Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sunday Talk

Matt and I both gave talks on Sunday. 
We only had one week to work on them, and it happened to be during such a busy week. 
It was the talk I felt that I needed to give.
Normally Matt and I infuse a lot of humor in our talks, but neither of us really did that this time. We were asked to speak on the prophets and the restoration of the church.
When we talked with one another about our individual talks, it turned out that I had focused on the prophets, while Matt and focused on the restoration.
As always, I wrote out every word so that I could feel confident as I spoke and Matt jotted down his quotes and scriptures and gave a fantastic talk. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014 (pardon the grammar/typos- it's my working draft)

We have been asked to talk to you today about prophets and the restoration of the church. The focus of my talk will be on focused on the prophets, while Matt will speak more of the restoration.
A prophet is, in its most basic definition, a person who delivers messages that are believed to come from God.
Our Heavenly Father has always utilized prophets to lead his church and his people. There is a pretty common agreement among certain faiths that there were prophets on this Earth in ancient times. 
In Amos 3:7 we read:
 “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”

People can read the words of the prophets of God in the Bible, they can see that while God’s church was on the Earth, there was not just one prophet, but a number of them, covering vast expanses of time. Prophets were on this Earth from the beginning, serving and spreading God’s messages to mankind.

Somehow though, the belief changed from an acknowledgement and acceptance of God having prophets on the Earth to lead his children, to a belief that prophets, true prophets were something that only existed in ancient times. Today’s world has no Elijahs, No Isaiahs, it has no Abrahams.

And for a very long time, they were right. While there were still many good and righteous people who followed God, there was no revelation, no priesthood and… prophet. The Lord’s church was not found on the Earth.
Then, a young boy of 14 went into that sacred grove and spoke to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  In that moment, God was directly speaking to mankind again. The church and the priesthood were being restored and a prophet was called to lead it once again.

In D&C 21:4–5 it says:

 “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:4–5).

Since that time, the world has been blessed by the presence of a true prophet of God, guiding and leading all who choose to follow and we sing: praise, to the man who communed with Jehova!
There have been 16 prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Each one of these men was not only called of God, but was sustained as a prophet by the members of the church. Each one of these men led the church and it’s people during the exact dispensation of time when they could deliver the exact messages that God needed heard.
Sometimes we hear funny or weird stories about the lives of the prophets.  I remember reading about Wilford Woodruff’s childhood when I was a kid and laughing at how many times he got seriously hurt either from working or mostly from goofing off and doing dumb kid things when he was growing up.
I read of Spencer W Kimball and the terrible health issues he endured during a season of his life and thought that it had to be the worst thing to ever endure, to have boils on your skin and what a painful thing that had to be, and yet- it didn’t shake his faith in God. As a kid, I wondered if I would be that steadfast.

Recently, my daughter asked me what she should do if someone asks her about the church in a mean way, looking to tear her down and I told her one of my favorite stories from the life of Joseph F Smith.

 One day, when Joseph F. Smith was returning home from his first mission, “after the little company of wagons had traveled a short distance and made their camp, a company of drunken men rode into the camp on horseback, cursing and swearing and threatening to kill any ‘Mormons’ that came within their path. It was the lot of Joseph F. Smith to meet these marauders first. ... Joseph F. was a little distance from the camp gathering wood for the fire when these men rode up. When he saw them, he said, his first thought was to do what the other brethren had done, and seek shelter in the trees and in flight. Then the thought came to him, ‘Why should I run from these fellows?’ With that thought in mind he boldly marched up with his arms full of wood to the campfire. As he was about to deposit his wood, one of the ruffians, still with his pistols in his hands and pointing at the youthful Elder, and cursing as only a drunken rascal can, declaring that it was his duty to exterminate every ‘Mormon’ he should meet, demanded in a loud, angry voice, ‘Are you a “Mormon”?’
 “Without a moment of hesitation and looking the ruffian in the eye, Joseph F. Smith boldly answered, ‘Yes, siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.’
 “The answer was given boldly and without any sign of fear, which completely disarmed the belligerent man, and in his bewilderment, he grasped the missionary by the hand and said:
“‘Well, you are the ... pleasantest man I ever met! Shake, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions.’
“Joseph F. said in later years that he fully expected to receive the charge from this man’s pistols, but he could take no other course even though it seemed that his death was to be the result. This man, evidently the leader of the band, then rode off, the others following him, and the Mormon company was not molested further”

It warmed my heart when my daughter said “through and through…..that’s what I’m going to say. I’m a Mormon, through and through!”
As you come to know the lives and ministries of each of the prophets, there is a much to learn from as we learn from the prophets of ancient times.  
Just as the prophets of old struggled and sought answers for the people they served, so do our modern prophets. They seek answers and direction concerning the issues and times that we live in. 
In this ever changing world, they are the wind to set your sails to, as the landscape changes- they know which way to go.

I’ve recently been having some discussion with an old friend who was in my ward as a kid. His family have been members since the pioneer days, and with each generation, a little more of that is taken for granted, a little more of that is forgotten and seems to be of less value. This friend has a testimony, but struggles with issues where it seems that the world and the church do not agree. He doesn’t want to offend his friends by choosing a side that hasn’t caught up to the current times.
I talked to him about some of my feelings about the church and some of the issues that seemed to be causing a lot of hurt and confusion.
 I told him that not that long ago, my views were what was considered to be on one side of the political fence. It was a side that wasn’t very popular with people  in my family and every four years, I was always sent news articles and firmly worded emails admonishing me to vote in a way that was in line with the political views they had.   Some thought that in order to be a good member of the church, you had to vote and feel a certain way.
I was secure in my knowledge that the church’s position on all things are that you should vote according to your conscience and often replied with some version of “Well, isn’t free agency great- you’re not the boss of me.”
 I’m not a person who enjoys or really ever wants to be a part of a debate in the first place and I've never been known for having much tact when I feel I am being pushed to do something I don’t want to do.

As the years have progressed, my views on those issues haven’t changed very much, however, the line I was so far on one side of completely moved.
 My opinions, my morals and my values are still the same as they were before, but I am now on the other side of that line- without even having moved!

How lost I would feel if I didn’t have a prophet and leaders who were also here in this constantly shifting and changing world, right with me--who knew that the way to keep our footing was to keep out eyes and ears focused on God.  It is God’s direction we must follow, God who has the right answers that bring harmony, unity and happiness. We hear the words of God from our prophets.

Follow the prophet! He knows the way!
As tides turn and the winds of change blow around us, they lead us in the direction we should go. They make the adjustments for the church, so that we don’t have to rely on external sources to help us to find the way.
It is the prophets who help us to find and take hold of that iron rod, that will lead us to  to everlasting happiness.

1 nephi 15:24
 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
 25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

The world is always changing. Society is always changing. The amount of information and influence others have over our families is growing and it is very hard to know what is right and what is wrong in some situations.
This church has never been known for its popularity. Even as we are growing and missionary work goes forth all across the Earth- not many of the teachings are well received.  We are not the Prom Queen of religions, we don’t win the popularity contests society seems to be constantly having. 
We live in a world where it is possible to put every thought and actions on display, in a world where that is becoming the norm, in fact. I know too many of you have had to endure the daily pictures of my silly new puppy, and with each update that goes out for the world to see, there is an instant reaction and we become very aware of what our peers think and feel about things that we once discussed only with our families and with the Lord.  Everything seems open for discussion and in seconds arguments can be made to support or tear down every position on everything from serious political issues, to which 80’s cartoon character you should be.
As questions come up in our lives, we need to be sure that we are going to God and seeking the words of the prophets as we decide what is right for our families. We cannot slip into the trap of letting facebook likes determine our choices and influence the direction we go.

Follow the prophet – he knows the way.
He knew the way to go when it was time to head west and settle on that ugly desert with a big lake you couldn’t drink from, that became Zion to the Saints. The members of the church followed the prophet Brigham Young with both their souls and their bodies.

He knew the way when I was a kid of 16, nervous and unsure of what path I should go. I wondered if I mattered to my Heavenly Father, if he cared at all or if my dumb little life meant anything.  When I prayed, alone in my car,  I remembered the words of the prophet of my youth, Ezra Taft Benson who repeatedly urged me to read the scriptures, so through my tears, I opened my scriptures to D&C 6:
 22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
 23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
 35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.
 36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

And the prophet speaks the words of God to you.  The words of the prophet are the first place as well as the last place you should go, as often as possible- and especially in times when the world is changing around you and you need to make sure that YOU are where you need to be, that you are not shifting with the tides.
How lucky and blessed we are to have a prophets, who live in this world with us and who really do know what we are facing and the questions and problems that weigh so heavily on our hearts and minds.
Follow the prophet.
Follow the prophet.
Follow the prophet.
He knows the way.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

No Sleep Til......

It has been too long since Matt and I spent a romantic weekend together.
With summer just around the corner, we decided to take a little break and spend some much needed alone time together. 
Matt cashed in some of his points from his Amex account and we stayed at a swanky hotel in Brooklyn and pretended we were hipsters.
We started out day by going to Queens and exploring the site of the 1964 World's Fair.
What a cool place. 

The landmarks are abandoned and all rusted out, but there are also areas that look like they were taken straight from a 1964 postcard. 

After exploring that area of Queens, we drove to Brooklyn to check into the hotel and see what it had to offer.

I'd never really been to Brooklyn before and I was really missing out.

We had dinner at the Shake Shack and I even saw a sort of famous person as we walked through Brooklyn Heights, an actor named Maulik Pancholy.

He was in  Weeds, 30 Rock and some other shows. He also is one of the voices in the Phineas and Ferb cartoon, he plays Baljeet. (I have no idea who that is.)
I don't know why I find it so exciting when we see someone from TV in the city, but I think it's one of the coolest things. 

 We walked out to the pier and looked out on the city as we talked and reconnected. 
The sky was getting dark and the wind was picking up, so we headed back to our hotel, but not in time to miss a big rainstorm.

Not to worry, we had umbrellas......back at the hotel.
We got drenched. 
It was actually kind of fun.
We fell asleep listening to the pouring rain and sounds of the city.

The next day we grabbed breakfast and went to the Brooklyn Flea.
There were so many cool treasures there, we didn't buy anything because it was so overpriced due to the trendy neighborhood.

We had lunch from the Milk Truck, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck that had a booth set up at the event, and ate as a band played and cute little hipster kids with little skinny jeans and flannel danced to the music.

We didn't talk about the 400 things that are constantly weighing on our shoulders and we just enjoyed the city and being together. 

It was just what we needed and we're going to try and spend some weekends away more often, it was so nice.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Here We Go...

Each summer, we have a season of visitors.
We love it.
We love to see friends and family and to see their faces when they first glimpse Lady Liberty, or that look of awe when they stop in the middle of the sidewalk in Manhattan, look up at the buildings as the taxis honk and busses speed by and their jaw just drops as their souls absorb a little bit of the city and makes it forever a part of them.
We are admittedly a little bit sick of the Staten Island Ferry. :)
This summer, most of our company comes in June, right at the same time as Zane's graduation.
It's why they will be here, but we are going to be crazy busy.
On top of having a lot of guests, we're throwing a pretty big party for Zane's graduation. It's just a short ice cream social, but we've invited the whole ward. 
Heaven forbid I do anything subtle in life.
I am excited, though. 
Those times where you're flying down the roller coaster at full speed are fun, even though you always lose your hat.

We got a tiny little teaser this week, with our dear friends, Lynn and Joie Tucker from Taylorsville staying with us for two, too short nights. They were going to Kentucky and then decided to head further east to see us and are hitting New Hampshire next.

Joie is one of my very best friends and spending the day with her was just what my heart was needing. She's good natured, easy going, radiates joy and hilarious. She's also a nurturer who was there for me and lifted me up when the bottom fell out of my life in Utah. Her love (and that of my other sweeties in the knitting group)  got me through the hardest season of my life. 
Knit night at Joie's house was the night I looked forward too most. It changed me so much and I will always be thankful for that season.

Joie and Lyn had never been to The Big Apple, it was a dream of her's to go to the Manhattan Temple and see it, smack dab in the middle of the crazy city.

We planned to go to the 11:00 session.
Traffic dictated that we made it to the 2:30 session.

As we drove through the heart of the city, Lynn laughed his head off at the crazy drivers and marveled that in spite of how uts it it, nobody was getting in a wreck and people seemed to just take it in stride. 
We had a couple of close calls by SLC standards, but nothing out of the ordinary in NYC.

We ate gourmet doughnuts at my favorite spot, walked for about 5 minutes in Central Park and had lunch at a cafe near the temple.

Mostly, we were in the car, but that was okay because Lynn and Joie made us feel like we were giving them a world class guided tour, by way of our dirty car. 

I had a fun time and it was so nice to go to the temple again.

The next month is going to fly by, but I'm buckled in and ready.
Here we go......

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This Post Was Brought to You By Dirt

The past few weekends, I have been working on the yard.
As I get older, I enjoy tinkering in my little plot of land more and more.
I sew, I knit and now I garden...for fun. 
I complain about my arthritis and I'm one of the women that young mothers call for advice in the ward. 
I am so dang old. 
By the time my parents were as old as I am now, I was already grown and on my own. I had children of my own.
 I've never even lived with people in their 40's.
We old folks putter around in the garden and talk to the neighbors about fertilizer and compare garden tools.

My garden has been planted,  a small plot with a lightweight netting on top to try and keep the rodents out. 

I've been working in the front yard a lot, trying to keep it from being the neighborhood eyesore. I pulled out everything that died over the winter and added color. I put in some new flowers, as well as some of the annuals that grew really well last year and I added a trim to my little flower gardens. 

The shells were collected by the Mitchells when they visited last summer. I know they meant to take them back to Arizona, but they forgot and every time we see them- we smile and remember the wonderful week we had together.

The pretty little yellow snapdragons should overtake most of this planter by the end of the summer. They won't make it through the winter, but they will grow and bloom until the first snowfall. They are Romy's favorite, it brings back good memories of time spent with Karin Holmgren, as she taught Roe how to make their little dragon mouths open and snap back into place.

My favorite is the new rose bush.
 It is thriving and I think every home should welcome visitors with roses. 

I put in some raspberry and blueberry bushes near the driveway, I am just hoping that they don't die and establish themselves this year. If the birds and squirrels eat all of the fruit, that's okay. 
Next year, when they come back and are heartier, I'll try to get enough to make at least one batch of jam. 

I also planted some holly along the fence between us and Jacobv and Bronjia. Bless Jacobv's cranky  heart,  but I think a nice hedge will be great. He tried to plant one on his side, however,  his dinosaur poop shaped junipers haven't grown so much as an inch since we moved in. 

When I step back and look at my front yard, I feel happy.
 I've come a long way from my Arizona front yard of rock, oleander and scorpions.  

The stairs look crappy because it was just raining, and our front door has a 'no touch, no talk, no eye contact until he has all four feet on the ground' sign.
 He may still be pooping on the carpet, but other than that- the training is going great. He's such a sweet and smart little dog and I adore him.
Since it's been over a week since I posted a picture of Badger.....

Next up, a post about vitamins, adult diapers and blue hair dye.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Hardest Season of Parenting

Being a parent is hard.

When I had my babies and experienced sleepless nights, exploding diapers, ear infections and sore boobies- I thought: "This is the hardest season. It will eventually end and things will be easier- just hang on."

Then I had toddlers who colored on walls and furniture, who got into the fridge and smeared eggs and cheese everywhere and who stripped naked in the park. I thought "Babies were easy! Toddlers are the hardest! This is the hardest season, and the next season will be easier. Just hang on."

They started school and we had to deal with homework, and losing shoes and backtalking and driving and sitting through school/music/sports events. There were teachers who would say things like "free spirited" and not in a good way and Pinewood Derbies that we lost every single year. Again, I told myself THIS was the hardest season, hang on.

You know what is coming next...puberty. Teenage hormones..... growth spurts, eating a week's worth of groceries in two days, odors, crushes, kids torn between wanting to please and wanting to prove that they are different form Mom and Dad. Kissing, driving, more odors and mood swings. Size 13 shoes and bras. Obviously THAT was the hardest season. Hang on, the ride was almost over, even though sometimes, it felt like it had only started yesterday.

(that is smeared pizza on the wall, not poop or blood- this time)

The pitter patter of little feet was replaced by the sounds of elephants stampeding and a child who ran to your for a band-aid when he stubbed a toe was now shoving grass up his freshly broken nose, so the ref wouldn't pull him from the game for bleeding.

I now have three kids who are officially young adults and the rest aren't that far behind.

 One of them is struggling, after having made some mistakes, to find his footing again and get confidence in himself so he can go forward and make choices in his life again. When he crashed, he knew home was the soft place to land, where he'd be loved- no matter what. He has battles yet to fight, and struggles to give himself credit for the dragons he has already slain.

 One of my young adults in in London, doing a class abroad as she spreads her wings and works hard at college and has shown to have her father's love of travel and new places. The home/nest is a place to store your stuff and do your laundry- the world is at her feet.

 My other young adult is preparing to serve his mission, just a few more steps before the papers are turned in after almost everything that could delay him or discourage him has happened. He has had a friendship not only end, but the person who was such a close friend has been completely cruel to him and we have all been hurt by the way this person has chosen to deal with her feelings.
It knocked him on his butt, as he doesn't have much experience trusting in the first place. The timing of this was the worst, and it hurt him enough that he struggled to have the confidence to move forward. 
We have circled the wagons around him and all of us have been dealing with feelings of betrayal and the rabid protectiveness that you get when someone is attacking a member of your family.  As a family, we made the choice not to retaliate and to just get distance. It doesn't change the actions of others, but it keeps us focused on the actual goals we have as a family- and at the top of those goals is to support Zane during this transitional time of his life.

And if you ask me...THIS is the hardest season.
Apparently, they are all hard.
They are wonderful, but they are hard.

No matter what season is is, your kids worry you and your heart strings are stiff from all the tugging. You do not exhale and think "it's over" and you don't actually want it to be over- you just want your kids to be happy.
 I expect that when my kids are 40, I will still think being a Mom is hard-- always what I want, always worth it, always so much more joy than pain- but never easy.
I have learned that 'easy' isn't the goal, the goal is 'happy.' As a parent, every decision you make goes back to what will help your family learn to seek out the good, to cherish and value the joy and to love themselves and others enough to let themselves be happy.
We want them to seek out others who have the same goal. They do not have to share the same ideals and opinions, what I hope, always is that my children find friends and companions who believe they have a right to happiness and that others do as well. It's cliche' but it is true: happiness is a choice.
You have seasons in your life that are absolute hell. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows and there are seasons when just getting dressed takes all that you have. The key is to know that you want better, to remind yourself that although things are a nightmare now- one day they will be better and when they are better, you will be aware of it and let yourself enjoy it.
Some seasons are full of blooms and some seasons, the snow and cold bury you. Just know that the sun will return and the blooms will come back and when they do, let go of the cold and soak up the good things around you.
The cold will come back, but so will the sun.

 Matt and I are working together to use some of these transitional experiences to teach our kids to see the red flags in friendships that aren't as balanced as they should be, to helping them see that some people only value what you give to them and it isn't a two way street. They place a higher value on what they bring to the table and act as if what you bring was owed to them in the first place, and is of little worth.  If you no longer can meet that need, they hate you. We're helping them see that there are things people will ask- out of friendship or love- that they should never ask, that they have to find for themselves. It doesn't help the other person if you are  to be the scapegoat or the emotional garbage can. They have to choose to look for the good, in themselves and in others.

This is the hardest thing about parenting, regardless of the season.
It is so hard when your children wonder if they are worth it, when they are discouraged and lose faith in their own light or when they feel they don't deserve the light because of some weakness or flaw they perceive in themselves.When they get swept up by things that make them unhappy, and forgetful of just how important they really are and how loved they are. It is hard for Mom and Dad and it is hard for the child, regardless of their age.

Every age is the hardest age.

I hope that I have taught my kids that the light is always there, that they are always welcome and always wanted.
No night is so long and so dark that the sun does not rise again. No relationship is so bad, that you can never find a better one again. Every chain we place on ourselves, can be removed when we realize we are worth it, we deserve and desire to live free and happy- even if there are those who think we don't.
I love each of my children and hope that they know that whatever roads they choose in life- I am rooting for them and I want them to be happy. I know that it is hard, I know there will be roadblocks that make them stumble and there will be people who break their hearts. I also know that each one of my seven wild kids has the capacity to love and be loved in return. I know they have experienced the warm sunlight on their skin and the warmth of unconditional love in their hearts and if they will seek out that feeling as they progress into adulthood, that they can find it and it will get them through the darker seasons.

These are my thoughts on this rainy afternoon as all of the conflicting weird emotions of the upcoming Mother's Day holiday start to freak me out. My heart is turned towards my children, and the knowledge that if I've done nothing else good in my life, I taught my kids that the sunshine and light are there, and it is there for them.


It is there for me and it is there for you. It is there for your children and it is there for the people who don't understand you and the people who hate you and harm you. It is there when we screw up and it is there when we hide. Light and happiness are always there, or right around the corner, just hang on.