Friday, March 27, 2015

A Very Merry UN-birthday to ME!

Earlier this year, I mentioned that my sister had given me a very special UN-birthday present with the instructions to only open it when I was having a gloomy, rotten day.  I loved the sentiment, but I vowed not to open it all year...and thus never give in to having a "bad day."

Well, yesterday, after a "no good, very bad" day, I cried Uncle, and this morning, with my children gathered around me, I finally opened the gift.  (For the record, I managed to wait three months before opening my bad day gift.  I think that's pretty good.)

However, had I known what a treasure lay inside I probably would have been tempted to open it much sooner!

I LOVE fortune cookies, and this was just such a sweet and thoughtful, personal gift for my sister to get for me.  I'm very touched.  Thank you, Dawn!!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

10 Blessings of Studying General Conference as a Family

General Conference really has transformed our family.  Last night, I wasn't sure what to do for FHE, so we did a GC review.  It took me all of five minutes to prepare, and we all generally enjoyed it.  Which, come to think of it, we do these types of mini-reviews all. the. time, so it's nothing out of the ordinary.

That's the thing about studying General Conference as a family regularly, you don't really have to wonder what to do for family home evening.  It's all right there for you!

And there are other blessings.  Let me name a few...

Ten Blessings of Studying General Conference as a Family:

1.  You never need to wonder what to do for FHE:  Don't get me wrong, I think about what we're going to learn/do...a lot.  I'm always brainstorming, but I know exactly where to go for lessons, and I find the best, purest doctrine from which to teach my kids!  And it directly relates to our lives, even before I know that it does.

2.  Your children laugh knowingly whenever someone quotes a Gen Conf talk in church:  I'm pretty sure that this is pretty rare.  I remember one of the first times that my kids' ear perked up in church.  We had just learned about President Uchtdorf's talk on gratitude by drinking from the bottle of bitterness, when the High Council speaker started quoting that talk.  Most of the congregation seemed to be asleep...or, uh, deep in meditation, but my kids' faces lit up at the mention of the "bottle of bitterness" and the "goblet of gratitude".  They were all shaking each other on the back and mouthing the words, "he just said...." and then finishing his quote.  Thumbs up all around!  I'm sure that HC speaker rarely got such an excited reaction to his talk!

3.  You and your children will know the WHY of the gospel.  I have seen my children's testimonies grow exponentially, and when I've asked them a question unrelated to Conference, they often fall back on GC teachings when giving me their reasoning for why we might make certain choices.  One thing I've noticed most in kids who fall away or struggle with their faith in young adulthood, is that they never really grasped the "why" of the gospel.  The "why" doesn't always come takes spiritual work to understand sometimes.  Studying the words of living prophets is a big part of that spiritual work.

4.  You will feel like you're a part of something big when you watch General Conference.  Since we don't just study, but we memorize the words of living prophets, when GC rolls around, we are totally stoked.  If the speaker refers to a previous teaching or if one of our memorized scriptures is quoted, we get pretty celebratory.  There is a sense of accomplishment for children who "know what the grown-ups are talking about."  Last year, we got to meet a visit General Authority. This was one of the highlights of our year, because my children recognized him from General Conference.  Even though, we live in a remote area, with one of the smallest and most wide-spread stakes in North and South America, we feel connected to saints everywhere when we learn the teachings of Conference.

5.  Your children will come to love the apostles personally and want to follow them. What can I say, my kids have their "favorite" apostles.  Even the youngest ones can remember that President Monson's favorite color is yellow!  Who needs a sports hero, when you can have a fighter pilot, an artist, a baseball star and other "heroes" who also happen to be great men of God, chosen to lead His true church on earth in the last days!

6.  When you bump into the daily problems of life, you'll already have answers, or you'll know just where to look. Studying General Conference has helped us many times by preparing us to make future choices.  One scenario happened when we needed to make a rule change in our media usage.  We were worried about how my son would take it, but weeks previously, we had studied Elder Cook's talk "Beware of Bondage."  When we reviewed the principles he taught, my son saw that our logic was good and based on sound doctrine, so he took the rule change in a very mature way.  (See my article Taming the Media for more on that.)

7.  Your children will know how to prepare lessons, talks, and how to testify to others of the truth.  My daughter can bear a mean testimony straight from the heart that will just floor you.  She's 7.  And all my children can teach a GC Lesson, with little help from me.  Lots of adults struggle to do this, but my kids know how to boil down to 1-2 key points and teach them clearly.  Last Sunday, my son turned to me in Sacrament meeting and showed me a slip of paper he had received last week saying he needed to give a talk in Primary.  I told him he had to do it (although he hoped to get out of it!), because it was his responsibility.  Even though he hadn't technically prepared, he had everything he needed to write the talk about how "God speaks through His prophets."  The testimony and scriptural knowledge was already there.  He had been preparing all along.  He wrote it and gave it.  He's 9.  These are the blessings we want for our families!

8.  When your kids start teaching the lessons, they start doing amazing things that you never knew they could do.  Like when Scarlett decided to come to FHE dressed as her 97-year old self and delivered a priceless speech to her future grandchildren...That was priceless!

9.  Happiness. Memories.  Funny things.  Crying.  Goofiness.  Hard work.  Frustration.  Teaching these things is nothing short of hard, constant work. But along the way there is happiness and silliness and contentedness that you cant really get any other way.

10.  The Spirit will reside in your home...times a million.  If there is one blessings that has permeated out lives most as we've studied General Conference together consistently, it is that the Spirit has become a permanent fixture in our home.  Yes, regular things happen that are bummers, that are frustrating, and hard.  Messes continue, chores still are a battle, but those day to day things don't bring us down.  There is peace and understanding and cooperation between parents and children.  This Spirit is the biggest blessing of studying General Conference together as a family.

This has long been one of my favorite scriptures:

"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Isaiah 54:13

I absolutely know this passage to be true!  And my hope is that all families will experience this peace.  That is why I share all of our adventures in General Conference Lessons on my 
General Conference Lesson page.  If you have any questions about how we do what we do, let me know, I'm happy to help.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Loving Others and Living with Differences by Elder Oaks

In my last post, I told you guys how my dear, dear friend is picking up and moving to Idaho--off for new adventures in midwifery!  So, last night we had them over for dinner and had a rip-roaring good time.

I really love her kids too!  So while they were here killing time on a Sunday, we decided to do a craft after dinner that related to a lesson I wanted to do on Elder Oaks' talk Loving Others and Living with Differences.

Honestly, it was just thrown together on the spot, but we are running out of time to get all of our lessons in before the next General Conference, so we keep moving along, plugging in spiritual thoughts/lessons whenever we have a moment.

We started by making these rain clouds...six children, making rain clouds!  They did great.  We tried to listen to Elder Oaks' talk as we worked, but it was a little hard to hear, so while we did talk about the concept I was trying to teach, we had to talk about it again this morning to get in more of the actual point of our lesson!

And the point that I was attempting to get across was this: Sometimes, people we have relationships with will disagree with us on matters great and small.  These moments can feel like rain clouds, but good things can come out of these interactions if we are wise and know how to conduct ourselves in a loving manner. To prepare ourselves for what we would do in these types of situations, we brainstormed about what we might say or do if we found ourselves in disagreement with someone we know.

One of the children, earlier in the day, had followed her mother's counsel to "walk away" when her brother started making her mad.  We said that was a good thing to do, but it's even better if we can stay with our friends when we disagree and show our love for them.  

We made raindrops that could "fall" from our clouds, and on the back of each rain drop, we wrote some things we would do to show love to someone with whom we may not agree.

Scarlett's list is above: "I will be happy.  I will be kind.  I would not be blue.  I will be loving.  I will not be greedy."  She also wrote, "I will laugh," which I think means she'd find a way to lighten the mood, which is also a good way to nourish a relationship.

These are pretty good mantras to have in our mind as we interact socially with people with whom we strongly disagree on matters of importance to us.

Here is my list: "Express love and admiration often. Play nicely together. Always be kind. Focus on the things on which we do agree. Say, 'I don't agree with you about this, but I love you anyway. And serve those with whom we might have disagreed in the past."  

I know that when we do these things, we can often gain a friend, instead of losing one.  And although it often seems more comfortable to gravitate toward people who think like we do, if we are strong enough to show love for those with whom we disagree, we may find a friendship that can weather any storm!  This is yet another way that we can emulate the Savior.

So that was our semblance of a lesson.  I normally like to get more in-depth with my children, but talking about it over a number of days also helps to peel back the layers of meaning in a talk.  I think this is an important topic for children and important skill to have in relationships in general.  So, I'm sure we'll talk about it more as the days go on.

Alright, I've got some work to do.  Hope you have a great Monday!

You can find the rest of our General Conference lessons here.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

a True Friend

This is one of my dearest friends in the whole world.  Her name is Sarah.  She is moving to a galaxy far, far away (Idaho), and I'm very broken up about it.  In fact, when she told me she was moving, I bawled like a baby and thanked her for ruining my Christmas.  And even last week, I cried big ugly-face tears three times in one day just thinking about saying good-bye to her this coming week.

Really good, true friends, who make you a better, happier person, really are a rare find.  And this woman for the past five years or so has been like a sister to me.  She has taken such amazing good care of me and taught me what it means to be a true friend.  

She has listened to me, empathized with me, believed in me, and studied the gospel with me.  She has been my visiting teacher and I have been hers (which provided us with both funny, awkward, and tender moments.)  She has laughed with me and kidnapped me. She has stayed up talking with me til 4 in the morning.

She has showed up at my house with food.  She has done my dishes, watched my children, and shared her best roll recipe.  She has gone berry picking with me and made me accomplice in her secret schemes.

She was even my doula in my labor and birth of my fourth child, so there isn't much that we haven't seen each other through or many situations we haven't seen each other in.  If I had to cross the plains, this is the woman I'd want by my side.

Although her absence will create a void for me, I'm proud of her for seeking after the blessings promised in her patriarchal blessing, by following her dream of becoming a midwife.  But man, am I going to miss her.  

I love you, Sarah...happy trails, my dear friend.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Scripture Study is More Important Than Sleep?

How important, would you say, sleep is to you?

I am a person who tends to *need* sleep like I need oxygen...a lot.  I love sleep, I crave sleep.  I should probably learn to live on less sleep, but it is my thing!

So when I heard Elder Scott say in General Conference that scripture study is more important than sleep, my ears perked right up!

Say what?  Say What?

In his talk "Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority," Elder Scott says this, "Don't yield to Satan's lie that you don't have time to study the scriptures.  Choose to take time to study them.  Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media.  You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God.  If so, do it!"

Well, even in his kind and gentle way, Elder Scott really lays it down.  Every time I listen to that or think of those words, they still stun me just a little bit.  More important that sleep?!...More important than TV (duh!)...More important than school?  Than work?  He really puts things into perspective, doesn't he?

I asked my 6-year-old Autumn to give this lesson to our family, because I thought she'd enjoy making a TV out of a small box and tin foil. And she did, although the TV she constructed doesn't look like any kind of TV she's ever seen...except maybe my grandpa's old TV we've been using in the basement forever...I told her to make knobs and an antenna and she had no idea what I was talking about!  So funny!

Autumn began the lesson as we usually do, by asking everyone to identify Elder Scott on our Apostles name board.  After we had done that, Autumn displayed various items representing the activities that Elder Scott mentions in the quote above.

Next, Autumn called on family members individually to come up and try to figure out what daily activities each item represented: screwdriver (work), homework (school), scriptures (scripture study), a small pillow (sleep), my cell phone (social media/texting), and her homemade TV (TV/video games).

After each item had been correctly identified, the children were asked to place the items on the floor in order of importance.  They knew to put the scriptures first in priority, but debated about where the other activities might fall in relation to one another.

Then we listened to Elder Scott's quote (from above).  We asked them what they thought Elder Scott meant when he said that pondering and studying the scriptures is more important than sleep.  We talked about a future scenario when they might be loaded down with school work and social lives and might find themselves in a situation where they have not read their the end of a long day, will they remember Elder Scott's words and forgo a few winks for a little time in the scriptures?

We also talked a little more about how much Elder Scott loves and knows the scriptures...and how in a previous talk he called a memorized scripture "an enduring friend."

Now, I just wanted to mention in response to a comment that I received yesterday: you'll notice that I don't usually try to teach the entire talk to my children.  Instead, I focus on teaching them what I believe to be the most important points or the most important point that I feel they are capable of remembering and keeping with them.

Also in this case, I tailored the lesson to the teacher as well. I only focused on the one main point that I thought she could easily remember and would enjoy teaching.  

It is so much work just getting young children to take in even a little bit of a talk...focus on what the Spirit tells you your family needs to hear and be happy that you've done that!

Some other key points from Elder Scott's talk include:

1.  Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life.  Arm your children morning and night with the power of family prayer.

2. Don't yield to Satan's lie that you do not have time to study the scriptures. If you need to reorder your priorities to do so, then, do it! 

3. Decide that on Monday night your family will be together at home for the evening.

4.  Get a temple recommend. Use it often. Don't let anyone or anything prevent you from being there.

For more ideas on teaching General Conference to children, please see our General Conference Lessons page.  You might also want to read my article on called "Learning from General Conference as a Family."
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Receiving a Testimony by President Uchtdorf

In his talk "Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth," President Uchtdorf gives us a formula, a spiritual "experiment" to try out, that will help us to receive a testimony of our own.

I really want my children to understand and get experience with this "4-Step Experiment":

1.  Search the word of God with sincere desire.
2. Ponder, fearlessly strive to believe.
3. Ask Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ to manifest the truth to you.
4. Do God's will.

To me, step #4 is imperative.  If any man will do His will they will know that the doctrine is true.  And many of us stumble because we do not perform step #1 correctly, because instead of searching God's words in scriptures and in the words of living prophets, we search for wisdom of the world on the internet.  Let's not mess this up.  The steps to follow are very clear.

Search.  Ponder & strive to believe. Ask God in Christ's name.  Do His will.

The other line I like from this talk is, "You need to learn to listen to His voice..."

President Uchtdorf says, "God cares about you.  He will listen, and He will answer your personal questions.  The answer to your prayers will come in His own way and in His own time, and therefore, you need to learn to listen to His voice.  God wants you to find your way back to Him, and the Savior is the way."

To play off of this idea that we need to work to learn to listen to His voice, we curled up our notes into megaphones.  We used duct tape to make them pretty and the kids practiced listening to my voice through their amplifiers.  If my voice was too soft for them to hear, they could move to be closer to me or turn off external noises that were making it hard for them to hear me.  This is a lesson for us all in learning to hear the voice of the Lord in our lives.

You can read more about our General Conference Lessons and check out my
General Conference Ideas page.
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Monday, March 16, 2015

We will do what we CAN when others are in need...

Well, guys, we are sick as dogs over here and everyone with his or her own malady.

Anywho.  While I am sick with strep throat, I still had to keep the kids occupied on Saturday while Steve tried to stay on schedule with the repairs/remodel of our house, so we can eventually return to a somewhat normal routine at home!  So, while he worked on the chimney, on a rainy Saturday, we did some General Conference lessons.

Next up was Elder Holland's talk "Are we not all beggars?".  We focused on this line, "Rich or poor, we are to "do what we can" when others are in need.  And those needs come in all forms.

I asked Guy to prepare this lesson.  First we listened to the first half of his talk together.  Then Guy showed us his "can" on which he had written "I will do all I can to help people in need by..."  On craft sticks, he had written a few examples of ways they as children can help when others are in need and he encouraged his siblings to do the same.

We placed our sticks in our service idea "can" and Guy told us we can pull one out whenever we are looking for ways to serve.

It was fun to see what the kids would come up with and to write some of my own.  It's usually the smallest gestures that mean the most.  While we've been sick, some friends brought us food and that meant the world to us.  Sometimes we learn the most about service when we are the ones in need.  

I'm impressed that Elder Holland isn't asking us to do anything extraordinary...he is merely asking us to do what we can...that doesn't sound daunting, now does it?  Let's get to work!

You can read more about our General Conference lessons here.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

We're watching General Conference Door Sign

I've wanted to create a General Conference door sign for a while now.  Since we're coming up on our fourth year of General Conference Book Club, I'd say it's about time.  Every week, women from church meet at my place to watch and discuss one talk from the most recent General Conference.  You can read more about it here.  So yeah, there have been different incarnations of this sign on my front door written on post-it notes before telling General Conference Book Clubbers to come right in, but now we'll have a more permanent solution.

I bought the materials for my sign before the last General Conference, but as with many projects, I just didn't get to it!  I found everything (letters, trees, and plaque) at Michael's craft store...pretty cheap.

I used weldbond to glue the wood pieces onto the plaque, but you could use wood glue or glue gun...whatever.  So here's our sign.  All I need is for Steve to drill a hole in it so I can hang it on my door.  The other side will say please knock, because I don't like bell-ringers waking up my napping baby (now 2-year old!) :)  I suppose we're getting past that stage, but it would still be nice to have.

As you can see, I'm not the world's best letterer, but it was fun to make this with my little Autumn, who's so not little anymore.  And truth be told, we've ALL been sick in the last week with something different.  I have strep throat right now and am only blogging to get myself out of bed for more than five minutes today.  Being sick is the absolute worst!!  

If you're looking for more ideas to make General Conference more a part of your life, then check out my General Conference Ideas Page.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

General Conference Countdown

Is it just me, or are there like a bazillion ways to get ready for General Conference these days?  Believe it or not, I just can't keep up with that much stuff.  Although our General Conference celebrations might look elaborate, I really do try to keep them as simple as possible...starting with this little General Conference countdown that I put on my menu board today.  Because of construction, I can't find my letters, so I had to improvise my S and R's.  But I'm not one to let a few missing letters keep me from counting down the days to Conference.

If you're interested in seeing what we're doing to prepare for General Conference in our family--simple ways, I promise--come on over and follow We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ on Facebook, where I'll be sharing this and other useful things every day.

You can also access ALL of my General Conference-related stuff on my 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

This is an important book.

What happens when a juvenile is sentenced to life in prison for mistakes made as a child? Can a person really change?  Does God care about everyone?  Does he care when we suffer?  This is a true story that will make you consider the roles of justice and mercy not just in society, but in your life.

I discovered this book Letters to a Lifer just a week or so ago, when I connected with a friend in my Stake over Facebook.  He and I had gotten to know each other last year through my calling, and I really got to know and admire his father, the Bishop of a ward in our stake, at Girl's Camp last year...however, in those interactions, I never heard about this.

This book is written by his mother, Cindy Sanford, and is their family's remarkable, brave, and touching story about their experience befriending and coming to love a young man who is serving a life-sentence in prison for a crime he committed at the age of fifteen.

I read one or two chapters and immediately declared that this was going to be one of my new all-time favorites...and I was right.

Remember when I read "The Hiding Place" and it changed my life forever?  Well, this book is so much like The Hiding Place in so many ways.  It teaches such similar lessons.  It causes the reader to look inside of themselves in a way that most books don't.  It is full of tragedy (less so than The Hiding Place) and also full of hope...maybe even more-so than The Hiding Place, because this story happened and is happening today.

I love a good, true story...and you will love this one!  I almost never tell my readers to go out and buy any book, but in this case, I'm saying: Pick it up today!!!  You can find it on Amazon or read more about their story here.  

All of the proceeds from the book are donated to MIMIC, a program that help families of inmates and mentors at-risk kids in Philadelphia.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Walk the Path that Jesus Walked...and Be Happy!

In his General Conference address "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet," President Monson taught, "We need not walk the shores of walk where Jesus walked.  All of us can walk the path He walked when...we choose to follow Him as we journey through mortality."

To help us learn more about President Monson's talk, I worked with Scarlett to develop a visual lesson and activity that she could teach the other children during FHE, something she was most eager to do!

The visual that President Monson lays out...that of following a path, was an easy one to focus on and fun to replicate.

My kids had fun painting each other's feet to create footprints for our "path," and I enjoyed standing back and observing my children as they take more and more initiative in the conducting of our lessons and activities.  They are really growing up.

In his talk, President Monson points out that Jesus Christ walked the paths of disappointment, loss, sorrow, temptation, and pain--and that as His disciples, we will also experiences these things. 

But he says, "While we will find on our path bitter sorrow, we can also find great happiness."

But how?

He continues: "We, like Jesus, can walk the path of obedience...."  We, like Jesus, can walk the path of service, prayer, and scripture study.  We can be merciful, humble, righteous, peacemakers, stand up bravely for our beliefs, and let our light shine regardless of ridicule.  We can be rescuers.

Scarlett did a great job teaching this lesson and helping us to understand that while we will all experience these things in mortality, we can choose to follow Jesus Christ and find happiness even as we experience pain, disappointment, and sorrow in this life.

The game that Scarlett came up with to help us talk about this was as follows:

Each person took a turn rolling a die.  If the number came up odd, they came up and read one of the "sad" experiences on our path.  If the number came up even, the person came up and read one of the good things we can do/become on our path.  Each person shared an example of ways we might feel sorrow, pain, humility, service, mercy, etc. in life.  And then we shared one way that the Savior experienced or demonstrated those things during his life and we compared these experiences to each other.

It was a very clever game, and I'm proud of Scarlett for coming up with it all on her own.  She's a very good teacher.

The kids all seemed to enjoy it, but when Autumn lost interest and rolled herself up in a blanket, she got laid on by the teacher!  That'll keep her attention, Scarlett! ;)

You can read more about our General Conference Lessons here.

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