Monday, June 30, 2014

Girl's Camp

I had the awesome opportunity last week to attend Girl's Camp.  Last time we talked callings, I was serving in my ward's Young Women's presidency.  Then I was released at the end of last summer and called to the Nursery for a few months, which was fun.  Then I was called to be in the Stake YW Presidency, so I am back to working with the wonderful youth of the church.  And Steve is serving as the ward YM President.

I am excited and happy to be where I am.  I love the youth.  I love their testimonies, and I love serving with everyone around the stake.

But I was not super-psyched last week about leaving my sweet babies to go to Girls Camp.  It's just so hard, as a Mom, to leave young ones, even leaving them with their Dad.

This is a photo that I took as I was leaving.  Three out of my four kids were crying, "Don't go, Mommy!!" out of my window as I left.


I was only able to go for two and a half days (camp lasts 6 days) but I did go.  I made a choice to "go and do" which was our camp theme this year!

Now I've been to camp as a teacher and as an overnight guest for the last two years in a row, but this was my first chance to come as a stake leader.

When I arrived, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.

I knew there were needs.  I needed to support our President who was busy making things happen for Camp as well as Youth Conference which is just two weeks away.  I needed to support our ward who was a little short on leaders.  I needed to help with the Faith Walk, and be leader support for the 4th year girls who's camp I was one of the adult leaders in.

Where to start?

All these directions, but which way to go?

I did the only thing I could think of:  "First observe, then serve."

Not long after I arrived, I noticed a sweet girl with tears in her eyes.  She was homesick and asking to leave camp early.  Other leaders were on the phone with her mother who was trying to convince her to stay.  I saw her, and my heart swelled with compassion, because I too was homesick for my babies and had left similar sweet spirits at home with tear-filled eyes.

I hurried over to her, put my arm around her, and said, I'm Sister Christensen, what's your name?  She said her name was Charlotte.  Of course, I couldn't believe the coincidence.  I said, "I have a daughter named Scarlett, who I just left at home crying!  Hey, I'm homesick too, but if you stay, I'll stay, and we can help each other."

Charlotte did stay.  She cried for another day or so, but something changed on Thursday night.  After the Faith Walk, she bore her testimony along with ALL of her other first-year friends, and I knew she wouldn't be begging to leave any longer.  Something changed in her, and something change in me.

I suddenly just knew where I was needed.  (And I knew that crossing paths with Charlotte was no coincidence.)  Through the spirit, I just knew.  I was there to help, mentor, love, listen, and serve, and the specifics of that job would be different from moment to moment.

It was such a special experience to see a girl, to really observe her and listen to her, and to find a window of time to say to her the things the Spirit wanted her to know.  And I had people who took the time to mentor me at camp as well, sharing their conversion stories with me just for my own nourishment.  Sharing the most amazing testimonies of Christ I have ever heard.

I was (and still am) kind of just reliving it all in my own mind when I went to church on Sunday.  The first song that we sang in Sacrament meeting was Hymn #130 "Be Thou Humble."

The lyrics are as follows:

  1. Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
    Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers.
    Be thou humble in thy pleading, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee,
    Shall bless thee with a sweet and calm assurance that he cares.
  2. 2. Be thou humble in thy calling, and the Lord thy God shall teach thee
    To serve his children gladly with a pure and gentle love.
    Be thou humble in thy longing, and the Lord thy God shall take thee,
    Shall take thee home at last to ever dwell with him above.
I was not expecting these words to pretty much sum up my experience at camp, but they did.

"Be thou humble in thy calling, and the Lord they God shall teach thee To serve his children gladly with a pure and gentle love."

My callings are always teaching me and humbling me.  And I have so much to learn, so much humbling to do.

I learned so much at camp, but the most important tutorial was learning for a brief few days what it feels like to "serve His children gladly with a pure and gentle love."  

This is the Savior's love, and I will treasure the way it made me feel always.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eyring: A Priceless Heritage of Hope

In a "A Priceless Heritage of Hope", President Eyring said, "Every day and every hour you can choose to make or keep a covenant with God....When you choose to make or keep a covenant with God, you choose whether you will leave an inheritance of hope to those who might follow after you."  

Now, we've learned about the conversion stories of our ancestors in recent family home evening lessons, so our children are familiar with the idea that their grandparents have left a good example for them to follow.  But for this lesson, we needed to turn our minds, not to the past, but to the future and show how what we do now (even as children) contributes to the legacy that we will leave for others to follow.

Since the concept of the passage of time is hard for kids to really grasp, I decided that we needed the help of a special visitor!

...and that special visitor would be Scarlett...90 years in the future!  

Earlier in the day I told her that I wanted a 97-year old version of her to come to family home evening and share her legacy of faith with the family.  


I explained what President Eyring taught about leaving a heritage of hope for others, and asked Scarlett to tell me what she hoped to do in her life to leave a legacy of faith for her grandchildren.  

I asked her what she'd like her Grandchildren to know about her, and I wrote down exactly what she said.  I'm so glad I got this on video (see below)...she did this with no practice!

During the lesson, I introduced President Eyring's teachings to our other children and then I called to "our special visitor" to join us, and out came: Grammy Scarlett!  

She shared her major accomplishments in life, getting baptized, getting married in the temple, serving a mission, and becoming a mother to 12 children!!  

She said, "It was hard, because the children came three at a time. Three, three, three, three! That makes twelve!"  Can you imagine???  I about died when she told me that in our little discussion beforehand, but if anyone could handle four sets of triplets, it would be Scarlett! (And she forgot to mention, she is very good at math!)

Everybody loved Grammy Scarlett!  She stayed in character, amazingly, the whole time, which can be hard to do when your older brother is threatening to pull off your wig!

I think Honor wasn't quite sure what to think of "Grammy".

But everybody got a "kiss on the cheek" before Grammy Scarlett left, because apparently, that's what Grammies do!

Then to wrap up the lesson, we took turns helping the other children write down (in their journals) what things they plan to do in their lives to leave a "heritage of hope" and a legacy of faith for their own grandchildren some day.  

Isn't family home evening awesome?  It can be really special sometimes. I have to tell you that aside from this epic performance by Scarlett, one of our other kids (a few moments later) was having an epic fit. It was complete chaos, but still this FHE will go down in our family's FHE history and be talked about for many years to come!!  It's so fun when something magical like that happens, but like everything in life, you've got to endure the craziness to enjoy the brief, special, sweet, amazing moments fleeting at they are.  I've got this one on tape, but I have a feeling it's something none of us will ever forget.

You can read more about our General Conference lessons on our General Conference lessons page.  And if you have had a fun experience teaching your children the lessons of General Conference that you'd like to share here, let me know!

{I am participating in an Easter/Family History Challenge.
Check out the #MyForeverFamily page to read more posts about celebrating your family history and for ways you too can participate!}

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Elder Nelson Let Your Faith Show

In his April 2014 General Conference talk, "Let Your Faith Show," Elder Nelson said, “There is only One in whom your faith is always safe, and that is in the Lord Jesus Christ.”  

We need to increase, proclaim, and let our faith show!  

As we live the standards/our religion, we are letting our faith show.  In the world, you might hear or see things that aren't in harmony with what you learn in church or at home.  This will happen more and more often.  Just remember that the Lord’s laws must always be our standard.  "Even if 'everyone is doing it', wrong is never right."  

Some problems in the world are confusing and complex.  Of this, Elder Nelson says, “In dealing with controversial issues, we should first search for God’s guidance."

For our activity, I had planned on asking the children what "controversial issues" they had questions about and then leading them through a search of the Prophet's words on that topic to find our answers, but we will do that at another time, because it is important to me that my kids know that this is the pattern that we follow.

For our lesson today though, we focused simply on the iconic words, "Let your faith show!"

Prior to the lesson, I prepared pieces of white card stock paper with the words of our lesson sprayed onto it using acrylic sealant, like so:

(The doilies were used to make an interesting pattern!)

When they began painting in water colors, the secret message was revealed.

We used this "magical" activity to remind us that whatever happens in life, we need to "let our faith show!"  In every situation, our faith must shine through!

A cheap and easier way to do this activity is to simply write "FAITH" on a white paper using white crayons prior to the lesson.  When your kids apply water color paint to the paper, the word "faith" will show through.  We did it both ways, and everyone enjoyed discovering what message of faith would appear.  This is another activity my kids are going to want to do again...soon!

Check out our other General Conference adventures at our General Conference Lessons page.
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Goblet of Gratitude vs. the Bottle of Bitterness

Oh man!  Today's General Conference Lesson was a doozy.  Sometimes the kids are in a mood.  Sometimes my lessons are well-planned-out, and sometimes hastily made lesson plans go haywire and everything erupts into a real sideshow of silliness.  

That was the case today, as we explored President Uchtdorf's talk "Grateful in Any Circumstances."

We all know the standout line where President Uchtdorf says, "We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is.  How much of our life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?"

In teaching my children today, I decided instead to focus on another line of imagery presented by President Uchtdorf when he said, "It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God.  But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding."

I thought that tasting the bitter and the sweet would help drive President Uchtdorf's point home for my children.  So at the beginning of our lesson, I set out a cup full of lemon juice and a cup full of apple juice and invited them to partake...Everyone had a sip of apple juice first and enjoyed it very much.

Then came the lemon juice.

  Here's Scarlett giving it a go; Her face says it all.

Guy gave it a whirl.  Even Honor had to take a turn tasting both.

Then I explained to them that President Uchtdorf taught that, "There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.  We can be grateful!"

We can put down the "bottle of bitterness" and drink from the "goblet of gratitude" instead.  (Quoted above.)

My kids, not knowing what a goblet was, thought I said GOBLIN, and before I knew it, they had worked themselves up into a frenzy of laughter over the whole thing.  We went from Goblin of Gratitude to Goblin of ATTITUDE.  We were all over the place and there was absolutely no reigning it back in.

They're roaring.  Honor is doing this with her plastic cups:  Her "cups of cuteness."

All that was left to do was go along with all the silliness.

All day long, anytime anyone sported a 'tude, someone would say, "Uh-oh, here comes the Goblin of Attitude!"  

Like when I drove a couple of miles out of my way to check out a yard sale and it turned out to be a junky waste of time, I grumbled under my breath, "Well, that was a waste!"  Then, I stopped myself and said, well, it was at least a pretty drive.  

After all, President Uchtdorf said, "We can CHOOSE to be grateful, no matter what!"

It's a choice we all make, many times, every day.  Choose carefully!  The Goblet of Gratitude is much more pleasant than the Goblin of Attitude OR the Bottle of Bitterness!!!

To read up on all of our adventures in General Conference learning, please visit our General Conference Lessons page!

Here are our General Conference Review Lessons for the April 2014 Conference (so far):

Following Up - Elder Ballard
Spiritual Whirlwinds - Elder Andersen
Roots and Branches - Elder Cook
I Have Given You an Example - Elder Scott
Continue reading... »

Saturday, June 21, 2014

We Need Never Partake of Evil

Oh, so much, so much, so much has happened since this photo was taken just 18 months ago!

18 months?  Can this be true?  It feels like 5 years has passed, and my babies feel like giants when I look at this photo.  They practically are.

Anyway, I'm just trying out my new computer to show my husband that I really can go back to my slick old ways of busting out a blog post in just 20 minutes with this thing.  I really am "a PC" it turns out.  Sigh.  If only we could really just click our heels...

I also wanted to share this awesome talk that I happened upon today as I was perusing Teaching: No Greater Call online.

It's Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Seeking the Good" - APRIL 1992 General Conference

"We can fill our lives with good, leaving no room for anything else.  We have so much good from which to choose that we need never partake of evil." 

This is sound advice!  But he has much more to say!  I recommend this talk to you!!  Good reading that I plan on giving a Sunday afternoon ponder!

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Keep your sharing of the gospel simple.

During the April 2014 General Conference, Elder Scott answered one of my questions when he gave this great advice: "Keep your sharing of the gospel simple."

As I was teaching this to my children this morning, my plan was to focus on that line, but then we read: 

"Your personal testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a powerful tool." And I decided it would be more fun to cut and color images of power tools than to talk about 'keeping our gospel sharing simple'.  After all, a child's testimony is already simple!  That's one thing they are good at!  

Elder Scott continues, "To be effective and to do as Christ has done, concentrate on this basic principle of the gospel: the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes possible our becoming more like our Father in Heaven so that we can live together eternally in our family units."

After reading this line, we practiced restating this basic principle in our own words:  Because of the Atonement of Christ, we can become more like our Heavenly Father each day and, someday, live with our families forever.

Elder Scott says--and this has become one of my favorite lines from his talk--, "There is no doctrine more fundamental to our work than the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  At every appropriate opportunity, testify of the Savior and of the power of His Atoning sacrifice.  Use scriptures that teach of Him and why He is the perfect pattern for everyone in life."

At every appropriate opportunity, testify of the Savior and of his Atoning sacrifice.

At every appropriate opportunity.  

I am guessing there are many more "appropriate opportunities" to share our testimony of the Savior than we are currently taking advantage of!

I am sensitive to this.  I never want an opportunity to pass when I knew I could have said something faith-promoting to another person and didn't.  The Spirit simply won't let me, if I am listening even a little bit to its promptings.  A long time ago, I promised that I would share His gospel, and I am still making good on that promise.  I guess we've all made that promise, right?  It can be simpler than we think, in fact Elder Scott is asking us to make it a simple endeavor. 

And how can we prepare ourselves for these "opportunities" that will surely come to us day in and day out?  According to Elder Scott, "You will need to study diligently.  Do not become so absorbed with trivial things that you miss learning the doctrine and teachings of the Lord.  With a solid, personal doctrinal foundation, you will be a powerful source for sharing vital truths with others who desperately need them."

I have to think that our memorizing of the Book of Mormon ABCs is helping with that (even if we are only on letter K!!)  We will get there.

And what could these "trivial things" be to which Elder Scott refers...what trivial things are we absorbed with at times that cause us to miss learning the basic doctrines?  I'll just let you answer that for yourself, dear reader.  And I will answer it for myself.

All right, well, we had fun coloring these images of power tools that I found on the internet.  Everyone made their own little collage of sorts and wrote what they wanted to remember from Elder Scott's talk.

Scarlett didn't like any of the power tools that I printed out, because she was the only one who didn't get a "say" in what we printed.  So I told her to think of the tools that Mommy uses around the house and draw some.  She drew a camera...of course, and chose a measuring tape, too.  Sounds about right.

I like having my children repeat back or reteach or journal what we just learned...something I guess I picked up from teaching the Come Follow Me lessons.  It allows me to gauge how much of the truths they are comprehending.  I can see if I've taught it effectively or if I need to reteach it to them for clarity or take another approach to help them understand.

To see all of our General Conference Lessons, go to our General Conference Lessons page.

Following Up - Elder Ballard
Spiritual Whirlwinds - Elder Andersen
Roots and Branches - Elder Cook
Continue reading... »

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Roots and Branches Elder Cook

During the last General Conference, Elder Cook taught us important principles to help us stay out of bondage.  His teaching directly blessed our family in the last six months, as we have applied the principles that he presented.  

This time around, in his talk "Roots and Branches," Elder Cook moved us from avoiding bondage to receiving blessings.  

Elder Cook said, "If the youth in each ward will not only go to the temple and do baptism for their dead but also work with their families and other ward members to provide the family names for the ordinance work they perform, both they and the Church will be greatly blessed."  

We shared this promise of great blessings with our children during Family Home Evening one night, and invited Guy, our resident Indexing guru, to teach his sisters what he does when he is Indexing on the computer.  (Which he was more than happy to do!)

Elder Cook went on to say, "Don't underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts..." 

We talked about how there is a special connection between three of the holiest places that exist: between Home, the Temple, and Heaven.  That connection is family, and people in all three places work to bring families together eternally.

We can be sure that while we are typing in names or doing any kind of family history work, there is someone cheering us on from the other side!


As a fun activity for the children, we made Shrinky-Dink charms out of family photos and turned them into quick little necklaces.  

This is so easy to do!  Choose your favorite *light-colored photos*, then make them a lot lighter.  Then print 3x5 or smaller photos directly on the Shrinky-Dink paper like you would photo paper (using a photograph setting on your printer).  They will shrink to 1/3 of the size of your originally printed photo, so keep that in mind.  Cut them out and add a hole with a hole punch.  Cook them in the oven at 300 degrees for about five minutes.  The pieces will curl up, but if you've got your oven at the right/high enough temp, it will eventually uncurl back into a flat, shrunken piece.  (Some of mine didn't uncurl, because we cooked it at the lower end of the temperature recommendations and some of the images were heavy on the ink!)  Next time we'll do better!  And there will be a next time.

The Shrinky-Dink paper (which you can get at craft stores or online) should come with instructions, but I'm just sharing my newfound Shrinky-Dink wisdom with you.  OOOh!

Hopefully when we see our little "family history charms" they will reminds us to do the urgent work of family history.

Now I interrupt this perfectly decent post to bring you this photo of Autumn waiting for her Shrinky-dinks to shrink.  That hideous mess in the background is my office erupting in Mt. St. Kitchen Chaos.  It stayed that way for about a week as I slowly misplaced every important thing I needed to keep track of.  I am sharing this photo because I love you, wonderful blog readers, and I want you to know, this stuff happens over at my house too.  Don't think it doesn't.  It does.

Also, because it's been a long time since I wrote this post, and some of you seem to be forgetting, that just like you, I'm only human.  

Carry on!

Here are the other lessons we've done based on the April 2014 General Conference:

"Following Up" - Elder Ballard
"Spiritual Whirlwinds" - Elder Andersen
"Roots and Branches" - Elder Cook
Continue reading... »

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Updating 72-Hour Kits

After our General Conference Lesson earlier today about Spiritual Whirlwinds, my children have been all about getting prepared physically for storms as well.  

They immediately went downstairs to set up a tornado safe-house in the basement.  Equipped with blankets, books, and favorite stuff-animals, they moved on to assess their 72-Hour Kits.

We realized it had been 3 years since we updated the clothing in our 72-Hour kits. Scarlett made sure the clothes weren't useful to her anymore by modeling her size 24 Month sweatshirt!  *Actually, I think we packed that for Autumn.

(If you want to see what we put in our kits, click here.)

I love the Tornado Rules that they made up:

We now have one more child than we had three years ago, but we've waited so long that the diapers I had packed for Autumn, now fit Honor!  Score.  Well, this is just a little reminder to go update your 72-hour kits.  I need to update my clothing pack too!

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