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New Year, Same Goal: Zero Fatalities

We drove down to St. George for the week after Christmas. It was two full days of driving, and our dread of all that time on the road was probably the low point of the trip. We read The Hogfather out loud in the car. The time passed pretty quickly and Snoqualmie Pass stayed open for us. We went to see Star Wars which was then cause for discussion and speculation. We went to Snow Canyon, where we hiked the petrified sand dunes, (our ears ached from the cold winds), and when we went to the slot canyon, Jason, David, and Chad showed off their climbing skills. It is still one of my most favorite places on earth, even when freezing my eardrums.

Chad loved all the Christmas snacks and treats around. Elisa kept making batches of “Christmas Crack” from saltines. She never got it exactly how she remembered.

The kids played so well with cousins. They played out in the empty lots by the house near the wash. There were piles of leftover hard-scaping supplies, rocks, gravel, sand, etc… They would sneak out to their “S.H.,” a.k.a. secret hideout. They also had a great time with their lightsabers that all died within the few days we were there.

For New Years we had the kids write goals down and tie the list to balloons to release. Eden wants to save $20; Alden wants to improve his chess game; Jasher was strong-armed into”being ready for preschool,” which means being potty-trained. The kids shared a goal and released their balloons, from oldest to youngest. Jasher caught onto the pattern and skulked away when his turn was about to come up. He had no intention of releasing his beautiful orange balloon.

On the way home we stopped at the Dinosaur Museum, at Thanksgiving Point. Near the entrance was a glass cage, so I pointed out to the kids that there was some kind of cool lizard in it. Eden has a lot of hours of wildlife TV programs that she can draw on. She responded disapprovingly, “Hmmm. I think it’s a saltwater iguana. And look at the tail! It’s started molting.”

This week I’ve had a few thoughts running through my head. I have sat through two lessons based on the conference talk from October 2015, “What Lack I Yet?”. Why on earth would I pose that question to the heavens?! I have a huge long list of all the things I lack and need to improve! The talk infuriated me—made me feel overwhelmed. Apparently I’m supposed to be in control of my life to a point that I should be seeking for more things to improve. What?! Rather than asking for another item to improve upon I can ask where to start. Throw the rest of the list out and just focus my attention on one thing. In that light the counsel is much more manageable and helpful.

I have also been trying to convince myself that there would be no negative consequences if I stopped going to church. I just don’t look forward to it. On the other hand I know myself enough that I would not spend my three hours diving into personal study. Rather I would clean the sink, sweep the floors, etc. There isn’t a better place for me during those hours. It may not be the most inspiring reasoning to attend but my spirituality is still important to me and I know I am surrounded by others who have the same goal even if their journey is different than mine.

One of my personal questions has been related to the “Church of the Lamb.” It feels like that term should encompass all churches that are making sincere efforts. But then it’s hard to delineate between the actions of our church, which is led by inspired men who sometimes make mistakes, versus any other arbitrary church, led by people who make some mistakes and get some things right. There isn’t a clear qualitative difference. I noticed that in the First Vision, Joseph Smith says that he was told that all other churches were wrong and that all the leaders’ hearts were far from God. It doesn’t feel like all leaders of all churches are far from God though. Resolving that issue would answer the original question about what distinguishes the Mormon church.

Posted by on January 4th, 2016

Bake Me a Cake As Fast As You Can!

We spoke in church two Sundays ago. As Chad and I discussed introducing our family we decided to take the liberty of having Eden give a talk and Alden too, if he wanted. Eden was SO excited. We talked to her over dinner about prayer and took down notes of the things she told us. Then we wrote the notes down and she made a picture for each to remind her of what she wanted to say for her talk. It was precious. She did it all by herself on Sunday.

My talk is sort of a work in progress but I was pleased with the things I learned while preparing it.

When we decided we wanted to move to London, Chad was completely on board from the first moment. I took some convincing. We lived in Switzerland for 2 and half years as newly weds. It had been one of th best and hardest things we had ever done. We welcomed Eden to our family nearly 5 years ago there. But we wanted to be closer to family so we moved closer to home and settled in Salt Lake City.

In Utah we lived on a beautiful street in a a home that we loved. Chad could be to work in 15 mins. I was able to go to a satellite BYU campus and take classes working toward finishing my undergrad work. I found great opportunities for pursuing my love of singing. Life was easy, I had everything under control. But even though our life was pretty ideal for me, it didn’t suit all of us. Chad wasn’t challenged in his work. There were very few children around for my kids to grow up with.

So Chad fell in love with the idea of working for a new company in London, as a software engineer. We were determined to make it great for each member of the family. I consented, thinking that it would be difficult as all moves are but like moving to a place with a drastically different culture and language like Switzerland had been.

From March until now our lives have been disjointed and chaotic. Saying goodbye to a home, friends, family, a way of life. We spent at least 10 weeks living out of suitcases before we moved in here in the Alexandra Palace neighborhood. Even when suitcases were unpacked we still have a lot of adjusting to do. We knew it would be hard. We welcomed doing something difficult because we knew it would be worth it.

Something I want to teach me children is how to do hard things. I want them to be confident that they are capable and also learn to enjoy the process, no matter how overwhelming and exhausting it can be. (Then sometimes I want to confess that I was wrong! Hard things are not worth it. They are too hard and no fun and “easy” is much much better). But I know better.

Richard G Scott taught that: Our personal security and happiness depend upon the strength of our testimony, for it will guide your actions in times of trial or uncertainty. Maintaining a fiery testimony of the gospel is one of those hard things.

Sometimes it is so easy. You can feel the spirit almost effortlessly. You are filled with faith in all the beautiful promises Heavenly Father has promised us. You look forward with a bright Hope until the day that you will be surrounded with loved ones and our heavenly family and be filled with peace and have a fullness of joy. Charity for those around you is simply a extension of the great love you feel from your heavenly Father and in turn for your brothers and sisters.

The kids and I, in dealing with long tube rides created a game where we make a cake. (We’ll have to get a video of that linked to here!) I want the richness, the sweetness of a cake. The butter, the sugar, the sour cream, the chocolate. That richness has little to do with what things we have in our lives and much more to do with what we do with our lives.

Living the the gospel is truly amazing. By living the gospel we can find heaven here. The book of Mormon teaches us that “Men are that they might have JOY!” Christ said “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). I have experienced this abundance in my life. I want an abundant life. “… Some of the happiest people I know have none of [the] things the world insists are necessary for satisfaction and joy. Why are they happy? I suppose it is because … they listen … to the things their hearts tell them. They glory in the beauty of the earth, … in the love of their families, the stumbling steps of a toddler, the wise and tender smile of the elderly.They glory in honest labor. They glory in the scriptures. They glory in the presence of the Holy Ghost.”

I don’t feel like my life is filled with joy. I do not feel like my life is abundant or filled with the richness the gospel brings. I am overwhelmed. I am struggling. My testimony is not bright and fiery it is dim and flickering. But OH! I want that abundant life back!

Maintaining a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is easy until it is not. Then it is difficult to overcome the great effort to get back to feeling peaceful and having the spirit abound in our lives. Coming back to church when you have been away is not easy. Getting back in a habit of reading the scriptures is not easy. In fact it can be boring and frustrating. Sincere prayer to our Heavenly Father doesn’t come easily when we have gotten out of the habit. It takes toil and effort. But hard things bring the greatest blessings.

My testimony has always been a fluid and changing thing. Even serving as a missionary when you are reading scripture, praying all day and bearing testimony, there are times when the flame is dimmer. There were times when I kept going because I knew I had had a testimony. It is times like these that I rely on my own testimony. The one I have that I don’t feel so strongly know. I feel much like the father with the crippled son who said to Christ “I believe! Help though my unbelief!”

We have been counseled by the modern day prophets how we can have life more abundantly, Elder Wirthlin of the Quorum of the 12 gave an excellent talk on the subject.

The Savior taught that “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give … shall never thirst; [for it] shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

I have found myself going through the motions. “attending their meetings perhaps, glancing at scriptures, repeating familiar prayers—but their hearts are far away.” Our family prays over meals, before bed. When Chad leaves for work. We take turns. All those prayers seem like enough, right? But We are not filling a quota. That isn’t how prayer works.

Lately, with my dad in the hospital for a stem cell transplnt I have been calling him everyday. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. When we are in touch everyday, we just go about our daily business and don;t even realize something is missing. I think that is alot like my prayers with my Heavenly Father. I don’t know how much comfort it is to me until I am doing it again.

Elder Wirthlin said: Believe with all your hearts. Develop an unshakable faith in the Son of God. Let your hearts reach out in earnest prayer. Fill your minds with knowledge of Him. Forsake your weaknesses. Walk in holiness and harmony with the commandments. Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The second quality of those who live abundant lives is that they fill their hearts with love.
Love is the essence of the gospel and the greatest of all the commandments.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that those who reach out to lift and serve others “will come to know a happiness … never known before. … Heaven knows there are so very, very, very many people in this world who need help. Oh, so very … many. Let’s get the cankering, selfish attitude out of our lives, my brothers and sisters, and stand a little taller and reach a little higher in the service of others.” 8

President J. Reuben Clark taught that “there is no greater blessing, no greater joy and happiness than comes to us from relieving the distress of others.” 10

To fill our lives with Charity we must exercise it.

Ask for a calling! When I started to feel overwhelmed by my life I went and asked for a calling. It is a way to get me to study the gospel and to feel like I am doing good for others. WHich makes me feel so much better.

Third: Create a master piece of their lives

Love the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. Enlist in great and noble causes. Create of your homes sanctuaries of holiness and strength. Magnify your callings in the Church. Fill your minds with learning. Strengthen your testimonies. Reach out to others.

Our firm personal testimony will motivate us to change ourselves and then bless the world. (Uchtdorf)
Create of your life a masterpiece.
It comes through faith, hope, and charity. And it comes to those who, in spite of hardship and sorrow, understand the words of one writer who said, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” 12

The abundant life isn’t something we arrive at. Rather, it is a magnificent journey that began long, long ages ago and will never, never end.

The first time CHad and I met we had a converstation among a group of other people about remaining faithful to the gospel. I mentioned that i would never go inactive from the church. He replied that that statement worried him because he knew so many that sad the same and then, sure enough, stopped going following the gospel. I countered that I knew that I had to make the decisions and do the things everyday that would keep me strong.I didn’t know then how many times I would fall back on that conviction. I am sure I will again and again.

Deiter F Uchtdorf said: Our spirits need constant nourishment. As President Harold B. Lee taught: “Testimony isn’t something that you have today and you keep always. Testimony is either going to grow and grow to the brightness of certainty, or it is going to diminish to nothingness, depending upon what we do about it. I say, the testimony that we recapture day by day is the thing that saves us from the pitfalls of the adversary.” We need to stay close to the Lord every day if we are to survive the adversity that we all must face.

Happiness in this life and throughout eternity depends largely on whether individuals are “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”

One last thing is that our testimony gets stronger by sharing it. Even if it is just a flicker it will get stronger and stronger if we share that light, no matter how small with others.

Posted by on July 9th, 2013

Birthday Week

It has been 3 months, to the day, since we arrived in London. I expected 3 months of Hell. I was right on target. This last week has been a bit better and I actually told Chad, “I like where we live” yesterday. Yesterday was the first time for me thinking, “We are really going to miss this house when we are gone.”

I started a weekly order of local organic produce. The contents change to whatever is in season. I have always loved going to farmers markets, now I have one delivering to my door! Along with a weekly delivery from the supermarket it is a pretty nice way to eat (and shop). For the Americans: imagine shopping bags delivered right to your kitchen, color-coded by what goes in the fridge or freezer or pantry.

We had a gardener come in and do an overhaul to get everything back to a maintainable level. What a difference! The garden is so much more inviting! I now have a bit more knowledge of what to do with the plantings to keep it looking nice. Also the doors all have handles and latches, so the kids can enter and leave the backyard. It’s the little things.

Wednesday was Alden’s 3rd birthday. I took the kids to an indoor soft play place in Alexandra Palace Park. They loved it. Although I think they enjoyed playing in the sandbox while the weather misted on them more than inside on the slides and climbing structures. He requested Macaroni and Cheese for dinner. I don’t think he minded too much that it didn’t come out of a box and wasn’t bright orange.

To help celebrate Alden, Chad and the kids made a countdown chain until his birthday. Chad also printed out at least a dozen pictures of Alden and taped them up around the house. I have loved seeing his infectious smiling face all over as I go about daily work. Last week Eden got in trouble for being mean to Alden, so I made her find something nice to do. She asked Alden whether he wanted her to make him a card or do a job for him. He said, “I just want you to play with me and with Jasher, OK? That will be fine.” So cute. Eden is his best friend. He gets discouraged when the big girl wants alone time. His communication skills have really blossomed recently.

Friday the kids and I spent a day in the park. My friend Lucy came with us for a bit and treated me to cake and her wonderful company. The kids did a messy craft session there. They were so proud of their fun artwork! After, we played in the sunshine and ate popsicles.

We had a party for Alden on Saturday. Our friends Ollie and Rebekah with their kids Aura and Jesse came over. Alden couldn’t wait for presents and just dove right into opening them without waiting for anyone. By the time Ollie and Rebekah got to our family room, Alden had already opened their gift. The nut even snuck off into another room and started opening his other presents without us. It was fine though because he tried to open a kite that was protected by really strong packaging for shipping. It would have taken him all night without our help. He loved his helicopter. We ate lots of strawberry cake and then the kids beat the colorful homemade elephant piñata to pieces. Our neighbor friends came over to help beat up the poor elephant as well. The time passed so quickly with the kids playing so well and the fun conversations with our friends. We ended uphaving them stay for an inpromptu dinner. I have decided that salad spinners are one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

We had plans to celebrate Jasher’s birthday after church today, but it was just too HOT to make his giant cookie we had planned to celebrate with. (He still hasn’t been digesting milk very easily so we are playing it safe. We’ll try giving him ice cream in a month or two.) Instead we packed up a picnic dinner and went to the park to try out Alden’s new birthday kite. I do not think anyone could be unhappy watching that cute boy joyfully running about towing a flying colorful kite. Pure magic.

Posted by on July 7th, 2013