Monday, October 29, 2018

Beauty for Ashes

Earlier today, I came out of the grocery store and discovered this on my windshield. Someone decided that each Oct 29th, on the anniversary of their father's death from cancer, they would make what is normally a sad day a better day by giving to others. This was such a touching way to make what was sad and devastating into something beautiful and joyous. They can't begin to imagine how moved I am by their gesture and their example of hope. It reminds me of this scripture in Isaiah, "He hath sent me to bind up the appoint unto them that mourn, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." I will indeed be paying this forward!

It's been interesting not being on Facebook for nearly a month now.

The last week, I have done a lot of praying and pondering, searching for answers about how to organize my time, my home, my life in order to accept the Lord's invitation to "Come Follow Me."

I have been finding my answers, one at a time.  And I've been working to adjust my life according to the answers I receive.

(I hope to share about that in another post this week.)

But since I am not really on social media as much as I was previously, I did not hear about the shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue until a Facebook friend direct messaged me to send me his sympathies.

Hearts are heavy here, which I think is why this act of kindness that I was the recipient of touched me so much.

I want to follow this person's example to make my life a life that takes the bad, the ugly, the sad, the difficult, the confusing and replaces it with beauty, joy, comfort, and clarity of purpose.

I have experienced both sides of this equation in the last week, and I know that it is the spirit of the Lord that brings that clarity.  And it is charity that brings that beauty to a world that is sometimes so dark.

Tonight for Family Home Evening, we wrote letters to the survivors of the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill.  It felt good to reach out to them.  It's a small thing, but we hope it eases some of their burden.  I know that Pittsburgh will find all kinds of ways to trade beauty for ashes as we live our respective faiths and reach out in love to others.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ten Years of Autumn

Today is my third child's 10th birthday!  Autumn Frost Christensen is often a whisper of a presence, so gentle and sometimes has a mysterious nature because she doesn't say everything that's on her mind, she doesn't overbear or talk too much, is pleasant to be around, is a graphic learner, a wonderful artist, and so kind of a companion that she naturally draws people to her.

In all honesty, I wish I could be more like her.  I'm hoping that more I'm around her the more she will rub off on me.

We gave her breakfast in bed this morning which is our tradition.  And I just wrapped a few gifts for her, clothing mostly, because I know that's her interest now that she's moving into young womanhood.  As I wrapped this gift, I kept thinking of my grandmother who always gave us beautiful clothes for our birthdays, and always with a matching necklace or necklace and earrings/bracelet combo.

Later, I opened a new alarm clock for Guy and as I set it up in his bedroom, I thought about my Grandfather.  On my 12th birthday, I received an alarm clock/radio.  My grandpa showed me how to use it that evening, and he took great care to warn me of the radio stations I should never listen to, because they played only "heavy metal"!  I love my grandparents, and although they have passed away, I am feeling really close to them right now.  I know they are close-by, watching over me and over us.

These are the moments when I know that we go on after this life and when I know and am so glad that families are forever.

And I'm glad to know that I have my little girl forever as my daughter, friend, and trusty companion.

I went to her school (with three other children in tow) to have lunch with her on her birthday.  I thought, why don't I just do this every week...and I just might.  It was the first time in a long time that I had (almost) one-on-one time with my not so little girl.

As I looked at old photos of Autumn today, I was reminded of how much she has changed and how much fun we've had together of the years, and it warmed my heart.  I can't wait to show her these photos in a slideshow when she gets home.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Transition Time

Families are so important.  And I'm so grateful for the one that I came from. 

I love that I can pick up the phone, or more accurately, my sisters always call me, to see how I am doing and to give me good, clear, consistent advice.

Yesterday, one of my sisters was talking me through a particularly difficult Monday morning, and she asked me, "What are your 'high priorities?' You know you can only really have 1-2 High Priorities to accomplish at one time."

I started to answer her when another call came in.  It was my daughter's school.   Because of my hectic morning with unforeseen events, I was thinking the time was an hour earlier than it actually was and I was now 20 minutes late for Kindergarten half-day pick-up!  Oh, joy!

I've been crying my eyeballs out to my sister the last two days as I've struggled with how to piece together our home so that peace can dwell here, truth can be taught here, and all can thrive here.

I've written and rewritten our daily schedule, and things have gotten more and more stressful for me as I have done so.

I like things to be calm and orderly, which is a must, I feel, for opening up time for Gospel Learning.  It's also a tall, tall order in a family of eight!

I've been poring over Conference talks, reading my scriptures, and trying to think the right thoughts to find the answers I need to feel peace again moving forward.  So if underlining counsel in talks were the magic bullet, I'd have found my answers by now.

I have found that talking with friends and especially with my sister, I've found some good advice.

She reassured me, "When things get confusing, that is Satan.  Do not let him confuse you or trick you into making things harder than they should be.  You have already received revelation, You will continue to receive revelation.  As you act on those things, the path will become clearer.  This is just a transition time...a time of a little bit of tweaking.  We have to be gentle with ourselves as we make these changes."  

After talking to her, I felt calmer about everything.

I know that our family has been putting these principles into action in our home for a long time now.  So, the transition into a slightly newer way of doing things will actually be easier for us than I am making it on myself.  It is the adversary who wishes to make me feel like this is hard or like I can't find my way.

I know my way.  Our home and family IS already gospel-centered.  We have arranged our lives in such a way that learning of the Savior in our home happens often and is exciting to our children and to us.  We have already reaped the blessings that Elder Nelson promised in his final words of General Conference, that over time your Sabbath Days will become a delight, that "your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior's teaching" and that "the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. And that "Changes in your life will be dramatice and sustaining." (See his talk "Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints.)

I copied this whole quote onto a big piece of paper and have it hanging in our eating area where we can look at it often and go after those blessings with even more resolve and joy.  I hope that you will too and I wish us all luck as we do so!

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Monday, October 22, 2018

I Still Want My Monday Nights!

Hi there.  I'm excited for the church changes.  Everyone, please don't get me wrong, but every time I pour over what needs to be done/changed, I feel like I now have to take apart a puzzle that has fit together nicely for so long and there's now a new right answer.  And that's confusing for me.

For instance, I'm still unclear about how the curriculum changes will reshape our family's traditions.  We have for a long, long time always reserved Monday nights for Family Home Evening.  We have safe-guarded this night, always wondering when the year will come when our little ones will start to have things that will take them away from this sacred time that we have together. 

So far, it hasn't happened, because we've chosen over and over again not to let it far.  At least from what I've been able to understand, Monday Night for FHE activities are  still fair game...or whenever you want to have it for that matter.  I think for now, in our family, we'll keep enjoying our Monday nights together.  Sunday will continue to be our big Family Council day, personal interviews will be instituted, and we will explore the new curriculum too, of course.

For now, just know that I am really pondering this and praying for answers to my questions.  I really want to get to that sweet spot where I feel the Spirit's comfort again telling me that I'm going in the right direction with what we do as a family.  I really truly want that.  And I give so much of my time to those thoughts these days.

I do completely trust that these changes are preparing us for major changes that will happen soon in our world.  Changes that I certainly can't foresee.

As I wrestle with these questions, there is also something I am enjoying in particular during this phase of Mothering.  I am loving watching my children's testimony's blossom...beyond memorizing and first discovery of God in their life, and now to actually fearlessly proclaiming their beliefs to friends.

I was pretty happy for Scarlett (my 11.5 year old) who recently fielded a lot of questions from friends about why she won't wear ripped jeans or "crop tops".  Her friend said, "But you'd look amazing in a crop top!" To which Scarlett responded, "I already look amazing!!"  Haha!  As her group of friends continued to discuss clothing, they said, "those clothes are actually against school dress code, but  no one actually follows the dress one, that is, but you, Scarlett."

Another time they wanted to make plans to attend a haunted attraction which Scarlett wasn't comfortable attending.  Her friends were pressuring her.  They said, "Scarlett, don't be such a Scaredy-Cat".  Scarlett said, "You're just going to have to accept that I don't like that stuff."

Soon after that, Scarlett asked me for a copy of For the Strength of Youth, which she shared with her friend.  Boy, those girls are so lucky to have such a fearless Daughter of God in their lives, and so am I.

Scarlett (and my other girls) did a wonderful job during the Primary Program this Sunday.  They bore such sincere and powerful testimonies...all of the children did.  I was blown away by more than a few of them, including Scarlett.  Her smile and confidence as she bore testimony of Joseph Smith and his experience with the restoration of the priesthood and her personal testimony of receiving priesthood blessings was priceless.

She is ready to move up to the youth program, whatever shape that will take.  I guess we'll keep figuring it all out together.

Whatever new programs await and whatever changes are still to be announced, I do know one thing:  the Lord knows His children, and he knows what they need way better than I do.  Jesus Christ and His teachings as expressed through His prophets have not failed us yet (in fact they have completely enriched and brought joy to our lives on a daily basis), and I know they will lead us toward higher, safer, holier ground in the years to come.  

For now, though, I'm still holding on tight to my Monday (and my Sunday) nights with this crazy, wonderful crew!

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Friday, October 19, 2018


This is the face of someone who just took a two-week fast from social media and other media that brings negative and impure thoughts, as directed by a prophet of God in the most recent General Conference (Read Pres. Nelson's talk here).

Not sure what to say about that, except that I. feel. amazing.

I feel:
More loving.
More curious.
More open-minded.
More capable of learning of and from Him.

I have been using social media to try to share the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ for a long time now, ten years actually.

Doing so has blessed my life and the life of my family.

So it's a little strange to realize that maybe Heavenly Father has new directions for us and new ways for us to grow and serve him that might take us away from these platforms. Or to at least for a time, cut way back on our usage.

I'm still fasting actually.

I have not put my social media apps back on my phone.

I have not even checked Facebook to see my birthday messages!  And yet I still managed to joyfully turn 41 during my fast! :)

I will say that at first I really missed talking with my friends, but truthfully, I don't feel ready to go back yet.  

During the time I was away, my eyes were opened to just how many things I want to know and explore, to how many things I want to improve about myself as a Mother and in my relationships with my children, and many questions have come to my mind that I want to find answers to (especially about implementing the new Home-centered New Testament curriculum).  

Now that my head it so clear and my time is my own, I want to find the answers that I seek. I am determined to do this.

President Nelson said, "The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you." (Check!) 

He asked, "What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit?" (Ouch!)

"Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy?  Have any of your priorities shifted--even just a little?  I urge you to record and follow through with each impression."

This post will be an incomplete assessment on my social media fast, because like I said, I feel I am still in the middle of it.  There is just so much more I need to understand about the changes and what they mean for my family and other questions that I personally have for my life.

But this post is over because my kids need me: My baby just busted open a ripe avocado and spread crayons across my floor and needs a diaper change while my two year old is asking me to light a birthday candle so he can blow it out.  So I've gotta go.

I hope the social media fast is having all of the intended effects in your life as well...And I look forward to hearing your observations...

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

General Conference: THIS is the Greatest Show!

Yay, General Conference!  That first Saturday Morning session was the bomb! 

I just wanted to pop in here real quick and share what we're doing to help the kids enjoy and get the most out of the sessions this time around.

It's just silly and fun, so I please don't send me hatemail if you don't like this idea, but our kids have really enjoyed the movie "The Greatest Showman" this past year, especially soundtrack.  In fact, next Saturday, I'm doing a circus-themed birthday party for my soon-to-be six-year I've got circus-on-the-brain.

Anyway, as I was quickly putting together a note-taking packet for the kids last night, with photos of the new apostles, all I could think of was that THIS is the greatest show.  General Conference IS the greatest show we watch all why not go with this theme.

The packet (which you can see photos of below) is just meant to be fun and silly and you can download it here if you'd like: GREATEST SHOW GENERAL CONFERENCE PACKET

Remember, it's nothing fancy. I made it in like ten minutes right before falling into bed last night!

I don't usually do rewards for watching Conference, as I don't really want to bribe them to participate, but I did build in a fun competition of sorts, and as it is turning out it's been a fun motivator.

So, here's how it works.  

I've asked my children (the older ones, aged 9-12) to write down at least three principles taught by each member of the 12 in their packets.  After the session is over, they are to bring their findings to me to share and discuss.  I talk with them about it, share my own insights about each talk, and make corrections or add information they might have needed or need to know to better understand what they wrote down.

I then give them "tickets" (you can find these at Walmart) that they can redeem for either snacks for the rest of the weekend OR they can put it in a pot with their names on the back to be entered into a drawing.

Together we decided on some fun rewards for the drawing...They are as follows:

Drawing #1 - for either a movie out with a friend and mom/dad OR a date night at a painting/pottery place with mom/dad

Drawing #2 - either camping out with mom in the back yard OR computer time

So far, I love hearing their insights and it has helped ration the candy! :)

This is how we've set up our home to watch General Conference this our sun room.  The television is normally upstairs in a common area, so for GC we move it downstairs where it's more comfortable.  

I like that the kids can do a messy, soothing project on the hardwood floors and still participate in watching General Conference.

And it's convenient that our table is right behind them so that kids who want to write or draw can comfortably do that there.

 I forgot to mention.  Another way they get tickets is by writing down every time they hear one of our memorized scriptures or an article of faith quoted in General Conference.  Here is Scarlett writing it down on a paper on the wall.

And last but not least, we really enjoyed our General Conference 5k fun run this morning.  Thanks to all of our friends for coming out to celebrate and get energized out in nature with us!!  Feeling good and loving the words of the prophets!

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Happier, Less Complicated Life

We made signs to post along our General Conference 5k for FHE last night.  I was in a hurry to find quotes from last Conference so I took them from a site that had compiled a quick list of them.  However, as I was looking more closely at the talks today, I realized the quotes posted weren't exact quotes, so I decided to go back and look at the talks again.  And I was reminded of this one:

"Brothers and sisters, from the bottom of my heart, I testify that the prophets speak by the power of the Holy Spirit. They testify of Christ and His divine mission on earth. They represent the mind and heart of the Lord and are called to represent Him and teach us what we must do to return to live in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are blessed as we exercise our faith and follow their teachings. By following them, our lives are happier and less complicated, our difficulties and problems are easier to bear, and we create a spiritual armor around us that will protect us from the attacks of the enemy in our day." - Ulisses Soares

I just love that holy promise, made to us by an Apostle of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Do I want a happier, less complicated life?  Do I want to become better able to bear my problems?  Do I want spiritual armor around myself and especially protecting my children?  You bet I do!

And this is exactly what I have experienced over the last 12 going on 13 years of watching and learning from General Conference with my children.

My life is better.

My family is happier.

We're stronger, more resilient.

We are better able to pass up on opportunities that might not be right for our family.

We're wiser.

We've grown in our faith and our understanding of who we are who God is.

As Elder Hales once proclaimed, "Oh, how we need General Conference!!"

Now, it's Tuesday of General Conference week. I have a list a mile long of things to accomplish, regular housework-type of things, in addition to General Conference Weekend things.  And my challenge right now is to slow down, focus on what is most important, and find time to think about what I need most going in to Conference.  

During our family council on Sunday, we took five minutes and each wrote down questions that we would like to find answers to during General Conference.  We will also look for our own answers this week in preparation.  Some of our questions are:

1. What do I need to be teaching my children now in order to prepare them for life ahead?
2. How can I make more time for personal scripture study?
3. How can I better manage my time and household?
4. How can we improve the way we talk to one another at home?
5. How would the Lord like me to address a certain situation that is troubling me?

My children asked:
1. How can I learn to love fasting?
2. How can I do a better job of sharing the gospel?
3. How can we repent of things that we don't even know we need to repent of?

4. How can I calm myself when I am feeling afraid?
5. How do I make my enemy my friend?
6. How do I share the gospel?
7. How do I help someone that needs a lot of help?
8. Will I go on a mission?
9. How will I make other happy?
10. Will I go to heaven?

11. Why can't I play with friends on Sunday? Why is that part of the Sabbath Day rules in our house?
12. If a bad person dies, will they still be "bad" when they are resurrected?
13. Will Heavenly Father forgive anything we repent of?

With that I have to resume my regular duties!

Good luck, everyone, with your General Conference prep!

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