Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Due to our friendship with SherriAnn two doors down, Saturday our family had the privilege of singing at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Convention here in St. George.  The whole family sang "Pioneer Children Were Quick to Obey," then TJ and I sang Sally DeFord's lovely "To Those Who Came Before Me."  Our good friend Andrew McCracken accompanied us on the piano, and as always, made us sound much better than we are.  I was so proud of the kids.  Ezra and I sang the alto line and TJ sang baritone, so the littles carried the melody by themselves.  Isaiah and Paul were even willing to sing, especially after I promised them each two packages of fruit snacks if they did a good job.  I wonder if pioneer children were primarily motivated by sugar?

Of course, the best part was dressing up in pioneer duds.  My kids are cute every day, but Saturday they were especially cute.  Special thanks to Mom, Georgia and Jaime for loaning us the clothes! And yes, I'm pretty sure pioneer children did bunny ears on their brothers.  Some things never change.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book of Mormon Week--Day Eight

At this point I'm sure you're all wondering what kind of education my poor home-schooled children are getting, if their mom doesn't even know how many days there are in a week.  I just had to find a way to squeeze TJ's testimony in.  He truly is the spiritual leader of this family and I'm so grateful he took the time to share.  His account of how the Book of Mormon helped him in our early years of marriage is totally  new to me, so that makes me really glad I asked!

Because I teach scripture to teenagers for a job, (I’m an LDS seminary teacher) I’m in the scriptures for hours every day.  You might think that the scriptures would get tiresome, but after 5 years of teaching I’ve found it to be just the opposite.  You also might think that I would get my fill of them at work and would not want or need to study them personally at home each day, but I’ve also found that to be untrue.  In my personal life I RELY on studying the scriptures each day, and especially the Book of Mormon.  Why especially the Book of Mormon?  It is hard to quantify, but I can answer by simply stating that it just works best.  This doesn’t surprise me considering what Joseph Smith boldly declared, “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book.” I have many theories as to why living the precepts of this book in particular works best.  
Perhaps, most importantly is the frequency, depth, and clarity with which it testifies of my Savior Jesus Christ.  Its central purpose is clearly and explicitly to bring me to Him.  Its success in doing so is demonstrated in my feeling about my favorite scripture.  Yes, I do have a favorite, a one and only favorite that will be so forever!  2nd Nephi 26:24 states: “He (Christ) doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him.”   This one simple phrase, this beautiful doctrine revealed in the Book of Mormon, that he doesn’t do, or in effect say, feel or even think, for that matter, ANYTHING except its express purpose is to benefit me and mankind brings such astounding clarity to the character of God as to motivate me to complete devotion to Him.  The realization that he does NOTHING unless it is to help us startles me with wonder into a deep sense of gratitude and desire to please him.  I am inspired to love him with all my heart, might, mind and strength as I learn of his infinite love for me in the Book of Mormon.  Because of what I’ve learned in the Book of Mormon I dedicate my entire life to His service.  What else could bring me closer to God than such a desire?
The Book of Mormon also works for me by solving my daily dilemmas; over and over I receive inspiration that is exactly what I needed with my struggles.  I can think of many examples.  One of my favorites is when Kari and I were engaged we had decided to have children right away, even though I was scared out of my mind about providing financially for a family.  We both only had two years of college completed.  We did have some money saved, but between the two of us we had only one part-time job because we were moving to Provo as soon as we got married.  My worst fears about money and providing were realized day three of marriage; on our honeymoon our car broke down and was totaled.  We had to spend almost all our savings on a new car.  Now our resolve to have children right away was really put to the test.  We felt strongly that God did not want us to delay having children and so we took a big leap of faith.  The first months of marriage were scary for me as I worried about the future.  I had 3 years of school left before my career as a teacher began, so I was going to school full-time and could barely work at all, and once a baby came Kari would have to quit her new job and then it would all hit the fan.  How was this going to work? I will never forget the answer I found in Mosiah, chapter four, where King Benjamin promises that if we are faithful, “ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked.”  I couldn’t believe it.  God was answering my prayers, telling me that He would make sure I could provide for my family if I moved forward in faith.  As I pondered over this promise my fears about the future were swept away.  I knew the future was bright.  We successfully had 2 children before I graduated, and I consider it a miracle that we now have 5 children, a big beautiful home in our dream town, and no student loan debt, all on a teacher’s salary and without Kari having to work a day outside the home since our first baby.  The promises in the Book of Mormon really work.
Another example is that recently I’ve been feeling like I don’t have the time to complete all that I need to do.  I’ve been stressed as I try to balance the many demands on my time.  It doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist.  I often fret and worry about how my efforts don’t provide the outcome I’m looking for.  Once again, my problem was solved in the Book of Mormon.  Moroni 7:33: “And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever is expedient in me.”  This came as a revelation to me.  Yes, through faith in Christ I will be made equal to any task, but I learned that I am only made equal to the tasks that God deems expedient.  I learned that if I fail at something or if things don’t turn out like I had hoped, it just wasn’t expedient.  In other words it didn’t really matter in the big picture of my eternal progression.  This principle brings tremendous comfort to me as I continually battle my fallen hopes. 
Just this week I’ve been struggling again with the same issue and found another scripture that deepens my comfort when things go awry.  2 Nephi 32:9 “…pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”  With this promise in mind, I can’t lose!  No matter what the results of my efforts, if I will be prayerful then God will turn it for my good!  I am now constantly reminded of God’s infinite wisdom, concern, and help in my behalf.  I feel like He’s always there with a big safety net ready to catch me.  Even though I fall, and--I do fall--He is there to catch me and ensure that everything will be okay in the end. 

Wow!  God is so good to me!  I feel like much of what I know about Him comes from the Book of Mormon.  I rely on this book to bring me closer to my Savior Jesus Christ.  It works and I love the results!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book of Mormon Week--Day Seven

"It is inspiring to learn how Parley Pratt came to know of the book about which he wrote the words of this hymn. In August of 1830, as a lay preacher, he was traveling from Ohio to eastern New York. At Newark, along the Erie Canal, he left the boat and walked 10 miles (16 km) into the country where he met a Baptist deacon by the name of Hamlin, who told him “of a book, a strange book, a VERY STRANGE BOOK! … This book, he said, purported to have been originally written on plates either of gold or brass, by a branch of the tribes of Israel; and to have been discovered and translated by a young man near Palmyra, in the State of New York, by the aid of visions, or the ministry of angels. I inquired of him how or where the book was to be obtained. He promised me the perusal of it, at his house the next day. … Next morning I called at his house, where, for the first time, my eyes beheld the ‘BOOK OF MORMON’—that book of books … which was the principal means, in the hands of God, of directing the entire course of my future life. 'I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.  As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists.'"
President Hinkley told this story in General Conference in August 2005, but this was not the first time I heard the story.  I clearly remember hearing it as a small child, and marveling that a person could love a book so much that they could barely put it down to eat or sleep.  As an adult, i hear this story with a slight sense of guilt:  I often forsake real life for a day or two in order to read, but this has never happened with the Book of Mormon. 
The Book of Mormon has been a part of my life since I was a little baby.  Mom, who was a convert, and Dad, who was raised by less-active parents, were the best missionaries a little girl could have.  When I was seven, the stake president issued a challenge for all the members of our stake to read the Book of Mormon together every morning.  Mom and Dad, who had always pushed for family scripture study, now committed wholeheartedly to reading together every morning.  Years later this was put to the test when I left the house at six thirty for early morning seminary, and the whole family got up to read together first.  This kind of diligence in the face of saucy teens and grumpy toddlers taught me the importance of the book we were studying.  Moms' and Dad's testimonies of the truths it contained sank in deep.
And so, although I don't recall any heralding angels witnessing the truth of the Book of Mormon to me, yet I know it is true.  I have always known.  When I was little, I knew in a small way.  As I have grown, my testimony of the book has grown.  It forms the bedrock of my testimony.  It has taught me who Jesus Christ is.  I have come closer to Him and to our Heavenly Father by studying and acting on the things I've learned.  With Elder Pratt, I can truly say the Book of Mormon is the principle means by which the Lord has directed the course of my life.
The Book of Mormon truly is another testament of Jesus Christ.  He is all over those pages!  The Savior is referred to on average once every 1.7 verses.  A few weeks ago I finished a special study of the book, highlighting references to Christ, attributes of Christ, words of Christ, and the works of Christ.  It was my favorite study of the book, hands down.  I loved reading the book with my Savior in mind constantly.  2 Nephi 25:26 is one of my favorite verses highlighting the centrality of the Lord in this book:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children my know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.  
This book has given me strength to continue on in the face of adversity.  I have gained comfort from knowing that the Savior knows me and loves me even when depression or other difficulties cloud my vision of Him.  In this stunningly beautiful passage quoted by Nephi from Isaiah, I am reminded over and over again that the Lord's love for me is unfathomable:
But behold, Zion hath said:  The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me --but he will show that he hath not.  For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?  Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.  Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
The Book of Mormon is a miracle in my life.  It has brought me to an understanding of the Atonement, which is key to peace in this life, not to mention salvation in the life to come.  I can't fathom where I would be today without the personal connection with my Savior provided by my study of the Book of Mormon.  It is true.  He does life.  He does continue to minister to his disciples and indeed, all of humanity today.  I bear this witness in His sacred name, Amen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book of Mormon Week: Day Six

There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.Ezra Taft Benson
I love promises regarding the reading of the Book of Mormon!  In fact, I love promises, period.  As our week is winding to a close, I am running out of time to convey all these promises.  If you love them and want to read more, here is a great compilation to help you kick start a wonderful new study of this exceptional book.  Also, I love this talk by our beloved prophet Thomas S. Monson, about the promises in the Book of Mormon.

And if you love cute kids talking about the Book of Mormon, today is your lucky day.  Paul is a very good sport.  He was digging in the back yard when I made him come in and combed his hair for this little interview.  I love this boy!

And yes, he does dig in his Sunday clothes.  Frequently.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book of Mormon Week: Day Five

David A. Bednar taught:

Regular reading of and talking about the Book of Mormon invite the power to resist temptation and to produce feelings of love within our families.  And discussions about the doctrines and principles in the Book of Mormon provide opportunities for parents to observe their children, to listen to them, to learn from them, and to teach them.

Eliza finished reading the Book of Mormon in February of this year.  I was so very proud of her and so very busy that we saved this blog post for now.  Here is what she wrote about the Book of Mormon in her journal:My thoughts on THE BOOK of MORMON

I liked reading the Book of Mormon because I was able to read it personally from my point of view.  At times I would either rush through the scriptures or just read one or two verses and not really pay attention.  But at other times I would really feel the spirit and be impressed at what the prhopets did and were like.  They taught me lessons of faith, courage (2000 SW), and obedience (Nephi.)  I was especially toughed by the fealess young men who bravely fought for what they knew was true from their mothers.  I felt a surge of the spirit as I read how they said "we did not doubt our mothers knew it."

Eliza shows a lot of initiative in her reading.  We basically handed her a set and told her to go for it. So many times she has stopped me as I passed by her room so she could share with me an awesome story she just read from the Book of Mormon.  I love her enthusiasm and her diligence.  I have been especially impressed with how much maturity she has gained since she began her daily study.  She takes her spiritual well-being into her own hands.  She is respectful, considerate, and easy to counsel. She knows and loves the scriptures!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book of Mormon Week: Day Four

Today is Day Four!  And today I have perspectives on the Book of Mormon from two experts.  One is very knowledgeable, and one has a name that makes him sound knowledgeable.  

First, we'll hear from Neil A. Anderson:

"Certainly there are times when getting the family together to read the scriptures does not stack up as a spiritual experience worthy of a journal entry.  But we must not be deterred. There are special times when the spirit of a son nor daughter is just right and the power of these great scriptures goes down into their heart like fire.  As we honor our Heavenly Father in our homes, He will honor our efforts."

And now, let's hear Isaiah's take on the Book of Mormon:

One thing that strikes me as I put this together is that Elder Anderson used to be a three-year-old boy who was perhaps more excited about tying sticks together than he was in The Book of Mormon.  But his parents must have found ways to include him in their spiritual lives so that he could grow into the great man he has become.  It takes a lot of work to corral my two little boys for family scriptures every morning.  Sometimes they're so noisy they have to take a time out.  But I've seen with the older kids how such habits become second nature over the years, and I have faith that it can happen again. Most of all, I love the principle that if we read every day together, we'll be in the right place when our kids are ready for these timeless truths to sink all the way in.  If we are not consistent we may miss these golden opportunities!  Keep the faith, my friends!  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book of Mormon Week: Day Three

Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book.
Ezra Taft Benson 

Naomi is still working on reading the Book of Mormon on her own.  She's nine (which means she'd rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than write down a few sentences) so she dictated to me what she wanted to say:

Every night I read one verse of the Book of Mormon.  I'm going to make a goal that I'll finish the Book of Mormon when I'm ten or before I'm ten.  Lately my mom has been waking us up for family scriptures.  Most of the time I don't really want to get up.  We read scriptures because the prophet told us to.  I like family scriptures because it has some funny stories.  Reading the Book of Mormon helps us be closer together because of the Spirit.  

Encouraging newly baptized kids to read the Book of Mormon on their own is kind of a bold undertaking.  The book contains long passages quoted from Isaiah that can be difficult for even adults to understand.  The long and involved historical sagas of different civilizations in the Americas can be tough to follow.  And the language itself can be challenging.  Here are a few things I've found to be helpful in guiding my kids through their personal study:

  • I give them their own set of scriptures for their eighth birthday.  By that time they're old enough both to read and to care for a nice set of scriptures.  At fifty or sixty dollars a pop, it's tempting not to buy them at all; especially since they have iPads and the computer to read scriptures on.  But as in Lord of the Rings, there is "a time when all other lights go out"--and I want them to have a set they can always count on.  
  • I encourage them to focus on the things they do understand.  There are difficult passages, but if a child can find just one verse in his daily study that strengthens his testimony and lifts his spirit, it's worthwhile.  For awhile I encouraged Ezra and Eliza to find a verse to mark every day.  This helps them to focus on what they love each day, rather than what they don't understand.
  • I encourage them to pick a time each day that works for them and stick to it.  For Ezra it's morning, for the girls who like to sleep in, it's right before bed.  They find a quiet place and go for it.
  • I study with them as a family each day out of the Book of Mormon to help them become familiar with the language and stories.  This makes personal study easier.
  •  I keep an eye out for signs of trouble in their personal lives, and ask if they're keeping up on their reading.  Nine times out of ten, their schedule has been disrupted and they're having trouble finding time for study.  I've avoided making daily scriptures a part of their daily chores or even their home school, and I don't stipulate how long they read.  I've found that letting them have a lot of ownership here is key to success.
  • I encourage them to set goals for completion.  Ezra and Eliza both chose a birthday.  This keeps the fire burning when things get tough.
As I mentioned before, I didn't read the Book of Mormon on my own until I was in my teens, so I'm asking a lot of my kids.  But that's pretty much TJ's and my modus operandi.  We always want them to do better than we ever did, and we're not shy about that irony.  We even laugh about it with them when they call us on it.  Times are changing, though, and what worked for raising kids when we were little just doesn't cut it anymore.  I want to arm them against Satan in every single way that I can.  It's my whole reason for being their mother.  And helping them know and love the Book of Mormon may turn out to be the best help I can give them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book of Mormon Week: Day Two

Book of Mormon Week:
Day Two

What's that?  You didn't know there was such a thing?  That's probably because I just made it up. And today I'm celebrating with a post that I should have done back in October.

Ezra finished the Book of Mormon, according to his plan, right before his 12th birthday last fall.  I don't know when I first finished reading the Book of Mormon on my own, but I'm pretty sure it was in my late teens--and the sad thing is that it wasn't a big enough deal for me to commemorate.  Where did this child come from, anyway?  He's up before us all every morning so he can read the Book of Mormon in peace--and I can tell the difference in him when he's consistent.  His life is easier and happier when he makes time for the Book of Mormon every day.
I asked Ezra to write down his feelings about the Book of Mormon in his journal, and I typed them here, with just a teensy bit of help in the spelling and punctuation department.
I finished the Book of Mormon when I was 11.  I noticed one thing--or now I notice one thing--how much influence pure intent really made.  I admit that sometimes I walked away from reading it with nothing; but when I truly searched with real intent, though i did not always find groundbreaking profound spiritual experiences, I found I was very happy and wished to do good although I never knew until now that scriptures had to do with it.  I believe a scripture in Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace; long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against which is no law."  And that goes with one of my favorite scriptures in Moroni 10:5: "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."  I know that the Book of Mormon gives me the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

You might be thinking I did this post just so I could brag on my awesome kid.  And, okay, you might be a little bit right.  I am proud, even though I shouldn't be.  Ezra's the product of two parents who want him to be better and happier than they were at his age, and that description fits most kids I know.  But mostly it's his divine parentage that has made him the fantastic kid he is.  I'm so glad that he is learning to be more like his Savior by reading from the Book of Mormon each day.  

Young men, the Book of Mormon will change your life.  It will fortify you against the evils of our day.  It will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will.  It will be the most important book you will read in preparation for a mission and for life.  A young man who knows and loves the Book of Mormon, who has read it several times, who has an abiding testimony of its truthfulness, and who applies its teachings will be able to stand gainst the wiles of the devil and will be a mighty tool in the hands of the Lord.                                                                                                         -Ezra Taft Benson
What mother doesn't want these blessings for her son?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Secret Weapon

I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein.  The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow.  The spirit of contention will depart.  Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom.  Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.  Righteousness will increase.  Faith, hope, and charity--the pure love of Christ--will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.
-Marion G. Romney 
I have read this promise so many times that I'm surprised I don't know it by heart.  We've always been pretty consistent in our scripture study, and so I've always been a little bugged that we don't have the rosy family scene this quote depicts.  I've especially wondered why, when we're doing the best we can to live the gospel, we struggle in this house with so much contention.  And as I've prayed for help in teaching this family to speak kindly, I've been prompted to be more consistent in our family scripture study.  This advice I always acted gladly upon...for a few days.  :)

The answer to my prayers came this year in the form of a challenge from the bishop: to read the Book of Mormon in its entirety as a family this year.  He gave us a schedule that started Jan 1 2015, and my family scrambled to finish our first reading before the end of last year so we could start on time.

It took us at least four years to read the Book of Mormon as a family last time.  Suffice it to say, it scared me a little to think of committing to read the whole thing in one year.

My husband, who teaches seminary, was not crazy about the schedule idea.  He's a free spirit, and doesn't like the idea of rushing through great material in order to complete an assignment.  And to be honest, I had my doubts about the program, too.  But we believe in following our priesthood leaders, and so we sucked it up and started marking boxes every day to keep track of our progress.

We read together in the mornings.  Sometimes we're tempted to do other things first-- especially on the weekends when we have tons of time at home--but we've found that our chances of success go way down if we don't do it before breakfast.  And since we know we have to make up any days we miss, we are highly motivated not to miss.  We wake up the late sleepers and drag them in, blankets and all, and read our daily assignment from the bishop, which is usually around eighteen verses.  Part of the reading assignment is to mark, in different colors of pencil, attributes of Christ, references to Christ, and the words of Christ.  Our oldest three are all strong readers, so they take turns doing this. Sometimes we have great discussions on gospel principles.  Sometimes we laugh at the foibles of characters such as Laman (whiny), Chemish (lazy), or King Noah (selfish.)  Sometimes we kind of rush through the daily assignment and hope something sank in on its own.

TJ and I have been pretty consistent with family scripture study for the past several years.  We've done really well on weekdays and have missed a lot of weekends.  Sometimes, weekday study has been just a few minutes long, but we figured it was better than nothing.

But I can tell you now that in scripture study (as in life), you really do get out of it only as much as you put into it.  The difference between being pretty consistent and being very consistent is the difference between being pretty blessed and being very blessed.

We are feeling very blessed.  The kids are happier.  TJ and I are more patient.  We approach challenges with greater faith and softer words.  We seem to find more teaching moments throughout the day to witness of gospel principles to our kids.  There are way fewer--WAY fewer--fights over toys, clothes, and the breathing of someone else's air.  There is a culture of service going on, and an overall spirit of forgiveness.  Most of all, there's more love around here.

Isaiah and Paul, who are three and five respectively, are the best barometers for the success of this family.  When we struggle, they tend to act out.  But when this family's humming the way it hums right now, they are absolute joys to be with.  They tell me, each other, and the other kids several times a day how much they love us.  They smile.  They kiss.  They basically love on the family as a whole.  And I really think it's because they've been sitting in on our daily sessions with the Book of Mormon.  How much they can grasp cognitively, I really don't know.  But something is going on in their hearts, and besides being extremely cute, it is catching.

Our family is now perfect and we'll probably all be translated sometime this week.  JUST KIDDING! We still have challenges.  We still lose our cool now and then.  We still get lazy, disrespectful, unkind, you name it.  But it's just easier to be good these days.  And I know I can use all the help I can get.

I've started thinking that the Book of Mormon is every Mormon mom's secret weapon.  Sometimes it is even a secret from us.  We forget, don't we, all the promises that have been made?  We forget how good we felt when we were consistently studying as a family.  Even while we're listing the reasons we're not doing it--the list is long and we've all got one--we know in our hearts that if we could straighten out our priorities a little we'd be happier.  More blessed.

Sister Linda S. Reeves shared a testimony that has stuck with me:

A friend recently cautioned, “When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel like they have too much to do.”
Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, and those of my husband, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if pornography or other challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do.
Brothers and sisters, if these have not been practices in our homes, we can all begin now. If our children are older and refuse to join us, we can start with ourselves. As we do, the influence of the Spirit will begin to fill our homes and our lives and, over time, children may respond.  (emphasis added)

I love this counsel.  As moms, we are all looking to lighten the load of stress and worry we feel every day.  Do you remember the moment she made this monumental promise?  I do!  It just makes sense that the Father of us all, who cares deeply about my work as a mother, would have put in place practices that would empower and bless me.  It is almost silly for me to be writing this post.  Silly that this is such a revelation to me--because so many have testified of the power of daily scripture study.  But I'm here to add my voice.  It works.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I had already been ignoring my laundry for way too long when my dryer quit on me the other day. But it's an old beast and I'm used to it taking a holiday once in awhile.  My neighbors are used to it, too.  In fact, I really didn't even bat an eyelash before I loaded up two laundry baskets and started knocking on doors here in the circle.  Two neighbors who've let me use their dryers were gone, so found two more whose dryers I'm acquainted with.  SherriAnn said I was right on time--she was doing laundry but didn't mind me jumping in line since her dryer was empty for another few minutes. Then Deslie met me at the door and cheerfully said she'd pop my laundry in her dryer, too.  Both baskets arrived back at my house full of folded laundry before I had a chance to retrieve them.  It figures.

I've been depending on my good neighbors for almost five years now, for everything from the quintessential cup of sugar to emergency babysitting when Paul needed a trip to the Instacare-- so I should have expected the call I got from Deslie's husband, Kevin, within the hour.  He's a mechanic for the Post Office, and he's helped us on numerous occasions.  This time he came over, diagnosed the problem, and said he knew what part to get.  In vain I hinted that TJ could totally fix it on his own.  I forced him to take my debit card with him, so he wouldn't get any fancy ideas about paying for the part as well as providing free labor.  He came back with the part and confessed he hadn't used the card because he didn't want to use our money. Apparently it's just not as fun that way.  He waited for TJ to get home and help because it's a two-man job to lift up the drum and put the part in behind.  He also figured out why it makes so much noise and fixed that, too.  Now my dryer sounds like the whisper of a gentle summer breeze.

All this happened in less than six hours.  And it's not really an anomaly.  Bruce and SherriAnn invite us up to their cabin every summer to spend time with them, and Bruce takes our dumpsters to the curb and back again every single week of the year.  We try sometimes to beat him, but he's just way better in practice than we are.  Brent, who's a botanist, takes my kids on nature hikes and teaches them about the local flora, as well as Native American rituals.  Karen takes care of Paul and Isaiah during two hours of stake conference so TJ and I can sing in the choir.  Jaime is kind to my kids when they wander into her backyard to see the chickens, she gives us such great hand-me-downs that we rarely buy clothes for our kids, and she is always first on the scene when anyone on the street needs help. Gary gives us free tax advice and great pickleball coaching.  Dave fixes our van when it breaks, if he can beat Kevin to it. Suzie has been a second mom to my Naomi, and a dear friend and mentor to me. Amy and Dennis volunteered their horses and their time so Paul could have the best birthday party ever last year.  Louise brings us all her best hand-me-downs that are too good for D.I.  Robert, our retired art professor, gave my kids free lessons one summer.  And they all spend hours.  Hours.  Talking in the middle of the street every week.  They sit on their front lawns and host the neighborhood kids with toys and treats and attentive listening anything the kids want to talk about.  The people on my street are some of the kindest, most selfless people I know.  When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

My love language is service.  And I feel very, very loved.

Tough Guy

This is how Isaiah sees himself:

And this is how the rest of us see him:

Friday, April 17, 2015

We Are Not Afraid of Work

At the end if last week's trauma,  I headed for the temple and then out to eat with some of  my home school sisters.   It was a powerful uplift and reminder of what truly matters in life.   I love laughing with and learning from these choice women.   They believe, with me,  what Julie B. Beck taught:

"Families mean work, but they are our great work—and we are not afraid of work."

Home school is just one way I go about accomplishing my great work.   I feel sure that you, too, are engaged in building your family.   May God bless you in this noble work!   And me,  too.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Look at this face and tell me what kind of week I had.  The kids have been sick for weeks months FOREVER.

I try really hard not to whine on this blog.  But my kids have been passing around a cough for what seems like my entire life.  Is it possible that they were sick even before they were born?  We usually just roll with it.  In a family our size, you can pretty much count at least one out of five being sick all winter long.  But this week Eliza even had trouble breathing and had to be put on a nebulizer.  And that was when I really got mad.

What do you guys do to keep your kids from getting sick?  Do I need to do flu shots next year?  More veggies and fruits?  Because something's gotta give.  Being sick during the winter is a bummer.  But being sick in the spring, when we're all dying to get outside, is super the worst.

Also, I sneezed yesterday.

Please advise.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Monday

For the same reasons TJ celebrated his birthday sans extended family, we skipped the traditional Monnett family egg hunt at Grandma's and did one the next day, here.  Buying the candy at half price was a fun side benefit. 

It was a perfect spring afternoon, and although we missed the cousins, it was kind of lovely to celebrate with just us seven.  After the hunt we sat on a blanket in the back yard and enjoyed bagels with hummus, boiled eggs with salt, pepper, and mustard, and of course tons of chocolate.  This was my favorite part of the whole day, maybe even the whole week.  I loved looking into the faces of my sweet kids, listening to their jokes and watching them laugh.  We have a happy family.

After this we quickly cleaned up the kitchen and watched Dieter F. Uchtdorff's The Gift of Grace, probably one of the best talks on the nature of grace and the atonement I've ever heard.  I want so much for my children to feel in their daily lives the peace that comes from knowing their Savior has already atoned for their sins, provided for their mistakes, and felt their sorrows.  

Life is so very good.

Monday, April 6, 2015

East Rim of Zion National Park

Jonathan, Tony, David and I took our older kids to hike Cable Mountain.  Kari stayed home with Isaiah and Paul, and I'm sure she was very sad not to be with us.  Haha!  It was an overnight backpacking trip of 18 miles in two days.  These kids are tough!

 Well, kind of tough.
 Here is one of Eliza's beautiful botanical creations.
 Naomi and Ellie holding hands.

Also, this isn't TJ writing.  It's his lovely wife.  Blogging under his name is easier than transferring his photos to my account.  Hope you're all genuinely confused.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

TJ's Birthday

TJ turned 36 today.  

Since it occurred on Easter AND on conference weekend, since Isaiah has had a cough and my grandparents are easily infected, and since we had guests pretty much all week...because of all these things, TJ opted for a private birthday party.  The kids were pretty bummed not to have family over, but I thought it was still pretty fun.  TJ didn't get much in the way of presents, besides the mountain bike I let him buy last week.  So it was all very simple.  But I did make enchildas with the amazing red sauce David and Chan brought from New Mexico.  And the kids decorated the house very nicely. 

 Sorry the picture is blurry--it was hard for the camera to focus on anything but the conflagration on TJ's birthday cheesecake.  Look at Naomi's smile.  And Paul's.  And ten extra points if you can see Eliza's.  But the best smile is TJ's.  He usually tries to look tough in pictures but he's learning that I always hold out for one of his 500-watt smiles.  I love this man so much.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It may be spring in St. George, and a warm one at that; but if I bring a blanket to family scripture study, I can lure this little boy in for some snuggling.  He may not feel cold, but when he sees the blanket, he thinks he is.  Bwa ha ha!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Visit from David and Chantel

David and Chan came up with their kids for a few days this week, and we had so much fun!
 The first thing David did was to take us all out to dinner at Chuck-a-Rama.  
He does this to make us like him.  It totally works.

Ellie spent a lot of time waiting on the little ones hand and foot.  At the end of the week I offered Chantel a tidy sum for Ellie, and got laughed at.  But seriously, Chan, the offer stands.

 We went to Brigham Young's Winter Home, then the carosel and Judd's candy store.  
Sam hated the carosel.
 Ezra played his first little league ball game on Tuesday night, walked to first, and then ran home on the next batter.  It was awesome!
 "Go sports!"

 Ice cream at Frostop after the game.
 The kids found a dead bird, so they dug a grave and enjoyed a very sad funeral.
And on that strange note...I'm out of pictures!  We had a fabulous time.  I told David and Chan not to go.  Every time we get together it's just like old times in Provo, and then they leave and I feel sad and lonely again.  Those were the days.  We never had to make friends because we could just go upstairs and bug the landlords.  Come back soon, you guys!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Couples Campout

Mom and Dad, Georgia and Lance, and TJ and I all camped out last weekend without the kids.  They were in the care of  my younger brothers, which only scared me slightly.  Mom and Dad spoiled us with awesome food and we all had a fantastic time enjoying a perfect spring day on the mountain.  These are my best friends in the world!  And that guy rappelling two hundred feet into Yankee Doodle canyon?  That's my dad!  He is the coolest.