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Finishing My General Conference Goal…and Looking Forward to the Next One!

General Conference

{picture from lds.org}

General Conference is less than 2 weeks away (and if you count the General Women’s Broadcast, less than 1 week away)!  And guess what?  I completed my goal of reading all the General Conference talks prior to the next one.  Hooray!  I’m so glad I was able to do that, and of course the very last one I read was President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk given at the General Women’s Broadcast.  It was exactly what I needed to read, on this day, and actually every day.  Here is part of what he said:

“My dear sisters in the gospel, whether you are 8 or 108, there is one thing that I hope you truly understand and know:

You are loved.

You are dear to your heavenly parents.

The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you!  He is mindful of you.

Yes, God loves you this very day and always.

He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits.  He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles.  He is aware that you reach up to Him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer.  He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed — even in the midst of growing darkness.  He knows of your sufferings.  He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed.  And still He loves you.

And God knows of your successes; though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them.  He loves you for extending yourself to others.  He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens — even when you are struggling with your own.

He knows everything about you.  He sees you clearly — He knows you as you really are.  And He loves you–today and always!

Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect?  Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest?  Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if some un-friend or un-follow you on Facebook or Twitter?  Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe?

He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become.

More than you could ever imagine, He wants you to achieve your destiny — to return to your heavenly home in honor.

I testify that the way to accomplish this is to place selfish desires and unworthy ambitions on the alter of sacrifice and service.  Sisters, trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ; keep His laws and commandments.  In other words — live the gospel joyful.”

I’ve been watching every session of General Conference consistently each April and October for about 28 years now (since I was 12!), and I continue to be amazed at how many of the talks given address something that I’m very personally concerned about right at that moment!  So, yes…I’m really excited that it is that time of year again!

But one thing that I really noticed as I re-read the talks given over the past few months is how much they helped me when I was feeling anxious or upset.  I do tend to struggle with emotional highs and lows, and I have relied a lot over the years on prayer to help me when I feel bad.  But recently as I was prayingm I felt like I should also read my scriptures and the talks from General Conference.  So, I’ve been doing this a lot more, and even when what I’m reading has nothing to do with what I’m bothered about, I immediately feel peaceful and more centered.  And often, I find that what I’m reading actually is relevant to my concern!

If you are not familiar with my church’s General Conference, feel free to visit this page and read or watch any talks that have been given!  And anyone can watch the upcoming Conference on April 4-5, 2015.  It will be broadcast on-line, but my favorite way is to watch it on the BYU Channel on TV!  If you take the time to watch even a little bit, I am confident that you will be glad that you did.

If you have a favorite quote or experience from General Conference, please share in the comments below!

Remembering the Savior at Christmas-time

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Our family is doing something a little different this year for our family scripture study.  Usually at Christmas-time we do replace our normal reading with scriptures about the birth of the Savior, both in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon.  Last year we included watching a few of the Bible videos produced by the Church.  I really liked that.

But this year I got the idea to sing a Christmas hymn each night and then read the verses that are listed with the hymn.  And I have to say that I love this!  I love the Spirit I feel in our home as we sing, and the scripture reading ends up being slightly different than it is with traditional readings.  For example, tonight we sang #205 “Once in Royal David’s City” and then read Mosiah 3:5-8.

For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

So if you are looking for a simple way to remember the Savior these last few days before Christmas, give this idea a try!  You may find that you love it too!

And in case anyone is looking for more ideas, here are 5 more ways to focus on Him this season.

What are your favorite ways to remember the Savior at this time of year?

Reflecting on my 2014 Goals

During the month of December, besides thinking about Christmas preparations, one thing that has been pressing on my mind is the upcoming New Year’s Day and subsequent official ending of my 2014 goals.  I have never-ever kept any goals so fresh in my mind for a full year before, and I have this blog to thank for that!

But this month, I have to admit to feeling a bit discouraged about what I accomplished during the year.  I know that I’ve written about various changes I was making, but the truth is that I haven’t stuck consistently with any of them.  And that is so typical of me…I’m constantly starting new systems and ways of doing things, and dropping them a short time later.  Today I feel like I am operating no differently than I was at this time last year.

So, as I’ve been thinking about this, and pondering the question “why?,” I think it boils down to that maybe deep down I just don’t want to do anything differently than what I am doing.  For example:

  • I don’t want to have to be governed by a routine or a “to do” list every day.
  • I don’t want to prepare healthier meals because I don’t want to spend more time in the kitchen.
  • I don’t want to have to listen to someone talk in detail about a subject that I have no interest in.

A couple of weeks ago I went with the missionaries to visit someone they are teaching.  While we were there, they spoke to the man about our church’s Word of Wisdom, and invited him to give up drinking coffee.  (You can read more about our beliefs on the word of wisdom here).  The man said, “I guess I don’t see why I should have to stop drinking coffee.  I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t go carousing with the guys.  To me, it seems like drinking coffee is a small thing.”  The missionaries responded by bearing simple testimony that the word of wisdom is given to us by the Lord, and expressed their confidence that blessings would be received as he obeyed this law.  This is also something that I believe to be true too and have seen blessings of my own through living this way.

As I listened to this conversation, and as I have thought about it since, I have reflected on how the Lord does ask us to make changes in our lives.  Sometimes He asks us to do things we find to be difficult and that we don’t want to do.  But always, if we do His will, we find that we are better off for it.

In regards to my own goals, and the reality that I really don’t want to have to change, I find myself wondering if it is really necessary.  Like this man, I feel to some extent that my bad habits really aren’t that bad in comparison with some other things.  Do I really need to change?

But the other half of the situation is that I do want the results of having done all of these things.  For example:

  • I do want the chores to be done regularly and not feel constantly behind.
  • I do want to eat (and have my family eat) healthy food.
  • I do want my kids and husband to feel like they can talk to me anytime they need to, and that they will be treated with respect.

So I am constantly in a holding-place, stuck between not wanting to change, but wanting changes to be made.  And I guess I really don’t know what to do about it.  I guess the real question is if these are the things the Lord wants me to be focusing on?  Our perspective is so limited that often, even when what we want is good, it’s not what the Lord has in mind for us.  So as this year comes to a close, these are the thoughts that will be guiding me in my approach to the year 2015.

Thanks so much for reading, and as always feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Procrastination Lessons

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!  It has been so long since I’ve written a Thankful Thursday post.  I’m still practicing being grateful though, and with November 1st in just two days, it is a good time to focus on it even more!  Today I’m thankful that I’ve had this blog for one full year!  I love my blog, and I’m so glad I started writing it.  I’m also thankful for some lessons that I learned as a result of my own procrastination a  few weeks ago.  I’ve been wanting to share them, and today is the perfect day to do that!  So here goes….

Every year on the first day of school, after my family leaves the house I have to pause for a moment and enjoy the quiet.  I love my family, but I love quiet and stillness too – and I just don’t get a lot of that during the summer.

This year was no different.  The house was perfectly quiet and perfectly still for quite awhile because my youngest one slept in a bit that first day.  It was lovely…

…until the telephone rang.

My husband was calling to tell me that my daughter’s school had not received a record of her vaccinations and that she was not supposed to be in school without it.  However, he also said that the school’s phones were down, so I couldn’t just have the doctor’s office fax them over.  So I had to call the doctor’s office, get my little one ready, pick up the record, and drive them over to school.  Since I live 20 minutes away, and my daughter is not very fast when it comes to getting ready or at running errands, this was not a quick process.  When I got to the school I learned that my daughter had not been allowed to attend class and instead was sitting in the Principle’s office, just waiting for me to arrive.

You can imagine that I felt pretty bad.  Yes it would have been better for everyone if the phone had been working, but I had received a letter a few weeks before school started telling me they didn’t have those records and needed them before the first day.  I could have (and should have) taken care of it prior to the first day of school, making the non-working phones a non-issue, but I just put it off for one day, and then another and another.  Then the doctor’s office was closed for the weekend, and suddenly it was the first day of school.  Yeah – talk about mommy guilt.

But it was OK – my daughter got through it and so did the school officials.  Even though it was stressful in the moment, as far as I can tell, we were all able to move on from my mistake pretty quickly.

However – the next day I learned of another thing that I had procrastinated over the summer.  I won’t go into detail, because it would be difficult to explain everything adequately.  But I will say the consequence was a certain amount of confusion, embarrassment, and wasted money.  And it was all 100% my fault – once again due to my procrastination.

Especially at the height of confusion and frustration, I had a very difficult time forgiving myself.  If only I had someone else to blame or could just chalk it up to “that’s just the way things go sometimes.”  But no, it was my own doing (or rather, not doing).

That evening when I was home, my stress level reached it’s peak, and all I could do was cry.  Recently I’ve been making a bigger effort to turn to the scriptures when I feel unhappy or stressed, and so when I had a chance, this is what I chose to do.  I just started reading from where I was (Mosiah 26), not looking for anything in particular, but as I read I felt the message was personalized just for me.  Here is what I learned:

  1. The Lord will forgive us as many times as we choose to repent (Mosiah 26:30).  I was mad at myself because procrastinating important things is a habit for me, which means I’m guilty of it over and over and over again!  But I could see here, that the Lord wasn’t holding that against me, and that he would continue to forgive me.  In fact, I felt in my heart that He had already forgiven me of both of these instances!
  2. I am required to forgive everyone, including myself! (Mosiah 26:31).   To me forgiveness doesn’t mean going into denial and pretending a mistake wasn’t made.  But rather it means letting go of the anger, blame, and other negative thoughts and words that seem to always appear along with the mistake.  And I truly believe that when the Lord says that He requires us to forgive everyone, that He means ourselves as well.
  3. I should “give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39).  Give thanks in ALL things?!  Here I was, feeling like this moment in my life was the worst thing ever, and I’m supposed give thanks!  Except luckily I was starting to feel a little better from my earlier reading, and so I was able to do it.  I said a silent prayer thanking my Heavenly Father for the experience and the lessons I was learning from it.  And guess what?  My stress nearly melted away!  I felt so much better!  I could see that while it was something that needed to be dealt with, it was really not the end of the world.
  4. Replace my fear with faith (Elder M. Russell Ballard).  At this point I had switched my reading over to talks from General Conference.  The talk I was reading was about missionary work, and again chosen simply because I was reading them in order.  But when I read the words, “…by replacing our fear with real faith,” I knew they applied to my situation too!  My anxiety was a result of fear – fear of embarrassment, fear of inconveniencing others, fear of wasting money that was in short supply – but I could choose to have faith instead!  At this point I realized that I was not alone; I did not have to solve the problem I had created all by myself, but instead could rely on the Lord to help me through it.

And now, about two months later, I can honestly say that He did help us.  Just about everything has been resolved; and the situation is behind us. But the lessons remain, and I’ve found myself using these strategies in other stressful situations as well.  After-all, as much as I would like the lesson to have been to never procrastinate or make any similar mistake again, I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet.

procrastination

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What are some positive ways you have learned to cope with mistakes? 

“Did You Think to Pray?” You Tube Video

Hi everyone!!  I haven’t had time to write latey…it has been a busy, busy summer!  But, I haven’t disappeared forever and I promise that I’ll be back soon!  Just wanted to pop in and share this video I just watched.  I really like it.

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday, and “don’t forget to pray!”  🙂

6 Motherhood Lessons Learned from a Grape Tomato Plant

A couple of summers ago, I planted some grape tomato plants in my garden as I usually do.  I decided this particular year that I would stake them up with very strong and thick stakes, instead of previously tried (and untrue) methods to keep them up off the ground.  I also decided for some reason to plant four of them in a square pattern rather than in a traditional row.

In the beginning, everything was fine.  I tied each plant to its stake as it grew.  But then our family went out of town for a week.  The week before the trip I was preparing to go, so I did not go into the garden much, and of course the week we were gone I did not go at all.  So you can imagine that when I returned I found that my tomato plants had grown quite a bit, and that the main stems were very thick and no longer pliable like they had previously been.

I so badly wanted the main stems to go up the stake that I began pulling on them to see if I could still make it happen.  I was semi-successful with one plant, but another one started to break as I pulled on it.  I decided at this point that my original goal was not worth it, and instead got out more stakes and sticks to hold up the main stems, as well as any additional shoots that were growing.  It was a mess — with stems everywhere!  It was especially crowded and tangled in the middle of these four plants.

Over the course of the summer I found myself grumbling often at myself for not doing a better job of training the plant properly when it was young.  Whenever I would go into the garden to add more stakes to it, I would find myself thinking that this was such a great analogy for the often quoted Bible verse to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

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Fast forward two years later to the present time, and I no longer want to use that analogy – because my own children are not so young any more.  In some ways I feel like they (at least my oldest two) are like this plant.  There are things where I can see that I neglected to “train” them on when they were very young, and I honestly feel that I have lost some golden opportunities.  Trying to train them now often feels like I’m trying to pull on a mostly grown plant — there is so much more resistance, and if I pull too hard I fear “breaking the stem.”  And so I find myself with similar (though much deeper) feelings of regret to those I felt with my plant.

With this perspective in mind, here are a few things I am learning:

1.  Live in the present.  With my plant I had a terrible habit of always thinking of either the past (“Why didn’t I do this differently when the plant was small?”) or the future (“next year I’m going to do this better for sure!”).  Those thoughts were certainly OK to have once, but every time??  President Monson said once “learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present.”  It would have been much better to simply write down my improvement plan for the next year in a place where I could use it when the time came, then let it go, and focus in a more positive way on the situation that was right in front of me.

It’s the same with my kids.  Instead of focusing on my past mistakes, it is better to see the situation as it is right now, and think about “what does my child need from me right now, in this moment?”  In the same talk, President Monson also said,

Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.”

2.  Pay attention.  I spent quite a bit of time with my tomato plants because they had so many stems that needed to be staked off the ground.  This was good in a way, because it forced me to pay closer attention to them, which helped me to spot trouble before it got out of hand.  I pulled off lots of little caterpillars and several of the big green horn worms.  I also found what I later learned to be blister beetles, and was able to take care of them before they became totally out of control.

With my kids, it’s easy to get distracted by the day to day stuff that demands my attention and forget to really pay attention to some of the less obvious details in their lives.  One example I will share is books.  I’m fortunate to have two super-fast readers, and their teachers are thrilled by this and definitely encourage them to read as much as possible.  But the “problem” is that they read so fast that it’s difficult for me to keep track of what they are reading, and I’m pretty particular about what types of books I do and do not want them to read!  So, I went for a time where I wasn’t paying much attention to what they were reading, but recently I’ve realized the need to observe more closely and have asked them to always show me new books they are reading.  It doesn’t undo all of the books they’ve read that I’m not familiar with or unsure about, but it does make for better decision-making going forward.  And, of course “paying attention” applies to so many other aspects of parenting as well!

3.  Sometimes “pruning” is necessary.  It took me a long to time to admit it, but I finally realized that I was going to need to prune these plants.   Because they were planted in a square, the middle was a tangled mess, and a lot of tomatoes were going to waste in there.  That’s not to mention that it was a great hiding place for all of the pests because I couldn’t see clearly enough to get them.  So I finally trimmed some stems and even pulled up one whole plant to make it so I could get to them.  It was hard for me to be willing to do, but the situation was so much better after I did!

This would obviously be analogous to reducing certain things in my children’s lives that don’t accomplish what I know is needful for them.  Maybe some activities outside the home, or screen time, or even stuff that they own.  But I think it could also be applied to any of the difficult or painful rules or consequences that we as parents have to enforce.  I think of the story “The Currant Bush” (I love this story!!!) where the bush seems to be upset because it was growing so tall and thought it was going to be grand like the fruit trees around it.  But the gardener knew that in order to produce its fruit, it needed to be cut back.  Later, it is quoted (and I wonder if my children will ever say to me), “Thank you for loving me enough to cut me down.”  Even if they don’t ever say it, I can remember in my own heart that sometimes a little “pruning” is exactly what is needed.

4.  Notice the good they do and give plenty of praise.  I was so frustrated by the problems I felt my plant had that I must admit I forgot to be grateful for the good job it was doing producing tomatoes for us.  But not my husband….he was always so happy anytime anything was brought in from the garden.  Last year, he was the one who planted and took care of the garden (I felt that I needed a break from it).  His wasn’t any more perfect than mine, but when I asked him if he was frustrated by it, he responded by saying, “all I care about is that I get food from it.”  Then he proudly showed me all of the food he had just harvested.

About six months ago I came across a blog article titled “how to fix your child’s attitude.”  It’s an awesome, uplifting article (in my opinion) about positive changes us moms can make that will in turn influence our children’s attitudes.  One thing that she suggested was that if we are frustrated with our children a lot, to write down 3 things daily (or twice a day if needed!) that we like about them.  I just loved this advice when I read it, but I’m sorry to say that I’ve only done it once or twice.  I know this is something that I can do and also make a point to tell them some of the things I notice when the time is appropriate.

I also read this article recently about praising the child instead of just the behavior, as in “you are a helpful person” rather than “that was a helpful thing to do.”  It’s an interesting article that suggests that children will repeat good behavior more often when their character is praised.

5.  Stay focused on the main goal.

The most important job of a tomato plant is to produce tomatoes.  Other things, like whether it is staked up perfectly straight, are secondary to this main objective.  Likewise, with children the most important objective is teaching them what they need to know and do to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

My older children both learned to ride a bike later than most, and this was a source of embarrassment for me for a long time.  When we finally got them started on learning, my daughter picked it up right away.  But it was harder for my mathematically-minded son, and I didn’t know what to do to help him.  I felt a lot of anxiety and guilt about this.  So, I was praying about this one day, asking what I should do, and I received a very clear prompting that I should have him read the Book of Mormon.  I thought to myself, “Huh?  That doesn’t match my concern at all!”  But I understood, and I immediately told him that I wanted him to set this as a goal and start reading it every night.

That afternoon, when my husband went outside to mow the lawn, I heard him say to my son, “Go get your shoes on and come ride your bike.”  I hadn’t told him anything that I was feeling or about my prayer.  When I looked out the window a little while later he was riding it all by himself!

So I try to remind myself when I get worried about my kids, that the most important thing is to stay focused on those things that will help them build their testimonies and eventually be able to live with their Heavenly Father again.  Even when they make choices that pull them away from this, I can stay focused on it and use this focus to help me know what to do to help them make better choices.

6.  Rely on the Atonement.  And finally, it is good to recognize the need for and appreciate the Atonement.  The reality is that my tomato plant was not trained upwards as well as it could have been.  On the other hand, I have a friend who trains her plants beautifully!  She attaches them to large squares of vinyl netting, and consistently prunes them and guides them upwards so that no stems cross over each other.  This particular summer, when she went out of town for a couple of weeks she asked me if I would water her garden and pick any ripe produce in it.  I was amazed at how easy (and joyful!) it was to pick her tomatoes – especially compared to the challenges I was facing with my own plants.  But, the reality is that if I had taken the time in the beginning to do what she had done, mine would have been just as nice.

The same definitely applies to me as a mother.  Although there are many things that I’ve done well when it comes to being a mom, I know of some specific things that would have resulted in different (better) outcomes right now if I had approached them differently when my children were small.  Nice people may tell me to focus on the things I’ve done right and not worry about the other.  Or they may simply tell me that I’m doing the best that I can, and I should be content with that.  But I receive the most comfort by acknowledging my mistakes and seeking for the peace that only the Atonement can bring.  One thing that I’ve learned in life is that the Atonement does not erase all of the consequences of our actions, but when we make the effort to repent and improve ourselves, we can trust that the Lord will help us be able to handle whatever we need to face as a result of our previous actions.

These are six things that I have learned from those super-sweet grape tomato plants.  It’s easy when we are first starting out with something, whether it is our garden or just beginning our family, or anything else, to want everything to be perfect (including ourselves).  But the reality is that there are a lot of obstacles to overcome, and in the midst of those obstacles we do not always make the perfect choice.  The main thing to remember is to keep trying and to never lose sight of the final goal.

What life lessons have you learned from growing a garden or other plants?

 

Temple Flowers

Temple flowers collage

Today is “Thankful Thursday!”  And I’m thankful for the pretty flowers at the temple!  Our family went to the Washington D.C. Temple a few weeks ago.  Our youth had a temple trip, and my 12 year old son was able to participate for the first time!  My husband was also going along to help out, and so we decided to make a family trip out of it, with our 2 girls and me staying in the Visitor’s Center.  Knowing how nice they always keep the grounds, I brought my camera along so I could “play photographer” while we were there.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  They had planted some really beautiful flowers.

I love being at the temple!  There is such a peace there, even outside, and I think my whole family noticed it on this day.  My son was so excited for his first “youth temple trip.”  He asked so many questions about what it looks like inside the temple!  I mean, he wanted me to describe everything from the front door all the way to the baptismal font* (and since this is a big temple, there actually is quite a bit to describe!).  I did my best, but in the end he just had to see for himself.  Afterwards it was his turn to describe to his sisters.  I was so glad that he had such a good experience, and it was a nice day for us all.

*note – when I was a youth, we entered the baptismal font through a door leading directly to it in the back of the Washington D.C. Temple, but apparently now they walk through the front door and walk through the temple hallways to the baptismal font.  This is why there was so much for my son to see, and I think he really enjoyed that. 

What about you?  Do you have a favorite experience of visiting the Temple with your family?