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My word for the year resurfaces this weekend, part 1

26 Mar

I listened to this interview this afternoon. It is incredibly insightful as well as delightful and inspiring. 

 This year my focus is to better understand the idea of remembrances–the things we share as human beings that tie us together and anchor us to our past, thereby creating meaning for our future. 

 This interview begins there and then continues on gloriously. Why are stories important? Why do our children need to hear our shared story? Why is religion important? Why are institutions important? Why are covenants important? It’s an hour long, but worth every second to listen, this interview between Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Brooks and Rabbi Sacks.

 http://rabbisacks.org/finding-moral-compass-challenging-times/

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Word for 2017

12 Jan

I really love new beginnings. There is so much hope in a fresh start.

In December, I was thinking that my word for the year would be

DIRECTION

To help me remember not to focus on where I am or how far I am from perfection, but instead to just keep moving in the right direction.  So that’s definitely part of what I want to keep my focus on this year.

But then another word crossed my path and repeated itself several times and I know that it is what I really need to work on this year.

REMEMBRANCE

As we raise our children we teach them the remembrances of our culture.  I don’t mean we make them memorize facts and dates and state capitols.  I mean we teach them what we have learned as humans over the last 4000 years (plus or minus) .  We read to them our Mother Goose Rhymes and our fairy tales and folk tales.  We teach them folk songs.  We tell them the stories of our family members who lived and died.  We tell them how our family lived and how they died.

All these remembrances create an anchor for our children that tethers them to the past.  In the rushing ever changing river of now, they have a safety.  Their present and future have meaning because they can see it in the context of the past.  They can overcome hardship because they know that in our family we have had hard times before, and we overcame them.  Without a tether to the past, there is only the present.  The past and future have no meaning, and we are tossed about by each new meme on facebook.  We are touched or aghast or amused, but in the end it all means nothing if we have no tie to the past or responsibility to the future.

Jesus Christ broke bread and gave of it to his disciples and said, “This do in remembrance of me.”

He gave us an anchor, a tether that keeps us connected in the rushing river of life.  Through the power of his grace we overcome the trials large and small of life.  We can also overcome our own selves.  We are reborn in Christ and become his children as we take His name upon us.  This is why his name is “The Very Eternal Father.”  Thus remembrance of Him is remembrance of family.

Remembrance isn’t just remembering.  It is also doing.  We don’t remembrance.  We do things in remembrance of.  I know this has deeper significance than I can articulate right now.  It is something I want to spend a lot of time studying and thinking on this year.  I am looking forward to the learning.

 

I can’t Think of a Better Way

16 Jan

Yesterday as I pushed my double stroller with the 5-month old scooter pies up the sidewalk to the YMCA, flanked on either side by Baby Bean and Banana Cream Pie (who are 2 and 4, but look the same size.  People have started asking me if they are twins, too)

An older Y patron said to me something I’ve heard eleventy-billion times since I got brave enough to start leaving the house with the four baby pies.

“You sure do have your hands full.  You sure are busy.”

Usually I just nod and smile, or maybe add a “yep,” before continuing to press forward to my goal.  (Little tip:  moms of twins are generally running late to whatever it is they wanted to be to.  If they are also chasing a toddler, they don’t usually have time to stop and answer your well-meant questions.  They’ve answered these same questions so many times for so many strangers, the time investment isn’t worth it any more–especially if the toddler might run into the street/parking lot at any moment. ) 

But today Baby Bean was holding onto the stroller handle to help me. And suddenly I knew what the perfect response to this comment was.  So I looked that old guy right in the eye-ball and said,

“I do have my hands full, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.”

And I meant it. 

He said, “You’re right, and it’s a good thing you are young enough to do it.”

I didn’t tell him that I’m almost 40.  That would have baked his brain. I don’t look my age (woohoo). Most people still think I’m in my twenties. I know, 40 isn’t as old as I thought it was back when I was 17.  But it isn’t 28, and it isn’t even 35.  Most people don’t expect a mom of 4 kids 4 years old and younger to be over 32ish.  Heck, I didn’t expect to have 4 preschoolers at this stage of my life.  I’ve been in the enviable position of having my youngest child be 3 years old and all the other kids in school.  

My house was so clean and orderly that year.

I never planned to have so many kids so close together.  (Until Banana Cream Pie’s birthday in December, I had 4 kids 3-and-under.). I didn’t do it when I was a young mom.

But God had a plan for me different than my plan.  

It’s been scary. It’s been overwhelming.  And I don’t deny that sometimes I feel a little spark of something like envy when my friends talk about all the projects they get done while their one remaining child at home takes his nap.  

But it’s also been miraculous, joyful, amazing, and incredible.  I’ve learned a lot.

Also, apparently I’ve become patient.  That’s the number 2 most frequent comment I get from friends and strangers.  

“Wow, you are so patient.”

“I could not be as patient as you.”

“You have so much more patience than I do, that’s why you have 9 kids.  I didn’t have that much patience.  I stopped after 2 (or 4) kids.”

Here’s the thing: what they are calling “patience” is just me having a deeper understanding than I used to have of what is important and what is less important. 

And when I say deeper, I mean DEEEEEEEPER.

Ocean deep.

Dark side of the moon and back again deep.

So that I can look at a puddle of milk and Cheerios on the floor and say, “meh. Oh well. Let’s clean it up.” 

I’m not saying I always keep my cool.  There are still days when I close my eyes and turn my face to the sky and silently ask, “Why is this so hard?”  There are days I grouch at my kids.

But I quickly realize how truly blessed I am. 

In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom beautifully explains how God gives us the strength we need when we need it, and not before.  

When I only had 2 children, I did not have the patience or understanding for 9 children. I did not have it when I had 6 children.  I did not have that until I had 9 children.  

Don’t limit God’s plan for you because you don’t think that you have the patience or the skills or the whatever you lack to do the job. 

The Lord gives us the strength we need when we actually need it and not before.  Sometimes it’s after–long after–we thought we needed it.  But He knows we are capable of so much more than we think we are.

~~~~~

Psalms 32:7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

1Nephi 3:7 … I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 

Going off the Rails on a Grouchy Train

27 Jul

angrythomas

This morning, by the time we got to church, I was struggling.  I was frustrated about some things and worried about some other things and by that point, quite cranky.

What had set off my pity party grouchy train?  Well, my girls’ room is a mess.  I ask them to clean it up, and they will get the laundry off the floor and a few things put away, but the corners stay piles of crap.  As in old papers, bits of candy wrappers, parts of broken toys, hair elastics & bobby pins, clothes, a.k.a.  filthy garbage.

This morning, my oldest daughter announced that she had no Sunday clothes that fit.  Now I knew she had outgrown one dress, but I thought she had others.  I’ve been asking her for 2 weeks what clothes she needs, because I’ve got to get all the school shopping done before the twins are born.  But she waited until Sunday morning to inform me that she has no Sunday clothes.  So I go in to her closet to see what I can find.  That is, I attempt to enter the closet.  It is impossible, as my 9 year old daughter has so strewn the floor with her own clothing and toys as to make entry impossible.  This 9 year old has been told daily for months that she must not leave her clothes and wet swim gear on the floor, but she does anyway and only picks it up when I go in there and notice now bad it is and threaten her that I will burn it all, and she can go naked to school for all I care.

I have wanted a better closet organizing system for a long time.  I found pictures of what I wanted and discussed it with the resident Lieutenant.  I really wanted it done before the twins were born.  But it isn’t going to happen.  I ran out of energy about 2 months ago, and the resident LT has hardly been resident, what with 10 days of Military Duty, 4 days of a mountain climbing trip, 4 days of Scout camp, and taking the kids to swim meets.  Then he has been working 10 hour days for his regular job this summer, which was supposedly going to give him Friday’s off, but somehow he always has to go in for a few hours on Friday and then he uses up the afternoon to drive me to doctor appointments, since I’m too tired and huge to drive the hour to my doctor’s office and the hour back by myself.  Still I feel cranky about how “nothing” I wanted to happen before the twins were born is happening.

I found the 13 year old and acceptable outfit.  I yelled at the 9 year old in a horrifying manner.  We loaded all the kids in the van and headed to church, my grouch train just adding new cars all the way as my brain found more things to be upset about.

grumpycat

I knew my attitude needed to change if I was going to be able to teach my class, not to mention participate in Sunday worship the way I should.  Sunday is a day to worship God and repent of sins and commit to doing better.  I was so far from that at 9:00 a.m. 

I sat in my bench as well as I could with my enormous baby belly.  I glanced around, and it seemed to me that everyone else had life easier than I.  I knew that was just lies, but the score on derailing my grouchy pity-party train was so far train 5, me 0.

I asked myself, “Don’t I have the faith to let the Lord take care of us in His own time?  Don’t I have the faith to accept that the way I want my life to be isn’t always the way the Lord will have my life to be?”  I was getting to where I needed to be, but I was still feeling pretty rebellious and cynical.

Then for the Sacrament Hymn, we sang “As Now We Take the Sacrament.”  It is really my favorite Sacrament hymn.  The last verse includes this line, “And silently we pray for courage to accept Thy will, to listen and obey…”

I asked myself, “Am I going to keep sitting here being angry because things aren’t the way they ‘should’ be, or am I going to accept how things are and then cheerfully do all in my power to make them better, trusting in God to fill in the gaps and make things work out alright?”

The right choice was obvious and the grouchy train was successfully derailed. 

The rest of Sunday was wonderful.  Except the part where I dropped Baby Bean on the floor because she was thrashing around on my lap, well what is left of my lap, and she thrashed too far out where I couldn’t reach or move fast enough to catch her.  So she thudded to the floor and set to wailing good and loud.  But the missionaries gave great talks, which I enjoyed and benefited from, and my Young Women’s lesson went really well.  We had a decently restful Sunday afternoon at home with *almost* no children fighting, and finished it off with a game of Settlers of Catan and then a few rounds of Love Letter.  

Life is going just fine, and new closet organizers won’t really make a difference.  What will make a difference is me helping the 9 year old reduce how many clothes she has so they all fit in her dresser and on the closet rod.  And I can do that while sitting down, so it’s attainable.

Doctrine and Covenants 123:17

Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

My Kids Are Not Just Numbers

13 May

Because I’m obviously pregnant now, I get lots of strangers asking me how many children I have.  I tell them I have seven, and they are shocked.  I then have to decide whether I’m willing to tell them that I’m expecting twins which will bring the total up to nine, and shock them further.  Their responses generally fall along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it, I was overwhelmed with just 1 (2-4).”

I say something about how helpful my big kids are, or how much fun we have as a family, or that I think being a mom takes all your creative energy whether you have 1 kid or 10.  All of these things are true.  It is also true that the numbers seven and nine are just as overwhelming to me as they are to these strangers.

But the thing is, I don’t usually think of my kids in terms of numbers.  The only times I think in terms of numbers is while I’m setting the table for dinner, while I’m buying 1/2 price shakes at Sonic, or when someone asks me how many kids I have.

Most of the time,my kids are not numbers, my kids are my kids.   I think of my children as Blueberry Pie, Cherry Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Tamale Pie, Key Lime Pie, Banana Cream Pie and Baby Bean.  That’s not overwhelming,  that’s my kids.  (That’s also a list of delicious food.)  I love them each.

It struck me this week that maybe God feels the same way.  We think of  7 billion people in the world and are overwhelmed and wonder how our Father in Heaven can watch over us and answer our prayers.  But to Him, we aren’t 7 billion.  We are Sally and Suzy and David and Daniel and Josh and (you get the idea.)  We are not numbers.  We are His children, and He loves us.

Moses 1: 37

And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

Psalms 147: 4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.

5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal

30 Aug

I want to share my conversion story today.  I believe each of us has a moment we can point to where we can say, “That is when I decided the gospel was true”  or “That is when I realized that I believed.”

I believe we also have at least one time when our  decision is tested, a time when we have to say, in essence, “I can’t explain this scientifically, but I believe it.”  That is the story I want to share today, the time when my faith was tested.

When I was 14, I really liked a boy from school who was 2 years older that I.  He was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as I was, but he had listened to the missionary lessons.  He wrote me a note explaining that he wanted to get baptized, but that his mother wouldn’t allow it, so he would have to wait until he was 18.  He told me to keep it a secret–but I treasured that promise.  When I was 16 and allowed to date, we dated.  Things changed though.  He began reading books and pamphlets focused on attacking the Mormon church.  Some of them attacked our beliefs.  Some accused us of having beliefs we don’t have.  Some attacked the character of Joseph Smith and other early church leaders.  He would bring to school some of these papers and insist that I read them.  I would read them.  I could not argue against them–I didn’t know enough of the scriptures at the time.  All I could say was, “This isn’t  right.  There is a flaw, it’s twisted logic. ” But I could not debate it logically or refute much of it.

One point I remember him arguing bitterly against was that my church had printed lesson manuals for Sunday School lessons.  He insisted this was evil indoctrination.  He said, “Come to my church.  Some people believe you have to be baptized to be saved.  Some people don’t think baptism is necessary.  Everyone can believe what they think.”

The thing is, I did not want to believe “whatever I wanted.”

I wanted to believe what was true–even if it was difficult, even if it was hard.

Around this time, he asked me to marry him

(Dude!  I was 16!  My 36 year old  old self is freaking out right now, thinking about it.)

I knew that if I married him, I would have to leave my church because he would not allow me to attend.

I considered what my life would be like without the unique beliefs of my church.   I would have to give up believing that Families can be sealed together forever.  I would have to give up believing that I was a literal spirit daughter of God.  I would have to give up believing that God’s power is on the earth today (the priesthood).  I would have to give up believing that God speaks to me personally through revelation.  I saw in my mind a huge gaping black hole.

Then I looked at what he was offering me to fill that hole.  It was nothing.  It was chaos– everyone just believing whatever they wanted.

Then because of some wise words from my mother, I considered what I wanted for my future children.  I wanted them to know they were children of God.  I wanted for them to be born into a family sealed together for eternity.  I wanted them to have the Holy Spirit to guide them.

I broke up with that guy, and we went our separate ways.  (Don’t worry.  I didn’t break his heart.  He was making out with a new girl on the bus just 2 days later.)

I made the decision then that I was not willing to give up those basic beliefs (or doctrines) of my church for anything or anyone.  Interestingly I studied the Old Testament the next year in seminary.  So any times as I read, I would come across a scripture that answered one of that guy’s questions/accusations.  He was long gone, so all I could do was announce to the empty air, “That’s the answer, so there!”

There are things I know.

1.  I am a daughter of God and He loves me

2.  Through prayer I can speak to Him.  Through the scriptures and His Holy Spirit, He speaks to me.

3.  God’s power is on the earth today.

4.  Baptism and temple covenants are necessary for salvation.

5.  Families can be sealed together forever.

6.  The atonement of Jesus Christ enables me to repent of my sins, comforts me in times of suffering and gives me strength to serve Him beyond my own limited capacity.

I can testify that as I have been obedient to God’s commandments, my family and I have been blessed.  The closer I get to living my life focused on the Savior, the more I can see His hand guiding me.  

Over the last couple of years, I have learned that several of  my cousins and other family members  and friends are dissatisfied with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Some of them have stopped  going to church.  From what they say, many of them have made this decision because of one issue that  bothers them. They get upset about women not being ordained to the priesthood or things from church history and they quit going to church.  They throw everything that they have away because of this one side issue that is bothering them.

I feel sad about this.  And I think it’s a mistake they are making.  It’s worse than one -issue voting on Election Day.  It’s worse than chopping off your leg because your toe has a fungus.

Don’t give up everything that is good and true because there is one thing bothering you. Don’t quit going to church because some of the people there have idiotic ideas that they like to insist are church doctrine.  Don’t let go of the truth because it is difficult or because everything isn’t explained yet.  God has given us so much.  We can be patient for the rest.

Think of all you have.  Hold on to what you know is true. Add to it as you learn more.

John 6:68-69

“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God.”

Testimony Art

1 Apr

Preface: this all happened a couple months ago and I’m finally writing about it now. Anyways …

We finished reading The Book of Mormon as a family, so for Family Home Evening we re-read Moroni 10:4-5 with the kids. We talked about what we had read in the BoM (that’s right, the Book of Mormon is the BOMB!) over the past year and how each of the kids could choose to pray and ask God for themselves to know it was true. The man of the house showed the kids this article from The Friend about a man who painted his testimony of Jesus. Then we got out paper and crayons and colored pencils and drew our testimonies. Here is our awesome artwork:

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Blueberry Pie drew this picture of his recent experience at the temple.

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Tamale Pie is 7 and very literal. Here she is giving her testimony.

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Pumpkin Pie drew herself getting baptized and the temple. (I realize this is an unneccesary caption, but I can’t help myself.)

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Cherry Pie also drew the temple.

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My drawing of the tree of life and Jesus.

 

It sounds kinda lame maybe, but we had fun.