heavenly Father intensifies each time I think about it.

This beloved Son had never once sinned. Never. He could not understand what it meant to sin. Neither could he comprehend until the moment He walked into the Garden of Gethsemane what one little sin can do to a person. All at once the realization of what He was being asked to do begins to settle upon His mind, and He cried out, “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

Perhaps the Father’s perfect Son is now frightened by what He is being asked. We do not know. It is only in empathizing with our elder brother, in trying to imagine just a little of what agony the weight of sin had already placed upon Him in those short moments, that we can even begin to appreciate His next words: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Up in a world of spirits stood a Father who must have been in agony himself. Have any of you thought even for a moment what watching this scene must have been like for Him? As He watched His perfect Son writhe in anguish, did He wish to call out, to bend to His Son’s wishes, to stop the pain? Was His hand stretched out, trembling, wishing He could do just that?

The Father would not stop what was happening, but He could give His Son some form of comfort. He sent an angel, perhaps one of Christ’s greatest friends, down to give Him what little support could be offered. Still, it wasn’t enough.

The time came when Christ would be asked to endure more than even He thought possible. Not only was the angel’s presence withdrawn, but the Father pulled His own Spirit and influence away as well. I cannot begin to imagine the shock this must have been to a Son who had never, in His entire life, gone without the influence of His Father. These two individuals had never known a moment like this before. How do you imagine the Father felt at that moment, knowing the intense agony He was causing His Son?

Yet what a joy it must have been for both when the Holy Spirit and influence of the Father was restored. Never does one appreciate the blessings in one’s life until those blessings have been taken away.

Surely this should have been enough. Hadn’t Christ just endured all that would be required? Could not the Father now take His Son up to Him, satisfied that all had been accomplished?

We all know it was not enough. Still the Father watched on as His Son was brutally beaten, mocked by those who simply could not comprehend, nailed to a cross, and hung. Surely the Father desired to send legions of angels to stop the cruelty, to at last allow His perfect Son to be at peace. Instead, the Father knew the mission was not complete. Once again He needed to take His influence away from His Son. Is it any wonder, after all that He had endured, Jesus the Christ yelled out in agony, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46.)

How the Father’s heart must have torn at those words. They were not a condemnation, but a desperate cry from a Son to His Father.

There is a moment I often ponder upon, as perhaps only a parent can. Christ has given up the ghost, and returned to the spirit world, where He is embraced by friends and family who have gone before. His body is no longer in pain. What do you think our Heavenly Father was thinking at that point? Was He grateful for the little time it took for the resurrection and ascension to calm His trembling hands, to wipe His tears, before finally being able to take His Son up into His arms and hold on tight? Was His voice choked as He patted His Son on the back and whispered, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “[The Father] endured what He saw because it was the only way that a saving, vicarious payment could be made for the sins of all His other children, from Adam and Eve to the end of the world. I am eternally grateful for a perfect Father and His perfect Son, neither of whom shrank from the bitter cup nor forsook the rest of us who are imperfect, who fall short and stumble, who too often miss the mark.”

As we celebrate this Father’s Day, take some time to recognize what it is our Father sacrificed that day, but don’t stop there. If you have never realized it before, it is time to recognize it now. He allowed all of this to happen because He loves each and every one of us so very much. We are not perfect. We all have sinned. We will never be asked to go through what Christ went through. Yet the Father love us so much that He sacrificed His only perfect child so that we can all come back to live with Him someday.

What a remarkable Father.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Inspirations June 14, 2009

Hey all. I hope you'll forgive me for putting this up so late, but our power was out most of the day as the lines are transferred in preparation for the trax trains heading our way. In any case, my post today has little to do with my own thoughts, but rather I'd like to share with you an article a friend of mine linked us to on Facebook.

I have to say it's really kindly written, which is something we honestly don't find too much of in today's world when it comes to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), in particular when combined with the issue of gay/lesbian marriage. I was pleased that the author of this article not only took the time to try and help others understand our viewpoint, but gave a bit of (correct) theological background as well.

Before you go on to read the article, I want to share with you my own beliefs. No I am not a believer in homosexual relationships, but I have much empathy for those who do. I can see where your thoughts and ideals and even hurts are coming from, even if I do not choose to agree. I can only ask that even as I empathize with you, take some time to understand from where I, and others of the Mormon faith, are coming from. Try to comprehend why we are so stalwart in our beliefs regarding marriage. I am certainly not asking you to agree with me, just to do a bit of research. Perhaps, if more of us tried to do this one simple thing - to understand - there would be far less hurt in this world.

The Storm Over the Mormons - Time Magazine

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Brand New Niece

After many, MANY years of waiting, my older brother and his wife at last welcomed their baby girl this last week. Say hello to Brianne!

Do you see the chubby legs and arms??? That's what 10 pounds, 15 and 3/4 ounces produces!!!

This is Joe, the proud papa. You have no idea how incredibly happy I am for him.

And heeeeeere's mama! Melanie, a.k.a. Mel, was such a trooper through this entire pregnancy. I can't imagine carrying SO MUCH BABY, especially near the last, lol.

I totally stole every single one of these pictures, and naturally assume they'll forgive me because, after all, I'm so awesome. That and it may be months before I get to hold her since they live in Kentucky. This was one of my favorite's, though. Brianne won't take pacifiers, but apparently daddy's finger tastes yuuuummy :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Inspirations June 7, 2009

At least once a year my husband and I pull out the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are times it can take us up to a month to watch the entire thing, as being busy parents/people doesn’t exactly allow for a solid 12 hours of free time.

We just finished watching it again, and I found myself contemplating heroes. Certainly this movie is full of them, men and women alike. Not to mention dwarves, elves, wizards and hobbits.

As we’ve watched these movies over the years, I find myself drawn most to a gentle hobbit (a hobbit is a “little person” – even littler than dwarves). He is not the sort of individual who draws attention. Instead he enjoys remaining in the background, content in tending his gardens, and taking much pleasure in the joys and successes of others.

Until, that is, he is thrown into a most extraordinary journey. His dearest friend, Frodo, has been asked to take on a most impossible job – return a Ring of Power back to where it was made in the hopes of releasing the entire world of Middle Earth from the threat of utter and complete corruption. It is in Frodo we find ourselves at first drawn, for he is the one asked to bear this heavy burden. And truly he is a hero. His heart is pure, his courage ever-growing, and his compassion a blessing.

But in the end it isn’t enough. He still succumbs to the power and influence of the Ring. It is only through the actions of a tortured and lost soul that Frodo at last finds himself freed of the unyielding grip of the Ring.

Though at first my thoughts and heart are tied up in Frodo’s awesome journey, it wasn’t too long before young mister Samwise Gamgee stole my fervent allegiance.

Sam was given a specific job to do when he and Frodo set off to accomplish their task: don’t leave him, their wizard friend cautioned in regards to Frodo. And he didn’t. Well, maybe once. But it didn’t take him long to recognize his mistake and do his best to rectify his wrongs. This didn’t come without consequences however, which he realizes when he believes his friend to be dead. Sam immediately takes the responsibility upon himself, and, while cradling his fallen friend in his arms, utters the most heart wrenching words, “Don’t go where I can’t follow.”

Throughout the movie we see Sam’s extraordinary strength of character and loyalty. He would walk into the depths of hell itself if it meant protecting his friends. Yet he is so humble he rarely even believes the good words said about him, though he delights in them.

For me the most remarkable presentation of the strong spirit held within the tiny body of Samwise comes near the end of the entire story. He and Frodo are exhausted. They are past starving. Their bodies have endured more than any hobbit – or man – could possibly comprehend. Their journey has cost them their friends, their homes, and will most likely demand their lives as well.

The two little men have collapsed at the base of Mount Doom, where the Ring was first forged. Their journey is almost complete. They are so close, yet their bodies can hardly carry them another step. The weight of the Ring has become unendurable for Frodo, bringing him down in both body and spirit. Yet it is his load to carry. It is his job to achieve. Sam cannot do it for him.

Once more he takes his friend into his arms, cradling him, thinking back on the happy life they once shared. As he looks down into the hopeless face of Frodo, I believe Sam sees what might happen to everyone he loves if they do not finish what they set out to do. This is something he desperately wants to keep from happening. Yet he also sees his beloved friend cannot possibly go another step.

It is in this moment we watch the true mettle of this man.

“I cannot carry it for you,” he says, strength and resolve entering his eyes and face. “But I can carry you!”

At once we see Sam, only a moment before exhausted and broken, pick up his friend to carry him up the mountain. Step by agonizing step he continues on until at last they reach their impossible goal.

During the last year of my husband being a bishop in our church, we have watched many people suffer. They are asked to take on trials, temptations, and tests that will help them to more become the children their Heavenly Father knows they can be. They have a job to complete, a journey to take, and at times the path feels impossible.

Fortunately we are often given those to whom the Lord has said, “Don’t you leave them.” These individuals aren’t always seen. Their acts of support, protection, and kindness often go unnoticed. They love a kind word, but rarely believe it to be truth. They are content to remain in the background, doing what they can to help others carry their loads.

What magnificent people they are. Who knows what pain, what suffering, an what grief they carry when caring for loved ones. Never feeling as though they can do enough. Aching to take the load upon themselves so others do not have to suffer. Watching helplessly at times when the pain of others cannot be assuaged.

It is to the Samwise Gamgees of the world I dedicate this post today. Why? Because I dearly hope to become just like you. Your goodness, your selflessness, your service truly blesses those who are need of a loyal and trusted friend. You lift others up to heights they could never attain on their own. And when their own loads are too heavy to carry, you take them in your arms so they might finish the journey.

We have been told by our Lord and Savior it is the meek who will inherit the earth. When I think of the inner strength they carry, I can certainly see why.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Paying it Forward

Massive amounts of construction are going on around our house/neighborhood these days. It's not a stretch to say tempers are short and random acts of kindness rare. Few things in this world can get up my dander faster than an incourteous driver.

The other day I'd had to stop in at a local grocery store to pick something up quick. The easiest way out was still surrounded by orange and white striped cones and a long line of drivers. I figured it would take at least fifteen minutes or so before a big enough gap would appear to let me speed into the everlasting line.

Barely a minute had passed when a space opened up. I was prepared to be utterly ignored when the driver in the car to my left graciously let me in. My heart did a little happy flip. I waved and smiled my thanks, and couldn't stop smiling. The next driveway down there was another car patiently awaiting a turn to get in, so I waved him in. To my surprise and delight it didn't stop there. He let yet another driver in several yards down the line, and even that car allowed the passage of another person in need.

Who knows if the little things we do in this life on behalf of others really goes noticed. Most of the time it doesn't matter. But in moments like these, when we can see the good bits of humanity not only go noticed, but are passed along as well, I find myself renewed...and a lot more willing to be the one to start paying it forward.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"My Brief Life as a Woman

My friend LaDawn sent this article over to me, and I thought it was beyond brilliantlly written. The man involved had to have his testosterone hormones suppressed due to prostate cancer, and because of this he begins to experience many of the same symptoms as a woman who is experiencing menopause.

Trust me when I say as a woman, I both laughed and allowed the inner voice in my head to say, "Oh yeah!" I also believe that any man who reads this will definitely laugh as well as take a moment to think about and respect any woman who's having a "hormonal" moment.

My Brief Life as a Woman