Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father's Day Breakfast

Two summers ago I decided to start teaching my older boys how to cook. I could cook breakfast foods at their age so I figured even though they are boys they could too. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, boys serve missions at 18 years old. I like my kids to know why they do things, so I explained to them they were preparing to leave on their missions by learning to cook. That summer I helped them read recipes, prepare the food, and then we would copy the recipe for them to put in a file of their own.

Teaching kids to be self sufficient usually seems more work than it is worth. That summer my husband and I had breakfast in bed from our sweet boys and their helpful younger siblings numerous times. I agonized when I heard dishes clanking early in the mornings. I knew I was in for a huge mess-even though I taught them to clean as they went. If I tried to intercept them and gently suggest we have cereal, I was commanded back to bed in their exuberant spirit of joyful service. We also ate many an invention and recipe gone wrong, for instance chocolate french toast and pancakes made with three times the oil. Sometimes they would make every recipe in their repertoire!

Father's Day morning I woke up really sick. My boys, now adept at making breakfast, served their father and the family a perfect breakfast of french toast. They cleaned it up and started the dishwasher too! I was humbled and so very grateful. They did a fabulous job! All of my effort and sacrifice seemed worth it in one morning.

This Father's Day I received the gift of knowing that teaching my children, putting forth the effort of helping them become self-sufficient, and spending time with them is satisfying. Seeing my children progress and serve others using talents and abilities I helped them develop brings a serene joy. It really is hard and takes diligent and concerted effort to take the time to teach them, whether it is chores, respect, manners, testimony, or talents. Sometimes you feel they will never actually learn, and often it is easier to just do everything yourself. Especially with so many kids and the prospect of teaching the same principles over and over, the mere thought is daunting. But, know this: the reward does come. It is thrilling to see them be so capable and wonderful!

Sunday, June 1, 2014


My oldest just finished his first basketball season. Previously, he was a gymnast and diver. He is and always has been short and small. This was his first experience with basketball, and he was really excited. I have to admit that I was really nervous. Sports just aren't the same as when I was his age. I first played on a team through school in the seventh grade. Nobody was cut and they taught us the skills we would need to continue playing. It is ridiculous how intense the sports scene is at such a young age for these kids. Needless to say, I was scared for him; I knew the other kids would have skills, that the competition would be intense, and I have seen many a coach only interested in his own success.

Luck of the draw, he was placed on a team that had played together previously. They were a group of all stars. But, the experience was a miracle. I know God was watching out for us.

I was so impressed by these young men. They were kind and patient; they were always encouraging. The coach was not a parent. He volunteered his time and I never once heard him yell. The boys listened to him and did what he said. He had their trust. One of the boy's mother explained to me how the coach took them from being individual all stars to a team. They were unstoppable.

And this coach started my son the first game.

The last game of the season, they were significantly ahead at the half. The coach put my son in, then he pulled his star players and gave them instructions before subbing them in. They had one objective: feed my son the ball until he scored his first basket of the season. And that is what they did. They worked it, and continually passed and cheered on my son. Time after time, my son missed the basket. They continually passed it to him. I wasn't sure it was going to happen. Then, in the last minute of the game my son finally scored his first basket of the season! You would have thought he had just won his team the state championship. Those fine young men were overjoyed with his success. They cheered for him, lifted him up, carried him off the court, and called him their MVP!

I cannot begin to express my gratitude, first to God for placing him on such a fine team with such an amazing coach. There is good to be found in this world. There are good and wonderful people and youth. I pray that his coach and those boys will be blessed for their goodness. I pray that we can all treat others in such a generous and uplifting way remembering what is truly important.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mother's Day Talk

As a Latter-day Saint, or as most people know us as Mormon, I was asked to speak on Sunday. We don't have paid clergy, and everyone participates. We don't have the same person who speaks. The Bishop and his counselors pray and decide on a topic and speakers. I was asked to give a talk on Mother's Day in our Sacrament Meeting, which is the main meeting when we all meet together.

As I prayed and prepared, the story of Hannah in the Old Testament came to my mind. There are many women who hate Mother's Day. It is painful for them. The scriptures describe Hannah's grief at not being able to conceive, and here a mother of seven was going to stand before them. I prayed to know what I could say to them. What I came to understand was that it wasn't in the actual giving birth to Samuel that took away Hannah's reproach, it was in the presenting of a child to God. I invited my seven kids up and introduced them. Then, I asked them to imagine another line of children in which they could not see. In this line, are children that are yet unborn. I have a son on a mission. I do not have his birth certificate and I am not sealed to him (Mormon term). I have a daughter for whom many years ago we talked about becoming legal guardians, who had been abused and neglected. A young adult woman who had been violently abused as a child spent much time and all holidays in our home some years ago. She is now in prison. In spite of her choices, I still love her and know that God loves her. There are others who I feel are my children. I don't, but I have not lost a child, but some women have children that we cannot see who have already passed on. Just because I gave birth to the children they could see, the ones they couldn't see were no less children to me. Motherhood isn't in having; it is in being and becoming. I invited the congregation to see all the women as mothers and to behold the children that follow them, whether it be with their physical eyes or their spiritual ones. I also invited the women to look around them and see all the children of God that need to be loved. I asked them to increase the number of children who call them mother by helping more children be ready to be presented to God, as Hannah did with Samuel.

I have been asked to actually post my talk in its' entirety. For those who are interested, here it is:

Motherhood and The Hastening

                I am going to do something different for a minute. Bishop, I am asking forgiveness instead of permission, because my husband’s first assignment in the bishopric was to ask me to speak, which was totally lame! No, I felt the Spirit about this. I need all my kids to come up here for a second and line up right here. Humor me for a minute, I am not trying to show them off or embarrass myself. I am trying to make a point. So, please stay with me, and know I feel very humbled in doing this.
                These are my children for those of you who don’t know us yet (names removed for privacy): 1-my inventor, 2-my runner, 3-my renaissance man, 4-my singer, 5-my zoo keeper, 6-my superman, and 7-my one of many surprises. . (Thanks guys, please sit down reverently.)
 On this side, I want you to imagine another line of children. Now I want to tell you about my children that you cannot see. In this line there are spirit children who have not yet been born into our home, but there are others. Many of you know that we have a son on a mission; we do not have his birth certificate and we are not sealed to him. We also have a daughter. Her name is J, and she was a Young Woman in one of our wards many years ago who was abused and neglected. We almost became her legal guardians. I love her and she is my daughter. There is also a young single adult woman in this line who my husband was called to home teach many years ago. She spent much of every week in our home and all holidays. She also had grown up violently abused, and in fact she herself is now in prison. I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father loves and knows her, and I love her and to me she is one of my daughters in spite of choices she has made. Not in my line of children, but for some women there are children already beyond the veil who we cannot see. Also, in my line there are school children from teaching and investigators from the mission who I mothered before I was even married. There have been other adults and children I have mothered through the years, for example in taking meals or lifting heavy hands that hang down, and Heavenly Father knows who they are. I called these children of mine up, because I want you to realize that the children I described to you are no less children to me than the children you do see. Today, I want you to be able to truly see all of them. The fact that I gave birth to these children and not to these neither makes me a mother nor defines me. Motherhood is not a state of having; it is a state of being and becoming. For, as women, we are by nature daughters of Heavenly Parents who we are striving to become like. I am a mother because I have chosen to love, pray for and serve these children of my Heavenly Father.
For countless women, Mother’s Day is the worst day of the year. It is a nightmare and it is painful. But, today I want them to see and you to see the line of children that truly stands by their sides and calls them mother.
                At the end of this meeting, I imagine that the women in this congregation 18 and older will be asked to stand as is tradition. When all of us stand, I invite you to see us ALL as mothers. I want you to see the line of children that follow us! I want you to see all the children for which we all can be proud to stand whether it is with your physical eyes or your spiritual ones in which you see them      
The title of my talk is Motherhood and The Hastening. One of my mothers, Sister F was a young widow and mother and the Relief Society President in a ward when I was called to serve there during my mission. After I was released she shared a story with me. As a Spanish speaking missionary I primarily worked with migrant workers. There were very few women, because families usually sent a teenager or young adult son to work the fields and send the money home to support the family. Within a short time of being in this ward we had several young men investigators coming to church. Sister F said that in ward council some of the brethren expressed concern that they might be coming to church for us instead of the gospel. Sister F spoke for us. She challenged the brethren to watch us in church that Sunday. She said they would see that we were not flirting with them. We were mothering them. After that Sunday she said we had the full support of the leadership in that ward.
I learned to recognize from that story that missionary work is mothering.  Sister Sheri Dew taught, “When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”—and they did so before she ever bore a child.1” Lately, I have thought a lot about Eve and her example. I believe that she is truly our mother for many reasons. Her choices and example teach us and bear testimony of the gospel plan. She chose sorrow and sacrifice for us, and she grieved for us and what we too would pass through as her posterity. Her testimony of Jesus Christ and the plan influence us even today. She truly is the mother of all living, because we come from her, but because we still feel her influence and testimony.
Mothering is intuition and the ability to see needs, as is missionary work. It takes conscious effort. This same Sister F always sat in the back of the chapel. She people watched, or in the words of Elder Bednar, she had the spiritual gift of being “Quick to Observe2.” She watched their faces and their actions to head off needs before they became problems. She would follow people out of sacrament meeting to find out what was wrong. Missionary work and mothering are all about caring and loving outside of yourself. It requires selfless service. It also requires courage and confidence to take the chance and help. David O Mckay said, “Motherhood is just another name for sacrifice3.”
Elder Christofferson spoke about the moral authority of women. The first time I ever heard the words moral authority was in a Sunday School class in the MTC. I was fascinated by the concept. What did it mean for me? Essentially, to do the work that is required in the gospel everyone needs this authority, especially to be a missionary and a mother.  It is the authority that comes from being good. Nobody is going to listen to you as a missionary or a mother if you aren’t doing what is right. When you are what you should be, people feel your authority. They will listen to you and trust you. Elder Christofferson teaches us, “Your intuition is to do good and to be good, and as you follow the Holy Spirit, your moral authority and influence will grow4.”  My own mother some years ago was called to be young women’s president. Shortly thereafter one of the young women confided that she was pregnant and they talked. Well, one night after that my mom couldn’t sleep. Her nephew/my cousin and his wife who lived out of state were looking to adopt. My mom felt that this baby was meant for them. However, she was terrified. She didn’t want to use her calling to benefit her family. In her mind she just came up with all sorts of reasons why it wasn’t her place. But, finally she followed the spirit and gave their profile to this young women’s family in an appropriate way. Eventually, the young woman ended up placing her baby with my cousin and his wife. The story doesn’t end there. My cousin and his wife were later praying if they should adopt again. They felt they should and that the baby would share heritage with Gabe their son. Very soon after they adopted a baby girl. Both babies have Latin American roots and they thought that was it. Well, the mother asked the birth mothers for the babies’ family history. Both had a story that was exactly the same. It turns out that their 5th great grandfathers were best friends. One gave the gospel to the other, and later they were the missionary companions that taught and baptized Brigham Young. My cousin’s wife testified to the birth parents “I know Heavenly Father knows me, and that he knows you. He has an amazing plan for each of us that can bring us more joy than we can even imagine, if we follow and seek his guidance. As He just proved to us, there is more at work here than we could ever know in this life. I am grateful for following the spirit.” My own mother knew so little of God’s plan in the lives of these people, but she was placed where God wanted her. Because, she used the moral authority God gave her, and had the courage to follow the spirit and be true. Miracles took place.
There are 3 warnings Elder Christofferson gives us that will weaken or even eliminate our influence to the great detriment of individuals, families, and society at large. We cannot risk this as women.
First, is the philosophy that devalues “marriage and or motherhood and homemaking as a career4.” I know firsthand the ridicule and undermining that comes from choosing the “wife and mommy track4,” as do many of you. I remember being pregnant with my 6th baby and the opposition got particularly  intense, for instance, one woman said, “I wonder at what point too many is too many and you can’t take care of them anymore.” I have been asked to abort by my health care professional for no reason, and much more. To some comments, I found myself at one point making excuses, like that the baby was a surprise. I found myself making excuses to these opponents that communicated I didn’t have a choice. When I realized what I was doing, I repented. Whether or not my children were surprises, Heavenly Father knows I am willing to have them. I now answer these people with, “My husband and I chose to have this baby, we planned it, and are excited for his birth. I may not be able to provide all that the world deems is important, but I console myself in knowing that he will be loved and he will be taught about God, which is more than many children have in today’s world.” We should NEVER be apologetic for the righteous choices that we make. Just as the Young Women are to know ahead what their response will be when tempted with the law of chastity or any of God’s commandments, we too should think ahead about our choices and how we will explain them in a way that teaches the gospel and is missionary work. A BYU professor once taught me, “when people look at you for what you are, make them deal with who you are5.”
The second warning is the attitudes towards human sexuality. Abortion, sexual immoratlity, revealing dress debase us and destroy our moral authority4. I find it fascinating that the 8year old girls and up were invited to the women’s meeting of conference. Their moral authority already has power to influence others including other girls who will someday be mothers. Their virtue radiates and influences. It allows them to teach others what truly does define worth. They understand they are daughters of Heavenly Parents and are striving to become like them. They are mothering.
 2 Nephi 2:9 in speaking of the gathering of Israel, “Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute?” Our young women and girls are nursing mothers as they stand for truth and righteousness, maintain their virtue, and share their testimony in word and deed. They become nursing mothers as children of our Heavenly Father respect their moral authority and listen to them share the gospel as a result. The actual act of being a nursing mother is a bonding experience like no other and an opportunity you do not want to pass to someone else to complete for you. It is a responsibility for only you. Young women and girls, Elder Christopherson warns you not to lose your moral force before you have even received it in full measure4. Look at your line of unborn children, but also at all the children of God around you. The scriptures teach us you already have the ability to be a “nursing Mother” as a missionary every day for you truly already are a queen as daughters of the most high God.
The third warning concerns those who want to erase in the name of equality “all differences between masculine and feminine4.” Why would that destroy our moral authority as women? It teaches us to be something we are not. My husband, recently wrote a paper for school on strength based leadership6. The entire premise is that if we take our natural given talents and develop them we can produce near perfect or perfect performance. If we as women put our efforts into something that we are not, Satan limits our performance and honestly he confuses us as to the entire plan of salvation and who we are to become. However, if we take our inherent gifts, for instance, intuition, tenderness, kindness, being refined, faith, goodness, virtue, and purity7; and we develop them there will be no stopping us when we team with the priesthood in building the kingdom of God.
We all know the story of Hannah in the Old Testament. It wasn’t the giving birth of Samuel that took away her reproach. It was in the presenting a child to God that did. Look around you, there are countless children of God that need mothering. Use your gifts and the Love of God that is in you to mother them. Don’t wait to be asked by someone or even by the Spirit to do good. Look around you, open your mouth; your influence as a mother is limitless. However, don’t be surprised. It will, like for Hannah, take sacrifice.
When Elder Nash was here for stake conference he taught us that the reference that all the prophets use in the scriptures for something big is the parting of the Red Sea. He said that after the Hastening, the Miracle of the parting of the Red Sea will be replaced with the Hastening as the go to amazing miracle in history8. The opposition to our miracle like theirs will be unfathomable. There will appear to be no escape. I imagine the women in their day and sacrifices they made and the fear that pressed up against them. We too must know that we have to get up and move; we have to look around us and pick up the stragglers or they will be trampled. We cannot stay where we are. They had to remember who they were as the children of Israel. We must remember who we are and the glorious promises that have been made to us. We were saved for these latter days to participate in the hastening. Everything we do must be looking forward to the fulfillment of that mission in bringing the gospel to our Heavenly Father’s children. As women we do that by mothering them, creating homes of refuge, and inviting all to enter.
 Spencer W. Kimball said, “To be a righteous woman during the winding-up scenes on this earth, before the Second Coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, protect, and to guard the home—which is society’s basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife9.”
I invite you to increase the number of children who call you mother, by preparing them to be presented to God as Hannah did Samuel, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Sheri L. Dew, “Are We Not All Mothers?” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 96.
2. David A. Bednar, “Quick to Observe” BYU Devotional, May 10, 2005.
3. David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals {Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953}, 456.
4. D. Todd Christofferson, “The Moral Force of Women” Oct. 2013 General Conference.
5. Neil J. Flinders, conversation.
6. Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership, {New York: Gallup Press 2008}.
7. Margaret D. Nadauld, “What You Are Meant to Be,” New Era, Oct. 2002, 45.
8. Elder Nash, Platte City Stake Conference 2013.
9. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball {Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982}, 326-27.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My intent...

My intent in starting this blog is to repent of my journal writing or lack thereof since having my children. I wrote in my journal everyday from the time I was 12 until I got pregnant with my first child; I quit because I didn't want to complain about how sick I felt everyday. But, I hope to catch up by recording some of my thoughts and opinions for my children and others to find whenever! I will never forget sitting at Thanksgiving dinner one year; my parents were playfully arguing the details of some family story. My sister corrected them, and they challenged her knowledge with, "how would you know?" She countered, "I read mom's journal!" My mom was incredulous, because she had thrown it away years previous. Turns out my dad had dug it out of the trash and put it on the bookshelf.

I also want to make my dad proud. He is a wonderful example of sharing his testimony to help people come closer to Jesus Christ. I want to be like him, but mostly I want my children to come closer to Christ!