Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where DO Babies Come From?

We are in the process of bringing our third child into the world (as you can see from this ultrasound photo taken today), and it's safe to say that we have a pretty good answer to the question "Where do babies come from?"

But thanks to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have an even more in-depth answer to that question as well.

We believe that we were all created spiritually by God the Father long before we were conceived physically by our parents here on earth.

We believe that we lived with and learned from heavenly parents before coming to earth. One of our main purposes for entering this mortal existence was to gain a body, which helps us to experience and learn things that we simply could not understand without one--things like pain, hunger, fatigue, exhilaration, and empathy for others who experience these same feelings.

Although, we do not remember our pre-earth existence, we still carry with us characteristics that we developed in those early days of being. Just look at the picture above: mouth open, tongue out, and the look of a laugh on this baby's face illustrates well the concept that we come to earth with our own personality traits and dispositions. Clearly, this baby has a cheery one!

We also believe that gender is part of each person's eternal identity, not something that just happens at conception. But as with the last two babies, we chose not to find out the baby's gender during the ultrasound. You'll have to wait, along with us, until November to find out if we will be welcoming another boy or another girl into our family!

A Guide to the Ultrasound Picture (above) -- If you can't tell, the baby's right arm is covering his/her right eye (left side of photo). The nose is in the middle of the photo and the mouth--slightly open with tongue showing--is in the lower left section of the pic above.

Ultrasound Picture (below) -- This is a profile shot. Baby's head is on the right side of the picture. The baby is facing the top of the photo, so you should be able to make out the nose, mouth, and chin.

Here are some links regarding what I mentioned above:

Our Heavenly Family (Source: Gospel Principles Manual)

"Before your life on Earth..."

The Family Proclamation

Click here to take our "New Baby Quiz" and return to our Family Website.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

A Bit About Temples

If you have traveled around the Beltway in Washington, DC, you have most likely seen the LDS Temple. Seeing the temple appear suddenly on this stretch of highway is breath-taking.

When I was growing up near Cleveland, Ohio, the DC temple was the only temple located in the eastern US, but today there are over 126 temples around the world.

Many people wonder what temples are all about. Understandably so! I recall having a great desire to enter the temple from an early age. In college, my curiosity about temples grew, and I began reading as much as I could about them. I also continued to live my life in such a way that I would be worthy to worship in the temple when the time was right for me.

As I have attended, worshiped, and made covenants inside of these holy temples over the last eight years, I have found answers to many basic questions, such as, "Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my relationship to my Maker?" I have learned about Christ's divine role in the grand scheme of life. I have received valuable personal revelation and direction about my life. I have received comfort, reassurance, and spiritual strength as I have continued to live by the standards required to enter these temples.

Living by these standards (honesty, moral cleanliness, sexual purity, etc.) has increased my spiritual sensitivity and ability to understand the will of God. It has also brought me much happiness and freedom.

Amazingly, the blessings of the temple are available to all who desire them, but these blessings require preparation, even for someone like me, who was born into the church. I have included a few links below to help you learn more about the purpose and holiness of temples and I will blog about temples again in the future...

"Why These Temples" by Gordon B. Hinckley

Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings by Russell M. Nelson

Temple Website
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who ARE you???

When I was in high school "Who ARE you?" and "No, SERIOUSLY...who are you??" were phrases used by a group of guys as a "hilarious" put-down! Generally, a few "Freak Show!! Freak Show!!"s were oh, so generously sprinkled in there as well.

As we have grown up, I am finding that many of us end up asking ourselves that very question, "Who am I?" Sometimes this is a superficial inquiry. Who am I--in regards to my career, to my friends, to my choice in clothing--can change from day to day and season to season.

But WHO we are in an Eternal sense will never really change. We are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, who has sent us to earth to learn, grown, and to become more like Him. Even when a person does wrong or even denies His existence, this does not change the fact that we are His children and He loves us. The scriptures are full of examples of God's dealings with Man. But we do not have to rely alone on the words of others.

We can have our own experiences with God through personal prayer. I know no other system of receiving information that is so perfect, so direct, so personal, so instantaneous, and yet leaves such a lasting impression as simply getting down on your knees and asking God to let you know that He is there...and to tell you, in no uncertain terms, Who you are!

I have done this myself. And through sincere prayer, I have felt a feeling, more tangible than anything I have ever known, that God exists, that I am his child, that He cares about my life.

Here are some more links about prayer to help you get the conversation started:

Pray Always - There are some good tips on the basics of How to Pray in this one...

The Lifeline of Prayer by James E. Faust

Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer by Richard G. Scott
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Using Our God-Given Talents

The Lord entrusts all of His servants...with spiritual talents. The Lord, who endows us with these talents, tells us: “I believe you can. I believe you can.” While we are not all equal in experience, aptitude, and strength, we have different opportunities to employ these spiritual gifts, and we will all be accountable for the use of the gifts and opportunities given to us."

This quote was taken from a talk given by James E. Faust called "I Believe I Can, I Knew I Could."
In the talk, he tells us that just like the 'Little Engine That Could', we need to:
1. Be on the right track
2. Develop our talents

These are two guiding principles that have brought me many blessings and happiness in my life. Having a sense that I am living my life in a way that pleases God gives me confidence and peace. Being on the "right track" saves me from unnecessary detours and heartache. I am then free to explore and develop my God-given talents and to use them to do God's will, serve my friends and neighbors, bless my family, and to just enjoy them for my own sense of self-worth.

When discussing Christ's Parable of the Talents, Elder Ronald A. Rasband gives three suggestions with regard to our talents:

1. Seek earnestly to discover the talents the Lord has given you
2. Use your talents to build up the kingdom of God
3. Acknowledge God's hand in your success

One talent that I really enjoy is writing! I enjoy creative writing, but I especially love interviewing people and sharing their stories with others. In the last few years, I have written some articles for a few magazines on a freelance basis. Here is a link to the article I have in Ohio Magazine this month called "Banding Together"
This story is about members of a high school marching band who display two key talents: discipline and integrity.

Someday I hope to possess these talents that I see as others' true strengths: Generosity (Mable Z.), Being a Peacemaker (my sister Cara), Being a good listener (my friend Emily F.)

Lastly, here are two quotes that I especially like from leaders of the church:

"We may look on our daily work merely as chores. However, when we perform these tasks in a spirit of loving service to husband, children, family, and friends, we bring joy to ourselves and others. To cook a tasteful meal, study for a class, cultivate a garden, write a letter, kindly encourage a friend or family member—all these efforts are improving talents.

God then grants an increase by blessing us with new talents. Often these are qualities of character. We learn to understand the needs of those we serve and to show patience, affection, tolerance, and generosity." - VT message Oct 1993

As in Christ’s parable, when we cultivate the first talents God gives us, he is ready to reveal more. (See Matt. 25:15–21.)

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Where Does All My Money Go?

If you are like many people, you might find yourself asking this question, "Where does all of my money go each month??" Well, I can at least account for where 10% of our money goes, because we use it to pay tithing, which the church then uses to pay for charitable needs at home and to help people devastated by natural disasters around the world. It also pays for church buildings and temples and for the support of leaders whose church callings require them to work and travel full-time for the church. I feel confident that no one is getting rich off of the tithing program--but we all benefit from it, the church and the world as a whole.

Ten percent of your income (before taxes) might seem like a lot, I guess, but I have always felt good about paying tithing. In all honesty, I have always thought that it was much easier to pay tithing when I wasn't making much money at all...It was easier to let it go then, and I guess I felt that I really desperately needed all of the blessings associated with paying tithing!

In these economically difficult times, we have been admonished to continue paying tithing. In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression in the United States, when people were struggling to make ends meet, Elder John A. Widtsoe admonished the Saints to pay their tithing because of the spiritual blessings they would receive. He said: “Obedience to the law of tithing … brings a deep, inward joy … that can be won in no other way. … The principles of truth become clearer. … Prayer becomes easier. … The spiritual sense is sharpened [and] … man becomes more like his Father in Heaven.

In Malachi, we read that when we faithfully pay our tithes the Lord will "open the windows of heaven" and pour out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it. I have found from my own experience that this is true. Paying tithing gives me the rare opportunity to let go of the world and of possessions that are not necessary for my true happiness. I get to show my love for the Lord and for my brothers and sisters as I sacrifice my wants for the needs of others.

Because of the willingness of members of the church to pay a full tithe, the Church is able to do a great work around the world. They are most often the first to send food, first aid, and medical supplies into areas devastated by natural disasters, because of funds available through tithing and the Bishop's Storehouse which stock supplies for such events. Just recently, the church sent medical supplies to help victims of the cyclone in Myanmar. The church teamed up with CARE International and UPS to get the supplies into the country...a feat that was only possible because of CARE's long-term work in the area. Myanmar hasn't been letting others send aid in as you might know.

I believe in paying a full tithe, so I will keep on doing it, even if I have just 10 cents to my name! President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “While tithing is paid with money, more importantly it is paid with faith." Given that every good thing that I have has come from the Lord, I'm ok with giving a little bit back! On Monday, during our Family Night, we taught our young children about paying tithing. (See the picture above.) G and S enjoyed putting pennies into each jar! I guess you've gotta start somewhere!

Here is some more information about Tithing, how it works and where the money goes:

Tithing: A Commandment Even For the Destitute by Lynn G. Robbins

Will A Man Rob God? by Elder Kikuchi

Church Welfare, Humanitarian Programs Draw Attention
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

His Name On Our Hearts, His Image In Our Countenance

When we are baptized, we agree to "bear one another's burdens". The church helps us to fulfill this duty through Visiting Teaching and the Relief Society. As a visiting teacher, I visit a few other women of the church in their homes along with my "visiting teaching companion", on a monthly basis. We share a spiritual message and look for ways to take care of any needs that our sisters might have. In the picture to the right, my companion Tara and I are visiting Bryanna, a young woman who has just graduated from high school and is preparing to attend college in the fall. Her needs and interests would naturally be much different from the concerns of an older woman or someone who has young children, so it's fun to share our different perspectives and gain insight and support from each other.

Our message for this month is called "All Human Beings Are Created In the Image of God". First of all, how do we know this?...and what are the implications of such an idea? We know that God has a body and that we were created in His image, because the scriptures tell us so. We also have the witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith who saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ "standing above" him. For some people, God is an intangible being who is everywhere all at once and yet, unknowable, without passions, etc. But we believe that God has a tangible body similar to ours and that we came to earth to experience life in a mortal body and to use that body for good and godly purposes.

It is very comforting to me personally to think about God as having a tangible (although perfect and immortal) body. Our current prophet and president of the church Thomas S. Monson has said, "God our Father has ears with which to hear our prayers. He has eyes with which to see our actions. He has a mouth with which to speak to us. He has a heart with which to feel compassion and love. He is real. He is living. We are his children made in his image. We look like him and he looks like us."

In the church, we most commonly refer to God as our Heavenly Father. I think that puts our relationship to God in the proper light, and I hope that when I see him again, He will give me a great big hug...just like the loving Father that I know Him to be!

Here are a few links to more information about Joseph Smith's Vision and about what we believe about God.

Joseph Smith - History (an account of the First Vision)

The Sanctity of the Body: by Susan W. Tanner

Building Bridges of Understanding: by M. Russell Ballard
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Taking His Name Upon Us

When I was preparing to marry my husband Steve, I notified my place of employment that I would be changing my last name and would need a new login, which included a handle/id that people would use to send me instant messages at work. Now, the IT dept at this place had a knack for abbreviating long names...and I suddenly thought, oh no, what if they change my screen name to "Christj" (since I was previously "Hatchj" and Christensenj would have been too many letters.)

Suddenly, my whole instant-messaging life flashed before my eyes! If I were to become "Christj" wouldn't it be strange for someone on the receiving end of one of my messages...especially, if I were to complain or even worse ridicule something at work?! My harmless outlet for sarcastic venting at work would be ruined!

They did end up changing my screen name to "Christensenj", but that little episode really got me thinking...Am I doing all I can to live up to the name that I have taken...the name of Christ, himself? Becoming a "Christensen" has changed my perspective on that, because, I actually have Christ in my last name now...but as a "Christian" and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I covenanted at baptism to take the name of Christ upon me. (I also covenanted to keep His commandments, serve others, and testify of Christ.) I was baptized at the age of eight, so I have been able to put that into practice from a young age. It is easy to forget, though, in our day-to-day happenings that we have covenanted to act as Christ would that when we see Him again, we will know Him, because we will be like Him. Luckily, we get more than one chance to become more like Him in this life.

To read more about baptism in the LDS church, please click on the separate links listed below. Also, if you have any questions for me about baptism, please let me know.

Baptism (Source: Bible Dictionary)

Baptism: A Continuing Covenant (Source: Priesthood Manual)

The First Article of Faith

Pictured above: Jocelyn being baptized by her Dad, October 20, 1985, Lorain, Ohio.
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