Monday, June 29, 2015

The Doctrine of Family is Sacred

Speaking of God's essential truths, Elder Robert D. Hales has taught that the "doctrine is sacred, and will not change in the social and political winds of our day."

When the Lord's definitive document on the doctrine of the Family (The Family: a Proclamation to the World) came out in 1995, it was a beautiful and welcome thing.  It was pure, happy, basic-as-it-gets truth.  It is still as true today as it was 20 years go.

The doctrine is sacred and will not change. These are words of comfort to me that have become a motto of sorts.  This line of fact tells me where it is safe to stand...where is holy ground.  And that place is on the doctrine clearly outlined in The Family: a Proclamation to the World.  That is why I use it so frequently to teach and direct my children.

I reference it to teach my children that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, that children are entitled to birth with-in the bonds of matrimony and to be reared by a Father and a Mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. 

I also use it to teach them that "Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."

I want all of my friends to understand, realize, and reach their divine destiny, which means returning to our Father in Heaven as family units.  However, I realize not all of my friends will hear it, not all of my friends will believe it, not all of my friends will choose it.

I love them still.  I love them in spite.  I love them with a determination that as their spirit sister under our Heavenly Father's plan, I will not back down from sharing my love of family, because who knows but that I promised to do this for my friends before we ever set foot on the earth.

When I was in college, my friends all drank alcohol.  One day, a friend of mine who fosters a great love of liquor said, "Jocelyn, I never ever want to see you with a drink in your hand.  If you take a drink, I'll lose hope in everything.  As long as you don't do it, I can believe in something better for myself..."

I never forgot that.  I also never fully realized before that point, how much my friends were relying on me to keep the faith, to not yield, to not follow the crowd, but to live what I believed.

Today, Satan wants us to believe that no one wants to hear support for traditional marriage. Because of my previous experiences, I know that this is a lie. And it's up to you and me to call his bluff, but more than that it is up to us to test out God's promises.  Many eyes are upon us as Latter-day Saints to see how we will respond.

Every day, I try to show my love for my friends who live a life or belief system different from my own.  When I make a new friend who is LGBT, I find a way to share my own beliefs about marriage with them upfront, and immediately express my love for them as a person and my hope that our differences won't get in the way of a rich friendship.

I think this is important.

The greatest commandments we have are first to love God, second to love our fellow man.  Even in this, Christ has set a pattern to follow.

My good friend who recently moved used to live in the downtown area of our small town.  Her neighbors were a gay couple.  She went out of her way to express her love for them.  In a conversation, she clearly expressed her beliefs about marriage and followed it up with, "however, I want you to know that I don't hate you.  I love you."  The man she was talking to broke down in tears.  He said, "No Christian person, has ever said that to me."

I believe there is a great need in the world for people to feel loved.  You can be that person who, through following promptings of the spirit, helps someone to feel the love of our Heavenly Father.

We can and should do this, while standing squarely for the Lord's doctrine of family.


This post is part of a blog hop with these fabulous bloggers! We're talking about our marriages, giving tips, and sharing what we've learned but most importantly defending traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Click on the links below to read their posts. Marriage between a man and a woman blog hop
Mandy @ A Bliss Complete |Hilary @ Pulling Curls |Emily @ Celestial Shine Magazine | Kerry @ My Random Sampler Jocelyn @ We Talk of Christ | Jenifer @ Moss Moments | Montserrat @ Cranial Hiccups Jennifer @ My Daylights | Camille @ Chicken Scratch 'n' Sniff | Angela @ Mormon Women Stand | Kathryn @ Well Behaved Mormon Woman

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Not the creative type.

I've been doing a lot of creating with my children lately, and since I see in them a great gift for creativity, I try to teach them skills that I never developed.  For most of my life I have believed that I was not good at art...I didn't have the knack for it (or maybe the patience), and I had other interests, so I never took an art class in high school, and I really never tried to stretch myself in that area.

Fast-forward to today, while I was out with my kids and picked up a book on how to draw horses, and through careful instruction and trial and error, I was able to sit down and draw this horse.  This and other recent experiences with art got me thinking about how nutty it was for me to think that I couldn't do these things.  I guess I told myself that some people are born with certain talents and I just am not, but I know now that this is not exactly true.  

People who are good at art aren't necessary born that way...a great deal of work went in to learning how to do that, and that's what I try to teach my children as well.  If we see a great painting or sculpture or impressive drawing, I say, "Wow, that person must've worked really hard to learn how to do that and then took time to create something so didn't just happen.  It took desire, work, and practice."

I also noticed while drawing that if I didn't draw the line correctly the first time, I needed to erase it and try again and again until I molded it into the picture I wanted to create.  Our lives and our testimonies are a lot like this process.

Being creative with my kids this summer has brought me a lot of happiness and more insight into who I am, and who God is, and how he works.

In "Happiness, Your Heritage," President Uchtdorf taught, "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.
Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.
You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”
If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.

But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy. 4 Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.
If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.
You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. 5 The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes,family memories, flowing laughter.
What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.
Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.” 6
The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you."

In what ways can you be more creative in your daily life?  Perhaps, you could start by reviewing your day and writing down ways you've created something that wasn't there before!  I love President Uchtdorf's suggestion that even inspiring a smile that wasn't there before is a way we can all be creative in this world!

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Family Proclamation Art

We are continuing to talk about The Family Proclamation.  This week, we learned that "All human beings--male and female--are created in the image of God."

About five years ago, when we first started doing Family Proclamation lessons at home, we did a silhouette to go along with this idea.  The collection of silhouettes that we made together are still one of my favorite art displays in our home.

So, I wanted to do another silhouette type of project...with a twist.  

We created these silhouettes which reflect even more of the phrase above, which continues, "Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.  Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

I really liked the potential for these silhouette "self portraits" to help the children look inward into what makes them special and what they love, and express those characteristics outwardly through this art project.

To make them, first, I took pictures of the children from the side, enlarged the photo digitally, and printed them out on my home printer.  Then I cut their profile pictures out carefully and traced them with pencil onto card stock.

After tracing their profiles in permanent marker, I encouraged each child to fill the inside of their silhouettes with pictures of things that they love.  It was really fun to see them go to work. (This project was done over about two days.)

When they were finished we traced over their drawings in permanent marker and then colored it all in.

The result is as colorful and unique as each child. (I helped Honor, who is 2, with hers!)  

It was fun to take time to contemplate what it is that makes up each one of us, and to know that now matter what, we are each beloved sons and daughters of heavenly parents with a divine nature and destiny.

You can see more examples of this kind of art project here.  And you can access our Family Proclamation lessons here.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We Write According to Our Prophesies

My children have been really sick for the first week of vacation, so, in addition to building, we've been doing a lot of things at home--such as writing!

The first thing we've been doing is writing daily in our 2015 Primary-themed copy books (found free here.)  We do this during breakfast.  It's quick and easy and gives me a chance to help with their handwriting and to focus on some big picture ideas!  (As you can see, we also always have someone writing on this white board about whatever we're discussing, usually that person is Scarlett!)

Last week, using our stash of Bare Books, we wrote and illustrated our own stories.  This is something we do from time to time, so I thought they might do it over a couple of days, but no, they ripped right into the project and did a great job.

I really liked the creativity Autumn used to come up with her book "Being a Unicorn" and wanted to encourage her reading of the book aloud, so I video taped (I can still say that, right?!) her reading the book that day. The next day, Scarlett and Autumn created a "reader's theater" where one could sit and listen to these young authors read their stories to an audience.

It was their own thing that they came up with, but it was a great way for Autumn to become more confident reading aloud and she definitely looked proud of her work.

Other ways that I've encouraged writing this summer is through our summertime family journal.  I have a three-ring binder where I ask one child a day to write/draw about our day.  It's fun to see what they come up with, and it's a nice way to preserve artwork and memories about our summer together.

 For a long time now (since I was pregnant with each child) I've kept a journal for/to each of my kids.  Recently, I placed the journals in a more public place and since they're readers now (and readers of cursive), they've gotten curious.  Guy has been more interested in reading every detail in his journal...from what it was like when I was pregnant with him, to how happy he made us when he was born, etc.  He just eats up every word.  

Originally, I thought I might give the children their journals when they turned 18 or something like that, but I've found that Guy's reading of this journal has really bonded him to me.  Whereas he might have wondered how much we loved or thought about him before, now there really is no question.  He can read and re-read these words over and over again. 

Now when I go to my planner To Do list for the day, I often find a note in Guy's handwriting that says, "Write in Guy's journal."  

And when I go to write in his journal, I am always delighted to find a line or two in Guy's handwriting about something he did that he wanted to remember.  Scarlett and Autumn have also started writing in their special journals which I started for them years ago.

It's a lot of fun.

I am always on the look-out for anything in letter form at the store.  The other week at Michael's I found these cork letters.  I put them in a bowl and put them out for the children to discover.  The kids like to leave notes around the house with them.  We have also played a game with Autumn where we close our eyes and try to guess the letters by touch alone.

Everyday or so, we sit down and write letters.  We write to cousins, friends who've moved away, extended family, and teachers.  We send birthday cards, congratulations, and thank you notes.  It's fun to find creative ways to do this.  Today, I hope to round up enough magazines to write some letters using magazine lettering.

In the school that my children attend, Kindergartners learn to read by's called Kid Writing.  I go in every week to help children write their own stories, in their own words.  Spelling doesn't matter at this point just expressing their ideas, using words, and learning to identify letter sounds.  It is journaling at it's most basic, and I love it.  At the end of the year, we got to go in and listen to Autumn read her story to us at a Storytime Tea.  So cute!

Of course, we still have our menu board which we switch up regularly. I keep the letters (which are all uppercase) in a craft box with sections for each letter.  I have stickers (in lowercase) to identify where the letters should be stored.  So it's a little challenge for younger children to connect upper to lower case letters when I ask them to write something on the board.  I might write out a phrase beforehand on a piece of paper and then ask them to put it up on the board using letters.  This is especially challenging when they can't find enough of a certain letter to complete the phrase.  In this case, Guy had to get creative to write what was on his mind!

My sister Cara gave us this framed dry-erase memo board for Christmas.  I hung it in a place that we pass all the time, low enough for the kids to write on, and we have gotten a TON of use out of it.  It is such a delight to walk by on my way into the kitchen and read a sweet note from one of my children in their handwriting!  (It's  very easy to make!)

We write when we do art....

We write when we are out in the community...

We write to our favorite magical creatures:

We have even been known to write in lipstick on people's cars!

So there is really a lot of writing going on around here.  Even little Honor gets in on the act.  She made her name in glitter letters recently.

When Scarlett was baptized recently, my sister gave a wonderful talk on "writing your own story."  It could not have been a more perfect message for Scarlett and for our family.  We believe in writing our own story with the Lord's help!  And we are enjoying doing this together!

These are just a few ways that we are encouraging our children to "write according to our prophesies" in our home during the summer.  Got any fun ways you're writing with your children?  Please share!

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Walk Like a Christensen

I mentioned on Facebook before the last General Conference that Elder Klebingat's talk was burning a hole in my noggin, because there was one thing that I didn't follow up on very well--that was getting into better physical shape.  

I find it's really hard for me personally to find time to work out and take care of myself, because I devote so much time to my family.

Well, this summer, I came up with a goal to walk with my family every day for at least one hour.  I figure if I can't find time to get away by myself and exercise, why not enlist the help of my little friends.

Growing up, we walked a lot!  During the summertime, especially, we walked up to our elementary school for activities or down to the park at the end of our street, and we always walked to friends' houses.  Rumor has it...and the rumor must be true, because it came from my Mom...that on my first day of Kindergarten, I wouldn't even let my mom walk me to school!!!  Because I had walked to school so many times with my older siblings, I "knew the way."

Children today miss out on that feeling of independence that comes with walking to school (as many towns consolidate schools and parents can't or don't allow children to walk places alone).  My kids are still young, but they will soon get to the age when they will want to venture out to a friend's house on their own, and I want them to be able to do that safely when appropriate, so I'm starting now to show them how, where are the safest routes, the rules of the road, etc.

It has been something that, from day one, has been a huge exciting adventure for all of us.  I can't explain all of the added benefits walking with my children has brought to us, but here are a few:

1.  They are learning how to keep themselves safe.  To start off, I taught them the rules of walking, especially walking in a town with very few sidewalks.  I've taught them what shoes to wear, what to pack in their back-packs so they will be prepared and safe (including a small first-aid kit, water, a poncho, safe walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, bug spray, etc.)

2.  They are becoming knowledgeable about the place where we live.  We map out where we are going to walk each day.  I point out landmarks, friend's houses, where they could go if there was trouble, etc.  I also ask them to lead the way, so I know they are learning the routes.

3.  They are learning about nature.  As we walk, I point out the plants that are in bloom.  I teach them the names of these plants and different ways to identify them.  I teach them to respect plants and animals and other people's yards!  Sometimes, they collect pine cones or an interesting rock.  One day, we walked by some tree clippings with small green apples still on them.  I let my kids taste the apples...they learned really quickly why we don't eat unripe apples, but it was fun to try that out and watch each other's faces.

4.  We have really good talks as we walk!  Granted, during our walks, we run the gamete of emotions.  For about 75% of our walks, we are laughing until our guts hurt and by the end usually someone has had a meltdown of some kind.  But sprinkled in there are moments where my children have surprised me with a question that I know they wouldn't have asked me at any other time...but because we are walking and talking, and none of us (me) are distracted by our cell phones, they know they have my attention and they end up asking me really delicate questions and I have time to answer them with a clear mind and an open heart.  These are priceless moments that most parents want but aren't sure how to "get there".  We have gotten there by walking together.

5.  We have bonded.  When you are that weird family who gets up at 7am and walks in bright pink ponchos in the drizzle on the first day of summer, you tend to feel a kinship to one another.  And we do have that feeling now that we've been walking together every day.

6.  And of course, you have good health and memories to last a lifetime. We hope that this tradition with continue to strengthen not only our health and our habits, but our harmony as a family.  I believe that it will.

I am so grateful for the admonitions of our church leaders to spend time together as a family, and I am grateful for promptings of the Holy Ghost that help me every day to become a better mother and companion to my children and family.

What do you do as a family in the summer that brings you closer to one another?  Please share with me in the comments.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Just Getting Started

It's funny how much you can squeeze into a "slow" summer.  Like I said in my previous post about our summer quiet time boxes, we aren't traveling this summer, so we've been doing a lot of projects together at home.  Here are some that we did this week:

One of the biggest joys for me this summer has been watching my children discover and learn based on following their own personal curiosity about the world.

One example of this has been Guy's tadpole aquarium.  He collected about 30 tadpoles the other weekend and brought them home.  He loves watching them grow and is very diligently taking care of them.  I love how excited he gets when one sprouts legs, etc.  He is one proud tadpole daddy!

For years now I have supplied my kids with almost unlimited art supplies and jars of ordinary object with which they can build and create.  Items might include jars of straws, craft/popsicle sticks, miniature pine cones they've collected, string, cotton balls, tape, etc.

The kids have done things with these items over the years that usually involves some kind of art.  This week I noticed that their projects have morphed into 3D, usable items--like this jump rope that Autumn built and used totally on her own.

During one afternoon art session, Guy jumped up and said, "I wonder!"  He grabbed a magnifying glass that he had gotten for free from a local grocery store field trip and went outside to figure out if you really could start a fire using a magnifying glass.  He discovered that you could...and rather quickly at that.  This became a fun past-time for the kids (although I kept a close watch on that!)

Watching all of this unfold has brought me a lot of joy and pride in their development.  And it has helped me know a little bit more about God and how He works and just how much freedom He has given us to learn, explore, and grow in this lifetime.  It has also made me wonder how much time we (adults) waste leaving these resources and opportunities on the shelf.  In the grand scheme of things, we are all children, and we have so much to learn, but I believe the opportunities are all there for us...laid out carefully by a loving Heavenly Father who just waits for us to discover what it's all for...

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Law-abiding Citizens in The Family Proclamation

 This summer, we're taking another look at The Family Proclamation, as we like to do at least once a year.  As you know we've done many rounds of Family Proclamation Lessons that I've share here.  

This summer, we'll be learning it using the ABCs to help us remember these important teachings.  (You can see how we divided up the FP by ABCs here.)

The first letter we're talking about today is the letter U, which in our Family Proclamation Alphabet, stands for the "United States."  

The Family Proclamation teaches that parents should teach their children" observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live."  (And we happen to live in the US!)

So, while we discussed the whats and whys of this fabulous admonition, we made American flags with paint and pom-pom paint brushes.  

Using clothes pins to hold our poms, we dipped them in paint and dabbed away.  While we painted, we answered these questions: What does it mean to obey the commandments?  What does it mean to obey the law of the land?  How can we do these things? What would happen if the majority of people stopped following the laws of the land? 

It was a pretty easy craft and lesson that's fun for all ages.  We managed to make quite a mess, but I think they'll remember what we talked about.   Here is Scarlett sharing what we learned from The Family Proclamation today:

"Obey the commandments of God and follow the Law of the Land."

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