Tomato Soup Miracles

Several weeks back I was sitting in stake conference when one of the women speaking told a story about taking freezer meals to others. While listening I had the thought that I ought to make freezer meals for my ministering sisters and take it to them for the first day of school. For those of you not familiar with the ministering program – in our church pairs of women are given assignments to watch out for other women in the congregation. We call them ministering sisters and generally each woman in our church has a companion, two sisters she ministers to and two sisters assigned to minister to her. It’s a wonderful way to make sure that every one has someone looking out for their needs and caring for them on a personal level. This freezer meal idea was weird because I felt like I was supposed to do this for the sisters who minister to me and not the ones that I minister to. I tried to brush it off. I thought I was being too suggestible and trying to steal the speaker’s inspiration. Just because that is what this speaker had done didn’t mean it was what I needed to do.

As the meeting went on the thought kept coming back to me, but I kept pushing it off. I tried to think instead about how I could bless the lives of the sisters I minister to, but my mind kept coming up blank. Finally as the last speaker stood up he said that if we’d had any impressions during the meeting that we needed to act on them. His words cut through me. I knew then that I needed to do this so I filed it away.

School starting was still a week and a half off, but I felt like I needed to wait until the first day of school to take these meals. That was a little annoying since for our first day of school we were going to be packing to leave on a family vacation. Also, we homeschool so the first day of school is more of a working day for me than a break. I didn’t really think I had extra time that day. Besides, it was a freezer meal. By definition it shouldn’t matter what day I took it because the whole point was to put it in the freezer and pull it out whenever you needed it. Taking it sooner only meant that it could be helpful sooner as well as later – right? However as I tried to fit it into the week before I couldn’t seem to make it happen. So I ended up pushing it back to the first day of school anyways.

The other weird thing was that I felt distinctly like what I needed to take was Tomato Basil soup. That might not seem too weird, it’s a really yummy soup and not too difficult to make. However it is not something that I had a freezeable recipe for! I’ve made it a lot of times, but it’s not even a crock pot recipe. It’s a recipe that calls for sauteeing and boiling ingredients separately and then blending with a blender before serving. So it didn’t seem like it would be easy to convert for a one step, dump and cook freezer meal. Plus, it’s not the most filling soup it usually requires a sandwich or something to round it out as a meal. It didn’t seem like the greatest all-in-one kind of meal to bring as a freezer meal. I tried to think instead of another heartier recipe that I could easily freeze. I considered making my Chicken Tortilla soup which would have been super easy to put together as a freezer meal – and a much more hearty soup. But every time I thought of it there was an insistent thought that it needed to be Tomato Basil soup. I finally relented and picked up those ingredients.

Finally the first day of school came. It turned out I was able to get a lot of my trip preparations done in the days earlier. I also decided that our first day of school wasn’t going to be academic and we would wait until after our trip to kick off schooling. I surprisingly had time that day. Even still, I was only half convinced that I was actually going to follow through with this. I had promised my kids that we would go get smoothies that morning in honor of their friends starting school and felt like I had other things that needed to be done. However I woke up with the motivation so I told the kids they’d have to wait. In all honesty the whole endeavor seemed doomed. Who makes 8 batches of a recipe in a way they’ve never tested before to give to 5 other families?? But we got it done and in the freezer. I texted my ministering sisters as well as the sisters I minister to and let them know that I had a batch of soup for each of them. Then I headed out with my kiddos to get their first day of school smoothies – despite it being nearly noon.

That afternoon I got a text back from one of my ministering sisters and took her over some soup. I honestly felt so dumb taking over an untested recipe on a day when I was sure families probably had other plans. I almost apologetically handed over the soup feeling like I had done this more for my sake to get the feeling to go away than for hers. When my friend invited me in she told me that their fridge and freezer had gone out and they’d lost all of their cold food over the weekend. They had to wait until the end of the week to get their new fridge and she hadn’t known what she was going to do for dinner that night. The soup came just at the right time so she could have a home cooked meal for her family. I was especially touched to realize that if I had taken the meal the week before (which I’d thought would be more convenient for everyone) then she would have lost it along with the rest of her food. I guess Heavenly Father knew what he was talking about when he said to wait until the first day of school.

Later that afternoon I took a batch to each of the sisters I minister to. I hadn’t felt as compelled to bring them a freezer meal as I had for my own ministering sisters. But I felt like I was doing ministering wrong to take a freezer meal to my ministering sisters and not to the sisters I minister to. So as long as I was making soup they were going to get some too! It was a good excuse to see them and I’m guessing that it was helpful for them to have a meal in the freezer for when they needed it. I felt good about it, however they hadn’t had the same sort of extenuating circumstances that my ministering sister had and I realized that the prompting I had received was right as it was. I was intended to go to my ministering sisters with the soup.

In the evening I was able to take another batch to my other ministering sister. As I’d been preparing the soup I remembered that she’s a vegetarian. My tomato basil soup is one of my only recipes that – if I substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth – is vegetarian. I felt again that I had been guided in what I prepared. We talked for awhile and she told me she was excited to have a home cooked meal as she lives alone and doesn’t do a lot of cooking. I felt glad that I had followed the prompting to make something that she could eat at home that would make her happy. I felt happy to have been able to bless someone in a personal way.

I thought that was the end of the story and honestly I felt like it was more than enough to have been a part of these tiny tender mercies. How cool that the Lord knew what these women needed and had allowed me to take part in it. I finished packing and went on our trip to the Grand Canyon with a full heart.

Later that week I looked at my phone and saw that my second ministering sister had tagged me in a post on Instagram. Curious I signed in and saw that she’d posted that she had just come home from surgery. She posted a picture of the soup all prepared and talked about how having a meal that she could make at home was such a blessing that day so that she didn’t have to go out while she was recovering. You guys – I didn’t even know she was having surgery. But the Lord did. He knew she could really use having something warm and comforting to eat at home that day. He had put in my heart in advance the exact thing that needed to happen so that this woman would have what she needed when she came home.

I felt really humbled by how well the Lord knows us. He knows not only the things we are going through – but the things we *will* go through. He knew to give me enough lead time to psych myself up to make a freezer meal I didn’t know how to make. He knew to hold me off until after my friend’s freezer went out so that the soup wouldn’t go bad with the rest of her food. He knew that I needed to make a meal that was vegetarian. He knew that my ministering sister was going in to surgery and would need something she could eat after the fact. He KNOWS us, and He loves us. He has a plan that is greater for each of us and He is ready to use us to bless the lives of those around us in meaningful ways.

How I built a library of over 550 audible books without breaking the bank

Maximizing Your Audible Account

How I built an Audible library with over 550 titles without breaking the bank

I’m a major book junkie. I’ve loved reading ever since I learned how to read. I remember as early as first grade staying up regularly until 1am reading quietly in my bed. However, I’ve found that as a mother it’s much more difficult to justify snuggling up in a chair all day with a book – for some reason my kids seem to require a bit more attention than that.  I missed the chance to expand my horizons without leaving my home, but couldn’t justify letting my house become a disaster and my kids run wild while I kept my nose stuck in a book.  

Luckily, I found a wonderful compromise – Audible.  With Audible I can enjoy fantastic audiobooks and still have my escape to other worlds while my hands and eyes can be busily occupied with laundry, dishes, cooking – or any of the other tasks of motherhood.  My husband is a similiar bibliophile but also found his reading taking a backseat. However, with audiobooks he’s been able to turn a monotonous commute into a small escape.  My kids have also really gotten into listening to books, especially at bedtime.  We have Amazon Echo Dots in each of their rooms and they are able to enjoy many wonderful books this way – although it sometimes tends to keep them up later than I would like.  I guess they must be like me after all ūüėČ  To say that we are Audible fans in our household is an understatement – we LOVE Audible around here!

Anyways, over the years I’ve found lots of ways to get the most out of my Audible subscription.  I’ve built up a library of 557 books so far and have done it for surprisingly cheap.  I thought these tips and tricks might be useful to some of my readers, so here we go!

  1. Spring for the Platinum Annual Membership. I know this suggestion might not make sense for everyone but hear me out. Audible has a subscription service – you pay a certain amount of money to get a certain number of audio books on a monthly or yearly basis.  You can sign up to get one or two books a month and either pay for that many books for a year or per month.  The plans range from $14.95/month (for one book credit each month) to $229.50/year.  The platinum membership costs the most all at once, but it costs $5.39 less per book credit than the basic monthly plan.  In 16 months you would have paid the same amount going with a monthly plan but you would have 8 more books with a platinum plan than with the gold plan.  I think this is the hardest part to swallow is that large charge all at once, but I’ll give you some tricks for making that very worthwhile in my next few tips.  Whatever you decide, a membership is definitely the key to getting the most out of Audible but I’d highly recommend the Platinum membership.
  2. Share with a friend.  This is the trickiest tip to do properly, but it can really make that Platinum account make sense.  My husband and I actually have two separate audible accounts, even though we only have one membership.  What we do is have the membership in my name and whenever Eric wants a book that he doesn’t think I’d be interested in having in my library he purchases it on my account as a gift for himself.  He is then emailed a link that he can click on to add that book to his account.  So there are a few ways you could use this.  If you have a spouse, sibling or friend that you’re close enough with to share your Amazon password (and accompanying access to your credit card for purchases on Amazon/Audible) then you can split the cost and share that password.  I’ve also purchased books as gifts for siblings and friends and then had them send me money for it in return.  They get the book at the membership rate and I can more easily justify my Platinum membership ūüôā
  3. Never use a credit to get a book that’s less than $9.50.  Ok, do I need to spell this one out for you?  If you credits are only $9.56 each please don’t use a credit to buy a book that you can get for less than that!  As a member you get discounts on the regular prices of books so make sure that you take advantage of those discounts!  Just be careful at checkout to uncheck the box for using a credit because if you have credits that will be the default value!  I’ll tell you later how I get those books for free a lot of the time ūüôā
  4. Sign up for Daily Deal emails. Every day Audible discounts a book to $4.95 or less and emails anyone on their list to let them know what the Deal of the Day is.  I’ve gotten LOTS of great books this way!  If you were to try to buy most of these books on CDs it would cost you $30+ so to get the books for less than $5 is pretty awesome.  I probably only find a book that I’m interested in a couple times a month, but it’s well worth following for those couple times a month!
  5. Take advantage of coupon deals.  Frequently Audible will send their members “Buy 4 books get $10 credit” – this probably happens like twice a year.  I *always* take advantage of this!  If you have credits and a wish list it’s easy to pick out your next 4 reads and get a $10 credit.  I then use that credit to buy a few books that are either priced low or on sale.  It doesn’t get any better than free books!
  6. Maintain a Wish List. One of the greatest features about Audible is that if you keep your wish list filled with all the titles that you would like to get if one of them goes on sale they will highlight those books in their emails to you.  It also makes it easy when you’re looking for your next read to go to your wish list and find something queued up ūüôā
  7. Browse 3-for-2 sales, $4.95 sales, etc.  Probably about once a month Audible will have a sale of “3 books for 2 credits” or “any of these books for $4.95”.  I always browse these and have found some of my favorite books this way and stretch my credits even farther!  There’s a strong possibility that last month I spent over $90 and bought 15 new books for my kids – but at $4 per title how could I pass it up??  I was able to justify it since I’ll submit the receipts to my kid’s homeschooling charter school ūüėČ
  8. Check for WhisperSync titles. Seriously, even without a membership this is one of the greatest deals ever.  Sometimes the Kindle book will be free but because you “bought” it you’ll be able to get the audiobook for super cheap.  I’d recommend checking out this post on SlickDeals where you’ll find a bunch of books that you can get the Kindle edition for free and then buy the Audible edition for a couple dollars!  You can also check out this page on Amazon to find out what the audio upgrades cost for Kindle books you already own!
  9. Prime Shipping Credits.  To go along with the WhisperSync titles – if you have a Prime membership you will often be given the option at checkout to forego your 2 day shipping and instead be given a $1 credit that can be used on Kindle books.  I almost always will take that offer, then I take those Kindle credits and buy WhisperSync books that I want for free!  That makes the cheap audio addition an even better deal ūüėČ
  10. Holiday Gift Books and Audible Originals Every month Audible has a selection of free books for members!  You can pick up to two of them and I’ve gotten some really fun listens that way.  Occasionally Audible will also give away books for free as gifts for different holidays.  I’ve gotten new books for 4th of July, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and other holidays.  They’re specific titles that might not be something that I would have chosen myself, but it’s been a great way to get me out of my comfort zone and reading something new – and you can’t beat free!

So there are my tips and tricks to get the most out of your Audible membership. If you’ve signed up now and need a good listen you should check out my book recommendations list – I made it specifically from my Audible listens that I’ve enjoyed.  Happy listening!

The Loaves & Fishes and a Review of Unplanned

Never have I been so excited to attend a movie that I so desperately did not want to see. That’s how I felt going into see Unplanned today. I felt that this movie was important to see, I want it to do well and I thought it should be something everyone should go see – but I knew it was not going to be a fun happy experience. In fact, when I asked my husband when he wanted to go see it with me his response was that he really didn’t want to go see it – and I couldn’t blame him. But I still felt like I needed to go see it. I already knew Abby’s story but I felt compelled to go and see it played out on the big screen for myself.

So when I got my 1yo down for his afternoon nap and realized that I could make it to the next showing – that’s what I did. I quickly packed as much chocolate into my purse as I could find (stupid trying to eat healthy meant there wasn’t as much stock as I would have liked), wore my knit shawl as a socially acceptable excuse to bring a blanket into the theater, and left my husband home with the kids. I knew if I hesitated I would talk myself out of going so I just went.

This was my first R-rated movie that I’ve ever seen unedited. While I totally believe that the MPAA only gave Unplanned an R rating in an attempt to tank it – I also think it was deserved. The movie is heavy, though not dark. As someone who does not deal well with blood – particularly medical blood – it was a really hard movie to watch, and there were definitely several times when I found myself hiding under my makeshift blanket while I ugly cried. However, nothing about the bloodiness or the subject matter was gratuitous. It was real, and it told a true story, without overdramatization. But should it be a movie that kids under 18 are seeing without at least parental knowledge? Probably not. At least, I don’t think I would want my kids seeing it without me, though I think there are many lesser rated films that I would be much more opposed to them seeing.

However, while the movie dealt with things that I wished that I didn’t have to know about – there was a great deal of hope as well. Even though I left with a headache from crying so much over much of the heartbreak and horror of the movie – I did not leave feeling sad, or helpless, or overly weighed down. Instead I honestly left feeling hopeful and inspired. Definitely still saddened, but that feeling wasn’t overwhelming because of the hope and light offered in the film.

Many times throughout my becoming more entrenched in the pro-life movement I have felt like there was no hope. Yes, abortion was a terrible evil, but what could I really do about it? It’s legal, it’s not like I could turn these people into the police. Public opinion, at least as portrayed in the media has always seemed so pro-choice. How can you protect babies whose own mothers won’t even protect them? I’m a stay at home mom with 4 kids – I don’t have a fancy law degree, I don’t have deep pockets to lobby politicians. Is there really anything I could do?

I’d heard of several organizations in my own quest to find a way to fight against abortion, and among them was 40 Days for Life. To be honest when I heard what they were about I felt like their whole mission was too hokey and not action oriented enough. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the organization – they sit outside abortion clinics and pray. Their object isn’t to engage or protest, just to pray. Praying is great and all, but if I was going to get involved I wanted to do something – I could pray from home.

In our Come Follow Me discussion last week we discussed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. I’ll give you a recap of the events. Jesus is teaching a multitude of five thousand men (plus women and children) and decides it’s time to feed everyone. The disciples look around and say “uhm, there are 5000+ people here, there’s no way we have that kind of food.” But Christ asks that they find whatever food is there. Finally a little boy comes forward with 5 loaves of bread, and two small fish. I can only imagine how I would feel bringing that kind of offering, “Oh, hey Lord, yeah I know you said you wanted to feed 5000 people but all I have is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish – not even enough to feed 50 people really and you have 100x that here. But sure, take what I have, I’ll probably be hungry, but go ahead and see what you can make of it.” To be honest, I think I would have felt like an idiot offering that up. It’s probably why the only person who offered up anything was a young boy – he was the only one willing to offer what he had, regardless of how small it was. Then of course the Lord takes that laughably miniscule offering and not only feeds the multitude to satiation, but comes back with 12 baskets full of fragments – not only filling the boy, and the multitude but giving the boy back more than he even started with.

SPOILERS AHEAD. CONTINUE READING AT YOUR OWN RISK. (However, I don’t think the story is a surprise to most of the people seeing the movie so you can probably keep reading. I would just feel guilty not making the disclaimer ūüėČ )

As I watched Unplanned I was struck with the characters of Shawn and Marilisa. I’m sure they must have felt much like that young boy – “Well, here we are, praying outside of Planned Parenthood again. We’ve been doing this for 8 years and we watch as week after week more women come in and abort their babies. It doesn’t make any difference, but it’s what we have that we can offer up so we’ll keep doing it.” I’m sure the defeat of it all was absolutely crushing, and that they felt heartbroken that they were standing by and doing what seemed like virtually nothing.

But then, after their long years of waiting. After their patience and persistence. Because they had faith, and showed kindness and “love unfeigned” towards Abby – a miracle happened. A miracle that I’m sure they never could have dreamed of. The clinic director who they had gone toe to toe with for so many years suddenly had a change of heart and not only leaves Planned Parenthood, but goes on to create an organization to help get abortion workers out of the industry. And the clinic they’ve been praying over for so many years closes for good.

I felt chastised for my faithlessness. Is not our God a God of miracles? Haven’t I seen those miracles in my own life? I was reminded of this scripture –

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.

Alma 37:6-7

I have decided that I want to be more like the young man in the scriptures. I want to bring my 5 loaves to the Lord and see what he can make of my meager offering. Together perhaps our small offerings can bring forth something great.

If you haven’t seen Unplanned – go see it! Whether you’re ardently pro-life, more on the fence or even if you’re pro-choice – go see it. I’m not promising an enjoyable couple of hours. You will likely have your heart broken and handed back to you. But, you will leave with hope and a new perspective on the love that our God has for each of us. The story is not one of hopelessness, but of hope.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom AND Dad!

One of my parents’ engagement pictures in 1982. If they’d known then what the future had in store for them…

I know on Mother’s Day we’re supposed to really focus on just our mothers, however today I want to pay a quick tribute to both my mom AND dad. In addition to today being Mother’s Day, today my dad was released as the bishop of my family’s home ward. He has served in that calling for 6.5 years. Before that he was in the Stake Presidency, following the shortest stint as the bishop (only 9 months) of the same ward, and prior to that he was in the bishopric of our stake’s single’s ward. My dad has been in consecutive leadership callings in our stake for longer than my youngest brother (who turns 19 in August) has been alive. Before that my dad served in the bishopric in our ward in New York and other callings.

My mom has had many callings of her own – YW presidency, Primary presidency, Sunday school teacher, Early Morning Seminary Teacher to name a few – but through all of those callings she has also been supporting my dad in his. Many nights of not knowing if/when my dad would be home for dinner, helping those in the ward who were secretly struggling, getting 5 kids ready for church more or less on time on her own each week (a feat that I’m sure was infinitely easier once her oldest child left the house ūüėČ ), allowing other families’ needs to intrude on our own family time, and countless other small but significant sacrifices through the years. I know there have been times when the load seemed heavy and probably even too much to bear, but through it all both of my parents have been cheerfully – and sometimes tearfully – willing to sacrifice and serve.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our faith, these callings represent many hours every week – including most of the day on Sunday – with absolutely zero pay, it is done on a completely volunteer basis. Although volunteer suggests that my dad would have gone to someone and requested these assignments – the opposite is true. For each of these callings someone else in our church leadership would have called my dad in to a meeting and asked him if he would be willing to do this regardless of what other plans my dad might have had at the time. He has continued to hold a full time job to support our family while giving up his nights, weekends and vacation time to serve those in their area willingly.

My mom has told me that the very best thing she could have done was to make that sacrifice to allow my dad to serve in these callings. She has told me that by supporting my dad in these callings she has in turn received a husband who is more compassionate, closer to the spirit and more fulfilled than had she selfishly kept him at home to help her with dressing kids for church and the other things that I know she would have appreciated his help with.  She’s told me how she’s heard other women tell their husbands that they couldn’t accept these callings that require so much time and effort because they needed the help at home.  She doesn’t belittle these concerns – she knows firsthand how legitimate they are – the sacrifices are indeed significant.  But she’s testified to me that while it’s been hard – she has gotten more in return for her sacrifice than she would have received any other way.

So, today I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to BOTH of my parents.  Thank you for teaching me the value of service and sacrifice.  Thank you for teaching me that there is no better way that I can bless the lives of my family than by serving the Lord.  I know that their service will not end here – soon enough they’ll find somewhere else to be made useful in serving and loving those around them.  They won’t be happy sitting still for long.  They know all too well that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God,” and I know they won’t be satisfied not having a way to use their time and talents to serve God.  That’s the best example I could have asked for, and I hope that I follow that example in my own live.  I love you Mom & Dad! 

Hiking Through Life’s Trials

Maeli hikeThis past Tuesday I went on a hike with our ward’s Cub Scout Pack. ¬†One of my current callings is as Cub Scout Committee Chair and Eric serves as our ward’s Cubmaster, so even though we don’t have any cub scouts in our family yet we are very involved with the organization. ¬†Every year we’re supposed to organize a hike, which we’d intended to do back in May, however our original hike got rained out so we postponed it until this past week. ¬†Luckily where we live we are close to lots of great hiking trails so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a great hike.

Tuesday turned out to be a very busy day for me because there was a field trip organized at the Discovery Gateway Museum for homeschooling families which I wanted to attend with my kids. ¬†We ended up going from there straight to In ‘N Out for dinner, then to Walmart to pick up a snack for the cub scouts, and then immediately¬†to the trail head to meet up with the scouts. ¬†I hadn’t definitively decided if I was going to brave taking my 3 kids on the hike or just wave the scouts off. ¬†We ended up having plenty of adult leaders show up but the kids were excited about going on the hike so we decided to at least start out and I knew that I could head back at any time if it became too much for them.

Unfortunately because I hadn’t made it back home and hadn’t fully planned to take my kids on this hike I hadn’t brought our hiking backpack with us. So I was stuck carrying my 19 month old Maeli on my hip – extra awesome since my back has been acting up a little lately. ¬†We quickly fell behind but I wasn’t too concerned. ¬†As we started out I put her down and she would walk some of the way, but then she’d stop every few feet and find a rock and say, “Oh, this is a rock! ¬†Oh, this is a rock!” ¬†Hiking is pretty slow going when you get excited about every little pebble on the trail. ¬†Normally I’d indulge this excitement, but since we were hiking with a larger group, and we were cutting it close on time to get the hike finished before dark anyways, I couldn’t let her stop to look at all of the rocks and carried her along the way.

On the way up to the falls¬†I did pretty well carrying her.¬†¬†Then one of my friends took over and carried her for a little while and then she was handed off to Eric who carried her the remainder of the way¬†to the falls. ¬†After we rested at the falls and had our snack we started down a different trail to get home. ¬†I took Maeli back so that Eric could lead the cub scouts and we quickly fell behind again. ¬†After being carried for so long Maeli started insisting that she would walk all by herself. ¬†She would say “Oh, this is a walk!” and did a pretty good job hiking on her own for her age. ¬†She did better on the way back about not stopping to comment on each individual rock, but 19 month olds do not walk exceedingly fast. ¬†I tried to carry her but every time I picked her up she would flail around like a fish out of water and say “whoa! whoa! whoa! whoa!” until I would put her down. ¬†She fell down on the trail a lot. ¬†But she refused to be carried by me, or by any of the other adults. ¬†She did let me pick her up whenever a bicyclist came down the trail and I would take advantage of those opportunities to walk with her as quickly as I could and get her as far as possible before she started flailing again. ¬†I really wanted to just carry her and get us back to the trail head before it became dark but our progress was slower with her fighting me than it was just letting her walk so we went slowly on.

Maeli rubbing her knees on the trail.

Maeli stopping on the trail to rub her poor banged up little knees. She would stop like this every so often, but adamantly refused to let me pick her up.

Unfortunately because we weren’t taking the same trail back as we’d taken out, and we’d fallen behind, there were a few times when I was concerned that we might get lost. ¬†I am exceptionally good at getting lost, even if I really stop and try to think things through I just seem to have a talent for picking exactly the wrong direction. ¬†Luckily I had my cell phone and I was able to call Eric at one of the junctures and ask him to clarify which trail I was supposed to be taking. ¬†At another point I was able to ask a bicyclist going the opposite direction if he had seen the group as he’d come down the trail and he was able to confirm that he had. ¬†The trail head was right next to the Draper Utah Temple, and as I turned around a corner I was able to see the temple and knew that even if I hadn’t picked exactly the right trail, I was at least heading in the right direction. ¬†As we got a little further down the trail I heard some of the other leaders calling my name and they waited until we caught up to them so that we weren’t alone on the trail and they continued with us for most of the rest of the hike. ¬†We did make it back to the trail head just before it was fully dark and I really enjoyed the¬†chance to be out in nature and enjoying Heavenly Father’s creations with my children.

While we were hiking I thought of some analogies that I could draw from the experience. ¬†The most interesting one to me was watching Maeli on the hike. ¬†She was doing something that clearly she was not qualified for. ¬†I didn’t bring her on a 3 mile hike because I thought that a 19 month old should be able to do that on her own. ¬†I brought her with the intention that I would help her along the way, and that she would be given ample assistance by me and the other adults. ¬†At first she accepted that help for the most part and we were able to get her through what was the easier part of the journey. ¬†Then she refused assistance for most of the more difficult part of the journey. ¬†Instead she would fall and sit and rub her banged up knees while we were standing there willing and wanting to help her get through the hike without too much more pain and suffering. ¬†Because she was going so slowly we all fell behind and barely made it back before it would have been¬†too late.

As I watched this it made me think about all of us here on earth. ¬†Sometimes we are faced with challenges that are enormous – far outside our capacity to do it on our own. ¬†Our Heavenly Father puts those challenges before us, but he also puts a support system around us to help us through it. ¬†How often do we refuse the assistance of others because “Oh, this is a walk!” or as we might say “No, I need to do this on my own. ¬†This is my challenge and I will do it myself.” ¬†I wonder if the Lord looks at us and says, “You ninny! ¬†I didn’t¬†want¬†you to do it on your own. ¬†You don’t need you to do it on your own… that’s why I put all that support system around you!” ¬†He doesn’t intend for us to get through this life on our own, he wants us to do it with the help of our family, friends, church leaders, co-workers, neighbors, random people on the street. ¬†Why do we insist on doing things ourselves while our family and friends stand by wanting to help us, but instead force them to watch us as we fall down and bang up our knees and sit there and cry? ¬†There is no shame in getting help from other people. ¬†You don’t get points docked in some cosmic final exam for taking hands that are outstretched to you. ¬†In fact, I think one of the great objectives¬†on that test is to see if we will work together with others. ¬†Plus, it’s good for them if they can help you to get off the trail to where you’ll be able to work towards your next goal instead of keeping them back on the trail with you. ¬†Our friends and family will no more abandon us in the trials of our life than I would have left Maeli there on the trail to get back on her own. ¬†If you’re going through hard times, please accept help from those who are reaching out to you. ¬†The important thing is to get to the end of the trail and then be able to help others –¬†don’t get caught up in thinking you ought to do it alone, you were never meant to do it alone.

The other thing that made me think was all of the different ways we were able to receive guidance to know that we were on the right trail. ¬†I think when we are looking for direction in our life we can do a lot of the same things. ¬†I was able to use my cell phone to get guidance – and we can seek inspiration through prayer. ¬†I was able to ask a bicyclist on the same trail for his knowledge – we can counsel with who are passing through life with us for their help. ¬†My friends called for me and waited for me –¬†we can lean on the support of friends and family that are watching out for us. ¬†My friends set another example for me . ¬†We should also try to be like those leaders and watch for those who may have fallen behind or could be lost. ¬†We are our brother’s keeper and we will be responsible for having done all we could to help them along the path – who do you need to call out to and help bring them safely home? ¬†Most importantly, we need to be sure our focus is always on the temple. ¬†If at the checkpoints in your life you can see that your journey is bringing you closer to Christ then you know you’re on the right path. ¬†Keep going and keep working towards it and the light of Christ will guide you home.

Remembering Kayson – One Year Later

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

-Robert Browning Hamilton

I saw this poem today on my friend’s Facebook wall and felt compelled to share some thoughts I had. ¬†Yesterday marks one year since sweet Kayson Shelton left this life. ¬†In that time I feel like I have grown and changed so much and I wanted to share some of that experience here.

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On June 6, 2014 I was at home with my family and we were getting ready to eat dinner. ¬†My sister was over with her son and my brother was over too, we were just about ready to head up to the local swimming pool for a fun evening before a trip to California the next day. ¬†Just as we were about to pray over the food Eric pulled me aside. ¬†He told me he’d just received a text that the Shelton’s son had just passed away in an accident. ¬†My first reaction was just “oh, how sad” without much feeling behind it¬†– like this was something that had happened to someone far away that I didn’t know very well. I gathered the family for a blessing on the food and prepared to go on with our evening. ¬†For whatever reason it takes me a little while to fully react to things like this. ¬†As I stood there a minute longer while we were praying it really started to hit me what had happened, Kayson¬†–¬†the little boy who I’d seen just a week before, my son’s friend, my friend’s son – was gone. ¬†Suddenly I started to cry, hopeless, helpless tears of sorrow. ¬†I was imagining what Toni was going through, what she was explaining to her children. ¬†I could see myself in her shoes trying to grapple with such a loss. ¬†It was so overwhelming.

I went down the street to talk to my visiting teaching companion (Toni was one of the sisters we were assigned to watch over) and met a neighbor at the door.  I cried with our neighbor, and then cried some more with my companion. I went home, took Maeli upstairs with me and just cried and cried some more.  I walked into my closet and cried, I nursed Maeli and cried.  I sent Toni a text feeling so inadequate but needing to do *something*, and I cried some more.  I tried to think through what I could do but since the Sheltons were in another state I felt at a total loss.  So I put on my swim suit and cried.  I called my mom to tell her what had happened, and cried.  We drove up to the swimming pool and luckily Maeli had fallen asleep so I just sat with her on my chest, on a beach chair with my sunglasses on and cried.  We came back home and I started trying to pack for our own trip to California and cried some more.

A couple hours later, as the news had spread through the neighborhood and we’d gotten our boys to bed, I saw a gathering of neighbors at the Shelton’s house. ¬†I didn’t know what they were doing or what I could do, but I had to be with them. ¬†So I walked down the street and hugged my friends, and cried. ¬†We saw Toni’s facebook post with her last picture of Kayson telling us that his last words in this life were “I love you” and we cried some more. ¬†We sprang into action to find things that we could do for the Sheltons, but since it was late at night most of those plans would have to wait until morning. ¬†We said goodnight to our friends and walked home. ¬†I sat on our couch and put together a memorial website for Kayson¬†and my head was throbbing from crying so much and there were no more tears left in me, but still I cried as I put pictures and memories of him together to share with the world.

The next day we packed to go to California. ¬†I hated to be leaving during a time of crisis¬†,¬†but I knew there wasn’t much I could do there. ¬†I did what I could to be part of the service projects before we left – I made a freezer meal, helped with care packages, fielded website inquiries, and cried some more – then we packed up the car and left. ¬† I cried periodically the whole way to California. ¬†Then we got there and I cried some more with my mom. ¬†On Sunday I attended church in my parents ward and just sobbed violently for most of the meetings. ¬†I received hugs and support from people who had known me since I was a young woman, and the families in my parents ward cried with me.

The next week was filled with media inquiries as the news caught wind of Kayson’s story. ¬†I cried as I responded to emails. ¬†I had put together an online fundraiser and was touched as I watched donations roll in from all over the world. ¬†My phone was beeping incessantly and my mom commented on it. ¬†I told her that I received an email every time someone made a donation. ¬†I was so grateful for all those beeps and dings. ¬†So much of my faith in humanity was built as I watched how people rallied around this family. ¬†And I cried some more. ¬†We came back for the funeral and cried and cried and cried.

The next several months consisted of frequent periods of crying. ¬†I would watch any Mormon Message and cry. ¬†I would see my kids playing and think of Toni and cry. ¬†I would be doing dishes and start crying. ¬†Little kids are not supposed to die, that’s just not the way I felt¬†this world is supposed to work. ¬†Obviously I knew that little kids could die, but that happened on the news, to people far away from me. ¬†Not to my neighbor. ¬†Not to my friend. ¬†Suddenly my own children were much more mortal than I could handle. ¬†I found myself checking multiple times during the night that they were still breathing and not wanting to go to sleep lest I wake up and find¬†one of them gone. ¬†All I wanted to do was to snuggle up close with my family and never ever let them go.

Going through this experience I felt like there was a part of me that was broken that could never be fixed again. ¬†It was too much, the pain was too big. ¬†However, as the time went by I cried hourly for days, daily¬†for several weeks, several times a week for a few months and then several times a month. ¬†Slowly I found myself able to look at my children without a feeling of terror that they would slip away at any moment. ¬†I still cry sometimes, but that soul wrenching pain that I felt has passed somewhat. ¬†My overwhelming grief was able to be replaced by a tenderness in my soul that won’t go away, but it’s not broken anymore. ¬†The tenderness is a good thing, it’s a new part of who I am, I’ve been re-made into a more kinder, more loving, more compassionate person.

I just felt the need to share this experience and reiterate my testimony of the atonement. ¬†It is so very very real. ¬†It can take the things that you think can never be fixed, never be made clean, never be healed, and somehow¬†–¬†it heals them. ¬†Our Father in Heaven loves us, dearly. ¬†He is there for us when we have reasons to cry, and he cries with us. ¬†He sends others to help us in those times of despair, and we can be made whole again. ¬†I truly am grateful for this opportunity that I’ve had to walk a mile with sorrow. ¬†I have learned and grown in ways that I couldn’t have any other way. ¬†It might not be an experience I would wish for, but it’s certainly one I will cherish. ¬†I just want to say thank you to Toni and Scott for letting me be a small part of this experience, it has touched my life and changed me for the better, and I know it’s done the same for many others as well.

Be Kind

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The quote at the beginning of this post is something that’s been on my mind frequently¬†over the past year¬†–¬†“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. ¬†I’ve seen this quote in the past and thought, “sure, some people are fighting really hard battles, but there are¬†people who really just have it easy. ¬†Maybe more people than I think are facing something hard, but not literally everyone.” ¬†However, over the past year I feel like I have gotten to know more of people’s¬†challenges. ¬†Just out of the people I know here are some of the struggles I’ve been privvy to in the last several months – cancer, death of a loved one, infertility, feelings of inadequacy, divorce, depression, loss of faith, separation from children, illness, difficult pregnancies, rebellious children, anxiety, job loss, money problems, unfulfilled dreams, loneliness, moving from home, fear, sleep deprivation, debt, and abuse. ¬†That’s a weighty¬†list, and for most of those trials I can name more than one person who has recently faced it. ¬†Moreover, if¬†I think carefully through people I know well I can come up with something each one of them is facing that is difficult, and I’m sure there are many more inner struggles that I am completely¬†unaware of.

As I’ve contemplated this the reality of the quote¬†finally registered¬†and I have come to realize how true it is.¬†¬†E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. you meet is fighting a hard battle. ¬†Yes, that person who cut you off in traffic. ¬†Yes, your neighbor who seems to have it all together. ¬†Yes, the friend who always has a smile on their face. ¬†I don’t care how well you think you know the person or how easy you might think they have it, each person is fighting a hard battle in some aspect of their life, whether you know about it or not. ¬†This realization has reminded me of a quote from a recent talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I want to tell you something that I hope you will take in the right way: God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect.

Let me add: God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not. (emphasis added)

I know there are people that seem to have things so easy, but as you get closer to them you will find there is something they are actively struggling with.   Trials are an integral part of our life here on earth. They are the experiences that help us grow, and everyone is growing in one way or another.  I wanted to share one of my own experiences that I think illustrates this.

Those of you who follow my husband’s blog may know that he mentioned a bout he had with depression. ¬†If you know Eric that revelation was probably something that surprised you. ¬†Eric is¬†positive, driven and bright¬†– not exactly a¬†poster child for depression, and before he posted about it almost no one knew what he’d been going through.¬† However, he was feeling undervalued in his position at work. ¬†It was demoralizing for him to have to prove and reprove his¬†worth and to fight tooth and nail to keep his¬†projects going every single day. ¬†Understandably¬†it got to him, and he started to escape his frustrations by spending a lot of his time playing computer games. ¬†Just to have an arena¬†where he could feel more¬†successful. ¬†Gradually, he sunk further and further into depression and even when he was home I saw less and less of him. ¬†Despite my best attempts to try and help him, he withdrew into himself and I was at a loss for how I could help.

Meanwhile, even I misunderstood what¬†he was dealing with. ¬†I underestimated¬†his struggles at work knowing that he loved what he’d been hired to do, and thinking¬†that balanced out his frustrations. ¬†However I was keenly aware of¬†the changes in his behavior, though I tried to keep them between us. ¬†Not understanding the real cause I attributed his depression¬†to the wrong things. ¬†Since what I observed was mostly him withdrawing from me¬†I assumed I must have been¬†the problem –¬†that his life with me¬†wasn’t what he’d hoped¬†it¬†would be and he preferred¬†his computer as an escape from the poor choice he’d made to marry me. ¬†I felt hurt, alone, and like I had no control to make things better. ¬†I¬†began¬†to sink into a bit of a depression of my own. ¬†Just like I misunderstood Eric’s struggles he misunderstood mine and we were both unable to help one another.

Eventually we were both able to work through these challenges and we’re stronger now for having gone through them. ¬†But¬†the point of that story is that here we were living in the same house, truly loving one another, and¬†each¬†suffering inwardly. ¬†Somehow even with the love we had for one another, we missed what the other person was going through. ¬†It amazes me that – even with the time we would spend together, as much as we would talk to one another and as much as we loved each other – we still missed the battles playing out¬†right in front of our eyes. ¬†After that experience I’ve come to realize just how easily other people’s¬†challenges can be hidden from view while things seem fine on the surface. ¬†Or how easily we can attribute someone’s actions to the wrong things. ¬†I’ve learned to not assume I know what another person is experiencing and try to show compassion unconditionally.

Another thing I’ve come to realize is the need for compassion for people who struggle with something¬†that might not seem major to me. ¬†I’ve read a lot of blog posts about the things you shouldn’t complain about. ¬†You shouldn’t complain about how hard your pregnancy is because there are people¬†struggling with infertility. ¬†You shouldn’t complain about infertility because there are people who long for marriage. ¬†You shouldn’t complain about not being married because there are people¬†stuck in an abusive relationships. ¬†The examples I’ve seen go on and on. ¬†To this kind of thinking I want to again quote President Dieter F. Uctdorf

When it comes to [judging others], please apply the following:

Stop it!

It‚Äôs that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don‚Äôt know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt judge me because I sin [or experience trials] differently than you.‚ÄĚ

It’s easy to look at someone else’s trials and think how much more difficult our own challenges seem to us.¬† Of course, it could almost always be worse and we should always try to be grateful in our circumstances. ¬†But putting someone else’s difficulties¬†down because it doesn’t seem as hard as what you’re facing is ridiculous and helps no one. ¬†I struggle with children who are not fantastic sleepers – not the biggest problem that anyone’s ever faced, but it’s one of mine. ¬†I have heard people say things like, “you should just be grateful that you have children.” ¬†They’re not wrong, and the truth is, I¬†am grateful for my children and I don’t begrudge them the many sleepless nights. ¬†But that doesn’t negate the fact that I am¬†tired and sometimes I need someone to just give me a hug and tell me that I’m going to make it to bedtime. ¬†Belittling my¬†exhaustion¬†because it could be something worse isn’t helpful.

Construing any¬†person’s suffering¬†as illegitimate doesn’t help people with seemingly¬†worse trials, and it certainly doesn’t help the person in front of you. ¬†We all need to be careful not to fall into the¬†kind of thinking that says people only deserve our sympathy if their struggles weigh in greater than our own on some cosmic scale. ¬†This is nonsense! ¬†Do you think our Savior looks down on us and says, “Well, you’re only dealing with the trials¬†of one single person. ¬†I took on ALL the suffering¬†of every person who has ever lived, you big baby. ¬†Go whine to someone else.”? NO! ¬†Christ took upon him all these things so that he¬†could¬†help us even in small things. ¬†If He doesn’t put us down for struggling with small things then we certainly have no room to¬†put down one another. ¬†One of my favorite quotes comes from a talk given by Marvin J. Ashton back in 1992, he said,

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

If we want to become like the Savior then we need to stop trying to judge other people’s actions based on what we think we know of them. ¬†We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt that their struggles are¬†real, whether they makes sense to us or not. ¬†We need to let them manage their trials as best as they can and be there to support them in any way possible. ¬†No matter how trivial their trials might seem to us. ¬†Our judgement of their trials doesn’t matter, what matters is how we respond to them in their need.

I recently watched a beautiful example of someone who already does this. ¬†As my readers know, my dear friend Toni lost her sweet son Kayson in the middle of last year. ¬†Recently, I was sitting with her and another friend as our friend was expressing her frustration with parenting a difficult son. ¬†Toni could have snapped back, “You should just be grateful that you still have him here, don’t you know what I would give to be going through those difficulties right now instead of the one I have?” ¬†Instead I watched as she sat there and lovingly commiserated about the difficulties of parenting, offering advice and support. ¬†Our friend said something about how trivial her trial was¬†and¬†Toni graciously responded that it didn’t matter how big the trial was, it was what she was struggling with and that¬†made it¬†legitimate. ¬†Helping a friend didn’t increase her¬†grief or do anything to belittle what she was going through. ¬†It merely gave her an opportunity to show love for a friend, and you can’t show love for someone without feeling¬†its¬†glow yourself. ¬†When we help lift other people’s burdens our own become lightened, not heavier.

Can we all commit to trying a little harder, to being a little kinder? ¬†Recognize that we don’t know – and can’t know – all the things that another person¬†is dealing with. ¬†Let¬†us find ways to lift each other up in our trials. ¬†Let¬†us stop comparing and trying to “one up” other’s troubles. ¬†Let¬†us be kind.

Be Real

It's better to look up...Thomas S. Monson.  (Graphic by Stephanie Hawkins for R.S. Lesson)

I couldn’t find the original source for this image to give credit, but I really liked it… if you know the original source PLEASE let me know!

I was just talking to Eric today about one of our stories from when we were engaged. We’d just gone out to lunch at a restaurant in the Eyring Science Center and I was waiting for him to go to the bathroom. I didn’t want to just be sitting there staring off into space so I decided I would read the plaques on the wall while I waited. A guy came up to me and started trying to engage me in conversation. I could tell he was interested in a little more than just a platonic conversation so I made numerous attempts to flash my ring at him to no avail. I knew Eric would be coming out shortly and I felt bad making this guy feel awkward, but despite my keeping my hand inches from my face holding onto my backpack straps… he wasn’t looking for that signal. Finally Eric came out of the bathroom and came up to me and said something like “Hi Honey” and the other guy quickly mumbled something like “oh, uhm, it was nice talking to you” and made a quick exit. Eric was wondering why I didn’t introduce him to this friend of mine, until I explained to him that I didn’t know this guy at all. We had a good laugh and it’s still a story that we remember and laugh about from time to time.

As I was thinking about this I wondered for a second why I was reading plaques (that I didn’t care about one bit) instead of catching up on emails or Facebook or something? Of course, the answer is that in 2007 smartphones were only just barely becoming a reality and were certainly not in widespread use among poor college students. There was nothing better to do than take in my surroundings while I waited, and despite the awkwardness of that encounter, it was nice to have a real conversation with someone rather than just staring at the walls.

As much as I love the convenience of being able to listen to my book while I take the kids to the park, or have something to do while I wait at the doctor’s office or the millions of other things that make having a smartphone SO convenient, I wonder how much I’m missing out on because I’m too distracted by what’s on my screen. What real world interactions are passing me by? I’m shy by nature and going out of my comfort zone to talk to someone I don’t know isn’t something I love to do, and because I have my smartphone with me, most of the time I don’t have to. But would the world be a better place if I were to force myself out of my comfort zone and talk to someone, simply because the alternative is to stare at some plaques on a wall that I don’t care about? Sure if I had been liking pictures on facebook, it could have saved that poor guy in the science building an awkward moment, but I also wouldn’t have a funny, harmless awkward moment story to share. Isn’t it better to have some awkward real moments than safe technology provided moments?

My mom and I have had a rule since the inception of cell phones that if we’re talking on the phone and a “real” person comes along that we can immediately hang up with one another or put the other person on mute while we talk to the “real”¬†person. The only qualification for someone to be a “real” person rather than a “fake” person is that they have to physically be standing in front of you. The cashier at the grocery store (who I don’t know at all) outranks my mom (one of my very best friends in the universe) on the telephone simply by virtue of being in front of me. ¬†I cannot even count the number of times we’ve been talking on the phone and she’s put me in her pocket for a minute just to give a cashier the courtesy of the mild pleasantries of “hello, how are you? did you find everything you needed? how about this weather?” (actually, warning to all cashiers, that last question is dangerous to ask my mother – she’s just one final, one project and a class away from finishing her Masters in meteorology ūüėČ ) ¬†Sure, I might have something to say to my mom that will be more meaningful in the eternal scheme of things than what she’ll talk about with the cashier, but that doesn’t release her from the social contract to be polite and friendly to them.

This video has been floating around my Facebook newsfeed and I finally decided to watch it. ¬†Yes, I fully appreciate the irony of finding this video through social media, but hey if you want to preach to the choir you better be at the church, right? This man’s target demographic wasn’t likely to be reached at a lecture at the local library ūüėõ

I want to recommit to being a real person, out with real people. ¬†I want to be more inclined to put my smartphone away and dare to be bored for a few minutes. ¬†Yes, the internet may be full of much more stimulating news/studies/articles/games than I might get from the gossip at the park, but perhaps I can steer the conversation towards a topic that we might all be able to teach each other about. ¬†Sure, I could read something while eating dinner that might be more intellectually valuable than the conversations with my 5 year old, but our dinner conversations aren’t about my entertainment, they’re for the sake of connecting to each other and perhaps teaching something worthwhile to my kids – if only that it’s more important to engage with our family than to have our entertainment needs met. I’m not anti-social media or the internet (uhm, seriously, look at what I do for a living), but I think we could all stand to take a step back and see how we might better serve the world around us by unplugging a little more often and being real.

Life with Three Kids

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Picture by Lavon Maiersperger. Aren’t they cute??

Since having Maeli 6 weeks ago I’ve been frequently asked what it’s like to have 3 kids. ¬†This was my day today-

Woke up to get Sam ready for school. Laid out all his clothes and then went to get myself ready. Came back 10 minutes later to find Sam still with no pants on just wandering about his room. Get him dressed. Downstairs for breakfast. Sam wants a smoothie and oatmeal. While I”m making his food, Danny wanders downstairs and says he’s going to stay with Eric while I go to my doctor’s appointment. Just as I’m about to walk out the door he changes his mind and wants to come with me. Run through the house to find him some pants, a fresh diaper, shoes and a coat. Put all three kids in the car, race to the bus stop – we’re too late. Also, the van is almost out of gas and I don’t have my wallet. Run back to the house, get my wallet and some other things I’d forgotten. ¬†Get back out to the car and Maeli is screaming because she hates being in the car when it’s not moving.

Take Sam to school, drop him off just minutes before the bell rings. Head over to Smith’s to fill the van with gas. While pumping notification on my phone pops up that my doctor’s appointment is in 10 minutes – I’m at least 15 minutes away. Finish fueling, hop in the van. ¬†Maeli is screaming again. ¬†Drive to the doctor’s. ¬†Arrive about 15 minutes late. ¬†Have my appointment – everything looks great and I’ve lost 18 lbs since the beginning of the year! Best. diet. ever. ūüėČ Finish at the doctor’s, Danny keeps asking why they were shining a light on my bum.

Go out to the van and fight to get Danny into his carseat again. Waffle for a little bit and finally decide to be brave and finally take some returns from Christmas back to Macy’s (by some I mean about $200 worth of clothes from Black Friday sales). Danny won’t go through the door I open and insists on opening his own different door. Sales lady comes out to help him and looks at me like I’m being neglectful or mean. Go to take the returns back and find out that I have to take the specific items to their department. I only have items from 2 departments, but still, not the easiest to work with. Make my returns. As we’re leaving Danny insists that we go get french fries. I decide to make that deal with the devil… I mean, my son… and we head out to the car without too much more problem. Hit up Burger King on the way home and get a large order of fries. As soon as we’re through the drive thru he starts saying “no! I want a soda too!” Too late kid. Then the plea is for ice cream. *sigh* Finally about half way up the mountain he’s figured out that he’s not getting anything extra and asks for the french fries. Give him the french fries. Reaction? “No, lots of!” Good heavens! Tell him to suck it up.

Get home. Realize that Danny’s still in his PJs with his cowboy boots on. His sweatpants have made their way up to his knees. He looks like an orphan. This is how we’ve been out in public all morning – awesome. Also find that Sam drank about 3 sips of his smoothie. Danny proceeds to carry the smoothie around the house. Tell him to take it back to the table. He goes back… but then decides to walk around the kitchen with it. Slips on the floor and gets smoothie all over the floor, the back window and the curtains. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.

It’s time to go pick up Sam. Decide it’s a nice enough day that we can walk to the park. Leave Maeli with Eric and let Danny ride Sam’s bike to the park. ¬†Carry Danny’s bike so we don’t have the problem of Sam not having a bike. ¬†Get to the park just in time to see Sam get off the bus. ¬†Confiscate Sam’s bike from Danny so that Sam can ride it. ¬†Give Danny his bike. ¬†Huge fit. ¬†Tell Danny I’m going to ride his bike instead. ¬†Go back and forth between me threatening to ride the bike, Danny riding the bike, Danny walking the bike, Danny throwing a fit for about a block. ¬†Finally Danny decides to ride the bike. ¬†The boys want to go to the scenic overlook on the way home. ¬†Danny insists on riding in the mud close to the edge of the dropoff – just to give me gray hairs. ¬†Get home.

Tell the boys we’re going in for lunch. ¬†Danny is adamant that he’s still riding his bike. ¬†Threaten to put the bike in timeout. ¬†Argue with Danny. ¬†Danny keeps faking me out that he’s coming in, and then whines again. ¬†Danny falls off bike and is very mildly hurt. ¬†Carry bike into garage while Danny is still sad about the bike. ¬†Have lunch.

Get the last few forms to finish off our taxes. ¬†Let the boys play on the tablets while finishing filing taxes. ¬†Taxes filed – WOOT! ¬†Realize it is now 4pm and still need to go to the grocery store. ¬†Take another hour to finalize list, and decide that Danny is coming to the store and Maeli and Sam are staying with Eric. ¬†Move carseats so we can take the Corolla instead of the van. ¬†Danny fights over whether I buckle him or if he buckles himself (he says he wants to do it but won’t). ¬†Run in for something I forgot. ¬†Come back out and Danny is furious that he can’t reach his door handle. ¬†Re-engage child lock on his door. ¬†Drive as far as the park with him mad at me. ¬†Put state returns in mail box and get mail. ¬†Got the CD of proofs from our recent family photos – yay!!

Drive to Smith’s with Danny mad for most of the way. ¬†Park in the parking lot. ¬†Danny fell asleep – crap. ¬†Unbuckle him and stand him up outside the car. ¬†He’s still mostly asleep. ¬†It’s pretty funny to see. ¬†Make him walk into the store half-asleep. ¬†There are no more shopping carts with cars. ¬†Let him grab a small cart and walk towards the other entrance to check if there’s a car cart there. ¬†Try to direct Danny’s cart. ¬† Danny is mad that I would dare touch his cart. ¬†Stop at the pharmacy to get a prescription. ¬†Continue to other entrance still praying there’s a car cart – there isn’t. ¬†Boo. ¬†Go through the store with Danny with a little shopping cart and me with a big one. ¬†Feel like a broken record. ¬†“Danny, stay near me. ¬†Watch out for other people. ¬†No we’re turning down this aisle.” ¬†Have lots of coupons and random items on the list. ¬†Takes longer than usual. ¬†Heading towards checkout and realize it’s after 6:30pm and we haven’t had dinner yet. ¬†Grab a rotisserie chicken for dinner. ¬†Checkout. ¬†Danny keeps trying to go through cashier’s station. ¬†Find out he wants stickers. ¬†He gets some. ¬†Puts one right on the top of my leg. ¬†Decide not to fight it.

Out to the parking lot. ¬†More pleas for Danny to stay near me. ¬†Put all the groceries in the car. ¬†Danny still has his cart and is spinning in circles, just to give me a panic attack. ¬†Get groceries into car – probably have smashed things that don’t want to be smashed but mostly want to get finished so Danny isn’t in the parking lot anymore. ¬†Remember there are plastic bags in the trunk. ¬†Take them back to the store when we return the carts – win! ¬†Out to the car again. ¬†Danny fights over buckles again. ¬†Drive home.

It’s after 7pm. ¬†Send Sam to get ready for bed. ¬†Bring groceries in. ¬†Try to get perishables put away before dinner. ¬†Maeli is hungry. ¬†Sit down to feed her. Turn dinner prep over to Eric. ¬†Eric finds missed perishables – doh! ¬†Maeli’s done eating. ¬†Eat food quickly while she swings. ¬†Finish just before she starts to be mad. ¬†Hold her while continuing to referee boys. ¬†Eric has an important business call. ¬†Trying to keep the boys volume down while holding Maeli and trying to get them to finish their food. ¬†Eric retreats from his downstairs office up to the master bedroom – we failed. ¬†Boys finish eating.

Sam gets a story for bedtime. ¬†Read it to the kids while Maeli is angry at me. ¬†Finish the story. ¬†Danny wants another. ¬†Send him up to pick one out. ¬†Try to make Maeli happier. ¬†Realize Danny’s been gone for awhile and that Eric is still upstairs on his call. ¬†Dash upstairs. Find Eric reading the story to Danny. ¬†Danny came in just as Eric’s call finished – phew. ¬†Time for scriptures. ¬†Sam reads 3 verses on his own – his reading is getting pretty impressive! ¬†Read the rest of the chapter aloud. ¬†Eric has put Maeli to sleep – hooray! ¬†It’s Danny’s turn to pray. ¬†Debate with him about whether he’s praying or not. ¬†Danny finally prays… or something. ¬†Prayer involves lots of random stories about imaginary friends. ¬†Decide to go with it and just say amen.

Time for Sam’s pre-bed game. ¬†Sam plays one level with Eric and then up to bed. ¬†Go lay down with him. ¬†He wants to play a couple levels with me. ¬†Start the levels. ¬†After the first level Danny comes in, throws lightswitch rave. ¬†Finally disable wall switch by pulling cord on the light from the fan. ¬†Take that Danny. ¬†Boys get rowdy. ¬†Threaten remove Danny. ¬†Boys settle down and snuggle for 8 seconds. ¬†Danny is getting rowdy again. ¬†Take him downstairs much to the dismay of both boys. Eric’s turn to snuggle Sam. ¬†Danny follows with promises of piety. ¬†They finish snuggling. ¬†Danny comes downstairs with Eric.

Maeli’s mad again. ¬†Give Danny the option of snuggling with Mom or Dad while watching Olympics – Dad is chosen. ¬†Strap Maeli into BabyBjorn – still mad. ¬†Take her out. ¬†Change her diaper – it’s slightly wet. ¬†Feed her a little more. ¬†Back into the BabyBjorn. ¬†Still mad, but less so. ¬†Watch Olympics for about 30 minutes. ¬†Eric decides it’s time for him to go to bed. ¬†Eric takes Danny up to bed with him. ¬†Watch some Men’s Figure Skating. ¬†Maeli asleep-ish. ¬†Eat a snack. ¬†Write this post. ¬†Time to collapse into bed.

I’m sure that sounds super negative, it really wasn’t a terrible day. ¬†I got lots done! ¬†I went to the doctor’s, made some returns that have been hanging over my head for a long time, filed our taxes, made a huge grocery run, got our meal plans figured out for the next week and wrote in my blog! ¬†And all that on top of my normal basic tasks – getting kids to school, feeding everyone, getting kids to bed. ¬†Honestly, it was a pretty successful day. ¬†But I’m definitely tired, tomorrow will be much less ambitious for sure ūüôā ¬†So, that’s sorta what it’s like to have 3 kids.

The Pain of Sin

One of my friends posted this article on Facebook today. ¬†I didn’t get through reading all of it because as I got through the first few sections I had so many thoughts flooding my mind that I needed to stop reading and finish my own pondering. ¬†In particular this is what she said that really stuck out to me –

In my religion, we classify these decisions as “sins” but I’m going to use a different word.¬†I want you to see sin differently. That is the reason I am being open and honest about this. Let’s talk about sin in a more realistic way. Sin is Pain.¬†Over the past¬†four years¬† I decided to put myself through a lot of pain.¬†This pain kept me from the temple; a place where I found so much peace and all of a sudden I was not allowed to go inside, let alone¬†publicly¬†pray in my own congregation… Sin really is pain. It causes pain. So let’s be more compassionate about how we look at pain because most of us are feeling a lot of it and it’s hard to find that motivation and love for ourselves so that we can¬†allow¬†the pain to heal and go away

I really liked her modified definition of sin as being pain. ¬†I think too often as a church we tend to think of sin as bad things that people do that are detrimental to others. ¬†But the truth is that most sin is most harmful to the person committing the sin, not to anyone else. ¬†There’s a scripture that I stumbled upon several years ago that has changed my view of the gospel. ¬†It was Doctrine & Covenants 59:4 and it reads (with my added emphasis) –

And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time‚ÄĒthey that are faithful and diligent before me.

When I read that I think my jaw literally dropped. ¬†Crowned with commandments? ¬†Wait, you mean like the commandments are something we should¬†want in our lives? ¬†The whole idea up front seemed absurd to me. ¬†Commandments were things we were told to do or not to do, they restrict us and make our life difficult. ¬†The whole challenge of life is to keep the commandments and that’s hard… isn’t that the point? ¬†Suddenly though I understood the commandments differently. ¬†We don’t get blessed for keeping the commandments – the commandments themselves¬†are the blessing. ¬†I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me before, but after reading this it seemed so obvious. ¬†Of course the commandments are blessings! ¬†What are we taught in 2 Nephi 2:25?

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

If God’s whole purpose is to help us to obtain a fullness of joy then it makes perfect sense that the commandments are meant to bring us joy, not to restrict us or cause us pain. ¬†I guess in some sense I’d understood that. ¬†I knew that I was happiest when I kept the commandments. ¬†I knew that the results of the commandments made me happy but I hadn’t made the connection that it was directly the commandments that made me happy. ¬†I guess I’m really thick but that took me awhile to really understand.

I was thinking on that with an experience that my little brother is going through right now. ¬†In the last few years he’s made some choices that have not always been in keeping with the teachings of the church. ¬†I don’t want to share too much of his story because I don’t feel it’s mine to tell, but as a result he eloped a couple years back and wasn’t able to be sealed to his wife on his wedding day or have a traditional wedding. ¬†However, in the time since then he and his wife have worked together and gotten themselves to a place where they are going to be able to be sealed in a couple of weeks. ¬†Since they didn’t have any sort of traditional wedding the first time around my parents have decided to celebrate their sealing day like they would have liked to have celebrated their wedding day under different circumstances. ¬†We’ll be going as a family to the temple, taking pictures, and having a reception-like party in the evening. ¬†Whatever you’d expect as part of a regular wedding celebration we’re trying to do for their sealing, because this choice and the journey they’ve made¬†is a big deal.

I’ve heard the attitude this is inappropriate. ¬†That they missed out on that opportunity to have a reception because they chose to elope and that this is *not* a wedding and we shouldn’t be treating it like it is. ¬†I think these people don’t understand this concept of sin as being pain. ¬†Yes, I felt slighted to not be a part of my brother’s wedding the first time around. ¬†But you know who was really caused the most pain from that decision? ¬†My brother, not me. ¬†His decision didn’t take anything away from my wedding day with Eric, or make it so that our experience of being celebrated on that day was any less. ¬†His decision didn’t take away from the way that I was able to start my marriage with eternal covenants with the man I love. ¬†The decisions and sacrifices I made to do things the “right” way the first time around have brought me JOY, and lots of it. ¬†I wouldn’t trade them for the world. ¬†He only took those things away from him himself. ¬†There are plenty of ways that he has already cheated himself and had to go through a lot of pain to get to the place that he is right now. ¬†You know who knows that best? ¬†My brother. ¬†So, now that he’s gone through all of that pain and suffering, why would I want to deny him any part of the blessings that I was able to enjoy?

Why do we insist on the attitude of the righteous brother from the parable of the prodigal son? ¬†He chose to remove himself from the celebration because it wasn’t fair that his father was celebrating his unrighteous son’s return in a flashier way than the steady righteousness of his other son. ¬†But what do we learn in that parable from the Savior himself? ¬†In Luke 15:31-32 we hear the response of the father –

And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

The righteous son hadn’t missed out on any blessings, he already had all that his father had. ¬†But for some reason he felt slighted that his father would celebrate the other son’s return to the fold. ¬†I think many of us still hold that same attitude. ¬†I think as a church, and as people in general we need to stop thinking that we need to punish people for their sins, or make them realize what they missed out on. ¬†We need to realize that sin *is* its own consequence. ¬†God doesn’t need us to judge people or make them feel less than worthy, he needs us to love each other and celebrate when we do something right. ¬†In President Uchtdorf’s most recent conference address he extended this invitation:

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.

I think the subtext to those who have been faithful members in the church is – make that place. ¬†Do everything in your power to make those who haven’t always been on the straight and narrow feel loved, accepted and welcomed. ¬†Do not make them feel ostracized for the things they’ve done wrong – they already know! ¬†No one in this church, or on this world for that matter, is perfect. ¬†So don’t feel like you need to make it any worse for someone because of their particular failings. ¬†You know your own shortcomings and I doubt anyone needs to tell you of the pain they cause you. ¬†So please don’t exacerbate anyone else’s pain by making them feel unworthy of the blessings they’ve worked so hard for. ¬†It may not be the same way that you got there but it doesn’t make their journey any less valid. ¬†In the words from another favorite talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Why should¬†you¬†be jealous because¬†I¬†choose to be kind?‚ÄĚ

The next time you feel slighted because someone is getting a blessing that you feel maybe they don’t deserve or haven’t worked or sacrificed for the way you did, I want you to apply President Uchtdorf’s iconic advice from Conference of April 2012

 Stop it!

Choose to love others and to be grateful for the commandments that you’ve been blessed to keep. ¬†Be grateful that you didn’t have to go through the pain of sin that others have had to go through, and rejoice for those who have made their way back into the fold.