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.