Saturday, March 12, 2016

Jenny Oaks Baker

A couple of weeks ago, our stake had a Women's Conference and Jenny Oaks Baker and her 4 children came.  Jenny spoke to us and her family performed.  It was absolutely wonderful.  I was able to attend with Michelle and 3 of the beautiful YW in my ward.  Sure love those girls.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Halloween 2015

Not blogging for most of September-December 2015 means I got way behind.  And missed a few things.  So I never blogged about Halloween.

This year, Michelle did her trick-or-treating with a few of her cute friends.  She dressed up as a girl from the 1950's.

 Ella dressed up as a gypsy.  She was sure that's what she wanted to be, but we couldn't find a costume in her size.  So, even though she is ten, I bought her a size 6X...and it fit.  Gabby wanted to be a Monster High girl..Draculara.  We bought her a size 7/8...so her costume was a bigger size than Ella's (and it was a tiny bit big...she probably should have had a size 6X.)   Such petite little girls.  And spunky and silly and oh, so beautiful.  Even as gypsies and monsters and 50's girls.  Of course, we also carved pumpkins.  Gabby's was an owl which I was pretty proud of (since I helped her.) 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

My birthday/Valentine's Day/teacher appreciation

My birthday, Valentine's Day and Teacher Appreciation week all landed on the same week (as did my children's SEP Conferences.)  It was a wonderful week.  I was spoiled by my family as well as by my students and their families.


For my birthday, we went out to dinner at Pizza Rev.  We ordered 4 different pizzas and I sampled a piece of each (and had left overs for lunch the next day!)  Alfredo bought me gorgeous flowers, a wonderful card and two really pretty shirts. 




 My students gave me many wonderful gifts for my  birthday and teacher appreciation week.  I got 6 different plants/flowers.  I got many cards.  I got bracelets and a ring and school supplies.  So many nice gifts.  I really enjoy working at Ensign...and not just because of the nice gifts.  I love the calm and happy atmosphere that I work in now.



One of the parents also came and decorated my door for Teacher Appreciation Week.  We have an Owl theme in our classroom so she put up this owl and a sign that says, "Whoo loves you?  We do."  Then each heart has a student's name on it.  It makes me happy every time I look at it.
Alfredo and I celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday by going out to dinner at Del Mar al Lago.  Their food is delicious!! It was so yummy!!

 
On Valentine's Day, my aunt Elaine came over for dinner.  I made ribs, my yummy rice with sausage, potatoes, rolls, broccoli salad and dessert.   After we ate dinner, Elaine did a project with the girls where they each got to decorate a shirt for Valentine's Day.  They turned out cute.

 
 
 
 
A great week!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ice Castles in Midway

On President's Day, our family headed to Midway to see the Ice Castles.  Our friend Staci and her son Eli and his cousins also came along.  It was snowing pretty hard and was a bit scary driving up to Midway.  But the Ice Castles were amazing!!  I've wanted to go for a couple of years and was really glad we were finally able to go this year.


Most of my photos didn't turn out as well as I would have liked...it was dark and my phone's camera doesn't do well in the dark.  But it was beautiful.  A little smaller than I had envisioned, but still magical.


Gabby was very willing to have her photo taken and the others were less willing so she is in most of the photos.  Also, I don't know how to flip these photos (taken on my phone right side up but showing up sideways) so they aren't sideways.  :(  But hopefully you get the idea.  It really was quite magnificent!




Hard to tell but that is Alfredo and all 3 girls.





I think the purple lights are breathtaking.






Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Elder Rasband: FHE

As we prepare for General Conference in just a few weeks, I wanted my girls to get to know our 3 newest apostles just a bit.  So I read up a bit about Elder Rasband's life and shared some of the things I learned about him.   One thing that impressed me.  He and his wife have done a lot of traveling due to his church callings.  Often when they return from visiting somewhere, they will be asked if they did a lot of sight seeing.  His wife cheerfully replies, "No, but we did a lot of Saint seeing."  I love that and as I read about them could feel of their genuine love for the members of the church and the people throughout the world.


I also shared a few of Elder Rasband's words in his most recent General Conference talk:  I Stand All Amazed. 


I especially focused on this counsel he gave:


Now, if I could leave one small message with you today, it would be this: the Lord has said, “Love one another; as I have loved you.”2 I’m conīŦdent that there is no choice, sin, or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change His love for you or for them. That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct—I’m sure He does not—but it does mean we are to reach out to our fellowman in love to invite, persuade, serve, and rescue. Jesus Christ looked past people’s ethnicity, rank, and circumstances in order to teach them this profound truth.


We talked a little bit about how important it is to love one another and how we can show that love to others.  Then we created an art project together.  Each of us got to decorate a couple of hearts (I had materials to do collage but also told them they could color them or decorate them however they wanted.) 


Here's our finished project which is currently hanging on our fridge:

Monday, March 7, 2016

Justice versus Mercy

A friend and I were talking yesterday about justice and mercy and how easy it is to feel that justice is better.   It's easy to want things to be fair and for people to get what they deserve.  Especially when I was younger, I felt justice was better.  But I have come to be very thankful for mercy.



I used to be very bothered by the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  See  Matthew 20:1-16 and also see Elder Holland's masterful talk:  The Laborers in the vineyard. It used to seem very unfair to me that some would labor all day and receive the same wages as others who labored for only one hour.  But as I have gotten older, I have come to understand it a little better.  Number one, the "wages" or the end result of our labor will be far more than any of us DESERVE.  Whether we toil in the vineyard (the church and gospel) throughout our lives or for just a short time, we cannot earn our salvation.  It is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can repent and gain eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.  In D&C 84:38 we are taught, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him." Those are incredible blessings, worth any price.


In fact, I absolutely love what Sister Reeves said in October conference:



"Sisters, I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, “Was that all that was required?” I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?"


Now, she was talking about trials and adversity, but I think the same is true for service in the vineyard/kingdom of God.   It is worth whatever effort, challenge, or disappointment we face.  The blessings are greater than our finite minds can comprehend.
 
Here are a couple of other things that help me feel better about this parable.  First, as Elder Holland points out, it was a blessing and comfort to be laboring in the vineyard all along.  Those who have the gospel and strive to live it throughout their life actually have an easier life.  As Sheri Dew said, "The path of discipleship is actually the easiest path. It is the path that allows us to partake most fully of the Lord's love for us." (Page 67 of her wonderful book Amazed by Grace). There is peace, hope, comfort, strength and joy found as we labor in the vineyard.  So those who labor all day long have added joy, peace, and strength along the way.  Challenges will still come, but we understand the purpose of life and the plan of salvation.  We have heavenly help to guide us.  It is an easier and better path.


As I get older, I have come to recognize something else.  First, I am not a great hired servant.  I do try, but I make a lot of mistakes.  I get lazy or jealous or selfish.  I don't actually deserve the wages being offered to me.  Yes, I may have been hired in the first hour...but I am already in the 6th hour of my life and still far from a great servant.  It is only because of the mercy and grace of the Master that these wages are being offered to me.  No matter how many hours I labor, the reward is still greater than I deserve.  In fact, it is the Master's Son who has done the work that allows me to receive the reward.  Only in and through Him, can I receive the wages.  

We read in Mosiah 2:

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

(I am reminded of a church video that we owned when I was a teenager about the Prodigal Son.  I was always touched by a scene where the brother who wasn't the prodigal son is sitting at the piano feeling angry at how his brother is being welcomed back.  He says, "But I was the good one.  I was the good one."  His wife chides him and asks what he means and he explains that his brother had made lots of bad choices and there certainly was a difference between his brother's big mistakes and his little ones.  His wife then says something very close to these words:  "The only difference I can see is that one of you is trying very hard to repent and put his life back together and the other one of you is letting pride get in your way."  It may seem to us, at times, like we are the good one but in reality, all of us are in need of repentance.  All of us are in need of the Savior's love, grace and forgiveness.)


The final thing I have come to realize is that I want those I love to all receive these wages.  As others have said, heaven will not be heaven without those I love.  Some that I love are much like me, toiling away imperfectly in the vineyard.  But many that I love are not yet laboring in the vineyard.  Some have not yet had the opportunity to learn about the vineyard (gospel) and accept the opportunity to labor there.  Others have been offered the opportunity to work in the vineyard, and for a variety of reasons have not accepted that opportunity right now.  But for each of them, I hope a day will come when they accept this opportunity and join in the labor.  And if they do, it will bring me great joy and peace to know that their wages can be the same as mine even if they spend only an hour laboring.  If we truly learn to love one another (something I am still working on), then we will want all to receive these wages. 


I am so thankful that Christ's Atonement meets the need for justice so that He can be merciful.  I am in need of His mercy...both daily and eternally.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Preparing for Conference

This past Sunday, I was able to speak in sacrament meeting.  I was asked to speak on preparing for General Conference.  This is a  topic that I was excited about and really love.  I am so thankful for General Conference and feel like we are doing a pretty good job of helping our kids to love it and look forward to it.   Here's my talk below:




Most of you have probably heard the story of a man telling his neighbor not of our faith about our beliefs.  He explained that we believe there is a prophet on the Earth. The neighbor was impressed and excited and asked what the prophet had taught recently.  Try as he might, the member couldn't think what had been taught in the most recent conference.  His neighbor was pretty disappointed and incredulous.  He believed there was a prophet but had no idea what that prophet had said? 

If someone were to ask you, what would you say?  What were we taught in October conference?  Do you really believe or know there IS a prophet of God on the Earth? Do you know what he has said or taught recently?


 


(Some of the things that stood out to me from Conference:  “What lack I yet?”   “Ponderize”   “Be thou an example of the believers/Let your light so shine.”  “Center your life on Christ.”   When we leave this life, we will probably say to our Father in Heaven, was that all that was required?  All of our trials will be worth it when we stand in His presence….)

*Parable of sower


In last April conference, Elder Oaks gave a beautiful and meaningful talk about the Parable of the Sower.  In this parable, found in Matthew 13, Luke 8 and Mark 4, we read of a sower planting seeds.  Christ explained that these seeds are the word of God...in other words...the scriptures AND the teachings we receive in conference.  In the parable, the seeds fell in 4 locations:  by the wayside, stony ground, thorny ground, and good ground.  


The first was seeds that fell by the wayside..  Read Matthew 13: 18-19..those that have hearts so hardened that the seeds can't take root or grow.  That's not us.  Second, they fell on stony ground.   Matthew 13:  20-21.  They began to grow but they didn't have a strong root.  These people received the gospel with gladness but then when trials or doubts arise, they are offended and fall away.  They aren't converted.  Perhaps something said in conference goes against their political opinion or they just don't take the time to study and aren't regular in its practice.  The next group fell among thorny ground.    Matthew 13: 22. The Savior explained that these represented those who allowed the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things to choke the word.  These are people who are focused on gaining and using money or possessions.  Perhaps these are those who are too busy on conference weekend to watch or listen.  Or those who spend so much time working/playing that they don't do the daily things needed to be truly converted.  



Elder Oaks said, "Savoring the things of men means putting the cares of this world ahead of the things of God in our actions, our priorities, and our thinking."  Probably most of us are guilty of this at times.

The fourth group were those seeds that fell into good ground and brought forth fruit...Matthew 13:  23. They were honest and good hearted, firmly rooted in the gospel.  They pray, read scriptures, study conference talks, serve, partake of the sacrament and seek a change of heart.

Elder Oaks said, "The suitability of the soil depends upon the heart of each one of us who is exposed to the gospel seed."  


 


We have a choice as we listen to conference...how will our heart be?  Will it be prepared and softened so we can receive the messages given, plant them in our hearts and allow them to grow and bring forth fruit?  Or will we be too busy to prepare or to listen...too busy seeking after worldly things?  (I recognize there are times when it is impossible to get off work or get out of other good activities...this is meant for your personal reflection …are you making Conference a priority?  Are there things you could/should rearrange to make Conference more important in your life or your family’s life?)  Or will we listen but then get offended or decide that what they ask is too hard?  We choose our response and the more prepared we are in advance the better the soil of our hearts will be.




Elder Robert D. Hales said,
"In conference, we can receive the word of The Lord meant just for us."  What a remarkable blessing!   Heavenly Father knows each of us.  He knows what trials we are facing, what blessings we need, what questions we have.  He knows what we need to draw nearer to Him and become more like Him.  We can receive this guidance through Conference.



So here are some suggestions for how we can prepare for Conference:


 


*1. Come with a question in mind. (Experience:  one conference I came really wanting to understand my role in regards to hastening the work and how I could help others to hasten the work as I served as RS President.  I took notes on everything that was said in regards to that topic and filled a huge posterboard which then helped me with my own opportunities but also with lessons I taught.   This past Conference I knew that the leaders of the church were especially emphasizing Sabbath Day observance so my question was how I could better keep the Sabbath Day holy and help my family to do so.  Nearly every talk addressed that in some way and I got some wonderful insights about the sacrament and Sabbath day. … Sometimes you'll also receive guidance or answers you weren't specifically seeking...Women's Conference a couple of years ago, I came with a question (and received an answer) but  I also KNEW what our visiting teaching seminar's theme needed to be.  That wasn’t something I had even been thinking about yet, but the Spirit told me what to do for the seminar while listening to conference.)

President Uchtdorf said, "Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitude for the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation."

(Another example was also from Women's Conference when I felt so comforted when they turned around a well known scripture from "where much is given, much is required to instead say where much is required, much is given.  I clung to that as I served as RS President because I felt very inadequate and felt the heavy burden...but I also truly received some remarkable blessings.  I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity I had to serve and the lessons I learned.  And I’ve noticed that often my answers and comfort come from the Women’s conference.)

2. Pray before and during conference that your mind and heart might be opened and you might receive the answers, guidance and inspiration you need.  You might even consider fasting before or during conference to help you have the spirit.  You might also consider attending the temple in the week leading up to Conference.

3.  Show Heavenly Father you are serious about learning from Conference.  Spend this month rereading the talks given at last conference.  Teach your children what our leaders have said.  Apply the counsel that was given. 

(If you were to read or listen to 1 talk/day for the next month, you would be able to read 3/4 of the talks before conference.).  I like to turn on a Conference talk while I am doing dishes/cleaning house.  I also read conference talks several times each week and take notes about what they say.  In the first month and a half after Conference, I studied each talk, looked up each scripture that was referenced in each talk.  Wrote down favorite quotes.  Recorded ideas for ways to teach some of the concepts to my children in FHE.  I have a notebook devoted to my Conference study (as well as a study guide for YW that I write about lots of Conference talks and a journal where I take notes WHILE I am actually listening to Conference.)

4.  Act upon what you have been taught. As you reread or relisten to conference, the spirit will prompt you to make changes.  Act upon these promptings to change.  In October 2005 conference, Elder Paul Johnson said, "In order for the messages of general conference to change our lives, we need to be willing to follow the counsel we hear. The Lord explained in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith “that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know … how to act upon the points of my law and commandment.” But knowing “how to act” isn’t enough. The Lord in the next verse said, “Ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.” This willingness to take action on what we have learned opens the doors for marvelous blessings."

5.  Prepare physically.  Get enough sleep.  Have meals prepared in advance or have simple meals that can be prepared in between.  Keep schedule free and open so you can participate in all sessions.  *consider how you dress and watch...as a teenager, my parents took us to the stake center to watch at least two of the sessions because it helped make it feel like church and feel important. (which isn’t even an option now, but it has helped shape the way I think and feel about conference.)  I personally choose to dress up in Sunday dress on Sunday because it reminds me that these are my Sunday meetings and it shows The Lord that I value them. That doesn't mean that's what others have to do, but it is part of the sign I give The Lord.

6.    President Uchtdorf cautioned us not to discount a message because we have heard it before.  He said, "Prophets have always taught by repetition; it is a law of learning. You will hear repetition in themes and doctrines in general conference. Let me reassure you: this is not due to a lack of creativity or imagination. We continue to hear messages on similar issues because the Lord is teaching and impressing upon our minds and hearts certain foundational principles of great eternal importance that must be understood and acted upon before we can move on to other things. A wise builder first lays the foundation before erecting the walls and the roof."  We’ve all read scriptures before and noticed something that we didn’t think was there before.  We learn “line upon line, precept upon precept.”  I’ve heard countless talks on trials and yet there were several things said at the last Conference about adversity that really helped me.

7.  While watching, take notes.  It's great to take notes about quotes and beautiful language that is used...I definitely do that. (For example, I love President Uchtdorf's counsel a couple of years ago  to "set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude."). But even more important than powerful quotes is to write down thoughts or feelings that prompt you to act or to change.  If you hear something that makes you think, "I need to teach this principle to my kids" or maybe even "here's how to teach this principle to my kids", write that down.  You might have thoughts about some choice or behavior that you need to change...something you need to stop doing or start doing.  Or perhaps a person's name will come to mind and you'll know you need to call or visit them. (A couple of examples:  after Oct. conference, I began ponderizing scriptures with my family, focusing especially on verses that were quoted in General Confence.  I also wrote down some notes of stories or ideas to teach several concepts in FHE.  Also, I knew that I needed to forgive someone that had hurt me and worked to do that.)

As we do this, lessons and quotes from conference will be written on our hearts.  We will be better able to teach them to others, apply them in our lives, etc.  TESTIMONY