Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Sandland

First of all, I need to share this crazy story. A while ago while we were driving my son exclaimed, "Look! A Dinosaur!" I looked and tried to see a dinosaur picture or statue somewhere and didn't find anything. Months went by and one day we were riding our bikes to school and I looked up and to my surprise I saw a giant dinosaur! Here it is!

Legendary Dino, can you see it?
Here we have to make do with what we have when it comes to making snowmen.  My children are always finding ways to do those winter actiivties even though we have no snow.  Japanese rice ball balloons?  Now they are a snow man. 

To continue the search for winter fun, we decided to visit Sandy Land since we were in the neighborhood.  It has become a fun tradition to go and see these great sand sculptures.

Even though we came to see the Sandy Land sculptures, the children were way more interested in the fountains.  Since it isn't cold, everyone was tempted and drawn to the fountains to dip their feet in.

The great Sandy Land tree.  Perhaps someday we will venture here at night to see it lit up!  It is still really neat during the day.

My crazy for cocoa bunch.  No worry about being frozen when you have cocoa around.

All I can say is either that little boy is "HOT" or the weather is.  I think the weather was pretty HOT!

I don't think I like sand in my ice cream, but this sculpture is pretty fun!  Almost good enough to eat.

We too a little trip under the see and swam with the fish and turtles.  We were treated royally as we too a ride in a dolphin carriage.

The children thought it would be interesting to push this boat over to the water and see how long it would float, or how long until it crumbled.

What are brothers for but to torment their sisters and eat their hands off.

Feeling the ocean spray

Blowing into the water

Mmmm, more cocoa!

Cookie children

Oh no!  Watch out, your going to get eaten!

It was fun to see the decorated boat.  Perhaps someday we will see the parade.

Monday, December 7, 2015

God loves Broken Me

This year has brought about many challenges in our family; financially, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  There have been many moments when we have felt broken and wonder how we can go on, and yet it is in the moments when we are brought so low that we can finally pause to ponder what is most important.

As I went to sleep last night I had this song by Kenneth Cope., that God loves Broken me and all of us.

It is when we are broken that the Lord can make something of us.  I was reading my scriptures in a section about Alma, the high priest over the Nephites, and his companion Amulek, who was a man that had a vision to help Alma and so was converted and became Alma's companion to testify to the people of Amonihah.  These people were in a serious condition of wickedness and ended up doing terrible things to all those that believed the gospel, even to the family of Amulek.

This story stands out to me right now as I ponder about being broken because Amulek was promised his life would be blessed for helping the prophet, and yet in the end he ended up losing all his worldly possessions and even his family and friends.  I have had to stop and ponder what does it mean that Amulek and his household were blessed.  Does that mean that they would live a trouble-free life?  Obviously not, since they ended up enduring terrible trials.  Does that mean they would be blessed with great worldly possessions?  They already were very wealthy and then ended up losing all of it.  So what does it mean to be blessed?  I feel the answer is deeper than anything temporal we may want, it is a spiritual matter.  Amuleks household was blessed; they received the gospel and repented.  Even if they may have lost their lives, they had been blessed to have died in righteousness and thus enabled to return to their Father in Heaven.

How this this make me feel?  Well, I don't want to suffer as Amulek did, but I don't think that will be required of me and so what is required of me is to do my best to continue to live a righteous life even in the face of trials and afflictions.

Though I may feel broken at times, I can turn to God and he will strengthen me.  My trials may not go away, just as Amulek still had to endure his trials and many other faithful disciples of Christ have suffered; but the Savior enables us to endure and to become someone stronger because of the trials we pass through.

A conceptual photograph of a large chunk of coal next to a sparkling diamond, paired with the words “You Can Handle Pressure Brilliantly.”

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o'er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master.
Oh, hasten and take control!

The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.
Master, the terror is over.
The elements sweetly rest.
Earth's sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven's within my breast.
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more,
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor
And rest on the blissful shore.
 Master, the Tempest is Raging
 Mary Ann Baker, ca. 1831-1921
John 14:27, Jesus Christ brings peace in ways the world cannot

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Power and Authority

As I was pondering all that I have read in my scriptures this past week and reflecting what I might share, Alma the younger was brought to my mind.  In my readings he had been elected as the first Chief Judge over the Nephites AND he was also ordained by his father, Alma,  as the high priest over the church.

After Alma had served as chief judge for about nine years, he saw that he needed to devote more time to going about among the people teaching the word of God and being in the judgement seat had prevented him from fulfilling that.

Alma takes his journey and teaches the people.  Now this stood out to me that he wasn't just any man going around sharing good inspiring thoughts to the people.  In Alma 5:3 we learn that Alma was the high priest over the church and had "power and authority from God" because he was consecrated by his father who also held that power and authority.

We learn in the Articles of Faith, number 5, "that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."  Alma was called of God to watch over the saints and he did so with all the energy of his soul.

This short clip is a testimony of Elder L. Tom Perry on the priesthood keys and those who hold the keys of the priesthood:

This fills my heart with joy as I know that we have been blessed to have this authority on the earth, restored through Joseph Smith and it continues on as it is passed down through the laying on of hands.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the restored gospel, it is the same organization as existed back in the days of Jesus Christ and his apostles.  The keys that Peter held are now held by President Thomas S. Monson.
Peter the Apostle holding the Keys of the Priesthood
Carved by Bertel Thorvaldsen
Now that we have the Priest on the earth again, as it was in the days of Peter, what do we do with it.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared a story about a Statue of Christ that was damaged during World War II, the statue was able to be fixed, except its hands.  Under the statue a sign read "You are my hands".  (link to article) Through the power and authority of the priesthood we are able to be the Lords hands and spend our times going about doing good just as the Savior did.

"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." Acts 10:38

I am so thankful for the examples of prophets and apostles living and those who have already passed on.  Their example helps me as I journey through this life and I know that I too can go forward and serve and be the Lords hands to all that are around me.  The power and authority of the priesthood are real; I have felt it in my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spiritual Whirlwinds

For the past two weeks I have been thinking of a talk I listened to during General Conference that gave the visual of a tree being whipped about by winds.  The fibers of the tree grew stronger through the winds and so it was not able to be pulled down.  Whereas a tree that has lived with no opposition to cause it to grow deeper and stronger may grow large and beautiful, but when a larger than normal storm comes, it will fall to the ground because it has not built up the strength to endure.

I searched to remember more about the message from this talk and found it was Elder Neil L. Anderson from April 2014 General Conference.  He shared a story of a woman that lived in a trailer during a large storm where a tornado had come, picked up her trailer, and placed it on top of her neighbors trailer.
Don't be carried away like in the "Wizard of Oz"

With these two message I learn a few things.  First, that trials and opposition come to everyone, but that is okay because we can know that we are being strengthened.  As we conquer each trial that comes, the Lord is making it so we can be stronger and be able to better face the trials ahead.  During these trials, we need to have ourselves anchored to something so that we will not be tossed about by the winds and placed somewhere where we don't want to be, or even hurt because of the trials.  What can we anchor ourselves to that will build our strength and keep us firm and immovable?

 Christ in a white robe, kneeling near a large olive tree, with hands clasped, looking upward.

During my scripture reading this week I read the teachings of Kind Benjamin in Mosiah 1-3.  In chapter three King Benjamin teaches about the atonement of Jesus Christ.  We learn that King Benjamin is prophesying that the Son of God would come and suffer for the pains and afflictions and sins of the world. 

Through Jesus Christ we can be redeemed from all that would separate us from God.  Through the atonement we can become "submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)


This really stood out to me, especially the part that say we would be "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him".  God is going to test us and try us, and that means that things might be hard.  As we rely on our Savior to be strong and immovable, we will be blessed to overcome these trials.

This is not to say that every trial that comes in our life it something God inflicts on us.  Some trials are the result of living in a fallen world where there is wickedness and corruption; yet again, as we put our faith in Christ he will be our sure foundations that will keep us safe as the winds blow around us.  We may be whipped about on all sides, but we won't be broken because the Lord is our strength.

An image of a tree trunk coupled with a quote by Elder Quentin L. Cook: “We can thrive … if we are rooted in our love of the Savior.”

The Lord is my light; the Lord is my strength.
I know in his might I'll conquer at length.
My weakness in mercy he covers with pow'r,
And, walking by faith, I am blest ev'ry hour.
"The Lord is My Light" Hymn 89, vs. 3 

The Master 
 I know that as I keep the Savior at the center of my life, the whirlwinds of life can rage all about me, but I will not be moved.

My young brothers and sisters, how we love you, admire you, and pray for you. Don’t let the whirlwinds drag you down. These are your days—to stand strong as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Build more firmly your foundation upon the rock of your Redeemer.
Treasure more completely His incomparable life and teachings.
Follow more diligently His example and His commandments.
Embrace more deeply His love, His mercy and grace, and the powerful gifts of His Atonement.

you do, I promise you that you will see the whirlwinds for what they are—tests, temptations, distractions, or challenges to help you grow. And as you live righteously year after year, I assure you that your experiences will confirm to you again and again that Jesus is the Christ. The spiritual rock under your feet will be solid and secure. You will rejoice that God has placed you here to be a part of the final preparations for Christ’s glorious return.
-Neil L. Anderson

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Boosterthon Fun Run!

Boosterthon is the best school fundraiser I have ever seen. The children love it so much and it is so full of fun and energy. We were so excited to go and cheer on all the students. Here is a glimpse of all that fun!

We made a sign to cheer on our special guy and his class.  It also provided great shade as well.

They announce each class and the class comes running through with their flag held high.

Getting all pumped before they are let loose to run!

The first lap was a walk lap with the pace flag.

First lap

Just before they let them run.

Running his heart out
Running with a stop at the water booth

His finished stance!

High-fiving everyone still running.

Finished all 35 laps!  Way to go!
I loved getting to cheer all the children on, but I especially love this guy and his energy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Press Forward and Endure to the End

A young girl wearing a plaid dress sits on a patch of grass next to a bed of pink flowers and reads from the Book of Mormon.
I am always touched when I read the words of Nephi in "The Book of Mormon". He has a clearness in his writings that helps me feel the Spirit so easily.  Nephi said, "for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn." (2 Nephi 25:4)  In the last three chapters of 2 Nephi, Nephi is giving his last message to all people on how we can return to live with our Father in Heaven.

In Chapter 31 Nephi is telling us about baptism and why Christ was baptized.  Even though Christ was perfect and without sin, He understood that he not only had to be our example, but that he needed baptism to enter the gates of Heaven well.  In verse seven it states that "he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments".  We too need to take these steps as well, and since we are not perfect, we also need to add in repentance.  Nephi says in verse 13 that if we follow the Savior in all that he did and repent of our sins, then we can be blessed with the power of the Holy Ghost.

One we receive all this, we need to "press forward".  As I pondered what this means, because there is a lot more to it than just continuing through each day, I found a beautiful talk by Sister Elaine S. Dalton from the May 2003 Ensign message entitled, "Press Forward and be Steadfast".  In this article she talks about what it means to be steadfast.  She shares a description of a statue of a girl facing the sea in Denmark, the wind is fiercely blowing against her but she is unmoved.  She says that '"pressing forward" implies resistance'.  In life there is a lot of resistance we have to face, whether it be to our values, how we use our time, the way we speak, etc.  Pressing forward also implies that we have a vision or a goal in mind, or a set course in which we want to follow.   So we need to press forward with our vision of the end in mind because, as Sister Dalton said in her message, generations depend on us to keep going.

A conceptual photograph of a runner standing still near the finish line, paired with the word “Finish.”

How do we press forward and endure to the end? In 2 Nephi 31:20 Nephi says we need to have a "perfect brightness of hope", a "love of God and of all men", we need to feast "upon the word of Christ".  In the next Chapter Nephi shares the importance of the Holy Ghost and of prayer.   Lastly, Nephi challenges us to "believe in Christ".  Believing in Christ will lead us to do good. (2 Nephi 33:10)

 A photograph of the Salt Lake Temple coupled with a quote by Elder Richard G. Scott: “Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences.”

 Sister Dalton said, "Your daily decisions will influence generations." So we must do as Elder Scott said and decided today to do those things that will bring about positive eternal consequences.  If we are to press forward and endure to the end, we need to do those little things that have big results: read scriptures, attend the temple, study the words of the prophet, attend meetings, follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, etc.  Do our best to choose the best.

We must press forward.  Nephi didn't use the word "should" or "it would be nice if you did", but he said we "must" because this is the only way to truly endure to the end.  I know that Nephi's words are true.  I know we have words of living prophets today to help us in our journey to press forward and endure to the end.  I am thankful for the Spirit I feel in my heart and it fills me with joy and hope.

The words of 2 Nephi 31:20 printed on a white background with a gold and black border.

If you would like to learn more about what I believe, you can look here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Life's Great Balancing Act"

As I read my scriptures this week and studied the lesson material for both classes I am taking, I was struck with the fact that both classes taught about the importance of making decisions and having goals.  Our little family has been having a year of many decisions, at least it feels like we have had to make more decisions this year than we are used to making.  These are big decisions about buying cars, what kind of school do we want for our children as half of our children enter a new faze of life, medical decisions, and then all the day to day decisions on top of those big one.

Dealing with all these decisions can be hard and stressful.  I find comfort in the words of Elder M. Russell Ballard from his General Conference address back in April of 1987 (link to the talk).  He says that "a periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives...  Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort."  He goes on to counsel us on eight points that can help us in finding balance in our lives, such as goal setting, being careful with finances, strengthen family relations, study the scriptures, exercise, pray, etc.

An illustration of a boy in a blue polo shirt standing and putting money into a green piggy bank on a table.
In our world today, I feel that if we are more careful about how we spend our money we will be free from much of the stress that comes debt.  That is why this year has been a bit stressful as we have had to make decisions about items, or troubles, that would end up costing our little family a lot.
I took comfort in my scripture reading as a set of verses stood out to me while reading 2 Nephi 9.  Jacob, the brother of Nephi, is delivering many great teachings in this chapter and others surrounding it, but in verse 50 he says to "Come" and buy without money.  Now I am sure he is mainly talking about this in a spiritual sense, but in the next verse he says, "do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy."  This helps me to see that as we make our decisions each day on what we will use our time and money for, we can ask ourselves "Is this really of worth?" Or "Will I be satisfied after I have it?"  For the majority of our wants, the answer will most likely be no.

 A poster showing an image of the earth from space with a sign that reads “Everything for sale,” paired with the words “Don’t Buy It.”

I can see this as I raise my children and their wants just move from one thing to the next.  I often hear the words, "Oh, I have ALWAYS wanted this."  Yet, on occasion when we have bought that longed for object it ends up in the growth pile of longed for objects in their room, only to be looked at once or twice a year.  Truly this is not or worth and it hasn't satisfied my child because they continue to long for more.
So where can we be satisfied, what is of real worth.  When we open our hearts to feasting on the words of God, then our mind and spirit can be more aligned to what is of most worth in our lives.  We have a greater perspective on life, an eternal perspective, and this also helps us with our everyday decisions.

A white background with a peach border combined with the words of 2 Nephi 32:3.

Jacob, back in verse 51, says to "feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."  When we choose to use our time to feast on the words or Christ, or read and ponder the scriptures and words of the prophets, we will find our souls feeling satified and full and the world can't take that away.  There is nothing in the world that can give us that kind of satifaction.

When we have that satisfied feeling, we really won't even want the things of the world.  We will be happy with what we have, and an amazing thing will happen, we will actually be blessed with an abundance.  We will feel we have more than enough and want to share with others.  When this happens, we need to do as Jacob counselled in verse 52, "pray unto him [God] continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice."

A conceptual photograph of a young woman welcoming falling rain while those around her put up umbrellas, paired with the words “Let It Pour!”

I love these teachings and feel in my heart that it is truth.  I feel full and satisfied and hope that all can "Come" to feast on the words of God through prophets of old and modern prophets.  I know this is the only way we can feel satisfied in this life and in this world.  We will then be able to maneuver through "life's great balancing act" (Dr. Suess, "Oh, the Places You'll Go") and make good decisions.