Find-a-Friend Friday: Meet Amber

Today I’m happy to introduce you to Amber.  She and I have not met in person (yet), but I’m excited you get the chance to meet her today the same way I did– through her writing.  Amber is a kind blog friend who always drops by and leaves nice comments, and whenever I visit her blog, I’m impressed with her candor and her “voice.”  She’s been very open about her struggles and personal challenges and I believe her readers feel safe with her.  Without further ado, here’s Amber.

Before I begin, I want to thank Stephanie profusely for allowing me to introduce myself to all of you.  Stephanie is a wonderful writer who often reminds me to look at the Eternal perspective of motherhood rather than the rather dreary aspects.  Thank you, Stephanie!  (You’re welcome, Amber.  Aw, shucks.)

My name is Amber.  I am 23 and married to my high school sweetheart.  (Granted, I was in high school and he was, ahem, graduated when we started dating, but I still think it counts.)  We married shortly after he returned home from his mission–in which we kept up a correspondence–and made sure to keep things busy from the beginning by having 2 kids within 14 months of each other (Emily, 2 1/2, and Andrew, 15 months). And we were both in school.  Trial by fire? We’ve got that covered. As crazy as it can be, I would do it all over again in an instant and we both hope to add more to our brood in the coming years.  Right now we hail from the great desert of Utah but will soon be relocating to the Midwest for the wonderful, new adventure of medical school (my husband, not me).

I am from Boise, originally, and came from a large family: I am the second of ten. I was–and am–probably the most motherly of our clan.  As soon as I reached a mature age, I was taking care of the little ones as much as I could.  I suppose my most positive attribute, then and now, was my ability to put work first.  My mother often recounts stories of me cleaning up after both my sisters when we shared a room.  Even as I grew older, I would try to complete my chores before reading my books or doing my homework unless my mother excused me from these duties.

As my parents had not considered college, they felt it pertinent that their children not follow in their footsteps and greatly encouraged us to prepare for college at a young age.  I knew exactly where I wanted to go by the time I was in 4th grade: BYU.  I accomplished this dream and graduated with a BS in Marriage, Family, and Human Development shortly before Andrew was born.  Even though it was difficult being a student, mother, and wife I knew I needed to complete my education–no matter the sacrifice.

This attitude of perseverance has helped support me as I support Ben in his school and work aspirations.  Though I know our road is a long one, I do believe that in the end it will be worth it if my husband is doing something he really loves.

1.     What’s your favorite part of motherhood?

Waking up with daily affirmations that I am adored by my beautiful children when I hear these cries from their room: “Mommy!  Mommmy!”  Despite my many imperfections, Emily will inevitably give me her most dazzling smile even after I’ve muddled things up horribly.  Andrew wants me to hold him constantly.  He is my snuggly bug and I wouldn’t trade it for an instant.  I suppose my favorite thing, then, is the sweet and tender love I have for my babies.

2.     What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?

This is a tough one.  I’ll have to go with cooking.  I would provide the menu if someone would cook it for me.  I can even taste the delicious meals they would prepare: Fettucine Alfredo, Spinach Ravioli, Carne Asada tacos, a variety of Thai dishes.  My mouth is watering as I type.

3.     Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.”  (Some things you’d like to do before you die.)

I would like to continue on with my education by getting a Master’s degree in social work followed by a Ph.D in therapy.  Then I would like to open a non-profit clinic and serve the needy populations: immigrants, minorities, and women.  Finally, I would like to serve medical missions with my husband to different third-world countries.

4.     Brag for a minute.  Do it.  What are a few things that you’re pretty good at?

I am very disciplined.   For instance, at the beginning of the year I set a goal to exercise 3-5 days a week.  Because of my husband’s very busy schedule, he is not home long enough for me to exercise without the children.  So, I strap my children into our double jogging stroller and run with them. When the weather turned frigid and I couldn’t run outside anymore, I found something I could do inside: Workout programs on Netflix instant play.  Depending on the day, I workout to them either when the kids are awake or when they are asleep.  This allows me to keep my body fit and show my kids how fun exercise can be.  My Emily often asks to do “Pilates” with me.
I am also good at changing my parenting methods when I see something isn’t going well.  Though it requires patience and sacrifice, I try to cater my parenting to fit the needs of my kids rather than doing what is most convenient.  Mind you, I am not perfect but I am more flexible than not.

5.     What are you loving lately?

Listening to my kids’ laugh.  Snuggling with my husband.  Waking up to a clean kitchen.  Folding and putting away laundry while watching a favorite movie.  Listening to Stuff You Missed in History Class podcasts.  Reading Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser.  Taking walks to the library (when the temperatures are above freezing) and bringing back new kid’s books to read to Emily.

6.     Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why?

“Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life.  May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.” President Thomas S. Monson, Relief Society broadcast in October.

I believe that as women, within in the church or without, have the ability to strengthen each other.  Often, though, we resort to judging and criticizing others in areas in which we feel inadequate.  I think about this quote often when I think about other women and mothers and try to apply it to my own thought patterns.

7.     What do you gravitate toward during your unscheduled time?

What is this “unscheduled time” you speak of?  Unscheduled time is a luxury that I do not have yet!  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t do fun things during the day with the kids.  Rather than stay cooped up inside the house, I try to take the kids on walks to the library.  This provides me with a chance to check-out new books for me and the kids to enjoy, teaches them how joyful reading can be, and gives us time to enjoy nature while exercising (the library is a twenty minute walk from our apartment).  Also, I enjoy watching documentaries while folding laundry.  This way I am entertained while completing necessary chores.

8.     Tell us some of your best mom-tricks  (things you’ve figured out that work well for you).

Emily is two and very, very moody.  When she hits her brother more or has frequent melt-downs, I try to think about what could be causing this and how I can ease her frustrations.  Sometimes it can be hunger, exhaustion, or sickness. Other times it is a change in our routine or in our schedules.  When Ben needed to pick up a second job, Emily became very very grumpy.  It wasn’t until a week into his new schedule that I realized her grumpiness came from missing her daddy so much.  Rather than reacting to her melt-downs, I would hold and comfort her so she knew I understood her pain.

9.     What’s something you don’t usually want people to know about you, but that they need to know if they’re going to be your friend?

First, I am very socially conscious.  I often take the perspective of someone who has grown up in different circumstances and with different values when engaging in a serious conversation.  I am also very scientific in my conclusions so will poke holes in theories often postulated in the media.  Many people find my beliefs “liberal” or “unconventional” but, as cliche as this sounds, I try my hardest to use Jesus as an example for how I think about issues.

Second, I laugh.  A lot.  Especially when I am uncomfortable.  So if we do engage in a serious conversation, I will most likely insert quite a few self-deprecating jokes and laugh at things in a slightly awkward manner.  In some ways, this can be very offensive to people.  But I am not making fun of other’s opinions when I laugh, it is a nervous habit I’ve developed.

10. If you were in charge of a girls’ night out, what kind of activity would you love to plan?

Planning? Me? I prefer to attend activities that someone else has planned.  Ha!  So, I’ve never actually been on a “girls’ night out” and I feel very out-of-touch with this type of thing.  I suppose good food and conversation would be a good start.

11. Friends are great for venting.  What’s been frustrating you lately?

Having my husband work two jobs.  There are so many days that I would love to have him home to chat about our  kids and other little things from our day.  Right now, when he finally gets home–very late–we are both too tired to do anything but conk out.  It can be really lonely after an exhausting day!  And I would love to have a little help when it comes to household chores.  I spend at least 3 hours after the kids are in bed cleaning and folding laundry.  This leaves very little time to do anything else.

12. What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of?

Emily’s favorite song is “I Love to See the Temple.”  It has become a favorite of mine as well.  After I had a recent miscarriage, I took comfort in listening to Emily sing this song over and over again.  I know with all my heart that families can be together.

I also know that Heavenly Father cares for each and every one of us. No matter how simple our problems might seem he wants us to come unto Him.

Tell us about your blog:

I blog at Making the Moments Count.  I write about my struggles with anxiety and depression; about my intense love for my husband and children; and occasionally about social issues.  I also do a weekly meme in which readers are encouraged to write about their triumphs in parenting–whether in philosophy or in specific moments–during the week and link up so we can support and build each other.  My main purpose is promoting a community of understanding and support in parenthood so that we can see how various methods work for different people and that there is not one particular way to parent children.

Thanks, Amber! Wasn’t that great? Next week, we’ll meet another new friend. Watch your email inbox; it might be you! If you want to get in on the fun, add a comment on this post. I’ll do a random selection from there every week.

Um, ouch. But in a good way.

I played basketball tonight for the first time in ???? years.  Full court, two 15-20 minute halves.  Final score 70-something to 60-something.  Not bad, huh?  (I’m pretty sure I made less than 10 points, but I did not die, which felt like a major accomplishment.) It was really fun, but I’m already afraid to wake up in the morning.  There’s nothing like a few sprints up and down the court to remind you you’re not as young and spry as you used to be.

It feels good to do something I used to love and haven’t done for a long time.  Feels good in a my-muscles-might-combust-and-I-may-perish kind of way, but still.

(I could have written about how I’ve had the same dirty dishes in my sink for two days and accidentally forgot to show up to a meeting last night that I was in CHARGE of, but this seemed more satisfying.)

Sweet Emma Smith

We all know that behind every good man is a great woman, so it goes to reason that behind a great man is a remarkable woman.  Emma Smith was no exception. In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith was called at a young age to be the inexperienced prophet of a long-prophesied Restoration of the church that Jesus Christ had established while upon the earth.  Joseph became an instrument in the hands of God and the leader of a fledgling church, both assignments which laid heavy burdens upon him and made him the target of much opposition.  Despite his unprecedented faith, his undying work and perseverance, and his naturally pleasant nature, he was often downtrodden.  His suffering was sometimes unimaginable.  During this long refiner’s fire that the Prophet Joseph was chosen to endure, God saw fit to bless him with the company and support of a good woman, a help-meet in every sense of the word.

Emma Smith was a ministering angel in the flesh to her prophet husband.  She faced the same threats, trials, and discouragement that Joseph did, and notwithstanding her own suffering, she offered much-needed support to him and consistently reached out to others in service.  As expected with any female figure who plays an important role in the history of mankind, Emma and her story are somewhat controversial.  Her motives and choices are sometimes questioned, especially during the period after her husband’s martyrdom.  We cannot begin to imagine the depth of her sorrow or the extent of her exhaustion on every level– physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion– by the point that her husband was murdered.  I’m afraid that she is one of the most misjudged characters in Church history, if not in the overall history of modern religion.

I have a dear friend who, because of her own personal testimony and because of opportunities given to her by her Heavenly Father, has made it one of her life’s missions to dispel the myths about Emma Smith.  She has dedicated years of study and prayer and thought to understanding Emma’s life, Emma’s history, and Emma’s heart.  This past weekend, she was invited to be the keynote speaker at a historical convention in Nauvoo, Illinois to speak about Emma’s story.  She felt overcome by the weight of the assignment, knowing that she would be speaking to a combined LDS and non-LDS audience, many of which have longstanding tight-held opinions about Emma.  However, over the years, she has developed a friendship with Emma, and despite her fears and anxiety about participating in this event, she prepared and fasted and prayed and pleaded that she might somehow be able to honor Emma through this opportunity.  That choice didn’t come without opposition either, but she did it and survived, and I’m very proud of her. She gave me permission to share this media clip that she and her husband prepared for her presentation.  (And incidentally, she received copyright permission to use the clips and music used here.)  I hope you can take five minutes to watch it and think about how remarkable Emma Smith truly was.

I know that Joseph loved his Emma dearly, and he must appreciate so much any efforts that we make to really know her and understand her.  I’m confident he wants us to appreciate her as he did.  She stands as an example to us of an “elect lady” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:3), and there’s so much we can learn from her still.  I’m thankful for what she did, for the price that she herself paid, so that her husband could do what the Lord called him to do.  The fruits of their sacrifice provided the framework of my faith, my family and my hope.  I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to honor both her and my friend.  (Thanks, Shantel.)

GCBC Week 19: The Divine Gift of Gratitude

This week we will study President Monson’s general conference talk,

“The Divine Gift of Gratitude”
by President Thomas S. Monson

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to discuss with an aunt her recent trip to Ghana to pick up her missionary son.  We talked about how amazing it is that people who have so little, and who spend their days solely in matters of sustenance– food, water, provisions, are so kind and vibrant and happy and generous.  It didn’t take long to turn our conversation to the sad reality of how blessed we are and how often we take our blessings for granted.  In short, when we have so much to be happy about, we are often ungrateful.

“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”

What did you learn and/or understand better from President Monson’s talk?  What did you feel like it encouraged you to do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it.)

Find-a-Friend Friday: Meet Jocelyn

Ladies, meet Jocelyn. I first “met” her several months ago when she and Chocolate on My Cranium were co-hosting a month of celebrating the proclamation on the family.  I quickly recognized her as a great mom, good writer, and a downright quality person.  I’m excited you can get to know her now, too.



Hi!  Nice to meet you! My name is Jocelyn Christensen.  I am a 33-year-old wife and mother of three children, ages 5, 3, and 2.  My family and I live in Central Pennsylvania in a small town called Lewisburg.  Honestly, I am at a loss for what to tell you about  myself, since I am way more comfortable being the one asking the questions…but I’ll give it my best shot!  I am excited to be here to kick off Find-A-Friend Friday on Diapers & Divinity!  Thank you, Stephanie, for hosting this fun way to get to know other awesome women out there!

A few things that make me…Me: I am the middle child in a family of five children.  I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland.  My parents taught me the gospel, and the importance of standing by my convictions.  According to legend, I didn’t speak a word until I was three years old.  About that time, my great-grandma came to live with us.  I became her shadow, and under her loving companionship I finally found my voice!  Since then, I have certainly made up for lost time.

I have been accused (by my own sister) of having the sense of humor of Elaine on Seinfeld, the personality of Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec, and that I bear an uncanny resemblance to Giada De Laurentiis, the cook from Everyday Italian (*In my dreams!…although I do wear an apron just about EVERY day!)

In high school, I played just about every sport possible.  I was also a band-geek and a cheerleader.  When I am really happy, I do back hand-springs in my dreams, and for a moment, I can feel the thrill of flipping again!  Dreaming is really important me.

I have always loved to write.  Before becoming a stay-at-home Mother, I worked as a guest booker for CNN, which means that I met, worked with, and interviewed tons of celebrities and politicians on a daily basis.  It was awesome.  I think Motherhood is even more awesome.

I have been truly blessed by the Lord in my life.  In the process of making my dreams come true, he has also given me many opportunities to serve him and others, and for that I am forever thankful.  I believe that the Lord will use each of us to do great things if we let him.

1.     What’s your favorite part of motherhood?

My favorite part of motherhood so far is the growth and changes that I have seen in myself. My children have helped me to reach heights that I never imagined, explore talents that I never knew existed, and brought me more of a creative outlet than I have ever experienced before they came along.  Many people have asked me how I could leave my “dream job” behind to be a stay-home Mom.  What those people do not understand is that because of my children and my choice to stay home with them, I have been able to live my life to the fullest.   Motherhood, like any other job, is what you put into it.

2.     What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?

I would hire someone to do my laundry in a heartbeat…also someone to clean my floors! It would sure take the load off of my butler…aka my husband! 🙂

3.     Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.”  (Some things you’d like to do before you die.)

1.  Publish a book
2.  Overcome my carb addiction
3.  Serve a mission in Brazil

4.     Brag for a minute.  Do it.  What are a few things that you’re pretty good at?

I am pretty good at telling bedtime stories.  I never imagined that I would be, because frankly, I’m self-conscious about looking foolish!  But just the other night, I was totally cracking my kids up with a custom-made story.  My son was laughing so hard.  He begged me to tell it again and he said, “Mom, I’m laughing so hard, I think I am going to throw up!”  Making my kids laugh so hard that they think they are going to blow chunks.  That was truly one of my proudest moments! 🙂

I think that I am also good at finding joy in the  journey.  I want to enjoy Motherhood, so I try to enjoy it, even when it’s a crappy day, and nobody’s lining up to give me an award for being good at my job, I still try my best to find the good.  It’s not always a bed of roses, but I do believe that attitude is everything!
I also LOVE teaching my children about Jesus Christ and his gospel.  This is very, very fulfilling for me…and empowering.

5.     What are you loving lately?

Sitting outside for 10 minutes (at least) a day…searching the sky for the smallest HINT of SUNSHINE.

My nightly bath.  I cannot go to sleep without a good soak.  Even if it only lasts five minutes, this is my Me Time.

The blog Scriptorium Blogorium.  She’s one smart, insightful lady.  I really hope to understand and apply the scriptures someday as well as she does.

6.     Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why?

I live by a few unwritten rules.  One is “Once a friend, always a friend”.  Once you are on my “friend list”, you can’t get away very easily.  I consider everyone who has ever helped me, worked with me, cared for me, mentored me, taught me, or known me to be a friend.  I genuinely care about all of these people in my life.  Once I consider you a friend, it’s hard to shake me!  I once ran against my best friend for class president and won.  Over 20 years later, she and I are still very dear friends.  I try not to let little things get in the way of friendship and loving others.

Another thing I say is “Everyone has their thing…” This is my way of stopping myself when I feel like criticizing something that someone does that I think is lame!  I think everyone has their “thing”…the “thing” is basically their own personal idiocyncracies…and I have them too.  So when I say, “Everyone has their thing,” I am acknowledging that I have some dumb things that I tend to do just like everyone else, so I should shut my mouth about it! 🙂

I have a long-held policy against “Unnecessary Risk”…that is doing anything that could possibly result in bodily injury…especially paralysis.  My sister used to laugh at me, because I wouldn’t even run down hills.  Not that I’m not athletic.  I’m just really careful with my body.  Weird, huh?  I do however take risks when it comes to social situations or professional endeavors.  I think taking risks, such as sky-diving, is selfish and I would NEVER do it!

I could probably go on and on about this question…but instead I’ll refer you to a book that really lit my fire about 10 years ago called Magic Words: 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life’s Challenges by Howard Kaminsky and Alexandra Penney.  It’s a good one!

7.     What do you gravitate toward during your unscheduled time?

Writing…conspiring…blogging, and planning my next big project.

8.     Tell us some of your best mom-tricks  (things you’ve figured out that work well for you).

Slow down.  I came from an industry that measures time in seconds.  Everything happens so fast that they have even adopted a language of communication that conveys meaning in the briefest possible time.  Instead of saying, “Please save that story to run another day,” we’d say, “Kill it”.  Instead of saying, “Please wait, I need to answer this question,” we’d say “stand-by”.

In Motherhood though, you must slow down long enough to really hear and listen to your children.  There are no short-cuts in good communication when you’re a Mom.

9.     What’s something you don’t usually want people to know about you, but that they need to know if they’re going to be your friend?

In addition to being a loud-talker (especially on the phone or when I am excited)…I tend to interrupt a lot in conversation.  It’s soooo rude, but I get really excited when I’m talking with a friend.  I usually interrupt just to AGREE with the person talking.  (I know it doesn’t make sense!)  I rationalize it by saying that I am being an “active listener”.  I TRY not to do it…but it’s a hard habit to break!  I am embarrassed by this habit, but if you are going to be my friend, you need to be aware of it and hopefully understanding of it!!

10. If you were in charge of a girls’ night out, what kind of activity would you love to plan?

I would plan a volleyball tournament…but I’d have to have girlfriends who know how to really play.  I am itching to hit a volleyball really, really hard.  That is something that I miss, now that I am a Mom.  I hate running on a treadmill.  It seems like a ridiculous way to exercise, but that’s what I have to do, since I don’t know that many people who share my love of bump, set, spiking!

11. Friends are great for venting.  What’s been frustrating you lately?

My eating habits.  I am completely addicted to carbs and sugar. I also LOVE to bake for my children…ahem…and for myself.  It’s fun and tasty…and totally counter-productive!  hee hee!  It gets me through stressful days and is a fun bonding activity to do with  my kids.

12. What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of?

I am most sure of the fact that families are forever.  I love the truths found in the Family Proclamation.  Every time I teach the principles found in this inspired document to my young children, my testimony grows.  I am also sure that the world needs good women who are willing to walk away from the world’s expectations and be the Mothers that our children and families need us to be.  Knowing that the Lord will help me do this is very comforting to me.

Tell us about your blog:

I blog about my life as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ways that I teach my children about Christ, and what the Spirit teaches me through experience at “We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ”.  (http://beinglds.blogspot.com)  I share ideas about teaching children about Christ and strengthening the family.

Currently, I am hosting something that I call Service Boot Camp.  Service Boot Camp is a call for women every where to join together in serving a specific cause.  In past Service Boot Camps, we have raised money for Haiti, made  journals for grieving military widows, and spent an entire month serving others daily.  This month, we are on a mission to write letters thanking people who have helped us or had a positive influence in our lives.  There are giveaways every day, so please join us!

Thanks, Jocelyn!  Isn’t it fun to meet new people? Next week, we’ll meet another new friend.  Watch your email inbox; it might be you!  If you want to get in on the fun, add a comment on this post.  I’ll do a random selection from there every week.