For The Beauty of the Earth- Thanksgiving Countdown 2019

Here we go for another round of Thanksgiving prep!  Confession time- I’m not like a real adult, I have never made the Thanksgiving feast.  I take charge of one dish and one dish only.  Candied yams.  No one else really likes them, but they are my FAVORITE!  It was my Grandma’s thing and this year that’s extra special because this will be our first Thanksgiving without her.  Looking back, I think I’ve spent far more Thanksgivings in my life WITH her than without.  Between losing my Grandma earlier this year and some other trials we’ve faced this year I’m holding on to Thanksgiving and focusing on blessings to help give me a pick me up to get me through.

  1. Day of the Dead- I love learning about different cultures and teaching my kids about how other people celebrate.  I think it’s really important to help them understand and respect diversity.  Watch Coco!  Here’s some free and simple masks to color and cut out!  Then take some time to talk about your ancestors and why we are grateful for them.  Tell stories, maybe make some foods that they liked (I’ll hold off on the candied yams until it’s actually Thanksgiving, but might have to make some Root Beer floats in honor of my other Grandma- and yes I did say with her Southern Utah accent!)
  2. Find a pumpkin patch/ corn maze or farmer’s market.  In Arizona I really like Tolmachoff Farms for the North Phoenix area, and Schnepf Farms for the opposite side of the Valley.  Talk about where our food comes from and how grateful we are to farmers who grow food for us.  Have fun and buy some farm fresh items!
  3. We are grateful for the Pilgrims who came to America for Religious Freedom.  Attend church.
  4. Teach more about the pilgrims.  Make some pilgrim hats and either make a Mayflower boat or just sail a toy boat around in the bath tub, sink, or water table.  Perk for living in AZ- it’s still warm enough to use an outdoor water table in November (downside- we had to get through summer to get to this point!)
  5. We are thankful for the sunshine!  Get outside and get some sun.  We’ll be going to play at the park!
  6. We are thankful for animals- zoo trip
  7. We are thankful for our home- do some extra chores to show respect to your home
  8.  Hand Turkeys
  9.  We are thankful for our potential to change and grow- We’ve got tickets to Butterfly Wonderland, so we’ll be heading there, but you could also just talk about and read books about butterflies and talk about how we can make changes and grow into spectacular things
  10.  We are thankful for Jesus Christ- discuss the Sacrament or Communion before, during, and after church
  11.  We are thankful for veterans- Color pictures/ write notes for Operation Gratitude
  12.  Beautiful World action poem
  13.  We are grateful for Daddy’s job- visit daddy at work for lunch
  14.  We are thankful for our food- share with others by donating to a food drive or provide a meal through Gathering Humanity
  15.  We are thankful for the temple- walk around the temple
  16.  We are thankful for cousins- color pictures to mail
  17.  We are thankful for friends- make a treat to take to a friend
  18.  We are thankful for our access to food- color pictures for the cashier
  19.  We are thankful for school- color pictures for teachers
  20.  We are thankful for our minds and our imagination- Children’s museum
  21. We can show our gratitude for the earth by picking up trash- go for a walk and find some trash to pick up
  22.  We are thankful for those who keep us safe- drop off treats to the police or firefighters (or both!)
  23.  We are thankful for Primary/Nursery- color pictures for teachers
  24.  Thankful tree
  25.  We are thankful for our bodies- go for a walk
  26.  We are thankful for Grandparents- color pictures for them
  27.  We are grateful for our toys- clean them up and choose a few to donate to a charity (get things cleared out and ready for Christmas!)
  28.  Thanksgiving feast!  Try to let the kids help make something
  29.  Visit Native American ruins- explain how the Native Americans assisted the Pilgrims

 

 

Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones August 2019 (part 2)

August 19-25 Be Perfectly Joined Together

Song: I Love to See the Temple pg. 95

Materials: red, yellow, and green construction paper, pictures of foods and drinks, pictures of the temple, picture of kid in swimsuit, Friend Activity

I feel so strongly about focusing on 1 Corinthians 6:19. It’s related both to physical care of our bodies as well as the law of chastity. I would suggest splitting these activities up into two sessions.

Word of Wisdom/ Physical Care

Find pictures of a variety of foods and drinks from grocery store ads and/or print your own. Also include pictures for bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth, exercising, etc. Use the green, yellow, and red construction paper like a traffic signal. Explain that green means we can have a lot of it, yellow means we should be careful about how much we have, and red are things that we do not touch. Go through the pictures and glue them on the respective sheets.

Law of Chastity/ Consent/ Physical Safety

Explain the difference between secrets, surprises, and sacred or private things.

Secrets can hurt people, we don’t tell or keep secrets. If someone tells you something or does something to you and tells you not to tell mom or dad tell that person that we don’t keep secrets and make sure to tell mom or dad or another grown up what happened.

Surprises are when we don’t tell someone something right away because it will be more fun if we wait. This is like when we buy someone a present, we don’t tell them what it is until they open it.

Sacred or Private are things that we only share with a few people. Show a picture of the temple. Explain that the temple is sacred so you have to have a temple recommend to go there. Show them your recommend if you have one and explain what you have to do to get one and that it is permission from Heavenly Father to enter his house. Our bodies are temples and someone has to have permission to touch your body. If someone wants to give you a hug or a high five and you don’t want to you can say no thank you, if they don’t listen then you can move away from them. If someone uses their body to hurt you, tell them no, get away, and tell a grown up. We have parts of our body that are private. Use correct names and/or explain that private places are where a swim suit covers. We keep our private places covered, we don’t talk about them unless we need to tell mom, dad, or a doctor about something, we don’t show them to people, we don’t look at them on other people, and no one has permission to touch them unless mom or dad is helping you in the bathroom or a bath, or if a doctor needs to check and make sure everything is healthy. If anyone tries to touch you in a private place you yell at them, “No, don’t touch my_____,” you run away, and you tell a grown up right away. If anyone tries to show you their private places or a picture of someone with their privates showing, do the same thing- Yell no, run away, tell a grown up right away.

(Depending on the age and maturity level of your kids you may explain that when you are an adult and married then you may also share your private places with your spouse.)

This month’s Friend magazine is a great resource if you need more help thinking how you will explain this to your kids, there is also a great game!

Aug 26- Sept 1 Ye Are the Body of Christ

Song: Two Little Eyes pg 268

Materials: Body of Christ puzzle

Talk about how our bodies work together to do important things.  Play a game coming up with silly things that your body can’t do without all of it working together.  Try to get across the room without using your feet, try to eat a snack with your hands tied behind your back, try to sing a song with your mouth closed, etc.  Explain that in the scriptures it says that we are the body of Christ.  That means that we all have different responsibilities or things that we are good at, but when we all work together following Jesus we can do great things.  Use the body of Christ printable to show this with your family and with the church (the blank copy is so you can add pictures of your own family).  Cut along the lines to create a “puzzle” and help the kids put it together to create the body.  Talk about how your family can work together and how we can work together at church. 

 

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- May 2019

May 6-12 Rejoice with Me; for I Have Found My Sheep Which Was Lost

Materials- stuffed animals, coins

Song- Dear To the Heart of the Shepherd Hymn 221

Gather some stuffed animals (especially if you have some sheep! Check Easter clearance!) Have the kids look over the stuffed animals, then have them look away and hide one. Ask them if all the sheep are still there, help them figure out which one is missing then have them go find it.

Pull out a few coins (real or fake) count them and then “lose” one, count again and have the kids search for the lost one. (Bonus points if you can then do the magic trick where you pull it out of their ear!)

Explain to the children that when we or others make mistakes, Jesus will find us and help us start making right choices again. We can help Jesus help others stay with the flock of sheep by being a good example and always being kind to them.

May 13-19 What Lack I Yet?

Materials- treat, starting line/finish line

Song- I am a Child of God #2

Make a special treat. Show the family the treat and tell them you’re going to have a race and the winner gets a treat. Designate the starting line and the ending line. Have one parent intentionally start late and go slower than the kids. Have the other parent waiting at the finish line with the treats. Give the “slow” parent the treat first, then in backwards order of the kids that finished. Explain that we all won in Heavenly Father’s eyes because we all made it to the finish line even if some were slower than others.

May 20-26 Behold, Thy King Cometh

Materials- treat, picture of Jesus, Large box/tall place

Song: I Love to See the Temple #95

Put a picture of Jesus (and maybe a special treat) in a place that your children can’t see just standing on the floor (maybe inside a large box, or on top of a counter). Tell them there is something very special there that they really want to see. Ask them what they could do to be able to see. Help them get something to climb on so that they can see. Tell them about Zaccheus, emphasize that he could have just given up, but it was so important to him to see Jesus that he climbed a tree.

Alternate or in addition- a really simple activity, if you live close enough, is to just go down and walk the temple grounds. Our kids really enjoy this and it’s basically a lesson in and of itself.

May 27- June 2 The Son of Man Shall Come

Materials- candy

Song- I want to give the Lord my Tenth #150

Teach your children about tithing. Buy a bag of candy (I like to use the Hershey’s treasures for this activity because they look like gold bars), give each child 10 pieces. Explain that Heavenly Father asks us to give back 1 in 10 and in return promises that the windows of Heaven will pour out a blessing so big we won’t be able to hold it. Tell them they have the option of keeping the 10, or they can give one back and see what happens. You may want to have one of the parents take candy as well and say no, they will just keep what they have, then say sorry they will miss out on the big blessings, but let them keep their 10. Strongly encourage the kids to give one back, when they do tell them to close their eyes and hold out their hands, pour the rest of the bag of candies into their hands. Point out that they have so many more since they gave one back.

Show the picture of the widow giving her mite, explain that even though her life was very hard and she had very little to give, she still gave and Jesus blessed her for it.

Materials List:

stuffed animals

coins

treat (x2)

starting line/ finish line

picture of Jesus

Large box/tall place

candy

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

Family-centered Valentine’s Activity Calendar

If you have followed my Christ-centered Thanksgiving and Christmas activity posts then I hope you love this one as well.  I wanted to put together activities last year to make Valentine’s day more meaningful, but then my Grandma died and life got crazy and I didn’t have a chance to get to it.  This year I started early, because February is actually going to be crazier this time around with a wedding and a baby blessing, but those have been planned with ample notice, whereas funerals just happen when they need to happen.

As I was thinking through incorporating the wedding and the baby blessing into the calendar, lines from the Family: A Proclamation to the World kept coming to mind.  Initially I put it out of my mind and thought it wasn’t really related to Valentine’s day, and then it hit me that if I want to make Valentine’s Day meaningful then really Valentine’s Day is ALL about the family and the teachings in the Proclamation.

Obviously some of our bigger activities are not universal (unless you also have a family member getting married in February and another family member who recently had a baby, in which case we should be friends!), so I’ve tried to include a few ideas for alternate or extra activities that go along with the same theme.  And if you are a member of another faith, I’m sure you can still incorporate these ideas based on your beliefs, and I think you will find more similarities than differences in the beliefs outlined in the Proclamation on the family.

  1.  I love to see the temple- walk around the temple (or if you live too far away look at pictures) and explain it’s importance.
  2. THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan… The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Wedding time!
    • If you don’t have a wedding to go to this month, or even if you do, you could pull out wedding albums, pictures, that wedding DVD you watched like once, and any other mementos from your wedding and show them to your kids.  Talk to them about your wedding day and how special it was.
  3. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Baby blessing time!
    • Pull out baby pictures and any mementos from when your kids were blessed (or Christened).  Tell them about their blessing and how much of a blessing it is to have them in your life.
  4. Learn the song Love One Another, Children’s Song Book pg. 136.  Including the sign language could be really fun.  This is a really great activity to throw in on a day you know will be very busy.
  5. HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ” Trade off date nights with the kids.  Obviously this is going to look different for each family depending on the number of kids, but for us we’ll do this over two nights, I’ll take one kid and my husband will take the other and then the next night we’ll switch.  Go as simple or as big as your budget and your calendar allow.  Maybe it’s just a walk or ice cream (or a walk to ice cream so it cancels out!) or maybe it’s bigger like a performance or game.  The biggest thing is that it’s dedicated time to them and their interests.
  6.  See above (and if you’re family is big enough you could just do one on ones the rest of the time until Valentine’s day and ignore the rest of the list!)
  7. We love our cousins!  We’ll be blessed to have cousins visiting so we’ll party hard with them, but if cousins aren’t available you could make Valentine’s to mail to them.
  8. We love our grandparents!  Make Valentine’s for grandparents
  9. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Do a wholesome recreational activity as a family.  For us this will probably be the Renaissance Festival.
  10. Heavenly Father loves us so he gave us a Prophet.  In Arizona we will have a special fireside with President Nelson and President Oaks this day.
    • If you’re not in AZ you could talk about going to church to take the sacrament and read John 3:16.
  11. Make a fun heart craft
  12. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Focus on compassion, do some kind of service project.  We will probably take a meal to a refugee family through Gathering Humanity.
  13. Make Valentine’s for friends and classmates (and by make, I mean write their names on little store bought cards, but if you’re crafty and into really making cute Valentine’s for everyone then POWER to you!)
  14. Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself- take treats to neighbors.  We started this a few years ago and our neighbors LOVE it.  Christmas time always gets so busy and we always end up getting sick so I decided to stop pretending like I was going to take around Christmas treats and now we just do Valentine’s day treats.  It’s way better than hunting down a babysitter and trying to get in to an overcrowded restaurant.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope this helps you make the time very meaningful for your family!

IN the World

This post is an extension of remarks I offered in a recent sacrament meeting.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have paid clergy or preachers.  Rather, each week different members of the ward (congregation) are asked to speak on a specific subject.  I was recently given this opportunity with the prompt “How can we be in the world but not of the world?”

I feel that we frequently focus on the end of that phrase- not OF the world.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, succinctly and eloquently taught us how to do this:

“We will have to stay calm under peer pressure, not be impressed by popular trends or false prophets, disregard the ridicule of the ungodly, resist the temptations of the evil one, and overcome our own laziness.”

This is so important especially in our day where so many lines are being blurred and crossed, however, I think we sometimes pay too little attention to the beginning of that phrase where we are asked to be IN the world.

While this exact admonition is not found word for word in the scriptures, the idea is certainly there and similar commands are made both anciently and in modern times.

In Matthew 5 we read:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Additionally, Elder Quentin L. Cook said:

“We cannot avoid the world. A cloistered existence is not the answer. In a positive sense, our contribution to the world is part of our challenge and is essential if we are to develop our talents.”

We are not to be cloistered, or under a bushel.  We need to be on a candlestick and contributing.

Why is that important?

President Russell M. Nelson taught:

“True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.”

I don’t know about you, but I would like to be counted as a true disciple.

President Spencer W. Kimball offered these thoughts:

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.”

While that was specifically directed towards the women of the church, it does not take the men off the hook.  Missionary work is driven forward as we are different, and articulate.  As we stand out and speak up, and as we are a light.

How then can we appropriately be IN the world to be this light?

We can:

Be Involved

Be Inclusive

Be Informed

Be Inspirational

 

Where do we do these things?  Sister Neill F. Marriott taught that we carry a circle of influence with us wherever we go.  I want to discuss 3 circles in which we can carry a significant influence.

 

First in our communities.

Do you know your neighbors?  Are you involved in their lives to any degree?  Do you include them in yours?  My uncle once said that the garage door opener was a destructive force in neighborhoods.  And it’s kinda true, we never have to talk to our neighbors because we don’t have to spend time in our front yards unlocking our doors and it feels awkward to just ring our neighbors’ doorbells for no reason.  Which is why I love Halloween…I get to ring my neighbor’s doorbell, they give my kid candy, and then we chat for a second.

Other Holidays are a great opportunity to connect- I used to make plans to carol to our neighbors at Christmas, but to the dismay of my high school dreams of eternal duets, my husband doesn’t like singing in public, my kids don’t sing on command, and it’s a little less cute for me to sit there and solo on the porch.  Also, we always get overbooked and sick right around Christmas.  So the last 2 years I scrapped the Christmas caroling idea and now we take treats to our neighbors for Valentine’s day.  They love it.  We have an older, wheelchair bound gentleman down the street and he loves our visit.  This last year we met a new neighbor on Valentine’s day, she was actually crying when she opened the door because she was going to have to put down her dog the next day.  I followed up with flowers a few days later to make sure she was doing ok, but I would have had no idea what was going on if I hadn’t taken her a Valentine treat.  Find a reason to knock on your neighbors’ doors periodically, and spend some time outside- in your yard or out for a walk so you have opportunities to meet and talk to your neighbors.

Additionally, the Church Handbook of Instruction states:

Members are also urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families.

This will depend greatly on your season of life and time availability, but find ways to serve whether on a regular and scheduled basis, or simply donating goods.  There are many opportunities to serve refugees in our community depending on your time and resource availability you could set up an apartment for an incoming family, make and drop off a meal for their first night in the country, stock them up with groceries- you can even do a clicklist and someone else can pick it up if you have the money but not the time, or you can simply donate goods as you declutter your home.  You may be involved on the PTA, or HOA.  Join a club or sports team.  I’m part of a community choir, I’m the only active member of the church in the group- which is completely opposite of any other choir I’ve ever been a part of, but I’ve had many opportunities to answer questions, and share experiences with other members of the choir.

Get in the world by being involved and inclusive in your community.  Avoid being of the world by being offish.

 

The next sphere I want to talk about bridges both locally and nationally.  And since we’re already discussing one taboo topic- religion- let’s just go ahead and discuss politics while we’re at it.

Again from the handbook:

“As citizens, Church members are encouraged to participate in political and governmental affairs, including involvement in the political party of their choice.

Members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment. Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise.”

In the last Presidential election, which as you might remember was a little heated to say the least, and an incredibly close call in the end, 45% of adults in the US did not vote.  Please don’t be part of that 45%!  We just had an election about 2 weeks ago…did you vote?  We have another one coming up in about 2 months, will you vote in that one?  And more importantly, will you be an informed voter?

Getting informed is time consuming and can be frustrating as it can be difficult to find unbiased information but it’s SO important.  Take a look a multiple sources, including looking into the other side of the argument.  It may or may not change your opinion, but it will certainly help you make a more informed decision.  It will also help you engage in more civil and constructive discussions on the topic.

We also need to decide what principles will guide our decisions and stick to them.  May I suggest that one of these guiding principles would be to follow the prophet, even, and especially when he may say something that goes against our typical political line of thinking.

Earlier this year I posted something from President Nelson that went against the grain of a certain line of political thought.  The topic and political side are unimportant, but I want to share an exchange that occurred with another member of the church that I knew from my mission.

She responded:
“I’m alarmed that the prophet would make such a [leftist or rightist] and non-sensical comment.”  She went on about her thoughts on the topic then concluded with: “Why do people… now apparently including our prophet!, think that laws impact people’s choices at all??? Utterly ridiculous”

I was a bit shocked that a fellow active member of the church would speak out so derisively of our prophet.  Even to go so far as to call him ridiculous.  But, while this example was extreme, I had noticed multiple examples of a similar attitude when the church made an official statement that went against someone’s political leanings.

I responded to her with these thoughts:

“I don’t think of this as a [leftist or rightist] view. I think that the Prophet is the center, and sometimes the right aligns to center, and sometimes the left aligns to center.

I think the most important thing is to look introspectively and make sure that we are aligning our political views, the policies we support, and our general behavior with God and His teachings rather than trying to make Him and His teachings fit into our political views.”

With the recent statement on the Medical Marijuana bill in Utah, a friend and fellow blogger published an amazing article on this exact same subject of following the prophet.  I highly recommend reading the post, but here is a quote I stole from it by Elder Neal A Maxwell from 1978:

“Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. … But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.”

Please be IN the world by being involved and informed politically but avoid becoming OF the world by putting party above Prophets.

 

The last sphere of influence I will discuss today is our potential global influence via the world wide web.

Social media is a two edged sword, on the one hand it can turn into a major time suck which can take us away from real relationships and higher priorities as well as turning into a war of words and tumult of opinions.  On the other hand, it offers a convenient way to keep in contact with friends, family, and associates and gives us the opportunity to share goodness on a large scale.

 

Elder David A. Bednar, in his address that began the #sharegoodness campaign, taught the importance of our online presence:

“The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.”

Sharing goodness isn’t just about always sharing church related material.  I feel it’s more about HOW we share than specifically WHAT we share, and should certainly extend to how we share our opinions on secular matters such as politics, current events, and really any issues that are argued on the internet.

He offered these guidelines to help us as we post on social media:

Be Authentic and Consistent and Seek to Edify and Uplift

“Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate.  We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not.”

Last year I posted an “end of year review” detailing some of the fun things we had done throughout the year.  We had gone on several trips, etc.  After I posted it, I just didn’t feel well, authentic.  The post made it seem like 2017 was this beautiful fairy tale year.  When in fact, 2017 was a really hard year.  I was struggling with post partum depression, we had 3 ER visits, found mold- hence the ER visits, and my car basically exploded.  Yes, it had a lot of fun moments as well, but I realized in only sharing the fun, I failed to share the goodness.  I failed to share how we had learned and grown and the miracles we had seen despite the challenges.  So I wrote a blog post end of year review to be more authentic and accurate.

From Elder Bednar:

“Our content should be trustworthy and constructive. And anonymity on the Internet is not a license to be inauthentic.”

“We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”

Before you post something, make sure it comes from a trustworthy place.  Unfortunately, many entities put together posts and click bait articles that are not entirely true (or just outright lies) and specifically intended to stir contention.  Before you share stop and check that it is true, and then think about how it is worded, will it be informative and potentially inspirational, or will it primarily come off as judgmental and offensive?  A good guide can be to ask yourself if you would say it or share it if the person you disagree with was standing right next to you.  Name calling or insinuating that the other side is stupid is by no means constructive, it merely tears down and creates a bigger divide.  It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

Consider the example I gave earlier of my friends’ response to what I posted from Pres. Nelson.  She used words like non-sensical and ridiculous to describe our prophet, even if it wasn’t the prophet, but someone else I held in high respect it would still be rude.  She also insinuated my stupidity which immediately put me on the defensive.  Perhaps a better way to have worded her post could have been:

While I respect our prophet and your opinion on this issue, I am confused by this statement.  The church often emphasizes the need for personal responsibility, and I’m concerned that more laws would not change behavior.

That would have gotten her same point across without being offensive.  You can and should boldly share your opinions, but you ought to do it pleasantly. Because…

“Authenticity is strengthened through consistency. The gospel messages you share will be accepted more readily if your Christlike example is evident in the ongoing pattern of your posts.”

If your other posts and comments do not follow His example and demonstrate His love, then people will not be keen to listen when you share a message that is specifically gospel related.

Elder Bednar went on to say:

“Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.”

Let’s be in the world wide web by being inspirational but not of the world by being offensive.

In closing I want you to consider the many temples we have in the world.  While we have temples in many areas that are primarily known for their high Latter-day Saint populations, we also have temples in places like New York City and Las Vegas which are certainly more well known for their worldliness.  Temples are here IN the world, but are certainly not of it.

Sis. Marriott shared this insight:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We too as [children] of God have been placed all around the world, like temples, and we each have our own unique look and outward design, like temples. We also have a spiritual light within us, like temples.

We have our own roles on the earth.  Each is influential. Each role will have moral power as we reflect gospel truths and temple covenants in our lives.”

I invite you to consider how you can individually be more IN the world by being involved, inclusive, informed, and inspirational then having the integrity to not become OF the world.

Come, Sweet Death

When I was about 5, shortly after my grandfather passed away, my Grandma had been going through and organizing old boxes (a favorite a past time of hers).  She pulled her wedding cake topper and gave it to me saying, “I probably won’t be around for your wedding so I want you to have this now.”  Well, she did make it to my wedding just shy of her 90th birthday, and proceeded to last another 6 years beyond that.

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On January 21, 2018, just two months shy of her 96th birthday, my Grandmother peacefully passed from this world.  In the days following, as is expected, people have offered their condolences, saying things like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” or remarking on the sadness of it.

Of course I appreciate everyone’s condolences and well wishes, but to be honest, and I hope this doesn’t make me sound uncaring or cold, I have not felt sadness or loss over her death.  I have felt only peace and joy at her passing.

Background

As I mentioned, my grandma was almost 96.  Her husband, my grandfather, passed away almost 25 years ago.  At that time she was living one street over from her older sister who was also a widow.  They were companions then and my grandma cared for her sister up until she passed about 16 years ago.  Living in St. George, which was basically a glorified retirement community, she still got together with “the girls” on a regular basis and busied herself with family history work.  But as the years went on, more friends passed, and she spent much of her time alone, she began to be plagued with paranoia, anxiety, and other health concerns.  About 10 years ago we thought we were going to lose her, but she bounced back and chose to move into semi-assisted living back in St. George as she had several friends living in the same community.  She “de”-aged after moving there, surrounded by people again.  Which was a huge testament to me of the need for human connection.  I was living in Provo and would visit roughly once a semester.  She would take me to the cafeteria to show me off to her friends and bring me to play cards with “the girls.”

On one of the card playing adventures the ladies began discussing other ladies in the community.  After making a comment about someone my grandma said, in a very plain and matter of fact tone, “She used to play cards at that table, [pointed to the next table over] but she died.”  Then a few minutes later the following conversation took place:

Friend: “Did you hear about Doris?”

Grandma: “Yes, her daughter came to help her move.”

Friend: “Well, she was going to move, but then she died.”

Grandma: “Oh, that’s nice.”

I was baffled and had no idea how to react.  These ladies were talking about people in their community dying as casually and almost as celebratory as my friends and I would discuss people getting married.  It began to occur to me that it was just the next step to them, just like my friends getting married or graduating.  They were happy for them.

Loss

Grandma lived in that community for about 6 years.  She continued to drive herself and her friends around past the age of 90 and took care of all of her own finances.  She walked slowly but without assistance.  While she ate most of her meals in the dining room with the other residents, she could still fix herself a simple meal as needed.  She kept her apartment impeccably clean and organized.

And then one day, about 4 years ago, she lost it all.

It’s unclear as to the exact order of events.  They aren’t sure if she suffered a minor stroke which caused a fall, or if she fell and hit her head causing a small stroke.  But however it happened at 92 she started her decline.  We moved her to Arizona, first to a care facility near my parents house, then into the mother-in-law suite attached to my parents’ house, where my mom’s mom was already living, and then finally a year ago, her care became too involved and she was moved into another care center where she died.

Perhaps the reason I have not felt sorrow or loss in her death is because I started the grieving process 4 years ago as I watched her body and her mind fail her.  She suffered a few falls, one that broke her hip, because she couldn’t remember that she couldn’t walk on her own.  She began to struggle with terrible panic attacks.  She lost the ability to keep any sort of conversation.  She could hardly follow a television program.  It got to the point where she wasn’t really living, she was mostly just existing.  She wasn’t really Grandma anymore, we lost her a long time ago.

There were sweet moments as well.  She began to have conversations with lost loved ones, or would ask about them.  My dad had been contacted by some distant cousins to help do the temple work for their Uncle’s second wife, Therle.  I had never heard anyone in the family mention her before this experience, and my dad had not said anything to Grandma about the plans.  But one day, a week or so before my dad was going to meet his cousins at the temple, out of nowhere Grandma asked, “And how’s Therle doing?”

The time she lived here in Arizona allowed her to spend time with her great-grandkids.  She would perk up a lot when they were around.

But the overarching question she constantly asked over those 4 years was, “When can I go home?”  And in all of hearts we started to ask the same question, when could she go home?

Sweet Death

The sadness I have felt in this experience has not been in her death, but for how long she lingered.  I don’t feel the need to seek understanding for why the Lord took her as so many do in situations of untimely deaths, the understanding I have been looking for is why she was made to linger so long.  It’s painful to wonder how much loneliness, pain, mental anguish, boredom, and complete lack of independence someone can endure, only to watch it get worse and worse, and feel so powerless to do anything meaningful about it.

The decision was finally made to discontinue some of the medications that were keeping her alive and just make her comfortable.  When my parents let me know that the decision had been made and hospice estimated it would only be a few more weeks, I felt very much at peace.  We made arrangements to get the family together to visit her and for my husband to assist my dad to give her a final Priesthood blessing.

Typically when we talk about Priesthood blessings, they are intended to seek healing.  This one was very different.  My dad, seeking prompting by the Spirit, blessed her that she would see her loved ones soon, and that she would not be afraid but would feel peace.  He blessed her to die.

She was asleep the whole time we were there, and was struggling to breathe.  As we sat there with her the words to this song came to my mind, and became almost like a prayer for her:

Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest!                                                                                    Come lead me to peace                                                                                                            because I am weary of the world,                                                                                                    O come! I wait for you,                                                                                                                  come soon and lead me,                                                                                                                  close my eyes.                                                                                                                                Come, blessed rest!

That idea of death being sweet and blessed was very real.  She was weary of the world in so many ways.  Her body was weary.  Her heart was weary as most everyone she had associated with in this life went before here.  Come soon.  I didn’t want to watch her suffer any more, I wanted it to come soon.  And it did.

We had figured it would still take a few days for her medications to leave her system.  However, the very next day my dad received a call from hospice telling him they believed it was going to happen that day and that he should probably come.  My mom sent me a text message shortly after I got home from church relaying the news but said that it might be several hours.  I wavered for a minute on whether or not I should head over then or wait, but since it was Sunday and my husband was home to take care of the kids, I decided I should just go ahead and go.

Shortly after getting on the road for my 40 minute trip across town, my mom sent another message that said it would be soon.  I was full of nervous energy wanting to be there, but also a little bit afraid to be there as she passed.  I can’t really explain it, but the idea of being with someone as they pass has always sounded odd to me, but I hoped that this might help me work through some of those anxieties.  When I was about halfway there I had this sudden peace come over me, and had the thought that she was gone.  I immediately second guessed myself and the nervousness came back only to followed by peace again and a voice that said, “You’re not going to make it in time.”  About three minutes later my mom sent another message that she was gone.

As I pulled up to her care center, knowing she had already passed, but wanting to see her, I got this distinct impression, I could almost see it, that she was with my grandpa, and they were so happy, almost giddy.  It was beautiful.  Her death was sweet.

Final Acts of Service

About a year ago, knowing that his mother’s death was more imminent than not, my dad began designing a casket.  I think my dad’s love language is building things.  Some might call this gift giving or acts of service, but it’s not just any gift or any act of service, it’s designing and building very customized items.  The design for her casket was based on her old Singer sewing machine that had been her mother’s.  It is now over 100 years old and has been a prized possession.  About a week before her passing, he showed her pictures of the almost completed casket, she was able to whisper that it was beautiful.  Below is the sewing machine to the left (sorry I should have gotten a better picture of the front), and the completed casket to the right.

 

 

It was not quite complete before her passing.  I began helping to stain it before we went to see her the last time then continued that evening and after she passed.  My 3 year old had taken quite an interest into what Grampses (that’s what he calls my dad) was doing in the garage.  We explained to him that it was a casket, that Great-Grandma Ramsey’s body would go in the casket when she died, but that her spirit would go to Heaven.  We got him set up inside with some blocks so we could work in the garage, but he came running up to me with the blocks and excitedly exclaimed, “Let’s build a casket!!”  He proceeded to build a casket out of blocks then showed it to me and explained, “This one’s for her spirit.”  It sounds a little creepy out of context, and I made sure to warn his preschool teacher the following week that he might build a casket out of blocks.  But it was so sweet and innocent and I hope that he can keep that perspective of service for the dying.  One of the hard parts of watching someone go, is not being sure what to do about it.  Should you sit there and just watch?  I don’t know, and the answer is probably different for everyone, but it felt right to be honoring her by helping my dad finish his final tribute to her.

Additionally I had the beautiful and sacred experience to assist in preparing her body for burial.  It is customary for endowed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be buried in their temple clothing.  When possible, this is traditionally done by other endowed family members of the same gender.  For those who are unfamiliar with the temple, there is a beautiful and short video that briefly explains this clothing and it’s importance.  In the temple we receive instruction and make covenants in endowment rooms, which includes putting on this special clothing, also referred to as the robes of the Holy Priesthood.  Temple worship service culminates by entering the Celestial Room which “[symbolizes] heaven, where we may live forever with our family in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.” (See reference and more information here.)

Honestly, when I first got the news that they were just making her comfortable and realized that this service of dressing her would fall to my mom and me, I felt anxious.  As I mentioned before the thought of being with someone when they died was a bit frightening to me.  The thought of touching a dead body, was very disturbing.  I can’t really explain exactly why, but it made me queasy.  I asked around for advice from others who had done this for their own relatives and received a lot of wonderful responses.  One of the responses that helped me work through my concerns was a reminder of the women who prepared Christ’s body for burial.  That was a beautiful way to think of it, so I carried that with me, and while it was still difficult at first to touch her, I was able to do it.  I felt the need to take extra care to make sure everything was straight and tied beautifully.  My mom and I chuckled a little together as my grandma had been incredibly neat and tidy, maybe to the point of being a bit obsessive compulsive about it.

I reflected on that desire to be neat after we finished and left her in the funeral home.  I thought about my first time going to the temple.  I was living in Provo at the time, my parents in Arizona, which made St. George (her home) a good meeting spot.  At that time she was having a difficult time sitting anywhere besides her own chair at home for long periods of time which would make attending the temple difficult.  I spoke to her and let her know what the plan was, that I would love it if she could be there, but would understand if her physical limitations would not allow it.  Her response was that she would, “take an extra pill if needed.”  I don’t know what those pills were, but apparently they worked, and she was able to come.  I remember her fussing over me a little to make sure everything was straight and neat.  As I was reflecting on this, the beautiful thought came to me, that she had helped me to be prepared to enter the Celestial Room of the temple nearly 10 years ago, but now I had symbolically prepared her to enter the presence of the Lord in the Celestial Kingdom.

To picture her finally fulfilling her desire of going home, to her eternal home, reinforced in my heart and soul that her death was sweet.

 

 

Christ-centered Christmas Advent Activities

Last year as we were coming into the Christmas season I had a few strong impressions from the spirit which lead to some resolutions.  One that I needed to be a more deliberate mother, that we needed more structure in our lives.  The other that I needed to focus on keeping this holiday about Christ.  With absolutely no deliberate action on my part, my children will learn about Santa.  Santa is everywhere.  Shows, decorations, songs, EVERYWHERE.  Let me be clear that I am by no means anti-Santa, and he does visit our house.  BUT, because everywhere else we get inundated with Santa and commercialization, I felt very strongly that I needed to come up with meaningful and fun activities to make sure my kids understand that this holiday is about Jesus.

If you look at my Thanksgiving advent post I explain a little bit of how I put together these activities.  But for a quick recap, I keep it simple, there’s candy involved, and I use dollar store muffin tins with circles of construction paper to make the calendar.  I don’t have December’s put together yet, but here’s a picture of November’s for reference- just imagine red and green paper instead.IMG_20161031_151857448

Some of my activities are based on the #LightTheWorld campaign from mormon.org, but I struggled to come up with activities for a 3 year old and 1 year old that fit with each scripture.  I also did not go in the order of their calendar at all just because certain activities would work better for us on different days of the week.

You’ll notice that I included a day to celebrate Hannukah, I did this for a few reasons:

  1.  One of my very best friends is Jewish and she has inspired me to want to teach my children to love and respect other cultures.  Also she’ll be visiting right after Hannukah ends, so we’ll get together and have a belated Hannukah bash!
  2. My thought for that day is that we believe in a God of miracles.  The story of Hannukah contains a beautiful miracle and it’s fairly simple for children to understand.
  3. I want my children to understand that God loves and gives miracles to EVERYONE, even those that believe differently than we do.

In addition to the activities listed below we also have Nativity picture books, one from Usborne and the others I think I just grabbed from Toys R Us, and I found some Nativity printables on Pinterest and turned them into magnets for the magnet board in the play room.

I don’t have all the dates set in stone, but here’s my list of thoughts and activities.  Activities based on Light the World have a little star.

  1. Jesus created the world and all of nature.  Decorate the Tree.
  2. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.* Attend the Southwest Family Christmas Party (my mother in law works for Southwest and you should all be jealous because their family party is so much fun!  But I felt like this Light the World activity should definitely be matched up with a party, so if you already have a holiday party to attend, just pair it with this scripture!)
  3. Jesus speaks through His Prophet and Apostles.  Watch the Christmas Devotional.
  4. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.* Make ornaments to take to neighbors (I’m using foam and felt snowflakes that I got from Target last year because they are super easy and low mess, but substitute whatever craft floats your boat.)
  5. Nativity sticker scene, again, I picked up a pack of stickers last year at Target.
  6. I was in prison and ye visited me.* Take treats to a police station.
  7. Make gingerbread stables for Family Home Evening.
  8. Jesus is the light of the world.  Go to Glendale Glitters. Here’s an example of doing something fun, but still keeping it Christ-centered by linking the lights back to Him.
  9. I was sick and ye visited me.* Take treats to the NICU.  If you want the long story for why we pick the NICU you can read that post here.  Short story, my daughter was in the NICU for 10 days.  We took treats last year, and I plan on continuing the tradition as the kids grow up.  If you want to do a NICU near you just know it’s best to call ahead and you really will just drop the treats off, young children will most likely not be allowed in.  But, being there even for the short time we were, was lonely and stressful, I can’t imagine being there during the holidays, so NICU parents are definitely a group that could use some cheer.  You could pick any group of ailing individuals, visit someone who recently had surgery, etc.
  10. Jesus gave us temples.  Got to the Mesa Temple Lights.
  11. Family Home Evening, movie night with Nativity movies.  Bible Videos-Nativity, Collection of short Christmas videos, Joy to the World
  12. I was naked and ye clothed me.* Drop off donations to Maggie’s Place.
  13. We believe in a God of Miracles.  Tell the Hannukah story, light candles, play dreidels, etc.
  14. Jesus gave us families.  Make ornaments for grandparents.
  15. Visit a Live Nativity.  There’s a few I’m considering but need to figure out some dates.  Here’s some links to help you out.  Walk through Bethlehem, Grace Glendale
  16. Because of Jesus, our family can be together forever.  Make wreaths (circles have no end.)
  17. Ye shall meet together oft.* Go to church.
  18. Make more ornaments for friends and family.
  19. Family Home Evening- Caroling
  20. For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.* Donate food, either to a food drive or take a meal to someone who is sick, or a refugee family.
  21. Wisemen still seek Him.  Do a wisemen craft.
  22. Jesus was born in a stable with animals around.  Visit a petting zoo.
  23. Go to see The Star in theaters.  We aren’t huge movie goers, and part of me is wondering if I’m crazy to take a 1 year old and a 3 year old to a legit movie theater,  but I feel like it’s important to support this film so that more like it can be made!  Also, my friend’s son is one of the animators so that’s pretty cool!
  24. Bethlehem dinner.  Last year we started this tradition, and it definitely went over my son’s head, and I think he was sick and didn’t eat anyway, but by golly we are going to stick with it.  We’ve decided to do Christmas Eve on our own as just our little family.  For dinner we eat the type of food that was eaten in Bethlehem.  We had lamb with pita bread which I bought from a Middle Eastern market (you should find one, it was a really neat experience).  We had goat cheese, I cheated on this and bought the stuff wrapped in cranberries from Costco, so maybe less authentic, but sooo good.  Then we read the Christmas story and used our Nativity magnets to help act it out, as the kids get older we’ll have them do the acting, but for now we just use the pictures.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving “Advent” Activities

Last year as the holiday season was approaching I felt strongly that I wanted to do a Christ-centered advent activity calendar for my then 2 year old.  As I was collecting ideas…in October…don’t judge I was sick and had a lot of time to scroll Pinterest…I realized, why not do the same for Thanksgiving.

Fun fact- Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday.  It’s like the underdog of the Holiday season, and I feel like it needs way more attention than it gets.  When trying to shop for Thanksgiving related items towards then end of October there’s like 5 double sided aisles dedicated to Halloween, there’s already several dedicated to Christmas, but Thanksgiving gets this tiny little display that takes up part of one side of an aisle.

I mean what gives!  We go from dressing up and asking for candy straight to asking for gifts and forget to be grateful in between.

So in an attempt to give Thanksgiving it’s due attention, and to help teach my son about gratitude, “circles” were created.

Pinterest has tons of ideas for super cute and creative ways to make advent calendars.  As mentioned in previous posts, I like to follow the KISS method- Keep it Simple Stephanie (or stupid, or smarty, whatever is appropriate for the given day).  I went to the dollar store and bought muffin tins, so $4 total right there.  Then I cut circles out of construction paper and put a slip of paper and a piece of candy in each of the sections and use double sided tape to attach the colored circles over the tins.  It’s pretty simple, keeps me organized, and my son LOVES the candy…and the activities, but the candy definitely helps keep the motivation.

For my list of ideas I scrolled through Pinterest for inspiration but couldn’t find any specific posts that fit us exactly so a lot of things I came up with on my own.  I’m not super crafty and I hate messes so I don’t pick a lot of the craft ideas, when I talk about coloring pictures for people, I happened upon a pack of cute Thanksgiving coloring pages last year at Goodwill, so sorry, no link for those, but if you are reading this blog then chances are you may have been introduced to this thing called the internet which contains Google and Pinterest, between the two of those you can pretty much find anything your little heart could desire.  Now if you are one of those crafty sorts of people and you don’t mind chasing feathers around your house, then you could definitely incorporate some pretty cute crafts into these ideas to give away to people.

Another thing to keep in mind with this list is that my kids are currently 3 and 1 so this is very much targeted towards that age group, mostly the 3 year old.  I also try to incorporate activities we already do but find a way to make them focused on the holiday.  So when you see things on the list like, going to church or tee ball, and you think, “wait, that’s cheating!”  Not cheating- simple, smart, resourceful.

Thanksgiving Activities:

  1. Heavenly Father led the Pilgrims to America so they could go to church how and where they wanted.  Make a Pilgrim Hat.
  2. Pilgrims came on a boat called the Mayflower.  Float boats in water (I have a little bin I use for water play on the back porch, or you could do this in the bathtub or sink).
  3. We show gratitude by serving.  We will be visiting an older lady from church who recently had surgery.
  4. We are grateful for our bodies.  Go to tee ball with Daddy.
  5. We are grateful for Grandparents.  Color pictures for Grandparents.
  6. We are grateful for nature.  Go for a walk, pick up trash if we see any.
  7. Family Home Evening- begin Thankful tree (we will add to this each week for FHE).  I bought a Thankful Tree from Target, but there are also a lot of cute ideas on Pinterest for making your own.
  8. We are grateful for Nursery.  Color a picture for Nursery leaders.
  9. We are grateful for books.  Go to story time at the library.
  10. We are grateful for animals.  Go to the zoo.
  11. We are grateful for the temple.  Visit the temple grounds.
  12. We show gratitude to Heavenly Father by going to church.
  13. We are grateful for cousins.  Color pictures and mail to cousins.
  14. Continue Thankful Tree.
  15. We show gratitude for our food by sharing.  Donate food (either to a food drive or make a meal for someone who is sick or a refugee)
  16. We are grateful for friends.  Make a treat for a friend.
  17. We are grateful for our minds and imagination.  Go to the Children’s Museum.
  18. We are grateful for Preschool.  Color a picture for teacher.
  19. Learn Thanksgiving songs and hymns.
  20. We are grateful for our food.  Color a picture for the grocery store cashier.
  21. Continue Thankful tree.
  22. We show gratitude for toys by cleaning them up and sharing.  Clean up and clear out play room (also helps get ready for Christmas gifts coming in and toys to donate to toy drives).
  23. Thanksgiving feast!
  24. Talk about first Thanksgiving, watch video, and visit Indian Ruins.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope this list helps you get some ideas going on how to teach your children about gratitude and give Thanksgiving the hype and attention in deserves!

I’ll post my Christmas ideas as well as we get a little closer.