Monday, October 31, 2011

Things I Will Spend (my husband's) Hard-Earned Money On

I know that the term mommy bloggers really covers a wide range of women (and some men) who fall under just about every socio-economic status, but for the most part, I think if you are reading this right now, you are probably more blessed than you realize.

I love the studies where people are asked to name their "class rank" in society and people unfailingly describe themselves as well below what they actually are.  For instance, people who are upper or upper-middle income almost always describe themselves as middle income.   Why?  No one wants to  Because being "rich" makes you "elite"...and being elite is not cool, because it separates you from the common troubles that most "middle class" people face.

But let's face it people.  If you live in America.  If you own a home.  If you can eat dinner every night and shower every morning.  You are most likely rich compared to most other women in the world.

If you've graduated from high school.  If you've gone to at least two years of college (school loans considered) you're probably doing better...much better than if you hadn't.

If you haven't lost a job or landed on someone's hotel-laden property in this monopoly game that we call life in the last little while, you probably have extra cash...somewhere.

So, let's see if we can't find some lying around my pocketbook today, shall we?

At the risk of busting myself with my husband for being the gaping hole in our family's budget, I'm going to tell you a thing or two today about my spending habits.

Here are some things that I have bought recently:

A Halloween card that plays Monster put in Guy's lunch today:  $3.84

This dress that I ordered for myself because I thought it would be "slimming":  $50. for each member of the family:  $5

Masking Tape that Autumn "made a maze" with: $5

Plants to make my front porch look more inviting:  $50

Halloween Costume...The Hippo & Ballet Teacher costumes were Free.
Guy's Darth Vadar Ensemble: $20

Front Porch Swing (used):  $100

A Boyz II Men CD for me: $11.88

Birthday gift for Guy: $18
(Brick of Mormon Stories)

If I've done my math right, that adds up to $263.72 that I've spent recently on pretty unnecessary stuff.  Now, I'm not really "rich" by the world's definition, but if you are asking me to be straight up, I'll be the brave one and say, yes, I consider myself rich.  I am college educated.  I have a husband who provides for our basic needs and then some.  I CAN stay home if I so choose and play with my babies, and complain about doing dishes and go to my kids' Halloween parties at school, and better yet, the thing that makes me rich is that I KNOW WHERE ALL OF THESE BLESSINGS COME FROM.

Not every woman has the luxury of splurging for cards to put in her kid's lunch box.  I realize that there are actually MANY women who would LOVE to stay home and blog...and craft with their kids, and match a few socks every once in a while.  But the truth is there are many women out there who have to and be a Mom...Or even triple, go to school, and play Mommy & Daddy--day in and day out.

I am thankful for the material blessings that my family and I currently enjoy, but because I know where those blessings originate, I also know that they are mine to have proper stewardship over.  Meaning:  I must GIVE BACK. I must pass my blessings on.  I must be frugal enough to have some love to spread share what I have been given to give a hand up to women who want to give their families just what I am able to give mine.

And what is keeping them back first and foremost?  An education.  

A college education is so key in our society.  Did you know that single moms with children have the highest poverty rates?  Did you know that single moms who are poor, are poor because of their lower earning capacity, which is directly tied to their level of education?  Did you know that single mom's medium income is only 25% of what married couples make?  (See info here.)

My son's school recently sent home a form where you could fill out the clothing needs of your children (such as hats, gloves, coats, etc.) and the school will help fill those needs.  It breaks my heart to think that some children lack these basic essentials.

But I can see that in order to lift an entire family out of the pain of poverty, we must make it possible for single mothers out there to get the higher education that they need to make this possible.  Coats and gloves can only do so much.

That is why I am so happy to be teaming up with LDS Philanthropies and other mommy bloggers around the country to help raise money to provide scholarships to LDS Business College for single parents in need. 

If you'd like to help by donating to this cause, just click on the widget at the top of this email or click on my sidebar...I'm heading over there to donate right now!

Who's with me?

PS - Oh, and you guys had BETTER go over there and donate, because after this post, I think my husband is either going to ground me from shopping or make me get a job! ;)  I've made myself vulnerable...don't let it be in vain!!!

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dangerous Book for Moms: Chapter 5

"You need NANNY MCPHEE!!!"
It's been a while since our last installment of The Dangerous Book for Moms, but a new and very important chapter came to me while I was sitting in church today.  My mind wandered to some photos I had seen on Facebook recently of some scantily clad young ladies.  I was confused by what I saw, and then I remembered the scary tale of woe which I will now relate.

It was 1992.  I was a freshman in high school:  the social birth of the rest of my teenage life.

I am pretty sure that I had my outfits planned for at least the first 30 days of school, with no repeats.  That was very important.  Had to look good, dontchaknow.  

Then one day, mid-October or so, I must've run out of outfits to wear, because I started to improvise.  Deep in the back of my closet was a cute little dress suit that my very stylish grandmother had given me for Christmas the year prior.  I hadn't worn it yet, because unfortunately, the suit was olive green and she had paired it with a mustard yellow turtleneck.  Ack.  Not my color.

But I was nearing the end of my "fall line" and I had no money to buy more clothes, so I gave it another chance.  Now being the 90's this outfit had a sweet "cutout" in the bottom of the jacket and a matching one in the bottom of the skirt, where some red metal circles dangled.  

Red.  I realized that I just so happened to have a red sports bra that when worn under said suit jacket would appear just like I was wearing a red tank top.


I wore it to school that day, and received rave reviews from all of my peers.  My best friend thought I looked great, and so did I...until I saw my mom later that night at my volleyball game and saw the LOOK ON HER FACE.  Pure horror.

"Did you wear that outfit...that way...all day???"  

(I'm pretty sure steam was coming out of every possible orifice of her face before I even answered her.)

"Yes...why?" was my weak reply.

I knew I was in trouble.  No, trouble would not even begin to describe what I was in.

The outfit was just fine in my eyes, but not in hers, because the "cutout" portion revealed my "midrift" as parents were calling it those days.  Not acceptable.

What followed was an evening of "re-education" about what was modest and acceptable...and what was not.  I found it completely mortifying that I had to then stand in front of my Dad in the outfit and hear what he thought about it too.  I am guessing he found the experience equally mortifying.

If you haven't already guessed, this chapter of The Dangerous Book for Moms is really a chapter ripped right out of the playbook of the most dangerous Mom ever...MY MOM.

And you're about to get schooled on the way to make a punishment fit the crime.

What was the consequence for my actions going to be??

I knew I wasn't going to be grounded.  There wasn't much she could ground me from anyway without pulling me out of school (because I was always there).

I was informed that I would WEAR THE OUTFIT AGAIN TO SCHOOL THE VERY NEXT DAY...AND THIS TIME I'D WEAR IT THE RIGHT WAY...with the ugly yellow turtleneck underneath (sorry, Grandma, it just wasn't my color!).  AND...if anyone asked WHY I was wearing the same outfit two days in a row...I was to tell them exactly why...because it wasn't modest the other way.

(Teenagers of the world, you may now join me in one great, blood-curdling scream....Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Thanks.)

And furthermore, I was informed that I shouldn't even THINK about doing the old switcheroo into a new outfit once I got to school, because my Mom had "eyes everywhere" as she called them, who would call her and tell her if I tried anything funny.

Gosh, don't you guys just love my mom now? :)

So, the next day, I donned my beautiful olive green outfit and walked into school with my head held as high as I could possibly fake it, but inside feeling like a totally pathetic joke.

My best friend gave me a really funny look in homeroom and asked me what in the world was going on?  This outfit was no "t-shirt and jeans" look that could be passed off and worn twice in one week.  This was a very unique ensemble.

I explained what had happened to my friend, and she then looked at me with pity.

When I met up with my friend again in first period, she turned to me reassuringly and said, "Don't worry...I've told everyone why you are wearing that outfit again!"

As the day went on, I became much less concerned with what I was wearing and started, for the first time, to think of others.  I realized just how many classmates of mine actually wore the same outfits, the same jean/t-shirt combo every day or every other day.  I don't think they were doing it to make a fashion statement either.  

The punishment that my parents doled out suddenly held a much bigger consequence for me. I was all at once made painfully aware of how much I had and how much others didn't.  And I was made to realize that the self-absorbed, image-important path I was embarking on during this first quarter of my high school career was not the one that I should be taking.

I was no longer ashamed of my immodesty, as much as I was ashamed of the selfishness and pride that had lead me to wear an immodest outfit.  And boy, was I ashamed...deeply ashamed, and scared straight, if you will, back onto a path of not only modesty in dress but modesty in how I thought of myself and others.  It is a path of humility that I admit I must work hard to stay on every day since.

Now, I have a feeling that I've posted this story on my blog before (although I can't seem to find it!)  But I just had to include it in my Dangerous Book for Moms, because it was such a poignant lesson for me AND a fair warning to my children:  Please learn from me, and don't make me send you to school "re-wearing" an outfit the way that I had to when I was young!!  I promise you, you will not like it! 

So how do you guys like my Nanny McPhee Halloween costume?  My kids reacted just as I thought they would.  They are terrified of Nanny McPhee.  Ahem...I know the feeling.  Nanny McPhee is hardcore.  Unlike Mary Poppins, the nanny's methods are a little less sugar and a lot more tough-love-makes-the-medicine-go-down.

I sure am glad that my Mom gave me a little tough love when I needed it...(and a little Uncle Buck when I needed it too.)  I love you, Mom!

Perhaps when The Dangerous Book for Moms gets published, I could get Nanny McPhee to write the forward...nevermind, the Nanny has nothing on my Mom!  

PS - Just so everyone knows...My mom and I have talked about this series of events many times...and we both laugh about it now.  And just like in the Nanny McPhee movies, I see my Mother as the most beautiful person I know...because of these lessons that she was brave enough to teach me when I was young.

Lesson for Chapter 5:  Dangerous Moms always make the punishment fit the crime.

(*Linking up to Chocolate on My Cranium's Blog Hop on "Bravery"...not because of my bravery, but because of my Mom's!)
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Going Big By Going Small

Autumn yesterday, after building a huge maze on my floor using masking tape.

I was just thinking yesterday...about all the wonderful experiences I've had this year with my family and with you.  

In January, we helped our children memorize the Family Proclamation using the ABCs.

During February, we thanked people who've mentored us in Service Boot Camp.

In March and April, we crafted along to my Easter Book List.  (Best Easter ever!)  

Then came The Month of which we made some new friends in Japan, re-enacted our first three dates, and discovered this amazing book.

This summer was a beautiful heartbreak at times, but way more beautiful than heartbreak...and an amazing period of personal growth and discovery.

In September, we Celebrated Family, in conjunction with Chocolate on My Cranium and two other wonderful bloggers.

In October, we gave out 30 copies of The Book of Mormon in 30 days and along with 60 other bloggers formed The Book of Mormon Forum.

As I read down this list of activities, I can honestly say that I felt prompted by the Spirit to embark on each one of them.  And I am so glad that I did. I have grown as a person.  My children have benefited and we've made good memories and shared special moments together.  I think my husband has enjoyed it too (mostly).

Yesterday, as I was contemplating just how I was going to accomplish the big giveaway that I have planned of November (remember the Santa's Helper Giveaway from last year where I gave away $130 to a lucky reader to help a family need?  Yeah, that.)...Helping others is something that I believe in, and last year's Santa's Helper Project was really meaningful to me.

See look, I even have a button made up and everything!

...Anyway, as I was pondering how I was going to pull all of that together again this year, the Spirit weighed in again.  

Ever so quietly, he planted the thought in my mind..."...Or you could just show your gratitude for your life by serving and doing special things for your family in November, instead of trying to orchestrate something on such a grand scale..."  

It was a quiet prompting, but the message came through loud and clear.  The message was "You've done enough.  And what you have done is pleasing to the Lord.  Rest now and enjoy your biggest blessings...your family.  These days will not last."  

It was a poignant reminder and a rare pat on the back. I thought about what I had heard for a moment, and as soon as I accepted the thought that I would forego the giveaway....I felt completely at peace.

So, I am going to do something truly revolutionary next month (for me, anyway)...I'm going to go big by going small.  And that means that unless a miracle happens between now and November 1st, there will not be a Santa's Helper Giveaway this year.  Knowing you guys, you'll still serve others just as much without my help, anyway.  This also gives me time to do lots more fun things for my husband and my babies, and to enjoy our quiet moments together, and I'm going to enjoy that quite a lot.  Don't worry, I'll pass our fun plans on to you too.

Now I've got to go tell all the generous sponsors who were willing to contribute to stand down for now, but there is one prize that I'd like to pass on to you, as a thank you for your loyalty, support, encouragement, and hard work this year!  

(Keep reading to find out how you can win your Christmas cards this year!)

Remember how beautiful our Christmas cards turned out last year?

Shutterfly did an amazingly high-quality job...and last-minute too!  I ordered them really late in December and received them in time to mail them before Christmas (and share them online with all of you.)

The inside of our Christmas card from last year.

The colors were bright and the images were crisp and clear.  I really was impressed with Shutterfly.  And that is saying a lot...considering what a seasoned Christmas Card Connoissieur I am!  (It's no joke...remember extensive, museum-quality Christmas card collection!)...I'm welcoming additions to my collection, by the way!!  Hint...hint! :)

Now to be completely honest, I wasn't even considering going the photo card route for Christmas last year (as I never had before), but Shutterfly made me a believer with their blogger promo. (“Are you a blogger? Want a chance at 25 free cards this holiday season? Register here.)  

Anyway, their site is very easy to use.  It only took me a few minutes to create my card.  Then I got to just sit back and feel like a rockstar!

My friend Allison keeps attempting to get "one good shot" of her kids together for her Christmas card.  It makes me laugh whenever she posts her failed attempts on her blog, but to me they look great.  

And maybe that's why I think this card is so wonderful--because of the people on it!  I'm sure you'll have a similarly wonderful experience.

Want to try Shutterfly out for your Christmas cards this year?

As a thank you to you, my dear readers, 
I am giving away 25 free photo cards from Shutterfly!


How to enter:

1.  Be nuts enough to have read this entire post...
Congratulations, you've already done #1.

2.  Tell me what your favorite post was this year and why.

3.  Tell me what your favorite Christmas Book is...
I'm looking for new ones to try out for my Christmas Book List.

4.  Tell me one thing that you accomplished this year and are proud of.
(Did you actually clean out your closet?  
Congrats, you deserve a pat on the back too!)

Please leave a separate comment on this post for each entry!

I will announce the winner next week.


PS - As if this post wasn't long enough already:  Yes, we are thinking about Christmas.  We are expecting 6-10 inches of snow this afternoon.  While I wrote this post, Scarlett was marching around outside singing "Oh, Christmas Tree", and now we are having hot chocolate.  She also drew this picture of Jesus, Mary & Joseph.  What a good girl!

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Just like that...

Yesterday, I gave away my last two copies of the Book of Mormon to complete my personal challenge to give away 30 copies of the Book of Mormon in 30 days.  

It all started with a conversation about Twilight, actually.  Some friends of mine were talking about it, so I waited for my chance to chime in (read brag about) the fact that my S-I-L Renae was college roommates with the author of those books.  Stephenie Meyer even named one of the characters after Renae, although I think it's spelled differently in the books.  Where did they go to school?  BYU.  And yes, the author of Twilight is a Mormon.  My friend's eyes got kinda big on that one.

This lead my friend to open up about questions she had about the church, and revealing her connection to it.  When she indicated that she always wanted to know more about our beliefs, I was only too happy to hand her the gift bag with an Ensign and Book of Mormon in it that I had in my car.  I was very happy to share a Book of Mormon with this friend, and I did not see it coming at all.  The Lord can truly use anything to bring his children to him...even through kooky stories about vampires.  (And no this is not an endorsement of Twilight, so I'd better not get any nasty-grams about vamps on this one!)

Anyway, I took the final copy of the Book of Mormon to another good friend of mine who had messaged me on FB saying she was going through a little rough patch.  I ran over to her house in the rain, and our kids played while we had our own Mommy play date.  It was fun, and I was happy to see my final two copies go to such beloved friends.

And then...just like that...I was finished.  I shared 30 copies of The Book of Mormon with 30 friends in 30 days!  Wow.  I wish I could relate to you every amazing way that the spirit lead me this month, but I'm afraid I can't.  Just know that he did.

It's pure poetry that on the day after I finished giving out my last Book of Mormon, the new set of scriptures that I ordered arrived!  What a fitting memento of this special month.

And what an amazing month we've had together in The Book of Mormon Forum!

If you were unable to participate as you would have liked this month, never you fear!

The Book of Mormon Forum will continue to function as a network of bloggers who desire to share their testimonies of this sacred book online.  We will host monthly blog hops where you can link-up your own posts about The Book of Mormon and continue to encourage each other in our efforts.  Grab a button if you'd like to help spread the word, and email me if you'd like to join the ranks of "Forum-ites"!

The Book of Mormon Forum

Now to announce the winners of this week's Book of Mormon Blog Hop Giveaway

The giveaway for this blog hop has been provided by the Etsy Shop
 Express Yourself Vinyl

The three winners of the  following "I know the Scriptures are True" lip balm

Winners, please email me your mailing address so you can receive your thank your gift!

I Know the Scriptures are True for 2011 LDS Primary Theme
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Up Close

So often in life, things that we don't understand or don't know a lot about can seem pretty scary to us.  I remember when I was in elementary school, my friends and I would swing at recess and make up stories about the little old woman who lived in the house behind the school.  Every day, she wobbled out to gather herbs from her garden.  We were sure that she was brewing up some sort of evil stew, and that if she could she'd love to throw the fingers of little children into her concoction.  Without ever talking to her, we were convinced...she was a witch.  (It didn't help that she often wore black!)

There is another little old woman who lives in my town now.  She walks all day long...every day. I've seen her in the heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter, hobbling along the streets, across bridges, through parks.  Her face is a bit weather-worn from wind and sun, but she always seems happy.  I wonder if my children notice her, and if they do, what they think about her.

We saw this woman yesterday, so I pulled my car around to where she was.  I decided to offer her a Book of Mormon.  She walks pretty fast.  I jumped out of the car, then had to run to catch up with her.  Hopefully, I didn't spook her!  

When I saw her face up close, it was actually very pleasant, and her smile was beautiful and she was very articulate.  I told her than I had seen her walking and thought she might like to read the book that I had. I explained a bit about it and that it teaches about Jesus Christ.  She thanked me and took it, then asked me if I wanted it returned when she finished.  I said, sure, she could give it back when I saw her again.  

Then I asked her, "Why do you walk all of the time?"  She said, "Oh, I have been walking since before my husband died.  Now, I just love to be out in nature."  I said, "Yes, you sure must see such beauty, and you must be in rather good health with all of that walking.  You inspire me."  She brushed that comment off, then thanked me and continued on her way, as did I.  All the while, my children watched from the car.  I am sure that they'll notice her now.

I wonder sometimes if people find The Book of Mormon, or the thought of it, a bit scary, because it is unknown or unfamiliar, but I wonder if they wouldn't find it for what it is--beautiful, enlightening, peaceful, and gratifying--if they just got close enough to it to get to know it a little, as I did this beautiful old woman.  I do hope she finds what she is looking for as she walks God's good earth!

If you are interested in receiving one of my last two copies of The Book of Mormon, please let me know:

The Book of Mormon Forum

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

HE'S A (Book of Mormon) LEGO MANIAC!

The Tree of Life
When I stumbled upon the blog of our next guest in The Forum, I just about fell out of my chair...This guy has illustrated 20 scenes from the Book of Mormon...using Legos!  I immediately asked him for an interview.  Read on to see what he says about the experience and about gaining and sharing a testimony of The Book of Mormon:

NOTE:  If any of these depictions pique your interest in The Book of Mormon, 
you can read it here.

Nathan...what's with the Lego infatuation?

Haha, You'd be surprised how often I actually hear this.  Like many other kids, I grew up with Lego--but while other children seem to grow out of it eventually, I never quite did.  

I think perhaps one of the greatest reasons for this is simply that I can express myself in unique ways through Lego, and there aren't many other mediums that seem to work just right for me.  I want to create art, and Lego is much easier for me to work with than, say, paint or clay.  And, of course, it's just fun!    

Mormon Abridges the Plates
What gave you the idea to recreate Book of Mormon scenes using Legos?  And how do you decide which scenes to do?  

Another factor that has kept me interested in Lego is the worldwide community of thousands of other adult Lego fans.  It's a blast to talk and compare ideas with them, and to have an audience for the things I build.  It was through this community that I discovered other people recreating scenes from the Bible in Lego, and I thought it was really cool to see the scriptures portrayed that way.  But to my knowledge, no one had done anything with the Book of Mormon.  Well, I thought,why not me?  With the ability for it to be seen all around the world, I considered this a choice opportunity to share my testimony and reach a lot of people.  But even without such an audience, I was just excited by the thought of using art to express my feelings about the Book of Mormon.

Suffer the Children
Back then--I was sixteen at the time--I was only familiar enough with a few stories to illustrate them very well in Lego.  So I actually just went through the Book of Mormon, page by page, scanning chapter headings and building what sounded interesting.  I got about twenty scenes out of this, which is all that have been done so far.  

"Oh Ye Fair Ones"
But as you and I both know very well, there are many more than just twenty worthy scenes in the Book of Mormon... and I intended to go back more thoroughly and build what I had missed.  Yet by the time I had published "Oh Ye Fair Ones," from Mormon, preparation was in full gear for my mission, and I was happy to put my various projects on the back burner for a while to go where the Lord needed me most.  

I had done my Lego missionary work--now I got to finally put on the badge!  Of the many things I gained from that experience, there came a more abiding testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon, and a more extensive knowledge of its contents.  Though I still have to admit... I can't count how many times on my mission (and since!) that, while reading the scriptures, I thought, Gee, this would look awesome in Lego!  So, I suppose to answer your question in just a few words, scripture study is what leads me to the decision of which scenes to build. 

With that said, I'm happy to announce that there are still many more scenes in the works.  I can't put an estimate on how soon the world will see them, or how often, but I am at least planning Samuel the Lamanite for the coming Holiday season.  It's gonna be awesome!

Which scenes were the most fun to do?

Oh, man.  Good memories coming back!

The Book of Alma was a blast to go through; it provided two of my favorite scenes.  Anything with Captain Moroni is going to be awesome.  I can't say whether he's my favorite character in the scriptures (we all need different heroes for different times, right?), but he's definitely in my top five.  My first depiction of him was in "The Title of Liberty," a simple scene with Moroni posed atop a rock, waving his newly created banner.  That one stayed put together for a while, because I really loved how it turned out.  My first foray into Alma, "Ammon at Sebus," was the perfect scene to do in Lego, as it fit the toy so well (what would you expect with a figure whose arms snap off?).  Before it was retired, that scene made its way into a Relief Society centerpiece.

"The Mists of Darkness," from 3rd Nephi, was also a fun build.  That, along with "The Tree of Life" and "Murder at the Judgment Seat" were for me perhaps the most visually pleasing of the series.  "The Great and Spacious Building" offered me the greatest challenge of all: figuring out how to pack something so massive into such a small space, yet still keeping some sense of its grand scale.  I enjoyed working with its architectural details, too.   

The Scalping of Zerahemna
How do people react to them? Have you received any interesting feedback? 

I've had generally positive feedback, both from members of the Church and those of other faiths.  On occasion, I have had people actually comment on the scriptural background of my creations, and I've had some really nice conversations with them.  Normally, it's someone that has read the Book of Mormon at some point, and even though they didn't go and get baptized, or anything, they had favorable things to say about the book.  I always appreciate that. 

Murder at the Judgment Seat

Another neat thing happened while I was publishing these little scenes: all of a sudden, I wasn't alone anymore in the Lego community.  There always had been members of the Church here and there, and I had even gotten to talk to them previous to this.  But I never knew they were LDS.  They hadn't known I was LDS, either.  Yet now, whenever I'd post a new scene, there was always someone else who would express their excitement over seeing something so meaningful to them appear in our community discussions.  A few even offered to help with the project in various ways, like giving story and building suggestions or selling me relevant pieces from their own Lego collections.  That really meant a lot to me.  From my perspective, it seemed like members of the Church were just coming out of the woodwork, and that was a great feeling.  I gained some wonderful friendships because of that.

Indeed, the feedback I receive from members of the Church tends to be very excited.  We as Latter-day Saints are a people who love to see our faith anywhere it appears in the world, and I can't count how many emails and blog comments I've received asking for permission to use my pictures in Sunday School lessons, Family Home Evenings, and seminary classes.  I love seeing my fellow Saints get excited about this stuff, because my little creations are, in essence, my testimony to the world. 

What do you do with them when you're finished?

Well, Lego ain't cheap, but the beautiful thing about it is I can reuse it.  Everything I build gets taken apart again after I've published the photos, so I have the pieces I need for the next scene.

What is your testimony of the Book of Mormon?  How did you get it? 

My testimony has been a lifelong effort, but perhaps the most pivotal moment happened in high school.  I grew up in the Church, and throughout my childhood I was blessed to learn the scriptures at home.  I gained a lot of important knowledge as a kid, which would lay a strong foundation for the rest of my life.  But for me, that was just what we did, and that's as far as my understanding really stretched at that point.  We went to church on Sunday.  I went to Scouts, Young Men's, seminary.  I served in my Aaronic Priesthood quorums.  I knew these were all good things to do, but the way I looked at the world, my testimony was based more on facts than on the Spirit.  I knew things, but hadn't asked God to confirm them for me.  God hadn't told me the Gospel was true; I reasoned that it was true.  It made sense to me logically.  And that was a decent enough place to start; but it would never be enough.

Things got pretty hard during my sophomore year of high school.  It wasn't so much that bad things were happening; I was just in a new environment at school, which came with new friends and new activities.  I discovered that the world was a much bigger place than I was used to, and in all my efforts to fit in, I got a bit overwhelmed.  I didn't know who I was, exactly, or where I belonged.  In so many words, there was a hole in my life that I didn't know how to fill, and I wasn't happy.  As well as I knew the "facts" of the Gospel, there was no comfort in them for me.

Every year, my seminary would challenge all the students to read the Book of Mormon in the month of March.  That year in high school was my first accepting the challenge, but mostly because everyone else was doing it--after all, my whole purpose in life was to fit in.  

Going to high school in Utah, most of my classmates were also members of the Church, and it was the coolest thing to be sitting in class during March and see so many of them reading the Book of Mormon at their desks.  School felt different that month; the Spirit was there, though at that time I didn't recognize that good feeling as the Spirit.  For me, it was more of a "strength in numbers" type of thing.

And yet, I did notice some other changes.  For one thing, there was that good feeling at school.  Over the course of the month, I found myself trying less and less to fit in, and more and more to just be a good, kind person.  Little things that had once so troubled me lost their effect.  I was doing better in school.  I wasn't so stressed out all the time.  The world just seemed like a more beautiful place.  And yet, the only thing I was doing differently than before was reading my scriptures every day.  My situation didn't change--I did.

The Prayer of Enos

On a Saturday evening near the end of that month, after spending my whole day trying to catch up with the reading, I reached the end of Mormon and felt a powerful urge to pray.  I had never felt (or at least recognized) such a prompting before, and I wasn't really sure what I should pray about.  But I felt a powerful sense of gratitude for my life, and for the world around me, and for the story I had just read about Mormon and the decline and fall of the Nephite nation.  So I figured I'd pray about those things, and just thank God for them.  Yet as I was praying, I continued to feel things... and I finally found myself asking whether the Book of Mormon was true. 

I had read the Book of Mormon before, but never prayed about it, and didn't know what to expect when I did pray.  To be honest, I think I was hoping for a concourse of angels, or the voice of God Himself whispering in my ear, or something like that.  Remember, the Gospel made sense to me logically, and for me, those were the logical ways for prayers to be answered.  Feeling didn't make sense to me, even though it was that very thing that had driven me to pray in the first place.  I just didn't understand how I was supposed to get a clear answer in silence.

But that's the wonderful thing about the Spirit: it's not logical.  It's not bound by mortal reason.  I didn't hear a voice, or see angels, but I would not know the truth more surely even if I had experienced those things.  There came into my heart and mind a strong sense of peace--peace where there had once only been restlessness--and a sustaining hope.  I couldn't remember a time I had felt so much love and happiness.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so sure of anything as I was at this moment.  Relying on facts--a "scientific method" of the Gospel, if you will--none of this would have made any sense to me at all.  But now I understood!

God is mindful of each and every one of us.  He heard the prayer of a struggling fifteen-year-old and filled the hole I had been trying so very desperately to fill.  Because of the Book of Mormon, I not only know who my Savior is--I know why He came to Earth and atoned for me.  I know what He wants me to do, and who He wants me to be.  And no matter how crazy the world gets, or how busy my life seems to be, I am living a life of peace every single day, and I carry that peace and that hope with me everywhere I go.  It's what we're promised in Ether 12:4:

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

This is the life.  And I am grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who has blessed me with it.

What advice do you have for others on sharing their faith in the Book of Mormon?

It sounds so simple, but prayer is such an effective tool in sharing one's faith in the Book of Mormon.  If you want opportunities, ask God for them!  And then you do your part, because He'll certainly do His.  Go about doing good.  Look for ways you can serve others, and miracles will happen.  Just jump in, and don't worry about what you'll say; God knows what everyone needs to hear and when.  Trust the Spirit.

I have also learned that getting creative works, too; it's not always a Gospel conversation that opens hearts and minds.  Our Heavenly Father has blessed each of us with unique talents, and He wants us to use them!  We can bear testimony through our hobbies and interests--in my case, with Lego.  

Yet it's not hard to start a Gospel conversation, either.  If someone asks me how my weekend went, I like to mention that I went to church, and if it feels right, maybe even share what the Sunday School lesson was about, or how much I enjoyed someone's talk.  We owe everything we have to God.  So, when you think about it, everything we have testifies of Him.  Any conversation, any situation, can become an opportunity to bear witness of God's blessings.  

And, if you want to share the Book of Mormon, use it!  When my friends experience trials, I like to share Book of Mormon verses with them that have brought me comfort, and it has never hurt.  Actually, while my friends haven't necessarily rushed to get baptized, or anything, more than once they have let me know how much those passages meant to them, and that strengthens my faith.  

For further study on this topic, Chapter Five of Preach My Gospel is full of great ideas for using the Book of Mormon; I would definitely recommend it.  

When do you think the first stop-motion-animation Lego B of M film will be coming out??

Haha, Now there's an idea!  I have attempted stop-motion animation in the past, but I must confess I do not have the patience or skill for it.  I do know some people, though; I'll pitch the idea to them.  :)

Anything else you'd like to share?

I'd just like to thank you for taking interest in my work and giving this interview.  When we share our testimonies, our testimonies grow, and I have felt that as I have taken the time to answer your questions.  If anyone else has any questions, I'd be happy to answer as best I can.  And, while I'm here, I might as well let any YSA readers know I'm single, a returned-missionary, a musician, and I work out.  ;-)    

Nathan Cunningham

You can see more of the work of Nathan Cunningham at Galleria di Cunningham and Glass Half Full.  Thank you, Nathan, for sharing your time, talent, and testimony with us!

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