Mormon Doctrine

Mom, I’m here. Don’t forget me.

I sounded so crabby at the therapist’s office the other day while explaining my mixed emotions about being 40 and pregnant, “I’ve never been the kind of woman who was like, ‘Oh, please let me bear children. It’s my life dream to have a whole houseful of darlings. My only ambition is to be a mother.’ ” In fact, even though I’ve always assumed I would have a large family and was even quoted in my high-school yearbook that I planned to have a dozen kids, I have also been quite conflicted about it ever since I can remember. I love kids. I came from a large family that I also love. But, I have always also been full of dreams and ambitions that had nothing to do with family. In fact, I knew kids would just get in the way of a lot of what I wanted to do: graduate from college, serve in the Peace Corps, write a book or two, travel, and have a successful career in one thing or another.

I further explained to the therapist, “I’m a willing vessel, I’m just a broken one.” LeGrand and I both chuckled. Ain’t that the truth! He knows it even more intimately than I do. I am a very spiritual person and I try to live my life in communication with God. This is a good thing and a bad one. Because I listen to the voice of God, my life is always full of conflict. What He wants for me always seems to be in direct opposition of what I want for myself.

I remember when my hubby and I had been married for just a month. We went to the temple together and separated to do some work. I was 24, he was 22. We were both in college and working full-time. After we were done with our service in the temple, we walked out to the car hand in hand, both very quiet. Something was up. You could cut the dark sky in front of us with a pocketknife. My newer-than-new husband turned to me and said, “Alice, I felt it too, we are supposed to start our family now, and have joy in our posterity.” Nooooooooooo. I couldn’t keep the spiritual impressions I had felt in my own heart a secret like I had planned. This was crazy, but it was also undoubtedly what God wanted for us. I knew that this family business would rob me of all if not most of my own dreams. It took me six months to even become willing to go off birth control and then I was still resentful. And pregnant.

So, bring us up to the present day. We have four kids. I’ve had four miscarriages. I am forty and pregnant. Four seems to be an important number for me right now. This is my fourth and final blog. I know many people are reasonably questioning the child growing inside of me. Heck, they can’t question any more than I am. I am questioning. My husband is questioning. The only ones who are not questioning are our four children. They couldn’t be any more excited. Kids are really good at instinctively knowing what is most important…plus they don’t have to worry about paying the bills or losing three years of sleep.

I’d like to take this chance to explain and write down this little tale so that I will always remember it. There is one reason and one reason alone I am pregnant. The reason is that this child spoke to me from its pre-mortal realm. In August of 2012, my hubby and I found ourselves again at the temple. I had just suffered a pretty brutal miscarriage at 18 weeks. As we sat in the chapel, I turned to my husband and said, “LeGrand, I am not praying about this today, but I just want to be done having kids. I’m 38. I’m so tired, and I don’t think I can handle it emotionally anymore.” LG answered with his full support, “It’s up to you Alice. I don’t blame you. I don’t want you to have to go through that again either.” I wasn’t going to pray about it because I didn’t want any other answer from God besides my own.

mom im here

But something miraculous happened. Something I couldn’t deny. God sent a messenger to the temple that day. In the spirit form of a child. My child. The one I hadn’t yet given birth to.

It’s hard to explain the special place that are Mormon temples. They are very sacred. God is always there. They are a place where the veil between two worlds is very thin. In the temple I’ve felt the presence of many of my deceased loved ones who have gone on before me.  They have been there with me often, telling me that they are watching over me.

I never expected to be visited by someone who had yet to come to earth, but somebody had an important message that day. One that I really didn’t want to hear. In fact it was the last thing I wanted to hear.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked behind me to see no one there but to feel someone as assuredly as if they were standing there. There was no doubt someone was there. I then heard an audible voice, “Mom, I’m here. Please, don’t forget me.”

I instantly started bawling. How selfish I am! How easily distracted I become. I so willingly forget that this earth-life isn’t about gaining the adventures that I want to have, but is all about being willing to take on the ones that I already promised God (and others) that I would achieve. My most important calling in this life is to be a vessel, even if I’m the most broken one that there ever was. I answered with a pledge in my heart, “I won’t. I promise. I could never forget you.” It took me sixteen more months to get pregnant again. Every day I was haunted by the pleading of my child. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant or stay pregnant. I convinced myself that it was just the miscarried kid talking to me. I would maybe get to meet him at a later day in heaven. I told God that if he wanted it to happen, forty was as high as I was willing to go. Miraculously, I got pregnant on the first cycle after my 40th birthday, almost as if God wanted me to know that he got the message. But also in typical God-fashion..in the 11th hour…after we’ve been tested to the limit.

I’ve vacillated between anxiousness, depression, and elation. I’m only four months in and I’ve already had to give up my running,  my plans to go back to school and work, and a portion of my sanity. A big chunk of money that was put aside for our new home will now be used for doctor bills and baby items. I worry every day that this child will have special needs, but one thing dismisses my many worries. There is one thing that I will always know: this child is special. More than anything, this child wanted a chance to be mortal. He knew that for that to happen I had to be his mama. He traveled from wherever he was all the way to the temple to remind me of my promise long ago to not forget. I smile at his bravery and his audacity because he chose the day that I least wanted to hear it to remind me.

And then I cringe at what is in store for him. He’s going to be stubborn. He’s going to be brave. He’s going to have his own ideas. He will also have a mother to remind him that more than anything he wanted to come to earth because that is what God wanted him to do. I will remind him as much as I will myself: We might as well keep on listening to God…no matter how much harder it seems to make our lives and how much it robs us of our own dreams and ambitions. Ultimately we both will have to answer for how we used our time on earth and every single one of our choices. God will never be concerned with how much we traveled or achieved, His main concern is for the immortality and eternal life of all of His children. For that to happen, He first has to get them to earth….even if the vessel is forty and all washed up. All we can hope for is our own willingness to say, “I am a vessel, God. I am broken but I am here and I am listening.”

* I say “he” because I have this secret wish that the lucky number five will be the son for which I’ve prayed for my husband, but we are 99.9% sure that “he” is really Vivienne. There is always that .01% though, I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.

Advertisements

Loving my Enemy – Literally

I’m a sucker for humanity. I love touchy-feely stories of love, hope, kindness, and self-sacrifice.

I love stuff like this, this, and this.

Contention makes me a little uncomfortable. I can handle it but it just sets my heart at unrest. Because I’m a Mormon I’ve experienced some pretty intense contention directed at me. I’ve been called a bigot for standing for traditional marriage. (I still self-talk myself through one really personal de-friend not because I am hurt but I am sad I may have really hurt someone else with my unwillingness to change my religious views.) I’ve survived an anonymous commenter on my old blog who for years always told me how stupid I was for my beliefs. (She/he is the reason I don’t have commenting open on this blog – I just don’t need anonymous stalkers who are cruel.) I’ve been teased by one of my very best friends about getting magical underwear after attending the temple for the first time. (I flipped her off – not my finest moment. I still love you friend, if you happen to be reading. Glad we can agree to disagree.)

A few years back when I attended the LDS Women’s General Meeting in SLC some anti-Mormons got sneaky and handed out their propaganda inside tissue packets. The attendees just thought someone was doing something really nice by handing out the tissues and were accepting them in droves. The meetings can get pretty emotional when you start feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost and tissues are always a welcome commodity. I am not afraid of a fight. Once I figured out what was going on, I gathered up all the tissues I could find and took them back to the lady on the corner with the wicker basket. I said calm yet firm, “I would never in a million years come and crash your church gathering and hand out crap against your church leaders.” I filled her basket back up with my stack of retrieved tissues and walked away. She was speechless. For the next two hour meeting I sat with a lump in my heart feeling like I should have been more kind. I let her offend me and I should have just showed her love and invited her inside to see what she was so threatened about.

This past Saturday we took our kids back to Salt Lake City for General Conference. Kids under eight years old aren’t allowed to attend and so LG took our older three girls into the Conference Center and I took Caroline across the street to listen wherever we could park ourselves. (We ended up in the basement of the Visitor’s Center in an almost empty theater with stadium seating – Rock on!) There are always a lot of protesters on the sidewalks and we passed one particularly vocal one. He was saying things like, “Your underwear is dirty. You are not saved. You are fools. You are deceived.” You know – the typical. I got a thought, “Go give him a hug.” I chuckled. No way! He was so loud and everyone couldn’t help but give him attention while passing by, there was no way I was going to put myself up for a lashing like that especially with Caroline in tow. I walked on. We watched the meeting and then passed him again while going to meet back up with LG. The thought came again, “Go give him a hug.”

As we sat and waited for LG at the end of the sidewalk I couldn’t shake the impression. Once he and the girls arrived I told LG, “I’ll be right back, there is something I have to do.” He questioned knowing I am never afraid to stick up for myself and probably a little afraid he might have to pick me up from jail, “Alice, what are you going to do? Are you going to get into trouble?” “No,  no”, I assured him. “Just give me a second, I will be right back.” I ran back to the protester with the beard, the Mormon temple clothes wrapped around his wrists and the sign that said, “You are going to hell.” Now a really large crowd had gathered. I chuckled a prayer up to God, “You’ve got a sense of humor, you know.” And then I prayed the hug-receiver wouldn’t hit me. I walked right up to him as an obvious person on the opposite end of his views. Amazingly he quieted. I looked him in the eye and said, “Can I give you a hug?” He looked dumbfounded. As he answered I closed the space to not get fully rejected. He said, “I don’t think my wife will appreciate that.” I said, “How about a half hug then?” I quickly wrapped my left arm around his back and squeezed his left shoulder as he watched suspiciously. I explained, “I try to always follow any promptings that I get and this morning my prompting was to give you a hug.” I’ll give him credit as a human. He wasn’t mean. He didn’t hit me. He didn’t yell at me. He smiled. I smiled back and then returned without incident to my waiting husband relieved that he wouldn’t have to bail me out. It felt good to love my enemy.

I hope God doesn’t ask me to do something crazy like that again, but I hope if he does, I’ll have the courage.

protesterI stole this photo off the internet. Oh internet police, please be kind. I needed a visual to match the story. My protester was right inside that gate on the left. Not shown in this photo…although that kind of looks like it could be him on the right sans his 5 other signs and temple clothes.

Funny side story. Abigail told her seminary teacher about this exchange on Monday and I guess he shared it with several of his classes. On her way home from school a lot of her friends asked her if I was the one who had hugged the protester. I guess I have a reputation as the crazy lady. I guess that is why I can still love my enemy….I can relate to them. I get their craziness and I get their passion. Even if we have polar opposite views, I mostly get that we share humanity and that is a beautiful beautiful thing.

Sunday Pin: The Lower Lights

IMG_4438

Today at church we had a mission farewell. Another young man in our congregation will be leaving his family for two whole years to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ this time to Guatemala. The missionary program of my church is pretty miraculous. This young man and eight other members of his family sang a beautiful rendition of Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.  I love the hymn and they had gorgeous four part harmony.

It sounded about like this but with a lot fewer voices.


Don’t you just love those lyrics?

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

[Chorus]
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

I would have never thought of this song as a good song to send a missionary out to the field with, but WOW, how powerful it was to think of this hymn in the perspective of a missionary being a lower light.

Speaking of missionaries, check out these musical geniuses. LG and I both LOVE this rendition. I do enjoy how Mormons love music.

I want to be a lower light. I want to rescue and save all the struggling seaman wherever they may be. I will trim my feeble lamp and I will go forward knowing God can work miracles with my teeny little lamp.

And I can’t think of the lower lights without thinking of one of my favorite music groups The Lower Lights. They combine my love for southern gospel and Mormon missionaries. Enjoy. This song better be sung at my funeral someday.

This was a great concert; I’m glad I got to be there in person.

African Proverb: The Village

In the past week my eyes have been opened to the fact that it is wonderful to belong to a church family.
In four different moments I had a deep sense of love for my neighbors and gratitude for my village of residence.

The first was during last week’s Relief Society (my church’s female organization) activity. We had the most fun back-to-school themed activity where we had workshops about lifelong learning, community volunteering, healthy lunches, and teacher’s gifts. After the great informative classes taught not by experts but by my fellow church-going women who studied and shared knowledge (thank you Pinterest) we had a fun recess and lunch. The ladies shown below made me laugh with their hairnets and it was just so enjoyable to sit and chat with other women while eating a cafeteria style lunch.

Then on Saturday we had a pretty big storm and a neighbor posted on Facebook that they had a large fallen limb threatening to crush their fence. By the time we got to the house to help the limb was not only dislodged but cut into pieces. Ten others had showed before us and working alongside them felt like a sacred privilege.

Recently Updated4

Bella was really sad that for the third year in a row she wasn’t going to have a grandparent at grandparent’s day. She is sensitive like that and I wanted to be accommodating. My parents live four hours away and my in-laws live across the country. Lucky for me she has a special relationship with one of her previous primary leaders. When I called to ask Joyce if she would be willing to be Bella’s adopted grandparent she said, “It would be my privilege.” I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes.

village2

Later that day while walking through the neighborhood I saw two home-teachers out not just doing their home-teaching but going the extra mile and changing a starter in the car of a single mom. I got a lump in my throat and turned back to take a picture. I just knew that I had to share the joy of living among like-minded neighbors who all look out for each other.

I am so blessed to live in a pretty great village. Now, how do I get those home-teachers for when my transmission gives out? Just kidding. Kind of.

I look forward to sharing more African Proverbs. I’ve added a menu up top inspired by this query on pinterest.  I hit the jackpot on wisdom on Pinterest and in my choice of neighborhoods.

After I prepared for this post on Tuesday with the above pin, I went to pick up my girls from their activity at church and discovered that our family had been blessed this week yet again. One leader covered for another leader in emergency and by herself she forged through the originally planned activity. She single-handily did every one of these girls hair all pretty as promised. I have four daughters and I don’t think in my entire motherhood career I have done that much hair. The neighbors in my village are pretty phenomenal. I hope you are blessed with a village just like mine. If you aren’t, no matter where you are in the world, there is probably one just like them to be found at your nearest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By their fruits ye shall know them.

AD hair

Sunday Pin: My Treasure

Two beautiful works of art have touched me deeply this weekend. I hope I can do them justice as I piece them together to tell you of the profound inspired message they’ve etched on my soul.

lehis-dream

The first was this painting that hangs in the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. It is entitled Lehi’s Dream by Steven L. Neal. This copy I found online doesn’t do the original justice. The piece is absolutely beautiful. When an artist can make light illuminate from his brush strokes it always leaves me in awe. This piece won first prize in the 1987 Fine Arts Competition and hangs right outside the bathrooms on the main floor of the museum. It’s a good thing we needed a pit stop or I might have missed it all together. I find it very curious that although we went to the museum to see some Norman Rockwell originals (I love Norman Rockwell) this piece touched me so much deeper.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lehi’s Vision, this piece references 1 Nephi 8 from The Book of Mormon. Lehi was a prophet who shared a vision about the tree of life. In the vision, those who cling to the rod (scripture) will be lead to the tree to gain eternal life. The great and spacious building is depicted on the right – it represents worldliness.

What struck me so powerfully in this masterpiece were the people who had reached the tree. They are at the bottom of the piece and they are all holding a portion of light in their hands. Directly above dreaming Lehi, the mother is holding the small child and is kneeling across from the father who is holding the child’s hand. Their circle of love brought tears to my eyes.

Could it possibly be that simple? Light and joy is found in the family? When you find it you have no need for the great and spacious building or anything limited to its realm? Those with the light in this painting don’t even seem to notice the grandiose structure which holds kings and queens and treasures galore much less the college degrees, prestigious titles, fame, and the slew of other stumbling blocks to real happiness. While looking into this painting, I received a message just for me. It was an answer to a conversation LG and I had just the evening before. I wondered what would make me really happy. What did I need to feel completely fulfilled in this life? Surely, the answer couldn’t just be motherhood. What would happen to me if my kids grew up to be total losers? Surely I can’t allow my happiness to be contingent on them.

A tear ran down my cheek. Besides my own salvation, the only other thing that matters to my eternal destiny is whether or not my family will be with me on the side of light or not. All the other things I have worried about and considered to give me the personal happiness I’ve been lacking are just me stabbing at the facets of that great and spacious building. I have everything I need within the walls of my own home, I’ve just been too prideful to see it.

The second form of art came to me this morning via the local radio station that plays church music on Sundays. I don’t even think I have to tell you how this song touched me if I just tell you the title. It’s sung by Mindy Gledhill and its called More than The World. Take a listen and join me on my second journey this weekend into the beauty we call family.

As I sat down to write this post a scripture came to mind. I made it into a pin with a picture of my view while hiking with Abigail early this summer. We were headed down a beautiful mountain trail and in the moment as I snapped this picture I felt such a love and admiration for my oldest daughter.  In this moment, just as with the two pieces of art, I was able to capture my real treasure. I am so very blessed to be a mother and I am so grateful God has been patient with me as He repeatedly opens my eyes to the true happiness that I can only find here at home.

IMG_4002

I am proud of my children. {there, I said it.}

bella-shortstop

All one needs to do is look at my instagram feed to know that I am overly proud of my kids. The other day a friend said that we win as the most photographed family of all time. (proud of it)

As I look over on my feed showing on the right of this blog, 12 of the 20 pictures are of my kids. There is no shame on instagram. That’s probably why I love it so much. (In fact the photo in this post is originally from instagram.)

Even if you find this post a year from now, I can promise that the ratio of  my kid pics to my other pics will be about the same. I may have to quit instagramming all together when they move out, or stalk them like paparazzi. [I like the idea of getting a dark pair of sunglasses and an SUV and following them around the country.] Poor kids. They are going to need therapy.

I am a prideful person. Very prideful. Pride is my Achilles heel. I try to keep it in check, but with my kids it seems impossible. As a religious person I have sought answers as to whether or not I am going to go to hell for the way I feel about my kids.

These two quotes from two of my church leaders have been of infinite assistance.

In terms of your happiness, in terms of the matters that make you proud or sad, nothing—I repeat, nothing—will have so profound an effect on you as the way your children turn out. ~Gordon B. Hinckley

I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful. I am proud of many things. I am proud of my wife. I am proud of our children and grandchildren. ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I’ve concluded that if God meant for us to never have pride, he would have never given us children. Pride is a parental privilege. It’s an emotion I plan to keep for eternity.

Let me make this clear. My pride for my children is not wrapped up in what they accomplish. They can end up in jail and I will still be proud of them for they are mine and my love for them is infinite. I think every parent should feel this way. The children that I worry for most are the ones that don’t have a beaming parent watching their every move in utter satisfaction. What a great motivator it is for children to want to make their parents more proud than they are already.

Yesterday during Bella’s last softball game of the year I got to really indulge my pride. The best proud mom moments here are easily detected by the amount of tears shed. Yesterday was an all-time contender. You see, Bella caught her first fly ball. I watched her playing at shortstop with great anxiety. This is her first softball season and being the new girl she has mostly been confined to outfield. Playing shortstop was already a big accomplishment. She had missed her first grounder and so when the fly ball went soaring in her direction so did this mom’s anxiety. I wanted nothing more than her success. I was hyper-focused and I feel like some mom magic must have guided that ball right into her glove. Such keen focus is normally reserved for jedis but once in a while if a kid really needs help moms can tap into the force. (o.k. not really – it was all Bella)

She caught that ball. She CAUGHT the ball. She didn’t drop it. She stood there staring at the ball in her glove while her jaw dropped because of her good fortune. [She didn’t know I had jedi powers.] um I mean – She didn’t believe that all those softball practices would actually do her any good. But, they did. She had made the third out of the inning with two threatening runners on base. The smile that came across her face was priceless as was her attempt at covering it up.

I wanted to scream out for the whole world to hear. “She CAUGHT the ball. Ah huh, ah huh, that’s my girl”, but for Bella’s sake I kept my cool and my decibel range in check and said, “way to go Bella” as the tears streamed down my face profusely. I was so glad I was sitting on the front row of the bleachers. I have never been so happy for anyone in all my life. Truthfully. It’s a moment I will never forget as long as I live. My Bella got a moment to be proud of herself.

As her teammates congratulated her in the dugout, I knew that Bella, my daughter with floundering esteem would never be the same. After that fly ball she knew she could accomplish anything. She had her moment and I was there to share in it. I thanked God for the privilege and for the justification in my pride.

Oh yeah, they lost the game, but who cares, my baby had her moment! And so did her very very proud momma.

Goodbye Things


things
I want money, lots and lots of money.
I want to be a billionaire so freaking bad.
Money, that’s what I want.
We are living in a material world,
and I am a material girl.

I love it when lyrics paint a good picture. This picture was me. It was me until something happened. Well, not just something, a lot of little things.

Trying to live by God’s standard for me was causing me a lot of heartache. When I quit my job I was stuck for weeks in the “woe is me” mode. Didn’t God understand that I didn’t want to live another year of my long 40 year life being poor? Hadn’t I had enough? For most of my life (except for those few rebellious years in high school) I have tried to be a good girl, and I have never known the freedom we call financial success. Didn’t this girl deserve a break?

The girl left her mom and dad’s house at 17 with nothing but a few suitcases and a deposit on an apartment and forged her way from there with no assistance at all. This girl worked two night jobs (sometimes til 2 am) while pregnant with her third baby to save money for hubby’s college.  This girl lived three decades plus without a dishwasher and almost a decade with a dilapidated bathroom that embarrassed her to shame. This girl rarely had new clothes growing up and still goes without so much to buy her own kids clothes from the thrift-store. Wasn’t it time for this generous, obedient and loving daughter of God to know another way of life: the better way? Why God? Why when I want to work to have the finer things of life do you make me stay home? Why when everyone else seems to get multiple vacations a year, have new cars, big homes, and plenty to go around (even when they too have large families) are we made to suffer? Why do all those other ladies get to work to pay for that stuff and I am told to stay home?

I was D O N E. I felt picked on. I felt dejected. I was abandoned and forsaken. I was mad. I was hurt. I was confused. Why didn’t Got want me to have anything more when he seemed to give to everyone else so abundantly? Why did I always get the table scraps?

And then three things happened. The combination of which had a profound affect on my heart and mind.

First, I was sitting in Sunday School when asked to share a favorite scripture. I went looking in the Doctrine and Covenants for a verse that was extremely influential at a hard time in my life. It says, “Hold on thy way.” While searching, I stumbled upon an answer I needed in the moment. It happened to be another favorite that has stuck out to me many times in my poverty stricken life.

“And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better.”
~Doctrine and Covenants 25:10

For those of you that don’t believe in Mormon scripture, here is the same message from The Holy Bible.

“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” ~Luke 12:31

I thought, “Why can’t I seem to let go of riches and seek the kingdom of God?”

Then a few weeks later, in a church meeting, we sang a hymn titled How Firm A Foundation. It has always been one of my favorites. As I sang along, the words stuck in my throat, they turned around and flew on wings straight down to my heart. My eyes filled with tears.

“How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

“In ev’ry condition – in sickness, in health, In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth, At home or abroad, on the land or the sea – As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand, As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.”

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

I understood something: God didn’t take this trial of poverty away because He doesn’t care. (What? He doesn’t care? – He cares about me infinitely, he just doesn’t care about my financial status.) It isn’t important to him that I have new clothes or a vacation or a dishwasher. The purpose of this life is to prove me faithful. The more I suffer and remain obedient, the more I earn in the next life. He wants me to have mansions in heaven, and is only concerned with giving me the necessities of mortal life while I am on earth.

Still, I didn’t like it. I couldn’t shake it. I was still resentful. I unloaded on the marriage counselor who happens to be amazing at what she does. I thought surely she would back me up and empower me to go back to work. Yet, I sold her short. She shares my faith and my religion. She called me out and gave me the third part of the message,”You can’t compare your life to other people’s lives. You can’t feel less than others because your challenges are different than theirs. If you can’t learn to be happy poor, you will never be happy rich either.” And the clincher, “You don’t have to be poor, you just have to be willing to be poor.”

I went home and sulked for a day and thought it over, and ended my journey in prayer. My heart had changed. “O.k. God, I’m willing to be poor. Well, I want to be completely willing. Change me.”

The next day as I was looking out my front window, something clicked. I got it. In my changed heart, I was happy that my needs were met. Who cares if the house I live in is rented? God has always met my needs. I didn’t care one bit about my beat up mini-van, second hand couches, or the lack of drapes on my curtain rod (for the last 2 years.) It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the above saying (the most important things in life aren’t things) was ironically found by me at Abigail’s soccer friend’s mansion (full of everything anyone could ever want) because it was true. It was true for me and it was true for the rich people too. If my heart was turned towards God, and if I could keep it there, the importance of things would be nil, and I could be happy.

Ever since that morning, I have been happy. Truly happy. So happy I hope I am never not poor because I might forget.

I guess I can’t like this song anymore. Dangit. It’s so cute.

If you still need some more convincing, go read the whole chapter of Luke 12. woo-we. Good stuff.

Counting My Blessings

count blessings

It’s been a little over two months since I took God up on his challenge to quit my job and work on being more present at home, simultaneously starting this blog to record my journey.  I can honestly say it’s been a wonderful two months. The first month was extremely challenging but somewhere in the past few weeks something has changed within me. Like they say in the “Wicked” music: “something is not the same.”

It’s amazing to me when I do what God has asked, He seems to always shower me with unexpected blessings that never could have been anticipated. For instance, I feel a tremendous amount of peace. I know it may seem silly to say I didn’t anticipate peace; don’t we always get more peace when we follow God? But truly living on the budget that he was requiring of me and hanging out with my kids more seemed like it would bring anything but peace. Miraculously though I feel more peace then I ever have before. The peace I feel is by far the greatest blessing I have received as a direct result from this inloveathome experiment.

I can’t help but think of a scripture from The Book of Mormon

Mosiah 2:24 “And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?”

Last month when I was struggling I asked my FB friends how they overcame times when they weren’t happy and one of the overwhelming responses was they counted their blessings. Counting my blessings is a practice that always brings me greater happiness, so I am excited to share it with you. I thought it would be fun to list some other blessings I’ve received over the past two months. I hope to do this from time to time  – sometimes I have so many blessings stirring around in my head it gets rather crowded. I hope if I write them here I can make some room upstairs to ponder the new ones. I also hope that this record will stand as a living testament that God is aware of all of his children and that he does shower us with blessings if we are willing to follow Him.

1. A friend brought over 4 pounds of sausage just to show her love and support.

2. Another friend e-mailed me about how I inspire her as she is quitting her job too.

3. My sister complimented me on my willingness to follow the promptings of the spirit.

4. My sister-in-law and two friends gave my girls some cute second-hand clothes.

5. With a coupon and some trade-ins, we were able to buy Bella a used softball batting helmet for $4.

6. Abigail’s old cleats fit Sophia just in time for soccer camp.

7. A friend gave me her milk and eggs that would go bad when she went on vacation. The milk was just enough to tide us over til payday.

8. I was able to work miracles with the budget at the beginning of June and even send our dads a very small Father’s Day gift. Gift-giving makes me happy. LG and I were also able to exchange very small and simple Fathers and Mothers Day gifts but they were meaningful and appreciated.

9. We were able to afford swim lessons and soccer camp for the kids.

10. We have the pass of all passes that has given us a lot of free entertainment this summer.

11. Our cars are still running. One day the A/C in my van started making a really funky noise, and I dreaded the thought of taking our kids across the desert to my parent’s 50th reunion coming up. I prayed and said, “Heavenly Father, if you feel like us not having an A/C is a trial that will teach us something, let us be ready to learn it, and let me be cheerful, and if not, please let it keep working til we can afford to pay for it.” The sound went away the very next day and so far it is still working. Thank you to my Heavenly Father!!

12. LG and I have been making some real breakthroughs at marriage counseling. We have a wonderful marriage counselor that we found through an online friend whom I only know because of my old blog. It looks like we will be able to finish up with counseling just in time to utilize the same amount of money we are paying monthly now to pay for Abigail’s braces.

13. We got a check that was $500 more than we expected from our former mortgage company settlement and it is just the amount we were short to pay for our upcoming family reunion so I don’t have to keep scrounging to make do.

14. We’ve been reading a lot this summer and because a friend of mine has been on bed-rest, I’ve been able to share my love for the library with her three children too. Sometimes service opportunities are the best blessings.

15. Sophia’s arm-cast fell off all by itself so we didn’t have to pay the doctor to remove it.

16. My bike hasn’t gotten a flat tire all summer and it’s such a great way for me to find joy and serenity when I need it.

17. We were able to get the kids some summer clothes at the thrift-store 50% off. We’ve been able to give Abigail and Caroline nice birthday celebrations. Abigail is a teenager who is happy to use her birthday money to shop at thrift-stores and second hand stores. Talk about miracles.

18. LG has been gaining confidence at work and with his new calling at church to work with the Young Men.

19. Abigail and I both have broken iPhone screens but the phones keep on working.

20. I feel closer to my kids.

I feel grateful for every little miracle. You may call them coincidences or will argue that they would have happened anyway but everywhere I go, I see God’s hand in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am so grateful and I am so blessed.

Summer Sanity

Here are some great ideas for activities you can do for summer. After I told my sister about my trepidation of entertaining my kids on a budget all summer she gave me a great idea: have the kids write down ten to twenty simple activities each (that are free or super cheap) and then put each idea in a hat. Pull them out and assign them each a day of summer on the calendar. We did it and so far so good. I was amazed with how well the kids did coming up with things. It really is true that sometimes they just want their parents’ time more than their money. Some of the things we’ve done so far are a sidewalk chalk competition, a family movie night, bike ride, hike, swimming, baking out of that cookbook Bella got for Christmas. I’ve actually been able to enjoy myself a bit. As shown below. Yeah, it may have only lasted 10 minutes, but this mom of 4 will take what she can get.alice swim

If you were reading a few weeks back you’ll remember how I voiced my dread at the impending summer. Well I am happy to announce that I am fairing pretty well so far. After a specific session of marriage counseling that I will elaborate on later I have been able to let go of a lot of the negativity that has been plaguing me. But most of all I have made a specific plan of action that has been working for me.

It’s giving the whole family a balance between activity, productivity, and relaxation. What I love the most is that the plan is SIMPLE. The longer I parent the more I believe in simple. I have found that for me (as well as most others) if things are too elaborate they die down quickly.

So what is this magical plan? It’s based off of this quote:

“The child become a person through work.” ~ Maria Montessori

I want to teach my kids to work. I knew that if I incorporated work into each day that then the activities would be much more appreciated. And they have been.

So what is the plan? Every day this summer includes chore time. Period. It usually doesn’t last more than one hour. I look around the house and give them options of what needs to be done. They choose what they like to do. Lucky for me they all like to do different things.

What is their incentive? SCHOOL CLOTHES! (I don’t know if this will work as well with boys but with girls it has been magical.) It’s a win/win. We would  usually buy them clothes anyway, but they can live without them. So if they want the clothes, they have to earn them and if they don’t earn them, no big deal. Every day after chore time they give themselves a tally mark on a piece of paper on the fridge. Every tally mark is worth a $1. By the end of the summer they can earn over $50 and that is all we usually let them spend anyway. (You may want to up the amount symbolized by each tally mark as I know 50 is small, but our kids do most of their shopping at the thrift-store so $50 is sufficient – we’re poor – what can I say)

This idea was inspired by a story I heard from a friend of a returning missionary in Africa. Our church embodies self-reliance and so our outreach efforts across the world are a little different than a lot of those that just do handouts. We look for lasting change, and so we teach people to work. I guess in Africa, we run a program that teaches people to make their own bricks. When they have molded enough bricks, the church then gives them the mortar and helps them construct a home. When I heard this I thought, “Genius, I must find a way to utilize this same theory with my kids.” And so I have. And guess what? My kids love it! They feel accomplished when they work and after they have worked they are happier for a break. They are looking forward to the fruits of their labor in the form of school clothes and they are learning that NO ONE gets something for nothing. It feels good to provide for ourselves and the work is more meaningful now that they see it is affiliated with earning something. It’s no longer a drudgery.

Gosh, I need to affiliate my work as a mother with the long lasting things I am earning so I can let go of the drudgery.

Here is some great food for thought on teaching children the value of work.