Friday, August 29, 2014

FFF#33--Prepared for the journey

Yesterday, my oldest and my youngest were standing in front of the open refrigerator foraging for food.  I sat at the table eating my lunch.  I heard Spike say, "Ugh!  I don't know how to make wunch!"  I started laughing.  It was so very cute.  Slim then said, "Me either.  Let's go ask Mom."  For the record, Slim does know how to make lunch.  He is a returned missionary and college graduate for crying out loud!  He just doesn't like to make wunch.  We worked together and got those boys some lunch, which Spike still didn't eat and then had a melting fit later which is a story for another day.
not quite like this, but close

Stick with me for a moment, I'm going to divert, but I'll bring it back around.

I recently began my Book of Mormon study again by starting over in first Nephi (because I finally finished reading the Doctrine and Covenants!!).  Yesterday I read the chapter where Nephi is commanded to slay Laban.  As I read that chapter, it occurred to me that Nephi was hesitant to follow the commandment to slay him.  And who wouldn't be???!!  Really?!  You want me to kill the guy?  I know he hasn't exactly been kind to us, I mean he did try to kill us and he took all of our stuff.  But seriously?  Kill him?

But as Nephi ponders it and questions his instructions, the Spirit teaches him and directs him.  I have had a similar experience, multiple times (not being instructed to kill someone, mind you).  But when I have questioned my instructions the Lord knows exactly the right sentence to say to get me to do what He needs me to do.  Here is a fairly harmless example:

When Spanky was engaged, his father and I were concerned.  It felt that though he expressed his happiness and excitement of his upcoming nuptials, some little comments he would drop indicated that he may not be listening to the Spirit about whether or not this was the right choice for him.  After several such comments, my husband pulled me aside and said, "You have to talk to him.  He won't hear it from me.  But he is not listening to the Spirit."  Great!  I hate those assignments!

I began pondering how and when to speak to Spanky.  These were the thoughts in my head:  When you talk to others about sensitive subjects that you are not sure will be received well, where do you do it?  Oh ya!  Over food.  I need to take Spanky out (it was the morning) to breakfast.  Drew will never go for us splurging on breakfast with the way our budget is.  He wouldn't think that was cool.

Then I heard this:  Well, you can either spend $30.00 on breakfast, or $2000.00 in November for wedding travel.  Drew's the accountant.  Let him figure that out.

I'm taking Spanky to breakfast!!!

But see??!!  Succinct and to the point.  No beating around the bush.  Decision to act made.

As I pondered Nephi's experience, it occurred to me that killing Laban was only the first time Nephi was required to kill someone.  We do not have any record of his other experiences there, except for when he is getting ready to die, Jacob says, "The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defense and having labored in all his days for their welfare...." (Jacob 1:10)

We know that after Lehi died, Nephi took his family, sisters, Jacob and Joseph, Zoram and his family, Sam and his family and anyone else who would listen with him as they fled from Laman and Lemuel and their families.  And we know that they had continual battles with them.  So who was Nephi 'wielding the sword' at?  Oh, right, that would be his nieces and nephews, probably mostly nephews, but it was against his own family!  Probably not just once, either.  Killing Laban was actually a preparation for other things that Nephi would be required to do later.  The Lord had prepared him.

We know that the Lord prepares His people.  He tells us so.

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

In Ether, chapter 2:6, we learn that the Jaredites built barges to cross many waters.  How many did they build?  We do not know exactly.  But when it was time to build the barges to cross the ocean waters, in v16, the Lord says to them, "Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built."

Do you think they learned one or two things in the first and second and third barges they had built about what would be successful and what wouldn't work?  I think they learned plenty, enough so that when they built the barges for their ocean crossing, it was successful!  Their barges were 'tight, like unto a dish'.  I'll tell you what, if I were in one of those barges I would be exceedingly grateful for the practice barges that weren't required for the ocean voyage!

But then in verse 25 of Ether 2, the Lord says, "And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea and the winds which have gone forth and the floods which shall come...."

So the Lord prepared them.  But if you read the verse before that, verse 24, you'll read: "...for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth."

Did you get that?

The Lord prepared the flood and the storm that was going to carry them to the promised land.  He prepared the trial for them, and he prepared them against the trial.  He prepared them to accomplish the thing which He commandeth them.  He prepared them for success.  He knew what that would take because He prepared both sides of the equation!!

And He will do the same thing for us.  If it feels like you are facing the same trial again, and again, and again, but it just looks a little bit different each time or it is a little more difficult each time, if you look closely, you can recognize the hand of the Lord in preparing you for your journey to your promised land.  He is preparing the way for you to accomplish the battle, challenge, journey in life that you need to take to bring about your eternal exaltation.

He does that because He loves us, because He knows who we are, and He knows what we need.  If we are willing and will listen, He will prepare us for what lies ahead as well.  Just like some day, my little Spike will know how to make 'wunch', and Slim has already been taught, even though he doesn't like it, the Lord will teach us all things that we need to do to be successful in the tasks He lays out for us.  It all ministers to our growth and development.  It is all a part of our personal journey, which is really why comparing ourselves with others is ineffective.  They are on their own personal journey, specifically tailored.

We can all have faith that the Lord is mindful of us and has our best interests at heart.  He has not only prepared us against the waves and the floods, He sent the waves and the floods.  He knows exactly what they look like and He will prepare us for them.  We can trust that!

I pray that you and I both will be able to withstand our waves and floods and successfully reach our promised lands, that we will have faith in our Father in Heaven and know that He has prepared a way for us to do what He asks of us!  In the name of His son, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Air, Water, Fire, Earth

Life has been crazy busy at our house this week.  It isn't so much with school beginning but just all of the end of summer, beginning of fall, stuff.  Drew, as an accountant, closes out the fiscal books for the court in July and then in August has all of July's regular work and budget planning in August.  So he is totally busy and is working extra hours to take care of all of the extra work.  (Summer family vacations are out!)
Copyright: Karen Larsen photography.  This is what I want the day to be like

This week alone, I have had three extra visits (to other people), a couple of child-care services (where the kids were dropped off here), a couple of extra appointments, and four evening meetings, and extra unplanned driving for the older boys---pretty much since Wednesday of last week.  It is just exhausting.  Tomorrow the calendar is empty.  I am looking forward to that.  This morning I looked on the calendar and realized that I had forgotten a scheduled appointment.  Crazy!  (Anyway, that is why there hasn't been much blogging activity.)

I am glad for fall and school, but some weeks are just ridiculous!

About three weeks ago, I found Carol Tuttle teaching us to Dress Your Truth.  Actually I read it in Heather's blog and listened to what she had to say.  It was awesome!  And though I cannot afford to buy her program, which I would just do if I could justify the expense, what I did learn has helped me a ton!!

If you haven't watched her videos, you won't know what I am talking about, so go a watch them first!

But here is what I learned:  I am definitely a Type 3 woman.  I am organized, succinct, irregular (though consistency is something I have worked on for years and am fairly good at now), bold, textured, rich woman (rich as in deep, not financially wealthy).  I am constantly thinking in my head when I talk to people 'and the point is???'.  Occasionally, I have even said to my children when they are telling me a story, "Skip to the end, tell me what you need/want me to do about it and why you are upset."

I have learned that most people cannot manage my bold, aggressive style.  It is too much for them, so I have tried to soften it.  Type 2 is my second nature.  I mask my Type 3 personality with Type 2 because I feel more people will be more accepting of me if I am a Type 2 person.

Well, I'm not!  I'm a Type 3.  As I have dressed more true to my nature and embraced who I really am inside, I am more at peace.  I am happier.  I have also had to just let go of the fact that some people are put off by Type 3 individuals.  And that's OK.

Drew is a Type 4.  When I realized that, oh my goodness!  The world changed.  I can embrace his nature also without taking offense at his ability to think critically and analyze everything and find all of the holes and then want to fix them because Type 4 people seek perfection.  My Type 3 personality moves just a little too fast for him.  But together, we have some balance in that he slows me down and keeps me from jumping too quickly into something and I spur him on so things actually get accomplished.
The children are all a mix.  We have some fire boys (Type 3), a water girl (Type 2), a few earth men (Type 4), and maybe only one air man (Type 1).   [The kids are Avatar watchers, so the air, water, fire, earth analogy makes more sense to them.]  The first day I listened to the four different types and realized they matched the Avatar, the Last Air-bender series, I sat the kids around the table and we each got a piece of paper and labelled everyone in our family.  It was a pretty fun activity.  The kids really got into it.  Then, of course, we had to all discuss why we put some people in certain labels and defend our choices.  Some of us compromised, and some of us just agreed to disagree.  But it was amazing which ones were completely consistent!  Everyone pegged the Type 4's and Type 3's without question.
As we talked, like Carol does, about embracing everyone for their gifts and their natural abilities, relationships in our home have improved.  And it is totally funny to hear one of the kids say, "Oh well they are (fire, water, earth, or air bender) which is different than me and that is why they are like that."  And when one of us fire benders is on the war path, watch out!  But now we just say "My fire personality is going to burn you up if you don't back off."  (And when two fire benders in our home are at each other, it isn't pretty).  But if we take the analogy just a little further and try to embrace each one's personality, we provide balance and then our little world can be in harmony.

But for now, we are all just learning to live together, some days in harmony, some days praying for harmony.

Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day of School!!!
 Last night we had our back to school blessings, at least for Shorty and Smilely.  Speedy had his a couple of weeks ago and Sun will have hers tonight (probably Spike, Spike too).

The boys had such a great day!!  They both got the teachers they wanted, and teachers who love our family and have had almost all of the other kids, at some point.  We LOVE them!!  So much fun!!

I wish I had photos!  This being without a digital camera kind of stinks, especially since for some reason, my phone will no longer send stuff to my email.  Geesh!!  Definitely first world problems!  Sorry for my complaining.

That's all for today!  Now I'll go and make dinner and maybe have something wise to say tomorrow, after FHE tonight....

Friday, August 22, 2014

FFF#32--To Obey, or Not To Obey

That is the question, ay??

Believe it or not, all of us struggle with this question in one way or another.  Some of us struggle on a very basic level.  Am I going to church, or not?  Am I going to drink alcohol today, or not?  Am I going to read my scriptures today or not?

Some of us are struggling with things that we know we should do but maybe don't want to do.  Should I invite my friend to church, or not?  Should I write that letter, or not?  Sometimes we have definite impressions and instead of saying, "Hey, that's a great idea!" we say, "Oh Heck No, I am not doing THAT!"  (This is usually me....)

Because that is my typical response to many things asked of me, obedience has been a learned art.  Forever, my favorite scripture has been 1st Nephi 3:7:

And it came to pass that I Nephi said unto my father, I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for I know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

And why is it my favorite, you ask?  Well, because I tend to have a major attitude problem.  My heart's desire is to do what the Lord asks of me.  That is the innate desire of my heart.  But many, many times, I am asked to do something I do not want to do, or something I am afraid to do, or something I feel I just cannot do.  When I have those feelings, I remind myself of my favorite scripture.  I remind myself that if the Lord is asking it of me, then He has already prepared a way for me to do what He asks of me.  I just have to figure out what that looks like and align my attitude with the task at hand.

I LOVE Nephi's faith!  I love that he does hard things.  His brothers were saying, "Heck no, I am not doing that!"  But Nephi said, I will go and I will do.  At those times when I have the 'heck no' feelings, I look at some of the things the Lord asked of those men and women in the scriptures and compare what He is asking of me.  It isn't usually to do things anywhere close to what He asked of them.   Then I try to tell myself that I am not being asked to walk back to Jerusalem to get the plates, or live in the wilderness for eight years, or build a boat, so maybe I can just do what He is asking??!!  I try not to compare what I am asked to do to what my neighbor or Susie Homemaker or Peggy Perfect or even Loafing Lucy is asked, because, let's be honest, those aren't really fair comparisons.  I do not completely know what is going on in those women's lives, and even if I am close enough to them to know, I don't know the deep places in their hearts and how what is being asked of them affects them.  I really, only know how being asked is affecting me.  In those circumstance, the Lord tailors each person's learning curriculum.  In other words, we all have our own IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  It doesn't matter what Peggy Perfect is asked to do, because what is asked of her is for her IEP.  What is asked of me is for my IEP.  We cannot really compare, because we are on different tracks and usually in different places, learning different principles.  Let's face it, comparing ourselves with others is not a tool the Lord would encourage, even though we all do it at different points, for good or ill.

If the behavior asked of me is difficult or undesirable on my part, then I recognize a couple of principles:

  • The Lord loves me.
  • He wants what is best for me and what will make me happy.
  • He knows the results of what He is asking me to do.
  • He knows why it is important for me to do whatever it is.
  • He knows what growth and development is necessary for my eternal salvation (That would be the I [individual] in IEP).
  • He is incapable of giving bad gifts.  He doesn't give stones and serpents, only bread and fish.  When He asks something of me, it is because He desires to bless me in some way and my obedience to His request is necessary for the blessing He has in mind.
  • Sacrifice and obedience are the first laws of the gospel.  They go together.  Always, sacrifice is involved in obedience.  It is only when I have made the sacrifice of obedience that the Lord is then allowed to bless me with the oil of testimony.
  • Sacrifice hurts, that is why it is called sacrifice.  If it doesn't hurt, it wasn't a sacrifice.
  • I do not like pain.
  • If left to myself, I would never do anything that caused me discomfort.
  • Then I would never grow.
  • There is a certain amount of pain and suffering (and a lot of obedience) involved in growth.
  • Heavenly Father will not force me to participate.  He suggests that I do what He asks.  If I do, He blesses me.  If I do not, well, sometimes there are consequences and sometimes I just do not receive the blessing.  Sometimes I forfeit the blessing.  (That is something I try really hard to consider when I am trying diligently to change my attitude so that I conform my behavior to obedience and willingly make the sacrifices necessary.  Much harder to do than to say.)
And finally:
  •  One day it hit me.  Heavenly Father is God because He obeys the laws perfectly.  He is perfectly obedient.  There are laws, eternal laws, that govern the universe and beyond, laws like agency, opposition in all things, sacrifice, obedience, all blessings predicated upon obedience, etc  (and many more I do not apparently know yet) but Heavenly Father knows them and has shown that He is not going to violate them, ever, which is why He is allowed to be who He is.  
  • If I want to be like Him, I have to learn to have that same kind of obedience, which is why my favorite scripture reminds me that anything He asks of me, I can do----because He already made a way for me to accomplish it.  He wants me to succeed and He has planned the way for me to do so.  
Now I just have to trust Him, make the sacrifice and be obedient.

Friday, August 15, 2014

FFF #31--The Youth of our Day

We have heard many times that the youth today are stronger and more stalwart than those of previous ages.  I think one of the things that solidified my testimony and kept me coming back to church even when my parents weren't coming was the constant uplift I felt when the leaders would speak about the strength of the youth and how our Father in Heaven felt about us.  I really don't know how long they have been telling the youth how amazing they are, but it has been at least 31 years because I have been hearing it for that long.
Here are a few of the things they have been saying:

Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, you have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities.

You are to be the royal army of the Lord in the last days. You are “youth of the noble birthright.” (Hymns, 1985, no. 255.)

In the spiritual battles you are waging, I see you as today’s sons of Helaman. Remember well the Book of Mormon account of Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors and how the teachings of their mothers gave them strength and faith. These marvelous mothers taught them to put on the whole armor of God, to place their trust in the Lord, and to doubt not. By so doing, not one of these young men was lost. (See Alma 53:10–23; Alma 56:41–56.)  President Ezra Taft Benson, Youth of the Noble Birthright, April 1986.

“I have said many times that I believe we have the finest generation of young people that this Church has ever known.  They are better educated; they are better motivated; they know the scriptures; they live the Word of Wisdom; they pay their tithing; they pray.  They try to do the right thing.  They are bright and able, clean and fresh, attractive and smart.  These are very substantial in number.  More of them go on missions than ever before.  More of them marry in the temple.  They know what the gospel is about, and they are trying to live it, looking to the Lord for His guidance and help.”  President Gordon B. Hinckley, November 2000, Your Greatest Challenge Mother.

Elder Anderson in April of 2010, gave this counsel:

President Thomas S. Monson has described the rising generation as “the very best ever” 1 and has said to our youth: “You have come to this earth at a glorious time. The opportunities before you are nearly limitless.” 2 But he also warned, “We have been placed on earth in troubled times.” 3 “It is a time of permissiveness, with society in general routinely disregarding and breaking the laws of God.” 4 We are surrounded by so much that is designed to divert our attention. “The adversary is using every means possible to ensnare us in his web of deceit.” 5
We hold in our arms the rising generation. They come to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities. We cannot be casual in how we prepare them. Our challenge as parents and teachers is not to create a spiritual core in their souls but rather to fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their premortal faith.

Just last week, I spoke with our primary children.  I told them of some of the comments the Brethren have made about their generation.  I wanted them to feel the power of who they really are.  I wanted them to have courage and faith, that if they would do what the Lord asked of them, He would always stand by them and uphold them in whatever difficulties they may be called to face.  I LOVE what Elder Anderson told us as leaders of the youth:  Our challenge as parents and teachers is not to create a spiritual core in their souls, but rather to fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their premortal faith.

I recognize that it does not always feel like these kids are those kind of people.  But the Brethren have told us they are.  Amazing things happen when you speak to them at that level.  The Holy Ghost testifies of your words, or the Brethren's words to them as you explain the truths of their spiritual identities.  When the Holy Ghost comes, the atmosphere in the room changes.  You no longer have to get their attention, you have it.  They are riveted to your every word.  Once they know who they are, then you can teach them the doctrines they need to hear and they are listening.  This would be the fanning the flames part that we play.

When we try to teach the doctrine without the Holy Ghost, we might as well be herding cats into the river.  When we don't speak to them (the youth and the children) in the Spirit of love and truth and doctrine, we are wasting their time and ours.  I really haven't found anything that brings the Spirit quite as quickly as helping them to see and believe in the premortal fires of their faith----whether you are speaking to an individual or a room full of people.  When you can catch the vision of who they are and what they can do and you can share that information with them, through the power of the Holy Ghost, you can inspire them to do difficult and amazing things.

I mean, listen to the words of President Benson:

Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life.

Don't you love it?  Boy language---straight forward---do this and here is the promise!  And that goes for the Young Women too, only President Uchtdorf explained it in 'girl language'!
My dear young sisters all around the world, I am grateful and honored to be with you today. President Thomas S. Monson and all the leaders of the Church love you; we pray for you, and we rejoice in your faithfulness.

Over the years I have been exposed to many beautiful languages—each of them is fascinating and remarkable; each has its particular charm. But as different as these languages can be, they often have things in common. For example, in most languages there exists a phrase as magical and full of promise as perhaps any in the world. That phrase is “Once upon a time.”

Aren’t those wonderful words to begin a story? “Once upon a time” promises something: a story of adventure and romance, a story of princesses and princes. It may include tales of courage, hope, and everlasting love. In many of these stories, nice overcomes mean and good overcomes evil. But perhaps most of all, I love it when we turn to the last page and our eyes reach the final lines and we see the enchanting words “And they lived happily ever after.”

Isn’t that what we all desire: to be the heroes and heroines of our own stories; to triumph over adversity; to experience life in all its beauty; and, in the end, to live happily ever after?

Today I want to draw your attention to something very significant, very extraordinary. On the first page of your Young Women Personal Progress book, you will find these words: “You are a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father, prepared to come to the earth at this particular time for a sacred and glorious purpose.” 1

Sisters, those words are true! They are not made up in a fairy tale! Isn’t it remarkable to know that our eternal Heavenly Father knows you, hears you, watches over you, and loves you with an infinite love? In fact, His love for you is so great that He has granted you this earthly life as a precious gift of “once upon a time,” complete with your own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love. And, most glorious of all, He offers you a gift beyond price and comprehension. Heavenly Father offers to you the greatest gift of all—eternal life—and the opportunity and infinite blessing of your own “happily ever after.”

But such a blessing does not come without a price. It is not given simply because you desire it. It comes only through understanding who you are and what you must become in order to be worthy of such a gift.

Notice that there are a lot more words, a story and a fluffy feeling....  If you are speaking to boys (and some Type 3 women), get to the point, do this, be this and/or this will be the result or consequence.  If you are speaking to girls, appeal to the emotions---light and fluffy and connected.

But whichever group you are speaking to, the point is the same, they are amazing, testimony-filled, Latter-day warriors.  We need to understand who they are in order to remind them of who they are so they can become who our Father in Heaven intended them to be.

Take just a few moments and think about your own children, or the ones who you have been called to teach or lead.  Pray about who they are and begin to see the gifts our Father in Heaven has given them.  Take some time out of your busy schedule to sit down with that child and explain to them the things you see in them, and then teach them of what our Father expects of them in terms of their current behavior and where it needs to go and what it needs to be.  Remember that 'Satan desires to sift us as wheat,' which means to make us common.  Teach that to our youth if it is necessary.  Remind them that they are not common.  They have a premortal fire burning in them.  They are youth of 'the noble birthright,' saved to come forth in this day and age because the Lord knows who they are.  He knows He can trust them to lead out in righteousness and be a light to the world growing more and more into darkness.  This is their eternal heritage!!!  And as their leaders and parents, we need to fan that flame and keep it moving in the right direction!

Have a great weekend fanning those flames!