Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 31, 2010

I had every intention of getting this posted before church, but for some reason I can't copy/paste here on blogger any more :( Silly blogger. My husband gave a wonderful talk today on being a member missionary and sharing our light with the world. I hope it's as inspirational to you as it was for us to put together. And if any of you heard it at church, I recommend you go ahead and read it again - he actually had to skip a bunch to shorten it :)

Imagine for a moment you wake up one morning to a dark world. You blink a few times just to be sure you eyes really are open. Maybe you pinch your arm to see if you're really awake. Turning your face left, then right, you can hardly believe it's possible to be left in such utter darkness. Not one tiny speck of light can be found. You can't even see your hand in front of your face.

How would you feel? What might it be like to live this way day after day, year after year? How might this constant state of living in the dark affect the way you act, think, and feel?

Now imagine what it might be like to wake up another morning, and off in the distance a single dot of light appeared. Would your heart begin to race? Would you rub your eyes a few times just to be certain it wasn't a fluke? Most of all, would you feel yourself drawn toward that light, be willing to traverse whatever it took until you could finally reach it?

In Matthew 5:16, the Lord teaches us to: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Let's turn our imaginations in the other direction. What might it be like to be the light those in darkness turn to? As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold a light far brighter than any other. We have been directed by the Savior not to hide those lights. Instead we ought to hold them high so others may be directed our way.

One of the most significant ways to help hold up these lights is to share our testimonies. Next Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to do so. It doesn't need to be here in Sacrament meeting, where I know standing up in front of everyone feels frightening for many. Many of our classes give those who wish an opportunity to share testimonies in a much smaller group. We can take time out during Family Home Evening to bear our testimonies to one another. A testimony - no matter how big or small - invited the Spirit in with such swiftness. It not only strengthens the testimonies of those around us, but works to strengthen itself as well.

Another way to hold up our lights is through love. Elder Henry B. Eyring spoke at length about the power of love, of true friendship, and it's ability to bring others to the light of Christ.

Elder Eyring states: "Love always comes first. A single act of kindness will seldom be enough. The Lord described the love we must feel, and that those we invite must recognize in us, with words like these: 'Charity suffereth long,' and it 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things' (1 Corinthians 13:4,7)."

He continues by telling us an experience he had with a neighbor. "I've seen what 'suffereth long' and 'endureth all things' mean. A family moved into a house near us. The home was new, so I was part of the crew of Latter-day Saints who spent a number of nights putting in landscaping. I remember the last night, standing next to the husband of the family as we finished. He surveyed our work and said to us standing nearby, 'This is the third yard you Mormons have put in for us, and I think this is the best.' And then he quietly but firmly told me of the great satisfaction he got from membership in his own church, a conversation we had often in the years he lived there.

"In all that time, the acts of kindness extended to him and his family never ceased, because the neighbors really came to love them. One evening I came home to see a truck in their driveway. I had been told they were moving to another state. I approached to see if I could help. I didn't recognize the man I saw loading household things into the truck. He said quietly as I drew near, 'Hello, Brother Eyring.' I hadn't recognized him because he was the son, now grown older, who had lived there, married, and moved away. And because of the love of many for him, he was now a baptized member of the Church. I don't know the end of that story because it will have no end. But I know that it began with love."

You might be wondering to yourselves, what can my one little light do? How can I bring others to the light of Christ when I never seem to be given the opportunity? You forget one of the greatest tools the Lord has given us - the ability to be a great example.

Some time ago Elder Eyring had the opportunity to both speak at and attend meetings involving the ministers and leaders of over 300 other churches. He states: "I visited alone with as many as I could. I asked them why they had been so attentive to my message, which was to recount the origins of the Church, to tell of the young Joseph Smith's First Vision and of living prophets. In every case, they gave essentially the same answer.

"They told a story of a person or a family - Church members they knew. Often I heard, 'They were the finest family I have ever known.' Often they spoke of some community effort or disaster response in which the Church members worked in a remarkable way.

"The people I met at those meetings could not yet recognize the truth in the doctrine, but they had seen its fruit in members' lives, and so they were ready to listen. They were ready to hear truths of Restoration - that families can be sealed forever and that the gospel can change our very natures. They were ready because of your examples."

Being a great example of the fruits of the gospel can and will warm even the hardest of hearts, but even this is not enough. If we are to help build up the light of Christ in others, we must take them into our hearts and give them the gift of friendship.

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: "I hope, I pray, I plead with you, every one of you, to embrace every new member of the Church. Make a friend of him or her. Hold onto them." What might it be like to come into a new church, be unfamiliar with many things involving it, and not feeling the warm hand of friendship you experienced before your baptism?

We live in a wonderful ward where hearts seem to be open to all. I have seen time and again those who have felt a little lost, a bit scared, or so alone have been embraced and loved and befriended by others. At times when I can't be there for those in need, there has been no doubt I could call someone and ask for their help. You are as much an inspiration to those around you as you are to me.

A young man in Africa shared his conversion to the Church due to a friend he hadn't seen in many years.

"Two and a half years prior to my joining the Church in 1999, my good friend, Mbuti Yona, looked me up. We had been friends through grades 5 to 12, then [were] separated when we attended different [schools].

"Mbuti was baptized in April 1999, and four weeks later he visited me at home and introduced the gospel to me. Regardless of the rumors about the Church, I was impressed by the 'fellow Saints' who gave me a warm welcome on my first visit. It was this same Sunday that my friend introduced me to the missionaries. Arrangements were made to be taught. My friend was there for every discussion, and he kept inviting me to the activities. I really enjoyed being around people with the same values, interests, standards, and goals. It was during this same time period that I began attending institute [of religion]. It all seemed very natural: Thursday nights [5:30] - missionary discussion, followed by institute.

"I learned a lot in institute and especially enjoyed our class about how to achieve a celestial marriage. The first semester ended in May, shortly after I began attending, and I felt cheated. But I was fortunate enough to catch the second semester class, Teachings of the Living Prophets. While in institute, I bought myself the four standard works and I continued to learn and grow in the Church line upon line, precept upon precept, here and little and there a little. I was baptized September 17, 1999, by another friend I had made while attending institute.

"I am thankful for the institute program. It has not only shaped me, but it has also helped me qualify to become a missionary, which mission I started preparing for five months after my baptism. I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve and to teach prior to my mission.

"I am thankful for my friend. I hope he realizes what he has done for me. We have both served missions, I to South Africa Durban, he to South Africa Cape Town. All it takes is a friend to bring such a mighty change in one's life."

All it takes is a friend. To the youth in our ward, I highly encourage you to invite those around you to come to youth activities, to attend Seminary classes, and to come to church. President Monson gave us a beautiful example of what your friendship can mean to other youth around you.

"[Sister Monson] asked me to go to the supermarket and purchase a few items. This was something I had not done before. I had a shopping list which included potatoes. I promptly found a grocery cart and placed a number of potatoes in it. I knew nothing of the plastic bags in which purchases are normally placed. As I moved the cart along, the potatoes fell out and onto the floor, exiting through two rather small openings in the back of the cart. A dutiful clerk hurried to my aid and called out, 'Let me help you!' I tried to explain to her that my cart was defective. It was only then that I was told all the carts had those two holes in the back and that they were meant for the legs of children.

"Next the clerk took my list and helped me find each item. Then she said, 'You are Bishop Monson, aren't you?'

"I answered that many years earlier I had indeed been a bishop. She continued: 'At that time I lived on Gale Street in your ward and was not a member of the Church. You made certain the girls who were members contacted me each week and took me with them to Mutual and other activities. They were fine young women whose friendship and kindness touched my heart. I want to let you know that the fellowshipping you arranged for me led to my being baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. What a blessing this has been in my life,' she said, 'and I thank you for your kindness.'"

Even your one little light can mean the difference in someone else's life, but only if you are willing to hold it up high.

Elder N. Eldon Tanner once shared a story he'd read about the incredible example of some LDS youth. "A nonmember relates that about ten years ago he was assistant manager of a discount store where they hired 16-18 year old students to work the night shift. He stated"

"'I don't remember how I hired the first Mormon girl, who was about 16 or 17, and I don't even remember her name. But I'll never forget her example. She was unusually honest, dependable and neat and clean, yet those words can't fully describe her the way I'd like. Compared to other kids, she was really noticeable.'

"Soon he hired one of her friends and found that she, too was an exemplary employee. Both were friendly and helpful in their attitude towards other employees and the customers.

"'Pretty soon I tried to any more of their Mormon friends that I could find. Individually and collectively, they were the best people I ever had work for me,' he said. 'Never was there a single occasion when any of them disappointed me or proved to be untrustworthy. They were the finest employees and fellow workers that anyone could want.'

"One night he wanted a pizza for dinner but was unable to leave the store, so one of the Mormon girls went to get it for him. When she returned he found she had been in a minor accident. He offered to pay for the damages to her car because she was on his errand, but she refused, saying it was her responsibility. He said: 'I didn't think many young people that age would have that kind of character and I've never forgotten it.'

"This man...met some LDS missionaries through his son, has had some of the discussions, and has attended some meetings. 'I have found that the things I admired those girls 10 years ago are also found among the Mormon adults I have met,' he said. 'I like their emphasis on the family and they seem to me like the happiest group of people I have ever met.'

"How wonderful," Elder Tanner proclaims, "it would be if all of us could make that kind of impression on those with whom we come in contact! Another recent article about a conversion carried this headline: 'Example Is Vital Conversion Factor.' We hear many stories of conversions through the example of some of our members, but think of the impact if we all were living so as to influence others by our example.

"We are fortunate to have the gospel of Jesus Christ and to understand what it can mean to us as we prepare ourselves here to live forever in the presence of God. The world does not understand the meaning of eternal life; we have the opportunity and responsibility, therefore, to teach all nations this glorious principle."

One place we may not recognize as needing to show our greatest examples lies within the walls of our own homes. This is where, hopefully, we first learned what it means to be a member of God's Church. It should also be a place where those who are invited in will feel the Spirit of God, where they might find themselves wishing to know more because of what they experience in our homes.

Elder Tanner's father, he tells us, "...who was also my bishop and my best friend during my Aaronic Priesthood years, taught me to honor my priesthood. He emphasized the importance of the priesthood an having the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ, the only perfect example we have to follow. If we can learn to feel his great love for us and always remember that he died to redeem us from our sins, we will always want to live the way he taught."

He continues to encourage us, saying, "Whether we are at work, at play, at school, or taking care of our spiritual needs, the power and influence of our good example can be exerted on our associates. We must never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ or of belonging to his Church. We must be fearless in our defense of truth and be able to withstand the persecutions which are sometimes brought against us. In this too we can be exemplary. Let us recall the words of the Savior:

"'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"'Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

"'Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you' (Matt. 5:10-12).

"Today we are faced with new threats, new challenges, new methods of communication, and greater opportunities than ever before to be as a beacon on a hill. Again let us remember the Savior's admonition in the Sermon on the Mount:

"'Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

"'Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

"'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matt. 5:14-16).

"A boy walking through a dense London fog was carrying a lighten lantern.

"'Guide me back to my hotel,' said a voice from out of the fog, 'and I'll give you a shilling.'

"'Yes, sir.'

"And so the boy, holding his lantern high, started walking in the fog and soon reached the hotel. As he paused, not one man, but four stepped forward with a shilling. The other three had seen the light and followed without question. It is so with any who lead the way to truth and light."

By our example, by our love, and by our friendships, even our little lights will help those who live in a world of utter darkness. As they come to join us, they will light their own candles by our own, until the world is bathed in the light of Christ. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 24, 2010

As a Young Woman in my church I (along with all other girls) was asked to set and complete specific goals in different areas Church leaders felt were important: faith, individual worth, good works, etc.

One particular value always seemed a bit vague to me. I was never able to put a real definition to it beyond the example of: choosing not to cheat on a test. This value was integrity.

Age and experience has brought home a truer meaning of integrity, but let's start for a moment with a few definitions from the dictionary: rigid adherence to a code or standard of values; moral soundness, especially as it relates to steadfastness to truth, purpose, responsibility, or trust; moral and ethical strength; or the quality of being whole, complete, undivided.

My thoughts, and the thoughts of countless others, automatically turn to Job when considering men/women of integrity. Job had everything taken from him. EVERYTHING! His body was ravaged time and again. His wife and friends repeatedly asked what he had done to anger God. After all, he must have committed a fairly heinous sin to deserve such punishment.

Stop for a moment to think about what that must have truly felt like. Not only is God asking you to suffer untold hardships, not only is He keeping you in the dark regarding the reasons, but those you most love and trust really believe you are the one at fault. You have sinned. It doesn't matter they have never seen you do anything dishonest before.

Job amazes me with his responses. He states, "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go" (Job 27:3-6).

My husband and I have been participating in a "Biggest Loser" challenge with some friends of ours. It's nothing big, just trying to change the way we eat and get in more exercise. Sunday mornings we weigh in and send our new numbers to the head of the group, who inputs it all into an anonymous chart. I couldn't help thinking how tempting it would be, to fudge the numbers. Nothing big, of course, just a half a pound here or there. I'd never actually do it though, as I could not live with the guilt of knowing I won or lost the competition dishonestly.

This year I've also given up soda pop. For the first two weeks it wasn't a problem. This last week, however, has held temptation over my head so heavily I could have bowed down with the weight. Little instances popped up where I could have taken a sip - just one little sip. It wouldn't have been a big deal to anyone else. After all, they didn't set this goal. What stopped me? Knowing I wasn't strong enough to just say no. Knowing I would have gone against something I knew was better for me. Even tonight, though, the urge is still there. I would be hard pressed to say no if a Diet Dr. Pepper showed up on my doorstep right about now.

I bring up these examples to illustrate when integrity is most obvious - during trials and challenges. I see it as being the truest test of whether or not you believe the things you preach and teach. Don't cheat on a test. This is easy to say until you've spent an entire night cramming, woke up late, can't remember a THING, and the smartest kid in class happens to be sitting in such a way you can easily read his answers.

You shouldn't lie. Of course we shouldn't lie. Except, maybe, when your girlfriend comes walking out of a changing room wearing something positively hideous looking and she really really wants to know what you think. All the while you can tell she wants you to lie through your teeth if you don't think it's fabulous.

Do not get yourself into debt. I mean, this is just practical, as well as good advice, right? Well sure...until you see THE most incredible shoes in your LIFE and you just have to have them but you just spent your money on rent and won't get paid for another two weeks. By then the shoes might be gone and besides they're on sale and without a DOUBT you'll pay them off as soon as your paycheck comes...

Integrity does not always come easily. Integrity must be practiced again and again until it becomes second nature, until making the right choice becomes the only choice. Think of integrity as the choices we make when no one else is looking or listening. It's the inner conflict between the "natural man" and the people God wants us to become.

Look back for a moment at the dictionary's definitions of integrity. Notice the progression from definition to definition. We start with "rigid adherence." Does it sound as strict to you as it does to me? Yet this is often how starting any sort of change - most especially ones for the better - start out. We have to set definite lines where not to cross. We have to make them clear and concise so as not to lose our way.

Next comes "moral soundness." We've set the lines, we've begun developing our integrity, and we've proven it to be a better way of life. It is "sound" in our beliefs. The next definitions mentions the word "strength." Like anything in life, as we practice something over and over, we are strengthened in that area. It becomes a muscle we depend upon, one we know we can rely upon.

All of this brings us to the last definition. When we have set the lines, proven it to be sound, and made it a strength, we become "whole, complete, undivided." Isn't this what God most wants for us? Can you even imagine what it would feel like, to be undivided? When we do the things the Lord has commanded and allow those strengths to become such a part of us we cannot be separated from them, our abilities to navigate through this life become strenthened as well.

God wants us to be happy, to be whole, but we cannot be complete when what we teach and preach are the exact opposite of what we choose to do. Cheating our way through this test of life will not grant us great rewards when it comes time to being graded. I hope you think about this the next time you find yourself needing to "practice what you preach."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Redoing the Bathroom Feels Like Giving Birth

My hubbs and I have talked about redoing the bathroom for a few years now. There's a section along the ceiling that peels no matter what we try to do with it. I know. Not nice, right? Still, I was ready for a complete change. Large sections of wallpaper had been stripped away by fascinated little hands. The old baseboard had been flaking for so long I couldn't sweep around it without causeing more of a mess, and even the tap on the bathtub had a little hole in the front - thanks to our incredibly hard water - that shot out a tiny stream of water...much to my children's delight.
So we decided to take off all the wallpaper, take out the baseboard, pasting various holes and the the irritating portion of ceiling, and do things right this time.
I'm loving the results. Granted you can tell amateurs were at work here, but not bad at all! Here are a few pictures:
We never have enough hooks in the bathroom - not for a family of six. So I found some handy-dandy hooks and stuck 'em right next to the tub. Just right for bathtowels.
Here is a long view of the door/sink. We repainted the cabinet, and I can't begin to tell you how much that one thing changed the atmosphere of the bathroom. And if you look WAY down at the bottom, you'll see the very first baseboard I cut. That's right. I cut it. I borrowed my dad's mitre box and saw, and did the baseboards myself. Too bad I didn't think to take better pictures of the baseboards, but that might not be as exciting for you as it was for me :)
Here's a closer look at the cabinet. The early morning light doesn't do the color justice. The light peach makes the bathroom feel so much warmer than before. Up above the sink we turned the mirror so it's more vertical than horizontal. It seemed to open it up as well (who would of thought?).
I tried a few pictures in just regular tones, but you really couldn't see the color, so I put the camera on vivid. You can see the colors better, but it really is brighter in the picture than in person. Still, I love the effect. I went with a sort of "celery green" as the base. That was almost enough of a change itself, but to me it felt cool, rather than warm. So over the top I sponged on the light peach.
Here's one more look. at the paint.
There was a lot of hassle fixing the toilet, which rocked so much I often felt as though I might take a header off the bowl when sitting down. That was an adventure all in it's own, including hubby hammering at the phlange from the crawlspace, me trying to drill holes through the phlange screw-holes into pieces of wood too hard to drill through, and a piece of the tile breaking. Ugh! Yet we were able to get the new phlange on, stuck the pieces of tile back in place, and managed to get the toilet back on. I'm happy to report it rocks a lot less :)
So why, you might be asking, is redoing the bathroom a lot like giving birth? It's gonna take a few years of forgetting the pain and agony to convince me it might be a good idea to try again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The January Thaw

Here in the Salt Lake Valley we get teased by the weather in January. After weeks of below freezing temperatures, air so hazy and thick with impurities even the healthiest of people find themselves wheezing, and watching drivers (who after living here for years should know better) skid across snow-slick roads, the last thing we want to think about is the months of nasty weather ahead.

So imagine my surprise when every year the snow starts melting, we're occasionally given reminders of what the sun looks like, and can see anything from sudden snow flurries to rain! The temperatures go from single digits to as high as the forties. OH BLISS! I recall one year when the neighbors all chuckled at the sight of my husband mowing the last of the leaves off the lawn because everything dried out just enough.

Of course, this is only a teaser. Give it another week or two and we'll be back to knee-deep snow drifts and icy temps. So much for soaking in the Spring-like weather.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 17, 2010

My oldest, M, had a big day today. It was her first time giving a short talk in our main church meeting (aka, Sacrament Meeting). She wasn't supposed to speak until next Sunday, but due to an accident with another of the youth, they swapped weeks to give the other girl time to recover.

I wanted to share her talk today. It's short, simple, and important. The topic was on testimonies and scripture. After going a few rounds the last several days of "whaddya wanna talk about?" coupled with "I don't know...", I finally asked M think of her favorite scripture stories. To my surprise she brought up the story of Elijah and the widow woman. We discussed it a few minutes, I got an idea of what she wanted to say, and put together her talk.

So keep in mind that though I may be the author, I tried to write it as a very young woman might.

In a land called Zarephath the prophet Elijah came to a widow woman, under the direction of the Lord. When he met her, Elijah asked the woman for a little water in a vessel

As she went to fetch it Elijah called out to her and asked if she could bring him a little bread. The woman, who I think felt bad to say this, told Elijah she had only a little bit of meal and oil left. She had planned to make it for herself and her son, knowing it would most likely be the last thing they would eat. She knew they would starve to death after this last, tiny meal.

But Elijah said to her in 1 Kings 17:13-14 - "Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make the thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fall, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."

Let's stop for a moment to think about what we would do if this happened to us. I wonder if she knew Elijah was a prophet, or if she thought she was just helping a stranger. Either way, what would you do if you had only enough food left in the house to make one last meal? What if you had no way of getting any other food, and someone came to your door asking for some bread, or soup, or just a bowl of cereal? And what if he promised you that if you would share this little bit of your last meal with him, that you would be blessed with enough to eat until a way of getting more food should come?

The widow woman had great faith, or at least enough faith and compassion to do as Elijah asked. His promise was fulfilled. As we read in verse 16, "And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah."

We can learn so much from the stories in the scriptures, stories that can help us to build our own testimonies. From this story I learned I first have to have faith. Even if I don't always understand why, I need to have faith the prophet or the bishop or my Young Women's leader is telling me to do or not to do something for a really good reason.

Then I have to act on that faith. I have to believe that what I've been told will bring me blessings. I have to remember what I was taught during times I'm being tempted, or when doing the right thing feels like the hardest thing in the world to do.

When I have this faith, and then act on it, then I can build a firm testimony. It will be strong, and will help me to build and ever bigger testimony when harder things come my way.

I hope we can all remember the lesson the widow woman teaches us, and will look in the scriptures for other examples of how to help build our testimonies. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I'm a Mall Walker (Pun Intended)

As part of my goal to become healthier this year I've begun walking most nights. Yes, it's true I'm not the most consistent in getting my half-hour of sweat-inducing exercise, but with my extraordinary partner - the hubby - I've been walking more these last two weeks than I have in quite a while.

Walking with my husband is not for the weak-hearted, nor the slow going. His "power" walk has me trotting to keep up. His normal pace has my calf muscles crying in pain. I remember the days I used to keep up with him without hoping someone would run up behind me with a wheelchair because I could feel my legs turning to jelly even as we rounded a corner. One of these days I'll be able to keep up again.

Seeing as how it's winter in Utah, there are nights when the air is crisp but not freezing and taking a good half-hour walk feels exhilarating rather than exhausting. I love exercising in cooler weather, if for no other reason than I don't smell as bad after it's all done. However, this being winter in Utah there are nights when the air is bone chilling, or snow is falling in droves, keeping us from wanting to lose a nose, finger or toe to frostbite. These nights, we take to the local mall.

I don't know if they're common where you are, but here in the Salt Lake Valley mall walkers are a regular sight. They range in ages, but mostly consist of the "older" set, and are most often seen in the morning hours before the opening of stores brings an onslaught of shoppers. Hubby and I, however, brave the evening hours to do our walking.

To keep things exciting we switch up which mall entrance we park near. I know, you can hardly stand how utterly awesome we are at this moment, right? Tonight we went really wild...and walked in the opposite direction. Funny thing is - it threw us off! We almost took a few wrong turns in Macy's.

Tonight I was not in fine form. As we finished our first lap around the mall I told my hubby to go on ahead of me, that I needed to slow down. I watched him race off and could literally feel my legs sigh in relief as I let up a bit on the pace. Hubby went screeching off through the food court, but I skipped it, as I knew it could take about as much time for me to finish the mall by cutting a few corners as it would him going the full course. And it did.

Still, I'm grateful for a husband who pushes me to go just a bit faster in walking, whether it be in the mall or outside. He's the reason I'm still going strong on exercising. And for those who didn't get the "pun intended" in the title? Our last name is Walker :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Go Vote!!!

My friends, family, and accidental stopper-by's, I'm asking for you to follow this link and go vote for my favorite DJ, Cort Johnson, to win a walk-on-roll to a television show called Life Unexpected. DJ's from all over the US are vying for this exciting chance, and Cort's almost 5000 votes BEHIND!!!

They'll show you a short clip beforehand, then you'll see a LOT of pictures in order by city. Scroll down to the S's, where you'll see Salt Lake City and Cort. PLEASE DO THIS!!! You can vote up to five times a day, and all five votes can be done in a row. It shouldn't take long at all, and maybe, just maybe, we can see our very own Cort on a big show!

Life Unexpected

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 10, 2010

I'm home with sick kids today. I didn't want to be, and felt HUGE amounts of guilt for leaving my Primary ladies without a chorister :( To be honest my tummy's not feeling the happiest either, so today will be a day spent trying to entertain my family in a "Sabbath" manner.

Earlier this week a friend posted on Facebook about a Daddy-Daughter date he had with his little girl. He had come home from the temple with "a handful of thoughts to do", including starting up a weekly date with his daughter. It wasn't anything extraordinary, just decorating and eating a cake they made, but I have no doubt it meant the world to his little one.

I want to spend a little time today talking about the things we do with our little ones. Whether they be your children, your grandchildren, your nieces or nephews, or your best friends' kids, everyone out there has access to a child who is in need of special one-on-one time.

A few months ago - back when the weather was MUCH warmer - my daughter's nursery teacher would call and ask if she could take A to the park for a few hours. She would willingly play whatever my daughter wanted (which half the time meant teacher was the "baby" and A was the "mommy"). You can have no possible idea how much that meant to my little girl.

But one-on-one time doesn't have to mean spending hours together doing what the child wants. My B loves to go grocery shopping with me. J loves to sit and watch me play on the computer. M loves to watch a show before going in her room at night. All of them appreciate a little chapter in a book read, or even just laying on Mom and Dad's bed to talk and joke around.

It may not seem like a big deal to us as adults, but the love given in even the smallest of acts can be more fulfilling than we could ever imagine. Children need to feel as though they are important in the lives of those who purportedly love them; more important than dishes, than computer time, than mopping the floor, than work, work, and more work. They need to see they are a priority. If you seek to spend time with with them, the closer you will be during the years they will need you most, even if they want you the least.

"In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. 'The thing I liked best this summer,' the boy replied, 'was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.' Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Good, Better, Best", Ensign, Nov. 2007).

While spending quality time with children is good, we also need to make certain we don't readily speed to the other end and fill all our - and their - time with activities.

"The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated" (Ibid).

In other words, if you're both so busy filling your days with karate and ballet and football and violin, where will you find time to lay on the grass and look at the stars? Where will you find those little moments to really communicate if you're both too tired and frazzled to talk?

Some of the best conversations I've had with my children have been in the most unexpected places: while grocery shopping, or when they help wash dishes or make dinner, when we've finished reading and they finally want to open up about their day. I can only hope as they get into their teenage years this will be something we'll continue to do.

Children are our future leaders, teachers, caregivers, and most importantly, our future parents. Take some time out of your crazy, busy days to love a child. Not only will it help them to feel loved, you WILL find yourself feeling utterly loved in return.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In Love

"I'm in love, I'm in LOVE and I don't care who knows it!" (Name that Christmas movie?)

I'm about to wax mushy, so if you're not in the mood for sappy declarations of love you might want to move on.

It's true though - I'm utterly in love. My heart has been captured in ways I never thought possible. Not only is it entrapped, but it hopes never to be freed. Surely there has never been a love quite like this.

Okay so there has, but my heart is so full to overflowing this morning and I simply cannot start cleaning the bathroom until I have declared to the world my love.

I am in love with my oldest child, my first born, my daughter extraordinaire. I'm in love with her maturing personality, with the way she helps take care of her siblings, with her willingness to now finish the dishes so mom and dad can take a walk (even if it does mean she only washes the dishes in the sink and not the ones we weren't able to clear off the table 'cause certain little people weren't done yet). I'm in love with her constant willingness to share, in detail, every dream she had that night. I'm even in love with the way she happens to "remember a dream" she had who knows how long ago that suddenly coincides with something someone else said. I'm in love with the way she's picking friends who are more apt to support and love her rather than pull her down. I'm completely in love with the way she asks to read a new book with me even when we're not finished with the last one. I'm in love with the fact her favorite time of the day is around seven pm 'cause it means watching Ghost Whisperer with mom and dad.

I am in love with my J, my little ball of inattentive energy, who would rather watch other people play recorded video games on YouTube than go to the park. I'm in love with the way his face crumpled when he realized he had EXTRA homework, then lit up in surprise when he found out the extra homework was for accelerated students. I'm completely in love with his mischievous grin when he's pulling a really bad joke, and the way he protects his younger sister (even when she's screaming at the top of her lungs to "STOP IT!"). I am completely in love with the fact he can't wait to turn 12 so he can start going to priesthood meetings with dad (though he may not think it's as much fun when he's actually 12 and attending those meetings). I am in love with the way he can get just as excited over watching someone else open their presents as he can get over opening his own. I am in love with his sudden hugs and kisses which he rarely gives, and the way he'll play with my hair when sitting on my lap to watch me play the computer. And I am in love with the way he's learning that even though things come easily to his younger brother, HE needs to keep on trying and never give up!

I am in love with my youngest son, my B, who is more like me in temperament than any of the others, who has a heart as big and loving as the world. I am in love with his willingness to share with those around him, and his need to have some "alone time" just like mom. I am in love with his giggle, and the fact he doesn't mind being tickled so I can hear that **giggle.** I am completely in love with his hugs which he gives out freely, and the way he's got every one of his siblings saying, "Mom, Dad, you're the bestest in the whole world!" Though I am NOT quite in love with the way he teases his younger sister, I am in love with how he so willingly sits down to play Barbie's with her. I am in love with his great big bear hugs, and his slobbery kisses, and the way he'll play with my hand when I lay down at night to put his sister to bed. I am utterly in love with his very distinct sense of justice, of right and wrong, and of what he believes Heavenly Father and Jesus like and don't like.

Last, but certainly not least (as anyone who's ever met her can verify), I am in love with my little Princess A. I am in love with her obsession with everything Barbie and High School Musical. I am in love with the way her talking has increased as of late, and every funny little thing that comes out of her mouth. I am in love with, and terrified by, the way she mimics those around her. I am beyond in love with the conversations between A and her daddy. I am in love with the way her little face crumples :( when she's told no, and even the way she'll get a hysterical sounding laugh when coming out of her tantrums. I am in love with the way she'll talk to her daddy, her siblings, and her grandparents on her little play phone. I cannot help being in love with her declarations of love, of the way she'll demand her brothers give her a kiss before leaving the car at school, and how she thinks mom's ears are pretty now because mom has earrings.

I am in love with them all because, despite the mistakes I make, they still love me with an openness I thrive on. I am in love with their sweet natures, and their willingness to learn and grow. I am in love with their tender spirits, which I know they all had before they came to this earth, and has little to do with me raising them. And I cannot end without thanking with all of my ♥heart♥ and soul my Heavenly Father for blessing me with four of my most favorite children in the whole entire world!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Awesome Poem

My sil Cathy gave me a copy of this incredible poem today, one she's shared with my oldest and many of her other nieces and friends. I'd like to share it with you today. I don't know who wrote it, so I can't give credit where credit is massively due, so if you happen to know please pass the name along.

Let me have the courage to believe in myself.
Not only on the days when I'm going great
And nothing seems impossible
But on the days when the world looks lousy and I'm losing.
And the road ahead seems too hard;
When I wonder if I'm brave enough, smart enough,
Strong enough and I must be crazy if I try,
Don't let me quit - Let me have courage in myself.
No matter how many people discourage me, doubt me,
Laugh at me, warn me, think me a fool...
Don't let me listen, Let me hear another voice saying,
"You can do it," ... and, "You will."
If no one else in the world cares or believes in me...
Let me have courage to believe in myself!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 3, 2010

I seriously thought about taking the last day of 2009 and the first day of 2010 and posting about memories and planned changes. But I was busy having too much fun with my family. So instead I've saved it for today. Lucky guys, you all are!

2009 has left me feeling conflicted. It was a year filled with intense struggles, not only for myself but for many around me. The majority of my year dealt with trying to handle depression, not handling depression, and finally being given the helping hands I've needed to feel happy and alive again. My husband in his role as a Mormon bishop for the second year has found himself needing to grow in ways we never thought would be necessary. We've watched as rumors and backbiting reared their ugly heads around the members we love, and have witnessed the extraordinary faith of others that has carried them through trials and tribulations.

I have never been able to deny the hand of the Lord at work even through the tough times. Even when things got so hard I didn't know if we'd make it another day, we were always granted a kindness from our beloved Savior through the love of others. On the roughest of days I have received beautiful words of encouragement. When my husband at times felt utterly unloved a ward member would offer up just the right words to help him carry through. As we struggled to make sense of horrible situations, others filled with light and beauty would appear to help remind us of why we do all we do. It's those tender mercies I'm so fond of, sent by a loving Father and Brother, that got us through this last year.

Here in 2010 (it's still a bit surreal to write that) my most sincere hope is to see good things happen with all the lessons learned. How wonderful it would be to see people once again able to get jobs, to provide for their families, to heal broken hearts, and to repent, enabling them to come back to the Lord. How I long to see friends who have tried so desperately for so long to have children finally have their wish granted. And oh how I hope those who have recently reached out to find new friends and new solace in those they may never before have looked to, to keep up those friendships so that no one feels alone.

For myself, I've decided to set up some personal goals to help stretch myself. I want to see if some of the lessons I've learned over the last year can be put to good use in this new one, and to try changing the things I've noticed about myself by replacing certain things with better behaviors. As goals not written down rarely get accomplished, I'm going to take a moment to write the top five of mine down.

First, I'm giving up soda. I hadn't let it touch my lips for several years until I got preggo with my youngest, and was so desperately sick with her Diet Coke was the only thing I could drink. Since then I've escalated and it's getting silly. When I'm drinking more pop than water it's time for a change.

Second, I'm going to refrain from playing on Facebook unless I've gotten some form of work done first. Even if it means I do ten minutes of work, then ten minutes on Facebook, it's time to get that priority in order!

Third, it's time to get back to my writing. I've been playing so much with making bookmarks, jewelry, and crocheting I haven't written on either of my books-in-progress. It's high time I put in at least a little effort with those. At the same time I want to get back into learning, reading. I love to learn and haven't done much of it lately.

Fourth, I'm going to exercise for a half hour five times a week. Whether it's walking at the mall with my husband or strength training, this is the year I want to make a real effort to take control of my health, and I want to start with exercise. My hubby and I have even joined a "Biggest Loser" group to help encourage us for the first six months. Though the process is completely up to us, we're all going for the big "pot" at the end.

And fifth, I want to refocus my attention on teaching the kids. With our recently crazy schedules too many things were pushed aside: family home evening, dinner at the table, scripture reading, etc. I want to make certain my children have a good portion of the spiritual side and family time to balance out what they get everywhere else. I want to be aware of what's going on in their lives so I can help when they need it, and it's hard to give them the time they need when I fill it with...Facebook.

There we go. Five of my biggest goals for this next year. Have you written yours down yet?