November 24, 2015

Weariness is Christlike

Recently, I was struck by a verse in the New Testament.  

In John 4, we read about the Samaritan woman who Christ speaks to at the well.  As He speaks to her, He teaches her who He is, acknowledges that she is an adulterous woman, and invites her to drink the water that He has to give.  Water that if men drink, they will never thirst again.

I LOVE the analogy of a spiritual thirst and a spiritual quenching.  I see that thirst in the world today.  I sometimes feel that thirst in myself.  

We find ourselves scrolling through Facebook looking for a quick drink, but our spiritual yearning cannot be quenched by superfluous 'likes' on Facebook.

Do we feel our spiritual thirst quenched as we feast upon the scriptures each day?  Do we drink deeply the water He has to give?

My own daily devotional has become more sweet since I have taken it off my daily 'To Do' list and moved it to my list of favorite treats.  I imagine that as I read or study, I am drinking the hot chocolate of God's word.  I feel eternal truths warming my soul and filling me with God's love.  Somehow, my scripture time had morphed into the same category as my dreaded morning exercise.  I've made a deliberate effort to think of scripture reading as sneaking dessert. And, I feel filled with His grace and His power as I feast.  

In my opinion, we place too much emphasis on works and not enough emphasis on grace.  Works are good, but Grace is everything.  He is ready and waiting to pour His light and His grace upon us.  Milk without money.  

The lesson above is why I turned to this story in the New Testament, but it isn't what struck me about the verses I read.  Let me share them with you...

6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (New Testament, John, John 4)


Jesus was weary.
Jesus sat at the well while his disciples looked for meat.
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give him a drink.

Sometimes I feel weary and in my weariness I wonder what I am doing wrong.  Sometimes I hear young mothers or mothers of many, feel that they need medication or wonder if they are depressed because they are weary.  

Can I tell you something?  I believe it is absolutely Christlike to feel tired, concerned, and weary.  When we love others, when we serve others, when we heal others, and especially as we physically create life, the 'virtue goes out of us'.  Our physical bodies get tired when we serve!  That is a mortal limitation that teaches us to rest and prioritize.  Weariness is good.  

I promise you two things.  

First, a selfish life is not as weary, and not as fulfilling as a life of service.  If you spend your days seeking entertainment while trying to 'find' yourself, you may find comfort but you will always be thirsty.   Selfish comfort is not soul quenching.

Second, selfless service is exhausting but satisfying.  Christ promises that as we loose ourselves we will find ourselves.  

Christ rested, He was weary, He was thirsty, He asked His sister for help.  Even as He was offering eternal water to the Samaritan woman, HE WAS THIRSTY.  He was weary.  He took time to rest at the well and because He was resting, He had time to teach.

Spiritual thirst is different from physical thirst.  

Where are you on your journey?
Pay attention to what you are needing.

Sometimes my body is rested but my mind and my soul are racing and hungry.  The drink I need is spiritual.  I find this peace as I read the word of God, as I pray, as I repent, as I set new goals, as I share my testimony with others, as I hear the testimony of others, or as I attend the temple.

Sometimes my physical body is weary.  I find rest as I eat healthy food, drink water, take a nap, and take some quiet time to recharge my nervous system.  Pure, unified, physical intimacy is one of the best ways I have found to help reset my racing emotions.  

President Monson has said,
"To all who so despair, may I offer the assurance found in the psalm “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” 8

Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome."

I believe in Christ.
I feel His power to cleanse and fortify in my life daily.
I know He is near me as I draw water from the well for my family.

14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. (New Testament, John, John 4)

Give me this water, that I thirst not!
Give me this body, that I can  learn from thirst.
Give me this day, that I may draw water from this well to "Give [him] to drink."

Being weary is Christlike.

I have felt His power the strongest on days and even months when I was the most weary.

Our physical bodies can thirst even as our spirits are immersed in His power.

I know it and today I am grateful for that knowledge.

November 23, 2015

Three days before Thanksgiving

Someday, one of my five daughters will call me three days before Thanksgiving.  She will be at that place I know so well, where dreams and realities crash.  
Perhaps, a broken foot, will have put a quick halt to plans to caulk and touch up the basement walls, or sew the most adorable table cloth for a folding table.
There is a fine line between enjoying a rigourous swim and drowning.  It's the little things (like sassy teenagers or an aching foot) that can just tip the scale and leave you water logged.

I know the weight that is felt when you have a day and a half before 20 people arrive at your home and a list of jobs that would take a non-crippled woman a week to accomplish.

Here's what I'd tell my daughter--

Hang in there!!
Don't let worry and stress add to your burden.
Write a list, and do one thing at a time.

Start with yourself.
Shower, get dressed, eat a healthy breakfast, feast on the scriptures like you're sneaking a piece of pie for breakfast.

Love your little ones.  Everything you do is to serve and celebrate with them.  They don't care if the basement walls aren't perfect, but they will remember the FEELING of your home as you prepare for company.  Let them feel your joy and excitement.

Love your company.  Trust them to love you even if your garage is messy and you forgot to buy evaporated milk.  They are coming to do Thanksgiving with you, they aren't coming to be dazzled by all you did before they came.  

Go through your list and prioritize.  If sewing a table cloth is something you really want to do, then do it!  Just do something, keep moving gently forward.  Remember what Dad always says, every year our holidays are magical.  He never stresses about them and they are always magical!

Really, Thanksgiving is just one big dinner.  And, you are the host of four amazing families who cook dinner every night at their homes.  You'll be fine!!

Those cranky teenagers, they feel your stress.  The best thing you can give your family is a happy mom for the holidays!

Give them an assignment-- let them be in charge of all the pies, figuring out the seating chart for mealtime, making a map of sleeping arrangements, finding videos for our starvation dinner, or put them in charge arranging a kid craft for Thanksgiving day.  Kids love responsibility.

Don't cry if your 4 year old cuts a big chunk of her hair off.  Don't doubt yourself if your older girls complain every single day about caring for the horse they begged you for.  Don't feel overwhelmed if your clean laundry sits for a weekend on the floor of your bedroom because the morning you planned on folding was spent at the hospital.  Honestly, it's ok if you didn't get your Christmas cards mailed before Thanksgiving.  You're just normal and normal is good.  Chicken won't die if their water freezes before you have a chance to set up extension chords and hot water heaters.  

Holidays are FUN.
Without the joy of the season, you are missing something.

This last bit of advice I've really been contemplating.  What would I say if my daughter, who was already overwhelmed, then mentioned she really wanted to pull out some Christmas decorations?!

This is what I think I might say...
Write a list.
Do first things first.
And, go for it!
You might not get your whole house decorated, but a little Christmas greenery and some twinkle lights will make your Thanksgiving festive.  A lofty goal will pull you through that laundry folding quickly.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday.
I am SO Thankful to have a home where I can welcome friends and family.
I'm Thankful for food and I'm Thankful for health!!!  
A little limp is no big deal.

This year, I know that my mental state IS teaching my children how to host holidays in the years to come.  I hope they learn to be happy and to feel the joy of the season.  

Life is good.

September 01, 2015

Homemaking is the Way

Homemaking is inevitable, foundational, simple, and eternal.  Homemaking is the way we mother, the way we serve others, and the way we become all that we were created to  become.

Homemaking is inevitable.
You can learn to be a skilled homemaker, or you can place homemaking low on your list of priorities, but you cannot escape the fact that we all make our home.  We make our home and then our home makes us.

Our homes are a symbol of our minds.  Don't you love the uniqueness of every home you visit?

I teach my children early that their bed, and eventually their room, is their "home".  It is a reflection of them.  If they choose to keep their bed made and tidy, they will get a better night sleep.  They will want to be in their room if they create a space that soothes their soul.  

My goal as a homemaker is to create a sacred space.  Our homes have a spirit that people can feel.  

I realized that "home" was something you  can create anywhere, as I spent months in the hospital on bed rest, pregnant with my eighth child.  

My hospital room became my home.  

It was more than the fact that I decorated my hospital room with potted plants, family pictures, scented spray, and homemade quilts, although those things helped.  

It actually became funny how often people would stop and almost gasp as they walked in.  They would look around and say how "homey" or "healing" my room felt.  They often commented on the special "aura" they felt.  Many would linger and tell me stories of their families.  I know they felt at home. 

I hope people always feel at home with me.  There is a quote hanging in our home, I gave it framed to my husband on our wedding day.  It says, "A true Mormon home is one in which, if Christ would chance to enter, he would be inclined to linger and to rest.  David O. McKay"

My sister once visited our tiny home where we lived with seven children while my husband got his PhD.  Her compliment has stayed with me, she said "I feel more myself at your house than I have ever felt."  Isn't that beautiful?

I am proud to be a Homemaker, and I know you can create a home wherever you are.

Homemaking is foundational.
Haven't you read so many articles like a recently published article in Deseret News entitled. "I'm a Stay at Home Mother, Not a Housewife" where mothers tout things like "I did not give up a successful career and an identity to be a housewife. I am not a maid. I am not a chef. I am not a laundress. I am a mother."

As we read these witty columns, we smile at their intent.  Yes, we all understand that mothering takes priority over homemaking.  But, I'm not sure everyone understands that being a successful homemaker is THE WAY to become a successful mother.

Successful mothering requires repetitive tasks like cleaning, cooking and laundering.  It is in the act of repeatedly teaching our children the art of order that we teach them to be functional, responsible adults.  Becoming a good steward of our homes is an essential, foundational skill.

As we teach them to brush their teeth, make their bed, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, clear their plate, and pick-up their toys, we are teaching them how to live well.  

If you teach your children to happily help with the dishes, you will have children who will also happily do their homework. 

As you teach your children to make their beds, you are teaching them to obey their mother.  

Teach a child to clean a messy playroom and you have taught a child problem solving, endurance, and self discipline.

We live in a society of sassy, messy kids. There is a correlation.  

Sometimes I smile at the extreme measures parents will take as they worry about their children.  We will ask Oprah and Dr Phil, read every book, send them to expensive preschools, talk to doctors, and spend money on things that I'm not sure money can buy.  When often, the answers are found at home.  

Occupational therapists, special ed teachers, even college professors will tell you that the essential, foundational skills of society are taught in the home.  

Learn to be a skilled homemaker.  Teach your children to care for your home, for their room, and their bodies, and you will have done well.

All you ever really need to know, you can learn from Homemaking.

I could write for days about how the physical environment of our home influences the mental health of our family.  Order and cleanliness begets peace and rest.

Homemaking is the way to mother.  Homemaking is a tool for mothering, perhaps the best tool we have.

Homemaking is simple.
So why is it that we feel a pull?  Why do we sometimes feel that we need to choose to be a good mother OR have an emmaculate home?  Why is it that we sometimes hate pictures of perfect Pottery Barn homes and feel that we are never, ever going to be a successful homemaker? 

I'm not sure.  But, here's my guess.  

Sometimes, in our quest for Homemaking, we forget we are making a home, and we begin Graven-Image Making.  When our home becomes a symbol of our pride, we have gone too far.  When we are more concerned with how our home looks than how our home feels, we are off-track.  The process is often more important than the end result.

I sometimes laugh at the ever so gentle way Jesus Christ addressed Graven-Image makers... 

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 23)

Yes, the inside is just as important as the outside.

Let us be clean, both in word and in deed.  Home is a place AND a feeling.

Wise homemakers have learned that wealth does not make a home.  We can feel "Home Sweet Home" in a well-cared for apartment, an inspiring classroom, an inviting mansion, and even a hospital room.  

I was once talking to my Mexican-American Sister in Law about some slums we drove past in Detroit.  I commented about the awful poverty we had witnessed.  Her response has stayed with me.  She said, "That is not poverty, that is degradation.  I have seen extreme poverty in Mexico and even with dirt floors, their children looked cared for and their houses were clean."

You do not need wealth to be a skilled Homemaker.

I believe we often feel a gentle, spiritual whisper to put our homes in order, to clean and tidy up.  After that whisper, the barrage of the world rushes in.  The spirit of contention and mammon will shout in our ears that we cannot possibly create a house of order because we don't have enough time, money, or training.  Don't listen to that voice.

I once watched a masterful carpet cleaner transform a carpet I was about to tear up and replace into a rug that looked like new.  His trick was that he used very little soap, and boiling hot water.  Boiling water!  Just yesterday, my 16 year old son recreated this miracle with a carpet cleaning machine we rented from Dollar General and boiling hot water.  Simple.

Honestly, I feel that it is our wealth that makes Homemaking difficult in 2015.  We have too much stuff.

I love that homemaking is simple.  

Homemaking is eternal.
I love that Homemaking is an action verb.  It connotes the idea that making a home is not an event, but an ongoing effort.  Homemaking requires eternal "making".  You can have one loaf of homemade bread.  But, we rarely ever feel that our home is made.  

Homemaking is a process that is eternal and divine.  Just take a drive and look around.  We come from a God that is the ultimate Homemaker.  

In conclusion I want to share with you my two favorite homemaking scriptures.

The first is Psalms 113:9.

9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord. (Old Testament, Psalms, Psalm 113)

I know that God is not only the ultimate Homemaker.  He is also the ultimate maker of Homemakers.  He created us once, and He is making us still.  

Yes!  As we learn to make our homes, we absolutely transform from barren women to joyful mothers of children.  I love that imagery.  I love that expansion, from barren to a joyful mother of children.  (You do not need a functional uterus to experience this expansion.)

Look at all sin in the world, you will find that sin tends to decrease us from joyful expansion to barren selfishness.  

I am so grateful He is making me as I keep house.
Praise ye the Lord!

My second favorite Homemaking scripture is a story from 2 Kings 5.  

Naaman was a rich king with leprosy. But, I like to imagine him as a well-educated wealthy woman with the normal sin and leprosy of the natural man.

The King (or Queen in my story) goes to the prophet Elisha asking him for a life changing miracle.  Naaman was not offered recognition or a quick-fix.  He was told to wash in a very unpopular river instead.

10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 
11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. 
12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. 
13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? 
14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (Old Testament, 2 Kings, 2 Kings 5)

Don't you feel that?  Don't you feel that as we serve we are becoming pure?  Don't you love the imagery of a King (or Queen) dying with the skin of a Leper who washes in a river that feels so beneath him and as he washes his life is spared.  He becomes as a little child.  From leper to pure as we wash.  It's beautiful.

Oh friends, homemaking is an eternal endeavor.  Our daily choices make our home.

The act of homemaking is inevitable, foundational, simple, and eternal.  I hope we never, ever stop making our homes!

Let us wash, and wash, and wash, and wash, and wash, and wash, and wash, that our flesh may become again like that of a little child and that we may be clean.

Homemaking is godly.

Let us all keep house and expand from barren women to joyful mothers of children!

Homemaking is the way.

August 10, 2015

Making Sabbath a Delight With a Large Family

We are on a quest to delight in the Sabbath Day.

For a few years now, I have been aware that we are missing something.  Sunday has been a LONG, exhausting day for us.  I have felt no rest and little joy.  I believe that God designed the Sabbath Day as a gift to man.  I believe that He has asked us to go to Church on Sunday and spend the day serving, studying, pondering, and praying.  

In my soul I know that as we keep the Sabbath day holy we will be blessed.  But, often as I hustle my large family to and from our 3 hour church service and wrestle with them to find productive things to do, I know I am missing something.  Why do I sometimes feel a day at the lake would be more rejuvenating to my soul than a day at Church?  

My faithful heart just insists that I'm missing something.  We're missing the gift of the Sabbath day.  And, I'm determined to help my family figure out HOW to make Sunday more Sabbath.

I'm going to share my ideas with you.  Our Sundays have been feeling SO much better!!  They are still busy, but instead of feeling exhausted, when I am busy serving I feel envigorated and powerful!  (I think a weight is lifted in my soul as I give myself permission to use Sunday for service!)

My husband leaves before I wake up.  Our Church has a lay clergy.  Which means that people from the congregation are called to lead and preach.  Todd is part of the Bishopric and he spends many hours ministering others on Sunday.  He doesn't sit with our family at Church, and he goes early and stays late. 

I love the man he becomes as he serves others, so I am never bitter that his calling leaves me to navigate kids alone.

--Eating a hearty breakfast is important on Sunday.  My kids and I need food to keep us energized.  We leave our home at 9:20am and don't get home until 1:20am.

--I have noticed a tendency to miss my personal and family scripture study on Sunday.  I think this is part of the reason Sundays have been hard.  Making an effort to rise early, I dressed and took 30 minutes to study scripture and plan out my day gave me a sense of peace and purpose.

--On the way to church we sing, pray, and recite memorized scriptures.  It's our portable family devotional.  The younger kids love choosing the next song we'll sing.  We are trying to memorize the Family Proclamation.  We recite this as we drive to church.  (If I don't choose what fills our van-- it is naturally filled with bickering and contention.)

--I don't bring much to Church to entertain my kids.  I have a little pencil bag of toys for Ben and usually a small snack for him and Eve.  We have a few books.  Sometimes he is hard and I take him out, but my kids are all pretty good.  I really encourage them to get their energy out by SINGING.  I remind them that singing is like praying.  We worship God as we sing.  I believe the only way young children can sit through a three hour church is because they have time to SING and get some energy out.

--I cleaned up breakfast and really left the house clean before we left for church, so I felt peace when I got home.

--I wrote on our white board
Lunch- everything nachos: chips, cheese, salsa, avocado, refried beans, and sour cream
Dinner- baked potato bar, bacon, broccoli, cheese sauce, and honey dew melon (Ellie- bake the potatoes, Drew and Leah- make brownies and set table)
To Do- write a thank you letter or picture to gma and gpa moss, INDEXING

--We do everything nachos for lunch on Sundays or quesadillas.  I set out all the ingredients for them before I leave for church.

--I believe an essential part of being a disciple of Christ is visiting with people I love, especially those who are sick or struggling.  My desire to serve far exceeds my ability to serve.  I really need to get better at this.  I have decided to do my visiting teaching on Sunday.  The people I visit live 30 minutes from me and they work.  It is almost impossible for me to visit them during the week.  I'm recommitted to making appointments on the first Sunday of every month for the second Sunday of every month.  I often feel discouraged because half of the people I visit are not currently participating with our Church.  I've just decided to prepare a small gift and a message to drop to them every other week.  I feel empowered that my ability to serve isn't dependent on whether or not they call me back.

--My kids stay up at Church with Todd on the 2nd Sunday so that I can make visits.  The older kids watch the younger kids.  (I brought Anna with me yesterday and it was SO nice.)  I want to make rolls on the 4th Saturday, so that I can drop them off on the 4th Sunday.  (I'll just bring my kids with me for drop offs.)

--I want to get in the habit of visiting the sick or recovering in our congregation after church on the first and third Sundays.  I think my youngest will sleep and my older kids will read.  If I pack a lunch my kids will be ok.  Our church is 30 minutes south of our house.  Most of our church members live closer to church.  Visiting the sick is one of my new goals for Sunday.  Maybe I will do visits on the 2nd and 4th Sundays and encourage Todd to visit on the first and third?

--I love asking the Relief Society President on Sunday who she thinks needs a phone call or a meal during the week.  I want to get better at regularly serving throughout the week.  We have many in our congregation who could use some service.

--We have both elders and sisters in our ward.  They don't get fed by members everyday during the week, so I have decided to feed them each once a week.  We had the sisters this Sunday and will have the Elders on Tuesday.  It is a joy to feed the missionaries.  I believe my family is blessed everytime my children spend a dinner with these good people.  We have asked them to teach the discussions to my older girls.  So, often they come over and teach while I finish preparing dinner.  I love this.

--My youngest kids watched Rigelleto while we were cooking dinner, played dress-up while we were cleaning up and visiting with the Sister missionaries, and ran around outside the hour before bed.  We made sure we all straightened the basement before we tucked them in for the night!  They were so tired.

--I want to call my parents or siblings on Sundays!  We need to start a habit of Sunday Skyping with them.

--And finally, we started INDEXING yesterday!!!  We have been wanting to do this for so long.  Todd and Drew had a fireside to attend, so Anna and Ellie helped me to clean up dinner and put the kids to bed.  (I folded a load of laundry.)  And then we laid down together on my bedroom floor and figured out their family search passwords, downloaded the indexing software, and indexed our first batch together!!  We set goals to compete with each other... It was SO fun.

Geneological indexing is where you look at a historical record that has been scanned into the computer and type information off of it so that it can be made searchable online.  It is a great thing to do and is really fun!

My girls and I laughed together as we imagined these people filling out their draft cards with sallow complexions or missing the tip if their finger.  I felt so close to my girls as we worked together.

Todd and I finished our Sabbath with a reconnecting discussion about his fireside.  I think I fell asleep while he was talking.

Yes, my Sabbath day was long and full, but it really was delightful.  We're getting there!!

July 27, 2015

Day 10- A Passing

Todd's Aunt Marilyn has lived with his parents for years.  She was a beautiful, saintly woman completely paralyzed by MS.  Marilyn was a truely refined lady.  She looked regal in her hospital bed and had wise eyes.  Her spirit was so strong and in stark contrast to the weak physical body that enclosed it.

Marilyn died yesterday.

There is such peace and comfort in her passing.  Yet, there is also deep sorrow for all she had to endure and how we will miss her presence in our lives.  Marilyn was loved by many.

She was in her early thirties when she was first diagnosed with MS.  Her husband left her to raise her three children on her own despite great physical disabilities.  Her siblings really stepped in and have cared for her over the years.  It was beautiful to watch.

My in-laws were such good examples to me as they shared their home and their lives with her and her family.  I know they made her last years good years.

As death came closer, Marilyn was in and out of consciousness.  She had a difficult time saying anything and could barely keep her eyes open.  Sunday morning she was struggling to even breathe.

I was in the room when her brothers came to give her her last Priesthood blessing.  You could feel the goodness and power they humbly held as they walked into the room.  Marilyn felt it too.  Her breathing calmed and as they surrounded her bed, she opened her eyes so wide.  She wanted us to know she was there!
It was beautiful.

It was beautiful watching the love these siblings had for each other.  It was beautiful watching her children caring for her.  It was beautiful and sad watching this strong spirit taking leave from it's weak body.  I could feel Heaven's veil thin and I know her family was near on both sides of the veil.

I am so grateful that we were here to experience this beautiful death and that we will be here for her funeral.

Death is inevitable.
Sometimes death is a gift.
I know that death is not the end.
And, I hope that when the time comes, my sisters and brothers and children are surrounding me.

I hope I can live as nobly as Aunt Marilyn has.
I know I will see her again and I know she is happy.

Life is good.
Death is good.
Today is a gift.

Day 9- Bridge Jumping

We went with Todd's cousins to jump off a bridge in St Anthony.

It was SO fun and so beautiful.

I am the oldest in my mother's family.  I married young and had eight children.  My children are so much older than any kids in my family.  And so, I really treasure these vacations where my kids are surrounded by cousins!
Idaho is so beautiful!
And, rivers are SO fun.

But the best part is just being together with good, good people.

It is SO fun to talk to Todd's cousins.

I'm so glad that I was here for this day.

Oh, life is beautiful!  People are good!
Honestly, I think I married Idaho.

My happy-go-lucky, kind-hearted, bridge jumping husband is just an Idaho guy.
How can I not love it here?
(I think he loves outspoken, kind-hearted New Yorkers for the same reason I love these people.)

Idaho you have my heart.

Day 8- Friends

We ate lunch with the married children of some of our dearest friends from Oregon.

It is impossible for me to believe that we only lived in Oregon for two years and that I was in the hospital or on bed rest for most of the last year. These boys were away at college or on missions, and yet they still feel like my beloved nephews.  

What a great time of life!  They are both newlywed and still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

Can I tell you something?  Mormons absolutely have this marriage thing right!!

Because we believe in a Law of Chastity which means we have no sexual relations with another person unless we are legally and lawfully married, and because we believe that marriage and "family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."  We marry young and we have short engagements.

This may sound judgemental, but I feel like LDS weddings are REAL beginnings. 

LDS weddings are what marriages used to be.  Two people starting out life together.  Because they have nothing, their weddings are simple and beautiful.  They really NEED wedding gifts.  They are two virgins who use their honeymoon to get to know each other.  

LDS weddings are in stark contrast to the Reality TV images of "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Bridezilla".  They are not a worldly show of money and glamour.  They are beautiful.  

There is SUCH beauty in starting out life together.  Marriage as a beginning is so much more than marriage as a seal-the-deal after we've lived together for five years.  

Isn't it hard to believe that we are now the old advice givers?

I love college-age kids!

This is a picture of me with my dearest friend, Taneil.  We were together in BYU married student housing and we have talked almost weekly over the past 16 years.  My oldest was born a day before her second child, and we also had our last babies (my eighth and her seventh) just one day apart.  (Even though she was originally due three months before me.)

We are so very different and so similar!  Our souls are melded.  I love this lady!  I love her children.  I love her husband.  I'm SO grateful for her touch in my life.

For years we talked every Tuesday while we have cleaned our homes.  (Somehow her clean has always been more effective than mine!)  Those conversations are holy spaces in my life.

I love that our children are becoming good friends and I'm still trying to get her to send her kids out to my mini-farm for a visit.

We spent the night at their home and it was lovely.  She is lovely.  Friendship is lovely.

We both have had really large struggles in our lives. Our journey has had ups and downs.  It still does.  But, oh there is joy in walking through life with someone.

I'm grateful I was married young.
I love the journey we have taken together.
I'm grateful for friends!!  
Life is good!! 
Friends make life good.

Day 8- Home

Todd smiled as we drove into the Teton Valley and said, "This place feels like home."

I can't describe to you my feelings for Rexburg, Idaho and the good people who live here.  We were dating the first time Todd brought me to meet his family. His parents grew up in Sugar City, Idaho- home of the sugar beet mascot.  His grandparents were farmers and educators.

In fact, BYU-I, formerly Ricks College, was named after Thomas E. Ricks (Todd's great-great grandfather).

I was quite an oddity when we first visited (I still am if the truth be told).  We watched a John Wayne movie together with Todd's cousins.  Halfway through I asked who John Wayne was and whether or not he was a good or a bad guy.

I hugged and kissed Todd's aunts AND UNCLES.  They were shocked.  I guess these farmer-types don't kiss like my New Jersey Italian family does.  Ha!

When they talked about Provo, Utah being a town so big and far away, I laughed.  They weren't joking.  Oops.

My in-laws had their hands full with me.  It was a rocky, somewhat humorous beginning.

I know that I dreamed of feeling at home with these people, and today I do.  These are our people and they are so, so good.

I wish each of you could come to my in-laws home.  It's perfect.  My mother-in-law is honestly the most balanced person I know.  Her house is in order.  She is able to serve because her foundation is steady.  I actually go into a slight daze when I get here and compare her home to mine.

She insists I will feel greater order as my kids get older, but I know it is deeper than that.  She has an absolute contentment in her role as a wife, homemaker, and mother.  She is so healthy mentally.  It is really neat to watch.

My mother-in-law is a planner and a doer.  Her home is not fancy or trendy, but it is so tidy and functional and well cared for.

I believe this Rexburg home feels like a temple.  This is hard to do with 35 grandchildren running around.  But, they do it.  I believe these people "Live after the manner of happiness."

In a day and age where good families are rare and rapidly disentegrating- I wish everyone could feel this home, this community.

Jakob has been spending his summer months here.  I'm so grateful that he knows these people.  He is one of them.

Todd grew up in CA, MI, and MD.  Whenever life got crazy (like during the Detroit riots), his mom would say, "I wish we could all pack up and move to Bitch Crick."  (Mormons like to use bad language when naming places so they have an excuse to cuss every now and then.  Ha!)  I say the same thing.  There is safety out here near Bitch Crick.  

Rexburg feels like home to me.
In fact, Todd and I own burial plots here in the local cemetery.

I was so insecure and defensive when we were engaged.  I remember posting the scripture in Ruth on my wall-
16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

It felt like that kind of love was impossible-- and yet here we are. 

For the next few weeks, I will feel so grateful for this respite.  My husband says this place feels like home.  I say, I wish my home felt like this place.

I feel so grateful for home, so grateful for family.
Life is good.

July 25, 2015

Day 7- Martin's Cove

It was the most beautiful day as we pulled into Martin's Cove.

Our family had been sick the night before and we were still a bit queasy.  I think hearing stories of pioneer families stuck in the snow with little food and much sickness was just what we needed to keep our spirits raised.

While the trek West was difficult for almost everyone, two specific handcart companies (the Willie and Martin companies) had a series of unfortunate events causing them to be stuck walking when a harsh winter came.  26% of the people in these handcart companies died.  

Their food was rationed to 4oz of flour per person per day.  

Mostly fathers died.  Fathers often gave their food to their hungry children.  They physically pushed their bodies farther then they could go.  This excerpt from one teenage son's story really touched me.

When Brigham Young heard there were Saints still traveling to the Valley he said, “Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with hand-carts, … and they must be brought here. … Go and bring in those people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, … otherwise your faith will be in vain.” 11

Todd's ancestor, Thomas E. Ricks was amoung the initial rescue group.  
I'm not surprised!  Todd has carried me when I could no longer walk.  I love that my children have his pioneer legacy mixed with my own pioneer legacy.

Although my heart aches for the sacrifice of these early pioneers, I absolutely think that we need their story to inspire us today.  The depth of their sacrifice carved the depth of their testimonies and sealed their families to them.  

Independence Rock-
Just a few miles outside of Martin's Cove is Independence Rock.  If pioneers made it to that rock before July 4, they would make it to Utah before winter.  

They carved their names in the rock.  It was fun to climb and fun to find names carved in. 
We all touched this...
Oh!  I love history.  I love to feel the depth of conviction and sacrifice that these Mormon pioneers had.

I want to be more like them.
If you have a chance, visit Martin's Cove. It is LOVELY.
These places are holy.  Not because of the place, but because of the stories.  Sometimes places or relics help us to know people.  These people in our past actually help to shape our future.

I want my kids to all be part of the initial rescue teams!  I want them to be healthy enough, strong enough, and aware enough that they are called and they are there to help.

Sometimes we all need a lift up.
Life is good when we work together.

July 24, 2015

The Disease of Love

My 35 year old sister in law, and mother of six young children, was diagnosed with breast cancer just as we were preparing to travel West.  She went quickly through initial diagnosis and mastectomy and is now healing up to start chemo while we are still here in Idaho.

Todd's Aunt Marilyn has lived with his parents for many years with MS.  She was recently hospitalized with a UTI and pneumonia.  She seems to me to be hovering weakly between life and death.

As part of a Hope for Accreta support group, my heart is continually wracked as new members share their shock at initial diagnosis and older members suffer through relentless reconstruction and repair surgeries.  Oh, my soul.  I FEEL these mothers.

We just spent one week touring historical sights of early Mormon pioneers who sacrificed so much, too much.

The last time we were here, at my in-laws, I was pregnant and bleeding.  I had not yet been diagnosed with Placenta Accreta.  

I am swimming in my emotions.  My eyes are quick to tear up and my heart is just about to burst.  

Oh, life!!  Life is so precious.   

I have been taught that this life is a time for trial and testing.  

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. 
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. 
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, 2 Nephi 2)

My sister-in-law was told that breast cancer is the disease of love.  She has already felt the love of so many.

Yes!!  I know it.  I have tasted death and I know that suffering carves a place in your soul that makes your capacity to see and feel joy so much stronger.  When you taste death, you are SO grateful for life.  You love and you know you are loved.

But, when you suffer, you know suffering.  

Sometimes my bleeding heart cries to the Heavens-- "Is there no other way?"

I'm so sorry if you are hurting and afraid.  I'm sorry if you're weighed down with worries about health, finances, children, or your future.  I'm sorry if death is near you or one you love.  My kids like to tease that our mortality rate is 100%.  This Earth life is a temporary gift.

We all come to a point in life where we learn to surrender.  

Surrender to your Father in Heaven, He is near, He will give you peace and comfort.

He will consecrate every sacrifice for your gain.  Your family will be blessed.  God is good and His plan for you IS a plan of happiness.

This morning my husband held me as I sobbed for so many.  I'm embarrassed by my emotion.  But, I'm also grateful that I'm feeling this and that I'm not numb to it.  I have great love and with that love comes great sorrow and great joy.

Today, I'm praying for you.
I know He walks near you.
Take His hand!  Feel hope in Christ.
Life is eternal and life is good.
All these things shall be for thy good and shall give thee experience.
I know it.

Today is Pioneer Day.
I'm sad for the Pioneers and also so grateful for them.
They sang-

  1. 1. Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
    But with joy wend your way.
    Though hard to you this journey may appear,
    Grace shall be as your day.
    'Tis better far for us to strive
    Our useless cares from us to drive;
    Do this, and joy your hearts will swell--
    All is well! All is well!
  2. 2. Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
    'Tis not so; all is right.
    Why should we think to earn a great reward
    If we now shun the fight?
    Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
    Our God will never us forsake;
    And soon we'll have this tale to tell--
    All is well! All is well!
  3. 3. We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
    Far away in the West,
    Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
    There the Saints will be blessed.
    We'll make the air with music ring,
    Shout praises to our God and King;
    Above the rest these words we'll tell--
    All is well! All is well!
  4. 4. And should we die before our journey's through,
    Happy day! All is well!
    We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
    With the just we shall dwell!
    But if our lives are spared again
    To see the Saints their rest obtain,
    Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell--
    All is well! All is well!
  5. Text: William Clayton, 1814-1879
    Music: English folk song

    My life was spared to see the Saints their rest obtain.

    And now my soul makes this chorus swell--
    All is well!!  All is well!
    Thank you for sharing your life with me.

    Life is good!!
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