Sunday, September 25, 2016

Preparing for General Conference

Reflecting on past conferences, I see things I wish I would have done differently and things that I felt helped us have an uplifting experience.  There are kind of two areas to think about as I prepare for conference.  One, is me, as an adult, wanting to listen.  Two, is making conference not be a dreaded event for my kids.

I have, in the past, spent so much time doing the pinterest things trying to make conference fun.  I had to constantly change things up to keep them entertained.  Kids were talking lots and I missed most of what was being said.  We have also done the other extreme and forced kids to sit on the sofa in front of the TV.  As I recall, that turned out real bad.  I was in tears and I’m pretty sure my kids despised the situation and possibly conference.  For sure they despised us as parents.  

I’m not claiming to have things all figured out.  I do feel like I have kind of figured out what works for our family.

First I needed to settle down.  Simplify!!  Don’t over think.  We listen to conference throughout the house and let kids play.  They usually hear something.  Some kids hear more than others.  But the beauty of this is that I usually hear more when I am not fussing over activities.

I learned to set out some things kids can do on their own.  I will pull out something per session. Like, the Mr. Potato Heads, blocks, legos, coloring, playdoe, cars, etc.  I just set the container in the middle of the room.  Sometimes I sit and play too.  They can play as long as they are quiet.  If they are really struggling to be quiet, I have them play in their room or outside with conference playing.  

Some kids who are not listening or distracting are encouraged to sit through one talk at a time.  But, especially when the prophet speaks.  We ask them all to listen.

Relax.  Sadly, for my family, I do not do a lot of baking and stuff like that.  I want to listen and relax with everyone else.  

Pray.  This is most important. This is something I only recently grasped the importance of. Pray as conference is approaching.  Pray for doubts to be answered.  Pray for the speakers.  Pray for my family.

I want to share a couple experiences.  These are good experiences.  I want to remember these two times.

I had been called into the cub scouts program.  I was so out of my element with this calling.  Let’s just say I am an “indoorsy” person.  I remember hearing Elder Bednar say, “The Lord qualifies those he calls.”  That really helped me.  When I was doing an activity, I would hear that in my head and tell myself that I could do whatever we were doing.  I’ve still got a long way to go to being good at scouts, but my attitude is better.

Last Spring as conference approached I had read some things online.  I had seen friends fall away.  I had seen the articles shared.  I had read the comments.  I could see where they were coming from with their concerns.  I felt sad.  I decided to pray to know if the prophet was truly the prophet of God.  I felt like it all hinged on that question.  If he was the prophet then all this other stuff meant nothing and he was truly inspired.  I would follow him.  Conference approached.  I sat through all of Saturday with no inspiration, feeling the words of others play through my mind as I listened to talks.  Thinking, “So-and-so would just say this to what he/she is saying.”

Sunday morning the prophet stood to speak.  He gave a short talk, but when he stood up at the pulpit I was flooded with a feeling and it brought tears to my eyes.  I knew he was the prophet.  I knew it.  I knew it!  I KNOW Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet on the earth today.

I am thankful for that answer!!!  I am thankful that I prayed.

I am looking forward to conference!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How have Family Scripture Study, Family prayer, and Family Home Evening blessed your life?

{I was asked to share some thoughts about this question in Relief Society at church. That is our women's organization in the LDS church.}

How have Family Scripture Study, Family prayer, and Family Home Evening blessed your life?

I have been pondering and praying over this question for the past couple weeks and was not sure what to say.  I know that doing these things have been good and right.  At our house it doesn’t look like the pictures in church magazines, ever. Someone is almost always upside down, running, laughing, crying (someone is always crying), or fighting (“stop looking at me. He’s breathing on me.  That was my spot.  I was sitting there.  Those are my scriptures!”  And of course, “He tooted!”).  We have the added challenge of a wide range of kid's ages.  We are trying to prepare Brad for a mission.  We have a tween, kids that can't sit still, and a little two year old who doesn't care about what we're trying to do. Sometimes it feels pointless, even impossible!   I know that my family has been blessed, at least for our effort, but I couldn’t pinpoint any certain blessing.  I couldn’t see something that was directly related to FHE, prayers, or scriptures.  Like, we read scriptures and then this amazing thing suddenly happened as a result.  I'm a little ashamed to admit that.  

Where are the blessings?

The blessings are all around us.  The blessings took some pondering for me to recognize.  

Where are the blessings?

There  is the blessing of our family coming together to study the Word of God. The blessing of knowing my children are learning from great prophets of old.  The blessing that a child remembered something that was read.  The blessing of kids developing a love for the Book of Mormon.  The blessing of kids opening, touching, and feeling the pages of the Book of Mormon.  The blessing of kids becoming familiar with the scriptures.  The blessing of hearing a child ask a thoughtful question about what was just read, not just ,”How much longer?”  I have even heard one of my kids ask me to keep reading.  THAT is a blessing.

Where are the blessings?

The blessing of seeing my 2 year old fold her arms, modeling her older siblings. (modeling her older siblings doing something good!) The blessing of hearing my children pray.  The blessing of recognizing answers to prayers together. The blessing of kids thinking of others who need a prayer.  The blessing of my kids learning to show respect for Heavenly Father (that seems to be a long process).  The blessing of listening to my child thank God for and recognize our blessings.  The blessing of my kids turning to prayer when a problem arises.  The blessing of letting my kids pray that we will have fun today, that we will have fun tomorrow, and that we can have fun the next day.

Where are the blessings?

The blessing of seeing my children understand a gospel principle. The blessing of learning consistency.  The blessing of laughing together.  The blessing of creating lifelong memories.  The blessing of us all learning to work together (HA HA HA HA).  The blessing of us all learning to play together (once again, HA HA HA).   The blessing of hearing my kids sing and play the piano.  The blessing of getting to know each other better.  The blessing of learning to do hard things. The blessing that we are hearing each other’s testimonies. The blessing of developing a love for the Savior as a family.

I asked my kids what are some of the blessings they have seen.

How have family scripture study, family prayer, and Family Home Evening blessed us?

“We get to be together.”  Aubryn said. “Like, even Brad comes in.”
“That we get to learn about Jesus.”  from Rylan.
“Be safe.”  James told me.  He’s right. I love that answer. He then added, “Feel the Holy Ghost.”
“That we have a family to study with.”  was Reagan’s answer.

The official announcement from the 1st presidency of 1915 when the Family Home Evening was launched promises, “If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result.  Love at home and obedience to parents will increase.  Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them.

Just like James said, We will be SAFE.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Look for the Blessings!

I'm peeling off the layers for a minute and exposing the raw emotions I have had inside.  This year has been a challenge.  It has.  I  carried on and on as if all was hunky dory.   I hit an emotional breaking point a couple times.  I hit it hard.  I cried.  a lot.  I felt like I couldn't deal with all that was dealt.  "It's too much!  I'm overloaded!  It's too heavy!  I can't do this!!  There is no end.  It will never get better.  I'm spread too thin.  My kids are not getting all they need from me.  I'm not taking care of myself, either.  I'm FAILING!!   I'm failing as a wife.  I'm failing my family.  My kids need more.  My husband needs more.  My family needs more of me!  My calling needs more.  My personal spiritual duties need to be better.   I'm not making good enough dinners.  I'm tiered. I'm doing everything wrong.   I can't do this..."

Feeling overwhelmed and letting Satan's voice flood my thoughts, I needed help.  I needed a life line.  But where?  What?

I fasted and prayed.  I needed to get through this.  I needed to handle this without caving.  I wanted to thrive and not just barely survive.  I needed to enjoy life.  I knew I could only "own" my part,  how I proceeded and behaved.  How I carried my load.  I can't change others.  I can't change circumstances.  I can't change other's actions.  I can't change what others say.  I can't change how others behave.  I sure tried.  Ultimately, they do what they want.

I don't remember exactly  when or where I was when I felt an impression.  "LOOK FOR THE BLESSINGS!"

I thought.  I pondered the good in my life.   I have much to be happy about!  I have been blessed!!  My children!  My husband!  The Gospel!  My home!  My talents!  I felt a shift.  Looking for my blessings has helped me immensely.

Brian went in for a MRI on Saturday the 27th.  Sunday morning we met with a member of the Stake presidency.  Brian was asked to do a new calling. ( I have to interject here.  I was hesitant about any new calling.  I knew it would be hard.  I wondered how.  I imagined I would be driving Brian around to other wards and it would be an added burden.  I expressed this to my friend.  She acknowledged my worry.  Then she said, "But if they have prayed over his name then..."  I stewed over that in my mind during my drive home and through the night.  She was right.  I would fully support any calling they extended.  It also made me think, "Why would we refuse added blessings?"   Brian started to express a little concern as well.  I shared with him my friend's thought and added, "The pioneers were asked to do much harder.")  (Another interject.  I've never seen Brian so anxious to get the results of an MRI.  When I asked him about it he responded, "The seizures have been different."  I knew what he meant. )   So here we were sitting in the office and Brian was being extended a new call.  He accepted.  I supported.  The councilor asked if there was anything we needed and to my amazement Brian asked him for a blessing.  I was THRILLED!!  Brian told him what was going on and that he was waiting for results from a MRI scan.  I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing.  Honestly, the only phrase I usually hear out of Brian is, "I'm fine."  I even made him a shirt that says  "I'm fine" on it.  After Brian received his blessing, the councilor placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "It's going to be okay."  He said it with conviction.  He proceeded to give me a blessing.  When we stood to leave he told us the Spirit really conveyed to him that it was all going to be okay.  It would be a journey,  but it would be okay.  I responded to him that was the third time I heard those words.  First, in prayer many years ago when this began.  Second, from our stake president shortly after that prayer and, third, from him today.   

We left and drove to Brian's office where the fax machine held his MRI report.  "No significant change."  NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE!!!!  His tumor has not changed for nearly 8 years.

With that 8 years comes Rylan's 8th birthday.  He was only three months old when this began.  He is eight now!  He got baptized on Saturday.  (yesterday, Sept 3, 2016)  It was so tender.  Brad baptized him!  Brian confirmed him.  It is hard to put into words the sweet, beautiful Spirit I felt.  I also felt, as we sat in the chapel waiting to go in to the baptistery, that Isaac was aware of what was going on.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he wanted to see for himself. 

After we got home from the baptism, dinner died down , and the guests left, I sat with Rylan and read through his book that was passed around for guests to write in.  The last letter in the book was from Aubryn.  She wrote a nice note and then drew a picture.  In the picture Rylan was in the font with Brad and Isaac was above them.  It melted my heart.

Today, Sept 4th, 2016 is fast Sunday.  I fasted differently today.  I fasted in gratitude.  A fast of thanks!  I fasted to thank the Lord for my many blessings.  I fasted to thank God for the good results on Brian's MRI.  I fasted to thank God for Rylan's baptism.  I fasted to thank God Brad could baptize him.  I fasted to thank God for the worthy good men and boys in my life.  I fasted to thank him for my beautiful children.  I fasted to thank him for my husband.  My good, good husband.  I fasted to thank God for my health.  I fasted to thank God that I did not get hit by a van that ran a red light full speed as I was turning left.  Why did I hesitate to go when it was my turn?  I fasted to thank God for the word of God, temples, The Book of  Mormon, and a true prophet of God. I fasted to thank God for the Atonement!!  I fasted to thank God for peace, comfort, and the strength to keep going.  I fasted to thank God for Brad.  I fasted to thank God for Isaac.  I fasted to thank God for Aubryn who bore a sweet and emotional testimony today that she knows we will all live together again someday.  I fasted to thank God for Reagan.  I fasted to thank God for Rylan.  I fasted to thank God for James.  I fasted to thank God for Wesley.  I fasted to thank God for Eden.  And I fasted to thank God for Brian.  He also bore his testimony today.  He bore his testimony of many things, among them he mentioned he has a testimony of the restored priesthood.

I am blessed beyond my ability to express.  Look for the blessings! 

 Wesley at the dinner party

 Kid table!

 Grandpa Bryce and Reagan playing uno

 They were playing nice for a few minutes so I took a picture.  Then James declared himself the mayor and took over the town.  You can't drive there!  You can't live there!

 Eden and Grandpa Bryce reading books.
 Grandma was here too, but she was probably busy cleaning something, feeding somebody, or some other great and helpful thing.
 Saw this guy walking along hwy 89.  My curiosity go the best of me and I turned around and pulled over.  he was from South Carolina and was walking to Oregon.  He donates any proceeds to Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  You can follow him on instagram:  @odyssey_west
 Catching more squirrels in our yard.
 eating out of our compost bucket.
 Shopping with these two is a blast!

 James first day of kindergarten!!! Such a cutie!!  Great news after his assessment, no speech therapy needed.  YAHOOO!

 James, Rylan, Reagan, Aubryn