GCBC Week 22: “Testimony” by Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr.

I’ve seen a recent surge lately of friends and acquaintances struggling a little bit in their testimony.  We all do sometimes, on some level, and our less-than-perfect obedience is evidence of that.  Sometimes failure to consistently keep a commandment is a good indicator that our testimony of that particular doctrine is a little unstable.  Anyway, I’ve seen people asking a lot of questions lately that bloom from doubt.  Questions are great things, because they give us an opportunity to learn if we address them in the right way.  I think some main ingredients in that right way are faith in God’s ability and willingness to answer our questions, and then putting forth the work it requires to seek those answers.  It’s a really important step in gaining confidence in our own understanding of God’s doctrine and His plans for us.

“Testimony” by Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr.

Elder Samuelson tackles some of the basic tactics and attitudes that are an important part of a God-sanctioned search for testimony.  This is one of my favorite parts:  “Everyone who is willing to pay the price—meaning keeping the commandments—may have a testimony. ”  I love this because it coincides so well with Alma’s admonition (in Alma 32) to “experiment upon the word” and also what the Savior himself said when people questioned his teachings, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17).  Obedience with a heart willing to learn is one of the greatest testimony builders of all.  Anyway, he makes a lot of great points — 10 of them to be exact — that were a great review for me.

What stands out to you as you study this talk?  What could this talk help you to do or see differently?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!

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Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Dixie Jo

Today’s interview with Dixie Jo is a chance to meet another fun acquaintance through blogging.  Her answers are some of the most enjoyable I’ve read so far and it’s easy to feel like we could be fast friends, especially if she would let me send my kids to her house when they need a fun mom.  🙂  Meet Dixie Jo:

Hello My Name Is: Dixie Jo Dunn.

“Oh, you must be from the South?” is the most common response that I get when I tell people my name is Dixie Jo.  “No, I am from Utah.”  Most commonly followed by, “Really!? I would have thought with a name like that you were for sure from the South.”  I am sure that is why my dear parents named me Dixie Jo, just to throw people off.  I have to admit, it does make for a good, although repetitive, conversation at get-to-know-you gatherings.  From the South or not, I now live in South Texas.  Which isn’t “The South” that people speak of, and Texas considers itself to be its own thing.  Not South, not West, and not South West.  We are Texas.  My twelve-year-old tells the joke that if all the ice in Alaska melted that Texas would be the largest state.  And that is how proud Texans are.

I am the “Mother of Men.”  My dedicated husband and I have four boys.  I use my spoonfuls of sugar to turn their perpetual energy and ever-increasing mass into refined young men that will someday in my most peaceful dreams be outstanding fathers and husbands.  Their ages are Hallow-leg (12), Always-moving (10), Loudest (5), and Cute-and-terrible-terrific (2).

Other stats you may like to know although I am not sure why. (Read: I am an introvert and don’t like to talk about myself!)   I am 36.  Age has never bothered me.  People keep insisting that it will, but so far, no.  My sweetheart has been all mine for 17 years.  Did you just do math in your head?  Yes, I was a young and blushing 19-year-old when I got married.  My favorite color is purple and it was my favorite color long before purple was the cool hip color that it is today.  I collect penguins, nativities and kitchen gadgets.  My hobbies include wasting time on the computer and internet, dirtying pots and pans (especially baking), sewing with a machine (not by hand) and my latest obsession is the iPad.  (trendy geeky, I know, but true too!)  And because I am married to a lawyer I sometimes think I am one to.

Born and raised in small dots on Utah’s map, (Heber, Vernal, American Fork) I never imagined I would raise my family in the 7th largest city in the country.  I grew up with dirt roads and running through the irrigation water.  My kids are growing up with concrete and water parks in the shadow of the Alamo.  I was raised an only child and always knew Continue reading

And, they’re off!

Clark started school today.  Grant starts tomorrow.  Natalie starts next week.  I tried really hard to be as organized and ready as possible, and so far, so good.  Look how grown up my sweet Clark is.  He lost his front tooth just in time to start 2nd grade.

So I turned over lunch-making responsibilities to the boys for their own school lunches.  I made these boxes of different food categories.  They take one of each, make their own sandwich, and put in the fridge for the morning.  Then I don’t have to worry about it.  It’s part of their evening routine, along with laying out clothes for the next day.  They’re excited, I’m excited.  Hope it works.

And our new schedule/routine is up.  Thanks to Allison for her cool, free people clipart.

Also, about the backtalk problem we’ve had around here, I’m moving forward on a suggestion by my dad while he was visiting.  We just give them a hard-labor job when they are disrespectful.  Today Natalie had a sassy-fit and ended up outside in the yard with a hat and some gloves and was told she could come in for dinner when the bucket was full of weeds.  Just seeing her out there in the yard picking weeds kept the boys on their best behavior for the rest of the night.

I just want to say that, despite my expressions of deep frustration in the past, we have had several weeks in a row of really nice Family Home Evenings.  We still do a lot of policing (“Sit down.”  “Don’t touch each other.”), but we’ve had good gospel discussions, we’ve shared testimonies and experiences, and we’ve felt the Spirit.  I don’t say this to rub it in; I was hoping it might give people some hope that there is life after death-by-Family-Home-Evening.  I’m guessing we’re in a temporary “moments of joy” stage that Elder Ballard testified would come amid the frustrations.

In other news, I had the opportunity to speak at my ward’s youth Standards Night fireside last night.  A couple thoughts about the experience:  1) When you plead with the Lord to help you do something that feels a little overwhelming, He does.  Help you, I mean. 2) While I was studying For the Strength of Youth’s guidelines about Entertainment & Media, I felt the Spirit telling me that he’s been trying to tell me for quite a while that a couple of my favorite shows have gone downhill, and maybe it’s time to let them go.  So I am.  Yes, I’ll miss them, but my life won’t be empty without them.  I only had 2 or 3 shows I followed anyway, so maybe I’ll have time to work on some more important stuff now.  Since I committed to drop them, I already feel something different.

Anyway,  have a great week.  And best wishes to all you back-to-school moms.  We will survive.  Right?

GCBC Week 21: “The Lord’s Richest Blessings” by Elder Carl B. Pratt

As I looked over this talk again, I quickly remembered the great story he told about the bag of coins.  It’s worth studying one more time:

“The Lord’s Richest Blessings”

by Elder Carl B. Pratt

Of the Seventy

I love to pay my tithing because I need to pay my tithing.  With many years of schooling between Matt and I, there have been many (and will still be many) years of financial instability.  I love to write that check and turn it into the bishop because I don’t even want to know what would happen to our budget without paying off that debt to the Lord.  And though I can testify that our monetary needs have often been miraculously okay thanks to tithing, in my heart I also know that this is true:

He fulfills His promises, and if we faithfully pay our tithing, we will not lack for the necessities of life, but He does not promise wealth. Money and bank accounts are not His richest blessings. . . . I have come to understand that the Lord’s richest blessings are spiritual, and they often have to do with family, friends, and the gospel.

What stands out to you as you study this talk?  I would love to hear some of your experiences and testimony related to tithing.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!

Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Laura

Today we all get to meet Laura.  She’s a new acquaintance to me from the lovely world of blogging.  I always liked her profile picture when it showed up in the comments because she just has the look of a genuinely nice person.  Now that I read more about her, I can see that’s true.  We also both served a mission, waited a while before marriage, have 3 children, and are pushing the end of our 30s, so it was fun to find those similarities.  Meet Laura:

Hi!  My name is Laura.  I’m so excited to be over here at Diapers and Divinity today. I sometimes forget that I’m not in my 20’s anymore, but I’m actually almost 40.  I was born in Michigan, which is also where my family joined the LDS Church when I was still pretty young.  I grew up most of my life in the Midwest, the land of green lawns and wet air (gotta love humidity).  I served a mission in Australia (Sydney North Mission) from ’93-’94, where I learned to adore real, tree-ripened mangoes and unusual foods from all over the world.  After graduating from BYU with my MA degree but no hubby, I headed out to Massachusetts for work.  I met Doc through a mutual friend in Iowa (which is a whole ‘nother story I plan to blog about on our anniversary).  After a lengthy long-distance courtship of …. (cough, cough) … a few months, we got engaged (double cough, cough) over the phone and were married less than a year after we met. 
 
My fam consists of first and foremost my hubby, Doc, a (self-described) nerdy scientist and professor – and someone who also still makes my heart flutter after 10 years of marriage. He is an amazing father and the best cheerleader I could have for all of my life’s adventure.  Our three kiddlets are referred to on my blog as (from oldest to youngest) Buddy, Goldie and Eyes (they chose their own names).  Buddy is Doc’s name for our only boy.  Although he looks a lot like me, he is actually a mini-Doc, single-mindedly curious about anything science and math.  He is also a voracious reader, which delights me to no end.  Goldie chose her name because of her hair – very long, blonde, thick and wavy.  She is a wonderful mixture of a strong will and a soft heart.  She has just begun 1st grade, and is our social butterfly.  Eyes is our youngest.  She is playful and silly, creating an imaginary world of lively playmates with any object at hand from a fork to a piece of paper. She also draws people to her with her welcoming smile, gorgeous red hair and huge blue eyes (hence, her online name).
 What’s your favorite part of motherhood?
This might sound crazy but my favorite part of motherhood are those middle-of-the-night times when my children are sick and they need only me.  Of course, I don’t want them to be sick but there is something incredible about being the one who is able to calm my sweet child with a touch.
What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?
I really don’t love housekeeping and organization – I feel like I can never check any of those things off my list as being really completed.  BUT, with that said, I do like the feeling of having a clean, tidy, ordered home.  But, yeah, if I could – I just wish I could subcontract the whole lot out. 
What are you loving lately?
I’ve been working on a 40 by 40 list – 40 things I want to do or places I want to go or things I want to buy before I turn 40 next year.  I created the list after my mom passed away in January – basically because I wanted to stop being scared/hesitant to try new things.  So I’ve tried to choose items that either scare the dickens out of me (like singing in Church – CHECK!) or that I would otherwise just feel frivolous marking off without an extra push (like a stove with a double oven even though our stove works perfectly fine).   What I’ve really enjoyed about this list is that it has pushed me out of my comfort zone.  For example, I have wanted take piano lessons for YEARS, but now I have a pressing reason.  
Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why?
“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”  (D&C123:17, emphasis mine)
While I’m sure I had read this scripture before, I was first really “shown” this scripture by an incredible single professor/mentor at BYU, Sister Mary Lee Scott (now Call).  I actually don’t think I ever had a class from her.  Instead, I think I mustered up the courage one day to ask her for some advice.  She graciously welcomed me into her office and into her life, showing me an incredible example of a faithful woman who created a fulfilling life for herself while she waited patiently on the Lord for His plan to be fulfilled.  When she first shared this scripture with me, she looked into my eyes and recited it from memory.  I felt the Lord promise me that, like Mary Lee, I should also CHEERFULLY do what I could and then I could just stand still and wait for Him to show me His plan for me
Tell us some of your best mom-tricks  (things you’ve figured out that work well for you).
Buddy would eat anything we put in front of him, so we were a bit surprised when Goldie became a toddler and we found out how picky a child could be.  For several months, we were just not sure how to handle her pickiness – I couldn’t bear to make something different for her, throw food away she didn’t want OR make her sit in her chair until she cleaned her plate.  The idea we came up with has worked beautifully for us because we NEVER argue with any of the kids about food. If they don’t want to eat something (or if they get full before they finish what’s on their plate), they just put the plate in the fridge.  They know that they can eat the leftovers (I’ll warm it up) whenever they’re hungry – but they can’t get anything else to eat until they finish their previous meal.  Our kids eat don’t like everything I make, but I think they feel a great deal of power being able to choose when they want to tackle an undesirable food.
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?
I’m not terribly organized – I want to be (or perhaps I want to want to be?), but alas I’m not.  Now that we’re friends, can I trust you not to tell other people about this secret?  
Friends are great for venting.  What’s been frustrating you lately?
The whining and fighting amongst my kidlets.   I started using warm fuzzy jars, and that really encouraged the kidlets to find ways to be kind to each other.  But, with school starting a couple of weeks ago, everybody (including me) is just tired.  So emotions have been high again.  Do any of you have any strategies you’d like to share?
What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of?
I know that the path that the Gospel lays out is the easiest way (even if it appears hard in the moment) and the surest way to find happiness.  I have seen how the Gospel can lift broken hearts during even the most difficult trials and heal bent spirits burdened by sin and guilt.   Unfortunately, I have also seen the unhappiness and confusion in the lives of some of my loved ones who have rejected the sure path.  
What homemaking job/task gives you the most satisfaction?
I really enjoy cooking – and I think I do it pretty well.  I don’t use recipes very often when I cook – I will usually look at a few to get an idea where I want to go with something, and then just wing it from there.  Lately, I’ve begun to bake which has been much more intimidating for me because I still want to adapt recipes but I don’t know the underlying principles enough to wing it as well. 
Give your best advice to a newlywed or expectant mom.
Before I was married, I had frequently heard the rule “Don’t go to bed angry.”  However, sometimes emotions are high simply because it’s late and one (or both) of us is tired (or hungry – when Doc and I were both working, we tried to avoid serious discussions before dinner).  So I’ve found that it’s usually better to put a serious or emotional discussion on hold until both parties are fed and rested.  On a related note, always take time during the companionship prayer at night to pray for the other – especially when you have been discussing a difficult issue. There is something so tender about hearing my sweet husband pray for my needs and express gratitude for me – and those type of prayers help smooth out the disagreements.
What’s something unexpected in your life, and how have you dealt with it?
I always had my life pretty planned out when I was younger, so it was entirely unexpected how unplanned life ended up.  I had an incredible Gospel Doctrine teacher who helped me dive into the scriptures in a way I hadn’t before.  I began to seek out examples of individuals who were asked to wait on the Lord: Old Testament women like Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, and even Leah; New Testament men and women like Elizabeth and Simeon; or Book of Mormon men and women like Lehi and Sariah, Abish, the mothers of the Stripling Warriors, and Nephi.  I saw how often the Lord strengthens those who remain faithful while they are waiting.  I learned that the Lord commands us to find joy – and not simply endure – when we face the unexpected.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot BikiniHA!  Just kidding!  Boy!  This is a tough question – the first song that popped into my head is “Singing in the Rain”, which actually isn’t a bad choice. Not that this song necessarily describes who I am right now, but rather who I’m working to be like.  I want to be the type of person who can find joy in my journey, even if I am in the midst of a particularly grueling portion.  Plus, I just showed the movie to my kids for the first time and they loved it (yeah!). 
If you could make a pie chart (graph) of your thoughts during the last week or so, what would take up most of the space?
Preparing for a new calling I’ve been given that I am a little nervous about.  I’ve been amazed as I’ve been thinking and praying about it that the Lord has actually been preparing me for it for the last couple of years.
Tell us about your blog.
I blog over at Living a Big Story.  I actually wrote a post here about why I started my blog.  But, to put it in a nutshell, I began the blog a couple of months after my mom died.  
Doesn’t she look so sweet in this picture?  And she truly was.  But one not-so-wonderful characteristic that I inherited from my mom was worrying.  We both worry.  A LOT!   After her death, I thought a lot about what it meant to challenge my fears and move outside of what feels comfortable to me. So I began a blog that I hoped would encourage myself, and any who read it, to live what I call a big story.  In so doing, I hope we can realize that we can all be more but we are still already enough.

 

Thank you so much, Laura.  It’s been great to “meet” you. Say hello to Laura in the comments below or jump over to her blog to visit her there.

My four-year-old hates me, and other parenting tidbits.

She does.  She just told me in a very elevated voice.  She also told me that I’m the worst mom she’s ever had (she has a point) and that she’s not talking to me for the rest of the day (thankyouverymuch).  So that’s that.

About 2 weeks ago I was kind of dreading the end of summer because I think I’ll miss the lazy schedule.  However, in an unexpected case of divine intervention, God turned my children in to little demons this week to restore my hope in and love for the back-to-school season.  He always watches out for me like that. No, really, he does.

Speaking of back to school, this year I will have 3 children in three different schools, none of which will have a bus.  Shoot me now.  Either that, or send me a personal assistant.  Natalie’s just in preschool, but it’s still another pick-up and drop-off to juggle.  Jocelyn wrote a great post asking her readers for advice on sending her oldest to kindergarten.  I thought to myself, Hey, I should do that.  I have smart readers.  And I need back-to-school advice.

So help me out.  Besides from the obvious step of trying to work out some kind of life-saving carpool schedule, what other advice do you have for me as I enter the new world of juggling 3 children, 3 schools, 3 schedules, 3 calendars, 3 sets of homework, 3 lunches, etc. (not to mention extracurriculars which I still have not registered for out of deep fear)?  Even just typing that all out made me feel like I need chocolate.

Oh, and as long as I’m throwing out my troubles for you to fix, does anyone have any suggestions (other than the obvious ones like solitary confinement and waterboarding*) for sass and backtalking?  I swear we’ve had at least a dozen family home evening lessons on this topic, but from where I’m standing (refer back to paragraph #1), I don’t see much progress.  Besides not getting the kind of respect I deserve/demand, it worries me that the quick contrary responses I’ve been getting might trickle over into other relationships with teachers or other adults.  The idea of raising children that are not the epitome of proper respect makes me feel quite unsettled.

So come on you geniuses, make it all better.  🙂

p.s.  If you are ever looking for a fun show for your elementary-aged boys (probably girls, too), mine have been LOVING watching this on Netflix.  I have to admit it’s laugh-out-loud funny.  One disclaimer: in episode #8, the sheep got a glimpse of the farmer’s claymation rear end and were scarred for life.  Even though I probably would not have let them watch that episode if I knew what was coming, boy did my boys laugh hard, and they lay awake in their beds last night laughing about it long after bedtime.

(*For the newer subscribers who are not yet familiar with my blog voice, I am kidding.  I would not under any circumstances use waterboarding, unless it were a matter of family security or I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.  Happy to clarify.)

GCBC Week 20: “Called to Be Saints” by Elder Benjamín De Hoyos

Week 20, folks.  TWENTY.  🙂  If you’re still following along, consider yourself among the few, the proud, the …. GCBC hall of fame.  (Trust me, it’s a great honor.)

My husband’s side of the family has a couple generations of a Catholic tradition.  This past week in the car, my niece asked, “How come we don’t have Saints in our [LDS] church?”  I explained to her the best I could that we do have saints, but it means something different in our religion.  It means a sincere and dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ, and it’s what all members should strive to be.  This talk explains it better:

“Called to Be Saints”

by Elder Benjamín De Hoyos

Of the Seventy

I loved this simple, profound truth.  I know it’s right:

To the degree that members of the Church live the gospel and follow the counsel of the prophets, they will, little by little and even without noticing it, become sanctified.

What stands out to you as you study this talk?  What does the talk make you understand about your role as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!