Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Elfwyn's Saga

During the summer, I try to do some fun, inexpensive or free activities with my kids.  Some are a flop...such as aquarium day at the mall.  We expected to see a few animals (and I think they did have a couple there) but during the 20 minutes we were there they were just playing games.  My kids didn't think it was interesting/fun at all.  So we ended up heading to Arctic Circle, getting ice cream cones and playing on the indoor playground.  Last Tuesday, Tanner Dance had a free performance of the Children's Dance Theatre performing Elfwyn's Saga. Fortunately, this activity was a hit!   The school I used to work at had an arts grant that allowed us to have a Tanner Dance teacher come and teach our students.  I sure loved that.  It was called side-by-side teaching so while the Tanner Dance  teacher did the actual teaching, I was there and danced alongside my students.  It is a wonderful program and so beneficial for my students at a Title 1 school most of whom would never have the opportunity to dance like that outside of school.  I saw one of the dance teachers that I worked with at Parkview (from a distance...I didn't get to talk to her) and another of the dance teachers had also helped teach and choreograph this show.

Anyway, it was a wonderful performance.  One thing I like about Children's Dance Theatre is that they use dance to tell a story (along with a narrator).  This was about a young girl born blind (Elfwyn).  While she can't see with her physical eyes, she could often see/sense things that others couldn't.  When a terrible invader came to her family's land, bringing amazing crystals, all of the people became entranced by the crystals.  She, however, was not effected by the crystals' magnificence, allowing her to save her people.  It was a great story and a wonderful performance.  Gabby and Ella brought their friends Gracie and Austin along.  We had a great time!



Monday, June 26, 2017

Giggles

Hearing their giggles and shrieks of laughter makes me happy. I am so thankful that my children all have great friends. I  my neighborhood!!  



(These are just the friends that were over on this particular day...Gabby has a couple of other really close friends that she also spends hours playing with.  And it's nice that she is young enough that she 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Questioning

I love to read.  I read a lot.  I read a fairly wide range of books.  But I try to make sure that sprinkled in among the (mainly) fiction and the wide assortment of children's books I read that I also read some LDS books.  Most are very good and a few stay with me for long after and really help me gain new insights or gain a new perspective.

I just started a new LDS book today by Sheri Dew called Worth the Wrestle.  There is something about the way Sheri Dew writes and speaks that always touches me.  She is definitely a personal favorite and has been for years..ever since she served in the General Relief Society Presidency quite a few years ago.  So far this book has been no different. It's a book that is making me think and that I want to underline every other paragraph and remember forever.

Here are some of the thoughts running through my head:
*Sometimes I wonder why a testimony comes so easily to me.  It seems I have always believed.  At times, I've even wondered if there were something wrong with me that I don't seem to struggle with doubts the way many people seem to.  But reading this has been comforting.  Because I DO have questions, but I think I have been blessed to be able to approach my questions through a lens of faith.  I think that is probably a spiritual gift I have been given.  And interestingly, this book has brought to mind a few times when I was filled with questions and even some doubts and how study and prayer helped me to find answers or at least peace.
*One question that it has brought to my mind that I haven't thought about in a long time was my worries and unease after my parents divorced.  I had always been taught about the eternal nature of families and of marriage.  But now my parents were divorced and I was trying to figure out what that meant for me, for my sisters, for my family.  Were any of the things I had been taught still valid for us?  Did the dissolution of my parents' marriage mean that the chain of ancestors I was linked to was now broken?  If my parents were no longer married, who would I live with eternally?  What could I do to try to prevent the same mistakes from taking place in my life in the future?  Would things ever feel peaceful and happy again?  I had a lot of questions.  I began to study.  Some of my questions were answered quickly but some of them took a long time to find answers to.  Probably there are still aspects of these issues that I don't fully understand.  But doing all of that study helped me to understand these issues much better and more fully than I would have if I hadn't had so many questions.
*Some other topics I can think of that I have had questions about or just an interest in and have studied and tried to learn more:  angels, grace/the enabling power of the Atonement, the Holy Ghost and to to recognize and act on promptings, ministering, hastening the work of salvation, and humility.  Not that I am an expert on any of those topics.  But they are all topics that sometime in the past five years I have felt a need/desire to learn more about and have studied.
*I love to learn.  I love to get immersed in a topic and find out as much as I can about it.  I love to know a little bit about a lot of things.  I find learning energizing.  Today in Sunday School our lesson was on seeking learning, "even by study and also by faith."  Our teacher said if he could be paid to be a professional student, he would be...ME TOO!   We had a great discussion...and I probably contributed more than I should...probably I should have been quiet and let other people talk.  But this is a topic that I love and feel passionately about...and it is a topic that I had a lot of thoughts about as I had been reading this book this morning.  And actually, I had a lot of thoughts that I DIDN'T share.  (Hopefully I didn't monopolize too much of the discussion.)  Because Sister Dew talks about learning by study and by faith.
*There's a lot more I can personally do to seek learning by study and by faith.

Now here are some of the insights I've gained so far from what I've read:
In her introduction, she begins by sharing a couple of experiences with facing difficult questions and some incredible growth opportunities and what she learned as result:  "I learned that the Lord will respond to sincere questions. I learned that the humility that accompanies the asking of questions mirrors, though in small measure, the humility demonstrated by the Savior again and again.  And I learned that, although there are some answers we don't have, there is no question or issue or problem that the Lord doesn't understand completely, omnipotently....questions are good--and that questions asked against a backdrop of faith and with an earnest desire to learn always lead to spiritual growth and a stronger testimony." (page 5)  First, I am struck by the fact that she points out the need for humility.  That is something that I have studied and feel like I consistently need to work on.  And it was also something brought up in our discussion during Sunday School.  Second, I love that promise...questions asked against a backdrop of faith ALWAYS lead to spiritual growth.  That's quite a remarkable promise!!

She tells of 2 young adults she knew at the same time.  One came to her with a bunch of gospel questions and said she was unsure if she still had a testimony.  Sister Dew asked if she wanted to have a testimony and if she was willing to work for it.  The young woman was and they studied and learned and sought answers to her questions together.  Slowly, her testimony grew...and eventually the young woman entered the temple.  Another young woman contacted her to let her know that she had had questions. Her questions made her doubt her testimony and beliefs.  She figured if she didn't believe the church was true, then she didn't need to live the commandments.  She had made some choices that were not in harmony with gospel teaching.  Sister Dew asked her if she would like to have a testimony and her response was no, not now.  Our questions can lead us to become a "seeker of truth" or to justify incorrect choices and lead us away from the covenants we have made.  "Asking inspired questions leads to knowledge.  It leads to revelation.  It leads to greater faith.  And it leads to peace.  Not asking questions, on the other hand, closes off revelation, growth, learning, progression, and the ministering of the Holy Ghost."  (page 12)  She didn't quote this scripture but I keep thinking about it over the last few weeks:  John 7:17:  " If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."
Part of the difference between the two young adults' results/experiences was that the first chose to continue to live the gospel despite her doubts and questions and she really desired to know if the doctrine and teachings came from God or not.  Our desires, as well as our actions, are so important.

"The Lord wants us to ask every probing question we can muster because not asking questions can be far more dangerous than asking them."  (page 13) (See for example these scriptural examples she refers to:  Alma 12:11, 1 Nephi 11:1 versus 1 Nephi 15:8-9)

"The most effective leaders ask great questions, and they typically ask a lot of them.  This is because the best leaders, regardless of the nature of their leadership, crave truth.  They want to know what is real.  They want to know how the members of their ward or branch really are, or what the children in their family really need, or how customers in their business really experience the service they receive.  They aren't afraid of the answers to tough questions-including answers that may implicate them or spotlight their own weaknesses." (page 15)  She also shared that President Hinckley was always asking people questions...every one he met...he'd ask about their professions, their lives, always gathering as much information as he could.  He could talk to people about any subject which helped him learn and develop relationships.  (Man, I want to be more like that!   I tend to get so nervous in social situations, especially with people I don't know well, that I literally often feel my brain freeze up...I literally sit there thinking, "I should ask a question but I can't think of a single question to ask."  I really have to work at it.)


*"When we have unresolved questions, our challenge does not lie in what we think we know.  It lies in what we don't YET know."  Elder Neal A. Maxwell said it this way:  "We should not assume...that just because something is unexplainable by us it is unexplainable." (page 23)

*"When we are willing to wrestle spiritually, we're in a better position to help others-but we are always the ones who benefit most." (page 26-27)

Love this book so far!

Haircut

Michelle decided she wanted to cut her hair much shorter for the summer.  So on June 8, our friend Heidi cut it for her.  It's so cute (although I think she is beautiful no matter how she does her hair)!  And she loves it!

Before the cut:
 After the cut:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Our Father Above

It is Father's Day and all day I've seen posts on Facebook about great fathers and of course we had talks about fathers at church today. It is heartwarming.  I thought our talks at church were excellent and one talk in particular got me thinking about our Heavenly Father.  How very thankful I am for the knowledge I have about my Father in Heaven!!

For Family Home Evening, the girls and I each read a different General Conference talk and took notes about what it taught us about our Heavenly Father. Then we each shared what we learned...and talked about a few of the things we learned. I think it went really well.  Each of the girls found wonderful things to share and it was wonderful to contemplate how much our Heavenly Father loves us.  This Family Home Evening was partly inspired by the talk in sacrament meeting but also inspired by my study of the Conference talks.  As I listened to General Conference in April, I felt like many of the talks discussed the nature of the Godhead.  So I determined that as I studied them, I would record what I learned about each member of the Godhead.  I did that and it was a wonderful experience.

I'd like to share what I've learned about Heavenly Father as I studied.  I'm also including links to the actual talk.  Much/most of it I knew before but it was still so comforting to study my Father and read of His love and mercy.  And much of our knowledge and understanding of God and the godhead differs from other Christian religions.  So I am grateful for the knowledge I have of God.

The 4 we studied tonight were from Elder Oaks, Elder Brough (of the Seventy), President Uchtdorf and Elder Renlund.

Elder Renlund taught:
*We get a glimpse of God's character as we recognize His immense compassion for sinners and appreciate the distinction He makes between sin and those who sin.
*An understanding of His character, perfections and attributes is foundational to exercising faith in Him and in Christ.
*He uses disease as a metaphor for sin throughout the scriptures.
*He is empathetic but "God is clear about what is right and acceptable to Him and what is wrong and sinful. This is not because He desires to have mindless, obedient followers. No, our Heavenly Father desires that His children knowingly and willingly choose to become like Him21and qualify for the kind of life He enjoys.22 In doing so, His children fulfill their divine destiny and become heirs to all that He has.

Elder Oaks gave a wonderful talk about the Godhead.  He explained the following about the Godhead.
*God the Father and Jesus Christ are two distinct personages. They were seen by Joseph Smith in the First Vision.  
*The nature of God and our relationship to Him is knowable and the key to everything else in our doctrine.
*"And this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent." (John 17:3)
*The effort to know God began before mortality and will not be concluded here.
*God has a body of flesh and bones.
*God presides over all things.  
*We are God's spirit children.
*some names for God:  Father, Almighty Elohim, Supreme Being, Ruler of the Universe
*President David O. McKay said, "above and over all there is God the Father, Lord of heaven and earth."
*He is the Father of our Spirits.  He loves us and all He does is for our benefit.  He is the author of the plan of salvation.  By His power the plan achieves its purposes.

Elder M. Joseph Brough taught the following:
* He referred to the song I Am a Child of God and said that we plead daily for our Father to lead, guide and walk beside us.
*He quotes President Uchtdorf: “Our Father in Heaven knows His children’s needs better than anyone else. It is His work and glory to help us at every turn, giving us marvelous temporal and spiritual resources to help us on our path to return to Him.”
*Heavenly Father has created a personal care package for each of us...including His Son and the Atonement, the Holy Ghost, commandments, scriptures, apostles, prophets, prayer, parents, grandparents, and many others.  These are all designed to help us return to Him.  
*God cares and answers prayers.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:
*God inspires and leads His children.  He isn't angry, vengeful or retaliatory.
*"His very purpose—His work and His glory—is to mentor us, exalt us, and lead us to His fulness."
*God described himself to Moses as "merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
*His love for us surpasses, by far, our ability to comprehend it.
*He wants to change more than just our behaviors. He wants to change our very natures. He wants to change our hearts.
He wants us to reach out and take firm hold of the iron rod, confront our fears, and bravely step forward and upward along the strait and narrow path. He wants this for us because He loves us and because this is the way to happiness."
*How does God motivate us?  He sent His Son!  He motivates through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love.  He is on our side.  When we stumble, He wants us to rise up, try again and become stronger.
*"He is our mentor. He is our great and cherished hope. He desires to stimulate us with faith. He trusts us to learn from our missteps and make correct choices."
**************
Those 4 are the talks we studied together as a family.  Here are some other insights I gained from other talks.  I'm not going to share everything I read/learned, but some of the highlights.  It was such a wonderful experience to study the Godhead in this way.
President Henry B. Eyring:
  • Our Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His children.
  • Our ancestors are  "beloved sons and daughters of God. He will send whatever inspiration is needed to give them the opportunity to return to Him."
  • He wants all of His children home again, in families and in glory.


Elder L. Whitney Clayton:
  • God will always bless us for obedience and loyalty.
  • God asks us to bear with Him, to trust Him and to follow Him.
  • Trust in the perfect love and perfect timing of God. 
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that God intended for there to be a richness of tone and timbre in the choir because He created a world of diversity.  God is determined to make of us more than we though we could be.

Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke about goal setting and planning in his talk, Return and Receive.  He said that God gave us the perfect example of goal setting and planning.  His goal is the immortality and eternal life of man.  His means to achieve it was the plan of salvation.

Weatherford T. Clayton reminded us that we lived with God, the Father of our Spirits, before birth.  God wants us to have the greatest gift He can give us:  eternal life.  However, we have to receive it by choosing Him and His ways.  God gave us moral agency which is the ability and privilege of choosing and acting for ourselves.  To help us choose well, He gave us commandments.  As we keep His commandments, we show Him that we love Him.

I love this quote from  Elder Valeri V. Cordon:  "As children of God, we are imperfect people trying to learn a perfect language.17 Just as a mother is compassionate with her little children, our Heavenly Father is patient with our imperfections and mistakes. He treasures and understands our feeblest utterances, mumbled in sincerity, as if they were fine poetry. He rejoices at the sound of our first gospel words. He teaches us with perfect love."

I am so grateful for the knowledge of my Heavenly Father.  As I said, most of this I already knew but it is not knowledge shared by everyone in the world.  It is a blessing and a tremendous comfort to know that God is truly a loving Father and that He knows me and He has a plan for my life.  I look forward to the day when I am able to return to Him and be encircled in His arms, in His loving embrace.  I am striving to live daily so that I CAN return to Him.  


Top 10 Reasons We Love this Dad...






1. He provides for our family. He is such a hard worker at work and at home...cleaning and fixing things and remodeling and planting flowers and doing so many things to make our home nicer. He does a lot to keep the house and yard clean. He does a lot of the car repair and home repair projects. 
2. He will do anything for us, including watching dance performances, buying us things, taking us to new places/on great vacations, and on and on.
3. He is brave and helps the girls be braver and try new things.
4. He cooks great food: ribs, carne asada, empanadas, tacos, flan and so many other great meals.
5. He does nice things for each of us...taking the girls on special outings, buying me flowers, and on and on.
6. He teaches the girls many things.
7. He is funny.
8. He is a great dancer.
9. He really supports each of us in our endeavors.
10. He keeps us safe...including keeping the doors locked at all times and having a unique plan for food storage/emergency survival.  (That's a joke...his "plan" is to eat the dogs first and then me because I have more meat on my bones than the girls.  It's totally a joke but one that provides quite a bit of laughter, squeals, protests...and some motivation for me to make sure we do have food storage.)


Happy Father's Day to this father that we all love so much!!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Lagoon

Saturday was the annual Utility Trailer day at Lagoon.  Alfredo's cousin Sandra and her family drove from Vegas to go to Lagoon with us.  It was a (mostly) fun day.  It always wears me out and it was a little trickier to navigate this time because for the most part Ella and Katie wanted to ride different rides than Gabby.  Michelle and Alfredo always go off with Becky and Junior and some other friends and so I spend the day with Ella and Gabby which is usually okay but was just a bit challenging this year.

Ella and Katie love Bombora...they rode it at least 3 times.  They are in the very back.


The first time the girls went on the swings, Gabby didn't want to go. But later in the day she decided to try it and she ended up liking the swings a lot.






The kids got sand buckets, kites, and some other small gifts at the luncheon.  They also got these bubbles...which were easy to blow but stuck to your hair, clothing, etc.  If you look closely, you can see tiny bubbles in Gabby's hair.



The family


My favorite people!

The cousins