Tag Archives: Spiritual

Happy That Moment

We made another trip down to Los Angeles to attend the temple and stay the night at the Temple Patron Apartments. Our kids seem to never tire of the “amenities” the building has to offer: removable couch cushions for stacking and climbing on, deep closets for hiding in, a pull-out bed for creating a fort, plus the balcony with a sliding glass door. We’re glad they find the accommodations comfortable.

Usually, we bring a frozen pizza to cook in the oven of the apartment we’re renting but we decided to take a family outing to Pitfire Pizza for dinner instead. It was something I’d been craving.

It was 5PM and well before the dining rush hour, but the place was already busy. So busy that the entire stock of high chairs at the restaurant, which only totaled four anyway, were completely occupied. We scanned the room for a place to sit that would be easiest to hold Jake and Joe while we also tried to eat.

While Colin and I were debating the options, Warren and Maddie had parked themselves at one of those chic, extremely high tables with extremely high stools. Yes, stools with no backs and young children (read: Maddie) don’t seem like a good combination so we tried to nix the idea. But the table happened to be right next to the pizza making station (the kitchen is open for all to see) and they begged to stay put.

The situation seemed like a disaster in the making. Like the kind of experience where we’d swear off ever bringing our children to any dining establishment again until they were 18. No high chairs, so we’d have to hold the babies to feed them while simultaneously trying to use forks to shovel in our own food. No backing on the seats just begged for a 2-year-old, who doesn’t sit still in a regular chair to save her life, to fall right off on her head. Plus the culinary display was sure to distract my children from ever eating the gourmet pizza we were purchasing.

Colin was ready to regroup at another table. A booth. More sensible for a family of six, no? But their disappointment was so great, I told him whatever. I said just that, “Whatever,” in defeated irritation, sure that it was going to be awful. At least we would have Grilled Steak Salad, Pepperoni Pizza, Farfalle with Sausage and Greens, and their seasonal Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pizza to get us through. We sat and I expected the worst.

But something incredible happened. Call it a miracle. Everything was just fine. No, more than that. Everything was easy. We held the boys and fed them bits of pasta and they didn’t even spit it out. Maddie sat so well on her stool, she didn’t even move an inch, plus she never stabbed anyone (read: Warren) with her adult-sized metal fork. Warren didn’t even whine once about anything.

And I just sat there and breathed it all in. My well-behaved kids, fascinated by the dough flipping in the air and the steady hands of the pizza makers. The autumn sunlight, dipping lower down until the ambiance lighting began to take over the room and the window shades were no longer needed. The cadent sounds of distant conversations and the muted tinkling of utensils scraping plates blending perfectly with the grooving music we couldn’t help but bop our heads a little to while hearing. Sharing the last fantastic bites of sausage with Colin as we finished our meal satisfied.

I smiled knowing that this was small. Just a blip on our family timeline. One dinner together in one pizza joint on one October evening. It was a moment that would pass quickly, but I was going to take notice and enjoy it for as long as I could. Because isn’t it those little things that we are to treasure up until one day we realize that they were the best things?

That’s what I thought, anyway, as I looked at my family at that moment. And I was happy.

The Ice Cream Man

For some reason, the jingling sounds of the ice cream truck seem to wind their way through our neighborhood only on Sundays. Since we do our best to observe the Sabbath, even spending a buck-fifty on a snow cone is something we try to avoid.

This can be quite disappointing to a little 6-year-old, as you can imagine.

After a few experiences of letting the ice cream man pass us by, Warren told me that he was going to pray that the truck would come on a different day. I smiled and told him it was a noble request.

Summer ended, 1st grade started, and we all forgot about the roving popsicle dispenser. But as we were coming home from school this afternoon, we heard the familiar sound of “Turkey in the Straw” and watched as the colorful truck turned down a nearby street.

We pulled into our driveway and Warren rushed into the house to dig out his coins. After a few minutes I began to worry that the truck had already passed our street. But to our delight, we heard the mechanical music drawing closer. Warren ran out to flag him down and the two older kids made their first purchase from the ice cream man this summer season.

It’s such a small, nonessential thing. I know Warren’s faith would not have been rocked if the ice cream man had never made it to our neck of the woods. But he did and I know it was an answer to Warren’s innocent prayer. Warren knows it too. His gratitude was reflected in his prayer that evening.

And in his devouring of the long-awaited snow cone.

Just one more drop in Warren’s faith bucket. Mine too.

P.S. It turns out you can actually schedule this ice cream man to come to your neighborhood or even to a party or event. The first one I’ve heard that makes house calls! So, if you live in Central Coastal California, be sure to arrange your own visit.

Faith In Every Footstep

Recently, our friends Danny and Kaitlin spoke in Sacrament Meeting at church. Unlike many Sundays where paying attention to the speaker is difficult, this time I was able to hone in and gain a great deal from their thoughts.

I was particularly touched by the story that Danny shared–one he couldn’t even finish reading himself, it was so moving. He asked Kaitlin to pinch hit for him and complete the story at the pulpit.

It’s not surprising he had a difficult time. The story is so heartbreaking and yet so inspiring that you can’t help but be moved to tears hearing it.

I know from experience that reading it without sobbing is more than a challenge since I was asked to do so for the Relief Society sisters one year as part of a special presentation during the Sunday lesson. I must have read it 50 times, no exaggeration, to desensitize myself but it was still tough. Especially since the words I spoke were set to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing, “Faith in Every Footstep” softly in the background. Just pass the box of Kleenex already!

The account comes from a powerful talk given by President Thomas S. Monson at the 2009 April General Conference called, “Be of Good Cheer.” He gives many examples of faithful, strong people who endured the greatest heartaches but kept going. But the story he shared about the following woman puts many things into perspective. The description is long, but one that I want to record as a reminder that there is always a way to press forward, no matter the hardship.

In about March 1946, less than a year after the end of the war, Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied by Frederick W. Babbel, was assigned a special postwar tour of Europe for the express purpose of meeting with the Saints, assessing their needs, and providing assistance to them. Elder Benson and Brother Babbel later recounted, from a testimony they heard, the experience of a Church member who found herself in an area no longer controlled by the government under which she had resided.

She and her husband had lived an idyllic life in East Prussia. Then had come the second great world war within their lifetimes. Her beloved young husband was killed during the final days of the frightful battles in their homeland, leaving her alone to care for their four children.

The occupying forces determined that the Germans in East Prussia must go to Western Germany to seek a new home. The woman was German, and so it was necessary for her to go. The journey was over a thousand miles, and she had no way to accomplish it but on foot. She was allowed to take only such bare necessities as she could load into her small wooden-wheeled wagon. Besides her children and these meager possessions, she took with her a strong faith in God and in the gospel as revealed to the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith.

She and the children began the journey in late summer. Having neither food nor money among her few possessions, she was forced to gather a daily subsistence from the fields and forests along the way. She was constantly faced with dangers from panic-stricken refugees and plundering troops.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months, the temperatures dropped below freezing. Each day, she stumbled over the frozen ground, her smallest child—a baby—in her arms. Her three other children struggled along behind her, with the oldest—seven years old—pulling the tiny wooden wagon containing their belongings. Ragged and torn burlap was wrapped around their feet, providing the only protection for them, since their shoes had long since disintegrated. Their thin, tattered jackets covered their thin, tattered clothing, providing their only protection against the cold.

Soon the snows came, and the days and nights became a nightmare. In the evenings she and the children would try to find some kind of shelter—a barn or a shed—and would huddle together for warmth, with a few thin blankets from the wagon on top of them.

She constantly struggled to force from her mind overwhelming fears that they would perish before reaching their destination.

And then one morning the unthinkable happened. As she awakened, she felt a chill in her heart. The tiny form of her three-year-old daughter was cold and still, and she realized that death had claimed the child. Though overwhelmed with grief, she knew that she must take the other children and travel on. First, however, she used the only implement she had—a tablespoon—to dig a grave in the frozen ground for her tiny, precious child.

Death, however, was to be her companion again and again on the journey. Her seven-year-old son died, either from starvation or from freezing or both. Again her only shovel was the tablespoon, and again she dug hour after hour to lay his mortal remains gently into the earth. Next, her five-year-old son died, and again she used her tablespoon as a shovel.

Her despair was all consuming. She had only her tiny baby daughter left, and the poor thing was failing. Finally, as she was reaching the end of her journey, the baby died in her arms. The spoon was gone now, so hour after hour she dug a grave in the frozen earth with her bare fingers. Her grief became unbearable. How could she possibly be kneeling in the snow at the graveside of her last child? She had lost her husband and all her children. She had given up her earthly goods, her home, and even her homeland.

In this moment of overwhelming sorrow and complete bewilderment, she felt her heart would literally break. In despair she contemplated how she might end her own life, as so many of her fellow countrymen were doing. How easy it would be to jump off a nearby bridge, she thought, or to throw herself in front of an oncoming train.

And then, as these thoughts assailed her, something within her said, “Get down on your knees and pray.” She ignored the prompting until she could resist it no longer. She knelt and prayed more fervently than she had in her entire life:

“Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left—except my faith in Thee. I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return—together—to Thee.”

When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated. Brother Babbel said that her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation. In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again. She testified that she knew if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.

As a mother, learning of this woman’s suffering is almost unbearable. It is a heart-wrenching thought to imagine losing all of my children. Her example of steadfastness in Christ is astounding and inspiring.

I only hope I could be that strong! Or that faithful to remember that, despite the most difficult and painful trials we go through, there are still blessings to be found. Always.

I aim to remember President Monson’s counsel to be of good cheer and to think of this woman’s experience when I am tempted to complain about my troubles. So often, it’s just not as bad as I think. And even if it is, there is always a way to overcome.

Talks & Lessons: Teaching Your Children About the Temple

I’ve been given the opportunity today to speak with my fellow Primary presidency members about families and the temple. We’ve separated the topic into three parts and the portion I’ve chosen is “Teaching Your Children About the Temple.”

As I was pondering what I would share for this talk, I had a song from the album, “As Temples Fill the Earth,” running through my mind. The song is called, “Teach Me About the Temple,” written by Lynne Perry Christofferson. It’s sung by a child and these are the words:

I see the light of the temple at night
As it shines it reminds me
I must prepare if I hope to go there
But I need someone to guide me

Please teach me about the temple
Please show me how to prepare
Then all of my life I will try
To be worthy to enter there
Please teach me about the temple
I want to know so that someday I may go

I see the light of the temple at night
And its glow is a symbol
Helping me think of the safety and peace
That come from the holy temple

I believe our children feel this in their hearts. They do want to know more about the temple. It’s our responsibility to help them understand its importance and holiness so that they can enter one day and make sacred covenants themselves. They need our guidance and help to do it. I’d like to share some ideas I had in how we can teach them about the temple.

First, we need to understand for ourselves the importance of the temple and develop a testimony of its sacredness. Some of you may know that, although I grew up attending church I wasn’t baptized until I was 18, out of respect for my father who wasn’t a member. It was difficult seeing my friends plan for temple baptism trips knowing that I could not go. I remember being a young woman and taking a visit to the Los Angeles temple grounds, looking at the huge doors wondering if I’d ever be able to go inside. I set in my heart the goal of becoming worthy to enter. My testimony of the peace and the blessings of the temple have only increased as I’ve strived to make temple worship a priority in my life.

The next is simply teaching by example. We need to attend regularly and allow opportunities to take our children to visit. Let them see us planning to go, making the sacrifices in our schedules, and walking out the door in our “Sunday best” to worship in the House of the Lord. If it is practical for your situation, I highly suggest going as a family and staying the night at the temple apartments located behind the mission office. Or, if you only go down for the day, allow the chance for your children to accompany you occasionally so that they may walk the temple grounds and establish a personal connection with the temple. In a story much like my own that I just shared, President Monson told of an experience that provided a foundation for one young girl’s testimony. “He recounted the late Elder Matthew Cowley’s story about a grandfather who took his small granddaughter on a birthday visit to the Salt Lake Temple grounds. With permission of the groundskeeper, they walked to the large doors of the temple. He suggested that she place her hand on the temple wall and then on the door, saying tenderly to her, ‘Remember that this day you touched the temple. One day you will enter this door.’ His special gift to his granddaughter was an appreciation for the House of the Lord. Likewise, counseled Elder Monson, ‘As we touch the temple, the temple will touch us.’”

Also we need to help our youth keep schedules clear enough to attend temple baptisms regularly and to make goals now to receive their own endowment and plan for temple marriage.

We must make our home a place where the temple is prominent. In the April 2011 General Conference, President Monson gave a great example of how to easily do this: “To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.” I plead with you to teach your children of the temple’s importance.”

Another way is to use Family Home Evening lessons as an opportunity to teach about the purposes of the temple and the feelings we experience there. In a 1995 Ensign 1st Presidency message, President Howard W. Hunter shared some important counsel about the clear messages we should be teaching. He said, “Let us share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple. And let us teach them more earnestly and more comfortably the things we can appropriately say about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing. Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call. Let us plan for and teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and wife.”

While the idea of talking about the specifics of the temple would be inappropriate, there are things we can share that will help our children understand why we attend the temple. In a fabulous talk called, “Preparing Our Families for the Temple,” Sister Carol B. Thomas addresses that concern and suggests how we can sensitively, and respectfully, prepare our children to know about the teachings of the temple. She said, “…in a family setting, there are many precious truths that, with sensitivity and common sense, will help prepare our children for the temple.

Consider:
The sacred nature of the temple clothing. In the temples all are dressed in white. White is the symbol of purity.
The temple is the Lord’s classroom. President Hinckley has said, “[The temple] becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God” (Teachings, 635).
What it means to be worthy for the temple. Can we teach our children that receiving one’s endowment and the wearing of the sacred garment will not require a change of wardrobe or lifestyle if the principles of temple worthiness are understood and lived in their earlier years? A young woman who wears knee-length skirts will not have to buy a new wardrobe after she receives her endowment in the temple. A young man who anticipates going to the temple will respect the Church’s moral standards in his social behavior.
Understanding gospel language. What do the words endowment, ordinances, sealings, and keys really mean? The story is told of a little boy who overheard his parents discussing doing temple sealings. He asked, “Are you going to do the walls next week?”

I especially love the idea of defining what it means to be worthy and how it will prepare them for temple attendance, helping children understand that it’s something they can obtain and not just for those that are “perfect.”

And though FHE is a great venue for discussing such ideas, it definitely is not the only opportunity we should take. In that same talk, sister Carol B. Thomas reminded us of this fact. She said, “Where may we teach our children? Family home evening is the formal setting, but there are so many more places where we may talk about our spiritual feelings for the temple. One of my favorite times was when my children were in bed at night. Occasionally I would lie on their bed and tell them of spiritual things. There in the peace and the quiet, the sweet Spirit can bear testimony to their heart and soul that the things you are saying are true.” I have experienced that and know that such a time can be a powerful testimony builder for both child and parent.

This suggestion made me think of another way we can teach about the temple: through music. Testimonies grow as we provide opportunities to sing and listen to the hymns regularly, especially those temple-related songs from the Children’s Songbook. I think most of us are familiar with the song “I Love to See the Temple.” It’s a valuable tool to help them understand about preparing for the temple starting now. But we don’t have to wait until we’re in Primary to sing it. For example, I’ve turned it into a lullaby, singing it to my children as they’re ending the day. I’ve also made adjustments to time spent in the car by turning off the radio and listening to two-year-old Maddie sing the song herself from the back seat and then asking me to sing it over and over again. How can I deny her request to sing both verses (seriously) 10 times in a row when I know it’s an opportunity to testify of the temple? Every time they hear the words I hope that the message sinks in a little deeper. I pray that the songs strengthen their testimonies and that they can draw on the lyrics in times of spiritual need.

Unfortunately, I can’t complete the other portion of my talk assignment: I’m not able to relate to you any of what our Primary children experienced at yesterday’s temple outing. Warren came down with the stomach flu and we had to cancel our plans to attend. Warren and Maddie had been so excited to go—Warren had been talking about it since we first started announcing the activity—and they couldn’t wait to spend the night in the temple patron apartments. When I told Warren that we wouldn’t be able to go he burst into tears. He was devastated to miss this opportunity. His disappointment was heartbreaking. But at the same time, I felt grateful. I was glad to know that our family trips to the temple were that important to him. It’s that kind of enthusiasm about the temple that I’m hoping to instill in my children, and I hope it lasts a lifetime.

I know that the temple is a sacred, holy place, even the House of the Lord. It is a source of great peace on the earth. Our children deserve to know early on about the importance of the temple. They must begin preparing from the beginning so that they can make the decisions all along that will lead them there. I have seen in my own family the joy that has come from loving and respecting the temple. I pray that as we strive to teach our children the value of temple preparation, we will become a temple-going people who serve the Lord more fully and that our families will be strengthened as a result.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Easter Festivities

The entire week has led up to this special holiday we call Easter. Most of the focus has been spiritual, with a healthy dose of chocolate and other goodies to make it fun. Just as it should be, in my opinion. Here are the highlights of our week:

Monday, we had a special Family Home Evening lesson on the events leading up to the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of the Savior using the Easter Eggs in a Carton I got last year from my friend, Andrea. We turned it into a quick hunt, the first of two egg hunts for the week. The kids could not get enough.

Wednesday, we colored real hard-boiled eggs which I have realized that a) we don’t eat enough of and b) I do not know how to prepare (probably why the consumption is rare).  The shell always sticks to the egg whites and/or the eggs crack before they are done cooking. Anyone out there an expert and can tell me how long to boil them, whether to start them in the cold water first, or to drop them in once the water is boiling? I just don’t seem to get it right…

But the coloring process for the 9 eggs I did manage to salvage was a blast and the kids enjoyed the activity. Jake and Joe were only spectators this year but definitely got caught up in the excitement.

 

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Friday, we drove down to the Los Angeles Temple and stayed the night in the Temple Patron Apartments. Warren and Maddie were bursting with excitement to go. It was the first time we had been since August and the first time taking Jake and Joe. Despite ridiculous traffic getting down, and Maddie protesting sleep until about 9:30PM, it was a wonderful experience. We were glad to be reminded of the blessings of temple attendance and were grateful to focus on the Savior as a family.

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Saturday, we headed to the Valley to spend the day with my family. Maddie and Warren enjoyed the 2nd egg hunt of the week, this time with candy-filled eggs, while Jakey and Joey cuddled with Hotda and Nana. As usual, the kids were spoiled with gifts, including chocolate bunnies, LEGOs, and other fun toys.

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If a terrific ham dinner wasn’t enough, my mom went all out and made these adorable little chick cupcakes– chocolate chip eyes and a gum drop beak.

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Sunday, Colin and I sang in the ward choir as we farmed out our children to various wonderful people in the ward (congregation). Sadly, though the music was just as powerful (including one of my favorites–especially as an alto– “This Is the Christ” by James E. Faust), the meeting’s end was not as eventful as last year’s. But we were still glad to participate.

And to top off the day, Maddie wore her new outfit made by Grandma Tuki. Absolutely darling though it may be difficult to tell by the reluctant model.

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A wonderful week spent with family reflecting on the miracle of the love and sacrifice of our savior, Jesus Christ.

“Christ the Lord is risen today! Hallelujah!”

General Conference Weekend

Every six months, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints tune into the broadcast of General Conference, a series of talks presented by church leaders on ways we can improve and grow as individuals striving to be more Christ-like. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir also sings throughout the meetings. It is an absolutely uplifting two days.

It used to be that you could only view it at a church building, or on television, if you had cable. But recent technology now allows the transmission into every home through the internet, as well as cable and satellite t.v. What a blessing this convenience is to a family with four small children!

I love General Conference! It’s a special time that requires special activities and, of course, special food.

Most people opt for cinnamon rolls for breakfast, which we did for the Saturday morning session. But I also wanted some pancakes, so we made some with cinnamon syrup, which was super delicious, for the Sunday morning session.

We, again, used the M&M game to help Warren pay attention to what was being said during the talks. A helpful way for all of us to take note of the recurring themes and topics.

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Warren made himself a little “Conference Fort” with all of the tools to keep him occupied: a General Conference packet filled with coloring pages, the latest issue of The Friend, and some LEGOS. Maddie just enjoyed the M&Ms that seemed to never end. Colin and I were happy to lean back on our ugly loveseat and take in as much of the messages as our kids would allow us to hear. And Jake and Joe only listened to about 5 minutes of each session since they happened to coincide perfectly with their nap times.

Two gatherings with friends between sessions and one Sunday dinner guest made the weekend complete.

Many talks touched my heart, but my favorite was Elder Lynn G. Robbins‘ on “being” versus “doing,” which was applicable to many situations. As a parent, though, his comments on learning from the child who tends to be more difficult were especially powerful reminders to be more patient. To be grateful for the challenges I face with my very different children and grow from the experiences.

I always walk away from conference weekend feeling like I can be the person that I want to be.

 

Timing

We had it all planned out. We told Angels that we would be ready to take another baby after the new year. Maddie would be two and could handle a younger sibling in the house. We would go on our trip to Cancún, quietly celebrate Christmas, ring in 2011, and prepare our household for the big transition to Family of Five.

Obviously, the Lord had a different idea.

Sure, we had casually mentioned to our caseworker that–should they ever have any– we would be interested in taking twin babies. But they never get twins in the foster system. In the 5 years Angels has been in existence, they have only placed one set of twins. It seemed a long shot to even ask to be considered.

Again, a different plan was in store.

Why would we even think about twins, you may ask. We’re not getting any younger, and the fact that we wanted four children, and the foster-to-adoption process takes so bloody long from start to finish, we decided if the opportunity ever arose we’d be foolish not to seize it. Besides, it was never going to happen.

Someday, maybe I’ll learn.

Instead, we received a phone call five days before we left for Mexico asking if we would be willing to take not one baby, but two little 2.5-month-old boys. We had to decide that day since they needed to leave the group foster home they had been living in for two weeks. We had to get all the baby gear ready, collecting as many items in a day that we could, and adjust to the new baby routine (complete with waking multiple times in the middle of the night), while simultaneously packing for our trip. And we couldn’t take them with us since it was out of the country, so we had to leave them for an entire week with people we barely knew (though we’ve come to find are an amazing family). Then we came home to a house in chaos and had to finish preparing for Christmas. Our present shopping was mostly done but the cupboards were bare and we needed some sort of a holiday dinner but finding time or the means to get to the store was nearly impossible.

We were sleep deprived, half-crazed, running completely on empty as we attempted to hammer out the mechanics of life as a family of six. The lunacy of the situation was settling in but we didn’t have time or energy to dwell on it. The timing of our family expansion plus the rate of growth could only be viewed as poorly planned.

And yet it wasn’t.

Despite all of the reasons why this experience must be timed all wrong, I know it’s not. Yes, it’s been a rough adjustment. But these boys are meant to be in our family. There is no question in our minds.

We prayed to know if we should welcome them to our family and the peaceful answer we received allowed us to go forward with this new plan with confidence. Giving up our own designs didn’t seem so difficult after that.

Our family grows a different way than most others but we’re OK with that. When we look at these two beautiful, sweet boys we realize that our children come to us just when they need to. All we have to do is be willing to act when the moment comes.

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(Note: It absolutely kills me that I have to cover their adorable faces in this picture. Email me if you want to see the real thing!)

Articles of Faith

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Warren decided at the beginning of 2010 that he wanted to memorize all of the 13 Articles of Faith, basic beliefs that members of our church hold true. We decided that we’d work on it together, as a family.

Every Monday night for Family Home Evening, we worked on one of the articles. We used the songs from the Children’s Songbook to help us more easily remember the words and pictures from the Gospel Art Picture Kit to clarify some of the principles.

Warren took his goal seriously. Each month he passed off another article as he repeated it to one of the Primary leaders who would then give him a small treat for his efforts. He hardly ever needed assistance or prompting but really had the words memorized.

It took the entire year, but Warren did it. His chart on the door of the Primary closet was filled with 13 check marks. He was very pleased with himself. So were we.  He got to pick out his final prize which he declared would be watermelon-flavored bubble gum. His fantastic Primary President happily obliged.

I am grateful for these simple points of doctrine. Now I feel like I can more easily draw upon them when I need a straightforward way to express my beliefs. Perhaps Renny feels the same, as well.

Trying On Three

One of the missions of Angels of Santa Barbara is to provide respite care for infants in need. Back when we were waiting for clearance to become certified for foster care, we were fortunate enough to have another family care for Maddie until we were official. It only seemed right that when an opportunity to return the kindness came, we were willing to pitch in.

This past week we were asked to watch a little girl for 7 whole days. Those of you with 3+ kids will mock me for saying this, but I was more than a little intimidated by this prospect. She is only 4 months younger than Maddie. So while that makes it easier for sleeping, eating, and mobility purposes (though she’s not a walker, yet) it felt like having twins for a week.

I’m happy to report that I survived. Just barely. It went exactly as I expected, though. Lots of crying, especially in the beginning. But it wasn’t the increased quantity of children that made it so difficult but the separation anxiety from her parents that she experienced. She didn’t know our family prior to this time. We were complete strangers to her. Parents gone (in her mind, for good) plus total strangers makes for a weepy baby.

The two girls being so close in age made it both fun to see and crazy to handle at the same time. And I didn’t even attempt any outings, so we’re talking just getting through the day! I felt like all I did was prepare food and then clean it up. Over and over and over again. But Warren and Maddie both handled the adjustment to normal life really well. Maddie often reached out to hug her and Warren loved to give her kisses on the cheek. Thankfully, everyone slept beautifully, except for the one night Maddie’s growing teeth got the best of her. Really, the sleeping was my saving grace.

But you’d better believe that there was a LOT of praying on my part. As a family, we continually prayed that this little girl would feel comforted by the spirit and also feel comfortable in our home. I needed help, too. By the 2nd day, after a particularly frazzled afternoon, I knew I was nearing the end of my tether. How was I going to make it until Sunday when I felt like my head was going to explode and my arms would fall off from carrying her around for 3 hours straight? I felt very distinctly that my attitude about caring for her needed changing. I prayed earnestly for compassion and the ability to love who I was serving. During my scripture study, I came across a quote that put things into perspective for me:

“Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world. It is by serving that we learn to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!”
(Spencer W. Kimball, “Speaks Out on Service to Others”, New Era, Mar. 1981, 47)

Of course, this wasn’t a true experiment in knowing what having three children is like. There is such a difference in the love you feel for your own child versus what you have for another. Colin said it best: it’s witnessing their progress–seeing how far they’ve come from the beginning– that brings that kind of joy. A short-term care can never provide that depth, but I was able to feel my heart change over the course of this week. I became happier to help her, even if she was crying at length or if I had to hold her the entire day.

I’m not going to lie. I’m glad it’s over. But I’m grateful that I did it. My desire to provide service has been increasing steadily, and is always amplified after General Conference. This was a perfect opportunity to put into practice the principles of charity and service that were so eloquently discussed there.

I did not do this alone. Prayer, Colin’s amazing assistance, and the help of two dear friends (thank you, Lyndsi and Kaitlin!) who each took Warren for a day allowed me to survive this busy, busy, busy week. I witnessed tender mercies from above in the smallest ways. I’m humbled to see that as much as I try and give, blessings are actually given to me tenfold.

And I am definitely ready to permanently take on a third… just not for a few more months.

P.S. All you friends out there who have twins: you are A-MAZ-ING!

Easter Weekend

I can’t remember the last time that General Conference fell on the same weekend as Easter. What a wonderful treat it has been.

We always try to separate the fun, silly traditions from the spiritual reasons that we celebrate Easter, so this weekend has been particularly full. We spent Friday night dying eggs for the hunt that took place Saturday morning.

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Following the first session of Conference, we took the kids to the local train museum to ride the Easter Bunny Express, which has been magically transformed from the Candy Cane Express.

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Maddie was too short to ride the train and was also too urine-saturated at the moment it came time to visit the Easter Bunny to see her, so she missed out on both this year. I was changing said diaper, so I missed the following encounter. Colin reports that Warren was unsure of the Bunny protocol– he knew he would get a treat but did he have to sit on her lap, like Santa? He awkwardly tried to back his keister up onto her lap, at which point the Easter Bunny shrank bank in horror. A 55-pound 5-year-old was apparently not in her contract to cuddle. Colin suggested he just take a picture with her to which Warren interpreted as stand directly in front of, blocking her out completely. Finally, Colin instructed him to just stand next to the bunny and smile. The resulting picture makes me laugh so hard. Everyone is at a safe distance.

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What a joyful weekend. Not only did we get to spend time together as a family creating lasting memories of spring, but we got to spend time together as a family creating lasting memories of listening to the words of the prophet as he taught of Christ, our redeemer.

I love the leaders of the church. I am grateful for their bold and simple testimonies of our savior, Jesus Christ. This time of year makes me ponder the wonder of his sacrifice– his atonement, his suffering, his death– but it also makes me joyful for the knowledge that he lives! And he knows us personally. All that he has done, he has done for us.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms  of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:16

The words of the apostles solidify this truth.

Happy Easter, everyone. Rejoice for He is risen!