Tuesday, April 8, 2014

You Are Awesome

Little O came up to me and showed me a stack of pictures he had created.  As I was looking through them he said, "I am a great artist!"  And it's true, he is.

When is it that we lose this confidence?  When do we go from "I am beautiful! I am smart! I am awesome!" to "Don't take my picture, I don't look good. I'm not good at that. I'm barely getting by."

Don't you listen to those voices that tell you you're not good enough. Every single person I know is awesome.  Even those I don't know. I'm serious! I don't have to know you to know that you are awesome.  Every person out there has a story and there is part of every person's story that reveals their awesomeness.

Be like a child again.  Remember who you are (you are awesome!) and own it.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Power of the Atonement

When I was a young child, each Sunday my parents would send my brothers and sister and I to a Lutheran church near our home in Iowa.  One thing I remember very well was that every week in children’s Sunday School we would recite a scripture together, John 3:16.  It is the first scripture I ever remember memorizing, and one I have never forgotten: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  When I was 8 years old my family moved to California.  There the missionaries found us and we joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I would occasionally hear this scripture shared in our new religion, too, so I knew at a young age that it was an important one.  And it is.
Not only is the Atonement a way that we can recognize Heavenly Father and Jesus’ love for us, but through it we can come to know of their very personal love for each of us.
The Atonement of our Savior covers the whole world and all people from the beginning to the end of time.  That can be pretty overwhelming to think about.  What we need to remember is how personal the Atonement is.
Through the Atonement each of our own individual circumstances are addressed.  It covers each of our personal needs, challenges, and possibilities.
We recently held a Stake Standards Night where I sat on a panel which answered various questions from the youth.  One question which was asked near the end of our discussion (I don’t remember it exactly) was something like: What does the Atonement mean? I answered the question extensively, but only in my head, not where anyone else could hear it, and I regretted that afterward.  So I’d like to answer that question now.
What does the Atonement mean?  It means everything.  The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us individually. It means that no matter what I go through in my life, someone understands.  It means I never have to be alone, that there is always someone I can talk to. It means that at every low point in my life I have had a friend who listens and loves me unconditionally.  It means that no matter what mistakes I make there is a way to make things right again.
Three years ago I slipped and fell on our icy driveway and broke my leg. As we waited for the paramedics to transport me to the hospital, my oldest son, Allen, would not leave my side.  My whole family was worried for me and upset about what had happened, but Allen had a deeper understanding because he had broken his leg just one year before I did. He understood the pain I was experiencing. He understood the frustration of waiting in the emergency room.  He remembered the nervous hope that things could be fixed properly. He knew the anxiety of waiting for surgery and the restlessness of being immobile. He knew the recovery I would have to endure and the therapy I would need to go through.  My son understood my injury in a more personal way because he had been through it before, he had experienced it.
This can be related to the Atonement, only on a much, much grander scale.  Jesus has experienced all of our sorrows and pains and sins and trials in a very personal way.  He understands. He gives us hope.
Moroni 7:41 reads, “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.”
Elder Bruce D. Porter said, “We all experience some level of adversity and heartbreak. But having experienced tragedy, sickness, and disappointment in His own life, the Savior knows how to strengthen us in such trials as well.  He is there not only when we cry out from the burden of sin but also when we cry out for any other reason.  Sometimes we think of the power of the Atonement as something that works after this life, as though it were something that applied only at the Judgment Day.  But that is not true doctrine.  The redeeming power of Jesus Christ works during our lives, day by day, moment by moment, as He gives us strength to overcome, as He forgives us of sin, and as He brings us, through the Holy Ghost, comfort, peace, and joy.  My prayer and hope is that we will discover the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, that we will understand that the Atonement is not something abstract.”
So how can we do this?  How can we understand that the Atonement is not some abstract, general idea?  How can we come to understand the intimate, personal effects that the Atonement can have in our lives?  We often speak of the Atonement in general terms, about the sins and suffering of the entire world.  But that’s not how we experience life.  We experience things individually.  That means that my Savior understood what I felt when I was alone on the playground as a young child at school.  He knows what it felt like when kids made fun of me because my parents were Deaf.  He knew what it felt like when I had to suffer the consequence of poor decisions. He even understands things like the disappointment of auditioning for the school musical and not getting a part. He knows what I felt the day we discovered that my infant daughter had cranial synostosis and would have to endure major surgery to correct it – not only what I experienced but also how it was for my husband, and my daughter, individually.  He experienced the different kinds of grief that came when I lost my dad to cancer, and my friend to suicide. He understood the difficulty I had in sending each of my kids off to kindergarten and the happy sort of heartache that comes with sending older children off to serve missions.  He knows my frustrations when I make mistakes as I am continually trying to be a better wife or mother or sister or daughter or friend.  We all have examples from every day of our lives, and the Savior knows it all.  He’s been there.  He’s experienced everything.  I would not wish those pains and trials on anyone, but the beautiful thing is that He loved me enough that he was willing to experience those things for me, so he could understand.  And He did this not only for me, but for each one of us!  My emotion in recalling these experiences is not sadness but more of overwhelming gratitude for what He was willing to endure for us.
It is hard to imagine how the Atonement could be so personal, how the Savior could really know each of us and our individual experiences so intimately.  I love how Elder Merrill J. Bateman explained this.  He says, “The Pearl of Great Price teaches that Moses was shown all the inhabitants of the earth, which were “numberless as the sand upon the sea shore” (Moses 1:28).  If Moses beheld every soul, then it seems reasonable that the Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us.  He learned about your weaknesses and mine.  He experienced your pains and sufferings.  He experienced mine.  I testify that He knows us.  He understands the way in which we deal with temptations.  He knows our weaknesses.  But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith.”

None of us is perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. The power of the Atonement is that it saves us in our imperfections.  We are all works in progress.

Alma 7:11-12 says, “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.  And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the band of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Elder John H. Groberg said, “I testify that no one has or ever will experience any set of circumstances, be they disappointments, betrayal, pain, persecution, suffering, or whatever, that cannot and is not swallowed up in the Savior!  You can feel no hurt, emotional or physical, that He has not already felt.  There is no combination of human emotions or physical illness or suffering that cannot find refuge in the Savior’s sacrifice for us. He knows how to help us. He wants to help us. Please let him."

Have you ever seen a sign in a store that is undergoing remodeling? It usually says something like, “Please excuse the mess, we’re growing”. I want that on a t-shirt!  “Please excuse the mess, I’m growing!” It applies to everyone. This is what the Atonement is about for me. This is where I know I can apply the Atonement every day.  My life is not perfect, none of us are perfect. We are always making mistakes, we are all broken.  Our lives can be a mess, but we are also always learning and growing through the things that we experience.  We just need to look beyond the mess and see the child of God that is growing in the middle of it.  That’s what our Savior sees.

Our prophet Thomas S. Monson has said that, “Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass.  We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits.  However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were – better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.”

I have a testimony of the Atonement.  I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is through personal experience that I count Him as my truest friend. He understands me and my personal trials, experiences and heartbreak like no one else can.  I am thankful that He loves me and every one of us enough to help us through the “mess” of our experiences so that we can continue to learn and grow and become more like Him. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Random Thoughts

Have you ever had to re-think your life as you thought you knew it?  This is something I've been going through lately and I can't stop running through it on repeat in my mind.  I've come to realize that my perceptions of my life have not always been true.  I am not sure how exactly to explain it.  I have always assumed that my perceptions of my life as I was growing up were accurate but I've recently discovered that I have remembered some things wrong.  And there are pictures that prove to me that things are not the way I remembered them.  That bothers me.  What is it that causes me to remember things in a way that is different from reality, to turn my perceptions into reality?  I used to think that my siblings were remembering things wrong but now I wonder if that's the case.  Maybe we're all wrong and we're all right because we all perceive things differently.  But which perception is the factual one?  It makes me nervous about sharing stories from my childhood anymore. What if the information I'm sharing is false, despite how I remember it?

I have also recently discovered a whole new extension of my family.  People I never really knew before who were suddenly there, a whole huge room full of them, all happy and smiling and welcoming and sharing the same values and beliefs as me.  And I couldn't even really enjoy it because the whole time I was fighting back tears at the realization of what I've been missing out on my whole life.  I wanted to take pictures of everyone but it felt almost as if I was going to ruin the moment if I did.  And now I want to get to know them all better but I'm apprehensive about inserting my family and my life into theirs all of a sudden.  I don't know what it is that is holding me back.  Maybe it's because I have a hard time with change and I'm nervous about stepping beyond the place where I've made myself comfortable.  Maybe I think too much.

I am constantly in awe of the things that music can do for me. When I am sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, nervous, scared, thankful, happy, or *insert other emotions here*, my favorite thing to do is think of a song that captures that emotion and sing it.  I recently realized that whenever I am in the car by myself I choose to do one of two things - pray out loud or sing.  And a lot of times they feel like the same thing.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to those who are planning their wedding is this: hire a professional photographer.  Because even if that one family member who takes pictures is going to be there, they might just want to be family and not take a lot of pictures.  Or maybe they'll never get around to giving you the pictures.  Hypothetically speaking, maybe the film containing pictures from your wedding day will get lost.   Or maybe you won't want to ask about your pictures because you're not paying for them, so you don't get to see them until forever later.  (If they don't lose the film, that is.)  Or maybe 21 years after your wedding you'll go to an uncle's funeral and be given pictures that your uncle took at your wedding luncheon.  Pictures you had never seen before.  But it's best not to wait 21 years and just hope to happen upon some of your wedding photos.  It's best to spend the money on a good photographer because you're never going to be able to capture that day again.

My mom, my husband, me, my dad 

with my siblings 


mama, me, pop

(Thanks for the pictures, Uncle LaVerne.  What a treasure!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Beggar's Opera

Thumbelina and All-a-Boy were in their school's production of Beggar's Opera.  The director decided to take it in a more interesting direction by incorporating bluegrass music and folk tunes.  All-a-Boy was the sheriff, Thumbelina was a thief.  

We loved the set design and the bluegrass band.  Awesome!

Every once in a while a couple of hillbilly gals would come to center stage with a 1-2 sentence synopsis of what was happening on a chalkboard.  This was a genius idea, as it helped those of us who were getting lost in the language to understand what was going on.

Overall the show was fun, there was a lot of obvious musical talent involved and some great acting as well.

Here is Thumbelina's solo, for which her microphone did not work.  But it's okay because she's adorable and fun to watch.


It is always a thrill to see my kids on stage! I love that they love something I loved when I was their age.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Party Animal

At the beginning of the year our church held an activity for the children age 3-11 to introduce them to their new teachers for the year.  Little O's teacher later told me that when she asked each of the kids to share their name, age and something about them with the class his response was:

My name is Little O.  I'm 5 years old.  I like to party and I like girls. A LOT!

Then yesterday I found his homework on the table and saw the way he completed this sentence:

This cracks me up!  Not only because I'm not sure what a partying goat would look like, but because I'm pretty sure that the only parties he has been to are birthday parties and family parties.  I can't help but wonder what is going on in his brain.  We've never referred to any of this as 'partying', either.  So we can't figure out where the term 'party' came from or what exactly it means to him.

Little O definitely knows himself though because it has always been pretty obvious that he likes girls. A lot. His current infatuation is his kindergarten teacher.  For a week or so Curly was sick. She's the one who picks him up from his class and walks him out to the car after school but because she wasn't there Princess was supposed to do it.  She kept forgetting, so he ended up being the last one waiting to go home.  After a couple days of this he informed me that he wanted to stick with this new arrangement because it meant he got to have Mrs. P all to himself for a little while, "...and she's soooooo beautiful!"

Don't worry, we're keeping an eye on this one.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Uncle Laverne

photo borrowed from Facebook

I got word from my brother last night that our Uncle Laverne, my mom's brother, was in the hospital.  He had undergone surgery and was not waking up from it.  This morning I found out that he had passed away late last night, 13 years to the day from when my dad lost his battle with brain cancer.  I like to think that the two of them are enjoying a happy reunion, with plenty of hugs and teasing and catching up with each other.

I am going to attempt to put into words what I have been feeling all day but I'm not sure I can capture it.  I have been surprised at how emotional this news has made me.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Uncle Laverne like crazy, but we didn't see each other much.  I would probably talk on the phone with him every couple of years or so and we stayed in touch on Facebook some, sent Christmas cards and such.  He is one of those men who is just as good as they come and he always had kind words to say about me, my husband, my family, my life.

Whenever we would see Laverne he was always so full of life and laughter and happiness and hugs.  And his sweetheart Evelyn was always by his side.  They celebrated 60 years of marriage just last summer.  What a wonderful legacy!

When Allen and I got married Uncle Laverne and Aunt Evelyn surprised us by coming to our wedding.  They drove 14+ hours to show their support and love and it's something I will never forget.

I can't count the number of times that Allen and I have talked about taking a trip to Washington so that our kids could get to know my side of the family better.  Outside of my siblings and their families my kids really don't know any of the extended family on my side.  They don't know any of my parents' siblings or their families.  We wanted to change that but we never did.  So maybe the greatest part of the sadness I feel in learning of Uncle Laverne's leaving this life is because of missed opportunities.  My kids will never know him and I think that is a real tragedy.

This was just another reminder to me of figuring out what my priorities are and really sticking to my guns to make them happen.  Family should always be a priority.  There is nothing that can replace family relationships, including extended family.  They are the glue that holds generations together.

Thanks for all you taught me, Uncle Laverne.  Thank you for your unconditional love.  Thank you for sharing your testimony with me in our phone conversations.  Thank you for your laugh, your smile, your example. Give my dad a big hug for me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Re-Creating Disney's Frozen

I had to be at meetings all morning last Saturday.  I left before my kids woke up and I returned home after lunch.  When I came into the house I immediately noticed that Thumbelina was dressed a lot like Anna from Disney's Frozen.  I asked if that was on purpose and everyone started talking at once.

We took pictures! We acted out some of the scenes! I was Olaf! I was Sven! Thumbelina made us costumes! And so on.

Here are the original characters:
Anna and Elsa

Kristoff and Sven the reindeer

Olaf the snowman

Here's what they put together over the course of a morning.  See if you can pick out the scenes from the movie.
Do you wanna build a snowman?

My name's Olaf and I like warm hugs.

I think some company is overdue...

  I've started talking to...

 The pictures on the walls. (Hang in there, Joan!)

Don't let them in, don't let them seeeeeee....

Give me my glove!  

Let it go! Let it go!

Don't let the frostbite biiiiite.

Will you take me to the north mountain?

I can't feel my legs!

Those are my legs.

Elsa and Olaf

Elsa makes Olaf a snow cloud

After a while Hubba wanted in on the action but they couldn't think of anyone for him to be (because who wants to be Hans? No one. That's who.) so Thumbelina made him Jack Frost...

then created parts for him in the movie.  He and Elsa would have gotten along splendidly, of course.
 And he helped keep Olaf cold whenever it was needed.

Even All-a-Boy decided to create a character for himself.  He became The Ninja That Nobody Sees In Frozen.  But here's a glimpse of him as Jack and Elsa are having a snowball fight in my dining room.

Little X didn't want to be left out either but at that point Thumbelina was done with putting together costumes and posing everyone in different scenes.  She still helped him figure out a key role in the movie, though, and X was super excited to tell me who he was.  "Look, Mom!" he said while crouching into a ball.  "I a rock!"  And then he jumped into a standing position and announced, "I a troll!"  Here he is hanging out with Kristoff.


Pretty adorable for a troll, isn't he?

I love how my 17 year old enjoys playing with all of her younger siblings (disclaimer: not all of the time, but I'll take what I can get!).  I love the way their imaginations work.  I love having a front row seat to their creativity.  Days like this one, when everyone seems to get along and there is a feeling of fun and happiness throughout the house, are the days I most love being a mom to this crazy assortment of adorable people.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

1,2,3 All Eyes On Me

When Elle was getting all of her things packed up into boxes before she left on her mission she found all sorts of random things she had collected over the years and distributed a lot of them amongst her siblings.  At one point she asked me if I had some glue and, thinking she needed to fix something, gave her some.

Later that day, I found this:

Apparently she had a package of googly eyes that she did not want to go to waste.  Throughout the week I have continued to find miscellaneous objects in our house watching me with bulging, wild googly eyes.


This one actually scared me a little bit...

I love that, along with various knickknacks and bags and boxes, Elle left some of her sense of humor behind.