Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm a Firm Believer....

that things happen for a reason. I think that we meet certain people at certain times because that is what we need to grow. (And sometimes, we have the chance to help them in the same way, although it does seem that I receive far more from these opportunities than I ever have given.)

Recently, I was given a priesthood blessing by my bishop. One of the things that I was told specifically is that I need to be attending the local mid-singles religion class each week. Throughout the next few days, I thought about it, trying to figure out how that would work, who would take the kids, etc. The night before the next religion class, I received a phone call from the girls' dad asking when my class was and telling me that he could take them for a couple of hours so I could go.

The night of the class arrived. I panicked about what to wear and called a friend to see how people dress for this shindig. She pounced and asked me to play the piano for class that night. I was more than a little nervous about adding this on top of a new situation, but I said yes. Of course, the sheer terror of the moment prompted a facebook post.

I realize that none of these things are earth-shattering events, yet all of them have led to further doors opening in my life. Each door has opened up new ways for me to stretch, and work toward becoming my better self. (I've already posted about the musical learning opportunities that have come as a direct result of the choice to call my friend, and play the piano that first day.)

Because of my facebook post, I've been able to reconnect with an old friend. I've also bumped into one or two old friends as I've attended this class. This has helped me to see some aspects of my life in a new light. I've been able to reevaluate some of the things that I do as a mom that can be changed or improved. More importantly, I've been strengthened as I have found close friends who have similar beliefs, and ways of implementing them.

I have seen God's hand in my life these last few weeks. All these small choices have led to big blessings in my home. I know that these things have happened for a reason... that perhaps, these are the things that will help me most at this stage of my life to move forward in God's plan for me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nudges in a New Direction....

Things lately have been interesting. Lots of new doors have been opening up leading me to places that I never expected to be. I find myself on the receiving end of nudges in the direction that I should be focusing at least some of my attention. One such push has been in the direction of developing musical ability.

Now, before I go any further, I have to clarify something. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music. To me, it is as essential as breathing... always has been. HOWEVER, that love of music has never translated into amazing talent. My appreciation of music has ALWAYS far outweighed my abilities. Over the years, willingness to help where the Lord has provided opportunities has increased my piano skills to tolerable. I wouldn't say that I am good, but I'm not usually distracting either. I haven't sung much over the last several years either so once again, I'm tolerable.

This past while, I have felt a push to develop those abilities a bit further. (Not necessarily because I've felt a deep and abiding desire, but rather, because the opportunities have sort of jumped into my lap...) I recently began attending an institute class. My first week there, I was asked to play the hymns. (I haven't done much of that over recent years, but I have learned to say yes, and that it works out okay...) That seems to be where this shift began. Since then, the ward choir director (who, by the way, has heard me play before) asked me to accompany three of the pieces that they are singing for Easter. I did say no to the hardest of the three, simply because after practicing that particular piece, I knew that it was not just out of my comfort zone, but beyond my current abilities. I agreed on the other two... knowing that it would still be a stretch and far beyond my comfort level. I've also had more opportunities to play at Institute.

I realized this week that if I am to develop these talents (and perhaps become more confident in such situations) that I need to be putting forth a great deal more effort to practice, and to qualify for the extra blessings that the Spirit of the Lord can provide when one is prepared. Thankfully, I don't have to be at work until a bit after I drop the girls off at school. So, three days a week, after I help in 1st grade, I head to the chapel to practice the piano. The other two weekdays, I head over right after dropping the girls off. It has taken some juggling since that used to be a big chunk of my homework time, but so far, it has worked out well.

I thought that it would be bothersome to go over to the church every day and take a half-hour to an hour out of my morning. It has turned out though, to be exactly the opposite. I get to spend a small portion of most mornings in that sacred, quiet place while I practice the hymns and other holy music. It has given me a chance to ponder different aspects of my life, my personality, and my role as a mother. It is a time when I can leave any cares outside and be alone with my thoughts and my God. While I would not have sought out these opportunities or the responsibility to play the piano for these events, having it thrown at me has forced me to slow my pace and buckle down. I'm finding that I am a better person throughout each day for having a quiet time to work, learn, and reflect.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Special Thanks!

"Sometimes the solution is not to change our circumstance, but to change our attitude about that circumstance and its difficulties so that we see more clearly our opportunities for more abundant service.

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore it is vital that we serve each other..."
(Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, October 1985)

This has always been one of my favorite quotes from President Kimball. It seems to become more and more applicable the older I grow. We all face different circumstances that come with their own set of difficulties that seem custom-built to help us reach our maximum potential. It is easy to let the experience obscure the learning. This quote is a great reminder of one of the solutions to that tunnel vision.

In the end though, the part of this quote that I love best lies in the second paragraph. Heavenly Father is aware of us. I have seen His angels at work in my life and in the lives of my daughters. Most of those angels are everyday, ordinary people who understand that by giving in small ways, they are accomplishing extraordinary things. If I am able to get my degree, and my children are reared in righteousness, it will only be thanks to the help of wonderful people who pitch in where there is a need. There are many kind friends who have let my children come play until I could be there, friends who have given time and effort to help keep my car running, family who have helped where they could, and plenty of kind and listening ears. Most importantly, we have an overabundance of good, kind people who are amazing examples. As we see their behavior, we see the Savior in action. In deed, these wonderful people are truly emulating Him.

Thanks to all of you wonderful friends who have helped us along our way. What you've given may seem small to you, but those acts have been the building blocks of our eternity!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New(ish) Favorite Scripture....

I've read it before... countless times... but apparently, tonight it just seems to mean more.

"Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish;" Doctrine and Covenants 35:24

What an amazing promise! If we consistently do as the Lord has asked, and keep the promises that we have made to Him, the heavens shall shake for our good, and Satan shall tremble.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ask A Stupid Question... But At Least Ask A Question...

"And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Helaman 10:5, Book of Mormon)

This has always been one of my favorite scriptures. The thought of being so in tune with Heavenly Father's plan for a person that said person would never ask contrary to God's will? Absolutely fascinating!

Part A:
As I read this month's Ensign magazine, there was an article that spoke of knowing with the help of the Holy Ghost what questions to ask as we pray. I thought again about this scripture, and I realized that this is an area where I could use some definite improvement. The obvious answer would be to pray for help in this department.

Down on my knees, I began to pray and ponder about this. It was as I did this that I realized that my prayers, as a general rule, don't actually include questions. Questioning statements such as "Please bless...", "Help me....", etc. but not much that, if translated to written form, would end in a question mark. I'd like to say that this was my moment of brilliance when the lightbulb began to dance delightedly above my head, but really?... It was more of a dull thud that was shaken by a firm, "DUH!"

Being the thinker that I am, it has taken me until I am in my thirties to understand that in order to learn to ask the right questions, I need to be asking questions to begin with. I do however, feel grateful to be learning the lesson now rather than in another thirty-some-odd years. :)

Part B:

In an attempt to begin to practice what I need to learn, I began asking true questions in my prayer. (Enter a second dull thud, a sad pat on the back, and an "oh, honey..." sort of moment...) This is not a skill that comes naturally to me. Who knew that asking questions could be so very uncomfortable? I think the difficulty, for me, lies in the fact that it is such a very personal thing. It forces me to be more introspective, and then it requires that I lay that bare for inspection. It takes conversing with my Heavenly Father to a very different level. This kind of praying seems to be necessary to open the door to true conversation, and I find it difficult. It takes a kind of humility that apparently, I have not really developed yet. It takes the patience to ask directly, AND wait for an answer. (I'm not always the best listener... I talk too much.) It also poses the risk of feeling ignored. (I realize that He hears and answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no... or sometimes the answer is delayed.) It is easier, if the answer is delayed, when I haven't asked a specific question, but rather, have simply used a questioning statement. If you don't ask a specific question, you don't really expect a direct answer either. On the other hand, I guess that if you are willing to ask a direct question, it gives Heavenly Father an opportunity to answer immediately. Definitely a lot for me to think about... and try to apply....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stellar Mom Moments Where I Manage to React Perfectly Each Time.....Or Not...

It has been an interesting day.... Woke up to breakfast in bed from my cute girls. Helped in my first-grader's class. Bumped into a wonderful friend at Walmart. (Haven't seen her in AGES!) Survived the parent presentation that I've been dreading giving M's class all year. Picked up the kids and headed home. And that, my friends, is where the day got REALLY exciting.

As I turned on the car to head home, the fan began throwing a coniption. It's fit was so loud that we couldn't hear each other talk. After we made it the block and a half home, I noticed that small wiffs of smoke were seeping out of all the cracks on the panel that houses my radio and the heater controls. There was an unpleasant burning smell as well. While M scrambled to collect all of her belongings out of the car, "Just in case it catches on fire, Mom..." I popped the hood and checked for... who knows what I thought that I'd see... At any rate, there was no smoke and better yet, no open flames, so I closed the hood, and we went inside.

After cutting some cheese for the kids' snack, I headed down the hall to turn on the computer and begin my homework. I had just gotten logged into the school website when I heard M sobbing behind me.

"Mom, I was trying to cut some more cheese..."

Now, I'd like to say that I did the good kind mom thing and reacted with immediate sympathy, but... I'd be lying... "Why on earth were you cutting cheese?!?" (You have to understand, M tends to get creative with things like this, and it is not always a good thing. This turned out to be no exception. She was using the V-shaped blade of my kitchen mandolin to try and slice the cheese... without the aid of either the mandolin or it's guard.)

"And I cut myself, and it REALLY hurts!"

Throughout this dialogue, I was turning around to look at what I expected to be a nick the size of a papercut. I was TOTALLY unprepared for the mess that I saw. Blood. Yup. That's about all that I saw. Her injured hand was cupped above her sound hand. Both hands were full to brimming with blood. At the same time, the blood was dripping rapidly onto her skirt and the floor from her hands in large droplets. Her little arms were coated mostly to both elbows in red rivulets.

As I half dragged, half pushed, her down the hall to the bathroom, she kept stopping to turn around and talk about what happened. At this point, there was so much blood that I really wasn't sure if my child still had all of her fingers or if I needed to go comb the kitchen for missing body parts before we rushed to find medical attention. I kept pushing.

After placing most of her upper body under the tap in the bathroom, I realized that M had managed to fillet the pad of her finger mostly off. (It was bad enough that when we did get to the instacare, they were concerned about the tendons being sliced as well.) I wrapped it in a clean washcloth, raised it up by her head, and ordered her to squeeze and "don't let go." (And yes, she was as thrilled as one might imagine at being told to squeeze her sore finger....)

Both girls were bundled back into the same car that had, just a few minutes before, stopped smoking. After a seatbelt snafu, we paused long enough to have family prayer. I prayed that A) the car would make it to the instacare, B) that it would not catch on fire, and C) that it would function properly... Two out of three isn't bad. We pulled into the instacare accompanied by more frenetic wisps of smoke, and the fit-throwing fan. However, there were no open flames.... (I still saw that as a good thing.)

M watched intently as they stitched her finger. She was fascinated. She peppered the doctor with question after question. (They could well be a story in and of themselves...) L watched just as intently and became rather ill. Apparently blood makes her queasy... Seven stitches later, we once again returned to the smoking car.

It started. It killed. It started. It killed. It started. And oh yeah, it killed... A final attempt? It started... and kept running. No angry fan... no wispy smoke... no burning fumes....So we drove home. (Now I realize that the fact that the fan is no longer working is probably a bad thing, but at this point, I was so happy not to have to worry about it, that I was willing to accept it...)

M kept saying after, "I know that Heavenly Father wanted me to get cut so that I would learn not to cut with sharp things while I'm still too little." So, we had to talk about how Heavenly Father didn't want her to get cut, but maybe He let it happen so that she could learn that rules (like don't touch Mommy's mandolin) are there to keep her safe and not just to take all of the fun out of things. It was an interesting afternoon....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Scrubbing Toilets -Joyful Service or A Laman and Lemuel Complex?

Today, my youngest daughter and I had the opportunity to help clean the church. She was thrilled when they handed her a vaccum all her own and sent the two of us (and my own vacuum) down the hall to pamper the classroom floors. As we rolled our vacuums down the hall, we talked about what a special opportunity it is to be able to help keep the church clean and looking nice. My daughter was excited to hear that this was something that I got to do with my family when I was a little girl.

Enter the classrooms...
We vacuumed and talked. We vacuumed and talked some more. My daughter kept telling me how glad she was that we could help take care of Heavenly Father's and Jesus' house. She was so proud that she could vacuum all on her own. She even made sure that she took the hose and vacuumed all the edges of each room. This feeling of happiness and light persisted until we had finished all of the rooms on our task list. As we rolled our vacuums back, my daughter and I chattered about her day, etc. We found the fellow in charge, and his wife, and were assigned the bathrooms on the other side of the church.

(Insert Evil Piano Music Here)
With a sinking feeling, yet knowing that it had to be done, the housekeeping cart, my daughter, and I made our way to the other side of the building. The women's bathroom was fairly quick and simple. I scrubbed the toilet while my little one scrubbed the mirrors, sink, and counter. The easy part of our task was finished, and the time had come to move on.... Into the men's bathroom we ventured.

As we walked in, my daughter commented on the smell, and decided then and there that boys are stinky. Then she noticed the urinal... Truly an interesting conversation to have with a six year old while cleaning the church. Fighting down my natural reflex to gag, I began scrubbing first the toilet, and then the other fixtures and floor. My sweet girl kept saying how yucky boys are. So we had to talk about how there are a lot of great things about boys and men; husbands are a great thing, etc. This was followed by, "Yeah, mom... but they're still kind of gross!"

What I learned:

I like to serve. I like to share these opportunities with my children. I love having a chance to speak with them about why these kind of things are important. I love being able to feel like I am doing my part to help where there is a need. In short, joyful service is a very good thing, and a lot of fun.


Bathroom detail brings out my inner Laman and Lemuel. I have learned that I tend to murmur when scrubbing the floor of the men's bathroom. Bathrooms in general sort of disgust me.... When they are full of mystery germs from who knows how many people, the urge to run screaming in the other direction almost overcomes me. Instead of using it as a teaching opportunity for my daughter, I found myself grumbling and resorting to eighties vocabulary like, "Grody!" and commiserating with my girl on how yucky boys can be. Apparently, I parked my positive mental attitude at the door with the cleaning cart. On the plus side, I know that this is an area I can improve upon.... On the down side, the Lord may give me another opportunity to overcome my poor attitude when I get to help clean again on Saturday.....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A temple is a retreat from the vicissitudes of life, a place of prayer and meditation providing an opportunity to receive inner peace, inspiration, guidance, and, frequently, solutions to the problems that vex our daily lives.

A temple is a place where the divine spark in man, or the infinite in man, can seek the infinite in God. (Elder Franklin D. Richards, Ensign, Nov 1986)

As I was searching for a quote to begin this post, I came across Elder Franklin's talk about Temples from 1986. It may have been given over twenty years ago, but his words still ring true today. The Temple truly is a place of peace.

This afternoon, I visited the Bountiful Temple. I like to park in the lower level. One of my favorite things to do is look through the atrium to see the Temple. The atrium obscures almost everything else from view. This is one of those places that I feel eternity close by. As I stood there, I realized that I don't take the opportunity to attend the Temple nearly as often as I should. Rather sad, really....

The Temple really is a sacred place. It is somewhere that I can go to find peace when times are rough, or an echo of joy when things are going swimmingly. I love being able to walk away from the world, and enter a place of light and safety. It's a beautiful place for thinking and learning.

I feel blessed to have a Temple close by. I hope to become better at making time to visit....

Friday, February 4, 2011

Let's Try This Again....

Once upon a time, I started a blog. (Not this one...) I wanted it to be a place where I could share what I believe, what I am trying to become, and how daily life fits into that....Time went on; people started reading. Family and friends wanted pictures. The blog became private (to protect my kids)and turned into more of a journal. My original intent fell by the wayside.

Jump ahead a bit...
The story goes that I joined the Facebook crowd. The intent was the same as with my original blog. My beliefs are a vital part of who I am and I wanted a place where that could be shown. Eventually, for personal reasons, much of that too became private... Much good has still come of that outlet. HOWEVER, I am realizing that I post much that is a permanent part of who I am, and of what is important, in that temporary sort of space.

Modern day....
In seeking to become who I want to be, I have realized that I still want a place to share all of those things that are a part what drives me. I want it to be a place that is open to whoever would like to visit. I hope that in sharing my beliefs, perhaps someone else will find a patch of peace. This is my journey, and this is my garden patch...