Monday, June 18, 2018

Happy Father's Day

As is typically expected, I called my dad for Father's Day yesterday. It was such a nice visit. Usually when I call home, I only talk to Mom, because Dad is at work. I get to see him every time we visit home, but there's often other people and things going on that also take our attention. So it was nice to take the opportunity to visit one on one again, and share with each other our lives and our testimonies. As I got off the phone, I was reminded of my visit with him back in April, when we went home for the weekend.

After planning to come up, we found out that Mom would be in Arizona for her uncle's funeral. Like we typically do, we left Friday and headed to Ava to spend the afternoon with Gabe's parents, then drove out to Ash Grove to spend the evening with James and Kelli, and then to Mom and Dad's to stay the night. I called Dad and told him we'd be in late and we'd just plan on visiting with him the next morning.

When we drove up to the house (I think it was around midnight), we could see that all the lights upstairs were still on. I thought it was funny that he had left so many lights on for us. Then as we walked in the front door, I could hear something in the kitchen. Dad was still up doing dishes, haha. So we came in and I sat down and started visiting with him. This was just two days before I was set apart as primary president, so I spent a lot of time sharing my experience with finding counselors. We continued talking, and eventually Gabe got tired and headed to bed. Dad and I ended up sitting in the kitchen talking with each other, just the two of us, for probably two hours.

It reminded me so much of being a teenager and young adult at home, and the countless talks we had late at night after I would come home from being out with friends. Sitting at home again, talking late at night with just the two of us, I felt like I was still just Daddy's little girl. And I treasured that feeling. I didn't care that I would probably be tired the next morning from staying up so late. Talking about life, about the gospel, and the lessons I was learning, and feeling such love, such a deep connection with my dad was more than worth it. It was a special moment I hadn't been expecting, but one that I knew would be held dear for years to come.

I think every one of my siblings has a special bond with both Mom and Dad, together and individually.We all know that we are equally loved, and yet because of the individual time our parents spent with us growing up - talking, counselling, congratulating, listening, guiding, commending, and teaching one on one - we also feel that we are especially and uniquely loved by them. "Sure Mom and Dad love all of my siblings, but they also really love ME." We all share common memories as a family that we hold dear, but we also each have personal, individual experiences with our parents that we hold alone. Moments that are testaments and reminders to us of how they have shaped and molded us specifically. Moments where we have felt our own personal, individual connection with them as father and son, mother and daughter, daddy's little girl, or mamma's little boy. Moments that taught us beyond a doubt how loved we are by them, how concerned they are for us, and how much they want us to be happy.

How grateful I am to have such wonderful parents to look to as examples of what it really means to be a mother and father. The idea of knowing how to raise children of my own someday is a little less daunting knowing that I can look to my own childhood for help. Their love and my relationship with them have helped me to better understand the love that my heavenly parents have for me. Because I could rely on them as my parents growing up, I know that I can trust and rely on my heavenly parents now. My life has been blessed beyond measure because of their love, their examples, and the one on one time they have spent with me. And what a blessing it is to be reminded of that because of a simple holiday like Father's Day.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Another Week in Primary

I decided today that I think Junior Primary is just always going to be crazy...haha. And I mean, we do have 10 ya, at least for the next year as those kids get older, it will probably just be crazy. They are sweet though, sitting still and being quiet is just rough! Plus we always have way too many chairs set up because of the previous ward's primary (our meeting times overlap, so we can't rearrange the room before church, because they're still in there). And there always seems to be someone needing's just hectic. But we make it through. And then we get some respite with Senior Primary, haha.

Senior Primary today was especially sweet for me. Our teachers were attending Teacher's Council Meeting, so I sat with the kids during singing time and sharing time. We had two new/visiting kids that I sat right next to. Their mother was baptized a long time ago, and their whole family is now meeting with the missionaries. Today was their first Sunday attending our ward. During singing time, I grabbed the extra mini Children's Songbook we have from the closet, and opened it up to whatever song we were singing, and sang with the brother and sister to try and help them feel included in singing time. I was amazed at how earnestly they tried to read the words and sing along, despite their not knowing the songs. As I focused more intently on the words, and our new music leader bore testimony of the principles taught in them, I felt the spirit of peace confirming the truths taught, and confirming my testimony. The primary songs really are a wonderful tool.

Then getting to watch my counselors conduct and teach sharing time was great, too. I am so grateful for them! Watching them today, I felt like I had so much to learn from them. Marissa was conducting, and as she welcomed the kids to primary, she actually welcomed them. She asked them if they're excited for summer, what their plans are, and helped the kids who forget their assignments know that it was ok. Amanda taught sharing time and shared a wonderful object lesson that the kids really enjoyed. She talked about listening to the voice of the spirit, and as she read scriptures about the Holy Ghost, had extra volunteers come up each time to ring a bell or bang a pot or pan as she read. By the end, nobody could even sort of hear what she was reading. The kids obviously loved it, but they also readily understood the meaning behind it. The more noise and distraction we have in our lives, the less we are able to hear and understand the voice of the spirit.

I love that even as I serve in primary each week, and miss the opportunity to attend Sunday school and Relief Society, I am able to be taught and feel the Spirit, to be filled, as I attend my meetings.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

1 Nephi 1:20

"...But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty..."

I have always loved this verse. But as I read it today I felt a great testimony of its truth.

In this first month and a half serving as the Primary president, I have been amazed to see the truth of the phrase "Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies." Not that I particularly felt inadequate or anything when I was called, but there have been a few Sundays that I had a long list of things that I needed to do at church, and as I prayed for help, somehow I was able to manage it all.

Hence why this verse hit me today. My first counselor was gone today, so I was conducting in her place, as well as checking on the classes and helping like I otherwise would have been. This was also the first Sunday we were having a member of the Bishopric come in during opening exercises to share a message. Then there were two kids who did NOT want to be at church today. And I had a page long list of people to talk to/things to do. Oh, and I have a nice outbreak from poison ivy right now. Basically, it was a little crazy, haha.

And yet, about half way through Primary, I checked over my list again and realized that I had checked all but one thing off my list. I had prayed this morning for the help to meet my responsibilities according to His will (and that my poison ivy wouldn't be a problem during church, haha). And I got it. I accomplished as much as I possibly could, an issue I had been concerned about resolved itself, and my poison ivy didn't itch once - even when the little girl I had on my lap kept brushing against it, haha.

Serving in this calling has just given me a new testimony that the Lord truly is there, extending His arm of mercy to fill in where we fall short. That when we are on His errand, He will increase our capacity to meet the needs of those we serve. Or He will simply resolve the situation through some other means to meet their needs. Because they are His children we're serving. And I am so grateful that's true, and that I don't have to do this on my own. Because He does a much better job than I would.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The First of Many

Today was my first full Sunday as the new Primary president, and it experience. :) Last Sunday the new presidency was all sustained and then set apart right after Sacrament Meeting so that we could immediately start serving in our new callings that day. But with the different things of trying to get organized as a new president and presidency, I felt like I missed almost the whole thing.

So today began with my first counselor catching me just before Sacrament meeting started to let me know she just got a text from one of the Junior Primary teachers saying they wouldn't be there today. And since Junior Primary is my responsibility, that meant I got to find a sub. Thankfully one of the children's parents were willing to step in and substitute. We got into Primary, and man, did it feel chaotic, haha.

There are just over 20 kids in our Junior Primary (ages 3-7), and we had 3 visitors as well. I was conducting, and neither of our 2 kids with assignments for opening exercises were prepared, and neither of their parents were there to help. I don't even know more than like 3 kids, because we're so new to the ward, so I didn't even really know who was supposed to be up there doing what.

Mostly though, kids that age are just so wiggly. And having 20+ in the same room for an hour, trying to keep their attention, is just a big job! Especially when you don't feel completely confident in knowing what you need to be doing in the first place. :P So by the time they were dismissed and Senior Primary started to come in, I felt a bit frazzled.

But then Senior Primary felt so calm and mature after being with Junior Primary! Our Senior Primary is smaller, but also, they're not tiny little kids! I still didn't really feel like I knew what I was doing with Senior Primary, but I didn't feel so frazzled because it was so much more calm and quiet than it had been. But it was all a learning experience. I know I will feel more confident next week, and soon it will all be so familiar that it won't take any thought at all (I hope :P ). This is definitely an adventure for me, but it's one I am excited for.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books of 2017

I had a goal for 2017 to read 1 book each lasted for the first month or two and then we started moving. :P But even though I only read about half as many books as I'd planned to, I was glad that I at least read what I did. And I was proud of myself for reading more than just fun, quick, novels.

Glimpses into the life of Marjorie Pay Hinckley - Out of all the great stories and quotes in this book, my all time favorite is still the story of one of her sons showing off to their "city" cousins that he could walk on broken glass with his tough, bare, country feet, haha! I want that to be my kids someday, lol.

Pride and Prejudice - It was fun to read this after being familiar with the movie. Reading just gives you that much more time to connect with and relate to the characters. Also, I can totally get Darcy and his introverted self, haha.

To the Rescue: Thomas S. Monson - I LOVED reading this one. So many amazing stories about such a kind and loving man. The miracles he witnessed and took part in in his life were truly remarkable. It also made me realize, I really enjoy biographies. I haven't read many in the past (like...maybe one other one...), but I love learning about someone else's life, especially a life that has touched so many.

Gospel Symbolism, by Joseph Fielding McConkie - I really enjoyed this book as well. Themes and symbols and patterns and deeper meanings are totally my thing. It's been long enough since I read it that I can't think of anything specific, but I remember thinking it was definitely one I want to own.

House of Glory, by S. Michael Wilcox - This was just a nice kind of intro book into the importance of the temple and temple worship. He made a few analogies about how the more you attend the better you understand that I really loved.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Journey

Motherhood. It's what I've looked forward to my whole life. I excelled in school and have been told and felt that I could really go places in my life. But the only place I've ever had a desire to go is motherhood. My mother has always been a stay at home mom. One who did a fantastic job of bearing 10 and raising 9 children. And she always stressed the importance of family - not just through her words, but especially through her actions. I always felt motherhood as the purpose of my life, just as it was for her.

I always knew it would be the purpose of my life. But occasionally there was that nagging thought - what if children never came? When I was 14 I received my patriarchal blessing (A recorded blessing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "which provides inspired direction from the Lord," and which is given by one who is called, set apart, and given authority to pronounce such sacred blessings upon those who are prepared and worthy to receive them. You can learn more about them here, and I'm always happy to answer questions as well!) A part of that blessing talked about my children and grandchildren. A sigh of relief. Now I could put that occasional nagging thought away for good.

In high school, especially my senior year, I would have lengthy conversations with my close friend Miranda about how ready and excited we were for motherhood. We were so done with high school and ready for "real life." And a huge part of "real life" for us meant being mothers and raising a family.

My older sisters were having children, and even as a teenager, I would find myself yearning to someday hold my own children as I held their precious babies in my arms.

I started college. I chose my major, pre-accounting, based on the fact that I enjoyed math and that I could easily work from home and still take care of my children full time as a CPA. But I hoped I wouldn't ever actually need to, because I wanted to be a full-time mom, without any other responsibilities vying for my time and attention. And then I hated my pre-accounting classes. Now what? Nothing else peaked my interest as I reviewed and considered the other majors. Then my brother Keith asked if I had considered doing a Family Studies Major. "I know it's cliche`, [especially at BYU] but maybe you would enjoy it." So I thought about it. And then I read this quote from Elder Henry B. Erying in my Eternal Marriage Student Manual:

There are important ways in which planning for failure can make failure more likely and the ideal less so. Consider these twin commandments as an example: "Fathers are to...provide the necessities of life...for their families" and "mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." Knowing how hard that might be, a young man might choose a career on the basis of how much money he could make, even if it meant he couldn't be home enough to be an equal partner. By doing that, he has already decided he cannot hope to do what would be best. A young woman might prepare for a career incompatible with being primarily responsible for the nurture of her children because of the possibilities of not marrying, of not having children, or of being left alone to provide for them herself. Or, she might fail to focus her education on the gospel and the knowledge of the world that nurturing a family would require, not realizing that the highest and best use she could make of her talents and her education would be in her home. Because a young man and woman had planned to take care of the worst, they might make the best less likely.

That was my answer. Family was my passion. Family was my life. It only made sense that family would be my major - even if it was cliche`. So over the next few semesters I began my Family Studies classes - Strengthening Marriage and Family, Home and Family Living, Introduction to Family Processes, Human Development, Preparation for Marriage - and I absolutely loved them. I couldn't imagine studying anything else.

Schooling went on a hiatus as I moved back home to Missouri and felt impressed to stay. The yearning for marriage and children grew to an almost constant ache. After a year and a half at home - the blink of an eye in retrospect, but an eternity at the time - I began dating and married my husband, Gabe.

We weren't sure we wanted children immediately, but neither were we completely opposed to it. So we left it up to what some would call chance and what we felt was the will of the Lord. The first few months felt like a fun guessing game: was it pregnancy, or just PMS?

7 months. "Why isn't it happening yet?" I knew it would be okay, but each month was starting to hurt more and more.

1 year. Infertility. What a horrible, frightening word. We now fell within the general definition - not being able to conceive after a year of trying.

I reached out to my sister in law, Jenessa, who was struggling with her own fertility journey. She recommended a book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I soaked it up and began tracking my cycles. But our sleeping habits were inconsistent, and so my temperatures were as well. After a few months we moved to St. Louis and Gabe began his Doctor of Chiropractic degree at Logan University. Our schedule became more consistent and I continued my tracking with a renewed hope.

5 more months. Toni said it should only take 4-6 months to conceive if you are tracking and timing things accordingly. What now? Everything seemed normal, but nothing was happening. We began to consider alternatives. Perhaps Gabe should be tested. We looked up our options in the area and began to call around for prices. Money was tight, but this would be worth it. Right? It made the most logical sense as our next step, and yet for whatever reason we were not actively pursuing it. Maybe this wasn't the right direction.

Christmas break - time to visit home. We approached my dad and asked for priesthood blessings of healing for each of us. A sacred experience. Peace. Our time would come, and we felt it was near.

A few more months passed - over 2 years now. Still nothing. The frustration returned. "I thought the time was near?" I didn't get it. "The Lord is in control. It will happen in His time - whatever that means." Slowly I began again to accept His plan. I trusted it would happen eventually, but had no sense of what "eventually" meant.

Since moving to St. Louis I had been serving as a temple worker - an opportunity only available to women without children currently in their care at home. Perhaps this was a part of why the Lord had waited to bless me with children. It was an opportunity I was beyond grateful for. But it had been nearly a year now. Surely that was long enough? Then they asked me to serve as a coordinator. Another new experience. Did this mean the Lord had another year of work for me before children?

I started babysitting 2 girls once a week. It was refreshing to be with little children. Then I realized if things had happened as I expected as a teenager, these children at these ages could already be mine.

Nearly 3 years. I was experiencing regular nausea and lowering energy levels. Perhaps there were health problems beyond infertility. I began going to a chiropractor who had worked with infertility and had success. I felt hopeful. But it was expensive for us students, and we quickly felt like he wasn't helping. So we worked instead with the school to order a blood panel. Everything came back normal, except for extremely low blood sugar levels. We adjusted our diet and I could feel my blood sugar normalizing. Gabe began applying what he was learning in school and in his seminars and we focused on improving our health in manageable ways - diet, exercise, occasional herbal supplements.

Waiting was growing difficult again. I thought of the parable of the unjust judge and the importuning widow (Luke 18: 1-8). Perhaps, like this widow, I just needed to ask more often. My prayers became a daily pleading that I could have children now. But that didn't last long. Quickly I felt the impropriety of demanding the Lord to do things my way. So I began instead to pray daily for the help to wholly accept His will, to be able to accept it unquestioningly. And I learned firsthand that "prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (LDS Bible Dictionary - Prayer). I began to feel in my heart what I already knew in my mind. That God knew my longing and my desires, but that for reasons I didn't yet understand, His timing was more perfect than mine. And finally, my heart was satisfied with that answer, even if it meant years more of waiting.

I continued serving in the temple and began to realize how greatly it was strengthening me during this time of waiting. Sacred experiences there, both great and small, reminded me that the Lord knew my heart and was watching over me. Conversations and relationships with others about their experiences helped me know I wasn't alone and continuously renewed my hope. I began to recognize that serving in the temple was giving me a new spirit, the spirit of the temple. The overwhelming feelings of peace and love that I felt in the temple were making their way into every other part of my life as well.

3 years come and gone. And yet somehow 3 years felt easier than 1 as I was learning to truly give my burdens to the Lord. That summer I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting about temples. I briefly shared that serving there had reminded me of my covenants and increased my patience in waiting for children. Almost immediately I regretted opening up - sharing something so personal with so many people isn't an easy thing for me to do. But before church was over, the kind words of others changed my mind. I already knew that "a joy shared is a joy doubled," but over the next few weeks I also learned for myself that "a burden shared is a burden halved" as friends and others from church reached out to me in love.

Then later that month one of my closest friends told me she was pregnant with her first. Of course a part of me wished I was, too, but I truly was happy for her. A couple weeks later we visited family and one of my closest cousins told me she was pregnant with her second. My own wanting grew even more poignant, but still I was happy for her as well. We returned home and I saw my sister in law Jenessa's blog post that she, too, was pregnant. She had been waiting longer than myself, and struggled harder and dealt with miscarriages, clearly she deserved this blessing. But having three such close friends tell me within such a short time was painfully difficult. I went to bed that night with more longing than I had felt in a long time. But the Lord was merciful, and all the learning and growing I had done over the past three years returned. I awoke the next morning accepting again my own situation and circumstances, able to be happy for my friends and family while being content with my own life.

4 years.

The next May we move back to Springfield. A friend who has also struggled with infertility invited me over for an evening of sharing with other women. Everyone's experiences were so different, and yet we had so much to gain from listening each other. The longer I to wait, the more I see others who have dealt or are dealing with similar things. The pain is real. But so is the healing - no matter the answer you receive. Adoption, foster care, fertility treatments, miracle babies, accepting things as they are and living your life childless. Each experience unique. Each experience an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to open yourself up to possibilities you never would have imagined otherwise.

5 years last month. I never imaged it could take this long to start my family. But my husband and I have grown accustomed to life as a family of 2. We still have no greater desire than to raise children of our own. And yet now we can be grateful for the opportunities inherent to life without children. We can look to the future with hope, while experiencing joy now. My life is not what I expected, nothing like I planned, and definitely not what I would have asked for. But I see now that it's exactly what it should be. I see now that the Lord undoubtedly knows what I need.

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation...know thou, my [child], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine and Covenants 122:5,7)

I don't know when we will have children to call our own. But I do know that when it happens, it will be right. I may not always understand His ways, but I can know with a surety that with His help, whatever I have to face can change me for the better. Because it has. I am not who I was 5 years ago. And I am not who I would be if everything had happened my way. But I am who He wants and needs me to be. "[He] is the gardener here. He knows what he wants [me] to be." So, "thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me." (Elder Hugh B. Brown)

"When you are filled with the Spirit of God that spirit satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart... When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied." - Eliza R. Snow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It's Good to be Home

This week has been great! Gabe took his final Boards exam back in St. Louis last weekend, so it finally feels like we are here and settled in. Saturday night and Sunday were Stake Conference, and we saw so many friends and family members there. Then we spent Sunday evening out at James and Kelli's and I got my hair cut again (yay!). Monday and Tuesday we babysat for James and Kelli while they were out of town. Taking care of 7 little kids really is a lot of work! It always makes me feel good about myself that I can handle all of them without a problem...and then somewhat overwhelms me when I think of having to do that EVERY day, not just for a few, haha. Being a mom to a bunch of young children is a lot of work! And very mentally exhausting, haha. It is truly a self-sacrificing labor of love. You moms are awesome. Also, I can tell how good of friends we are with them that Gabe was so willing to do it, when just 2 or 3 months ago he commented on not wanting to do anymore overnight babysitting for a long time after a 6 day stint for a family in our previous ward (the one with 4 kids that pretty much all took care of themselves, lol).

So I thought I might take today to sleep in, relax, and get caught up on my housework after being gone for 2 days, but I woke up to a phone call from Mom, saying that they were ready to start painting the new house today. That phone call was also basically as Gabe was getting ready to walk out the door for work (which is a whole other tangent on how awesome, laid-back, and generous Sam Sanders is and has been as Gabe interns with him). So I quickly got dressed and grabbed my stuff and headed out to Mom and Dad's. I ate breakfast with them at their house, and Mom and I got to the new house around 10-10:30. We had to start with scraping the walls to smooth out the texturing, and then when Hyrum and Baylie (I was just getting used to spelling Bailee...I wonder how long it will take me to get Baylie right :P ) showed up, we painted the two bedrooms and the bathroom downstairs with primer. After cleaning up, Mom and I left right around 4. It was a pretty good day of work!

Gabe was done by the time we got back, so we headed back into Springfield to go home. After cleaning up from my day of painting, we decided to go out for Gabe's birthday. We tried a new Indian restaurant downtown, Zayka's, and it was delicious! It was fun to go out with my sweetheart. :) Then of course we had to have some Andy's for desert. ;)

It has just been so nice to be back home again, nearby and available to help family and just spend time with them and be a part of their everyday (or at least weekly) lives. We're getting settled in nicely, too. All of our regular-use things are unpacked downstairs - we just need to organize our books and storage things in the upstairs bedrooms. I love having a house to live in. And James and Kelli are giving us a fridge this week to replace the old, small one here. They also have a dishwasher we can install and a board to use as a counter top for our "bathroom vanity turned kitchen cabinet". Again, it's so nice to be around family, so that they can help us out, too! :) Gabe's parents are also coming down to replace the old window ac unit in the living room with a new one that works better so that the house stays cool this summer. It's just so nice to be home!