Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Comfort of Grace

Yesterday morning on the radio, I heard somebody say that Mormons believe we are saved by works.  I was frustrated.  How could people believe that we Mormons think we are saved by works and not grace?  In The Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 25:23 says "It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."  Doesn't this scripture make it obvious that "after all we can do" we will still fall short?  I grumpily turned to a different station.

The rest of my day was spent doing good things.  I talked to my wonderful Mother.  I took Dan to lunch.  I made dinner -- a special dinner!  We celebrated Thursday of Easter week early because that's what worked with our schedule.  It turned out well.  We discussed the Sacrament, and why it is important, and helpful.  I spent time with Derek and the kids, did scripture time, and story time.

At the end of the day, I was tired, and had a headache, and instead of being happy with what I did, I was upset.  I had forgotten to do something for my sister-in-law.  I hadn't checked on Trisa who has been sick.  What kind of a Mom forgets to do that?  I was having an I'm not perfect yet pity party-- again.  I was doing what I too often do, and was feeling like my falling short of my expectations was the most awful thing ever, instead of the most normal thing ever.  I was forgetting the comfort of grace.

And then this morning, I was remembering my question about why people believe that Mormons think we are saved by works, and I realized that sometimes I act like that.  I get so upset when I feel like I haven't done enough, or that I have fallen short, when the whole time the Savior is there, having already atoned for my sins.  He is there ready and willing to help me with my shortcomings.  He is not condemning me, but loving me.  This morning, when I wasn't so tired, I remembered grace, and was comforted by it. 

* Picture by Del Parson, image from Google Images

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Smoky Fire

Today for our Easter Week activity we roasted marshmallows on a smoky fire, had smores, and talked about the parables that Jesus taught during the day, and the fact that He stayed on the Mount of Olives at night.  I suppose, without any evidence, that He had a fire in the evenings and that is why we had our fire.  Dry wood was not plentiful and so now we all need a shower, and the neighbors were probably super glad when we put the fire out!

My kids are behind the smoky fire.  We tried to roast marshmallows while keeping our asthma sufferers as far away from the smoke as possible!  It is windy so it didn't work too great, but we were quick.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Temple Trip

Today for our Monday Easter Week activity we went on a trip to the new Payson Temple.  After Jesus entered Jerusalem he cleansed the temple, and then spent days teaching there.  We went to see how the building of the Payson temple was coming along.  A nice missionary explained the process of building the temple.  I was really impressed with how good the kids were.  He had lots of visuals which was helpful, but he still used words that we don't use every day (since we aren't builders).   The same nice missionary took our picture, but I forgot to make sure the temple was in it!  So here are a couple of pictures with us, and the corner of the temple.
Jake, Dan, Sherie, Connor, Kayli
 On the way home, Kayli and Connor each shared something that Jesus taught.  Connor shared the scripture in Matthew 5:30 that starts, "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out..." which sent Dan into fits of the giggles.  Connor did explain the scripture after he read it.

Kayli picked Matthew 5:44 about loving your enemies.  She talked about how it doesn't help to return anger for anger.

What good children I have!
This is the result of our Palm Sunday activity.  We wrote things we are thankful for on the palm leaves.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

Happy Easter Week!

Today is Palm Sunday, the day that many remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus rode on a colt and people laid their clothes, and palm leaves in his path and said, "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest."  (Luke 19:38)  The people were rejoicing for the mighty works that they had seen Jesus do.

The Savior has shared His mighty works with me too.  He has given me a world full of beautiful things.  I love the mountains in Utah, and the birds that come to my bird feeder.  I love the smell of pine trees and roses.  I love colorful flowers.  There are so many beautiful things in this world to enjoy!

I have been blessed with people who love me, and are kind and thoughtful to me.  The Savior helps me to know how to love them better, and how to teach them and help them.  He is there to help them when I cannot.

The Lord has shared His mighty works with me in many ways that I have not listed. He is my Savior and my friend.  He loves me no matter what, and helps me when I turn to Him.  He has made it so that I can be with my family forever.  Today I will rejoice for the mighty works that Jesus has done in my life.  I love Him.

*Picture from google images

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dan Stories

The other day Dan was talking about his sisters.  "I love Tia because she is funny, and she tells me funny stories like The Healing Waters of Gid."  (That is a story that Tia made up, and the title has been talked about a lot, though I'm not sure even Tia remembers how the story goes).  Then Dan said, "I love Trisa because she loves me so much and she misses me."  Kayli was sitting there listening, and when Dan stopped talking she said "What about me?"  He said,  "I love you too, but ...."  I can't remember what was after that, but Kayli was feeling a little put out!

Yesterday Dan made a picture on the computer, and put his Dad's initials on it, and printed it.  I thought he had made it for Derek, but then he said, "I put my initials on it!"  I explained that his middle name is not Blair, it is Thomas (something he should know since I call him Dan Thomas half the time).  He cried and cried because he wanted it to be Blair and he didn't want his picture to be messed up.  Kayli patiently helped him fix the picture so that it had his correct initials.  He looked at the old one and said, "I don't like this one because it is wrong."  I suggested he give it to his Dad, and he did, and he seemed rather proud of it again.

Last Night Dan asked me when Trisa is coming home.  I told him she isn't coming until next week, but that Tia would be here in about an hour and a half -- after he would be asleep.  I told him that when he woke up, Tia would be asleep in the guest room.  Dan said, "Oh!  If I can't sleep tonight, I will just come up and sleep with her because she's funny."

This morning while I was sitting by the fire, and he was eating, he got up and came over, hugged me, and said, "I just came and hugged you because I was bored without a hug."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Escalating Arguments

Picture from google images
When my girls were little we sometimes had escalating arguments.  They went something like this.  I would ask my daughter to put on her shoes.  She would say "NO!"  I would say something like, "Put your shoes on or I will take away your blanket."  She would say "NO!" and start throwing things.  I would say, "Stop throwing things or you will not be able to play with your friend today!"  Now she would be really mad and she would start following me around and hitting me.  I would come up with yet another awful consequence if she didn't stop what she was doing.

Unfortunately, the threats became so numerous I couldn't remember them or even what the original argument was about, and I often didn't follow through with all of the punishments I said I would give.  These were often threats that were just as much a punishment for me as for her.  No blanket, no sleeping.  No friend, no happy time for her or me.  I foolishly thought our arguments were all her fault for being unreasonable, but eventually I got desperate enough to read a parenting book, and I learned a couple of very helpful things about what I was doing wrong to confuse her.

First, the punishment should meet the "crime".  It would have made a lot more sense when my daughter wouldn't put on her shoes, to say something like, "Okay.  Your feet might get cold because it is snowy outside, but we'll pack them in case you change your mind."

Second, I should never give my child a consequence (or threat) that I am not willing to carry out.  If I said it, I had to do it.  My actions had to be consistent with my words. Sometimes I would list some awful consequence (We can't go to Shannon's) and then, realizing what I had said, would pray desperately that she would just do what I had asked.  Being consistent helped my girls to know what would really happen if they didn't do what they were asked to do.  They learned to believe me more, and argue with me less.

Now, there is one case where you can break your word.  Dan said recently that we don't have to keep bad promises, and I believe that.  It is just best if we don't make them.  I can remember a few times when I had to explain to one of my children that the thing I had said I would do was wrong, and I shouldn't have said it, and I wouldn't do it, and could they please forgive me.  It can be hard to come up with a good consequence in the middle of a frustrating situation.  Be patient with them, and with you too.  With practice, you can learn how to avoid escalating arguments.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Escape -- A Trap!

I like to escape now and then to a warm beach, or to a fun romantic story.  But when my girls were little, I learned that turning to escape too often can be like a mouse grabbing the fake cheese in a mouse trap when the real cheese is sitting right beside it.  The mouse is stuck, and he missed the really good cheese he could have had.

I always wanted to grow up to be a wife, and a mother, but that is not saying that I understood all of the responsibililties that would entail.  I wasn't prepared for how exhausting it could be to get up several times a night.  As picky as I was, it should have dawned on me that my children were not going to exclaim positively over every meal.  I did not know that children are sometimes very unreasonable, and that I, who thought I was patient, would get angry at them.   The responsibility of being constantly in charge weighed on me, and I was afraid I would fail.

So what did I do?  I escaped to the wonderful world of fiction.   I was there with my children.  I hugged them if they got hurt.  I made sure they ate.  But my mind was not focussed on these little ones that I had wanted so much.  Eventually I noticed that, at the end of days of escape, I felt worse about my situation than I had at the beginning of the day.  I soon began to realize that I had fallen into the trap of trying to escape from my responsibilities, and that this wasn't helping me to feel better.  It also wasn't helping me learn how to be a better Mom so that I wouldn't be so overwhelmed.

Breaking the habit of escape was hard.  Once I start an interesting story I find it nearly impossible to put it down.  I had to make rules for myself.  I couldn't pick up a book unless I had a good chunk of time free.  I even made rules about the books I read, trying to make sure that there was something positive in the story that I might learn from.  Good ideas, or helpful thoughts from books helped me learn to better enjoy the responsibilities I had and the children that I love.

I still occasionally shirk some of my responsibilities (usually the cooking ones) because I have my nose in a book.  But I try to be careful not to become so engrossed in escape (the fake cheese), that I miss the joys of being a wife and a mom(the good cheese).  The rewards of facing responsibility are much greater than the temporary pleasure of escape.

*Pictures from Google Images

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Series of Miracles

Tia at about 3 weeks old
When I was seven months pregnant with Tia, and we "owned" our first house, Derek lost his job.  This was a hard time.  Our series of miracles began when a friend of Derek's mom was reading the newspaper and saw a posting for a job.  She thought of Derek and ripped the posting out of the paper.  Derek received it in time to get his resume in on the last possible day, and an interview was set up for a day two weeks after Tia's birth.

Trisa, Tia, and I went to my sister Tina's house in Provo to visit during the interview.  While there, Tina saw Tia's belly.  It was red, and swollen.  I had been worried, but had convinced myself it would be okay.  Tina said, "That is not normal," and told me I should take Tia to the doctor. As soon as Derek got back from the interview we went back to Bountiful and, thanks to Tina,  I called the doctor's office.  They told me to come immediately.  The doctor was very kind, but told me I should take Tia to Primary Children's Hospital right away.  He did agree that I could pick up Derek since we lived close by.

I went home.  We packed some things for Trisa and were walking out the door when the phone rang.  Derek was offered the job he had just interviewed for.  He quickly, and graciously accepted as we ran out the door to take Trisa to the neighbor's house.  At the hospital a grumpy doctor told me that Tia had a 50 / 50 chance of living.

We spent a gloomy night in a dark little room in the hospital worrying and praying more than sleeping.  In the morning, an ultrasound was done, and it was discovered that Tia's chances were not so grim.  Her diagnosis went from a belly button infection (very dangerous), to a cyst.  This required surgery, but was not nearly as dangerous.

The surgery was done, and Tia came home.  It had been a stressful time, but it was a time where Derek found a job, Tia's health was returned, and the blessings of having such good family and friends were shown to us again.
Tia home from the hospital and doing very well. 
Maybe she smiled earlier than I thought, and I was just too tired to notice!

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to be Great Neighbors

Over twenty years ago Derek and I bought our first house in Bountiful.  When we moved in, our next door neighbors brought over some food for us to eat.  While we were doing renovations they checked to make sure we had a means of cooking food, and they had us over to their house for dinner once. 

These are the neighbors that patiently watered the piece of ground on our property that did not have sprinklers, and who explained to us how much water a lawn needs each week.  They warned us about certain weeds that would take over if we weren't careful.

When Derek lost his job they let us know we could turn to them for help, and two weeks after Tia was born, when she needed to be taken to Primary Children's Hospital, we knew they would willingly watch Trisa.  They knew that we were not doing well financially, and they offered to help pay for Tia's hospital bills.

These neighbors cared about us, and they did what they could to be helpful.  We only lived in Bountiful for one year, but their good example has stuck with me for twenty years, and I love them still for the help they were to my family.  They were a great example of how to be great neighbors.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hermit Mom

My family about the time I met Shannon.  I was not being a hermit here. 
We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Heelis.
Gotta love the white socks with sandals!

I told my friend Shannon the other day that I thought I might have become a hermit mom without her.  She laughed, but I'm not really convinced it's not true.

Those who know me well know that I love to follow a schedule, and I liked my kids to follow one too.  I also have a hard time getting myself motivated to do things that may require more energy than I am used to expending.  Combine those things with the fact that I prefer having another adult around, I was a little paranoid about losing my little girls, I had a tendency to expect perfect behavior, and I felt going out required lots of stuff, and you come up with a recipe for me to just decide staying home was easier.

Now, I occasionally went out.  I had to get groceries.  I had my girls trained to stay by my side.  I think they were sure they'd be kidnapped if they weren't within arms length.  But days often got long, and we would get grumpy, and Shannon knew a trick that she shared with me (by example).  The trick on long, grumpy days, is to break with routine.  Do something different.  And it surely helps to have a friend.

Shannon and I had lunches outside, and in each others houses.  We went to restaurants with play lands.  We went shopping with all of our children combined, and my children discovered that you could run up and down aisles and not be kidnapped by anyone.  Our kids took turns playing at each others houses, and Shannon and I had a chat every day.  Times were good.

Unfortunately, eventually we moved and Shannon wasn't over the back fence anymore, but the lesson about breaking the routine has been a helpful one.  It has been harder for me to do it without Shannon nearby.  I still have a tendency to want to keep to a schedule, and not do anything requiring extra energy.  I'm not so paranoid about my kids anymore, and I don't need a diaper bag, but I still wish for the handy friend calling to see if I want to do something!  Still, I do know that if the day is long, and grumpy, I'd better think up something different to do, and get busy doing it.  It makes life happier, and keeps me from really being a hermit mom.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Missionary Anika and Missionary Miles

I just hugged my niece and nephew goodbye as they headed north to enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo.  Here is a brief overview of where they are going and of some of what I remember from their talks this past Sunday.

Anika is going to Tokyo, Japan.  She'll spend a couple of months learning Japanese, and how to teach the gospel in that language.  On Sunday she talked about the Book of Mormon prophet Ammon, who, along with his brothers, went on a mission to the Lamanites, who were their peoples' enemies.  They served among the Lamanites for fourteen years.  While on that mission Ammon and his brothers were sometimes stoned, spit upon, and thrown in prison.  They were often hungry, tired, and fatigued, but at the end of the mission Ammon glories in the Lord, and His power.  He expresses his joy that because of the Lord's help, many had been saved.  Anika spoke a lot about the gratitude she has for a loving Father in Heaven and for our Savior.  Her missionary scripture is Alma 26: 16 and Ammon is the one speaking.  Here is a part of that scripture.
"Yeah, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long suffering towards the children of men?  Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."
Miles is going to Salta, Argentina.  He will learn Spanish.  On Sunday he told a story about when he was young -- 11 I think.  Miles said that one neighbor boy was always mean to him.  This boy would throw rocks at Miles from across the street, and would call him names.  Miles did not like this, and decided that the solution was the scriptures.  So he took his scriptures and read one to the boy that said, basically, "repent or be destroyed".  The boy across the street was not happy.  Miles said that he later learned that this bully was bullied at his own school, and that it would have helped if Miles had tried to be his friend, instead of lecturing him with the scriptures.

Miles talked about being humble, and not thinking that we are better than others, but remembering that God loves all of His children, and wants us to help them.  His missionary scripture is 2 Nephi 6-8  (here's some of it)
"Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.  Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth . . . ."
Anika and Miles will be good missionaries because they will be obedient, will work hard, and they will have the Holy Ghost to help them.  I am really proud of them.

Tina, Miles, Anika, and Chris

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Grand Nieces

This weekend was lovely.  We went to Idaho and visited with my awesome family, though we missed Trisa, Tia, Audrey, and Michael.  We listened to my niece Anika L. and nephew Miles speak before they head off on missions.  It was great, and I'll write more about it later.  I forgot my camera, but here are a couple of pictures, courtesy of facebook, of my grand nieces who I very much enjoyed getting to hold.  Babies are sweet.
Lorien can crawl and is wary of strangers, but she let me hold her without screaming.  She is precious.

Meleah can sit up.  She loves to jump, kick, and walk around while someone holds her fingers.  She is sweet!
They are pretty girls!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hal and The Truth

From the left:  Rex, Hal, Glen, Ron, Paul, Marv, and Dave
Right after high school I had a job as a receptionist for a real estate office in Denver.  They had way more phone lines than I thought was reasonable, or that I was capable of answering with any degree of proficiency.  I was also bad at making coffee.  I was not comfortable there due to my lack of skills, and because a few agents I worked for didn't really believe in being honest.  Occasionally, when I would let one of them know that they had a call they would ask me to lie, and say they were not there.  They felt this was justified in business because it is a part of "the game".

I did not know how to handle this.  Occasionally these agents would even stand right by me, and tell me to say they were not there.  Unfortunately, I believe I did what they said, but I was so uncomfortable with lying that I was not believable, and the agents I worked for were frustrated with me.  I didn't enjoy this job.  People who know they are being lied to aren't exactly fun to talk to -- they get angry.  I was let go eventually.

I had a completely different experience at my job in the electric shop at BYU.  I was a dispatcher / receptionist.  I remember one of the other student helpers standing beside me once and telling me that if the phone was for him, I should say that he wasn't there.  My memory went right back to that job in Denver.  The difference was, my boss Hal overheard, and was very upset.  He informed me that I was never to lie.

Hal was the best kind of boss.  He was patient as I learned my job, and was willing to help me if I didn't know what to do.  Hal, and some other men that I worked with sang at my wedding reception, and when I had to quit my job to stay in bed, Hal brought me Anne of Green Gables to watch.  I am grateful for all of these things, and for having a boss that knew that it is important to tell the truth. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Miracles Within a Miracle

Look at Trisa's cute little baby legs!
After that first miscarriage Derek and I were soon expecting again, only we had a lot less optimism and more fear.  A couple of months in, while I was at work, it became apparent that this pregnancy wasn't going to go smoothly either.  My boss let me leave, and after a trip to the doctor, I was confined to my bed.  That was the beginning of my opportunity to lie around for seven months.

I took finals and graduated from college in my bed.  Derek graduated from college by my side, and then proceeded to work two jobs to try to earn the money we needed.  The good news is not just that Trisa arrived safely, but that because of the constant kindness of those around me, I still look back on that time and am thankful for it.  I had seven months to soak in the lessons people taught me by their excellent examples of thoughtfulness and service.  They are examples I still hope to live up to,  given to me by people that I love. 

This is a story of miracles within a miracle.  Trisa was proclaimed a "miracle baby" by many, and those seven months before she arrived were full of the kind of miracles that saved my days from sadness, worry, boredom, and loneliness over and over again.  These are the kind of miracles that good people create every day by the kind things they do.  I am thankful for the good people I know, and the miracles they make for me, including the ones that helped make Trisa's safe arrival possible, and the time waiting to get her here full of good memories.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Comfort and Joy

Long ago, as I have mentioned, I had my first miscarriage.  It was near Christmas time, and a neighbor (home teacher) took me to the Dr. because Derek was sick.  After the Dr. had taken care of things, I cried as he explained what had happened.  I apologized to him for crying.  He said it was okay, and that he thought I was brave, and that made me feel a bit better.  Soon I was home resting in my bed.

My neighbors knew I was sad and came up with ways to help me.  One girl brought me an article from the Ensign magazine that she thought would help.  Another girl brought gingerbread men.  She helped me decorate them so that we could hang them on our Christmas tree.  We didn't have many ornaments, or money to buy them, and the time she spent with me helped to distract me.  Someone left candy canes on our door step too, and we hung those on the tree.  I wouldn't be surprised if someone helped string the popcorn that can be seen in the picture too, but my memory fails me, and I didn't write down any of these experiences where I can find them.  Undoubtedly family was right there helping too.

I think that Christmas tree is one of my favorites because it was mainly decorated by the kindness of people who cared what happened to us.  It is also true that ginger bread men smell really good.  During the season where we celebrate the good news of the Savior's birth and the comfort and joy this news brings, others shared that comfort and joy with me when I needed to be reminded that there is always hope for better things to come.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What to Do on Down Days

My Mom and Amber (her grand niece)
At some point in my past I talked to my Mom about being down.  When I feel sad, lonely, or isolated, I spend way too much time thinking about what I wish was happening, or what I wish other people would do for me so that I would feel happier.  I too often get stuck in the trap of thinking that if nobody is calling, or writing, or visiting, then nobody must care about me.   My wise mother had a suggestion for me.
She suggested that any time I am feeling down, I should get out the ward list (that's a list of who is in our church congregation) and read it, and see if anyone comes to mind that I can help.  Obviously, if a ward list isn't handy, I can easily think of people that I know, and see if I have any ideas of how to help them.  Of course, the idea is for me to follow through on whatever idea I have.
This simple activity changes my focus from me to somebody else, and can change a "bad" day to a good one.  Even if I am still feeling down at the end of the day, I can at least look back, and feel like I did something worthwhile.