“The great plan of happiness revealed to prophets is the plan for a happy family.
It is the love story between husband and wife, parents and children, that renews itself through the ages” (Boyd K. Packer).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Creating a relationship with Jesus Christ

Do you believe that you are worthy of love and connection with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?

Brené Brown, a social science researcher who has dedicated her career to studying human connection, has interviewed thousands of people wanting to know why some people are able to forge strong, deep, and long-lasting connections with others while some people struggle with this their entire lives. She said:
“There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.”

This is important to me because I really struggled as a child in my relationships with my peers.  I was extremely shy and this feeling was exacerbated by some experiences I had.  The result was that I felt dull, uninteresting, and unloveable.  I had a hard time seeing why anyone would want to be friends with me!  Isn’t that a horrible thing for a child to feel?  Unfortunately, I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling.
Satan knows just where to hit us to keep us from connecting with God, and distrusting we are worthy to connect with Him and be called His children is one of his most powerful tools.
Sister Joy D. Jones explained this when she said, Satan is the father of all lies, especially when it comes to misrepresentations about our own divine nature and purpose. Thinking small about ourselves does not serve us well…”
In order for me to develop my relationship with Christ - I had to believe that I was worthy of that love and connection.  And through small miracles in my life, I did come to change how I felt about myself.

Brigham Young said, “The least, the most inferior person now upon the earth … is worth worlds.”

Recently Natalie, my 8 year old, gave a Family Home Evening lesson on Agency and she read this statement from the Friend magazine:  “With each right choice we make, we grow closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”

Robert D. Hales said:  “Our use of agency determines who we are and what we will be”.  I am fascinated by how much choice we have in this life.  We choose to be happy or sad.  We choose to keep our covenants or not.  We have to choose Christ and choose to be a friend to Christ.
President Monson reminded us that our decisions determine our destiny.  With that in mind, I’d like to submit some concrete ways we can choose a relationship with the Savior.  

1. We can choose to repent

Our mistakes can also cause us to erect barriers to our relationships with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Notice that I said WE erect barriers.  Since we all sin, the problem is not that we are not worthy to talk to God; it is that we don’t feel worthy to talk to God, and thus we create a major barrier in our connection to Him.

“You are a child of God. You can’t ever become more child of God by your merits, and you can't ever become less child of God by your imperfections. Trusting deep down that you are loved by an eternal father is also the key to believing you are worthy of connecting with Him all the time, even when you mess up.”  (LDS BLOG)

Brene Brown also teaches about the difference between guilt and shame.  Do you know what the difference is?  Guilt leads us to a course correction.  It’s not necessarily a bad feeling.  We acknowledge that we made a mistake and seek to correct it.  Shame causes us to beat ourselves up and avoid change.  Elder Holland reminded us that wallowing in shame comes from Satan, not God, when he gave this awesome definition of repentance: “You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. That’s another satanic suckerpunch—that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, ‘I’ll change’—and mean it”.

Wallowing in shame separates us from God because it blocks us from repenting and making the true and lasting changes that will bring us closer to Him.

1-B  - Along with repentance, we can choose to take the Sacrament
Elder Christofferson illustrated the importance of this ordinance beautifully in his recent talk in October General Conference:
“The bread and water represent the flesh and blood of Him who is the Bread of Life and the Living Water, poignantly reminding us of the price He paid to redeem us. As the bread is broken, we remember the Savior’s torn flesh. Elder Dallin H. Oaks once observed that “because it is broken and torn, each piece of bread is unique, just as the individuals who partake of it are unique. We all have different sins to repent of. We all have different needs to be strengthened through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we remember in this ordinance”
The layers of symbolism throughout the ordinance of the sacrament can teach us so much about the Savior and His love for us.  I love the Spirit and closeness to Jesus Christ that I can feel when I take the sacrament.

2.  We can Choose to Pray

Jeremiah 29:12-13 reads:  12 Then shall ye acall upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will bhearken unto you.
13 And ye shall aseek me, and find me, when ye shall bsearch for me with all your cheart.
When the Savior appeared among the people on this continent, after his resurrection, he taught them how to pray. He used the words, “Pray always.”    
We really do have an opportunity to connect with the Lord and counsel with Him when we pray and open ourselves up to receiving His guidance.  I have had experiences where I have felt so powerfully Heavenly Father directing my prayer and helping me know who and what to prayer for and even sometimes the precise words to use.  What a relief it can be to pour out all the fears and concerns of my heart.  There was a time when I had been feeling quite down emotionally for months.  It scared me to be feeling incapable of being emotionally available for my family.  I felt like I’d lost my ability to be truly joyful.  During that time I had been having nudgings that I needed to be willing to let another child join our family but I was so scared.  I felt so drained and physically and emotionally tired all the time.  But through the medium of prayer - of expressing my fears and concerns, and finally my faith, Heavenly Father was able to let me know that it would all be okay.  My Faith - my daughter Faith - is a reminder to me of that experience of relinquishing my fears through prayer and trusting in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to carry me through.
3.  We can Choose to Bear Testimony
There is power in speaking words out loud.  Not too long ago I had an experience with this.  I was watching a short video about women’s self-esteem and the person on the video counseled women to look in the mirror and say directly, out loud, with power, the words “I am beautiful.”  Well, I thought this sounded a little silly and I don’t consider my self-esteem to be too damaged, but just for kicks, in the living room, I looked up and said loudly to myself “I am beautiful”.  Instantly I was so struck by overwhelming emotion and a feeling of love from Heavenly Father that I burst into tears.  Faith looked at me in some consternation from the other room.  I’ve had similarly powerful feelings when I read the scriptures and other books aloud to my children.  I was amazed how simply speaking three words out loud had caused that intense feeling.  It got me thinking about the importance of bearing our testimonies.  I think that anyone who has stood at this pulpit has had the experience of an outpouring of the Holy Ghost confirming in our minds a simple truth that we have stated.  For me personally, often that witness doesn’t come UNTIL I open my mouth and then the Spirit sends these words out and witnesses of their truth all at the same time.
Elder Ballard counseled:  “too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few...say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. ...that is because the Spirit cannot be restrained when pure testimony of Christ is borne.”

I think there is a reason that we have callings and that at their root, all callings are teaching callings - testifying callings.  We are given the opportunity to testify of Christ and through that testimony, to grow closer to Him.  From the Sunbeam teacher who speaks out loud to her class the words  “Jesus loves me” and feels the Holy Ghost testify of the truth in that simple statement, to the ward clerk managing our ward records who testifies that we are loved and cared for as individuals, to the visiting teacher who shares a simple scripture and testimony of hope and Christ’s love to buoy a saddened heart, we all have opportunities to teach and testify of Christ.  And that is a powerful way to strengthen our own - as well as other’s - relationships with the Savior.  

4.  Choose to Fast
When I was about 17 one of my little sisters confided in me that she really hated to fast.  I wanted to convince her that her attitude was wrong, but I couldn’t think of a thing to say.  In my effort to teach my sister, I spent an entire afternoon researching fasting and realized at the end of it that I hadn’t convinced her - but I had certainly strengthened my own testimony of the principle!  
Sister Linda K. Burton taught, “In order to increase our ability to hear the voice of the Spirit, we would all do well to fast each fast Sunday and freely give our fast offering to help those in need.  Through fasting comes the spirit of prophecy and revelation and the opportunity to be counseled by the Lord.”

5.  Choose to be worthy and worship in the Temple
I love the idea that the Lord invites us to His home so that we can get to know Him better.  Doesn’t that sound like something a friend would do?
Last October, Elder Bednar taught, “A temple literally is the house of the Lord, a sacred space specifically set apart for worshipping God and for receiving and remembering His great and precious promises.  The principal purpose is to powerfully and repeatedly focus our attention upon Heavenly Father, His Only Begotten Son, the Holy Ghost, and the promises associated with the ordinances and covenants of the Savior’s restored gospel.”  

6.  Choose to Serve Others
If we were doing a countdown to the #1 way to develop a relationship with the Savior, I think service would occupy the top slot.  How else can we learn to love as He loved and understand his character unless we do what He did - which was endless sacrificial service.  What has helped me was recognizing that most beneficial service to myself and to others is rarely the convenient service. I also have a testimony that our simple acts of service are magnified to become “enough” for the Lord’s purposes.  That gives me great comfort.

7.  Choose to search the scriptures daily.  

There is no better place to learn about the Savior than the scriptures.

I searched through the New Testament to come up with some examples of friendship between the Savior and His disciples - His friends.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I thought it was interesting to think about each of these things and how they can apply to ME in my efforts to be a friend to my Savior:

They prayed together

They ate together

They traveled together

They comforted each other

They served each other and others

They stood up for each other

They worshipped together

They trusted each other

They fasted together

They loved each other

He kept His promises to us - specifically when He suffered in Gethsemane and atoned for our sins.

This thought from Spencer W. Kimball has hung on a wall in our home for years:
“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”

This has been a guide for me whenever I am seeking personal revelation and guidance and don’t feel that the answers are coming.  In those situations, most often I am on my knees and praying hard, but I am not immersing myself enough in the scriptures.  When I remember to do so, the Spirit comes, and I feel a connection with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that I wasn’t feeling before.
Elder Hales taught:  “When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures, for His words are spoken through His prophets.”  
In addition to what Elder Hales taught, I find that I receive inspiration and promptings when I study the scriptures more than at any other time.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to study.  I like to use a multitude of resources and strategies to help me focus my studies.  This month I’ve been using a study guide that suggested the following areas of study in order to strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ -
-Study His mission and participate in His work - how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t really know?

-Learn about those who knew Him and the encounters they had with Jesus.  What do those teach us about the personality of Jesus Christ?  When did I last “encounter” the Savior?  Or, if I can’t think of the last time, when am I going to set aside time to seek Him out?

-Learn about adversity - the role it played in the life of the Savior, and the role it plays in bringing us closer to Him.  John C. Pingree, Jr. recently described how “[o]ur trials help us discover and prepare for the work Heavenly Father has for us.”

-Consider the invitations extended by the Savior to follow in His ways - to develop His attributes and characteristics.   Who is part of your flock?

Elder Faust shared a beautiful testimony and promise that I would like to share with you.  “It is my testimony that we are facing difficult times. We must be courageously obedient. My witness is that we will be called upon to prove our spiritual stamina, for the days ahead will be filled with affliction and difficulty. But with the assuring comfort of a personal relationship with the Savior, we will be given a calming courage. From the Divine so near we will receive the quiet assurance:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121:7–8.)
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
“For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:7–8.)
I testify to you is that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can be a protection and a strength to us in the trials that inevitably come.  

I testify that we are worthy of that connection, that the Savior waits with open arms to receive us as His friends and that there are small and simple steps that we can take that will forge that relationship.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mom the Martyr

It seems to me that it is so easy sometimes to be Mom the Martyr.  I've been struggling with that myself.  And it's completely my own fault!  It started out with me feeling sorry for my busy older girls.  And ended with me slowly absorbing all of the children's chores into my own list of things to do.  What?  I used to be SO. GOOD. at teaching and training my children to be good workers.  That was back when I homeschooled them and had complete control over their schedules and mine.  Then they started growing up.  And spending more time away from home.  And suddenly I found myself feeling guilty about asking them to do helpful things.  I also tend to speak "service" as my love language - so when my kids are stressed or worried or sad, I do their chores for them.  And then that becomes the new normal.

This week I remembered that not only is that not good for THEM, it is not good for ME!  I am getting run down and tired and stressed and having a hard time lightening up and having fun.  I'm letting my spiritual well run dry and my body get soft instead of taking care of my core needs.

I haven't figured out the nitty gritty details of what has to change, but I started by making a list of everything I might need to do in a day.  It was long.  And I realized that the kids need to help.  There are seven of them now.  All except the baby are capable of doing a LOT of the things on that list.  The rewards are sweet.  They will get a better mom, and they will learn valuable lessons and life skills.  It's also a little bit about prioritizing and letting things go.  I have to learn to do that as well.  Counters, meals, bedrooms, floors - they don't need to be perfect.

Mom the Martyr no more.  I'm stopping the pity party and ending the not-enough-hours-in-the-day feeling by letting my family do what families need to do - work together to make this house a home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Can I just say, parenting teens is HARD.


My teen daughters are fantastic.  Seriously.  I couldn't ask for better girls.  They are trying so hard to do what is right, to excel in school, and to serve those around them.  I have no complaints.

But as a parent?  Dang.  Even with amazing kids my husband and I constantly struggle with knowing what boundaries to set, when to intercede, when to step back.  I'm constantly asking myself, do they need a little push, a lot of support, or to be completely left alone?  It all felt a lot easier when they were younger, that's for sure!

I am so grateful to have the guidance and promptings of the Holy Ghost and know that my Heavenly Father is walking through this mortally journey with me.  Knowing that even though I will make many, many mistakes, through His Atonement the Savior will magnify my efforts.  This gives me the ability to keep going without becoming too weighed down with my concerns.

I have found that for me the surest bet is to stay prayerful, and when I'm talking to my girls admit that I don't know everything; that sometimes I really am just taking a stab in the dark.  I ask for their patience and respect, and make an effort to respond in kind.  I keep my mouth shut more often and let tears and emotions ebb before engaging (oh how this seems to be key - especially with girls!).

The good news is, it's pretty hard to screw up a kid.  I know because I made a ton of mistakes with my eldest, and look how great she's turning out to be.  Not that I'm responsible for her greatness - that was already there inside her.  What I'm saying is that it takes a lot to ruin your kid.  :-)

Sunday, November 2, 2014


A couple months ago I heard one of the best talks I have heard on the topic of journaling.  Keeping is a journal is one of this topics that makes a lot of people sigh when it comes up.  It's like ONE more THING to do that you just don't have time to do properly.  I thought I'd share a couple things I remember from the talk, though, because it really was excellent.

Sister Galloway shared a few journaling experiences she has had over the years.  She keeps a couple different journals.  In one she writes down promptings she's received, things prayed for, and prayers answered (which is probably the most important of the three - recording the answers).
In another journal she writes specific things that she is grateful for - which I think is often a record of blessings that she has noticed during the day.

She shared some specific instances where journaling has helped her through difficult times, and when it helped her sustain a child through a difficult time.  She talked about how it has increased the quality of her prayers when she is putting more thought into what to ask for and paying attention to the answers.

I felt inspired to be more consistent about making special note of spiritual experiences I've had and prayers answered.  Instead of keeping a separate journal, I've been marking them with a star in the margin so that when I'm flipping through, I can go back and re-read about some of my more poignant and spiritual moments.  I like to write on Sunday evenings, but I will pick up my journal any time I have something specific to say.  I don't write every week, though I'd like to write more frequently.

I was a really dedicated journal-writer in my teens/early 20s.  I recently went back and re-read quite a few of those journals and it was such a helpful thing as a mother.  Sometimes I just don't remember what it is like to be 16.  Reading about my feelings, concerns, and recognizing all the dramatic emotion I was experiencing on a daily basis really helped me feel better prepared to relate to my teenage daughters.  Instead of feeling frustrated with the things they say and do, I had so much more empathy because I could remember being there!

Sometimes I go back to specific experiences in my life when I really had to lean on the Lord.  There's a feeling of strength that comes when I remember those times and how, with the Lord's help, I was able to get through them just fine.  It is a reminder that there is still help available from my Savior and Father.

Keeping a journal has great power to bless our lives.  It helps us focus, prioritize, and follow-through.  We will remember the goals we have and the values we want to stick to.  It can provide a source of spiritual renewal and strength.  We will be reminded of our Heavenly Father's love for us.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Every family is going to have different priorities.  Lately this is something that I've had to keep reminding myself over and over again.  That, and remind myself not to judge others because their priorities are different than my priorities.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Keeping Quiet

It's such a hard lesson for me to learn.

In my pride, I think I'm so full of good advice.  And maybe sometimes I am.

But there is one place where my advice is almost never welcomed in the way I think it should be.  That relationship between mother and oldest daughter is tricky sometimes.

But I've learned two important things.

1.  When she starts to complain, keep my mouth closed.

2.  When you're tempted to offer solutions, instead ask what you can do to help.  Then be quiet and let her talk.

So simple, yet often so difficult for me to remember!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Precious One

For four years I wondered and worried and debated about how to know if our family was complete.  Five children felt good.  Our last two children were only 15 months apart, so life had been busy.  In some ways it was like raising twins.  My arms were frequently full.  And yet I had a nagging feeling. A feeling of unrest.  Not a specific prompting that there was another child that The Lord wanted to send to our family.  Just a worry that I might be called upon to have another child when I was pretty sure I didn't want to go thought that experience again.  Life was good.  The kids were growing and becoming more independent.  I had more freedom than ever before.

Ten months ago, just weeks before my youngest turned four I finally humbled myself enough to tell The Lord in prayer that I would gladly welcome another soul to our family if that was his will.  Nine months ago I found out I was expecting my sixth child.    I didn't think He would take me up on that offer so soon, but I was not disappointed that He did.

My pregnancy started out challenging in different ways than usual.  The pregnancy itself was fairly straightforward.  Our lives we're what was hard.  My mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer the weekend I found out I was pregnant.  Our family suffered repeated illnesses, including a  three week bout with the flu.  I was unhappy that pregnancy and illness kept me from being able to care for both my immediate and extended families in the way I would like.  I was pretty miserable until I was 8 months pregnant.  Then all my unhappy symptoms left and  I suddenly felt fabulous.  For the next six weeks  I had tremendous energy, my body felt healthy, and emotionally I was better than ever.

For nine months we had pondered what to name our child.  We settled on Faith when she was one day old.  Somehow it seemed appropriate.

For my previous five children, the true challenges of a new baby always manifested in the first two months.  For me, those first two months were two months of misery.  Breast feeding is a challenge for my body, and takes a lot of physical and emotional pain in the beginning.

With Faith, I wanted to have happy memories of our first couple months.  I wanted to avoid the trauma I'd suffered with the preceding children.  I made some plans and said a  lot of prayers.

Faith is three weeks old now and I have had the best three weeks of my life.  I have received the greatest blessing and answer to my prayers that I could have hoped for.  Life has been smooth.  There have been small hiccups, but emotionally I have felt so good.  I have been able to snuggle my child without worrying and fearing the times she would wake up to be fed.

Heavenly Father has given me a gift....the opportunity to see the great blessing it is to have a child, in a way that  I have never experienced before.  Instead of the pain and fear, I've been able to experience the joy and relish the small sacred moments.  I don't want it to end.  I don't want her to be my last because it saddens me to think of never having these perfect moments again.  I'm afraid that I will forget them.  That I will forget the perfect feeling of a tiny body curled up against mine, of the soft, sleepy squeaks at the foot of my bed as she wakes for a midnight feeding.  I don't want to forget the powerful swelling my heart made when she was first delivered and we saw her precious face for the first time.

My prayers each day are full of gratitude for the gift Heavenly Father has given me.  I'm so grateful that I humbled myself enough to allow this blessing into my life.  Every day I feel a renewed sense of amazement that God lets us be co-creators with him.  He trusts us with these tiny bundles of perfection and innocence.

I'm not a perfect mom.  My imperfections sadden me far too often.  I lash out in anger, say things I don't mean, scold too harshly.  And yet The Lord sees fit to bless me with another chance to get it right.  Children are a gift from God in so many ways.  And I have felt more thankful and more in awe of the miracle and goodness of it than ever before.