Monday, January 25, 2016

Drawing Pictures of the New Baby

Good morning friends!  I hope you're all enjoying a fresh start to a new week.  On Sunday morning, during scripture study, we talked about how Nephi said he delighted in the scriptures.  I asked the kids how they thought it was possible for him to delight in the scriptures...what was it he did each day to be able to say he delights in them?  I told the children that we need to do the most important things first.  

That's what I try to do each day.  (Lately, after I drag myself out of bed and manage to arrive at some some semblance of wakefulness!) I wake up and say, "What's the one thing I want to get done today?  What is the one thing that if I get nothing else done, I want to be able to say I did?"  And I start with that.  Thus fulfilling my motto of "You always have time for things you put first."  I told them that if delighting in the scriptures is our number one thing...we'd be wise to read them right away, first thing!  That way we'll be sure to get it done.

So this morning, so as not to be a hypocrite, I started with my scripture study (after the kids left anyway), then I wrote in my new baby's journal (something else I've been wanting to accomplish)...and here I am typing up a quick blog post.  

It's been hard to read my scriptures lately, because I've been so tired, but I've tried a few things, like listening to the scriptures while I get ready, etc.  Anyway, every day is a new day.  And my new week is starting in a positive way as I try to put the most important things first.

So!  Yesterday, as I mentioned on Facebook, we had another good Sabbath day together.  Steve was gone basically all day, so it was all on me to keep the peace and help us delight in the Sabbath.

I actually prepared for one of our activities earlier in the week.  By addressing and starting to write in cards we would send to family, it made it easier for us to write Valentine's to our cousins together after church.

The other activity we did that was a lot of fun was drawing pictures of what we think our new baby will look like.  Here's how the pictures turned out:

As you know, we didn't find out the gender this time.  Honor wants a GIRL.

Autumn would like one of each.

Scarlett thinks it's a boy.

Guy thinks it's a boy (I think?)  He colored the face purple, because Honor's face was purple when she was born, because she had cord issues.

The children really took their time drawing these and there was a lot of laughter about how each picture turned out!

Autumn turned her baby boy and girl drawings into puppets, which everyone enjoyed.

So, that was our Sunday for the most part.  When Steve came home (early!) we held family council.

One item of business was that we needed to discuss who we could ask to babysit for us when I go into labor.  We came up with a bunch of names and talked about who would be the least inconvenienced by a last-time request to watch our kids.  The children also talked about who they would like the most (Granny!) to come.

But there was one name that topped the list: GUY!  Guy was lobbying hard to be the chosen babysitter of his siblings while I'm at the hospital.  He kept looking in my eyes and wanting me to "shake" on it.  He told us, "I'll make them food.  I'll protect them."  What a sweet boy...who is growing up so fast!  We're so proud of him and he is such a good protector of the girls.

Earlier in church, I saw that Guy and Scarlett were struggling over something.  I looked over to see this "contract" in his Sunday notebook....requiring that Scarlett put into writing that she will "go to bed when Guy says."  As her new roommate, Guy had to lay down some ground rules I guess!! :)

So that was our Sunday for the most part.  Snow-covered and fun.  It ended with family council and Autumn gave us a lesson on the Iron Rod.  She was so proud and I was so proud to see her being the leader and teaching us.

Have a great week!

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Monday, January 18, 2016

10 Reasons to Hold Weekly Family Council

Last week, I shared how our efforts to keep the Sabbath day holy one hour at a time has gone.

Today, I'd like to talk about holding family councils.

We really didn't hold regular "family councils" until last Spring, I guess, when it was suggested by the visiting general authority that Sunday afternoon would be a good time for family's to hold family councils.

We have long had family meetings when needed...but the term "family council" always sounded so stuffy and top-down to me.  Not exactly my style.  But after this admonishment, and realizing that our family life will only continue to get busier, we decided to implement family councils so that we can continue to stay on the same page as time passes and our situation changes.

Plus, it seemed like a great way to help Sunday afternoons pass with purpose.

Technically, we were advised that family council should be a time for parents to teach family's some principle...however more so recently, it's more of a family planning session for the week, with a little principle or testimony sprinkled in to whatever is going on in our lives at the moment.  And we often discover what principle needs to be taught through our candid discussions at family council.

We have chosen 5pm on Sundays for our Family Council time.  This past Sunday, we did it right after eating our lunch/dinner.  We love to talk around the dinner table.

Steve and Autumn made us this yummy tray of food from stuff they scrounged up in the fridge.  It was a meal that you pick over and dip and just sort of take a long time it gave us time to chat and laugh.

Somehow we got onto the topic of someone "liking" someone...and Steve and I took the opportunity to talk about how boys act around girls that they like.  We were all laughing by the end of it.  It's interesting having a pre-teen in the house now.  Our conversations have changed a bit and it's fun to talk about new things.

Everyone was interested in the conversation and engaged, so we prayed and went straight into family council.  We talked about what each day of the week would entail, and what needed to be done by the family members.  We also circled around to the "what to name the baby" conversation, which resulted in no real decision, as usual!

I told them that the long-awaited Chipotle was going to open in our town on Thursday and I told them I'd be willing to take them out of school to go to lunch with me at the new restaurant.  Unbelievably, one child moaned and complained because she doesn't like Chipotle.  Um, what??  To which I took the opportunity to inform her that this NEVER in a million years would have happened in my childhood. (My children have it "so hard!!!") 

Anyway, in addition to outlining what I expect of them, I like having some little fun thing to surprise them with, if I can.  And by fun things I mean "fun news"...whether it's announcing that a cousin is having a birthday this week or announcing a fun activity we will do that they had not been anticipating...

In addition to this, Steve gave out "awards", which are basically a verbal pat on the back from Dad for some good behavior or accomplishment...followed by "three cheers" from the rest of the family. (Here Autumn is getting an award for being brave.)

Over all, my favorite thing about family council is that it seems to unify us as a family.  It makes us feel like we are a part of something...working toward a common goal.  All of the kids are included, informed, and asked to give their input about family decisions.  And for some reason, lots of funny things happen at family this week, when Guy came with his shirt stuffed to look like muscles!  I have no idea what triggered this, but it was hilarious.

We didn't have any big decisions to make, but when we were contemplating switching bedrooms in anticipation of the new baby, the children were all able to say who they wanted to room with during our family council.  We took their wishes into consideration, talked about it as a couple later, then announced how the room situation would go at the next family council.

I asked the kids, who are home from school today, what they like about family council.  (Their response to "Do you like family council was a resounding "YES!!") Here's what they said for the why:

1.  "I don't know, we talk about our week and what we're gonna do." (Scarlett)

2.  "I like it because we get to know what's happening." (Guy)

3.  "And it's always interesting..." (Scarlett & Guy)

4.  "Funny things happen." (Autumn)

5.  "Because we get to know about a lot of surprises." (Autumn)

6.  "Like when you told us you were having a baby...and stuff." (Autumn)

7.  "Dad gives out awards." (Guy)

8.  "We get to eat or have treats while we talk." (All)

9.  "Memories" (Mom)

10.  "We get on the same page." (Mom & Dad)

We're no experts, we're just enjoying what family councils bring to our family at the moment.  Do you hold regular family meetings or councils in your family?  Let me know in a comment how that has worked for you!

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy One Hour at a Time

Keeping the Sabbath: Evolving as People & Elevating our Sights

Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a vision that the Lord would like us to catch and an old habit that He'd like us to re-evaluate in each of our lives.

I'm sure we've all heard a lot of sacrament talks on this topic lately, not to mention General Conference themes.

Our family's Sabbath days have taken an abrupt turn recently since my husband was called into the high council and to serve simultaneously as the Stake Young Men's President back in November.  As part of this, he was also ordained to the high priesthood which was a wonderful milestone for him.

One recent Sunday, a sister in our ward gave a talk on keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  It was also announced that our 5th Sunday lesson later that day would be on the same topic.

I felt impressed to write down as many suggestions as I heard that day that would help our family do a better job of "making the Sabbath a delight" and do you know how many I came up with?  A lot. I'll list them at the end of this post for you to think about.

But first, I'll share one tip that was shared in this sister's talk that stuck in my head.  At first, I didn't think much of it, but we have tried it out and it's a mantra I've decided to keep.  She said, "try keeping the Sabbath day holy one hour at a time."

I don't know how Sundays go for you guys, but when kids are young, Sundays can be harrowing.  And I've found that it basically comes down to this thought that there is either "nothing to do" on Sundays or that there are so many things we're "not allowed to do" on Sundays.  

I remember that feeling.  As a kid, I remember wanting to swing on my swing set in the back yard, but being inhibited when my Dad wanted us to stay in dresses, and not being allowed to play with friends.  Eventually, we settled into a routine over the years and as we grew: Mom prepared a delicious meal of roast beef, carrots, potatoes and rolls with homemade jam.  Someone did the dishes.  Most of us slipped happily into a food coma/long nap.  Slowly kids woke up and someone made chocolate chip cookies (almost every week).  To keep us quiet (and lesson the sibling squabbles so my parents could rest), we started watching good, old-time movies which my mom had on VHS.  Then there was eventually a Disney Movie on TV.  We popped the most enormous amount of popcorn and ate it like piggies around a huge silver bowl.

I'm sure my parents remember the squabbles more than I'm mentioning here, but it generally worked out.  Sometimes I remember Dad making homemade french fries.  That was a treat.

And eventually, as we grew, youth firesides became the norm on Sunday nights.

It's funny how you remember things.  It's funny how sometimes things work for one family or one family in a particular circumstance, but not for others.  And it's interesting how the leaders of the church have moved away from giving us a list of do's and don't's toward giving us a higher principle and inviting us to evaluate our Sabbath Day observance for ourselves.

The higher principles is this:  What kind of sign do I want to give the Lord through my Sabbath worship and observance?

A Story About Bees & the Sabbath Day

When Steve and I were in our first house and our babies were teeny tiny, we attended a neighborhood picnic on a Sunday, something we wouldn't normally do, but did because we were moving into our house that week and wanted to meet our neighbors.  The next year, they were holding the same annual picnic, but now our children were mobile and we needed to think about what precedent we wanted to set for our growing family.  

We tried to convince the organizers of the neighborhood Labor Day picnic to move it to a Saturday or Monday, but it was a long-standing tradition, and they were not willing to move it.

We were disappointed.  We also felt perplexed about the Sabbath Day and decided to do all the research we could into any guidelines that might be out there on how one should observe the Sabbath.  We read as many talks as we could from the leaders of the church and then as a couple, we made a list of any suggestions we could find.  Then we sat down and talked about them together. We were surprised that there were so few "lists" of do's and dont's...even though we had grown up in families with pretty clear guidelines for Sundays.

I remember saying, "If only we had a list, like the law of Moses, telling us what to do on Sunday and what to would be much easier."

That week was the picnic.  Children cut through our yard on the way to the other neighbor's pool.  My children could both see and hear all of the fun happening all around us.  It was torture for even me!

But as a family, actually as parents leading our family (because our children were like 2 years old) we made the decision not to attend the picnic on a Sunday.  (One thing I did do to show my love for my neighbors was that I printed out pictures from the previous neighborhood picnic and mounted them so they could be enjoyed by the neighbors in attendance.)

So, another week went by, and it was Sunday again.  I settled down to nap in my bed with my two children (and my pregnant belly).  My husband Steve went to read a book in the play room.  About 10 minutes later, I heard him screaming.  I knew something was very wrong.

When he went into the play room, he noticed a bubble in the ceiling.  He poked it and out flew a swarm of carpenter wasps.  Within seconds the room was filled with bees and there was a huge hole in the ceiling.

Steve told me to stay in the other room with the kids.  This was a crazy, scary emergency.  I still remember Steve going straight to work making this homemade bee-keeper costume!  He put on a long sleeve shirt and draped a window sheer over him and under a hat, then duct taped his sleeves shut to avoid being stung!  He looked ridiculous.

He grabbed the shop-vac and vacuumed the bees/wasps up, then went out to the adjacent empty field and dumped them out.

It was harrowing to say the least (and now, years later, that I have actually been attacked by bees--which is a different story!--I know that was a very dangerous scenario.)

When the bees were mostly gone, Steve came to me and asked if I thought he should run to Walmart and buy bug killer to fully exterminate the hive.

I already knew my answer, but I said, "Why don't you pray about it and let me know how you feel."  He did so, and came back with the following conclusion.

It was necessary for him to act quickly to remove the danger of the bees from our house.  But in this case, it was not necessary for him to go to the store on a Sunday to get the bee killer.  He could complete that part of the job on Monday.

I couldn't believe this crazy experience happened to us, however in light of the searching we had been doing to discover more about the Sabbath, I recognize that the Lord had given us the perfect learning opportunity. 

I no longer wondered why the Lord didn't hand us a "list" of do's and don'ts for the Sabbath Day.  The Lord wants us to "feel" our way to the right way of doing things.  He wants us to turn to him and ask.  He also showed me that if He WERE to make a list of do's and don'ts, it would be ridiculously long and detailed.

Can you imagine a list that includes "if on a Sunday, bees swarm your children's playroom while you are napping, you may get them out of your house, but don't go buy poison unless someone is allergic....." and on and on???  So silly.  So unnecessary when he has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost and the power of prayer among other things to help us figure this stuff lead us toward the state in which we "govern ourselves."

It's a good plan.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy Hour-by-Hour

So, back when my kids were babies, Sundays were fairly easy.  Everyone took a nap, ate food, and played with trains.

I've realized now that my kids who are very active need me to lead them in Sabbath Day activities that help keep the peace and set an example for them to follow.

I can't just say (as I have many times): "It's Sunday!!!  Be reverent!"  Or "Be Quiet!"  Mommy needs a nap!"  Just as Sacrament meeting often turns into something that is not about ME, the parent, but about THEM, the children...Sunday has become about more than Me resting...but another opportunity to carefully, thoughtfully teach and lead that when they are ready to govern themselves to a greater extent, they'll understand what their options are more clearly and how to fulfill this commandment joyfully.

So, over the last year or two (or five?), I've tried to have something to do on Sundays including Sunday Scrapbooks, journaling, writing letters to cousins, and utilizing our "quiet time" boxes.  They've all worked well but need to be rotated depending on our family's needs and circumstances.

Is someone sick?  Is Daddy going to be gone for his calling (usually it's me that's been gone!) or to do home teaching?  Is there a special church broadcast happening that night?  Did our church schedule recently change?

These are all things that affect what and how we do Sundays.  It affects when we eat, when we rest, and what activities we might need to implement.

This past Sunday, having just moved from 9am church to 11am church, we needed to figure out how our mornings would go.  We had the children lay out their clothing the night before the first week...and that worked great.  And they have enjoyed reading quietly (surprisingly) while Mom gets ready.

But this week, we added the fact that Steve had to leave for the Stake Center as soon as we came home from church.  That meant preparing and eating dinner alone and hours of time with just me and the kids.

To help my children take responsibility for how the day would go, I moved the dry-erase board I use for my to-do list into a highly visible area.  I listed the hours of the Sabbath Day and a few options for things we might do during those hours.

I felt that this "hour-by-hour" approach to the Sabbath really helped the kids.

1.  They knew what was expected of them.  2. They knew how to help.  3.  They knew what was coming up next.  4.  They knew that they had options, since I listed about 3-4 things we could do during each hour of the day.

Here's what our dry-erase board looked like.

Here's what we did:

2pm - Help make dinner.  Eat dinner. Make cookies (I happened to have a roll of store-bought sugar cookie dough in the fridge left over from a Christmas project...all of the magic of homemade cookies, all of the motivation, none of the clean-up!  Win!)

3pm - Write Thank you notes.  While we cleaned up the dishes, I asked each child to write down the name of someone who they wanted to thank and why.  After the dishes were done, we got out our stationery and started writing notes.  I ended up finding a note to myself a few days later from Autumn that said "Thanks for making dinner, Mom!"  Even Honor was proud to write a note thanking her Primary teacher for a gift she gave her today.

4pm - The weather got really windy, so the kids ran outside to enjoy the wind that always makes my kids excited, and to drop their letters in the mailbox for pick-up tomorrow. It felt and smelled like Spring...and in January in Central Pennsylvania, that's something to stop and appreciate any day of the week!  What a blessing!

5pm - My sister Dawn called and asked if Guy wanted to Skype with his cousin Guy spent a chunk of time doing that and was pretty happy about it! (While the girls played and them tried to crash his party!)

Dad/Steve came home closer to 7pm than 6 and I'm pretty sure he was expecting to come home to mass chaos and a grumpy, pregnant wife.  But the children were so helpful that instead he came home to quiet, calm, very clean house, and dinner left over from earlier.  

Even I was amazed.

We had survived the day without his always dependable help and managed not to kill each other!  And even though we "did" stuff, I felt more rested, than had I not lead them in activities and instead sat around scolding them or nagging them to "find something quiet to do."

Of course, this was one day...but it worked and I believe it's a good path for us to go down as a family this year.

To end our day, we (didn't play a game as listed, but) had hot chocolate with whipped cream while we had Family Council around the kitchen table.

I probably should have made more food, but somehow we all went to bed pretty happy.  Next week's another Sunday, right???

Ok, I promised to type up my list of things that can help us keep the Sabbath even though this is a LOOOONG post, I'll type them up anyway...(that way I can throw out my old planner and move on with 2016, so it's helping me out as well!)

This is just a brainstorming list and things I picked up while listening to this topic during church the other week...perhaps it will spark a thought in your mind to help you make the Sabbath more of a delight for you and your family!

Suggestions to Make the Sabbath a Delight:

1.  Do Family History/Indexing
2.  Blog your testimony (or share it on social media)
3.  Sunday Scrapbooks (You can read about ours here.)
4.  Write letters to family
5.  Call grandparents or other family members
6.  Write thank you notes
7.  Read next week's Sunday School lesson
8.  Play a Sunday game (board game)
9.  Write in journal
10. Play the piano
11. Plan the FHE Lesson
12. Take cookies to someone
13. Meditate/Ponder
14. Listen to church music
15. Enjoy nature quietly
16. Read together
17. Fill up Gas in car on Saturday/Lay out Sunday clothing
18. Teach the family a lesson from General Conference (see what we've done here.)
19. Think of someone to serve
20. Have quiet time for 1 hour separately (either nap or use quiet time baskets, which you can read about here.)
21. Make a list of things you're grateful for
22. Hold Family Council
23. Skype with family (or spend time with family if they're nearby)
24. Take it one hour at a time.
25. Partake of the Sacrament reverently
26. Plan family's menu for the week
27. Read church magazines
28. Organize family photos
29. Work on Faith in God (or personal progress, etc.)
30. Listen attentively to talks during Sacrament meeting (We encourage our kids to take notes and report back to us what was talked about later.)
31. Fill out Sacrament Worksheet (download it here.)
32. During Sacrament, ask, "What lack I yet?"
33. Recall as a family what was taught in church
34. Sing the hymns during church (don't just sit there!)
35. Lay out our clothing, Sunday shoes, coats, and scriptures the night before.
36. Plan/prepare Sunday dinner on Saturday night
37. Forgive others before taking the Sacrament
38. Go to bed early on Saturday night
39. Listen to the teachers and participate reverently during class
40. Finish homework on Saturday
41. Decide NOW to keep this commandment 100% of the time (our lives will be full of "extenuating circumstances".)
42. Come to church early and sit quietly in preparation for Sacrament (don't talk loudly when you leave either)
43. Dress modestly for church/try to remain in nicer clothing the rest of the day instead of lounge or junky clothes.
44. Put phone on "airplane mode" for the three-hour block of church
45. Avoid surfing the web on the Sabbath Day
46. Pray for the Holy Ghost to accompany you.
47. Keep voices low
48. Unplug from technology to connect with the Spirit (Take advantage of Messages online to enjoy as a family instead of worldly media.)
49. Ask ourselves, "Are we willing to do this?  To keep the Sabbath/be a witness, to get the "trash"/"noise" out of our lives?
50. PRAY for the desire to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

I do believe that these are all ways that we can make the Sabbath a delight...and when Sunday is more delightful, it's less stressful, and I think my children are happier too!  Good luck!

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Monday, January 11, 2016

My how we've grown...

OK, can we take just a minute to observe how big my kids are getting???

When I started this blog (in 2008), Guy was 2.5, Scarlett was 1, and Autumn was still in the womb.

Now Guy is 10, Scarlett is 8.5, Autumn is 7, and Honor is a new Sunbeam!

And we are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new baby...whose gender we decided not to find out.  So we wait...and grow!

We switched the children's rooms around a bit to make room for baby.  Poor Autumn got stuck with a very talkative 3 year old roommate...and she's really sleep-deprived because of it.

When Christmas break was finally over, Autumn did not want to go to school. I felt her pain.  So that morning, we did something we like to do when we're in need of motivation...we made a paper chain to help us count down to the birth of the baby (and remind us of other fun things to look forward to in the winter of 2016!)

It seemed to help a bit...although crafting with Mama always perks her right up.

My belly is feeling ridiculously big this time and I have a lot of pain when I obviously that is limiting what I can accomplish on any given day...but I just keep trucking along and try to do the most important things first.

One of those important things (though we have a few months to figure it out) is coming up with a name for the new baby...which is always fun when you don't know the gender.

So far, we've come up with the name "Dude."  Good job, guys.

I like picking family names and/or names with some sort of significance to us, however, at this point, I'm open to suggestions.  Maybe you guys can spark an idea in my idea-less head! :)

My last little item of randomness for this post is that we had family home evening this week and used the Book of Mormon Hero card of Nephi that was in the January 2016 Friend.  We also did a puppet show of the play included on page (see it here) about children who decide to help their mother clean up the house while she is out running errands.  (Chuckling here...)  Prediction, every FHE from here on out will be about doing something to help Mommy!  Ha!

Also of note...I actually made an FHE treat...which I never do because I'm just not that on top of things...Chocolate covered frozen bananas with nuts.  This kids were thrilled.  

It's the little things!

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hannah's Baptism & the Gift of the Holy Ghost

Hey, guys! You all remember Hannah, right? Hannah was one of my young women friends who wrote for me about The Family Proclamation back in September. (You can re-read her post here.)

Well, Hannah was baptized Saturday night, and we got to be there to celebrate and witness her great covenant-making evening!  She looked radiant and full of joy and the Holy Ghost (which also happens to be the topic she asked me to speak on at her baptism.)

Hannah and Me by the font.

Hannah & her "foster" Mama Donnelly

Hannah & Scarlett

The elders who gave her lessons (although Hannah has been in YW for two years now and really knows her stuff!)

Here are some of the things that I shared with Hannah that night...more of a few suggestions and counsel than a talk.  We all love this girl so much...she is so talented.  She'll leave for college this summer and be off to start her new life as a young adult!

Hannah, you have just been baptized, which means that you have chosen to take the name of Jesus Christ upon you and to serve Him and obey His commandments until the end of your life and beyond.

In return, He is prepared to offer you a gift, which you will choose each day to accept!  It is the greatest gift and greatest companion that you can have in this lifetime. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost.

By now, you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost, haven’t you?  You felt it that day outside of the temple when you were helping a friend find his way to Christ.  You have felt it as you have born your testimony.  You have felt it as you’ve prayed and felt answers to your prayers.  You have felt it just a few minutes ago as you entered the waters of baptism, and I’m going to guess that you are feeling it now.

In contrast, you (and most of us) have felt what it feels like to not feel the Holy Ghost.  It is easy to feel alone in this world.  It is easy to get bad advice in this world.  It is hard sometimes to know who to trust and who will point you in the right direction.

That is why, now that you have entered the waters of baptism and covenanted with God, He wants so much to give you this great gift…a gift which can guarantee that you will never again walk alone in this life, no matter what you face.

Hannah, He loves you THAT MUCH!

The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead.  So when you invite Him into your life, you are inviting a very powerful person to aid you.

Here are some things that the Holy Ghost will do for you, if you let him:
He will guide and direct you.
He will comfort you.
He will remind you of things you already know.
He will teach you.
He will reveal things to you that you need to know.
He will keep you safe.
He will lead you to Christ.
He will warm and speak peace to your heart.
He will multiply your talents and help you use them wisely.
He will help you know where and who to serve.
He will help you understand things about Heavenly Father.
He will help you to understand how much Heavenly Father loves you and knows you.
He will help you to know when you need to repent and when you have been forgiven.
He will help you make the changes we all need to make to enter back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.
He will lead you to the temple.
He will help you to find an eternal companion.
He will always be there for you…

Recognizing the Influence of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost usually communicates with us quietly. His influence is often referred to as a “still small voice”. President Boyd K. Packer explained: “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. … " Each of us needs to practice feeling that voice and feel our way back to our Heavenly Father.

This is a big day.  I hope that you will remember it always, but if there are things that you forget, don’t worry, you will soon have the Holy Ghost as your companion always.  Develop a relationship with Him and he will remind you of the special testimony that you carry when you need to be reminded most.

Hannah, I know that the Holy Ghost is real.  He is a real person.  He isn’t just a wishful thought.  He is a real person with real power.  I know this because I have felt his presence in a way that is so real I thought I might reach out and touch Him.  I testify that He will lead you back to Christ and to your Heavenly Home!

Here are a few ways that I’d suggest to you Hannah to build that testimony of and relationship with the Holy Ghost and in turn to build your relationship with Jesus Christ:

1.     Write down the way you feel today and record, re-read and ponder special experiences you have and special promptings you receive through the Holy Ghost.  Write them down.  Keep them close to your heart. PONDER them often.  Don’t get distracted by the world and neglect to do these things.
2.    Read your scriptures with a hunger and a need to know and understand and you will feel Him close to you.
3.    Pray with that same hunger so that He knows that you are serious about communicating with our Heavenly Father.  Listen for answers.  Pray all of the time in your heart and He will answer you.
4.    Take the sacrament every week without fail.
5.    Listen to the Prophets and what they teach and align your life with their teachings. If you do this, you will always be happy.
6.    Obey quickly, fearlessly, and joyfully and know that as a disciple of Jesus Christ, great blessings await you every day.
7.    Go to the temple.  Make every choice you make from here on out a choice that will lead you to the temple sooner than later. 
8.    Listen to good music and partake of good media and activities that will only increase the influence of the Holy Ghost in your life. And use your voice (Hannah is a great singer) to testify to others of Christ.
9.    Keep practicing.  Learning to listen to the Holy Ghost can take time and patience and persistence, but it is wonderful and it is worth it.
This is how you accept this precious gift which Heavenly Father wants to now bestow upon you.  Hannah, He has already blessed you with so many beautiful talents.  He is gathering you in today as His choice daughter.  He loves you and all of us here love you and will always be here for you!

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


There were a few personal messages that I sort of ad-libbed in the moment, like how getting the Gift of the Holy Ghost will be the best gift she got this season and how she can open it anew each day.  I also said that in this church there is always a "next thing".  We are always progressing and receiving the Holy Ghost is her next thing...then going to the temple.

Anywho, I'm sharing this more for Hannah, in case she ever needs to look back on bits of her special day some day. Love you, Hannah!  Thanks for letting me be there to participate in your wonderful night!  My children really enjoyed it as well!

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