Thursday, November 10, 2016

There's so much to be thankful for

About a year ago I wrote a post about things I am grateful for. Gratitude has been on my mind a lot lately. There is so much crazy stuff going on in the world, but when I take a minute to count my blessings I find that I can overcome feelings of worry or anxiety. When I am focusing on the good, it is easier to drown out the bad.

This video is set to a song by Josh Groban, a song that brings instant calm when I hear the first few chords. It is impossible to capture all of the things I am grateful for in this one short song, but I wanted to create something that reminds me of what is most important; God's creations, a nation of freedom, my faith and especially my family, both those who have come before me and my family now. The pictures are memories, days where I felt overwhelmed by God's love for me. And that is something I am forever thankful for.

video

Friday, October 7, 2016

My kids are growing up

This has never been more clear than the last few months as this school year has begun.

When school starts, I tend to look back at photos from previous first days. The kids have visibly grown. They are taller, their features more mature. But their growth is so much more.

Liz and Michael are both at new schools, and though nervous, they have settled right in and found their place. Nathan and Megan have also taken on their new grade levels with excitement and confidence.

They each have jumped right into school with increased responsibility and accountability. Even Megan is significantly more independent with her homework and assignments. They each practice their instruments and complete there work with minimal reminders from me.

Their interests are growing and developing. Liz joined the improv club (after school on Fridays), Mike joined the math club and Nathan is working and practicing hoping to make the basketball team. Megan's love for books and her list of books she has read has simply exploded this year. Oh, and Nathan started his first real, paying job (as a tutor at the school),

One amazing thing about these activities is how the kids take it upon themselves to get to and from where they need to be, and also how they do all they can to take care of the financial end of their responsibilities.
Nathan - "I have work/open gym today, but I will just walk home when I am done. I'll text when I am on my way." or "I am excited about my job. I can save the money for my mission and use some for if I make the basketball team, and later for track."
Liz - "Improv club is after school on Fridays, but I will just ride the (city) bus home." or, with perfect confidence, "I need to stay after school and take a test, but I will just catch the bus when I am done."

This school year has been a strange adjustment for me. I am still "mom", but my role is changing. It isn't really easy to describe, but the kids need me in a different way than ever before. I think often that in just a few short years they will leave home for college, missions etc. I find myself wanting to cherish and preserve the moments we have as a family, enjoying holidays and birthdays, and even lazy Saturdays together. I know these days won't last forever.

But I also want to support and celebrate their pursuits that aren't happening here at home. It makes me happy to know that they are learning skills, and acquiring traits that will help them as they become adults. It brings me joy to know that they each have such strong desires to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and live the principles of the gospel that Brian and I love so dearly.

I find myself frequently just standing back, and watching them with awe. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father sent these wonderful people to our family.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Commencement

Yesterday I spent the day down at BYU. For the last two Augusts and Aprils I have had the chance to help with the Commencement processional at graduation. (Brian has helped with graduation for about five years, since he started working in the Registrar's office, and one year I asked if I could volunteer. They always need help with the lines of graduates and getting them seated in the Marriott center.) In the morning we do a walk through in the Marriott center and put the commencement programs under the graduates' seats. It is always fun to be there when it is so empty, and often we overhear some of the speeches that will be given at graduation. After lunch, we see students as they line up with their friends and classmates. It really is a fun day, celebrating students who have worked so hard to meet the goals they have set. It is an exciting time on campus.

Every time I have helped at graduation, I have looked at the cap and gown clad students and I have felt a little twinge of regret for not "walking" in my own graduation, but yesterday I had a little insight about myself. I thought back to April 2001. I had completed my graduation requirements, but I had also just brought a little tiny (still less than five pounds) miracle home after 3 weeks and two days in the NICU. Truthfully graduation was one of the furthest things from my mind. I had my baby and she was healthy and growing and I was her mom.

And yesterday I was reminded that graduation is about far more than receiving a diploma, or about finishing classes that would help me get a job. Graduation is celebrating education; learning principles and skills that would make me a better mother, a better wife, a better person. My college education has helped me to become a better servant of the Lord.


BYU is in my blood. I love to be on campus. It is such a beautiful place and there is a very special feeling there. So much has changed since I was a student, but the campus still holds so many memories. I am grateful that I was able to attend BYU for my years in college, and I am grateful that we still have a connection to the university. 


Monday, July 25, 2016

Ancestors and the Atonement

Two weeks ago our Bishop asked me to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Pioneer day. He told me that the topic of the sacrament meeting was the Atonement, but he wanted my specific topic to be "The Atonement blessed our ancestors and can be a blessing for us too." Writing this talk was an interesting experience. I felt like it almost wrote itself. I was drawn to histories from specific ancestors, and quotations from John Taylor. I was blessed to make some marvelous connections and to think about things I have known in a different way than ever before. And even though I had known many of the stories of my ancestors, reading them again gave me different perspective. Preparing this talked has enriched my personal celebration of this Pioneer Day. 

Here is my talk. This is what I had all written and typed out. When I actually gave my talk it was not word for word, but it followed this outline and these ideas. 

Talk from July 24, 2016

I am grateful for the topic of the Atonement today. In the spirit of Pioneer day I have been given the specific topic "The Atonement blessed our ancestors and can be a blessing for us."

We often hear about the events that make up the Atonement; Christ suffering in Gethsemane, dying on the cross and rising on the third day. But the Atonement encompasses far more than just the events that occurred and this is why the Atonement mattered so much to our ancestors and why it should matter to us.

I would like to first share some principles of the Atonement taught by John Taylor, the third latter day prophet.

First, he teaches that through the Atonement we can live again as resurrected beings. He said, "If it were not for the atonement of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice he made, all the human family would have to lie in the grave throughout eternity without any hope. ... By and by the tombs will be opened and the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they shall come forth."

In John 11:25 the Savior himself teaches, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

We learn that each of us, everyone who lives on the earth will be resurrected.

Next John Taylor teaches us that Christ took upon him the sins of the world. " The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible."

Isaiah reminds us that we all have sinned, that we all need this cleansing power of the Atonement in our lives. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

We must each choose to exercise faith in Christ's Atonement and repent of our sins and mistakes and be obedient to God's commandments. Then, because of the Atonement, we can be clean.

A third blessing of the Atonement is taught by Alma. In Alma 7:11 we read, "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people."

Speaking of Jesus Christ, John Taylor taught, "He, having been placed in the same position as we are, knows how to bear with our weaknesses and infirmities, and can fully comprehend the depth, power, and strength of the afflictions and trials that men have to cope with in this world. And thus understandingly and by experience, he can bear with them.' To me, this is one of the most beautiful parts of the Atonement, that there is someone who understands everything we go through. No matter the situation, there is someone who has felt exactly what we are feeling. He understands it all, and he can give us the strength to bear.

I know that I often have difficulty comprehending the magnitude of the Lord's sacrifice for us, but we come to understand it better as we apply the Atonement in our lives.

As I considered the topic of ancestors and the Atonement I have read and reread many accounts from my family history looking for their testimonies of the Savior's atonement. I would like to share just a few of the things I read today. As I share stories from my ancestors I invite you to think also about your ancestors and their lives and challenges.

Anson Call (3rd great grandfather) - Born in Vermont in 1810. Traveled with his family to Ohio to join with the Methodists, but Anson call was dissatisfied with all denominations, and he considered the preaching of LDS missionaries to be an annoyance. In an effort to prove the missionaries wrong, he underwent an intense study of the Book of Mormon and Bible. After six months of diligent praying and searching, he finished the two books. He found, however, that the more he had studied, the more he became convinced that the missionaries were right. Throughout the process of his conversion he struggled over what it would be like to be classified as "Mormon". He even wrote, “I was proud and haughty, and to obey the gospel was worse than death. … To be called a Mormon, I thought, was more than I could endure. … I at last covenanted before the Lord that if He would give me confidence to face the world in Mormonism I would be baptized.” After he covenanted with the Lord, his mind was cleared and his fear left him. From the time of his baptism he was bold in declaring what he knew. He soon joined the Saints in Kirtland.
            In the next few years, as persecution for the saints grew,  Anson lost property and was attacked by mobs. He was in Nauvoo at the time that the Prophet Joseph Smith died, and assisted in preparations for the Saints to move west. He received his temple ordinances in the Nauvoo temple, just months before starting the trek west. Anson and his wife lost two of their young children before even reaching Winter Quarters. They made the difficult journey west and settled their family about 10 miles north of Salt Lake.  In the years from 1850 to 1864 Anson was called to leave his home and go on missions to create settlements in Parowan Valley, Millard County, Box Elder County and two settlements along the Colorado River near modern day Las Vegas. He also joined in the rescue of the Martin and Willie handcart pioneers in 1856.

Eliza Briggs (3rd great grandmother) - Eliza Briggs was born in England in 1836. She was fifteen when she and her family were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Briggs family sailed to the United States and joined the Martin Handcart Company. They longed to reach the Great Salt Lake.
            Eliza's family had lost her younger brother early on the trail. Eliza did all she could to support her mother. Eliza was like a second mother to her younger siblings. She shared her rations with them and even carried her baby sister under her clothing to keep her warm. Eliza's father, John, gave most of his rations to his wife and children. He became weaker and weaker and passed away near Devil's Gate. Eliza and her family reached the Salt Lake Valley, but her baby sister died shortly after their arrival, and her mother was in bed most of the winter, and died only three years after reaching Salt Lake.
            Eliza was taken in by a family in Salt Lake and later married. She and her husband were called on the "Muddy Mission" to settle in Southern Utah. It was a long way, and was a difficult and hot journey with her seven children. Sometimes when they would stop to rest Eliza would tell her children about her journeys in the cold winter weather. Many called to this mission suffered from fevers and malaria because of the marshy conditions.
            A few months before her eighth child was born, Eliza's husband wanted to take her back to Provo so she could have better care, but she refused say, "No, The president of the Church called us here on a mission to build homes and cultivate the soil for other settlers and we will stay until he calls us back." Eliza passed away two days after her baby was born.

Jesse Bigler Martin (3rd great grandfather) - Born in 1825 in West Virginia. His parents joined the Church in the 1830's and taught Jesse the teachings of the gospel. The Martins  moved to Caldwell county Missouri to join with the Saints. His mother hid him in the brush to keep him out of the hands of the mob. Jesse heard an elder preach and gained a testimony that "Joseph Smith was a true prophet of the Lord." After the death of the prophet Joseph his parents fell away from the church and decided to not travel west with the Saints. They wanted Jesse to stay with them, but Jesse had a burning testimony of the divinity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and he was blessed with a testimony that Brigham Young was called as the second prophet in this dispensation. He traveled west with his Uncle George A. Smith and his aunt Bathseheba and joined the Mormon Battalion.  Jesse put his trust in God and went to serve his country. The Battalion endured exhausting heat, deep sand, a water shortage and inadequate medical care, and poor food as well as a longing for home and family, but there were blessed to return to Utah after the Battalion's mission was finished, without ever experiencing bloodshed.
            In 1853 Jesse was called to serve a mission. He left his wife and three children for four years. He returned to the United States with many saints from Europe and was captain for a company crossing the plains.

Margaretta Unwin Clark (3rd great grandmother) -Born in England in 1828. She grew up learning about hard work. It was on her way home from work at a factory that she was drawn to a street meeting, touched by the message in the hymns that were being sung. She grew more and more interested in the message of the missionaries and loved the message so much that her mother and sisters also accepted the religion. Margaretta was baptized in 1848. She was eager to study and her knowledge of the gospel grew quickly. She could not ignore the growing desire to join with the Saints in Utah, but knew that this would mean leaving her country, her surroundings and her family forever. For eight years she struggled with the desire to immigrate. She also worked hard and saved all she could.
            Margaretta left her home and family in May 1856. Early in the journey across the ocean she was lashed to the brow of the ship so she could feel the full rise and dip of the waves and overcome seasickness. Her hope was to be able to help nurse others in the company who were ill. Once in the US, Margaretta and the group she had traveled with joined a handcart company. She was assigned to the Martin Handcart Company. The challenges of this company are familiar to many of us. They suffered from lack of food and supplies and the early winter snows. Even once the rescuers had arrived they still had a ways to go to reach the valley. She was able to ride in the wagon of one of the rescuers (Anson Call). He recognized that she was freezing to death and pulled her out of the wagon. With the help of another man, he ran her up and down to induce circulation, which likely saved her life.
            Margeretta was taken in by a family in Salt Lake Valley. She began work, and after a few months received her endowment and was married to Anson Call. She dealt with homesickness and missing her family, as she transformed from factory girl to farmers wife.

As I searched these accounts for references to the Atonement, I realized that the Atonement was never specifically mentioned. But I also came to realize that there was evidence of the atonement in every account. I came to understand that these ancestors lived their testimonies of Jesus Christ.

It was because of their belief in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his gospel, they were willing to do the countless hard things that were asked of them.

But it was because of the blessings of the Atonement, the promises and enabling power that come through Christ's sacrifice, that they were able to accomplish what was asked of them. Because of the Atonement, they knew that the death of their loved ones was not the end. Though they lost property and were driven from their homes, or were abandoned by their family members, they knew that "All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." They were given the strength to leave comfort of home and family to travel far away to gather with the saints. The Atonement made it possible for them to change their desires, to have confidence, and to feel peace rather than fear.

One of the most amazing things about the Atonement is that it wasn't just for our ancestors and their trials. It was for everyone. It is for us. When we see a weakness in ourselves and seek the Lord's help, we can overcome it. When we feel discouraged or alone, we can turn to our Savior. When the events of the world cause us to despair, we can regain hope because of the Atonement. When we mess up, we can be made clean. When we lose loved ones, we can know that we will see them again.

Shortly before his death, John Taylor wrote the following to his family members, sharing his feelings about the Atonement. John Taylor is my third great grandfather and as I read these words I felt that he was talking to me. “I pray God the Eternal Father that when we have all finished our probation here, we may be presented to the Lord without spot or blemish, as pure and honorable representatives of the Church and kingdom of God on the earth, and then inherit a celestial glory in the kingdom of our God, and enjoy everlasting felicity with the pure and just in the realms of eternal day, through the merits and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, in worlds without end.”

I know that Jesus Christ lived. I know that he suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross and rose again. I know he lives today. And because of this we can overcome all of the challenges we face in this life, we can be clean and we can return to live with our Father in Heaven again. I know that His gospel has been restored, that this is the true church of Jesus Christ. I am grateful that we know the truth. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lessons learned while ironing

Last night I was ironing Brian's shirts. Brian wears a white shirt and tie about six days out of the week, both for church and work. I tease him about it sometimes (like last night when he had taken his tie off to cut Mike's hair, then put it back on with his white shirt when we went to run an errand), but really I like it. It is kind of his trademark.

This means we do lots of ironing at our house. I don't love ironing, but I love it when I bite the bullet and do all of the ironing for an entire week and I can put the iron away and forget about it.

Last night I was ironing while Brian and I listened to a book together. I was reminded of a conversation with my mom from a few months ago.

She had just flown in for a visit, and we were chatting before heading to bed. It was one of the weeks where I wasn't on the ball and I hadn't done all of the ironing at once, so I was ironing a shirt before climbing into bed. My mom said, "I love watching you iron."

I responded, "You know I don't like ironing."

She said, "I know."

And then, though I don't remember how she said it, she explained that she loves watching me iron because I do it out of love.

I thought about that last night. I iron because I love Brian, and it is a small way to take care of him, I know that Brian likes his shirts crisp. It helps him to feel prepared and put together for work or church responsibilities, and through ironing, I can help that happen.

Even mundane tasks, when done with love, can mean so much more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Answer

Today in Brussels there were some awful terrorist attacks. These events are always sad, but it hit closer to home as this is where Dad, Rich and Michelle all served missions. Brussels is beautiful, and it was heartbreaking to hear about such awful things happening.

In the shower I was thinking about words we hear in the temple. Some parts of what we learned came to me, word for word, as I thought about the terror that is throughout the world. 

But I was also reminded of the great power of the Lord, and of His work that is spreading throughout the earth. Temples are being built at incredible rates, and these temples will bless the areas where they are built. This is because of the great blessings available to those who make temple covenants, then go into the world and keep those covenants. They are blessed with power; power to do good, power to overcome evil.

I saw this on facebook today. It is true. Keeping our covenants does not mean we will never face trial or challenge, but we will be safe. Our spirits will be safe, our souls will be safe. Keeping our covenants means that we can return to our Heavenly Father with confidence that we have done what He has asked us to do.


And as I think about the upcoming Easter Sabbath. I am reminded that all of the power that comes through temple covenants has it roots in the Atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, he who overcame everything, including death, so that we can one day do the same.

Despite the challenges of the world, I have hope in Christ. Despite the chaos of the world I can feel peace each day.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Love

I have thought a lot about love this month. A lot of people focus on love in February. I like February because early in the month is the anniversary of the day we decided to get married and the day Brian officially proposed. It is fun to think back on that early stage of our love. It was thrilling and exciting and also peaceful and calm. 

I saw this on facebook today. The quotation by Elder Holland came from a devotional address he gave at BYU the week after Brian proposed. It was the first time we went to devotional together and the topic of the Gospel and Romantic love was so appropriate for our situation. 


Sometimes the world tells us that love and romance are about extravagant gifts, exciting dates, expensive dinners, or frequent vacations. Brian and I both felt a little silly about our Valentine's Day. We got take out and ate on a table downstairs (Brian decorated with a rose that Megan had received that we put in a vase.) while watching Pride and Prejudice. It feels silly to tell people that, because maybe they don't think it is a big enough deal, but it was what we both wanted. All that mattered was being together. 

Don't get me wrong, special events are important. Dates nights, expressions of love and even time away are wonderful. They create memories and help build unity. Time together is vital. But Elder Holland's quotation reminds me of what really matters. The root of our love should be our faith. It is our faith in Jesus Christ that turns our simple romantic love into something much greater. With faith in Jesus Christ our love can deepen and broaden. Our love can grow and develop into charity, the pure love of Christ. 

Charity helps us to recognize the needs of our spouse, and to have the desire to put their needs above our own. Charity is what makes it possible for us to not take offense, even if something was said that might have been hurtful. Charity helps us endure and grow together as we face challenges. Charity helps us to recognize the good in our imperfect spouse. Charity helps us to humbly remember that we are not perfect. Charity helps us to rejoice in goodness and to focus our love on truth. 

Sixteen years ago I knew that I loved Brian. But I never could have imagined how I would feel about him all of these years later. And I know that it has happened because we both work each day to strengthen our faith. This helps us to also strengthen our love for the Lord and for each other. 

Often times I will catch a glimpse of Brian looking at me. I might not be able to see his expression or eyes clearly, but I can see his love for me in every bit of his expression. He will wrap his arms around me when I am having a hard day, and let me cry all over his shirt when I need to. He will dance with me in the kitchen or living room, sometimes we don't even have music. And last night Brian fell asleep while I was still reading. He fell asleep holding my hand. This doesn't happen every night, and that is just fine, but it was just another of the little things that reminds me that he loves me.