Friday, December 25, 2015

When Christmas Eve gives you a passing moment of clarity

Written Christmas Eve, 2015

We had a very special Christmas program tonight. We've been reading along with The Friend's nativity advent which has really brought the Christmas spirit into our home. We read the short parts each day about every different part of the nativity for the last week in the Friend. Cheyenne always asked me to pull out my scriptures and read the verses listed in the "learn more" section. I love seeing her budding love of the scriptures grow.

 Today was the last day, and we read the nativity story. To end our evening, I thought it would be nice to sing some Christmas hymns together. I suggested we sing Silent Night, but the kids told me, "No, FIRST Jingle Bells." It made me laugh a little. We've been singing the two in tandem for Family Home Evening the whole month of December, and the kids would have it no other way. I cried as we sang a silly song about Jingle Bells, which has nothing to do with our Savior, and just realized how blessed we were to have these little people in our lives. We were creating memories with them, and they are so little and so full of life. It was a little melancholy because I realized that someday they would grow up, and we wouldn't have our funny little 3-year-old Delaney to keep us in stitches, or sweet little Ephraim who can barely talk yet kept pointing out "Jesus! It's Jesus, Mom!" in the nativity picture. It won't be long before Cheyenne's five-year-old excitement and wonderment about the simple parts of life become an automatic understanding and knowledge of facts, a necessary and inevitable part of growing in this world.

Family life is so incredibly fulfilling. Yet even a year ago I could see so little of the fruits of being parents. Managing little people is hard, hard work, especially when you've been blessed with some strong personalities. There have been so many days I have felt like I wasn't making a difference, or I was failing in some major ways. Ben and I were looking through some old pictures tonight, and it's amazing how those difficult days start to fade, and all you can see are the pictures of these cute little kids. I spotted a scratch on baby Delaney in one of the pictures, and I reminded Ben, "Remember when Cheyenne used to scratch Delaney all the time?" As a two-year-old, Cheyenne had a lot of problems with aggression. It took him awhile to remember before he nodded and said, "Yeah, now that you say something that sounds familiar." At a recent visit, my sister-in-law was just pointing out how kind and what a sweet girl Cheyenne was turning out to be. She said that at each visit, she could see vast improvements in Cheyenne, and knew her future was bright.

While certainly seeing your children grow and hoping that you are somehow aiding in that process is fulfilling, I think the deep satisfaction I receive from family life is so much more than that. It's being connected to people eternally, living day-in and day-out with them, and being able to experience, together, the simple joys in life. But it's more than shared memories, or the comfort of having other people to be with on the journey of life, but a profound reverence for families and their irreplaceable connectedness. That's what I was thinking about this Christmas Eve. Not so much creating the "perfect" Christmas magic for my kids (although that takes up a good amount of my thinking as much as anybody), but simply being grateful that I get to be a part of these little people's lives, and they mine, for eternity.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


We had a fun time visiting my sister Sarah in West Virginia for Thanksgiving. Two of my other sisters also joined us. With Sarah's 6 kids, our 3, Heather's 5, and Bethany's 4 we made quite a crowd anywhere we went. Luckily the weather was nice, and Sarah had planned a lot of fun stuff for us to do.

There is nothing quite like getting together with family. You're with a group of people you love, whom you can joke with, ask advice, share each other's burdens, and lift each other up. Thanks for the parties, Sarah!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Look and Live

I've been thinking a lot about the people of Moses lately. When a plague swept their people, Moses put a serpent of brass upon a pole outside of their tents, and all the people had to do was simply look, and they would be saved. To "Look, and Live." Many did not look because of the simpleness of the way. They decided the answer could never be that simple.

I've been taught that the first principle of the Gospel is: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I've always considered my faith as something I gained at a young age. It was something nebulous that became concrete to me as a teenager. I don't know that I've given much thought to the simple idea of believing in Jesus Christ since.

I don't know that I've ever really thought about intentionally believing more in Jesus Christ because, I already know it, ya know? There are many Christlike attributes I've sought to cultivate: humility, for one. Or habits that will bring me closer to Him: daily scripture reading, for example. But simply believing in Jesus Christ, simply deciding, being aware of places where I, by my own accord, was holding back, stretching my mental capacities and noticing more places I could believe, deciding to believe in Jesus Christ a little more? I don't know that I had ever made that decision.

For the people of Moses, it was simply a choice. A choice to believe. They were given the option: either you can believe or not, it's up to you.

We've been doing a scripture reading challenge with my family, reading 7 pages a day until the end of the year. I love reading "fast" like this because it gives me so much perspective, seeing the whole picture. One lesson that's been reiterated to me over and over again as I've read is the undeniable power of God. The power of faith. The brothers of Nephi being struck down by the power of God. Alma and his brethren as powerful missionaries. The coming of Christ to the Nephites. When Christ comes again upon the earth, no one will be able to deny the power that is within him. It is completely different, and more powerful than any power you've ever witnessed on this earth, be it power from position, physical strength, or power of will.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear (or doubt); but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

I recognize that if I decide to believe more I have access to that power. And while God can use that power on earth for His intended purposes (such as with missionary work, serving others, and teaching my children), it is also a huge source of strength for me, personally. To rise above the fray during hard times. Perspective when life is challenging. An awareness of the blessings in my life, and gratitude for them.

It seems so simple. To simply search out doubt in your mind, and mentally remove it and instead look heavenward. It is as if religion is a mental exercise, and you, the controller.

But the amazing thing I have found, as I've tried to "Look and Live" is, you quickly realize that while you do control your thoughts, the source to which you are looking is real, and outside of yourself, and he endows you with power you cannot deny. God is real. And Jesus Christ is his Son. It's not complex, and it's simply all we have to do.

But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. Matthew 9:21

And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. Moroni 7:33

It is by exercising the first principle of the Gospel that we are able to do all of the rest: repent of our sins, be baptized (and renew our covenants), live worthy of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.

As I've studied and sought to become more full of faith, several things have stuck out to me. This quote, from Sister Linda Reeves, left a big impact.

"I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, “Was that all that was required?” I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?"

Her question, "was that all that was required?" reminded of the children of Israel, and the simple faith that was "all that was required" of them. Our choice is simple, too.

The second talk I've listened to over and over again. Elder Anderson's talk on "Faith is Not by Chance, but by Choice" has been my blueprint for choosing faith, and teaches me that the Lord has a different standard: and it's a measurement of how much you believe. The story of the young man who lost most of his family in an airplane crash is so poignant. That young man's steadiness, acceptance, and understanding comes from his faith in Jesus Christ, and gives him a power that is undeniable.

I am making an effort to believe more. I'm not going to say my faith is "adequate" as I have in the past, and humbly recognize there is always more room to believe. I know Jesus Christ is real, not only through a decision of faith in my mind, but a feeling in my heart, and a power that provides Peace beyond "all understanding."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Recognizing My Identity: Am I A Working Woman?

Precious In His Sight, by Greg Olsen

Since I've been able to take a year off of school starting this past fall, I've been giving a lot of thought to my identity.

It's been a stark contrast for me, and the black-and-whiteness of it all. A heavy school load vs. being in "all in" stay-at-home motherhood again has brought new insights to my mind. It's caused me to reflect on what makes me fulfilled and happy, what parts of my personality are "essential," what is innate in me and what is not.

I have concluded that I am completely fulfilled, and at my happiest and a better mother as a stay-at-home mom. I have realized that I was unhappy, stressed, spread too thin with even a few work responsibilities. In the summer I did a short internship where I lived out what I had imagined would be the "end goal" for me after I completed school: I did an internship that was 5-10 hours a week, on my own time. It seems like a great situation, but surprising to me, seeing the contrast from my life right now, I see that it occupied my mind more than I had imagined.

Being without even that little stress in my life has given my heart the chance to find a peaceful rhythm again, and in turn has positively effected a lot of areas in my life. The peace and calmness of spirit I've experienced while not being involved in anything extra has been a happy change for me.

I have said before I wasn't going to school for an outlet, or to find time away from my kids or something. It was something I felt called to do. But what was it for, then, and should I continue. The first question used to kill me, but I am at peace with it now. Since I have fully decided I have no plans of working, I have faith that it may be important to me later in life, or simply lift my sights and thoughts throughout my life, as getting further education always does. I do still plan on finishing my degree, if nothing else to finish what I started (and really, I only have 5 classes left, taken over two semesters, all online).

One big takeaway for me from this experience that I don't think I understood before was that there are a lot of women and mothers who are not like me. I need all of my energies, time, talents, and resources turned toward my children in order to be a calm, happy parent, and a fully capable mother. But this "all or nothing" approach is somewhat unique to my background, my temperament, and my current situation in life. Many other women are wired differently or make it work differently. Because of their temperament, their background, their DNA, they feel energized from working. They need it, they thrive playing both roles. They learn to be good multi-taskers. I had wondered, after I felt called to go to school, if I was one of these people. I can confidently say now that I am not.

It is interesting to me how much time makes a difference in our understanding, our clarity, what we understand about ourselves. Last winter I was so concerned with what all this schooling-thing was leading to, and I never got an answer. I still don't have an answer, but with time and a little perspective I am now okay with it. God leads us along, and while he may not always give us what we want, he is always there. So much of what he has to teach us is dependent on us, where we are in our development, and what we are ready to hear. I am grateful for a loving God who loves me deeply, accepts me for who I am, and leads me along.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fall & Being a Mother-Photographer

It's been so windy here almost all the leaves have been blown off the trees. It feels so comforting and warm to be inside, and hear the wind blowing through the bare limbs. We are so blessed to live in the time that we do, and be so easily protected from the elements. In my cozy spot inside, I'm reminiscing back on a few weeks ago when I took these pictures of the bright, sunny leaves, that are no more.

We took a slow walk through beautiful fall trees one late afternoon, the kids and I. There's a picturesque park near our house with a meandering trail through the trees, leaving plenty to be admired. It was definitely slow, but it certainly wasn't quiet, as the kids occupied themselves with sticks and leaves and jumping out of the stroller as I tried out different apertures.

While I'm not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, it's a hobby and a love of mine, to communicate to others through photographs. I love to evoke a mood or capture a feeling, and express that to others through what I see from my camera. I'm somebody who feels with my eyes, so to speak, but it's pretty hard to keep an eye on your subject and your children at the same time. I've been tempted to stop pulling the camera out for a while. You need to essentially ignore your children to compose a good photograph, or halfway watch them and hope the exposure was right, because that was the only chance you get. Most of the time I'm dissatisfied, I didn't get to take the picture that I wanted, or the photo doesn't communicate what I was hoping. I need a lot of practice, which is not very plausible when the things you want to photograph always coincide with times you also have three little people to watch. So I've thought, why not hang it up for a while, wait until the kids get a little older and need less hands-on-ness. But I know that I wont, and I can't. When I do capture something I love, it brings me so much joy, and gratitude. Hobbies you really truly love, should never be given up on.