Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To Remember & to Be Remembered

I was sitting in church this week, and I suddenly remembered all of my old church friends, and missed them something awful!  I've wanted to write a post about each and every one of them and all of the things I love about them and everything they've ever done to make my life a better one...but that would be a very long post and a very extensive list.  So, instead, I just had myself a little cry right there in the pew and probably freaked out the good people of my new ward!

Anyway, yesterday, much to our surprise, a package arrived for the kids from their lovely former ward Primary President.  It was filled with notes and drawings from all of their old Primary pals.  There was also a group photo which they had all signed.  One of the primary kids was "hiding" in the shot, and the children had to find her like in a "Where's Waldo" poste  It was so sweet!

This is the same sister who used to be my kids' nursery leader, who always sent letters or personally stopped by our house if we ever missed church.  She was such an example of love, service, and compassion!

We ARE doing better every day.  But it's still heart-warming to be remembered this way.  The other night, during family prayer, Scarlett actually said, "We're grateful we moved to Cranberry," which shocked both Steve and me, but we'll take it!

I just thought this was such a sign of true love and friendship and great leadership, and I thought I'd pass this on for Primary leaders out there.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

This is the House that Faith Built

Things are really coming along with the house.  I enjoy driving by (at least) daily and noting the progress.  I was excited to see the siding go up last week, and now the stone and soon brick.

But there was something that I wanted to be sure to do before the drywall was installed. I wanted a piece of us to be a part of the contruction of the house, so one night last week, we snuck in and wrote our names on the wall studs and slipped family photos and a copy of the Family Proclamation into the insulation!


It was just a silly thing, but it was our silly thing, and it was fun to do as a family.  This move has made it really hard to do our regular adventures in gospel learning at home, but I'm looking forward to resuming that in our new house...and building a house built on faith in Jesus Christ!  With his help and hard work...we will!

In what ways have you tried to make faith and the gospel and cornerstone of your home?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Fast or Not to Fast, That is the Question

My kids are growing up, if you haven't noticed.  I've been writing this blog for nearly nine years now, which means when I started writing, Guy was 2, Scarlett was 1, and Autumn was in the womb!  My how we've changed.  We've gone from learning to walk and talk, to braces and first ventures into noticing members of the opposite sex!  My, my, my.

We've also become our very own little people, with opinions of our own for sure, and wills of our own, definitely.  And we've had to learn to back up and give them each space to explore the God-given agency that we each do have.

One of the areas lately has been fasting...whether or not to do it. 

Now, I'm sure that I wasn't very pro-fasting as a kid either.  It's not even something I'm super great at as an adult, as I've been pregnant a lot over the years, although I do have a testimony of it and have had my own powerful experiences with it.  It's something we all come to, learn to do, develop an understanding of on our own, and in our own time.

For any non-LDS readers of my blog, when I talk about fasting, it is the practice of going without food or drink for typically 24 hours or two meals usually on the first Sunday of every month  (*although you can do it as needed for your own special reasons).  We try to fast for a purpose, starting with a prayer, usually seeking answers to questions, spiritual strength or comfort, etc.  Then we donate the cost of the meals that we've skipped to the church to help those in need.  This is called a "fast offering."  Typically, children don't fast, pregnant people don't fast or people with medical conditions might do a modified fast, but children over the age of 8, who have been baptized, start to consider fasting as they are able.

So, fasting helps us exercise dominance of our spirit over the urges of our body, which helps us overcome temptation of many varieties.  And usually it is easier to feel spiritual promptings when we are fasting, because of the sacrifice we've made.  I often fast when I am preparing to give a talk in church, as it helps me clear my mind to receive revelation.

Anyway, on the flip-side, it feels funny to try to convince my kids to fast, "Yeah, try fasting!  You'll love it!!"  I mean, who loves NOT eating food???  Probably not many of us!

It's something that they really can't take my word for...until they make a decision to faithfully put forth an effort, and perhaps even long after that, they won't really get it.  So, we just keep encouraging them to try, even for a small amount of time.  *This Sunday, 10 minutes was all Scarlett could go, before she forgot she was fasting and popped one of the baby's cheerios in her mouth, then promptly spit it out!!

So, anyway, I thought it was cute how Scarlett summed up her decision to fast last week. 

You all know our love of whiteboards around here, well, Scarlett created sort of a flow-chart of her decision to fast.  (pictured above)  Perhaps it'll help you as you decided whether or not to fast!

How have you helped your children learn to fast?  I'm interested to hear and learn from your experiences!
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Prayed that She Would Feel the Spirit

This past Saturday, we had an opportunity to attend a fireside with Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the General Young Women's President and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon , 2nd Counselor in the General Primary Presidency, as well as Elder Kuntz who is our area authority.

All of the youth age 8 and up were invited to hear them speak, but because our family had been out on a big adventure for the better part of the day, half of my kids were less than excited about going to a fireside, no matter who was there!

My most excited child was my four-year old, and technically, she wasn't even invited.  So I ended up driving in to Pittsburgh with just Scarlett (my 9 year old) and Honor (my 4 year old) to hear these church leaders speak.

Scarlett was in such a bad mood about it.  She kept writing me these angry notes saying, "I want to go home.  I'm leaving. I don't like it here." etc, etc.

I said a silent prayer, "Please, help her to feel the Holy Ghost at some point this evening."

I know how she felt, frankly I was tired and a little bored too, not so excited to sit and listen for almost 2 hours, but I listened hard to the things they were presenting and tried to actively participate while simultaneously trying to keep my 4-year old daughter from licking her hand and pulling up her dress! 

Still scowling, I wasn't sure if Scarlett was picking up anything from the talks.

One of the things that I latched on to was when Sister Cordon asked us to sing "I am a Child of God" and then discuss principles taught in the song.  She said that someone in another meeting suggested that the line "He has sent me here," meant to them that God has sent each of us HERE (for a reason)...not just to random places on this earth, but to specific places, and that he has a plan for us and a work for us to do.  I am eager to learn what our purpose is HERE in Pittsburgh!  It's still a mystery to me!

After the meeting, we almost rushed out, but I decided to see if the girls were interested in meeting the speakers, which we usually do if we can when an authority visits.

Scarlett suddenly seemed excited about this, so we walked up to the front and met both Bonnies and Elder Kunz (who we've met before).

I put out my hand to shake, but both women prefered to hug, which I thought was really different and sweet.  They were so warm and friendly.  They embraced my girls right away.  They talked to the girls mostly, not to me, and made them both feel so special.

From that moment on, Scarlett was different.  She was seemingly glad she came, she was excited about recanting some of the stories that she heard, and of course, they were more than happy to go out for milkshakes late on a Saturday night before returning home.

I'm not sure that Scarlett will remember much of what was taught from the pulpit during the fireside, but I suspect that she will always remember how these women made her feel.  I too was impressed with how warm they were.  Later, we took a picture with Sister Oscarson sitting on the couch outside of the chapel.  I can't believe how casually I spoke with her.  I kind of wish I had been more prepared and thought of some great question to ask her or compliment to pay her, but what an example she was to me of being approachable and showing love to all, even little children.
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shaking Up Scripture Study

Since the move, and probably, if I'm being honest, some time before the move, our family scripture study has really gotten pretty lame.  Although we're on our third time through the Book of Mormon as a family, I feel like we've been stuck on the same chapters in Alma for weeks, maybe months?

What happened?  Was it that our routine got blown out of the water?  Was it the stress of moving into an apartment?  Is it that my husband leaves so early and returns so late? Is it because my children are growing up and moving into a new stage of development?

Yes to it all.

And it's gone on long enough.

We talked about it during family council on Sunday, and I suggested that instead of trying to plow through the scriptures chronologically that we instead have a "question of the week."

We'll introduce the question at the beginning of the week at family council, and every member of the family is expected to search the scriptures on their own to find answers to the question to share in family scripture study each day.

This will hopefully help us turn the corner in our study, while encouraging all members of the family to dive into personal study and also take personal responsibility for how our family scripture study goes.

In my previous post, I mentioned how the kids were locked out of the house.  I told them that we want them to be spiritually prepared to survive in the future, that we didn't want them to be figuratively "locked out" in a spiritual emergency not knowing where to turn for answers.  So we were going to practice getting answers now.

We spent the rest of our time in family council practicing looking up scriptures by topic, and the kids helped me write a list of ways we can find answers to our questions.

I'm excited to see how this change affects our spirituality and participation during family scripture study.  And I hope that my three oldest take our challenge to search the scriptures more diligently on their own!  I will let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear ideas of how you've approached family scripture study or ways you've tried to encourage your children to read on their own!
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Sunday, March 5, 2017

So Many Twists and Turns

After my previous post, I was really thinking we were on the upswing of this whole moving process and that things would just continue to get better, and maybe even easier.  So, imagine my surprise when I realized Friday morning that my children had been locked out of our apartment for nearly two hours in 20 degree weather, because I didn't realize it was a 2-hour emergency delay at school!!!  

Nothing was normal that morning. We were completely out of our routine, and by the time I was ready to leave for our 8:30am appointment to walk-through our newly framed house, my husband had already allowed the children to run down to the bus stop.  Somehow, I did not receive the text or voicemail that I normally get from the school district notifying me of a delay, so while we were touring our, albeit cold, soon-to-be new house, my kids were cold and alone trying to seek shelter in a carboard box house that they had worked together to build and insulate with packing paper on our patio!!!

When I realized the mishap, I was horrified...horrified!!  If there was a school delay, then where were my kids???  I rushed home, calling the school on my way. I ran down to our apartment, and, upon seeing their cardboard hut adorned with backpacks and schoolbooks, I smiled for just a moment at their ingenuity.  

But they were no where to be seen, so I started calling their names.  They came out of the storage area where they had gone to get warmer, and they were crying with relief that I had finally come home. I was so sad for them and all of us collectively, and it just brought all the sad/moving feelings up to the surface all over again!

I really felt awful and beat myself up about my failure of my poor babies, but as I've stepped back from it, I've realized that I think the Lord had a purpose in allowing this situation to transpire.  He could have stopped it from happening.  He could have warned me, as he has done so many times in the past, but he didn't, and in the process, the children learned many important things.  

They learned to survive on their own, to work together in a scary situation that they had not considered previously.  They shared their mittens with each other. Scarlett shared her lunch with the other siblings. Guy watched over and kept everyone calm and gathered materials to build the shelters as Autumn read books.  They prayed together twice for help and peace. As a result they learned compassion for others, as they now want to give their money to help homeless people! Scarlett shared in her testimony today that she knows that when we pray God won't just leave us alone, He will comfort us: another hard-earned piece of wisdom. 

I am so grateful that they were all safe and no one got frost-bite.  And I'm sure this was a wake-up call for me also to fill in some holes in our emergency plans which we obviously never updated upon moving (such as giving all of the children keys to our new residence, etc.)

Another thing that helped settle my mind about this situation was an experience that happened the day prior.  

I had spoken with a new friend of mine who was pretty devastated that a house they hoped to buy was probably going to fall through because they discovered too many repairs that the seller didn't want to fix.  I felt compassion for her.  Her growing family is getting too large for their current rental, she is about to give birth, they already told their rental property they were moving, and now the house they wanted isn't going to work out.

As I went home that afternoon, this woman's name kept coming to mind.  Even as I baked (for my own enjoyment) her name kept coming up.  So I texted her, finally, and offered to take her daughter so she could get some things done (or nap~!)  She declined.  

I found myself accidentally putting too much sugar in my recipe so I had to double it.  I suddenly had more than enough Easter bread to share, so as soon as it came out of the oven, my daughters and I raced across town to deliver some bread to her family. The promptings were even so specific that I was to give her more bread than I was planning.

It wasn't a big deal, but we instantly felt a good feeling when we left her house!  

In church, she bore testimony today that she knew the Lord loved her and knew her, because he prompted three women in the ward to reach out to her, even with just a text asking to take her daughter, and that she was so grateful that these women followed those promptings.  I knew what she said was true because I had experienced it.  

The Lord does know her name.  I know this because he whispered it to me over and over again until I got the message.  He wanted me (and others) to go show His love for this woman.  

Because I know He knows her name, I know that he knows mine.  And because I witnessed him making things happen for one of His daughters, I know that he could have easily notified me of my mistake missing the two-hour delay...but he didn't.  And it's ok that he didn't.  It's just one of those things that happens.  Sometimes the Lord saves us from mishaps, sometimes he allows us to experience the hard things, because He knows the end from the beginning.  There are reasons we experience hard things.  It doesn't mean He loves us any less because he allows us to go through hard, even heartbreaking things.  

Quite the opposite.  It means that He loves us more.

PS - Here's a little look at the inside of our new house.  Two of my sisters were so kind to call and make sure that I was ok after my incident with the kids. My younger sister knew I was upset, but she still took the opportunity to laugh at the irony that while my kids were taking shelter in a little carboard box, we were touring our new home.  Well, it was freezing there too because there is no power yet, but still!  Funny!  So, here's a look at our sun room. I'm excited about the view and look forward to moving in mid-May.

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