Pins

Sunday Pin: The Lower Lights

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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.

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.

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Sunday Pin – Compassion

I just read a really great book called Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It is an extremely eye-opening and touching story about a very bright girl with extreme physical limitations caused by Cerebral Palsy. I love books that give me a greater understanding of the people who share this world with me. This book left me with a great desire to be even more kind to those with special needs.

compassion

This book also left me with a very distinct impression: I felt to tell my 14-year-old daughter to seek out a certain peer who may need some more compassion because of his/her special needs. I don’t know if she will do anything about it, but I hope that when the time is right, the spark that I instilled will grow into a fire that she won’t be able to ignore. I know my Abigail has a great amount of compassion. I remember her third grade teacher being astounded because she would seek out a classmate who was confined to a wheelchair. She was so impressed by Abigail being a true friend to the girl.

If I can give my kids anything, I want them to know and understand compassion. I want them to be the kind of people who make this world a better place for others, especially those who are the most downtrodden.

I love love love love THIS back-to-school talk where it is suggested that parents read to their children each year. It beautifully articulates great truths about compassion. Compassion is the greatest thing we can ever give. If you haven’t read the talk at the link, you need to right now.  If you haven’t had this talk with your kid to teach them compassion, you need to not wait one more minute.

This world needs more compassion. A lot of it. Let it begin with me.

Sunday Pin – Pray, He is There

pray

For some reason, I struggle with formal prayers. I believe I do pretty good at praying always in my heart, but to actually kneel down next to my bed, keep my eyes closed, and pray with words from my heart is harder for me. It’s not that I don’t believe anyone is listening, it’s just that I am lazy.

Today I had a profound lesson taught to me. Our Bishop came in to visit with the children at church. I happened to be there as a Primary teacher and got to hear his very short message. “Would you kids ignore your dad? Would you ever just quit talking to him? ….Like you live in the same house, and pass each other in the hall all the time, eat together, sit on the same couch, but you just never say a word?” The children all answered with resounding, “No ways!” I sat in shame realizing that this is exactly what I do to my God every night before I go to bed. I know I should check in, I just don’t.

As I listened to the children sing with the Bishop, the Spirit penetrated my heart. Heavenly Father wants to hear from me. I am his daughter. For those of you familiar with the song A Child’s Prayer you know it is split into two parts. The most common arrangement of the song that I have seen is for girls to sing the first part and the boys to sing the second and then the parts are sung together simultaneously.

Well, our chorister had a stroke of genius. She taught the children the first verse and brought the Bishop in to sing the second. I didn’t know our Bishop had such a beautiful voice, but I also didn’t expect the profound feelings of reverence I felt as he sang in response to the question, “Heavenly Father, are you really there?”

As he sang, “Pray, He is there,” I felt the answer directly to me. I felt as if the Bishop was my personal messenger for my Father who wants me to stop ignoring Him in the hall. “You are his child. His love now surrounds you. He hears your prayer. He loves the children.” I could not continue singing with the children as the spiritual feelings I was feeling were so strong that I just couldn’t contain my emotion.  I knew my Heavenly Father wanted to hear from my more formally, but I also knew without a doubt that I am His child and that He is always listening, no matter how slothful I have been about kneeling down. He loves me as His child, just as He does all the little children in the room with me today and the rest of his children throughout His world.

It was a beautiful day to be a primary teacher.

 Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
“Suffer the children to come to me.”
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list’ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav’n.

Here are some fun versions of the song I just found on youtube, or you can hit the above link to hear the song in its pure form.

Sunday Pin – Letting go

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My thirties have been an intense decade of self-improvement for me. Maybe this is the same for most people or maybe it is just me. I have amazed myself with my ability to adapt, change, learn, and grow. You can’t teach a dog new tricks, but I guess the dog can teach herself.

I have been thoroughly delighted that the older I get, the more I have returned to the things that made me happy as girl and teenager. I feel in some ways I have come full circle. I spent the first ten years of motherhood without a thought for myself and I wasn’t happy most of the time. Honestly, I was lost. Really lost. I was floundering, giving everything I had, which wasn’t much because I was an empty well. I feel like now I’m finally found. I still love the same things I did when I was younger: God, my family, running/biking, nature, art, reading and writing, gardening, teaching and sharing, and friendships. I almost had to let go of all these things to understand their role in my happiness and I had to work at knowing and loving myself to get them all back.

For the sake of my happiness I’ve also had to let go of a lot of unhealthy behaviors, attitudes, and habits and work hard continually to keep them from coming back.  I have tried to let go of comparison, self-neglect, competition, perfection, control, living without boundaries for myself and others, needing others and their love and approval to an unhealthy level, and so many more.

Yesterday, as I was looking forward to my upcoming 40th birthday and reviewing my past I felt a great sense of satisfaction. I have come far. I still have a long way to go, but I am pleased with where I am on my journey. It dawned on me that I have made great strides in all the major areas of my life, so I added them into the blog as pages shown above – Emotional Well-Being, Financial Fortitude, Physical Strength, Social Vitality, and Spiritual Power {I hope I can figure out how to automatically categorize future posts under their perspective subjects because if you hit the page links now nothing is showing yet – If you know how to do this and want to save me hours of research, please e-mail me at alice.w.gold@gmail.com – thanks}

So here is where I stand as of now.

Emotional Well-Being – I have learned that if I want to be emotionally healthy it’s all about being honest and loving myself and others in that honest place,  but if I have to choose between myself and others, I will always love ME first because if I can’t love me, I am really not loving others.

Financial Fortitude – I have learned the VERY hard way that I can’t spend more than I earn and fiscal responsibility is a requirement for one’s happiness. The shopping high I used to seek after is curbed as I’ve discovered it doesn’t give me lasting happiness.

Physical Strength – Physical health feels better than any piece of chocolate cake tastes. Running a half marathon trumps being able to fit comfortably into an airplane seat, although the latter is also a nice perk of physical strength.

Social Vitality – I don’t need people as much as I used to, but I also need them more. I need healthy honest people in my life and the kind of people that I associate with as well as the amount of time I spend with them is a tell-tale sign of where I am on the spectrum of social health. I am working at having more honest, close, and lasting relationships.

Spiritual Power – My faith holds power. It has gotten me through some of the most trying experiences. It has helped me love myself. It has helped me to forgive. It has helped me to improve a day at a time. I never want to be without it.

Happy Sunday!

* I just figured out how to do pages and totally revamped my above categories. Hope you don’t mind.

Sunday Pin – Afrian Proverb – Sisterhood

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I’m blogging during Sunday School to the utter disgruntlement of my hubby. Any minute he will look over to the screen of my I-pad, read this, and shake his head at me. I think God’s o.k. with it as He knows I seek Him in my life and understands my struggle to pay attention in this class. (Oh please don’t get this back to my Sunday School teacher). I almost just made a comment so I guess I am really safe because apparently I can multitask.

Heavy on my heart today is the topic of sisterhood. In our last meeting we got to hear from the beautiful young women of our congregation and to my pure delight my daughter Abigail was among them. She’s so beautiful and has grown up strong and insightful. I’m so proud of my girl. She took my breathe away today. How did this struggling mom raise such an absolutely amazing creature? God is good.

Abigail shared a little story about her girls’ camp experience. They went geo-caching and she was so frustrated when she couldn’t find a cache and was disappointed in her intellect when another girl found it before her. (I chuckled as this girl relies on her smarts and believes in them 100% – just like her dad – I wish I could have that intellectual confidence) She talked about how she had realized through the experience that Rachel (the girl who had found the cache) had served as a reminder to the importance of the Holy Ghost. Abigail realized she would never know everything, but God would be there and send her the Holy Ghost to help her when she didn’t. With the help of the Holy Ghost, she could get from where she was stuck to where she needed to go. What more could a mother ask for her daughter to know? I can’t think of anything. I was so so grateful for all the leaders who helped Abigail to have this experience.

Here you can find the touching song that Abigail and her fellow sisters in the gospel learned this week. When they sang it today I bawled like a baby because through this music, sung by women alone, my daughter had the opportunity to learn of her capacity for good. And so much good she and her sisters in the gospel will do.

I have that much.

Faith is important to me.
I’ve discussed it before
here, here, here, and here.
Faith has carried me through a lot of stuff.
One of those above links
was when my husband failed the bar exam.
That was tough.
Here is how faith
influenced me
as a small child.
The story is also
a fun reminiscence
of my crazy dad
and how he jimmy-rigged
and stole (I mean borrowed)
a truck to get our
station wagon out of the mud.

So my latest trial of faith may be the hardest trial I’ve ever faced. It’s not something I can really blog about because to reveal it would not be fair to others, but it’s tough. Trust me, it’s really tough, so tough I can’t talk about it on my blog. ( And you all know I talk about everything from moobs, my body, crying myself to sleep, and even the horrible botched farce on breastfeeding.) So it’s tough and it reminds me that everyone is fighting their own hard battle, whether or not they share it.

Anyhow, I was praying about this trial last week. It was one of those big prayers in my life that I will always remember. For me it was huge on two levels. It was huge because I decided to do it after a long prideful prayer hiatus. {shame on me} And it was huge because I poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father as though he really was my Father listening and that He cared and that He would help me. I bawled like a baby and questioned, “Why?” Even if we aren’t supposed to ask “why”, I did. (This is one of my favorite addresses on trusting in the Lord and talks about not asking why) I needed to know WHY does this have to be my life when I have tried so very hard for the last 20 years to do everything right for God.

The answer came (like it always does eventually) two-fold. The answer was first a thought in my mind. “I have this trial so I will pray.” This trial is so hard that it always brings me to my knees out of desperation and God allows this in my life because He knows I will be happier with Him in my life.

The second answer came from the words out of my own mouth.

“Father, you’ve said in your scriptures that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. Well, I sometimes struggle with my faith, but I know I have that much. I have at least as much as a mustard seed.”

I saw in my mind, my Father in Heaven, the most omnipotent being ever. All knowing, all powerful, and all loving, he let go of his embrace from this wailing child, he nodded at me and said, “Yes, you do. Well done. Now hold on Alice, we’re gonna move this mountain on my time.”

Faith is my greatest treasure. I hope I always keep at least a mustard seed worth.

Thanks to the book Cold Sassy Tree for another take on faith and answered prayers.
{SPOILER ALERT}

I’ll publish my book review on Cold Sassy Tree next week.
It’s a new all time favorite.

Here is some spiritual enlightenment on how to use the supernal gift of prayer. Really really good stuff.

Living a Consecrated Life

Every 6 months Mormons gather worldwide

to hear from the latter day prophets and apostles.
You may think that sounds crazy,
but trust me, if you were to peek in,
you would be astounded.
Astounded like you were at the feet
of Moses or Noah or Peter, James, or Paul.
For me, every time, the experience is life changing.
This last session in October was especially so.
I wrote down a list of personal questions
that I have been seeking God for answers about
and then I prayerfully listened 
for communication from God
through His messenger The Holy Ghost.
1-How can I know my purpose or mission in life?
2- How will having my own personal goals make me happier?
3-How can I become more physically/mentally healthier? To what level should I commit myself?
4-Why has it been so hard for me to find a job?
5-What about more kids? I want to be done and I want to know now.
6-How long should I wait to finish my education?
7-How can I get more disciplined and make living the gospel priority #1?
8-What do I need to change as a wife and a mother?
I got a whole composition book
of notes
on personal guidelines
for my life.
I hope to share some.
Ian S. Ardern gave a particularly helpful talk.
It was entitled A Time to Prepare
Listen to this:

Mastering the techniques needed to
reach our goals includes becoming
the master manager of our time.
Our greatest happiness comes as we tune into the Lord and to those things which bring a lasting reward….Take those things that rob us of our precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us.

He also said: “Grind distractions to dust.”
This talk answered a whole slew of my questions.
From this talk I made myself some new goals
that would assist me in showing God
by the way I use my time
that He is my first priority.
1-Quit wasting time on the computer and looking for validation online.
2-Make a goal to run a 5k.
3-Pray and study every day.
4-Follow the promptings of the spirit on a daily basis.
I’ve been using my time much more wisely, and I feel a million times happier.
Living a consecrated life isn’t a sacrifice, it’s one of God’s very best blessings.
He looks after each of us individually and speaks to us.
He knows what we need.
I have found that seeking out the Lord in my life
always leads to greater personal satisfaction.

Squashed Dinner Plans

Experts say that eating meals together as families have all kinds of benefits for everyone.
This article on CNN recently sited some of the best reason to eat dinner together.

1- Supper can be a stress reliever.
2- Kids might learn to love their veggies.
3- It’s the perfect settings for new foods.
4- You control the portions.
5- Healthy meals mean healthy kids.
6- Family dinners help kids “just say no”
7- Better food, better report card.
8- Put a little cash in your pocket.

Recently, I tried out a new recipe for butternut squash soup. Shannon had served it at lunch and I enjoyed it so much I decided to make some for the family. You can find a close recipe here.

It was delicious. I slaved over it for hours. We sat down to dinner and everyone was instantly opposed to eating orange soup. Even my hubby wasn’t too keen on the idea. He spooned it away and tried to pretend he loved it, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

So much for dinner being the perfect setting for trying new foods. CNN, you lie! My kids weren’t learning to love their veggies that night. Everyone was more stressed. I hope it won’t cause the girls to come home with bad report cards too.

I sat and enjoyed the soup while everyone else helped themselves to cereal. I gave a good sized take-home portion to our handyman who just happened to stop in at dinner to come to look at the furnace. He’s a healthy kind of guy and was gracious. So gracious I thought about trading my family in for a second.

CNN, I would like to take this moment to give you a true benefit of butternut squash soup.
It’s called “mom’s gourmet lunch all to herself the next day.”

And that my friends is how you make
lemonade out of lemons
or
soup out of squash.
Whichever you prefer.
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