Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life and Learning Never Stop

I love to learn, but I'm learning it's not always a joyful experience... especially when I think the lesson has been learned, only to turn around and find I've still got a ways to go...

No details of the actual lesson, but I would be very ungrateful if I didn't share some of the fruits:

A mother is no happier than her most unhappy child. I have heard this many times and thought I understood and agreed, but it was a superficial, cognitive version of understanding. As I keep having the opportunity to discover, understanding does not truly begin until it is assimilated into the heart and even into the whole being. I had been experiencing sleepless nights and a mild "depression" accompanied by random thoughts and even tears regarding one of my kids. Our relationship had become really strained and I couldn't quite place my finger on it, but I knew that I needed to talk to her and ask the really hard questions. Last Tuesday night, I prayed to KNOW the cause of my worry... I almost couldn't believe my ears when Dave told me he had a disturbing dream about this child and that he was going to wake her up so that we could talk to her. I was nervous but SO GRATEFUL!!! Never before had Dave joined me in this part of parenting our teens... I was almost scared to include him because he always seems annoyed with my "negativity" and mistrust in those things that "all teenagers do," but maybe experience is also getting to him... 

My heart broke as this teen shared her tears and confessed her secrets--I went numb in disbelief that this could really be happening again--but it took a few days for it to really sink in and for the emotions to come. The anger came first, followed by extreme sorrow and despair. I was surprised by the depth of these emotions--I thought I had already learned to turn them over to the Savior and to not let them affect my ability to be a "good mom," but it was apparent that I had not. It was Sunday after I had cried all of my mascara off during Sacrament Meeting and had to hurry home to (try to) fix it, that my heart cried out to Heavenly Father to take this pain away. Christ had already suffered them and I knew that He could take them from me or at least make them light and comfort me--and I knew He could do the same for my daughter. The prayer was more a pouring out of heart than it was words...I couldn't even find the words...but I knew He knew what my heart was saying.

A few hours later, my child had talked to the bishop. Dave called her into his office again and he gave her a beautiful blessing and then offered some council and a chance to share her feelings. As we talked to her, I felt the despair begin to lift from both my heart and shoulders AND from hers! It was miraculous, and that's when the simple quote about a mother's happiness being tied to her children became more of a truth to me. I could feel how her heart was actually a part of mine somehow, and I was given a better (though still minute) understanding of how the Savior takes our sorrows upon Him--we are His, He has taken our hearts into His own. I truly stand all amazed! Another phenomenon about this realization is that it not only allows me to feel her pain but also to separate myself from it, to be able to feel my own life's joy and not become "prey" to the sorrows of the world. I don't know how, but I do know on a new level that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ feel our pains but still are able to experience a fullness of joy. In my mind, it makes them even more real and more approachable than I ever realized before.

It wasn't until the next day as I read The Peacegiver: How Christ Heals Our Hearts and Homes by James Ferrell that I realized that Sunday's miracle also came as a result of my heart's plea for Him to take it all from me. I had almost forgotten the prayer, actually, but it came flooding back into my mind as I read this amazing book that gave me a deeper understanding of "how" the Atonement works. He heard my prayer and answered me immediately! 

Sorrow and joy can co-exist in a mother's heart. The word gratitude is insufficient, but for lack of a better one, I am indeed grateful for my Savior.  I know He lives and that He loves each one of us. My heart's desire at this time is to be able to receive His image in my countenance, that somehow others (especially my kids) can feel a portion of His love and maybe begin to understand His gift as they can see in my eyes that He knows them and loves them unconditionally and that He will succor them if they will but allow Him into their hearts.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Written for Our Day

The cycle of wickedness came to my mind the other day. So many times in the Book of Mormon we see that a prophet was born to raise up a righteous people, who are then blessed with prosperity and abundance in all things and they dwell in happiness; THEN their hearts become set on the prosperity, they become proud and maybe take personal credit for the abundance, willfully rebelling against God--and then they fall. They lose their happiness and all of the other blessings from God. 

Many people blame the prosperity for the wickedness of the people. To me, this makes no sense; it's counterproductive for the Lord if you think about it. If His purpose is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man, why would He bless them with something that inherently will curse them and cut them off from eternal life? No, the wickedness comes from the pride of man. If we don't stay plugged in to our foundation, even Jesus Christ, and keep Him in our hearts at all times, we are in danger of cutting ourselves off, for whatever reason, be it pride from riches or envy of riches or whatever choice we make to steer us away from the straight and narrow path.

So then I began to wonder how people can be so quick to forget where their blessings come from and turn against God so readily. Of course no one reason is all inclusive, but I had a realization that often times this change of heart arises within a new generation who maybe wasn't around during the times of struggle or whatever else brought them to total dependence on The Lord. Maybe the ease of the life that was handed to the new generation by their parents who were happy to give their children a blessed life--one better than their own--created a disconnect between them and God because they lacked the insight that comes from situations that are sometimes needed in building a testimony. This natural cycle comes in part, then, from this imperfect world where we live, mixed with a sense of entitlement that comes from not really understanding opposition in all things. 

This thought then led me to a question: the young generation of today, we have been told, is a chosen generation, saved for this time to lead this world in preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior.  This generation has also been born into a time of great prosperity--probably the greatest this world has ever seen--and it really is no secret that they have a tendency to be very entitled. We don't have to look very hard to see that God is being edged out. So how do we as parents and leaders keep this cycle from happening to our youth? If it has happened over and over in history, what is it that we are to do to keep it from happening in this all important time of our time on earth. It's basically our last chance to "get it right" and prepare a world that is worthy for the Savior to come, and the responsibility seems to lie upon our youth!!I don't believe that avoiding prosperity or denying these blessings from God to our children is the right answer--I believe denying blessings from God is a form of being offensive to God. 

I almost felt a sense of anxiety as I thought about what seemed to be a huge Catch 22. 

But then... 

the peaceful thought came to my mind, "Teach them about history" to which I replied, "HOW??!!!" 😫😫

 It actually took a day or two for the answer to come as I was explaining this "awful realization" to my friend after we had done a session together in the temple. THE BOOK OF MORMON WAS WRITTEN FOR OUR DAY. 

I've read this, known this, and thought I understood this for such a long time, but I guess I hadn't really internalized the real life actual truth of what it meant. 

In my family, we have read (slowly) through the Book of Mormon about 12 times with our kids. It is a huge part of our family routine and tradition. But have we really taught our kids the truth of all of the principles taught therein? Do our kids know that they have the power because of these histories that have been written about the cycles of wickedness and of prosperity to choose to change this cycle? It's a CHOICE!!! And knowledge brings the power to choose righteously. This is a huge blessing and a relief to my heart. It is also a huge responsibility. 

Two-thirds of kids are grown and "past the point of parental teaching" but with the last two, we still have a chance. But even with the other three, has the opportunity truly passed? I'm not saying the other three haven't learned or understood this already or that they won't figure it out later on if they have not, but I need to remember my responsibilties as their mother to do all I can through example and testimony and love to help bring them to a realization of the power they each hold to lead this world to God. Knowledge is power. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Our Book of Mormon Reward Trip--A Caribbean Cruise

We got off the ship at 7:30 this morning. We are sitting at the Ft Lauderdale airport. I wasn't sure how long it would take to get off the ship and get to the airport, so I booked a later flight to avoid stress. We were off lickety split and have several hours to wait at the airport before we can even check in!!!! Sounds like a fun way to end the trip, right? haha. That's just how I roll...

Here's a picture of Mady surrounded by luggage, content to have wifi and iMessage... 

We flew out of Las Vegas on August 1 at 4:50 pm and landed in Ft Lauderdale just after midnight. Arielle flew out of Nashville and landed in Miami at pretty much the same time we did. I booked our hotel online via Priceline and while I did well to make sure there were enough beds for us all to sleep comfortably AND to get us a great price for this room, I did not pay much attention to the LOCATION of this hotel. Arielle had a 40 minute shuttle ride (not counting stops for other passengers) and we had a 20 minute ride via taxi to the hotel. Other than requiring extra money for transportation and getting to bed really late, this didn't end up being as much of an inconvenience as I thought it might be. Everyone was just too excited for the cruise to care! 

We have taken one other cruise as a family--5 years ago--and the boarding process was a nightmare! Very long story short, I didn't realize Curtis misplaced his birth certificate when registering for football until the morning we were to leave. It was a holiday, so the health department was closed leaving no chance to obtain an official copy. A telephone call to the cruiseline told us that the photo copy that I somehow had would be sufficient, but the lady at the cruise line counter told us otherwise--she was not going to let us board. BUT lots of prayers and creative angles led to a desperate phone call to the Dixie Middle School secretary (who was on summer break,) who selflessly went to the school, found Curtis' file (which she told us afterward was not filed where it was supposed to be,) and faxed the copy she had to the cruiseline, which for some reason suddenly made it all valid and they let us on the ship--with maybe 10 minutes to spare!!!! (This is reminding me that I never thanked the school secretary with a gift card like I had planned... it is now on my TO DO LIST for this week!!!) 

I tell you this stressful story to explain why boarding this cruise ship seemed like such a miraculous breeze. It was fast and easy, and (almost) without a hitch.

Side bar: I would be lying if I didn't add that word "almost." While Mady was in Missouri this summer, I was somehow reminded of the fact that a Caribbean Cruise actually requires a passport--neither Mady nor Karter had one. Mady got home from Missouri 2 weeks before we were to leave on the cruise...we paid for expedition and sent the applications off with a prayer, called 5 days before we were to board the ship to learn that the photos were not valid (red eye--we did them at a professional passport photo place to avoid such problems, but I guess the Walmart photo counter should never be considered professional,) rushed to Walgreens to take new photos, overnighted them with another batch of prayers, and got the passports back the day before we left... To make it even more interesting, I had noticed online as we were still anticipating the passports that a birth certificate would actually be accepted, which allowed me to relax--until we got the passports back AND THE BIRTH CERTIFICATES that we were required to send with the application... My stomach couldn't help but sink a little at that point...  I guess I like to keep things exciting...

The Norwegian Getaway was a really fun ship! Brand new this year, it had all the latest and greatest amenities: a zip line, water slides, arcade, rock climbing wall, miniature golf, basketball court, mini bowling alley...I don't know if I've named it all, but it was really amazing! The girls really enjoyed laying out, while Karter wanted to do everything active that he could. This helped Dave and I realize that any future out-of-the-ordinary family adventures need to also include a friend for Karter. It took him awhile to dare to do things alone, but after a couple of days he realized that when mom and dad were not willing to engage in 10 year old adventure, he could go up to the sports court and find some friends to play basketball or soccer with. He also discovered that he could easily swipe his card at the arcade--and racked up quite a tab in doing so--but it was worth it to see him enjoying himself.

The ports are always my favorite part. We visited St. Martin (French side)/St. Marteen (Dutch side.) Here we took at taxi tour of the island with Tony. He stopped at several sites for us to take pictures and/or explore (including a nude beach, which he was very excited about but which obvioulsy a little uncomfortable for us...) and then he dropped us off at Dawn Beach to spend a few hours until it was time to go back to the ship.

In all the Caribbean cruises Dave and I have done with Heritage Makers, one of our favorite islands was St. Thomas. I was especially excited to spend the day at St John island, but when the shuttle driver explained the time it took to get there and the extra transportation expenses, we decided to take his suggestion for another simple tour of the island and a few hours at a nice beach on the main island. We shopped around as we waited for the tour to start, and Karter was invited by two native island boys to play basketball with them. They didn't have a hoop, so they shot the ball through some branches in a tree. Very creative! Karter loved it1  I enjoyed the tour--I love seeing sights and learning more about the culture of the islands--but I didn't enjoy the beach as much as I had enjoyed St. John. The sand was "dirty" and rocky (another example of how much of a "princess" I have become in my older age) but the water was clear and the sun was warm. Karter, Dave, and Mady snorkled, Arielle slept in a beach chair, and I sat on a rock at the edge of the water and just enjoyed the waves (once I got over the "ugly" beach) as they splashed around me. Karter also made friends with an iguana while we were at the beach. All the adults around were afraid of the huge lizard, but Karter worked up to actually petting it, showing all the adults that their fears were unwarranted.  The time passed way to quickly and soon it was time to go back to the ship.

Our last port was Nassau, Bahamas. It seems to be a little more modern, and the streets near the cruise ship port are full of shops and shoppers. We may or may not have lost Karter in one of the shops for a little while, but he was smart enough to stay where he was until I found him. We booked this final excursion through the ship--a day at the Blue Lagoon, which is a private beach that the ship has partnered with to allow its passengers to visit. It was a 30 minute ride on a catamaran over to the island. This beach was more my style! I went snorkeling with Dave and Karter while the girls layed out (and they had wifi, so they were in heaven)  and they served us lunch, and then it was time to go. I thought it was a perfect way to end the cruise.

One last side bar: I wanted to be able to tie the Book of Mormon into this vacation as a reminder of how personal scripture study provides blessings in our lives and if we dedicate ourselves to searching them, we will find hidden treasures of knowledge. I used symbolism, like the boat could be likened to Lehi's journey to the promised land and gave them sandals for the journey; a sweater for the girls and shorts for Karter were likened to the armor of God (I had also given the girls one piece swim suits before the trip, hoping they would choose to bring them, but I guess that is yet to come;) and little treasure cheats with CTR jewelry and pearls earrings (sunglasses and a tie track or Karter) as a symbol of searching the scriptures for that pearl of great price.  I hope someday they will remember this part of the trip, as now they pale in comparison... 

Summer 2014--Missouri

Dave and I were invited to Missouri by our friends, Dave and Sivi Helsel, when we went to Cancun with them back in February. They wanted Dave to do an Isagenix Super Saturday in July--and they wanted me to tag along. I have been wanting to come to Missouri with him for a long time, so I was happy that it actually happened!!! Dave became friends with the Helsels quite awhile ago through his Isagenix team in Missouri. He often stays with them when he travels out there, and he always comes home with stories of their amazing personalities, spirits, and home; I had met them a couple of times at Isagenix events, but I only recently became acquainted with them when they invited us to Cancun. They seriously are amazing people!!! I love meeting new life-long, like-minded friends.

Here are just some photos of their amazing home on several acres of beautiful Missouri farm land:

Hay fields

View from their deck

Side view of their home with their barn in the background

Don't you love this stairway? Man oh man!

Their basement looks like a cabin.

The first morning we were there, we drove to Smithville Lake to go for a walk/run. (I am the one who added the walk/ part. I am not yet up to running several miles. Dave (my Dave) and Sivi were kind enough to walk with me. We did a team call as we walked--it was pretty cool to be included in that. Dave and Sivi are already dynamic leaders. I am working my way in slowly as my life is changing and allowing for more opportunities to do so.

 Isn't this a breathtaking trail??? This was just one spectacular view along our 5 mile walk. 
I could do this every day!

Here is the group: The two in the middle are Bill Andrews and Molly Sheridon. They are ultra-marathon runners, but today they just did a short run (20 miles;) On the far right and Dave and Sivi Helsel. Dave went on a bike ride with their son, Coldin (he's taking the photo,) and Sivi came with us.

On the second day, Sivi took us horseback riding. I haven't ridden a horse since I was in elementary school--maybe jr. high--in Shelly Buchanan's coral. It was so much fun! The horse I rode was named Domino. Sivi called him "bomb proof," which I soon learned that meant that nothing could shake or spook him. He moseyed along at his own sweet pace, trotted if he wanted (which wasn't often,) and took the path of his preference. We got along great! :) 

Later that night we went into Kansas City to meet with some of Sivi's team. They were doctor-science-smarties and wanted to talk technical with Dr Bill about the science of telomeres and Product B. We let them chat away while we enjoyed really yummy Mexican food. I also became quite fascinated with Kansas City and need to go back so I can explore...

Super Saturday went wonderfully! I got to meet and connect with lots of Isa-peeps that I've only "met" on Facebook. I can't even explain how welcome I felt there. It was like I had been friends with these people for a long time. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It was a really great day. We finished with dinner at Hereford's before we headed to the airport for home. Yummy food, great company, good times!

These photos are out of order somehow, but they're actually a really great way to finish this post. Quotes like the one above are found all over the Helsel home, and there is an amazingly strong spirit of God throughout. I think I was most touched by the obvious foundation of faith in their kids--they truly put God first in their lives. I'm not sure what religion they are, but the Helsel family confirmed to me that the Stripling Warriors of the latter days will not just be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was reminded of the duty I have--along with all of us who "have been given much"--to build the Kingdom of God on the earth and to prepare for the 2nd Coming of our Savior. I am also reminded of my own role in helping the youth of our church (starting with my own kids) to understand their eternally important mission as the Great and Noble ones who were saved for the last days to bring the world His truth.

The time is NOW! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Little Moments of Treasure

As I sit down to write this down, I realize that I am not going to be able to find the words to describe what I saw in my mind's eye and felt in my heart this morning as I got ready for church. For some reason--I hadn't actively been pondering this subject (though the Atonement has been the theme of my personal study, my heart, mind, and soul, for the past several months)-- I
had a thought enter my mind about the Savior's last moments on the cross
when He cried out "My God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?"

I have understood the principle of why it was necessary for the Father to
withdraw His Spirit from His Beloved Son--the sacrifice needed to be
totally on His own and He needed to descend below all men. He had
already suffered all of the sins and sorrows of mankind in the Garden of
Gethsemane, bleeding from every pore; He had already suffered denial,
betrayal, mockery, unfair trials, whippings, spittings, scorning; He had
a crown of thorns placed upon His head and was forced to carry His own
cross until He was so exhausted he could no longer stand; He had stakes
driven into his feet, hands, and wrists... He had already willingly
endured more than any of us could ever comprehend, yet still, as He hung
there in agony, His Father had to withdraw His Spirit from Him and
leave Him totally alone. As I said before, I had understood the
principle of this poignant moment on a cognitive level, but this morning
as I pondered, my mind was opened and the Spirit whispered-- "This is
another witness that the Savior understands us in a very real way. There
are times in this life when the Spirit withdraws from us. Unlike the
Savior, it is due to our own unworthy actions--the Spirit of the Lord
cannot dwell in unholy temples. Life is hard. Sorrow and pain are real.
The burden of sin is great. Enduring all of this without the
companionship of the Holy Ghost makes it even harder! Throughout all of
His suffering, the Savior stayed quiet, but at the moment He felt the
Spirit of His Father leave, He cried out "My God, My God! Why hast Thou
forsaken me?!" He knows how it feels to be alone.

The Savior understands us--in EVERY way! In more ways than we understand
ourselves--because He took our individual pains, sorrows, griefs, sins
upon Himself so that He could.  He is waiting with open arms for us to
call out to Him so that He can comfort and sustain us, enable us and
strengthen us. His love is real.

I am grateful for little moments like these when my mind is opened, my heart is changed, and my testimony is forever strengthened. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Power to Become

There is a kind lady in my ward who gave me this book as a comfort gift. 

It is amazing!! It really opens up the scriptures about becoming like Christ. He wrote it so as to be interactive--an action book. His method of writing works! I am craving cross referencing and digging deeper to know more. I am only on page 11 because I have to keep stopping to ponder, write, search... 

Needless to say, I recommend this book. 

I Used to Pray for this Day...

Well, not really pray, but I remember when I had a houseful of little ones and then middle-sized and even big ones, and I would look longingly toward the day my house would be quiet and ...well... mine again! Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom and I love my kids SO MUCH, but there are days...

It's hard and tiring and frustrating and painful and amazing and fulfulling and... you get my point.

So anyways, this week I moved another child out of the house. Arielle is now a citizen of Nashville, TN, where she will spread her wings and probably fly. Maybe she will never come back to reside in St. G--I don't know. I have looked forward to this day for her because I have always known that she has the potential to make a huge impact on this world. Moving out is a very exciting step--one that I definitely loved taking--and for me, watching my kids conquer each milestone has been a joy.

So Karter and I flew with Arielle and her boyfriend, Braxton, to Nashville to move her into an apartment that she found all by herself by using GOOGLE MAPS!!! Seriously!? She would log on to Google Maps at least once a day and "go for walks" up and down the streets of downtown Nashville.
One day she "passed" a reddish brick building that looked like it could be an apartment building, zoomed in on the name and address of the place, and then found the contact info. Well, of course they had an apartment available at better than the right price (she is the master of attraction when she wants to be,) and now she lives in it. It is seriously in the best location for her, close to everything (she sold her car to lower her outgo and pay her deposit), and if there is anywhere she can't walk, there is a bus stop across the street. 

When the apartment complex office worker, Roy, was introducing us to the apartment, he told her that everything--carpet, linoleum, paint, refrigerator, AC--was brand new because the old resident was a chain smoker and it had smelled terrible. So once again, SCORE! It's a tiny little studio that is really perfect for her.
AND it has a pool with a terrific view on the roof!!

We spent two days shopping thrift stores and discount stores with my sister-in -law, Roberta (who is the master shopper) and found the perfect prices for everything she needs to start her new life in Music City. It was such a blessing! Karter would have preferred to do more sightseeing and other fun stuff, but he definitely was helpful. He was a huge help when it came to putting furniture together. He has his dad's brain...

Karter and I flew home on a late flight, with a short stay-on-the-plane layover in LA. While we waited for the new passengers to board, Karter went to the bathroom at the front of the plane. He didn't come back for quite some time, so I decided I needed to find out what he was up to...

Needless to say, this not is a charmer, and I have a feeling he is going to be at least as adventurous and influential as his older siblings. Other than the fact that he says we didn't "have enough fun," I think he enjoyed his first flight and being able to help his big sister grow up. 

We landed in Vegas at midnight (pacific time,) then we had a 2 hour drive home, which means I finally got to lay down in my really comfortable bed at 3:30am. 

Mekenze and George and Lukas had been staying at out house while we were gone (they were shootin a music video for MEK's latest single, Element) and they woke me up around 9am so I could see them and play with my cutest boy before they went home. Just imagine waking up to this face wanting his "Gramsie."

He loves his grandma, and that makes me so happy!! 

Then they left and the house was suddenly so quiet and empty. Karter was downstairs playing 2K14 or whatever else he does down there; Dave was still out of town on business; Madyson is in Iowa for another 2 weeks at a summer dance intensive; Curtis is married and living his life...and life is slowly--no, RAPIDLY--showing me how short it really is! I am excited for this new phase, and heaven knows I'll find things to fill the quiet spaces in my time, but for now it's just odd...

I'm not complaining, by any means, but I AM adjusting.