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Love Life and Learning

2 Nov
Today I taught a workshop for my stake Relief Society Conference.  I really loved doing it, so I want to share my thoughts here, too.  You’ll see its mostly quotes–the thoughts of other people that have helped me.
❤ Glowworm
Love Life and Learning

How many of you have your life turning out exactly like you imagined it would when you were a little girl?  Or maybe you got just what you wanted, but its not what you thought it would be? I read a lot of fairy tales when I was a girl, and I imagined –would I be like Cinderella, or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty?  One Sunday, as I was trying to keep my children quiet during Sacrament, I gave one my ring, and one my bracelet, and one my keys—I realized my life is a lot more like the miller’s daughter in Rumpelstiltskin, me attempting to bribe small capricious creatures to do impossible tasks with shiny things.

I knew how to love life as a child.  Then I forgot for a while and I’ve been relearning.  I have spent a great deal of my motherhood years like this:  Get up in the morning, feeling like super woman with a huge list of things to get done.  Then life would happen,  I would be so frustrated as my children and other life stuff kept interrupting my plans.

C.S. Lewis said: “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.”

About 7 years ago, I began to change how I thought about things.  What I actually did each day did not change much, but how I felt about what I did changed dramatically.

The Poet, Kathleen Norris, said “We may resist the drudgery that seems to pull us away from what we vaingloriously perceive to be our “real” lives, but we are fools to do so.”

I began to purposefully think of housework not as drudgery, not as a Sisyphean task–

 but a sacred calling.  Jesus fed the hungry, clothed the naked, encouraged the weak, and healed the sick.  Each day I get to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, encouraged the weak (myself), and heal the sick.

 As women we criticize ourselves constantly, and we are super harsh and mean about it!

On a Sunday Morning in January, two years ago, I stayed home from church with my 2-year old twins, who were both feverish.  As I sat on the couch snuggling them, I felt suddenly an awe that my presence was what they wanted most.  They were miserable, and I was the magic that made life better for them.  It’s kind of incredible, really.  All the things I constantly criticize myself for, they didn’t care about.  They didn’t care that I need to lose 40 pounds. They didn’t care that I wasn’t wearing makeup or dressed in trendy clothes. They didn’t care that the dinner I fixed the night before was hasty and not very tasty.  They didn’t care how many things I didn’t get done on my to-do-list the day before. They just wanted me because I’m their mother. That’s true unconditional love! Sometimes we are told we should try to see ourselves as God sees us, and its hard to make that leap, but maybe if we start by seeing ourselves as our children see us, we might get closer.

A poem I love:

Take joy home,
And make a place in thy great heart for her,
And give her time to grow, and cherish her!
Then will She come and often sing to thee
When thou art working in the furrows; ay,
Or weeding in the sacred hour of dawn.
It is a comely fashion to be glad—
Joy is the grace we say to God.
—J. Ingelow

“Home is the place where we pour our hearts into so much work. So it stands to reason that a spirit of joy that sings to us in the midst of that great work can make a big difference—in our own hearts, in the atmosphere of our homes, in our family’s lives.” ~Sonya Shafer

 

Browning ground turkey while your children are arguing in the kitchen, you may not feel connected to this great mystery, [God] but you are. This is the sort of thing that parents, poets, mystics, and monks come to know very well, if they are willing to be always beginners, setting yesterday’s burdens behind them in order to recommit themselves to each new day. …[a story is told of 2 monks.  The young one asked ] “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?”  The old man said, “If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment.”~Poet Kathleen Norris

We have this idea in the world that repetition is death, that things which move like clockwork are boring and dead, and that variation is life and excitement.

G. K. Chesterton explained that this is a mistaken idea.   “For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the [river] Thames goes to [the sea].

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

What could our lives be if we could find the strength to delight in repetition?

You and I, we may get frustrated, thinking that we want to be DONE with cleaning, or Done with repenting, or done with asking our children to clean up their rooms. But

“If we want things all done, over, ended, is that not in a way wishing for death?…So repetition is a fact of life, and it turns out that’s a good thing. Even Paul writes, in Philippians 3:1: ‘To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.’ What if we mothers had this same attitude? “To repeat the same things to you is no trouble to me.”~Mystie Winkler

Shinhichi Suzuki, the great violin teacher said, “We do not count how often we say ‘mama’ before the child actually learns the word. We are willing to repeat it as often as necessary.”

My aunt Kathleen, who taught kindergarten for decades told me that “As a teacher I was told it took at least 600 repetitions to have something stick it a child’s head.”

As adults maybe we need even more repetition, and our Heavenly Father never tires of repeating his invitations to us.

“Clean homes do not have fewer messes, they are just picked up more often.  Clean living is the same—not fewer sins, but more repenting.  You haven’t failed if the house is a mess, you just have a job to do—soon! You haven’t failed if you lose your temper—you have a job to do—soon (modeling repentance to your children!)” ~Mystie Winkler

What would happen in our homes if we dedicated  ourselves to more repenting, both the picking up messes kind and the putting down of sin kind?

Humans were created to work, and we aren’t fully happy unless we are busy with a work.  Even Adam and Eve had a job in the Garden of Eden before the fall.  And after the fall, God cursed the ground for their sakes.  Many philosophers have written on this subject.

I like Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Camel’s Hump”

THE Camel’s hump is an ugly lump
Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get
From having too little to do.

I believe there is a corollary to this—though I couldn’t find any famous quotes to support me.  As our bodies were made to work, our minds were made to learn.

At least, I know this is true for me, I am not happy unless I am learning something.

D&C 88:118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

Don’t you just love it, when you are reading and you come across something that you recognize as truth?

No sooner doth the truth. . .come into the soul’s sight, but the soul knows her to be her first and old acquaintance.”~Charlotte Mason

And yet this old acquaintance feels new and beautiful!

Joseph Fielding Smith taught “A new commandment, the Lord has said, and yet like many other commandments it is as old as eternity. There never was a time when that commandment did not exist and was not essential to salvation, and yet it is always new.  It never grows old, because it is true.”

And we aren’t just to learn the gospel, though it is most important.  We are also to learn

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:79)

 “We do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that … the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind…”~ Charlotte Mason, educator in the late 19th century

Dr. Barry M. Willardson says: “God is the greatest scientist and the unbeliever should be careful not to dismiss God as he scratches at the surface of God’s knowledge. Likewise, the believer should not dismiss the discoveries of science, because they may be revealing the handiwork of God. We need to understand that truth can be obtained by both scientific and spiritual inquiry.”

“The only fit sustenance for the mind is ideas…For the mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body; there are no organs for the assimilation of the one more than of the other.” ~Charlotte Mason

In other words, I’m not talking about learning as memorizing facts or a timeline of history.  We are talking today of feeding our minds with living ideas.  We are talking today of making connections between these ideas in ways that make those ideas important to you as an individual.

These books that I brought to display are books that have profoundly influenced my life.  Many of them are fiction.

“My main argument for reading literature like this is that it offers us a new way of seeing things.  To be moved by the beauty of lives, either real or imagined, and the intricacies that make them unique but also relatable, is all literature has given me. And not that this is any small thing.  To make the world intimate and relatable and thus much more deserving of our compassion and empathy is a great thing.” ~Daniel Hunt (cousin, a beautiful soul who died at 28)

“We learn in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” that “mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” Providing an education for your children is part of that nurturing and is your sacred responsibility. Like the stripling warriors, who “had been taught by their mothers,” you will be the most important teacher your children will ever have, so choose your learning carefully.” ~Mary N Cook Seek Learning, You Have a Work to Do, April 2012

Why? 

The following has been written about discipleship: “The word disciple comes from the Latin [meaning] a learner. A disciple of Christ is one who is learning to be like Christ—learning to think, to feel, and to act [like] he does.” (Chauncey C. Riddle, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, Sept. 1974, 81).

The revelations teach us that “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36). We typically may think the word intelligence in this scripture denotes innate cognitive ability or a particular gift for academic work. In this verse, however, one of the meanings of intelligence is the application of the knowledge we obtain for righteous purposes. As President David O. McKay (1873–1970) taught, the learning “for which the Church stands—is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.”  We are blessed in mortality with endless opportunities to apply what we learn and know for righteousness—or to increase in intelligence. And learning from experience is one of the primary vehicles provided in the Father’s plan of happiness to accomplish this eternally important outcome.”  David A. Bednar, “Walk in the Meekness of My Spirit,” BYU University Conference, Aug. 28, 2017

Here again we get the idea that we are going to have to do a lot of repeating!!

So we need to learn by reading out of the best books, and we need to learn by experience.

What? What should I choose to learn about?

“True education is a form of repentance.  It is a humble admission that we’ve not read all that we need to read, we don’t know all that we need to know, and we’ve not yet become all that we need to become.  Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies.” ~George Grant

-Patriarchal Blessing: a good place to gain insight on what your particular gifts are that need development, and what your purpose on this earth might be.

President Monson taught: “The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. .. Your patriarchal blessing is your passport to peace in this life. It is a Liahona of light to guide you unerringly to your heavenly home.”

Learn about things that bring you joy: did you notice when you watched the video for the new children and youth program that the goals the children chose to work on were things that brought them joy?  Little girl learned to bake chocolate cake because baking with her father was something she loved.  Young man brought unity to his quorum with a filming project because he loves photography.

I read a book last year called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. by Stuart Brown.  In it is the story of a doctor who decides to start baking bread because of the happy memories he has of baking with his mother.  He gets a doctor friend to bake with him, he turns his basement into a bakery, and they start learning how to bake artisan breads.  He leaves these breads on his neighbor’s door steps.  The neighbors loved it!  They loved the bread so much that they talk about it to local restaurants, and soon, the two doctors have a healthy side business baking bread.  When I read this story, I was struck by a thought: This doctor’s neighbors were not starving.  They did not need the bread, but they loved it anyway.  How many times have you wanted to serve someone and felt frozen, unable to serve because you didn’t know what they needed most?  This doctor and his friend gave service out of their overflow of joy –I submit to you that you don’t always need to know what is most needed, but that you can serve out of the abundance of what brings you joy anyway.

Work on the extremes.

My mother was a great delegator. Each Saturday morning as my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, we received housecleaning assignments from her. Her instructions to us had been learned from her mother: “Be certain you clean thoroughly in the corners and along the mopboards. If you are going to miss anything, let it be in the center of the room.” L Tom Perry, “Discipleship” Oct 2000

 Elder Perry’s mom knew that if he took care of the corners, the middle would take care of itself. Do not try to fix everything about yourself at once!  Choose one weakness with the goal of bringing it up to a neutral—not to become great at it, but just for it not to be a negative strike against you.  Then choose one area of strength/enjoyment to take to the next level.  It is not necessary for you to be amazing at everything—we are supposed to need each other.
-Choose something to learn about that you have to do anyway (like pay bills, purchase insurance, teaching primary, etc…)
Choose a category from the new youth program:  Physical, Spiritual, Social, Intellectual.  (But don’t choose all four at once!!! only 1-2 at a time.)

 

How? How do I learn?

“If you want great answers, ask great questions.” ~Brooke Castillo

 Ask good questions. 

“Why?” is generally a terrible question.e.g. “Why is my house always so messy?”  Instead ask “How?” or “What?” questions:

 How can I get my housework done and have fun at the same time?

What can I do to laugh a lot today?

How can I make today better than yesterday?

What can I do to show my boss that I am the best person for this job?

What can I do to help my child take responsibility for her own room? (Hint: What does my room look like?)

When?  When should I learn/when should I begin learning?  Seth Atwater from tells me that the answer is “as soon as possible!”

President Russel M Nelson taught : “The doctrine of repentance is much broader than a dictionary’s definition. When Jesus said “repent,” His disciples recorded that command in the Greek language with the verb metanoeo. This powerful word has great significance. In this word, the prefix meta means “change.” The suffix relates to four important Greek terms: nous, meaning “the mind”; gnosis, meaning “knowledge”; pneuma, meaning “spirit”; and pnoe, meaning “breath.” Thus, when Jesus said “repent,” He asked us to change—to change our mind, knowledge, and spirit—even our breath. A prophet explained that such a change in one’s breath is to breathe with grateful acknowledgment of Him who grants each breath.”

Where?

President Hinkley said:My dear friends of the Relief Society, whatever your circumstances, wherever you may live, may the windows of heaven be opened and blessings come down upon you. May you live with love one for another. May you reach down to lift up those whose burdens are heavy. May you bring light and beauty to the world and particularly into your homes and into the lives of your children.

The  poet and essayist, Wendell Berry said

There are no unsacred places;

There are only sacred places

…and desecrated places…

 “At the end of our lives He (God) is going to look into our hearts.  What is it He will find there, I wonder? Will He find that we used the geography lesson, the dreaded math test, the teetering laundry pile, and the boiling over soup pot to draw closer to Him?  Did we use these gifts to teach our children to lift their eyes heavenward? Were the tedious details of a … day offered up as a way for us to love Him, or were they merely gotten through, checked off, accomplished? Did we even realize that every… ordinary day, we were standing on holy ground, building a cathedral far more glorious than what we could dream up on our own? “~Sarah Mackenzie

Cautions:

Time: Don’t wait until your work is done to learn something, take time during the day.  We have this idea that we have to get all our work done before we can do something fun.  It’s not true, and it’s dangerous for women especially; our work is never done!  I used to fear that I had an addiction to my phone.  But when I learned to schedule time in my day for the things I enjoyed, my phone “addiction” went away.  It turns out that I was struggling with was feeling trapped and not able to do anything that I wanted to do—so I wasted hours on Facebook/Pinterest. When I allowed myself time in my daily plan to do things I enjoy (like reading, painting, sitting in a quiet room by myself for 5 minutes) I stopped wasting time on my phone; I just no longer needed it as a buffer for my frustration.

Support: Find a friend who is interested in what you are learning—your husband may not be the best person to talk with about your new enthusiasm.  I’m not saying don’t share with him.  I’m saying, don’t be shocked if he says, “that’s nice” and turns back to the football game/political debate.  His job is providing and protecting, and that takes most of his brain power.

Focus: Do not just focus on your weaknesses.  That’s depressing!  Heavenly Father gave you gifts for a reason.

1 Timothy 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (elders).

 

If you can’t find or recognize your gifts, ask others what your gifts are. You’ll know that they’ve hit on your gift when you want to respond with “Can’t everyone do that?” “What’s so special about that? it’s easy.”

 

“We must have perseverance, and above all, confidence in ourselves.  We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, may be attained.  Perhaps everything will turn out very well at the moment when we least expect it.” ~Marie Curie

 –Feeling Inadequate: We feel inadequate because we are! Let control of the outcome go.  Bring your little basket of loaves and fish to the Savior’s feet, and let Him multiply them.

Some encouragement from Elder Holland:

“It might be hard at first or always.  “If for a while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived.”
―Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Inconvenient Messiah”

“So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”
―Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You”

“You never know how much good you do.  …You are doing the best you can, and that best results in good to yourself and to others. Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure. Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do. Then leave the matter in the hands of the Lord. You will discover that you have accomplished something beyond price.~Gordon B Hinkley To the Women of the Church 2003

LINKS

 Liahona of Light by Thomas S. Monson – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1986/10/your-patriarchal-blessing-a-liahona-of-light?lang=eng

 To the Women of the Church by Gordon B Hinkley- https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2003/10/to-the-women-of-the-church.p41?lang=eng

 Repentance and Conversion by Russel M Nelson- https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2007/04/repentance-and-conversion?lang=eng

Algebra and Life (and the secret to successful home school math)

19 Feb

Beginner Home school Math Mistakes
           I began homeschooling in August 2016 using Saxon math.  Cherry Pie in Algebra 2, Pumpkin Pie in 8/7, and Tamale Pie in 6/5, I had been given the textbooks my children needed (for free!), and I figured I should use what I had rather than spend money on dreamy manipulative heavy curriculum (MathUSee.)  The benefit to using Saxon was (aside from being able to start for free) that it is a respected curriculum.  So when friends and family members raised their eyebrows and worried that I was going to be one of those home school moms whose children just played and wasted time, I could say, “I’m using Saxon math,” and they all relaxed and got off my case.  However, I second guessed myself more than anyone realized.  I worried that I should buy a different program that might be better for my children.   I worried that the daily work was too repetitive and boring and took too much time.  I worried that Saxon was not helping my kids to see the real beauty that is in math.
            By October 2016, I could tell Cherry Pie was definitely struggling.  I thought a different program would be the solution for her.  I also realized she needed to review Algebra 1, which she had supposedly learned in 8th grade.  So I picked up a textbook called EZ Algebra at my favorite used curriculum store.  Each chapter was written in story form.  This would be fun and interesting, I hoped.  A textbook written in story form seemed to fit with what I understood “living books” were (Charlotte Mason method).  Reading how the characters solved their math problems might help her understand the “why” behind the math.  But many of the homework problems in the new book were tricky and made leaps beyond the instruction that were not intuitive for her or me.  If neither Cherry Pie nor I could figure out how to get the answer, we were sunk because the book didn’t have a solutions guide.  Also each chapter covered 4-5 concepts at once, which was too much new information all at once! I intended to work with her on every lesson, but I was new to home school and schooling 4 children in 4 different math levels plus keeping the 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1-year-old twins happy and out of mischief was a struggle. Most days, Cherry Pie was on her own for math.
I Learn the Secret to Successful Math Learning:
         After about 6 more weeks of still seeing her struggle, I pulled out the Saxon Math book again, Algebra 1 this time.  I went through a lesson with Cherry Pie. I get so excited about math when I’m teaching the lesson! It’s fun! I realized I have to teach her every day, or math is just not going to work for her or me.  I have to teach daily for me because I don’t know what’s going with her if I’m not directly teaching, and I need the review because I haven’t done much Algebra for 20 years.  Cherry Pie needs the direct instruction every day because she got none in 7th or 8th grade in public school.  She was given an assignment on a computer and told to ask her neighbor if she didn’t understand something.  She was left to flounder on her own for far too long.  I didn’t know this until later, but now that I know, I understand why she was so lost, and why math was so painful for her.
           As I was researching home school, I heard from many moms that they use math as the subject their children are expected to work independently on.  Many of the curriculum choices advertise that students can work through their programs independently.  But now that I’ve been home schooling for almost 2 years, I can say that my children struggled progress in math on their own.  When I began, I thought my 12-year-old and 11-year-old were moving through their Saxon math books by themselves okay, but that was because the concepts were almost all review for them. They weren’t learning anything new, and at the end of each month when I would finally remember to check up on their homework, I would discover that they had completed about 4 lessons for the entire month. (They should have been completing 3-4 lessons per week!)
           When I made the decision that I would work with each child each day for math no matter what, something magic happened. No one was bored with math any more, and everyone began to finish their math assignments in a reasonable amount of time.
Here is the big secret to schooling math: More important than which curriculum you choose is YOU, the teacher, working  one-on-one with your students each day.  I would even venture to say, that the curriculum you choose does not matter at all as long as you work with your children each day.  Choose one that is fun and interesting to you, or at least find one that does some of the thinking for you, because you won’t have time to write lesson plans for every day.  But do not think that the shiny curriculum you really want, but can’t afford, is the key and pine for it.  Because it really is not the answer.  You are the answer.  Even if you have your child work through Khan Academy online (which is free except for the cost of good internet speeds), the key to your child moving at a good pace through the math program is you being their with them for 20 minutes of their math time each day.
I discover that Saxon math is pretty cool, after all.     
           I discovered that in the Saxon book, each of the homework problems has a small number beside it that tells which lesson that concept was taught in.  So if neither Cherry Pie nor I can figure it out, I know where to go to review that concept.  Not only that, I can use those numbers to notice patterns in which problems Cherry Pie misses, and we can go back and review skills that she consistently makes mistakes on.
      Best of all, there is a letter from John Saxon to the students in the beginning of the book.  He says algebra isn’t difficult, it’s just different.  We have to learn to think differently in algebra.  He talked about not being discouraged about making mistakes–that everyone makes lots of mistakes. Mistakes don’t mean that we are bad at math and should give up. We practice each day to develop strategies that will help us avoid making mistakes in the future.
           That was a concept I needed, because once I understood that we were developing strategies, my mindset changed.   As we went through the lesson together, I was specifically paying attention to how the book showed to solve the equations–looking for strategies to help Cherry Pie.  I also payed attention to how I solved the equations.  What are my strategies that I developed all those years ago that are now so instinctive I hardly notice what I am doing?  I asked Cherry Pie to pay attention to how we solved the problems so she could find her own strategies.
        I should never have doubted Saxon.  I realized that he totally gets the beauty of algebra.  He just knows that algebra takes lots of practice.
      Maybe that’s a bit of an allegory for life.  We are here on the earth, trying to learn how to think and be like our Heavenly Father.  His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  We make tons of mistakes.  However, we aren’t supposed to be discouraged by our mistakes or quit or just decide that we are no good at life.  With the help of the master teacher, we continue to practice.  We develop strategies to avoid making those mistakes again. It’s going to take a lifetime of practice, and it can indeed be beautiful.
❤️ Glowworm

The Thoughts of a Wandering Sheep

27 Oct

Sunday I was asked to share what I learned from watching the General Women’s Broadcast a few weeks ago.  So here are my thoughts and how it all came together for me.  It was a really good conference, and the messages really inspired me.

I began my talk with this poem.  I explained that I wasn’t going to read it exactly as written, because it is written in a vernacular, and that though I love this poem exactly as it it, I didn’t want the oddness of me trying to talk the way the poem is written to get in the way of the message.  I’ve learned by experience that my dad’s jokes aren’t funny when I tell them.  Willie Nelson’s songs just aren’t the same when I sing them, and I feel this poem would be the same way.   (But I’m not going to re-write it, you have it as it is)

Poor Lil’ Brack Sheep by Ethel M. C. Brazelton

POOR LIL’ BRACK SHEEP dat stray’d away,
Done los’ in de win’ and rain,
An’ de Shepherd He say, ” O hirelin’,
Go fin’ my sheep again. ”
An’ de hirelin’ frowns, ” O Shepherd,
Dat sheep am brack an’ bad. ”
But de Shepherd He smile like de lil’ brack sheep
Is de onliest lamb he had,
Is de onliest lamb he had.

An’ he say, ” O hirelin’, hasten!
For de win’ an’ de rain am col’,
And dat lil’ brack sheep am lonesome
Out dere so far from de fol’. ”
An’ de hirelin’ frown, ” O Shepherd,
Dat sheep am ol’ an’ gray. ”
But de Shepherd He smile like de lil’ brack sheep
Wuz fair as de break ob day,
Wuz fair as de break ob day.

An He say, ” O hirelin’, hasten!
Lo, here is de ninety an’ nine,
But dere way off from de sheep fol’
Is dat lil’ brack sheep ob mine. ”
An’ de hirelin’ frown, ” O Shepherd,
De rest ob de sheep am here. ”
But de Shepherd He smile like de lil’ brack sheep
He hol’ it de mostes’ dear,
He hol’ it de mostes’ dear.

An’ de Shepherd go out in de darkness,
Where de night was col’ an’ bleak,
An’ de lil’ brack sheep He fin’ it,
An’ lay it agains’ His cheek.
An’ de hirelin’ frown, ” O Shepherd,
Don’t bring dat sheep to me. ”
But de Shepherd He smile, an’ He hol’ it close,
An’ de lil’ brack sheep — is me!
An’ de lil’ brack sheep — is me!

So how does the Shepherd reach out for us and how does he bring us back to the fold when we have strayed wide?  I submit that one way He reaches for us is General Conference, and aren’t we lucky that the Lord doesn’t mind repeating Himself!?  He will call us again and again.  Sometimes I have to hear a truth many times for it to really sink in.  Sometimes I think I understand something, and then the Lord repeats it, and I realize there is a much deeper meaning which I had not yet understood.

I learned much from the General Women’s broadcast this fall.  Sister Eubank gave a definition of righteousness that I really loved.  She said: “Being righteous doesn’t mean being perfect or never making mistakes.  It means developing an inner connection with God, repenting of our sins and mistakes, and freely helping others.”  I can do that!  You can do that!  We can all be righteous.  Sister Eubank also said, “There is an energy that comes from happiness and optimism that doesn’t just bless us—it builds everyone around us.”   Hmm.  What small thing can I do to light real happiness today? What if it were as small a thing as changing my focus, could the things I already have to do change for the better?

Sister Jones shared how knowing our divine nature can give us courage and hope.  We need to value ourselves as Heavenly Father values us.  She encouraged us to savor the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and recognize that when we feel the Spirit, it is evidence of our worth to God.  She said:

If the love we feel for the Savior and what he did for us is greater than the energy we give to weaknesses, self-doubts, or bad habits, then He will help us to overcome the things which cause suffering in our lives.  He saves us from ourselves.  Let me re-emphasize: If the pull of the world is stronger than the faith and trust we have in the Savior, then the pull of the world will prevail every time.  If we choose to focus on our negative thoughts and doubt our worth instead of clinging to the Savior, it becomes more difficult to feel the impressions of the Holy Ghost.

Isn’t that true?!  It is true for me.

President Uchtdorf urged us to be joyful.  He spoke of a sister who lived joyfully “not because her circumstances were joyful, but because she was joyful.”  He said:

There may be things about life that are beyond your control.  But in the end, you have the power to choose both your destiny and many of your experiences along the way.  It is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life.  …You can find joy and happiness in the grace of God and in the love of Jesus Christ. You can be glad!  I urge you to fill your hearts with gratitude for the abundant and limitless goodness of God.”

 Sister Mariott’s talk was my favorite.  She reminded me of something I had learned and needed to re-learn better.  She counseled us to abide in the Lord.  Jesus said, “Thou shalt abide in me and I in you; therefore, walk with me.”  This is something I keep forgetting to do.  When my day is hard—when it begins with yet another night of short, interrupted sleep because the twins apparently don’t need sleep like regular humans—I forget to turn to the Lord, to ask His help to do my work cheerfully.  Sister Mariott said, “Our challenges can pull us off this course of happiness.  We can lose our trusting connection to God if trials drive us to distraction instead of sending us to our knees.”

For a large chunk of my life I tried to repent by myself.  I thought that was how I was supposed to do it.  I asked God for forgiveness and promised to be better, then I tried to make myself better.  Eventually I learned a truth that Sister Mariott also knows.  She said, “Independently forcing ourselves to love others is insincere and hollw, and it simply doesn’t work.  Our sins and pride create a breach—or gap—between us and the font of all love, our Heavenly Father.  Only the Savior’s Atonement can cleanse us of our sins and close that breach.”  I have a weakness towards pride when I am angry that I’ve struggled against for years.  President Benson said, “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right.  It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.  Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention.”  So if there is fighting, it’s pride.  In my own efforts to change, all I achieved was a thin veneer that fooled me into thinking I was making progress but then cracked under any real pressure.  I remember a day when I was suddenly confronted with how little progress I’d made and how ugly my sin was.  I thought of the years I’ve been trying to change and felt my live was a wasteland, a barren desert devoid of hope.  I realized that I had not changed in any essential way.  I spent a couple of days drifting about in shock not knowing what to do, still praying and reading but without faith or hope that it would do me good.  I couldn’t see a way forward, I was so discouraged by my past failures.  President Uchtdorf said, “Even when you stumble, even when you turn away from him, God loves you.  If you are feeling lost, abandoned, or forgotten—fear not.  The Good Shepherd will find you. He will lift you upon His shoulders. And He will carry you home.”

And so the Good Shepherd found me and carried me home.  I came across these beautiful words in Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”  He will do it. He will make the highway through the wasteland and rivers in the desert.  When I took myself to the Lord and admitted that I was powerless to change and asked Him to change me, then some real change began in my life.  I learned that I have success conquering my weakness ONLY when I remember to abide in the Lord’s power.  Sister Mariott said, “The Savior repaired the breach between us and Heavenly Father.  He through His great atoning sacrifice, opens the way for us to partake of God’s loving power, and then we are enabled to repair the waste places in our personal lives.” The more I turn to Heavenly Father and seek His help, the more I have felt His love surrounding me.  When I was a teenager, I thought that the reason the Savior said His yoke was easy and His burden light was because being righteous causes us less problems, and wickedness leads to all kinds of extra misery.  That’s probably true.  But I’ve found since, that His burden is also light because He helps us carry it.  Sister Mariott urges us to accept God’s love and sacrifice our own natural selfish and fearful tendencies.

It is now with our mortal limitations, that the Father asks us to love when loving is most difficult, to serve when serving is inconvenient, to forgive when  forgiving is soul stretching.  How? How will we do it? We earnestly reach for  Heavenly Father’s help, in the name of His Son, and do things His way instead  of pridefully asserting our own will. 

It is easy to become overwhelmed by all that must be done.  We think we must do all the things.  A few weeks ago my husband and I met with our bishop to counsel with him about a problem that we had not been able to solve ourselves.  He gave us some counsel, including to rise each morning with grateful hearts.  After we got home, I sat down with a notebook to write down the counsel he had given us and the impressions I had so that I wouldn’t forget them.  Then I remembered that we had also been challenged by the Stake President to prepare for our upcoming stake conference by praying and asking the Lord what he would have us do (Acts 9:6).  I felt suddenly overwhelmed, how could I change so many things at once? Surely I would fail.  But I had my pen and paper out so I figured I had better buck up and get on with asking.  So I prayed about it, and the answer I got from the Lord was to be more grateful for my blessings.  So when the Lord says, “by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” that doesn’t just mean that the prophet speaks for the Lord.  Literally, the advice of my priesthood leader and the message from the Lord were the same.  The Lord is so efficient!  Think of the Savior.  On this Earth, he did not heal all who were sick.  He did not heal all who were blind.  He did not raise everyone who died right then.  He got tired.  He left one town and went to another.  He did not do everything.  But He did do all the Father asked.  And that was enough.  We, too, can do all the Father asks of us.  Sister Mariott said, “When we give our heart to the Father and the Son, we change our world—even if circumstances around us do not change.  We draw closer to Heavenly Father and feel His tender acceptance of our efforts to be true disciples of Christ.  Our discernment, confidence, and faith increase.”

I believe this is true, and I know that our Heavenly Father indeed helps us when we seek Him.

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/

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.).

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.