Monday, May 27, 2013

A good weekend

This was the first weekend since March that we haven’t had multiple activities going on.  We love the soccer games, baseball games, recitals, photo shoots and church obligations, but it was such a relief to just have some free time as a family.  Add in that we sent our Dossier (all of our paper work that will be submitted to the court in the DR Congo for our adoption) off this week, and we just felt so relaxed compared to how we have felt lately.  On Saturday we got up and went to Carowinds right when it opened.  Having season passes is great because we can just go in the morning and come home as soon as it gets crowded enough that we have to wait in lines.  I am not a huge rollercoaster person, but Gabe is, so I put on my mom hat and rode a loopy-loop one that ended up being a little much for even him.  It was such a fun morning, with no whining or fights and we were home in time for naps.

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We did the same thing today – got there right when it opened and none of the rides had lines.  After a couple of hours we headed over the waterpark and still made it home in time for a two hour nap for me and Carina.  She has been waking up at 5 am every day for a week now so I have been so sleepy!  Strangely enough, it doesn’t seem to be affecting her at all.  She has been just a cheerful and still falls asleep at the same time every night.

Anyway, after the naps we headed over to a park for a church barbeque.  It was great – tons of people there, great weather, lots for the kids to do.  A perfect end to a great weekend.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beginner’s Day–My baby is going to kindergarten

Oliver had his “Beginner’s Day” not long ago.  It was a chance for all the little boys and girls (who are way too young to be leaving their mommies all day)  to visit the school and learn a few things about what to expect.  Here is a picture of Ollie waking up his cousin Liam, who will be going to kindergarten with him. Liam fell asleep on the way there.  See what I mean?  They are babies, I am telling you!  Babies!

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I thought Ollie had a lot of confidence while we were there, and was so excited to be there, but looking at the pictures, I can see the nervousness in his face.

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Carina had some fans there. 

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The two Chinese teachers were just THRILLED to see our two families there together and to see little Ollie and Liam.  Our  four older boys are “legends” with the Chinese teachers (their words, I swear), so they have been pretty tickled at the idea of the two cousins coming in together.  Come to think of it, that is a lot of pressure, but I think they will live up to it!

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After the school, we all went to Panda Express, to continue our tradition.  Tragedy ensued when Ollie (with his accomplice the dinosaur) accidently pushed a tray holding 1/3 of our family’s food off the table onto the floor.  I may or may not have lost it a little.

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Poor little Ollie.  It wasn’t a very fun dinner.

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I thought his fortune was perfect for starting school.

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The evening got better when he caught a toad at home.  That kid loves animals.

Gabe’s Beginner’s Day hereColin’s here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To the Virtuous Women I Know, Part 3

In this last general conference Elder Uctodorf said,

Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice. Ask that your eyes may be opened, that you may see His light.

Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes. He knows that you will stumble—perhaps many times. This saddens Him, but He loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.

I strongly believe that we need to embrace our titles of virtuous women, even in our imperfection. It isn’t a brag or boast. It is an acknowledgement of whose side we are on, whose promptings we are striving to follow. It is an acknowledgment that we are trying to do Heavenly Father’s work and that we know as Sister Dalton said, whose we are. We are Heavenly Father’s daughters. Through our virtue, we will have strength and power to His marvelous work on earth.

One last quote I would like to leave with you that gives me great encouragement when I see my shortcomings staring me in the face. In this last general conference, Elder Scott said,

I have learned a truth that has been repeated so frequently in my life that I have come to know it as an absolute law. It defines the way obedience and service relate to the power of God. When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord.

I bear testimony to you that I know this is true. In the past few years, as I have tried more earnestly, to consistently obey God’s commandments, He has whispered to me more and more often about work that he wants me to do for Him. Each time I try to do that work, I can see more clearly who I am, and how important the people are that I am trying to serve. Every once in awhile, I will receive a little thought in my head about work that He wants me to do that seems too hard, too grand, too much for me to do. It is easy to let those promptings pass on by…sometimes thinking “Who I am I to do that” or even just pretending like it was just a passing thought that I should let float on. But when I embrace that inspiration, trusting that though I am so imperfect, so weak…I see that if I am willing to serve the Lord, that is what matters. I want you to know that our Heavenly Father has very specific work for each of us to do, and it is significant and of eternal importance.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To the Virtuous Women I Know–Part 2

This is part two of a talk I gave on Mother’s Day and wanted to share with you.  Part I is here if you missed it.

In that same talk by Sister Dalton, she said that virtue is the strength and power of daughters of God and then she defined virtue as, “a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.”

I think that this definition is key to understanding our feelings of never being good enough and understanding where those feelings come from and how dangerous they can be. One word that Sister Dalton used is so important. She said a “pattern” of thought or behavior. A pattern means that something is repeated, time and again, consistently, predictably.

I think that Satan will do anything to disrupt that pattern, breaking down virtue and thus breaking down the power and strength that we as women possess.

I think one of his most effective ways of breaking that pattern is through those feelings of hopelessness and despair. Satan may even disguise those feelings as something good. We may think that of course we should feel guilty, because we aren’t perfect, and think that by berating ourselves for our shortcomings, we are trying to be better people…so those feelings are good, right?

But feeling that kind of guilt is often paralyzing. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by everything that we need to do that we become paralyzed and do nothing at all or stop what we are already doing. It is so easy to feel like what we are doing doesn’t matter, so why bother anyway? So maybe we give up here or there, or skip this or that. Our pattern of thought and behavior is then interrupted, stalled, broken. Our virtue, our strength and power, is then broken. Satan has accomplished what he set out to do.

In speaking of that kind of guilt at General Conference in 2006 (another great talk you should check out), Anthony D Perkins said,

God the Father is merciful and has infinite love for you despite your faults. Only the voice of Satan will cause you to feel of no value. In contrast, the Holy Ghost will cause you to feel “godly sorrow” 10 unto repentance in a manner that fills you with hope of positive change.

When you feel worthless, “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” 11 Refrain from repeatedly thinking or saying negative words about yourself—there is a clear difference between humility and humiliation. Identify and use your unique talents rather than dwelling on your weaknesses.”

This can help us in identifying where our feelings are coming from. Feelings from Heavenly Father fill us hope of positive change. Feelings from Satan cause us to despair, to quit, to stall, to freeze.

Paying attention to our thoughts and identifying whether they are from the Spirit or from the adversary can make a huge difference in our behavior and in the patterns we embrace. What does that look like in real life? I would like to just give a few examples.

You and your husband are gathering your kids for family prayer. The oldest (who should be the example) is rolling their eyes. The youngest is running in circles. The other two are hitting each other. Okay, this may be a direct example from my own life….The thoughts that go through your head are, “My children are never ever going to understand the power of prayer. There is no Spirit here and I have failed failed failed in one of the most important lessons I can teach them.” These thoughts are certainly understandable and may even seem accurate. But are they from God?

I am so grateful we have apostles from God to give us answers to negative thoughts like this one. Elder Bednar gave a talk in general conference and talked about the same struggle he and he wife had with their sons – prayers when they were poking each other and giggling and complaining about their brothers “breathing their air.” He said that years later he could see that  “our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “ and he quoted the scripture “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

The negative thought would lead you to believe that the hard work of gathering your family for prayer isn’t worth it, the thought that combats it is that you are doing small and simple things that will lead to something great in the future – in other words, it will encourage you to keep a pattern of virtue.

Another situation:

You have been trying to improve your health. You want to be strong so that you are ready at all times to do the Lord’s work. You have been exercising and eating good food, and you feel more energetic than ever. Then someone tags you in a Facebook picture, taken from below, in the middle of a belly laugh, with a triple chin. All health motivation goes out the window. Why bother eating well and sweating when you are never going to look the way you think you “should”? All you feel like doing is eating a bowl of ice cream and taking a nap. Again, this may or may not be based on personal experience. And this may seem like something trivial, something that isn’t really even related to the gospel, but really, that negative thought is not put there by our Heavenly Father. So we know where it is coming from? It is an attack on a pattern of good choices, an attack on virtue – and the response to that comes from Elder Holland in general conference 2005 when he was talking about the way that young women feel about their bodies. (Another great talk you should read or watch later – I love hearing Elder Holland)

“Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good. I mention adult women because, sisters, you are our greatest examples and resource for these young women. And if you are obsessing over being a size 2, you won’t be very surprised when your daughter or the Mia Maid in your class does the same and makes herself physically ill trying to accomplish it. We should all be as fit as we can be—that’s good Word of Wisdom doctrine. That means eating right and exercising and helping our bodies function at their optimum strength. We could probably all do better in that regard. But I speak here of optimum health; there is no universal optimum size.”

I could go on and on with examples of what Satan would have us believe in order to stall our pattern of behavior and thought, versus the truths that Heavenly Father has for us, which will lead us to hope and continue in the work we are doing. The answers to Satan’s negative thoughts are always there. Heavenly Father has provided them for us from our leaders, scriptures and prayers.

Tomorrow – Part III, Embracing our virtue.  In the meantime, can any of you give any examples that you have noticed in your life when have been able to replace those overwhelming feelings with greater truth?

Monday, May 13, 2013

To The Virtuous Women I Know – For Mother’s Day

I gave a talk in church yesterday.  I don’t really mind giving talks – it gives me a chance to really study something out, put my thoughts together, and share them..  I especially love thinking and talking about the challenges of mothers and women.  I would like to share a slightly modified version of my talk because even though a lot of you weren’t sitting in the congregation yesterday,  I was still thinking of you when I wrote it.  I am going to break it up because it is long, so here is Part I.

Proverbs 31

10 ¶Who can find a avirtuous bwoman? for her price is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband doth safely atrust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with herahands.

14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the apoor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

25 Strength and honour are her aclothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of akindness.

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of aidleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also,and he praiseth her.

When I hear these verses from Proverbs 31, I immediately think of one woman – my mother. Her example of virtue is one that I have been blessed to see firsthand over and over again. She raised eight children like the mothers of the Stripling Warriors – we had no doubt that our mother knew the gospel and tried to live it. Her love for us, and for her Savior was evident in every aspect of her life. I saw her serve as Relief Society President, Young Women’s President, Camp Director, Seminary Teacher, and bishop’s wife (all time and service-intensive volunteer positions in our church). I have memories of the needy sleeping in our home, of truckers eating dinner at our table, and countless teenagers riding in our van to church activities. When my oldest brother and sister served missions at the same time, my mom added part time work to her already bursting schedule of service to help support the cost.

And now, as she struggles with her health and is limited in her abilities to keep up with her tireless dedication to the Lord’s work, I have to chance as her daughter to arise up, and call her blessed. That is truly what she is. Virtuous and blessed.

Here is thing about my mom though, that I want you know, and that will lead to what I really want to say to all of you.

My mom hated Mother’s Day. She hated it because there was always someone who stood up and read a very sweet poem about their perfect mother, and then tearfully recalled that they had never heard their mother raise their voice. She hated it because she was currently living the very hard and hectic reality of trying to serve the Lord as an imperfect person, and on Mother’s Day she always felt like she fell short. She did sometimes yell at us. Our Family Home Evenings sometimes did meet the description of “The only fight that begins and ends with a prayer.” She did try to teach us reverence in church, over and over again, and there were still moments of pinching and teasing and walking the halls. There were plenty of moments of “I can’t do this anymore” and “These kids don’t appreciate anything I do!”

Unfortunately, these feelings of exhaustion and of always falling short, are not just reserved for mothers, they seem to infect the hearts of all women. We are never good enough and this message comes rushing at us from every direction…from magazines with airbrushed supermodels on the front, to Pinterest boards filled with chevron-patterned homemade maxi skirts, 30 minute ab workouts that will give you back your pre-baby belly and FHE lessons with laminated object lessons for every chapter of the Book of Mormon, with matching refreshments and activities !

So I want to talk to all of the women, even the young women, about those feelings of never being good enough.

First, I want to talk to you about who you really are. In church’s last General Conference, Elaine Dalton (who recently served as the head of our organization for girls ages 12-18) spoke about this. She said,

“Every week young women all over the world repeat the Young Women theme. No matter the language, each time I hear these words, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him, the Spirit affirms to my soul that they are true.

It is not only an affirmation of our identity –who we are- but also an acknowledgement of whose we are. We are daughters of an exalted being!

In every country and on every continent, I have met confident, articulate young women, filled with light, refined by hard work and trial, possessing pure and simple faith. They are virtuous. They are covenant keepers. They know who they are and that they have a significant role to play in building the kingdom of God.”

I look around my life, and I see the same thing – daughters of a King. I see women who dedicate their lives their families. I see women who work long hours as nurses, caring patiently and carefully for people who are sick and vulnerable. I see young women who are confidently holding to standards that seem outdated and just plain weird to their classmates. Women who teach diligently. Women who are never ever idle. I see women who share words of wisdom and guidance with people who are lost and confused. All around me, I see women of virture , and yet I wonder how many of us would actually describe ourselves as virtuous women. I have even heard some of these wonderful women I described saying that talking about virtuous women makes them feel guilty and that they HOPE to be virtuous women “someday.”

Tomorrow, I want to talk to you about that guilt and what it means to be a virtuous woman, but in the meantime, can you tell me what or who you think of when you think about virtuous women?  Especially those of you who don’t share my religion, I would love to hear about virtue means to you.