January 11, 2017

What Shall We Give in Return for so Much?

Jakob was ordained as the First Assistant in his Priest Quorum on Sunday.

I am ALIVE and healthy!  I can walk and my bladder and bowels function!  I can cross country ski!! 

I know God.  He speaks to me, cleanses me, comforts me, and strengthens me.

I am married to my best friend.  He loves me.  We have created 8 fabulous children together.

We are so blessed with a loving, generous, supportive extended family.  Having moved many times throughout our marriage, our life is so full of good friends and examples.

I feel blessed to live here in the United States of America!  I love this beautiful land!  I love our democracy and our freedoms.  

A man I love, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, gave a talk, "The Great the Plan of Our God!"  In it he said, 

"Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland. While there, I noticed the Belfast Coat of Arms, which includes the motto “Pro tanto quid retribuamus,” or “What shall we give in return for so much?""

As I read these words today I felt that question echo in my soul.

Pro tango quid retribuamus.
What shall we give in return for so much?

And so, I'll tell you.

I will give him my CONFIDENCE.
My Heavenly Father has never let me down before and I will trust Him forever.

I will REMEMBER the miracles I've seen and the lessons I've learned.
No matter how large and daunting the trial in front of me appears, I will remember the mountains I have already climbed.  I will remember that after every hard thing I have endured I have felt the price I had to pay was worth the person I became.  

I will choose GRATITUDE over fear.
Looking for His presence instead of worrying IF He'll be there.

I will WALK ON.  When my ability to do seems insignificant when compared with my desire to do, I will just continue onward.  One step at a time.  I will pour my last drop of water and watch for His wine. 

I will give him my WORDS.  Even when my heart is heavy and my soul is tired, I will give thanks, testify, worship, pray, and forgive.

I will SHARE my blessings, I will LOVE Him and love His children,  I will WAIT PATIENTLY for His continued mercy.

I've been a bratty teenager lately.
I see it now.
I'm fighting with my best friend.

I've been telling God that He asks too much of me instead of telling Him how grateful I am for all He has given me.  

As a woman blessed with GREAT faith, I can tell you something I know.
Faith is a CHOICE.
Feelings follow focus.
If you focus on how blessed you are, you will FEEL blessed.
If you focus the hard things in life, life will feel harder.
If you trust God loves you, know He is guiding you, and look for His tender mercies in your life- you will see them.
If you cuss, pout, and give up, you will feel forlorn and abandoned.  
Let's choose faith together!

In return for SO MUCH, let's give him our heart.
Oh, the Lord is good to me.
Life is good.

January 07, 2017

Bust the Move 2017!

Ok- I'm READY.

If I felt that I lost my "give a damn" last year, I found it again this year.  

I'm turning 40 and as we used to say in the good ol' days, it's time to bust the move.

FIND MY EXERCISE GROOVE--
One thing I've realized lately is-- exercise needs to be social for me.  I'm lonely living out here in the country.  I'm also not athletic, I'm competitive and completely out of shape.

The best I've ever done with exercise was when Todd and I joined a gym together in Texas.  We exercised every morning before we woke the kids up.  The gym was only a few minutes from my house.  We did fitness for life intervals- 3 days of interval running and 2 days of weights.  It was scheduled and I was always trying to show Todd how tough I am, so I got into shape quickly.  My other favorite was working out with a personal trainer.

Todd exercises up at his school gym now, for free.  There is a local gym here, but I don't want to go by myself.  I have friends in town who 1) exercise beach body at home, 2) go twice a week to a dance/aerobics class, or 3) go to an early morning kick-butt workout class.  There is also a local yoga class or a larger YMCA gym with daycare that is 20 minutes away.  Because it's beautiful here, I keep telling myself that just going outside everyday is the answer.  But, it's cold and snowy and lonely outside.  I'm pretty much a complete extrovert!  I tend to be casual friends with a lot of people instead of really choosing my tribe.

I'm also scared of my body.  It's hard to push yourself when you're afraid of dying.  It's time to let go of that!  

I need to find my groove- this year!
(I'm going cross-country skiing for the second time this week with a group of friends.  That's a start!)

STICK WITH IT SCRIPTURE STUDY--
I feel so flighty lately with my scripture study.  I read inspirational talks one day, plan my Sunday School lesson the next, read actual scriptures the next.  I'm tired of being flighty.  I started a Book of Mormon commentary and I'm going to read it EVERY morning, first.  If I read something else that day, it's bonus.  I need some consistency.  I'm also going to kneel and pray every morning and night.  No excuses, no laziness, no pray on the go.

GET SMART MASTERS--
I'm studying right now for the GRE and applying to Grad School for School Psychology.  I have no idea if I'll get accepted, I only know I really want to try.  It feels SO good to study for the GRE.  It feels like my brain is waking up after a 20 year snooze.  When I tried to do a sample test a few weeks ago, I couldn't even do ONE problem on the quantitative side.  Not one!  My teenage kids are helping me study and it's been painful and fun!  We have laughed more together over math questions this month than any other thing.  And, lest I deceive you, the qualitative vocabulary questions are equally ridiculous.  Honestly.  They use words nobody has ever heard of (like HEGEMONY).  

As a side note: studying for the GRE has not been good for my marriage.  Because nobody knows what HEGEMONY means except the Professor.  He knows everything and it's really annoying.  He also is a more impatient teacher than one would expect from a professor.  His quick explanations are harder for me to understand than the questions themselves.  So, YouTube, Anna, Jakob, and Drew are my preferred tutors.  

EXTREME MONEY MAKEOVER--
Todd traded me chores for finances.  Ha! He actually begged me to takeover finances promising he'd plan and cook all the meals, clean the bathrooms, and do the laundry if I would do the money.  I decided if he would plan and execute family chores I would call it a fair trade.

And, I LIKE doing the money.  I've always been frugal and I love seeing how much we can save.  I'm a severe realist compared to Todd's optimism and I have no problem saying "We can't afford that."  

We honestly should have made this trade years ago, but I had a really hard time with the idea of doing the finances when I am married to a business professor.  

This year, I want to really, really live within our means with padding!  I want savings I top of a padded budget.  Which means if our car breaks, I don't want to use savings to pay for it.  I want a CAR BUDGET in addition to savings.  I want our savings to just go up, not up and down.  And, because I'm allocating our money more specifically, we won't look in our checking account in January and think we have extra and look again in December and not have enough.  I'm trying to plan better.  That's my goal.  

We also paid off our van and our credit card.  I hope we never have another credit card balance or car payment.  Ever. 

HAVE FUN WITH MY KIDS!!--
There are so many things that I want to do with my kids that I never do because I'm always doing things that I need to do with them.  I'm so sick of that!  I don't want my interaction with my family to constantly be about putting away their laundry and picking up their backpack!  

I want more mom-dates this year.  My kids are really fun and so am I-- we need more positive, bonding, joyful time together!  I don't want to watch them play sports, I want to play with them.  I don't want to just hear about some fun thing they did while I'm washing dishes, I want to live life with them.  I'm tired of running to the store for them when they're at school, I'm going to wait and take them with me more.

We brought Anna on our date night last night and it was really fun.  We need to do that often!

2017-- I'm ready for you!
Let's do this. 


January 01, 2017

2016 Favorite Things



Just thought I'd take a few minutes to share some of my 2016 favorite things!

Favorite Home Improvement--
My dad has been painting my house from cream to white over the past year and it has changed my life!  Benjamin Moore- White Dove is my love language.  I am perfectly happy even if I never get white woodwork or white cabinets because this white wall paint is a beautiful contrast to my wood.

The girls got some color on their walls, but white is my favorite!  

Favorite Make-Up--
I am simple with cosmetics.  This NYX butter gloss is one of the few make-up items that I have ever used completely up and bought a replacement for.  This is the lipgloss I transfer from my drawer to my purse.  I love it.  Loreal mascara has my favorite wand and texture.  

Favorite Christmas Present--
We bought Creative QT Peel & Stick Baseplates for Christmas and just stuck them onto 4 pieces of wood we already had.  These have become the best for our four Lego lovers to play together on the floor and then save their creations on a shelf.  (We also have plastic storage containers.) 

Favorite Picture Spots--
I have a few.  I love taking a picture of my backyard (see above) during every different season.  I also LOVE a first day of school line-up out front (see below).
I love shoe pictures of big groups.
I love our temple touching pictures.

And, I love our traditional "out to ice cream" pictures.
Every picture I took this year was on my iPhone.  Someday I might regret this.

Favorite Nature Collection--
We found FOUR of the most adorable bird's nests this year.  I just know that they are probably covered with germs but I love them so much.  Right now, they are on the top of a bookshelf in my living room.  I'm not sure I can keep them.

Favorite Trip--
With my brother to BYU Education Week.  Oh, going to Education Week just fills my soul!
Second favorite-- the American Mother's Convention with some of my favorite mothers
And third favorite trip was spending the week in Nauvoo with my Sister in Law and lots of kids!

Favorite Upgrade--
I've never used nice perfume before.  But this year I have loved upgrading to Coach with Chanel Chance on my 2017 Wish List.  Smelling this perfume lifts my spirits.

Favorite Drink-
Ever since Todd and I took a dreamy trip to Germany, France, and Switzerland, I have been buying myself San Pellegrino.  I love it.  It's healthy and it makes me feel fancy as I'm folding laundry.  I even like that most people don't like it, so I'm certain it stays in the pantry longer.

Favorite Book--
Jon Klassen's This is Not My Hat book had me laughing for days.  I made everybody read it.  It's classic and funny and my favorite.

I also really, really needed the mental boost that I've felt studying for the GRE.  My kids are very smart, and very independent.  I haven't studied math since college or maybe even high school. It's been so fun having my teenagers teach me concepts buried under 20 years of child-rearing!

The McConkie commentary has been a new way for me to study scriptures in the morning.  I've needed a fresh perspective.  

I also appreciated the new perspectives from Christ's Emancipation of Women in the New Testament by the adorable Lynne Hilton Wilson.  Alonzo Gaskill's Miracles of the New Testament is great and I read Seven Miracles that saved America by the Stewarts, to my family.  It often brought tears to my eyes even though the non-fiction narrator is a bit annoying at times.  

Favorite Planner--
Haha!  What a messy, real-life picture.  I took over the finances this winter and I have come to love GRAPH paper.  I know.  Simple and silly in this digital age, but I really needed to see you what I'm dealing with.  I can feed our family of 10 comfortably and healthy for $1000 per month (this includes food and household expenses) and I think that's pretty good.  We should be millionaires in no time!


Favorite Mom Activity--
Mom Dates are my favorite.  Topping the list this year was a Christmas-Week date with my teenager.  She came VERY close to getting nothing but coal for Christmas based on some serious sassiness.  I picked her up early from school and told her that I had made an appointment for us to see a therapist.  She was so mad at me until I pulled out silly glasses and began acting like a therapist.  (Note- I actually love real therapists but this afternoon I felt we needed TIME more than therapy.)  We talked and ended up at a salon where she got her nails done.  It wasn't the nails, it was the talking, laughing, and surprise that changed things.  This small date REALLY changed our home.  I need more mom dates in my life!  My 2017 goal is one mom date every month with every child and Todd.  If I add temple dates, thats two date per week.


Favorite Food--
Pioneer Women's Cinnamon Rolls played a big role in our life this year.  Which I find quite ironic because I met and fell in love with Ree's mother this year.  I think of them both everytime I roll out this decadence.

I also fell in love with the perfect pie crust.  It tastes good and is as easy to make as playdoh.  We have made some fun pies with this recipe!
Pie Crust from Sister Kerr
makes 2 single crusts or 1 double

1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter Crisco
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Add 1/2 cup boiling water to 1 cup butter Crisco shortening and stir until melted or close to it.
Add 1 tsp salt and 3 cups flour and mix until it feels like playdoh.
Let it sit in a ball for a few minutes, break it in half, and roll out.
You should have extra to decorate the top with.
(Note: if you're going to double this recipe, make two batches.  Add one cup boiling water to two different bowls of Crisco.  It mixes better that way.)

Favorite Artist--
I love Kim Youngsung.  This picture is "I shall Not Want" and it speaks my love language.

Favorite Shirt--
I really loved having matching shirts for our family reunion.  I hope we do this every year.

Favorite Pants-- (pictured inside out)
By far, I found my favorite pair of black pants.  I honestly wear them 3 out of 7 days per week.  They are from Old Navy and my tag says OPP Leggings Black Jack.  I love them because they are comfortable like leggings but are more modest like pants.  My honest opinion is that leggings only look cute on children under age 10.  These pants have a 3 inch elastic waist.  They are thicker material and I got a size large so they are not cellulite-tight.  I can't find them online but I find them in the store by the exercise pants.

Favorite Idea--
I really wanted my kids to have voice lessons this year, but we couldn't afford them.  So, we found the most amazing teacher who barters with us.  Anna, Ellie, Jakob, and I clean her house each week in exchange for lessons.  It was humbling at first, but is honestly my favorite thing.  My kids actually work to earn a privilege and it's fun to work with them.  I also love serving someone who is serving my family.  


Favorite System--
Laundry became a rythmn in our home when I made a few simple changes this year.  1- I gave my six youngest a designated spot in my laundry room cupboard.  2- I decided I was not allowed to take clothes out of the drier without folding them.  So, I cannot start a new load without one load folded.  If you don't have time now to fold one you won't have time later to fold two.  Trust me.  3- I removed all laundry baskets from closets leaving only one 3 sectioned laundry sorter in the hallway.  4- I occasionally give candy inside empty laundry baskets (mainly when they are all emptied except for one or two).  
Favorite Christmas Tradition--
We had two new traditions this year that I loved and feel we will continue.
First- all the kids wrote 2 reasons they love their Great Grandmother GG on $2 bills and mailed them to her.
We also did the 25 days of Christ Advent as our morning scripture time in December (along with a Lego Advent and #lighttheworld).  It was really lovely.  I'm excited to do this for years to come.

I could probably go on and on about my favorites, but my time is up.  

Here's to a 2017 full of many more!! 

December 21, 2016

Some Thoughts on Sunday

I taught Sunday School to 8 pre-mission young men from very varied backgrounds.  It was a Christmas lesson.  As we were talking about the Savior, we began talking about repentance and I told them that when I was younger, I thought the goal was to live in such a way that you didn't have to repent.  That the more righteous you were the less you would need to repent.  Then, I heard myself compare repentance to showering.  I asked this group of teenage boys what it would be like if we really tried hard every day not to get dirty?  If we only showered once a week, or once a month, or when we fell in a mud hole?  They laughed.  We have to shower daily because we are natural man and we are designed to stink a bit.  Repentance, like personal hygiene, is a gift.  Thankfully!!

The Spirit was so strong as we talked about the Savior.  I learned and I know they felt the Savior's love.  Just a small example at the grace that so fully he proffers me.  Not only does He forgive me when I sin or doubt or cuss, but he still stands with me filling me with his love and so many witnesses that He is near.  

I'm somewhat bothered when people say things like the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight or even that we can't have the Spirit when we're sinning.  I just don't agree.  I think the Holy Ghost is standing guard on high alert when it's midnight.  I think His still small voice becomes a little louder and a little more assuring, warning, and encouraging when we're sinning.  He never leaves us and we can not leave Him.   

My Sunday was busy, and humorously full as you can imagine.  My heart is way bigger than my ability to serve.  

The Messiah sing-along was lovely.  Sitting with my 5 youngest, it was somewhat like a silent but very physical exercise session.  Exerting all my kindness, wisdom, patience, and creativity we made it through to the Hallelujah chorus.  Hallelujah!  My 3 year old found the perfect pauses in the music to blow raspberries, clap, shout hallelujah, and ask "Now is it time for snacks?"  My younger self would have been embarrassed, but I wasn't.  I could feel the loving glances of the sweet people around me.  They really love our family and at least most of them were more happy to see children at an event like this than they were bothered by our realness.  At least I hope so.  

When I was in the hospital, I was surprised that I didn't just know God was blessing me.  I felt abandoned and alone.  I felt scared.  I felt angry.  I felt like my life was harder than everyone else's.  I felt all those things and could have cursed God and died.  But, I also knew that I could CHOOSE faith.  I could choose to testify of God's love, choose to look for his miracles, choose to see the stories around me of many who struggled right beside me.  As I chose what I focused on, I felt Heaven pouring out miracles.  

Choosing to be faithful in the normal day to day of my life is just as difficult and just as rewarding.  I'm again surprised that faith isn't just something I have-- I have both faith and doubt.  Faith is something I choose.  I know Joseph Smith said faith and doubt cannot exist in the same person at the same time.  Christ said you can't serve both God and mammon.  I just think they are talking about choices not feelings.  Because you (or at least I) CAN feel both forces pulling, we just can't walk both directions at the same time.  I used to think faith and doubt were so far apart, but they don't feel that far apart the older I get.  

I never doubt God.  I do doubt my own ability to serve and endure.  I love CS Lewis--

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."

Letters of C. S. Lewis (29 April 1959), para. 1, p. 285 — as reported in The Quotable Lewis (1989), p. 469

I also loved this quote by Thomas Jefferson, "Do you not think an Angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this Storm?"

Three quotes stood out to me from our family scripture time this morning-- the Garden of Gethsemane.

Christ says to his Father, "All things are possible unto thee.  Nevertheless if thou be willing let this cup pass from my lips."  Faith and pleading.  I need to do that more.  

I might not be able to watch one hour.  I might cut off an ear.  And, He loves me still.

And oh, those words to feisty Peter-- "That cup that my father hath given me to drink- shall I not drink it?"

I can drink my cup.

I know my early morning thoughts are a bit long and a bit odd.  I think my soul just gets jumbled up if I don't take the time to pour it out sometimes.  

Thank you for listening.

I see my own weakness and it makes his miracles in my life even more miraculous.

Last CS Lewis quote~
"The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see."
God in the Dock, "Miracles" (1942)

Merry Christmas!
Xoxo
Jenifer

December 14, 2016

A Tough Pill to Swallow

For Leah, it was Ibuprofen.
For me, gift wrapping and laundry.

We were brave.  
We just kept trying.  
And, no big deal at all!  
I think we both laughed afterwards that we dreaded doing something that really wasn't hard at all.
Laundry can be fun.  
(I actually love laundry- when I'm organized.  These bins in the cupboard make it so easy-- I just fold them right out of the drier into these bins.)

Swallowing pills can be easy.
Lily got it first try!  She swallowed a noodle first and then a pill.
Leah took a little more time-- but she did it!!
And wrapping-- I just spent an hour wrapping.  It was nice to just get a little done.

Life is good!

Cutest Board Books Ever

Need a cute, last minute Christmas gift?

Try Pinhole Press.

Honestly, this little board book is one of my favorite things ever.
It was easy to make and is darling.
I made a simple word book for Ben with words from just our home and family and I made a book for my niece, to help her learn our names.  I called it Everybody Loves Emma and each page I put a picture of her with someone in our family.
I wrote "Aunt Jen Loves Emma", "Rocco loves Emma", etc.  it's adorable.

I had a 15% off code and my total with shipping was around $34.  That's pricey for me, but it is SO worth it.

I want to make a feelings book using pictures of my babies "sad", "happy", "silly", etc.

I also want to make Ben a favorite words book, "blankie", "bed", "cheese", "puzzles", eat.

For Ben, I used the names of the animals we call by name.  But, I wish I had just said Horse.  It would have been more timeless.  I also like the fun pictures better than the normal, smiling pictures.

I love these books.
Be sure you add pages.  There is no additional cost if you have the most you can (I think you can have 20-35 or something like that).

You could also do a book with all pictures and no words.  That would be cute if you used another program to add words right onto the picture.

Also, regular IPhone pictures work just fine.  There was one picture (of our home) that they told me was too small resolution and it was downloaded off the internet.  It is fuzzy.  But, normal Instagram pictures look great.  I used professional pics and IPhone pics interchangeably and I love the results.

Cute, cute, cute!

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