Monday, June 12, 2017

On Contentment

I realize my last few posts might have sounded mildly depressing, and I apologize for that.  Just being real.

But I'm happy to report that things are improving.  

We've finally moved into our new house, which is just lovely, so light-filled and roomy.  

We've been in our house for two weeks now, and are nowhere near unpacked or settled.  
And that's ok.  

For various reasons, it is going to take some extra time to really start to unpack and get settled.  Right now, as I focus on getting rugs and mirrors bought, and TP-holders and trash cans strategically in place, I'm also thinking about how to re-organize the inner-lives that we boxed up and carted around with us these last six months.  Our personal and family life.

It seems that just like our material possessions, our spiritual, mental, and emotional possessions have been shaken up, jumbled around, and some are seemingly, as of yet, unaccounted for.  I miss my fairly well-ordered spiritual/family life, that was built layer by layer, and year by year. 

I realize, that not only might this take time to rebuild, but as I "unpack" these things, I see that they aren't all coming out of the box looking the same way I put them in there.  And it's time to step back and look at that and see what needs keeping, what needs improving and changing, what has simply expired over time, and what should really be tossed out.

Figuring that out, as I said, will take time, and I'm trying to be patient with myself and seeking the Lord's help with those monumental tasks which I feel fall into my stewardship as a Mother.

That's probably something I'll revisit in a future post, when I start to feel more figured-out.  But I will talk about one thing that's been on my mind this week, and that is the idea of feeling content.

A good blog-friend of mine moved from the city out to the country probably six months before we moved.  She said her reason for moving her family was because things were feeling too normal/predictable and she felt her family needed a change in order to grow.  She also mentioned wanting a different way of life, a slower-paced schedule, and room to roam as a family.

I thought about her thoughts.  WE didn't move because we wanted to.  I felt perfectly content to stay in Lewisburg, PA for a long time...maybe forever.  I guess I'm not as much of a thrill-seeker as I used to be. I liked our dependable way of life.  I liked my hard-earned friends.  I'm sure I needed to grow, but I needed a little shove to get me moving in the new direction that the Lord wanted for me.

Along these lines, I had recently listened to quite a few friends of mine talk about how uncontent they had become with their lives, and it made me wonder "what was it about our lives for the last 10 years in Lewisburg that made us feel so content, personally and as a family??"  And "how do I replicate those things in my new home and new city?"

Now don't get me wrong, there were many challenges to overcome, many very hard things and lessons to learn during that time.  Yet, there were many more things that allowed us to feel basic, every day, dependable contentment and joy.

In my friend's vlog that I watched recently, she talked about how when she is discontent, she writes down the question "Why am I not enjoying my life right now?" and she makes a list and then makes changes to those items listed.  I took her suggestion and turned it around to suit my situation.  I really wanted to ponder what it was that allowed us to be so happy and content for so long.  I decided to make a list, because I am so serious about wanting to build those things into my life again, if possible, in my new circumstances.

So, here's my list of things that made us feel content about life during the last decade (I'm sure it's incomplete...but it's what I came up with.)

1.  Country Life:  This was something that took some getting used to at first, but which I grew to love.  Having lived in Washington, DC previously and working downtown in an urban atmosphere, I over time grew to appreciate having basically nowhere to shop (except Walmart).  I wasn't focused on consuming things or spending inordinate amounts of time spending money (outside of the basics of feeding, clothing, and teaching my family!)  There also wasn't much in the way of traffic which comes along with industry and shopping and a large population.  I enjoyed more free time and less stress because I almost never sat in traffic for ten whole years!  We were surrounded by the beauty of nature, and enjoyed local fruit in season.  We associated with good/giving, humble people who lived close to the earth, lots of farmers, and people who serve, serve, serve others.  There were less rules and regulations and in my estimation more freedom.  As a result of this, our family life was abundant.  We had more time to do what we wanted.

2.  As a family we didn't play sports:  Oh there were a few instances where we enrolled all three of the oldest in gymnastics, because they could take the class at the same time, and once Guy played Upwards basketball.  That was a conscious choice and sacrifice that we made so that we could prioritize family time together.  I often questioned that choice and sometimes felt guilty that they weren't "in a sport" like most of my friends' children were, however when I look back at the many happy memories we made outside playing together or inside baking or creating together, I think this contributed greatly to our contentment during the first decade of our life with kids.

3.  We worked hard to keep the Sabbath Day:  Early on, with kids, we felt we needed to take a closer look at what it means for us to keep the Sabbath Day Holy.  We had a testimony-building experience that helped us really come in to our own on this gospel principle, and although it has never really been easy to keep the Sabbath day holy over the years, we've reaped great rewards.  Now that we are in a different environment, and we're seeing how different people interpret and live out this commandment, this choice and it's affect on our family has become more poignant to me, and I want to continue to live it our way. I realized just how significant this decision has been for us recently when I was reminded of the scripture that says that those who keep the Sabbath Day will enjoy the fullness of the earth.  We certainly did enjoy that.  True principle!

4.  We faithfully made time for personal and family scripture study and prayer, weekly family home evening, and temple service, and daily family breakfast and dinners.  We also made General Conference teachings and watching a big part of our home. Those teachings greatly affected our happiness and increased our wisdom:  This is something we've worked hard to do from the time the children were babies.  It's something we've grown in doing, gotten better at, but still is a lot of hard work to accomplish.  Although, we've varied in our success, I can look back and clearly see what a major impact it has had on the contentment we have felt about our lives, no matter what trial we were experiencing at the time.  They felt smaller than they would have, and we probably handled them better.

5.  Last, but not least on my list, my husband had a good job that he enjoyed, and which allowed him to be around a lot as opposed to traveling or long hours at the office.  I had creative outlets I enjoyed and friends who took great care of us, and especially my needs as a stay-home Mom.  And for all of these things we thank our Heavenly Father and recognize his grace and great blessings in our lives.

It felt good to take a moment to recognize the reasons for our contentment in the now previous chapter of our lives together.  I was pleased to find that the true source of our contentment was not financial security, easiness of the way, or happenstance.  It was more a consequence of hard decisions made and stuck to, decisions that can be made by anyone, anywhere.   

Now the challenge begins as we try to figure out how to re-gain and re-organize our family life, to re-institute family traditions that have proven positive results for us.

Yes, I will sit in traffic (regretfully so), oh ten times more than I ever did before.  Yes, I will always miss certain kinds of people who I honestly believe you can only find in an agricultural community.  Yes, as our children grow, they will probably start playing more sports.  But of the things that matter most, I still have a choice and say in.  Here's to making the right choices moving forward.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Moving On

Exactly five months ago, I walked into this apartment after driving in a car for four hours with my heartbroken kids and a baby who had thrown up twice earlier in the day and a four-year old who threw up five times over the course of the four-hour car ride.  The apartment was so littered with boxes that I couldn't sit down at our small kitchen table to eat.  And little did I realize it at that moment, but I too was getting sick.  In fact, that day, the day before Christmas Eve, we were all coming down with the stomach flu, but all I cared about in that moment was that there were no sheets on any of the beds, and I had no idea where any sheets were.  We were sick, hungry, tired, lonely, sad, and emotionally exhausted.  And it was Christmas.  And I already missed my friends.

So, after about two minutes of assessing my current situation, I turned right around and walked out of the apartment, got back into my car and drove to the store to buy sheets, and some kind of food that sick people can stomach.

I had my daughter with me, so I kicked into "fake it till ya make it mode."  While at the store, feeling very delirious from the events of the day and the previous six months really, I decided to act like this was the funnest night ever.  Scarlett, my 9-year old daughter, watched as I talked happily to every worker at the stores we went to.  It was 10:30pm or so the night before Christmas Eve.  Other people seemed in a pretty good mood and ready to talk too.

At Bed, Bath & Beyond, I announced to the first worker we saw, "We just moved here 10 minutes ago, and we're crammed in a little apartment, and we need sheets, so my sick kids and I can sleep tonight."

This lady was so kind and greeted us with the sweetest and kindest smile ever, and said, "Welcome to Cranberry!!" as she proceeded to show us to some sheets that might work for us.  When we got to the register, the worker there applied a steep discount to our entire order for having recently moved.

Our next stop was Target, where I kept running in to the same lady in the food section.  She said, "Well, I guess I might as well say Hi."  I said, "Hi, we're new in town. We just moved here tonight, and we need friends." This kind lady said, "I'll be your friend!" as she proceeded to "friend me" on Facebook, invited us to the movies with her son the next day, and even met me for pie one night soon after at like 11pm, when I said (on Facebook) that I was missing my friends.

Another woman in our apartment complex, who is a super-trooper in my book, went out of her way to befriend me.  Last week, when I told her that our signing date for our new house got pushed back and we had nothing to eat (because I'd packed our apartment up in anticipation of the move) didn't say a word, but simply sent her daughter over with bags and bags of food for us to make a respectable dinner that evening and beyond.

The last little while here has been especially hard as we have had our closing date on our house pushed back.  So much stress coming at us from many angles.  

I met some friends at a local park, some ladies who will also be some of my new neighbors at the new house. I met one woman for the first time and I was expressing to her how hard and daunting something seemed to me right now.  She looked right at me and said, "The fact that you have five children tells me that YOU CAN DO THIS."  It was as simple as that.  But it was what I needed to hear.  And after our play date, I promptly got into my car and bawled my eyes out! Grateful and overwhelmed at the same time.

Then last week, I was at the grocery store, waiting in line at the check-out, and who did I see, but Jackie, the worker from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, who we always call "our first friend in Cranberry." She remembered us, and asked how we were doing.  I thanked her profusely for just being a kind face and welcoming a stranger that night.  It meant a lot to us.

Five months have passed, and many, many people, women in particular, have showed us such love and kindness.  People in person, people online, old friends sending me messages of love. It has been truly humbling and has taught me a lot.

Perhaps, I have failed in that five months later I still hate this apartment.  Should I have learned to love it?  I don't know.  I certainly tried to like it, and I don't think I've been ungrateful for it.  I just will be so happy when we can close this extremely difficult chapter in our lives.  Maybe in hindsight, and from a distance, I will learn to appreciate it more that I do while in the thick of everything.

If there's anything I've learned most poignantly, it's the power of friendship, of kindness to strangers, of enduring and being willing to admit when things are really hard. I've also realized how easy it is to be generous with our time and our hugs, and especially with our words.  It costs nothing, but tends to mean everything to the receiver.

I guess if I can be a more kind and generous person because of this experience, then it will have been absolutely worth it.

Onward and upward!  We hope to close on our new house tomorrow!

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Making the Sacrament Count

I enjoyed teaching Relief Society in my new ward yesterday. I am the new TFOT teacher, and the lesson was about Elder Peter F. Meurs' October 2016 General Conference talk "The Sacrament Can Help Us Become Holy".

To start off the lesson, I had written "Easter Every Sunday" on the board. (Which is a concept I learned from my Seminary teacher who shared some of her ideas about that right here.)

To begin the lesson, we talked about what special preparations we each made for Easter Sunday (last week).  Answers such as: we made special food, wore our best/new clothes, talked about the spiritual significance of the weekend, and made sure we were at church on time, were given. I asked if Easter were every Sunday would the world go out of its way to do these things or would it become old hat?  

I then suggested that we do celebrate Easter every Sunday when we take the Sacrament. Has the Sacrament become routine and old hat?  There are, compared to Easter celebrations, relatively small/inward spiritual preparations that we should be making each week, but are we doing those things?  Or have we become relaxed and complacent about the Sacrament because it happens every week and not once a year?

I asked the class to think about what they love about partaking of the sacrament. We listed their answers on the board, which included: feeling new, opportunity to repent, to think about Jesus, and review the past and set goals for the coming week, singing the sacrament hymn, the feeling of coming to Christ and being a part of His fold.

I then asked the class to think of their best time taking the Sacrament, a time when the Sacrament was most spiritually impactful for them personally.  What factors made it so?

I then asked them to think of a time when it wasn't so spiritual or potent for them.  What factors caused this to be the case?

The class easily lead into the first of Elder Meurs five points which was personal preparation for the Sacrament.

We spent time talking about his points as follows.  In order to make partaking of the Sacrament a more powerful experience, Elder Meurs suggests trying the following:

1.  Advance Preparation (pray & repent)

2.  Arrive Early (listen to the prelude music/do not text)

3. Sing and Learn from the Sacrament Hymn

4. Participate in the Prayers

5. Ponder the Emblems

As I was preparing the lesson, I felt prompted to do two things, which we did during the lesson.  I focused on helping them appreciate that Sacrament hymns, which when sung and pondered can teach us powerful doctrine about Christ and put us in the right state of mind to partake of the Sacrament. 

I printed off copies of the Sacrament hymns and asked each sister to take a few minutes to review the hymn and then share doctrine they learned from the song as well as any testimony they might want to share.

The second thing I felt prompted to do was to create a "Sacrament Journal" using the five questions Elder Meurs asks us to consider for the sisters to use for the next month to track their Sacrament experience.  I will share that journal below, if you'd like to use it.

Elder Meurs asks us to consider these questions:

1. What will I do this week to better prepare for the sacrament?
2.  Could I contribute more to the reverence and revelation that can accompany the beginning of Sacrament meeting?
3. What doctrine was taught in the Sacrament hymn?
4. What did I hear and feel as I listened to the Sacrament prayers?
5. What did I think about as the Sacrament was passed?

I presented the women with the option of accepting 1 of 2 challenges in the coming week, which I also wrote on the back of their journals.  They could either keep their Sacrament journals for the next four weeks and either report back or journal about it--or-- they could memorize the firsts verse of one of the Sacrament hymns and then take the Sacrament the next week and journal about their experience.

Sorry this is just a quick synopsis of the lesson, but I wanted to quickly share it with you guys. I will be printing off journals for my kids to use and we will be using this for our family home evening lesson tonight!

Journal Instructions:

1. Print the journal double-sided.
2. The first page is the outer cover.
3. The second page is the inner pages for recording your thoughts.
4. Fold them in half the tall way and nestle one inside the other. Very simple.

I encouraged the women to read the sacrament prayers as they are being said and to fill in the journal each week (not necessarily during sacrament, but after).

This journal activity can be used for an extra YW Faith experience, if desired.

Download below:
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To Remember & to Be Remembered

I was sitting in church this week, and I suddenly remembered all of my old church friends, and missed them something awful!  I've wanted to write a post about each and every one of them and all of the things I love about them and everything they've ever done to make my life a better one...but that would be a very long post and a very extensive list.  So, instead, I just had myself a little cry right there in the pew and probably freaked out the good people of my new ward!

Anyway, yesterday, much to our surprise, a package arrived for the kids from their lovely former ward Primary President.  It was filled with notes and drawings from all of their old Primary pals.  There was also a group photo which they had all signed.  One of the primary kids was "hiding" in the shot, and the children had to find her like in a "Where's Waldo" poste  It was so sweet!

This is the same sister who used to be my kids' nursery leader, who always sent letters or personally stopped by our house if we ever missed church.  She was such an example of love, service, and compassion!

We ARE doing better every day.  But it's still heart-warming to be remembered this way.  The other night, during family prayer, Scarlett actually said, "We're grateful we moved to Cranberry," which shocked both Steve and me, but we'll take it!

I just thought this was such a sign of true love and friendship and great leadership, and I thought I'd pass this on for Primary leaders out there.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

This is the House that Faith Built

Things are really coming along with the house.  I enjoy driving by (at least) daily and noting the progress.  I was excited to see the siding go up last week, and now the stone and soon brick.

But there was something that I wanted to be sure to do before the drywall was installed. I wanted a piece of us to be a part of the contruction of the house, so one night last week, we snuck in and wrote our names on the wall studs and slipped family photos and a copy of the Family Proclamation into the insulation!


It was just a silly thing, but it was our silly thing, and it was fun to do as a family.  This move has made it really hard to do our regular adventures in gospel learning at home, but I'm looking forward to resuming that in our new house...and building a house built on faith in Jesus Christ!  With his help and hard work...we will!

In what ways have you tried to make faith and the gospel and cornerstone of your home?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Fast or Not to Fast, That is the Question

My kids are growing up, if you haven't noticed.  I've been writing this blog for nearly nine years now, which means when I started writing, Guy was 2, Scarlett was 1, and Autumn was in the womb!  My how we've changed.  We've gone from learning to walk and talk, to braces and first ventures into noticing members of the opposite sex!  My, my, my.

We've also become our very own little people, with opinions of our own for sure, and wills of our own, definitely.  And we've had to learn to back up and give them each space to explore the God-given agency that we each do have.

One of the areas lately has been fasting...whether or not to do it. 

Now, I'm sure that I wasn't very pro-fasting as a kid either.  It's not even something I'm super great at as an adult, as I've been pregnant a lot over the years, although I do have a testimony of it and have had my own powerful experiences with it.  It's something we all come to, learn to do, develop an understanding of on our own, and in our own time.

For any non-LDS readers of my blog, when I talk about fasting, it is the practice of going without food or drink for typically 24 hours or two meals usually on the first Sunday of every month  (*although you can do it as needed for your own special reasons).  We try to fast for a purpose, starting with a prayer, usually seeking answers to questions, spiritual strength or comfort, etc.  Then we donate the cost of the meals that we've skipped to the church to help those in need.  This is called a "fast offering."  Typically, children don't fast, pregnant people don't fast or people with medical conditions might do a modified fast, but children over the age of 8, who have been baptized, start to consider fasting as they are able.

So, fasting helps us exercise dominance of our spirit over the urges of our body, which helps us overcome temptation of many varieties.  And usually it is easier to feel spiritual promptings when we are fasting, because of the sacrifice we've made.  I often fast when I am preparing to give a talk in church, as it helps me clear my mind to receive revelation.

Anyway, on the flip-side, it feels funny to try to convince my kids to fast, "Yeah, try fasting!  You'll love it!!"  I mean, who loves NOT eating food???  Probably not many of us!

It's something that they really can't take my word for...until they make a decision to faithfully put forth an effort, and perhaps even long after that, they won't really get it.  So, we just keep encouraging them to try, even for a small amount of time.  *This Sunday, 10 minutes was all Scarlett could go, before she forgot she was fasting and popped one of the baby's cheerios in her mouth, then promptly spit it out!!

So, anyway, I thought it was cute how Scarlett summed up her decision to fast last week. 

You all know our love of whiteboards around here, well, Scarlett created sort of a flow-chart of her decision to fast.  (pictured above)  Perhaps it'll help you as you decided whether or not to fast!

How have you helped your children learn to fast?  I'm interested to hear and learn from your experiences!
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Prayed that She Would Feel the Spirit

This past Saturday, we had an opportunity to attend a fireside with Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the General Young Women's President and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon , 2nd Counselor in the General Primary Presidency, as well as Elder Kuntz who is our area authority.

All of the youth age 8 and up were invited to hear them speak, but because our family had been out on a big adventure for the better part of the day, half of my kids were less than excited about going to a fireside, no matter who was there!

My most excited child was my four-year old, and technically, she wasn't even invited.  So I ended up driving in to Pittsburgh with just Scarlett (my 9 year old) and Honor (my 4 year old) to hear these church leaders speak.

Scarlett was in such a bad mood about it.  She kept writing me these angry notes saying, "I want to go home.  I'm leaving. I don't like it here." etc, etc.

I said a silent prayer, "Please, help her to feel the Holy Ghost at some point this evening."

I know how she felt, frankly I was tired and a little bored too, not so excited to sit and listen for almost 2 hours, but I listened hard to the things they were presenting and tried to actively participate while simultaneously trying to keep my 4-year old daughter from licking her hand and pulling up her dress! 

Still scowling, I wasn't sure if Scarlett was picking up anything from the talks.

One of the things that I latched on to was when Sister Cordon asked us to sing "I am a Child of God" and then discuss principles taught in the song.  She said that someone in another meeting suggested that the line "He has sent me here," meant to them that God has sent each of us HERE (for a reason)...not just to random places on this earth, but to specific places, and that he has a plan for us and a work for us to do.  I am eager to learn what our purpose is HERE in Pittsburgh!  It's still a mystery to me!

After the meeting, we almost rushed out, but I decided to see if the girls were interested in meeting the speakers, which we usually do if we can when an authority visits.

Scarlett suddenly seemed excited about this, so we walked up to the front and met both Bonnies and Elder Kunz (who we've met before).

I put out my hand to shake, but both women prefered to hug, which I thought was really different and sweet.  They were so warm and friendly.  They embraced my girls right away.  They talked to the girls mostly, not to me, and made them both feel so special.

From that moment on, Scarlett was different.  She was seemingly glad she came, she was excited about recanting some of the stories that she heard, and of course, they were more than happy to go out for milkshakes late on a Saturday night before returning home.

I'm not sure that Scarlett will remember much of what was taught from the pulpit during the fireside, but I suspect that she will always remember how these women made her feel.  I too was impressed with how warm they were.  Later, we took a picture with Sister Oscarson sitting on the couch outside of the chapel.  I can't believe how casually I spoke with her.  I kind of wish I had been more prepared and thought of some great question to ask her or compliment to pay her, but what an example she was to me of being approachable and showing love to all, even little children.
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shaking Up Scripture Study

Since the move, and probably, if I'm being honest, some time before the move, our family scripture study has really gotten pretty lame.  Although we're on our third time through the Book of Mormon as a family, I feel like we've been stuck on the same chapters in Alma for weeks, maybe months?

What happened?  Was it that our routine got blown out of the water?  Was it the stress of moving into an apartment?  Is it that my husband leaves so early and returns so late? Is it because my children are growing up and moving into a new stage of development?

Yes to it all.

And it's gone on long enough.

We talked about it during family council on Sunday, and I suggested that instead of trying to plow through the scriptures chronologically that we instead have a "question of the week."

We'll introduce the question at the beginning of the week at family council, and every member of the family is expected to search the scriptures on their own to find answers to the question to share in family scripture study each day.

This will hopefully help us turn the corner in our study, while encouraging all members of the family to dive into personal study and also take personal responsibility for how our family scripture study goes.

In my previous post, I mentioned how the kids were locked out of the house.  I told them that we want them to be spiritually prepared to survive in the future, that we didn't want them to be figuratively "locked out" in a spiritual emergency not knowing where to turn for answers.  So we were going to practice getting answers now.

We spent the rest of our time in family council practicing looking up scriptures by topic, and the kids helped me write a list of ways we can find answers to our questions.

I'm excited to see how this change affects our spirituality and participation during family scripture study.  And I hope that my three oldest take our challenge to search the scriptures more diligently on their own!  I will let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear ideas of how you've approached family scripture study or ways you've tried to encourage your children to read on their own!
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Sunday, March 5, 2017

So Many Twists and Turns

After my previous post, I was really thinking we were on the upswing of this whole moving process and that things would just continue to get better, and maybe even easier.  So, imagine my surprise when I realized Friday morning that my children had been locked out of our apartment for nearly two hours in 20 degree weather, because I didn't realize it was a 2-hour emergency delay at school!!!  

Nothing was normal that morning. We were completely out of our routine, and by the time I was ready to leave for our 8:30am appointment to walk-through our newly framed house, my husband had already allowed the children to run down to the bus stop.  Somehow, I did not receive the text or voicemail that I normally get from the school district notifying me of a delay, so while we were touring our, albeit cold, soon-to-be new house, my kids were cold and alone trying to seek shelter in a carboard box house that they had worked together to build and insulate with packing paper on our patio!!!

When I realized the mishap, I was horrified...horrified!!  If there was a school delay, then where were my kids???  I rushed home, calling the school on my way. I ran down to our apartment, and, upon seeing their cardboard hut adorned with backpacks and schoolbooks, I smiled for just a moment at their ingenuity.  

But they were no where to be seen, so I started calling their names.  They came out of the storage area where they had gone to get warmer, and they were crying with relief that I had finally come home. I was so sad for them and all of us collectively, and it just brought all the sad/moving feelings up to the surface all over again!

I really felt awful and beat myself up about my failure of my poor babies, but as I've stepped back from it, I've realized that I think the Lord had a purpose in allowing this situation to transpire.  He could have stopped it from happening.  He could have warned me, as he has done so many times in the past, but he didn't, and in the process, the children learned many important things.  

They learned to survive on their own, to work together in a scary situation that they had not considered previously.  They shared their mittens with each other. Scarlett shared her lunch with the other siblings. Guy watched over and kept everyone calm and gathered materials to build the shelters as Autumn read books.  They prayed together twice for help and peace. As a result they learned compassion for others, as they now want to give their money to help homeless people! Scarlett shared in her testimony today that she knows that when we pray God won't just leave us alone, He will comfort us: another hard-earned piece of wisdom. 

I am so grateful that they were all safe and no one got frost-bite.  And I'm sure this was a wake-up call for me also to fill in some holes in our emergency plans which we obviously never updated upon moving (such as giving all of the children keys to our new residence, etc.)

Another thing that helped settle my mind about this situation was an experience that happened the day prior.  

I had spoken with a new friend of mine who was pretty devastated that a house they hoped to buy was probably going to fall through because they discovered too many repairs that the seller didn't want to fix.  I felt compassion for her.  Her growing family is getting too large for their current rental, she is about to give birth, they already told their rental property they were moving, and now the house they wanted isn't going to work out.

As I went home that afternoon, this woman's name kept coming to mind.  Even as I baked (for my own enjoyment) her name kept coming up.  So I texted her, finally, and offered to take her daughter so she could get some things done (or nap~!)  She declined.  

I found myself accidentally putting too much sugar in my recipe so I had to double it.  I suddenly had more than enough Easter bread to share, so as soon as it came out of the oven, my daughters and I raced across town to deliver some bread to her family. The promptings were even so specific that I was to give her more bread than I was planning.

It wasn't a big deal, but we instantly felt a good feeling when we left her house!  

In church, she bore testimony today that she knew the Lord loved her and knew her, because he prompted three women in the ward to reach out to her, even with just a text asking to take her daughter, and that she was so grateful that these women followed those promptings.  I knew what she said was true because I had experienced it.  

The Lord does know her name.  I know this because he whispered it to me over and over again until I got the message.  He wanted me (and others) to go show His love for this woman.  

Because I know He knows her name, I know that he knows mine.  And because I witnessed him making things happen for one of His daughters, I know that he could have easily notified me of my mistake missing the two-hour delay...but he didn't.  And it's ok that he didn't.  It's just one of those things that happens.  Sometimes the Lord saves us from mishaps, sometimes he allows us to experience the hard things, because He knows the end from the beginning.  There are reasons we experience hard things.  It doesn't mean He loves us any less because he allows us to go through hard, even heartbreaking things.  

Quite the opposite.  It means that He loves us more.

PS - Here's a little look at the inside of our new house.  Two of my sisters were so kind to call and make sure that I was ok after my incident with the kids. My younger sister knew I was upset, but she still took the opportunity to laugh at the irony that while my kids were taking shelter in a little carboard box, we were touring our new home.  Well, it was freezing there too because there is no power yet, but still!  Funny!  So, here's a look at our sun room. I'm excited about the view and look forward to moving in mid-May.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

It's a Work in Progress

It's been nine weeks since we moved.  In some ways it feels like only yesterday we were back home in Lewisburg, in other ways it feels like an eternity.  My children have definitely grown a lot emotionally, they've had to.  And our house is starting to take shape.  

Phew! And that is a very good thing.  Just being able to see a house going up is a huge relief.  There's nothing like jamming seven people in an apartment to put a magnifying glass on your many weaknesses as a family!  Like our house, we're a work in progress.  This is more apparent than ever.

One cool fact about our house is that it was started on my Mom's birthday, and it should be finished (and signed for) on my Dad's birthday.  Kinda cool.

Although January was a special sort of train wreck full of emotions and homesickness, I am strangely proud to say that February was the best February on record if I look back on my nearly 12 years in Pennsylvania. While much of the west had snow and cold temperatures, we had day after day of warm, Spring-like, even sunny, days.  This made some people grumpy (they wanted at least one good snow), it made others anxious (as they waited for the other shoe to drop.)  Me?  It just made me happy and better able to handle my life right now.  My sister is having our family try to run or walk 2017 miles collectively this year, so I walked outside every chance I got.  And it was good for my mental well-being.

So, I don't know what your February was like, but I know that in nothing doth man offend God than in not recognizing his hand in all things, so I'm going to list some of the things that made me happy during the month of February, things that I know God had a hand in:

1.  The trip back to Lewisburg for the Ice Festival kicked things off nicely with hugs from friends and a time-out from the stress of every day reality.

2.  The awesome weather!  Last Friday, my car dashboard said it was 84 degrees.  I don't know if that was accurate, but I'm not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth either.

3.  I've been able to meet some really nice people here who were also nice enough to actually be my friend.  This has been huge.

4.  As a family, we went to our "first dance" together at our children's elementary/middle school on Valentine's Day, and it was hilariously off-the-hook.  

5.  Because we snagged a good girl to babysit for us from the wealth of babysitters in the ward, my husband and I have gone on more dates together this month than we probably have in the last year.  I'm not proud of that fact, but there you have it.

6.  I started crossing off the days on our family calendar and my personal planner.  It's not something that I normally do.  It's what my daughters do on their calendars, however, in my current state of mood, it gives me great satisfaction to watch the days pass (or to put them in the past!)

7.  I got two callings.  I was excited to receive one, and honestly hoped that the Bishop just misspoke when he said, we have "some callings" to extend to you.  But I accepted both and will do my best.  When I finally was set apart, I liked what was said in my blessing and found it to be helpful.  One calling is TFOT teacher in Relief Society.  The other is being a member of the "meetings committee" to help plan monthly RS activities.  It's interesting to be in a ward that does so much.

8.  I took all of my kids to the doctor for check-ups, all my kids to the dentist, and Scarlett got braces, which look cute on her.  I even took myself to the doctor for a check-up.  That was a lot of work, but I like all of the physicians and dentists we've signed on with, so that is a plus.

9.  My husband and I gave talks in Sacrament meeting on "Standing as a Witness." I invited my new friend to come listen to my talk, and she actually came. Both accepting the invitation and actually coming are things to celebrate.  And she didn't go running from the building after listening to my talk on sharing the gospel, so that's a good thing!  Haha.

10.  I had a really good day last week, where, for a moment, I realized that my apartment felt almost home-like.  Honor had had a friend over to play earlier in the day.  Val was napping.  Honor and I were able to sit restfully on the couch together and were starting to make cookies.  A warm breeze was blowing through the open patio door.  And I felt calm and comfortable, and it felt peaceful and good.  And I realized it felt like I'd feel if I were at home and I hadn't felt that way in a long, long time.  And it felt good, even if for a moment.

So these are all of the good things.  We all still cry when we're reminded of home. Or if we don't cry, we just get quiet and let the moment pass. It feels like one of those really sad break-ups, where just the mention of our dear home's name or the names of our friends tends to bring that lump right back in our throats, so I tend to train my thoughts on the present, but all of that aside, I can say we're embracing our new life, and just trying hard to "fall in love" again with a new place, while still holding a candle for the old.  I even signed my kids up for soccer for the very first time, which will surely make my friends who know me laugh as I was never one to buy in to that whole scene!  Anyway, we can easily see the blessings.  We can see the blue skies and many other important blessings not mentioned here.  We know that we are being watched over.  And we are doing everything we know how to settle in to this new life.  So, how was your February?

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