Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Blessed are your eyes, for they see". Matt 13:16

I have loved my time remembering and contemplating  Brittney these past couple of weeks. I knew instantly what spiritual gift I would write about and I also recalled the sweetest experience that a mother-in-law could ever hope to have with her daughter-in-law.  In honor of this amazing person, I joyfully share those things with you today.

In a General R.S. Broadcast, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke on the divine ability for women to create.   His words were beautiful and inspiring. 

These are not innate gifts for me, but Brittney, on the other hand,  is the epitome of Elder Uchtdorf's message. And I value that so much in her. I believe that she was born into this world with the ability to see  things in their most beautiful, even celestial state, regardless of how they appear to look at the moment. (Matt 13:16)  I believe that she has been given the gift  be an instrument to bring about that transformation, whether it be her thrift store treasures, culinary creations, and even her most important relationships.  

I have seen Brittney utilize this gift in many, many ways.   Creativity is just in her and she can't help to use that gift in everything she does.  When she and Derrick were first married, Brittney hand-made cute, creative birthday cards for each member of the family.  I am not sure who received the first one, but after that, we each anticipated getting our "Brittney Birthday Card" in the mail.  It doesn't surprise me one bit that she found a job decorating cakes.  And her "Junk In The Trunk" adventures are just a testament of  the gift she has been blessed with.

It was a learning experience going  fabric shopping with Brittney.  She helped me to be able to see what I wanted my living room to eventually become.  She pointed things out that I would never have thought about.  I learned on that shopping adventure, that Brittney is a very aware of details and how details work together to create something wonderful.  

Creation is a sacred  gift used to bless that what is of most importance to the Lord.  Brittney has been blessed with spiritual eyes that allow her to see what  things and people can eventually can become.  I love how Brittney utilizes that gift in her home.  Derrick and Molly are the recipients of her gift.  She envisions beauty and develops skills to bring about what she envisions.  I love how she uses that gift to raise Molly, constantly aware of what she can teach her so that she has the opportunity to expand and develop.  I know Brittney has the ability to see Derrick as the Savior sees him and works to create that type of relationship with him. 

This gift is so far-reaching.  Every calling Brittney has, every child she influences, every task she sets out to do, with be done under the power of  "creation".  Pres. Uctdorf said:  "You will make the world a better place".  You have already made my world a better place.

Now I share the most awesome memory I have of Brittney.  Brittney and Derrick had probably been married only a year or less and they had come to visit.  This was when we lived on the hill in Larry's house.  One lazy afternoon, I was in my bedroom laying on my bed watching a movie.  I don't recall the movie.  But I do recall Brittney jumping into bed, pulling the covers up and watching the movie with me!  I must admit, I didn't expect that at all, but I remember thinking:  " I ABSOLUTELY ADORE THIS GIRL!!!"   Of course my room was messy, the bed wasn't made, and I was undoubtedly in my robe......But it didn't matter to Brittney! What mother-in-law wouldn't give her all to have that kind of experience with her daughter-in-law.  O how I love you Brittney and I love that sweet, treasured memory.    I just want to be a more accepting, fun loving person just thinking about it.  

I consider you to be one of my most cherished gifts.  Our family is blessed to have you part of us.  Happy Birthday my sweet Brittney.  I Love you. Lorri

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Past

Dec. 8, 1992 Journal Entry

A few weeks ago, Nile Leatham announced in sacrament meeting that our ward had the opportunity to participate in the New Toy  Drive at Deseret Industries.  It's something our family has enjoyed doing in previous years.

That night after church, we sat down as a family to discuss with the boys the opportunity we had to go and buy a gift for someone else.

To help with this concept of giving to others, Jared opened up the Book of Mormon to Mosiah where King Benjamin is teaching his people.  We read together a few verses where King Benjamin tells the people that they are indebted to Heavenly Father because first, he created them and gave them life, and secondly, that all they have is given to them from Heavenly Father.  King Bemjamin tells the Nephites that they should impart of their substance one to another.

Jared explained these things to the boys and told them that they have been greatly blessed with many things and that all they have is from Heavenly Father.  We then suggested that it would be more meaningful to them if they spent some of their own money for a present for someone else.  I wasn't sure how they would react to this advice.  They had really worked hard for the last few months to earn money, and not only earn it but to save it also.  Something practically impossible for Brandon to do!  The few dollars they had earned seemed like hundreds to them.   They were both saving up for a "Game Geanie" for their Ninetendo set.

But after asking the boys how they felt about this,  Derrick's reply was an answer to my own personal struggle with service.  He said in a very happy, understanding way, that he'd be glad to spend his money to buy someone else a present.  After all it really wasn't his money anyway - it was Heavenly Father's.  His childlike acceptance of what King Benjamin had taught the Nephites was such a great lesson to me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Thou Art Sober...and...Quick To Observe"

In keeping with my desire to  help our children recognize the spiritual gifts that they have been blessed with , Jared and I  spent some wonderful, sweet time discussing wonderful, sweet Noelle.

"I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe".  When Jared voiced this gift of Noelle, I immediately and wholeheartedly agreed with him.  I had the very same thoughts and impressions.  When I asked Jared why HE picked this particular gift,  he shared an experience he had with Noelle when she first started college.  I will let him share that story so that it is told correctly.  But I have my own thoughts and feelings regarding this daughter who is sober and quick to observe.

Sober does not mean serious, stuffy and dull.When I think of a child that is sober I think of a child who is aware, conscientious and knows his duty, whatever that may be at that particular time.  As  a child, Noelle was aware and conscientious and knew her duty.  As an adult, Noelle is aware and conscientious and actively seeks to fulfill all her duties.  Not only is she quick to observe (see, understand), she is quick to observe (heed, do).

Because of these gifts and the degree that she utilizes them, she has created amazing opportunities in her short life.  I found a gem of a scripture that perfectly describes her ability to be quick to observe. "A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgement."  Ecclesiastes 8:5   There has really never been a time in Noelle's life where she has squandered time.  It is a precious resource, even a precious gift to her.  She has a discerning heart that allows for her to make correct and compassionate judgments   These abilities have helped her to be quick to observe.    I was amazed and overwhelmed as I saw her carry out so many responsibilities in high school.  I could never figure out how she could do all that she did and do it all so well.

By the time Noelle entered college life, I just knew that she would always be anxiously engaged in good causes and accomplish much. I was talking with Noelle on the phone one day and she told me about receiving an email put out by BYUI informing the students of various activities, opportunities to serve, groups to join and other such things.  She was quick to observe and acted on many of them.  I believe that it was this email that led to her being the photographer for the intramural sporting events which led to the job opportunity that put her in charge of other photographers.  I honestly don't think it is even possible for Noelle to turn her back on what she perceives to be a good opportunity for her.  Taking note of this, I have often thought: " Today, I will act upon all good things that come my way and not let one opportunity slip away."  I am so grateful when I am quick to observe and I am so grateful for the precious daughter who gives me that example.

Noelle, your heart discerns time and judgment in the most amazing ways.  You are a sober women who is quick to understand and act.  These gifts have brought profound blessings  to your life.  The Lord now expects you to focus those gifts  on the lives of others, particularly the people of New York.  Your duty is to build up his kingdom by serving those people.   Your ability to see a need in another and then to act  will be your greatest accomplishment thus far in your life. Because of the magnitude of this spiritual gift, the Lord expects much from you.

Happy Birthday Noelle.  You have been given a gift which is now yours to give to others.  I am grateful to have had your example and  to learn from you.  Thank you for blessing our family and especially for blessing  me.  I love you.  Mommy

Thoughts and Feelings

Twenty two years ago our first daughter entered the world.  Here are some thoughts of that day and of that daughter that were recorded in my journal.

Jan 8, 1993
I think I should write about someone who has brought two years and almost one month of  nothing but sheer joy and happiness to my life.  Of course it is our princess Noelle.  She was a surprise from the very beginning.  I had no idea she was a she while I was pregnant with her!  I had prepared myself for one more boy - which I really wanted.  We had an ultra sound, but we couldn't determine  the gender.  I remember Frieda Turley telling me that the baby was  a little girl because she was being modest in front of the camera.

She was born Dec. 13th, early in the morning.  The night before, I was exhausted.  The Young Women had come over to drop off some goodies and Pam  Driscoll was with them.  I remember telling her I had better have that baby tonight!  I  had a tough time with that pregnancy.  It seems like I spent nine months being tired and keeping Daniel and Travis in their room so I could just rest.  I felt a great tax taken on my body and mind.  It was a lot more difficult that any other pregnancies.

Around 2:00 am, I felt that first contraction and all the sudden I got panicky   I knew what pain was ahead.  It's the first time I remember ever anticipating the pain and being terrified.  We called mom and dad and they came over and stayed with the boys.  Jared and I  trotted off to the hospital for the fifth time.  It seems like my doctor, Stuart Steele, who is in our ward, barely made it, or at least he looked like he just climbed out of bed and drove on over.   He delivered Noelle and it was hard; I remember wanting to just give up and go home.

Jared made the phone calls and told everyone it was a girl.  I remember  the nurse and Stuart saying it was a girl -  I was just to tired to react.  But after they cleaned her up and lay her in my arms, I was absolutely overjoyed.  It was almost unbelievable though.  

I  remember  I had barely gotten to my room about 7:00 am and the phone calls started coming.  The ward was thrilled.  The gender of this baby had been discussed even in sacrament meeting.  Everyone was thrilled about our little girl.  Near the middle of the day, I received lots of visitors.  It seems between family , ward members and friends, the room was continually hopping.  It was so fun.  All this fanfare and hoopla for this new little girl.  

Noelle is greatly loved.  She is really respected by her brothers.   They treat her different than they treat each other at the same age.  I attribute that to a couple of reasons.  First, Noelle's personality and mannerisms are so opposite from the boys.  The boys each have very different personalities, but there are so many things that tie them together;  things that identify them as boys and brothers.  But Noelle is definitely a little lady.  She is more calm and more gentle than her brothers.  I know it's something she was born with.  Those traits and characteristics are innate;  they were there from the very start of her life.

Noelle has got Jared wrapped around her finger.  It just thrills me to see him melt when his daughter calls to him.  She adores him.  But really  Noelle adores everyone.  She is so loving to her family.  Daniel and Travis send a shiver up her spine every now and then, but she'll even kiss and hug them with a little coaxing.  Noelle is like Daniel in the fact that she is shy around strangers and even relatives.  She is content to always snuggle on my lap and have me hold her.  But she does love to tackle her brothers.

March 1, 1993
I have such a sweet little family.  Noelle just came in my room and got some Christmas socks out of my drawer and handed them to me.  She said:  "It's Frosty the snowman mom!"  She gives me so much joy.  Her sweet, little girl personality is absolutely charismatic.  She  loves to get dressed for church.  Lately I've been putting her fine, blonde hair back in a ponytail and tying  it up with ribbons; I curl her bangs under and she is just so cute.  Noelle knows it too!  She walks around and catches herself in the mirror whenever she can.  She is such a girl.  

Nov. 29, 1993
Noelle is my sweetheart.  There can't be a sweeter, kinder, or more loving little girl.  I will admit - she does have a stubborn streak to her, but it is seldom seen.  You just can't help but love Noelle!  Natalie lightens up at the sight of Noelle and Noelle loves her so much.  She is so good to get me diapers and wipes and Natalie's clothes.  She is a very big help to me.  I hope my girls will always be close.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Obedience With Exactness

*  I am taking President Eyring's advice from his recent Oct. 2012 Priesthood Session Conference address:  "I can promise you that you will bless  [your children] to help them recognize the spiritual gifts with which they were born.   As you seek revelation to see gifts God sees in those you [love]... you will be blessed to lift their sights to the service they can perform.  With your guidance, those you [love] will be able to see, want, and believe they can achieve their full potential for service in God's kingdom."  

"Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them..." Alma 57:21.  In talking with Jared, we felt that one of Daniel's greatest spiritual gifts that he has been blessed with is Obedience with Exactness.  His personality is such that he is very precise and exact in whatever he does, and obedience to the commandments  is no different for him.  When he was a little boy, our family took a trip to Salt Lake City.  We had gone to  church that Sunday morning  and pulled into a Taco Bell afterwards and instructed the kids to stay in the van and change out of their church clothes.  As the  kids began to change, Jared asked them what they wanted to order for lunch before we started the journey back home.     Daniel immediately questioned what we were doing and voiced that it was wrong to break the Sabbath.  Jared and I looked at each other and felt horrible. This little boy had been taught correctly and he could not justify what we were asking him to do.   Jared went on to  explain to him  that it was wrong, and that he (Daniel) was not responsible in any way for our lack of properly making preparations so that we could keep the Sabbath holy.  Jared told Daniel that all we had in our cooler to eat was cereal, in which Daniel sweetly replied  that he would be fine to eat the cereal rather than break the Sabbath.  Needless to say, Jared and I never made that mistake again.  We had been taught what exactness to the commandments was all about and we never wanted to let Daniel or the Lord down again.  Our commitment to the Lord increased because of Daniel's obedience to the Lord.

This obedient little boy has grown into an obedient man; a man who is exact in his desires and actions to keep the commandments and honor his covenants.  Daniel, the spiritual gift of obedience with exactness will not only continue to bless your life, but Emily and your children will feel safe and protected under your care.  They will know and rely on your choices and actions to be those of a righteous priesthood holder "...and they [will] not doubt"! It is a gift that accompanied you straight from heaven and you have lived worthy to keep it.  I love you.  I respect who you are.  I honor you now as a husband and  eventually a father who will continue to obediently serve the Lord.  Happy Birthday dear Daniel.  Love Mommy.

**Jan. 1993 Journal Entry. (When I read this entry out of an old journal, I was surprised by how much of who Daniel is today was so present and manifest in him as a little boy.)

     Daniel was my little angel baby, for that is exactly what he looked like as an infant.  He was so beautiful and perfect.  The older boys loved him and were so affectionate with him.  But the older Daniel got the rougher they boys would play with him.  Grandma Skousen would always worry that Derrick and Brandon would hurt him, but he always came through those wrestling matches ok! It gave him good training for his wrestling matches with Travis.
     Daniel took his time in everything he did.  He didn't start talking for a long time; probably not even begin until he was about 2 1/2 or older.  In fact everyone started to get a little concerned about his lack of verbal communication, so we decided to test his hearing.  That started a long process of testing and more testing.  But it finally led us to the wonderful preschool that Daniel has been attending since he was barely 3 years old.  I was so nervous to send my baby on a school bus - it took a lot of prayer and practice runs with me actually on the bus to let him go.  
     He has progressed, but still, even  now at the age of 5 he still has a hard time pronouncing some sounds.  At least he talks - boy does he talk.  I think those couple of years not uttering a sound to anyone, (except to Travis and me), not even to his Primary or preschool teachers, was pretty hard on Daniel.  It  forced him to be so shy and reserved and almost withdrawn.  He has definitely changed.  Now his preschool teacher, Lynn Martin, tells me he runs around with two other boys and causes little boy mischief.  Ahhhhh.... music to my ears. That's the best news I could ever receive about Daniel.
      Daniel is really smart.  I didn't know if he would excel like Brandon and Derrick did at such an early age, but he has.  It's different however.  He is extremely artistic and colors beautifully.  He takes pride in his work.  And he has been printing his name for a long time now.  He loves to write.  He copies advertisements.  He likes to print  Frontier Hotel (we've eaten there a few times) and Hook (his favorite movie), and other signs and words that are familiar to him.
      Another thing Daniel can do is he can listen to a musical number that Derrick or Brandon is practicing on the piano and will sit down after them and pick out the melody and play it for me.  He plays "Because I Have Been Given Much" and tunes from "The Phantom of the Opera".  His voice is so clear and sweet and he seems to have the ability to  always sing in tune.  
     Daniel likes to give talks in primary and has already given two.  When he was a Sunbeam he wasn't easily understood so I just asked him questions about the subject of his talk and then I'd repeat his answer for the other children to hear.  I was wondering if this would be alright for his self esteem and it did prove favorable.  He was so proud and pleased with himself.  Now he stands up and speaks into the microphone and talks just like a pro.  Boy has he come a long way!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


SEVENTEEN!!  My # 7 child is seventeen!  I share with you  two sweet experiences  that give you an insight of who Holly Elizabeth Rust is today.

When Holly was four years old we were living in a  trailer up on airport road.  We had a wonderful green picnic table right in our kitchen that allowed for all ten of us to gather around at meal time.  This table also served as Holly's stage.  At this time, I was serving as ward choir director and had been practicing the hymn "Secret Prayer".   All week long as I would do my housework, I would sing this hymn over and over.  "May my heart be turned to pray.  Pray in secret day by day, that this boon to mortals given may unite my soul with heaven."

One day I turned around to see four year old  Holly standing on top of our green table, singing in full voice:  "May my heart be turned to  pray.  Pray in secret day by day."  At this point she proudly lifted a big serving spoon high in the air and  continued:  "That  this spoon to mortals given, may unite my soul with heaven."   Every time I sing that hymn, I get a smile on my face and see Holly standing on our table sweetly singing while raising a spoon.

Music has been a huge part of  all eight children, but Holly is the child who loves and  lives to sing.  She is a little tentative when others make a point of listening, but when she is in the shower at 10:00 at night.....she lets loose and I am sure Brother Bunnell (our neighbor) can hear every word.  Yep, she often wakes us up, but what a joy! I love hearing her amazing voice even if it is the middle of the night.  Holly will  be the roommate who dances and sings and gets her whole apartment to join in.  She will be the mom who rocks her babies to sleep while singing  Michael Buble songs.  She will be the choir director that "feels" the hymns. Her voice has and will bring a lot of joy to others.

I never thought I would ever post this next experience in my blog because of what it says about me, but it tells so much of who Holly is. And for that reason, I share it.  A couple of months ago I  received an email from BYU telling me that I had been dis-enrolled in my online classes due to  failure to meet a time requirement. I quickly called to get an explanation and was devastated when they confirmed the news.  I was literally sick to my stomach upon realizing that I had made a terrible mistake resulting in months of hard work and money washed down the drain. (75% of  my classes had been completed with a 95% grade average.)  And as if that wasn't bad enough, I was humiliated and embarrassed to think I had misunderstood and now had  "E's" on my transcript. Devastation is a pretty profound emotion......and yes, I was devastated. I cried  all morning long.

While I was in my room, Holly came home from school unaware of what had happened that morning.    Upon seeing her, the tears flooded my eyes.  Poor Holly!  I could tell by her troubled face that she assumed far worse. With great concern and trepidation  she asked me what had happened and I repeated back to her  my horrible situation.  I half expected her to give a sigh of relief that it wasn't something tragic, or give a "that's ok mom" type response, but she didn't.   She stood up and walked towards me with her arms outstretched and said: "Ahhh mom, you need a hug". She tenderly wrapped me in her arms and held me as I cried  She was so comforting. I don't think Holly fully understood the degree of my sadness, but she didn't have too. I just needed someone to love me and still think I was okay.  She was my someone.  She has open arms because she has an open heart.  I am so grateful for her heart and arms and her ability to feel, care and love.

Holly is a beautiful girl, with an infectious laugh.  And she is not stingy with those laughs........quite the opposite.  It is FUN to be around  Holly because she loves to find the humor in everything and freely laughs at anything that tickles her funny bone.  There is something to be said about someone who freely laughs.  It is such an endearing trait.  I find myself laughing more when Holly is around.

Oh Holly....I tear up thinking that we only have you in our home for less than two years.  But they are happy tears too, because I know you will blossom beyond what I can imagine and do amazing things.  Happy Birthday sweet daughter.  I Love You, Mommy

*Just to let you know.... I have since signed up to retake  one of the classes that I was dis-enrolled in and am saving to retake the other one.  I hope to have those hideous "E"s removed from my transcript soon and be on my way toward graduation!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Joy is Full

Hello children, this is a guest posting from your father, with the editors permission of course.  Today in Sunday School, I had the opportunity to think about each one of you.  When I say each one of you, I hope you know Brittney and Emily that that includes you. (Molly too)  I have six beautiful and talented girls! And of course The most beautiful granddaughter in the world.
Any way, we are studying 3rd Nephi and today we discussed chapter 17.  We were discussing theses verses:

  20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
 21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
 22 And when he had done this he wept again;
 23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
 24 And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.
 25 And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.
Sister Hoffman, our wonderful teacher then got very emotional, especially when we discussed verse 21 where he took the little children one by one and blessed them, and how in a blessing you are called by name and so we presume he called each child by name. She then asked, " how many of you have ever heard your name in a prayer that was being offered?"  She went on to say that for most of her life she never had.  Her parents were very devout about praying at meal time, but not much on family prayer.  She remembered that the first time she had this experience she was away at school, living with a family and feeling stressed about a test the next day.  That night, as the family knelt for prayer, the child offering the prayer asked that "Heather be blessed in her important test tomorrow."  She was overcome with the feeling of actually hearing someone pray for her by name.  
I was thinking how sad for her to never have that experience in her home.  She then went on to say that even now when she visits her parents, (who now by the way have family prayer) she hears them pray for each one in the family by name, except her!  She knows they skip her because she is there, and that they surely pray for her by name when she is away, but how she longs to hear her prayed for by name.  
Well I began to think that we often do the same in our home.  All of you boys were prayed for by name as you served your missions. You all have been prayed for by name as you were away at school, and Derrick, Brittney and Molly are always prayed for by name because they chose to live sooooo far away!!  But I fear that sometimes when you are home, and especially with Holly and Hannah, we fail (me especially) to pray for you by name.  In my personal prayers I almost always mention each by name, and I hope you know and feel that.  I think also that like Heather, you know you are prayed for when you are away because you hear us pray for those who are not present.  But I felt the importance of praying for you by name even when you are home.    
I found myself consumed with these thoughts and then thinking of each one of you.  The GREAT blessing I feel having each of you in our family.  I saw each of you in my minds eye, one by one.  It wasn't Derrick and Brittney and Molly, or Daniel and Emily, it was Derrick, then Brittney then Molly.  It was Brandon then Daniel then Emily, then Travis then Noelle then Natalie.  It was Holly then Hannah.  And I felt my mind going back to verse 20, "and behold, now my joy is full" 
 I know that everything is not perfect in all of our lives.  We all have struggles and challenges and concerns and cares.  As I pray for you individually, I pray for the concerns I know and also that I feel you have.  It may be as temporal as a job or a car, or as spiritual as feeling your faith is being tried, or the desire that each of you feel the love that your Savior has for you just as when he blessed these little Nephite children.  When the Savior said his joy was full, it was because of the faith of the multitude.  My joy is full because of the faith of my family.  I look forward to adding new members, so it is not full numerically, but it is full spiritually knowing that you and WE are facing our challenges with faith and increasing our faith as our challenges increase.
Take a moment to watch this video, picture yourself there, and the read the words that follow.

Elder Holland from this last conference: (did you watch the video?  Its only about 4 minutes?  Watch it before you proceed!!!)
 My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,”Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without “a single synagogue or sword” to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live.
I testify from the bottom of my heart, with the intensity of my soul, to all who can hear my voice that those apostolic keys have been restored to the earth, and they are found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To those who have not yet joined with us in this great final cause of Christ, we say, “Please come.” To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets. The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand. I include in that call to fixed faithfulness every returned missionary who ever stood in a baptismal font and with arm to the square said, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.”That commission was to have changed your convert forever, but it was surely supposed to have changed you forever as well. To the youth of the Church rising up to missions and temples and marriage, we say: “Love God and remain clean from the blood and sins of this generation. You have a monumental work to do, underscored by that marvelous announcement President Thomas S. Monson made yesterday morning. Your Father in Heaven expects your loyalty and your love at every stage of your life.”
To all within the sound of my voice, the voice of Christ comes ringing down through the halls of time, asking each one of us while there is time, “Do you love me?” And for every one of us, I answer with my honor and my soul, “Yea, Lord, we do love thee.” And having set our “hand to the plough,” we will never look back until this work is finished and love of God and neighbor rules the world. 

I hope that we can all pray for each other by name, not just in times of sickness and crises, but every day, every morning, every night.  I know it will strengthen those sacred bonds that tie us together as family and that in doing so our hearts will be "knit together in unity and in love one towards another."  Love Dad

"As A Child"

Today in sacrament meeting, we did what probably  hundreds of other wards did today.  Yes, it was our Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation.  I do not tend to get emotionally invested in these.  Even when my children were in Primary and they participated, I enjoyed it, loved seeing them sing and do their little parts, but I never cried. And today was no different.

I am the primary chorister and feel very invested in my primary children.  I love them.   I really love them.  I love the little "stinkers" and we have quite a few of them.   I love the older girls who don't think it is cool to smile back at me.  I love the older boys who just basically want someone to see that they are good. I LOVE THESE CHILDREN!  And today, they sang their hearts out.  They sang knowing the principles taught in the songs.  They focused on my every action, making sure they were singing in the manner that I was directing.  Yes, they sang beyond what I could comprehend......and still no tears.

Don't get me wrong, I was overcome with gratitude that these little children could worship so sweetly and with such perfect innocence.  I certainly felt the Spirit and was edified and uplifted.

 As the "amen" of the benediction was said, I looked up to see Stockton (4) walking over to me. With a very determined hug from this very determined little boy,  I felt a tug at my heart and a tear well up in my eye. I was a little startled by his tender action.  That was followed by  Ally  lovingly putting her arms around me and whispering "thank you".  Lindi patted my shoulder and offered a sweet thank you.   Emma, with her huge smile, wrapped her arms around me and thanked me as well.   With each action of simple love, my  tears flowed freely.  After pondering this experience, I have come to believe that all of these precious children were responding to the feelings of the Spirit.They just did what was instinctive; that being to express love.  I was just the lucky one who happened to be sitting in front as they were walking off the stand.

There were more loving displays, but it ended with sweet, beautiful Marcus.  Marcus is a little four year-old, blonde-hair boy with huge dark brown eyes and thick black eyelashes.  Sometimes I find myself staring at him because he really is that beautiful.  He seemed to be waiting his turn, not knowing why other children were hugging me, but still wanting to be part of it.  When he put his sweet, little four-year-old arms around my neck and squeezed, he squeezed every tear out of me.  Oh the love of a child is so perfect and so pure and I was the recipient of such love. Heaven was so near.

  I write that my children may know that you  are still my pure, innocent children. You have grown, aged, and experienced life, but only the Savior  loves you more perfectly than I.     Marcus' hug made me long for each of your loving arms around my neck, just hugging me because that is what your children do.

I also write that you may cherish, protect and love all children you have the opportunity and blessing of knowing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Plight of The Red Shoes

It has been a hectic but oh so fun week getting Holly and Hannah ready for the Homecoming Dance. Of course you know what that means.....the sewing machine was getting a work out.  Holly was very particular about what kind of dress she wanted, down to every minuscule  detail.  (That's my  very opinionated Holly.)  Hannah was very fine and happy to have Holly's freshman homecoming dress re-sized  and altered for her.  (Thank goodness for my easy-going Hannah!)

The dresses turned out wonderful; exactly what each daughter wanted and all three of us were thrilled. We just had one huge detail left to attend to.  Holly desperately wanted red shoes to go with her dress.  We had gone into Vegas last Friday in hopes of finding them but  had no such luck. We decided to give it one last ditch effort and ran into Vegas Saturday morning  (the day of the dance) hoping and praying that she would find the perfect red shoes to complete her stunning outfit.  With that in mind, we PRAYED and then hopped in the car!

Now praying to find red shoes may seem ridiculous or even a little sacrilegious to some, but I thought it was exactly what we needed to do.   After all  we are told to "counsel with the Lord in all thy doings" and  this was an important "doing" for Holly.  So we included that  simple desire in our morning family prayer and off we went. Yes, you guessed the outcome.  Not only did she find red shoes, but they were beyond what she ever even hoped for.   I am not suggesting that the fact she found her perfect red shoes was brought about by an act of God, but I am suggesting that it did happen as a result of an act of faith.

I fear that prayer is underutilized and it's power is underestimated.  And if we dared "counsel with the Lord in all our doings"  we would be astonished at what that would do for us.  I believe that nothing is to trivial for the Lord to hear from one of his children.   The very act of praying about something important to us moves us to further action on our own part.  Holly was almost ready to  settle on wearing some darling strappy black sandals...........but that Payless next to WalMart was calling her name.  Even though she had exhausted the inventory at a previous Payless Shoe store, she was moved to action because of her earlier action of offering a prayer....even a prayer for red shoes!

Let me share one more experience regarding prayer and faith based results.  I could not comprehend how to combine three different patterns  to make one cohesive, perfect fitting dress for Holly.  I was also concerned about how to deconstructed the previous homecoming dress and alter it so that it would fit Hannah like a glove. As hard as I tried, I could not figure out how I was going to do all this.  In my mind, the steps were vague and the process was muddled.  I wasn't even able to start.  So I counseled with the Lord  with each hurdle I faced.  And do you know what he did?  He brought to my mind a wonderful, detailed plan of the steps that needed be done and in their proper order.  So I ask.....were those dresses sewn as a result of an act of God?  No....but they were sewed by acts of faith.

As soon as I figure out how to post pictures to my blog, I will happily show you the prayed for perfect red shoes!

I write that my children may "counsel with the Lord in all [their] doings, ,,,[so that] he will direct [them] for good."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Safety in the Coop

*I started writing this blog post back in March of this year, but I never finished it. Last night I had  a very vivid, realistic dream (which may result in a post somewhere down the road) that caused me to reflect on this experience and what I had learned from it.  So this morning  I finished writing what had been saved in drafts  so many months ago  and  I feel prompted to share it now.

March 2012

Hannah had left to go over to a friends house for the evening so the chore of penning the chickens up for the night was my responsibility.   As the sun went down I was reminded to go and shut the coop door, but I didn't.  I reasoned that they would be just fine for a few hours and I would  do it when I went to bed.  .  It was dark, no moon, no stars, no  lights, and although I couldn't see very well,  I knew something was wrong as I approached the coop.  The hens were upset and unsettled and I sensed that my  "waiting" had resulted in something horrible.

I usually like getting up early and letting thirteen anxious hens out to scratch and meander.  But this morning was different.  I walked out back to find a big, healthy brown hen dead on the lawn.  As sad as that is, it happens from time to time.  A chicken will stay out later than usual and not make it back to the coop and fall victim to a raccoon during the night.    But when I opened the coop door, I was sickened to find to two beautiful white hens slaughtered inside.  I thought back to my actions of the night before and  "waiting" to pen them up.  That "wait"  had resulted in the raccoon going inside where the hens should have been safe and protected. I was overcome with guilt of not providing that safe haven.

So many lessons to learn  and gospel principles to apply when I contemplate this experience:
1) The importance of avoiding late night hours when  temptations may be lurking.
2)  The importance of being  where you should be.
3)  Listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and acting immediately

All these lessons have place for improvement in my life, but I share with you the main reason why this experience had such a profound influence on me.

I have reflected on my years of   mothering and trying to make my  home a place where my children felt safe and protected.  We as parents, felt  for the most part that we were successful with this endeavor.  But I know there were times when our home wasn't as safe as it should be and as a result, my children were exposed to the influences of the world,  feelings of insecurity, and negative conditions.   I write this not to excuse or dismiss my actions or lack of them, but rather to free you, my children, from the effects of those times when you were not safe.  It has been extremely painful to know that I could and should have done more to protect my precious flock.  I  have sought forgiveness from the Lord and I  seek forgiveness from you as well.

I write that my children may know.....that you do not have to live with those effects.   As much as I would give my all to do so,  I can not take them away from you.  But I do know that you do not need to be burdened with them.. There is freedom, peace and safety through the Savior.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Battles, Wounds, and Healing

A few years ago I visited a sister in our ward who was more or less home bound.  We were talking about the Book of Mormon and she told me that although she believed the Book of Mormon she  refused to read it because of the horrific details of war and killing specifically found in the book of Alma.

I found that interesting and wondered what it said about me because the book of Alma is probably my favorite.  I love the detailed accounts of various strategies to overcome the Lamanite armies and take back the Nephite cities.  I love  the valor of Captain Moroni, being a son of God first and a soldier second.  I love the devotion of Teancum, Lehi and Antipus to their Commander in Chief.  And I love the tenderness  and responsibility that  Helaman felt toward his little band of two-thousand and sixty stripling warriors.

Today, I was reading again the account of Helaman and his two thousand sons (for they are worthy to be called sons.)   You all know the story as do I.  You know that their parents  made covenants to never again take up arms in battle.  You know that their parents kept their covenants.  You know that these sons were taught faith and reliance upon their God by their mothers and undoubtedly their fathers too.  You know that Helaman loved his young sons dearly and did all  he could to prepare them for the battle they would engage in.

I know this account well,  but my heart was stirred today as I pondered the outcome of this little band of warriors and the battle they fought in.  You know this too;  not one son was killed.  Usually I stop there in my pondering and think all is well and continue on with my reading.  But the last part of Alma 57:25 has consumed my thoughts all day.
"...there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds."  It didn't say none were killed and all was wonderful.  No, quite the opposite.

I write....that my little band of sons and daughters-  Derrick, Brittney, Molly, Brandon, Daniel, Emily, Travis, Noelle, Natalie, Holly, and Hannah may know... that I know you too have been and will be engaged in horrible battles.  You too have also been born of parents who have made and kept covenants and have taught you faith and reliance on God.  You now fight being armed with the power of  your own covenants.  All of you, with the exception of Molly at this point in time, have received many wounds in life's battles, some I know about and many I don't.  Some of those wounds have cut deep  and  have been extremely painful.  I have been humbled and so grateful  that you have healed and continue to heal from your wounds.  I am grateful that you  have become stronger and more valiant as a result of that process.  I write that you may know  life's battles will result in wounds, but through Christ's atonement, those wounds will be no more. The wounds do not define who you are, but the healing does.  How I love my little band of warriors.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Everyone Needs A Judy"

Back in April, when Derrick and his family came down for a visit, Brittney accompanied Judy and I on some of our early morning adventures.  It was fun sharing not just our adventures with Brittney, but also our long- enduring friendship.  One morning after a particularly lengthy hike, Brittney made the following comment to me:  "I need a Judy".

I knew exactly what Brittney meant.

*Everyone needs  a friend who makes everyday just a little brighter.  (See previous posts: Adventures with Judy)

*Everyone needs a friend who listens.  (Even at nauseam.)

*Everyone needs a friend who tells them the way it is.  (She always says it in a kind way and I know she still loves me regardless of my flaws.)

*Everyone needs a friend who will show up where they are needed and works harder than you do. (What would we have done without her at Daniel and Emily's wedding luncheon and both receptions?!)

*Everyone needs a friend who loves your family almost as much a you do.  (She would do anything for any member of my family.)

Yes, everyone does need a Judy in their life.  A Judy just makes life better!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Emily Rust = Down-To-Earth Elegance

It is with sheer joy and delight that I ponder and  give thought to the newest member of the Rust family. It really hasn't sunken in that Daniel is  married to Emily and Emily is really a Rust!  I guess that will come with time.  I have contemplated what the addition of Emily gives to our family and happily share in this blog post.

Emily is a "Elegant"!   The first time I saw Emily, I was not expecting her to look like she did.  Daniel had only described her to me as being a "great girl".  I wasn't sure what a "great girl"  looked like, but in my mind it wasn't a tall, strikingly beautiful, blonde-haired girl.  And when I first met  Emily I was  taken back by how elegant and refined she appeared.  I must admit I wondered how on earth she and Daniel found each other.   I love how Daniel handles himself with confidence and ease and  I think he is a very darling, handsome man, but elegance and refinement do not come to mind when I think of him.  I was certainly intrigued with this combination and their relationship!

I remember going to the BYUI Christmas Concert that both she and Daniel played at.  I sat there mesmerized as I watched Emily in that first violinist chair, looking so beautiful as she played so effortlessly.  At the end of the concert when the guest performer, Brian Stokes,Mitchell, acknowledged Emily as the concert mistress and shook her hand, I really thought that I would burst with pride.  Although she and Daniel were not  seriously dating at that time, I just felt honored in knowing someone  with such talent and grace.

I shall never forget the moment I saw Emily after she and Daniel had been sealed, when they walked out of the temple annex onto the grounds outside.  I literally gasped when I saw her.  She was so regal, graceful and stunning.  I could not take my eyes off of her.  She was exquisite, inside and out and I found myself in awe of who she was.

Emily is "Down To Earth"!  Even though Emily is refined, she is far from being stuffy and unapproachable.  She is welcoming, loving and twinkly!  You know when she puts her arms around you, you are really being hugged.  It is a " I really am happy to see you and like you" hug;  so warm and so real.  I had my first hug from her the night of that concert.  I remember it well.  She wrapped her arms around my waist and clasped her hands together and did not break that grasp for some time.  I don't know if I had ever been hugged like that before.  It was so real and sweet and I didn't even know her..............but I knew I loved her!

Emily has always been just fine and at home in our under construction house.  I have never felt that she was concerned about the conditions are lack of space.  She just adapts and fits in.  One of my favorite memories of Emily is when she was down visiting before she and Daniel were engaged.  Jared and I  would call everyone in for breakfast and family prayer.   Knowing that they had stayed up late and were probably exhausted, I didn't count on them actually getting up and joining us.  But I  was endeared to Emily  as she would jump out of bed, still in her pj's,bed hair, no make-up or contacts, and run in and quickly kneel down with the rest of us.  No pretense, fuss or embarrassment.  She wanted to have family prayer and be with us. That warmed my heart so much.

It was wonderful seeing her join the girls in our one and only bathroom to get ready for church.  She found a tiny bit of counter space and set up shop right along with the rest of them.  No special invitation or time schedule, she just jumped in when she could and called it good.  The funniest thing was to see her patiently putting Daniel's contacts in for him in the morning.  I was a little shocked at first, but grew to love seeing this sight.   I knew she was the one for him.

I will never forget the time when we all went for a hike in  one of the washes up by the mesa.  The girls and I were walking quite a ways ahead of Emily and Daniel.  It was a beautiful day,  so peaceful and calm...........until Emily came sprinting past us yelling at Daniel to stop and laughing at the same time.  Just as Emily passed us, here came Daniel chasing her while carrying a stick with a dried-up cow pie situated on the end of it.  I was horrified that Daniel would do such a thing (not surprised, but nonetheless still horrified), but I couldn't help laugh at the sight.   I figured Emily had to be ticked off, and rightfully so!  But it was her laughter and her twinkly eyes that made everything alright and fun.  She loved Daniel and I knew it. Strangely enough, I also knew that if Daniel could actually be okay with chasing Emily with a cow pie, he must really love her too!

So today as I think of our sweet Emily on her birthday, I give thanks for her and what she has already brought into our home.  I am so grateful for the grace and refinement she has.  She is truly a lady by every sense of the word.  The Rust family can use some refinement!   I am so grateful that she also brings to our family a very down-to-earth love and acceptance.  She not only loves us, but I really think she likes us!

I always knew that the girl who would win over Daniel's heart would be very lucky indeed.  But Daniel is the lucky one and so are we!    Happy Birthday dear Emily and welcome to the family.  I love you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept 2012 Sacrament Mtg Talk on Self-Reliance

This summer our family had the opportunity of visiting the Mormon Battalion Historic Church Site in San Diego. Just like every other historic site the church owns, the Mormon Battalion has been restored in such a way, that you are able to put yourself right there in that moment of time. Not only was I able to catch a glimpse of what the early saints had experienced but I felt my heart turn in love and gratitude for what they had accomplished.

At this time in church history, the saints had endured extreme, on-going persecution. Their homes had been burned, their temple destroyed and their prophet murdered. An extinction order had been placed on their heads and once again, angry mobs had  driven them out of their communities, leaving the saints scattered over the plains of Iowa in makeshift encampments. With just the clothes on their back and what few personal items they could carry, the cold nights and the shortage of food left many ill and some died. It was at this time that the US Army approached the saints with the order to enlist the able men as soldiers to march 2000 miles and fight in the Mexican- American war. This was the very same government that stood by as they were driven out of their homes and persecuted. These saint-soldiers would actually march under the command of a military officer, who, a decade earlier had led a mob to run them out of state of Missouri. Now, consider for a moment not just the physical state of the saints, but also their emotional state. Would they not have every reason and right to stop in the plains of Iowa and say: “We will do no more. We are done!”

But they didn't.  And this is why. ( 1) They trusted in the counsel of their prophet, Brigham Young. (2) They knew that they were armed with power from on high because of the covenants they had made and because of this power, they could do hard things.

President Young did ask the saints to comply with the demands of the army, promising the soldiers that they would not loose their lives in battle and that their families would be blessed. Five hundred men, and about twenty women enlisted with the army, leaving behind wives and mothers with families to pick us the pieces of their shattered lives, and also the tremendous challenge of making their way west without their husbands. The soldiers marched 2000 miles in extremely difficult conditions and endured the demanding work of forging new roads. These saints, both those who enlisted and those who were left behind, did extraordinary hard things for their families to be spiritually and temporally self reliant. The soldiers received wages and money for a uniform allowance,and sent it back to their families to help buy food and supplies for their trek west with the rest of the saints. Although it had been an tremendous trial, the unmeasurable blessings of self-reliance and freedom were manifest when soldiers were finally reunited with their families in the Salt Lake Valley.

The circumstances may be different, but the effects of our trials are much the same today. Some have lost homes and jobs; others suffer from ailing health and troubled minds. We may find ourselves in a physical and emotional state where we want to say: “No more, we are done!” In these crisis situations, we are grateful for the help of church assistance, government programs, and aid from extended family. But that assistance and help must be short-termed and temporary. The Lord wants and needs self reliant families.

President Henry B. Eyring stated:
...All people are happier and feel more self-respect when they can provide for themselves and their family and then reach out to take care of others.”
Elder Robert D Hales adds: “The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.
The Lord hasn't left us alone to figure out how to do this. Just as the early saints, (1) we have been blessed with a prophet and leaders who have given direction and counsel on provident living (2) And we too have made covenants and been endowed with power from on high so we can do hard and difficult things.
We have been taught much about the bondage of credit card debt, the dangers of idleness, and the suffocating grasp of addictions; all which take away our spiritual and temporal self reliance. Elder Hales describes these things as: “Patterns of thought and action that diminish one's sense of worth. All of these excesses affect us individually and undermine our family relationships.”

In his recent general conference address, Elder Hales teaches about the power of our covenants and it's relationship to being self reliant and he issues us this simple challenge: “Have a talk with [yourself] in the mirror and ask, “Where do I stand on living my covenants?”

He emphasizes the importance of two things: 1. Preparing ourselves to partake of the sacrament each week and 2. The importance of being worthy to makes covenants in the temple.

Speaking of the sacrament he says:
As we sing the sacrament hymn, participate in the sacrament prayers, and partake of the emblems of His flesh and blood, we prayerfully seek forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. We think about the promises we made and kept during the previous week and make specific personal commitments to follow the Savior during the coming week.”

It is easy to get caught up in the “hoopla” of our church meetings and callings and miss the most important reason why we assemble on the Sabbath day.

A couple of months ago Sis. Muhlestein asked me to fill in for her as music director while she was out of town. I was happy to do that and didn't give it much though until Sunday morning came and I remembered my commitment.

Usually, I love my Sunday mornings. I am at a point in my life where they are quiet and I have the opportunity to be reflective and prepare myself for the sacrament. But this Sunday, my focus wasn't what it should be. I needed to get to church early so I could put the hymn numbers on the wall, get the stand and hymnal set up, and make sure I knew how to lead the songs that had been selected. My mind was preoccupied and very busy. 

The opening hymn was a very upbeat and fast paced “Called To Serve” and I could hear my primary children sing out. The sacrament hymn was “I Stand All Amazed” and the tempo was much slower. I began to beat the time and Sis. Lyon played the organ exactly according to how fast I was waving my arm. As we completed the first verse, I was a little embarrassed by how slow we were singing. With that in mind, when we began the second verse, I lifted my arm to pick up the pace but as hard as I tried, I could not lead the song any faster. I literally felt a physical resistance on my arm and even glance over to Sis. Lyon as if to motion to her to play faster. But she didn't. Being the amazing accompanist that she is, she followed my weighted arm and we continued to sing at a very slow tempo.

Not sure what to do and confused by what was happening with my arm, I started to focus on what I was singing. “I marvel that he would descend from His throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine, that he should extend his great love unto such as I, sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.”

As the words passed through my mind and found place in my heart, I became very aware of my Savior's love for me. At the realization that I  was worth rescuing, owning, redeeming and justifying, tears flooded my eyes and I could no longer see  the hymn book; a huge lump formed in my throat and I could no longer sing.

Through this sweet, tender mercy I was now prepared to partake of sacred emblems and focus on the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord. I felt renewed,  endowed with power to go and do better and be better.

 We need that power each week in our desire to overcome habits of dependency and exercise principles of self reliance.

Just as important as it is for us to return every week prepared to partake of the sacrament, we must return often to the temple to be reminded of the covenants we have made there. Although stake and ward temple nights are good incentives, and ordinances of family and friends are joyous to witness, our temple attendance should not be dependent on such events. Understanding and remembering that “the temple endowment is a gift that provides perspective and power” should be reason enough for us to attend regularly and often.

Regarding this power of the endowment, Elder Hales states: “As endowed temple recommend holders, we establish patterns of Christlike living. Through the Savior's Atonement and by following these basic patterns of faithfulness, we receive power from on high to face the challenges of life. We need this divine power today more than ever. It is power we receive only through temple ordinances.”

Establishing and maintaining a self reliant family is hard work. It's hard work for a young father to juggle his schooling, a job, a church calling, and the needs of a young family. It is hard work, but the power he receives through the covenants he has made, and his desire for a self-reliant family, gives him faith to act, and do hard things.

Consider the single sister, working full-time, facing the demands of being both father and mother, while diligently nurturing and teaching her children the gospel. It is hard work, but the power she receives through the covenants she had made and her desire for self-reliance, gives her faith to act and do hard things.

How sad it is to be asked to serve, whether it be in a calling, on a mission, or to serve another person and have to respond with the words: “I am sorry. I am not in a position to do that right now.”

Brothers and sisters, may we have the courage to examine our commitment to self reliant principles in our own lives. May we have the faith to act and do hard things. And may we find joy and peace as we work to establish a self-reliant family who stands ready and prepared to lift others to higher ground. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Witty, Wonderful, and O So Wise

Sixteen years ago, I experienced a glimpse of the healing power of the Savior's touch.   It was a late Saturday morning and I was still in my  robe .  I remember being so flustered with what wasn't getting done that day.  The house was a mess, the kids still undressed, laundry all over and I was so exhausted.  I was overwhelmed  and unproductive.  As I made a feeble attempt to clean the kitchen one last time,  a brand new  bottle of ketchup slipped out of my hands and splattered all over the floor, the walls, the table, the cupboards, and all over me.  I just stood there in the mess, unable to move.  All I could do was cry.  Totally unaware of who was in the room, or what anyone was doing, I stood there with tears streaming down my face, feeling total despair and so alone.....until I felt an ever so gentle, loving touch.  I looked down to see small , three-year old hands clutching a wash cloth, tenderly wiping the ketchup from off of my feet. As I write this, I can still vividly recall Natalie's sweet little face staring up at me with the hope that her loving act of kindness would not just wipe away the ketchup, but more importantly wipe away my tears.

I have reflected on that experience many times throughout the years.  I was taught so much about the Savior that day because of a little girl who knew so much, even at three years of age.   I believe that Natalie's spirit was mature enough to know that my tears  were not for the spilled ketchup.  Perhaps she was even wise enough to know that  it was her touch, her Christ-like touch, that brought healing and peace to a very troubled heart that Saturday morning so many years ago.

We often refer  to Natalie as  an "old soul".  She has always seems so much older than her actual age.   Today she is nineteen, but her soul is years beyond that.  Natalie is so wise.   Her mature, wise spirit is a divine gift that accompanied her to earth as a baby.  She has continued to hone that gift as she has gotten older and experienced more of life.  Many times, I have become the student, learning and gleaning from her, truly in awe of the insights she offers.  I have often contemplated my role as the  mother of someone who was so  blessed with such wisdom and spiritual knowledge.  And when I ponder this, I know in my heart, that she was sent to our home to teach and guide me....and she does.

Natalie is sensitive, in every sense of the word.  On a lighter note, she is sensitive to germs, or rather environments that invite the nasty little critters.  She detests double dipping, using each other's utensils, and heaven forbid if she find a hair in or near what she is eating.  I love to have Natalie clean the kitchen; my table and counters are thoroughly sanitized by the time she gets done.

I cherish her sensitive nature in every aspect.  I remember a very  sweet conversation she and I  had a few years ago.  The subject was forgiveness.  Natalie was struggling in a matter of offering forgiveness and she was very sensitive to the fact that she was failing in a particular instance.  I listened, and once again was taught what a valiant, mature spirit was like.  She wanted to be forgiving.  She wanted to put it behind her.  She recognized that she hadn't and  she committed to work hard to  have a forgiving heart.

Two nights ago, Jared and I, with Natalie, Holly and Hannah, went to see The Dark Knight Rises.  In the scene where Batman tells officer Gordon that he remembered when someone once told him that "everything would be alright" when his parents were shot when he was just a boy;  I looked over to see tears welling up in Natalie's eyes.  Who cries in  a Batman movie!?  Natalie does!  She cries in commercials that are in the least bit sentimental to her. She cries when she listens to songs that tug at her heart. She cries every night as she watches her beloved "Dr. Who" series.     I actually adore this in Natalie.  Many would think otherwise, but she wears her heart-strings right on her sleeve in full view for anyone to pull.

Speaking of how others may perceive her, I think she has everyone fooled.   He quick and witty remarks would make others think that she has nerves of steel and feelings to match.  That is so far from who Natalie is deep down inside.  Her feelings are very tender and even fragile.  When Natalie is aware of financial struggles, personal concerns, or anything that involves someone she loves, her feelings run deep.  She wants to make things all better so everyone can just be happy again.  Sometimes I think it would be hard to be Natalie.  She never shuts down when it involves matters of the heart; her heart or the heart of anyone she loves. She aches and hurts when other do.

As I think of who Natalie is, I have come to  conclusion that she is the best parts of both  Martha and Mary. Her personality isn't one that stands out or is comfortable being the center of attention in a big crowd.  She loves attention, but goes about getting it in quiet ways.  Like Martha, she is often behind the scenes plugging away at life, doing what she likes to do and often enjoying her solitude.  Like Mary, she seeks opportunities to better herself, be where she should be, doing what she should be doing .

Today, I have shed a few tears thinking about  Natalie. I am so honored to be her mother.  I have such deep respect for who she is.  A couple of days ago, she made the comment:  "I am going to be an amazing wife."  Yes, you are Natalie.  You will be an amazing wife.  You will be an amazing mother.  I know this because you are an amazing person and desire righteousness.  May the Lord continue to bless you as you strive to  become what you know you are to become.  I love you dear daughter.  Happy Birthday.  Mommy

Friday, July 6, 2012

I Stand All Amazed

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to fill in as the music director in sacrament meeting for a few Sundays. Of course I was happy to do that and didn't give it much more thought until Sunday morning came and I remembered my commitment.

I love Sunday mornings. They are usually made up of quiet, reflective, preparing moments  that allow me to focus my heart and mind in accordance to partaking of the sacrament. This particular Sunday morning started much the same way as others, but my focus wasn't what it should be.  I needed to get to church early so that I could put the hymn numbers on the wall, get the stand and hymnal set up, make sure that I knew how to lead the songs that had been chosen, etc.   My mind was preoccupied and very busy.

I led a very rousing Called To Serve as the opening hymn and could hear my primary children's voices sing out. It went well.  The sacrament hymn was I Stand All Amazed.  The meter was slower.  I began to beat the time and wonderful Sis. Lyon accompanied me exactly according to how fast I was waving my arm.  As we completed the first verse, I was very aware of  how very, very slow we were singing.  With that in mind, when we began the  second verse I lifted my arm to pick up the pace but as hard as I tried, I could not lead the song any faster.  I literally felt a physical resistance on my arm and even glanced over to Sis. Lyon as if to motion to her to play faster.  She didn't.  She followed my weighted arm and we continued to sing at a very slow meter.

Not sure what to do and confused by what was happening with my arm, I started to focus on what I was singing. "I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine, that he should extend his great love unto such as I, sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify."

As the words passed through my mind and into my soul, I humbly became aware of my Savior's sacrifice and love for me personally,  I was worth rescuing, owning, redeeming and justifying.  Tears flooded my eyes and I couldn't see the book.  A huge lump formed in my throat and I could no longer sing.  With my head bowed, I continued to lead that hymn in hope that others were not distracted by my emotions.

The first speaker in the meeting was Pennie Rumsey.  She started off by sharing an experience that had just taken place.  All morning long she had been doing all the things that is required of a mother of four prior to going to church.  Her mind was busy, and anxious in trying to organize her thoughts for her talk.  Pennie shared her uneasiness about how slow the sacrament hymn was being sung and how  she just wanted it to be done.  But as she began to focus on the words of the hymn, she had a feeling of peace and her mind and heart were calmed.  She expressed what a sweet experience that sacrament song had been for her.

I was so appreciative she voiced that tender mercy, which in turn was a tender mercy for me.  I was somewhat embarrassed about the slowness and my tears and so grateful to know  that it was meant for her too.I know that my heavy arm was the result of two (and probably more) heavy hearts that needed to be lifted. 

I write that my children may know that preparation for partaking of sacred emblems is an important part of the sacrament.  I write that they may also know, that every little facet of our lives is important to the Savior.  He stands ready to calm the troubled soul............if we just let him.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Adventures With Judy ...Part 2

When the thermometer says 80 degrees outside at 5:30 in the morning, Judy and I  head to the game farm where the many ponds and over-grown trees allow for us to walk without suffering heat stroke. We have been doing that for the past three weeks.

This morning we headed towards an area of the game farm that we haven't  explored thoroughly and started down a dusty, cow-pied road.  After walking for 20 minutes or so, we came upon a herd of 15-20 cows out grazing in a meadow.  I asked Judy if wild cows were known to charge strangers.  She nonchalantly shrugged her shoulders and said she didn't know.

We didn't give it much thought because we continued walking down the road that would go past the cows who appeared to be more interested in their breakfast than two old women out for their morning exercise....or so we thought.

As we got closer,  the cows started to circle up.  We thought they were just a little intimidated by us, but again, no big deal,  and we continued walking almost to where we were parallel with them.  The only thing that separated us was a row of overgrown weeds.

All of the sudden six or seven cows turned around to face us and stared us down.  We stopped in our tracks as we watched each cow turn to face us.  No big deal, we just turned around and started  to walk away.  We did hear some excessive mooing and upon looking over our shoulder we saw  the herd running towards the road, right in our direction.  After we shot each other the "how do we get ourselves into these situations" glance, we started running with all our might.  Every now and then we would look back only to see huge clouds of dust indicating the cows were still on the rampage.  HUGE BIG DEAL...and we were scared!

Because you are reading this blog post is proof that we made it back home safe and sound, but not without it effects on my poor poor knees.  I can barely walk this afternoon!  Would I trade the experience to not have painful knees..............NO WAY!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Living After The Manner of Happiness

Last night was not a night for sleeping.  My body was exhausted, but my mind was wasn't.  Every personal doubt and concern was brought to my attention. Struggles and problems that some of my children are facing, consumed my thoughts.  Uncompleted tasks, school work, weight loss, home projects, financial matters, and so much more were played over and over and over in my mind all night long.  I  could hardly wait until 5:30am came so that I could go on my walk and leave all that behind  for an hour or so.  And that is what I did.  The walk refreshed me, gave some sense of clarity to my thoughts and allowed for me to regroup and continue on with my daily routine which lead me into my  scripture study.

This is where I testify that  a study of the scriptures and taking the time to ponder  is truly how the Lord speaks to us.  I opened up to where I last ended, that being 2 Nephi 5.  Kids..........go get your scriptures, I  discovered a beautiful, inspired pattern that addresses all that consumed my mind the night before and I desire for you to learn this pattern as well.   The end result of this pattern is found in verse 27:  "And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness."   As I read that verse,I immediately was overcome with a desire to "live after the manner of happiness" and no longer be plagued with what I felt was unproductive thoughts and feelings.  With that in mind, I reread,studied and pondered and discovered this pattern to do just that.

1.   Verse 6:  Nephi has been told by the Lord to take"... those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God" (v 6)  and separate from those who sought to destroy him.  We must separate ourselves from anything that would destroy us spiritually and keep us from living after the manner of happiness.  For me, at this particular moment in time,  that would be feelings of  being overwhelmed and thoughts that are thwarting my progression.

2. Verses 12 - 13:  Nephi brought with him, the records and the Liahona  "... and began to prosper exceedingly". Scripture study and application, along with the companionship of the Holy Ghost is our guide to living after the manner of happiness.

3. Verses 15, 17:  Nephi teaches his people to " be industrious, and to labor with their hands.".  Being engaged in work, hard work, every single day work, physical, mental, spiritual work, is ESSENTIAL to living after the manner of happiness. IDLENESS, whether it  be physical, mental and/or spiritual  is the WORK of the adversary!

4.  Verse 16:  Nephi constructs a temple where the "....workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine".  We are not required to construct a temple, but we are required to worship at a temple where we make and keep sacred covenants.  The exceedingly fine workmanship that we offer is by consistently going and serving others and renewing covenants.  Covenants and temples allow for us to continue to live after the manner of happiness even when life gets stressful and hard.

5.  Verses 25:  The Lord tells Nephi that his brothers seed will serve as "...a stir them up in remembrance of me [the Lord]". I know that all those doubts, concerns, thoughts, problems will not magically disappear and stay away.  But instead of letting them keep me stagnant  I can let them stir me up to act and rely on the Lord and pursue my desire to live after the manner of happiness.

6. Verse 26:  Nephi consecrates his brothers to teach and minister to his people.  I do not have the authority to consecrate anyone to that position and responsibility.  But as your mom, I would ask that you teach each other, your spouses, your children, and your grandchildren how to live after the manner of happiness.   

I write that my children may know.... that  I desire to do all I can so that we can all live after the manner of happiness.