Thursday, April 28, 2011

Five Things for Friday, 7th Edition

Wow, it has really been a long time since I've done my 5 things for Friday! Sorry Friday just always sneaks up on me so fast!
-1-

I thought I had linked to this but I realized a few weeks ago that I completely forgot to. Way back in February I wrote a guest post for Mormon Women: Who We Are about how I've learned to balance blogging and the Internet community with my "real" life. The article is called "Things As They Really Are: Overcoming an Internet Addiction." Here is just a little taste to get you hooked so you'll go over and read the whole thing.
... It was that last statistic that really got to me. I realized that for the last several months my “emotional highlight” of the week had occurred on-line. I realized that I knew more about the lives of my blogging friends than I did the woman next door, the women I visit taught, or even my younger sister. My contributions to conversations at the dinner table almost always involved something I had read or seen online or something from someone’s life I read on a blog. I also realized that I was also starting to compare my life and my children to other women’s lives and children that I didn’t even know and whose pictures and lives had been Photo Shopped and edited. I was judging myself and my family by an illusionary standard and sometimes it just made me miserable. True, I was doing a lot of good for the women I associated with online but I was also neglecting the people around me who also needed me. By allowing myself to get sucked into the Internet I was, like Elder Bednar warned, disconnecting from my physical body and the physical world and gradually losing sight of things as they really were. Read the rest

-2-

As most of my long time readers know I am working on a book with a group of women called "The Gift of Giving Life: Re-discovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth." We are getting excitingly close to having a rough draft of the book put together but we are still looking for women who are willing to share their spiritual insights into giving birth and becoming mothers. We have so many incredible stories but we are especially in need of the following types of stories.

Sexual abuse - How it affected your birth choices/experience OR how birth helped you heal from sexual abuse.

Abortion - What was pregnancy and birth like after an abortion, however long ago, for whatever reason.

Mental Illness - Mothers who suffer from mental illness.

Please remember that we are most interested in the spiritual angle of these stories. For example: How did you counsel with the Lord? How did healing occur? How has your relationship with God been strengthened? How did/do you see the hand of the Lord in this experience?

I know that these types of things are always hard to put into words but it is SO INCREDIBLY powerful for women to hear stories from women they can relate to. The stories can be anonymous and if you email them to ldsbirthstories@gmail.com or to thegiftofgivinglife@gmail.com they go to our book secretary and I won't even know who sent it in. We are also still accepting stories that fit into our other sections as well!

-3-

The modern dance group I am dancing with is holding a concert this Saturday night that I am performing in. If you live near by you are welcome to come! I am super excited but sort of terrified. It has been years since I've danced on stage. It will be such a good experience. Here are some of the pictures that were taken at our photo shoot last weekend. I think they turned out wonderful. The two of me on the chair are just poses I made up but the one in the middle is a shot from one of the dances I am in.





Wish me luck!

-4-

After my melt down at church a few weeks ago one of the women at church suggested that I try taking the Love and Logic parenting classes that are offered at a local elementary school. I just got done with the last class yesterday and I am now a new mother... really I am. I will admit that I have a temper and that I loose it way more often with my children than I would like. The class really focused on teaching you to NEVER discipline your children without doing it with love. That has been such a HUGE paradigm shift for me and it is really taking some re-training to stop the behaviors I am so used to doing. But I REALLY need to change because recently my little three-year-old has been copying all my bad behaviors and it is really distributing to see the worst of myself coming out in him. I've only been using the Love and Logic skills for about 2 weeks but already there is a huge difference in our house. I'd highly recommend checking out their books, audio series, DVDs or taking a class if there is one by you! (Oh, and I'm not getting paid to say this. I just really have loved what I've learned!).

-5-

So a few weeks ago I filled out an application and the first question it asked was "What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?" I thought it was such an interesting question. I answered the question by saying that I spend a lot of time thinking about women in the scriptures (which you'd expect from me right?), my doula work, the spiritual aspects of the process of creating human life, my husband, and my children. But it got me interested. What do YOU spend a lot of time thinking about? I'd really love to know.

Monday, April 25, 2011

FHE Winners

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House" series. It really turned out wonderful. If you haven't gotten a chance to read the posts from the people who linked up to the blog hop make sure you do. They are really great!

And now I'm excited to announce that the random number generator decided that the winner of the 16X20 print of Mandy Williams "Tree of Life" (Visit her Etsy Shop and blog to see more of Mandy's incredible artwork!)



is Melissa from Sunday Best!

and that the winner of the felt board story kit from Rising Moon Adventures (see all of her very well priced sets at her etsy shop or at her blog)



is Mariesa M. from Ten Cow Chick

Congrats to these lucky readers!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Women at the Empty Tomb

This post was originally posted on April 15, 2009

I've often wondered why Christ chose to appear to women first after His resurrection. Was there something special about the women? Was there something symbolic about it?

This Easter I poured over all the scriptures in the Gospels that talked about the resurrection. As I was reading I realized something I hadn't thought of before-- that the reason these women were privileged to be the first witnesses of Christ's resurrection was because they never left him. Christ's women followers were some of the few disciples who didn't leave Christ during His great trial and they were with Him at the cross when some of his other disciples had betrayed or deserted Him. Even after Christ's dead body was brought down from the cross and laid in the tomb they never left him. Mary Magdalene and the "other" Mary actually sat guard in front of Christ's tomb for as long as they could without breaking the sabbath (Matt 27: 60-61). It was only later that the Pharisees asked to have a Roman solider placed outside and the tomb sealed with a large stone so that Christ's disciples wouldn't try to steal His body (Matt. 27: 62-66).
Link
Not only did these women never desert their Savior but they never stopped serving Him, even in death. The scriptures tell us that on the morning after the Sabbath, as early as they could possibly have come with out breaking the sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the lesser and Joses (also called "the other Mary"), Joanna, Salome the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the apostles James and John, and "other women" who followed Jesus out of Galilee came with spices to anoint and prepare Christ's body for burial. This task of anointing the body was just another of the "woman's tasks" like cooking, cleaning, washing, and sewing, that these women were accustomed to doing, and which I imagine they had done for Jesus many times during His ministry. I think it is significant that because these women were doing a "woman's task", taking care of Jesus' s physical needs, that they got one of the greatest privileges and blessings of all of Christ's disciples-- to be the first witnesses of His resurrection. I think that this shows that Christ acknowledged the faithful and loving service that these women had given him throughout His mortal life, and realized that what women do to sustain and provide physical life is important and valued in the eyes of God. He knew that their willingness to take care of his His physical body, even after He was dead, was a sign of their great love and devotion and so he blessed and rewarded them for it.



Another significant thing about these women was that they
were the first to touch the nail prints in Christ's feet and to physically know that He was indeed resurrected. In Mark 16:6-7 we read that when these women got to the tomb they found the stone rolled away and a young man, an angel sitting inside, who told them,
"Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him as he said unto you." (Mark 16:6-7).
On hearing these words they immediately
ran from the tomb to tell the disciples, and as they were going they were stopped on their way by the resurrected Jesus. They fell at His feet, and worshiped Him, knowing that He was indeed their Lord. He bade them to
"Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me." (Matt. 28:9-10).
From that moment on, even when others (like some of the apostles) questioned their testimonies, they never doubted what they had seen and felt but bore continuous witness that they had seen the empty tomb, that they had seen an angel and they had touched and seen the Resurrected Savior.
I believe this is why these women were among the most privileged of all Christ's disciples because even if the face of hardship their testimonies of Him never faltered, they never stopped bearing witness of His divinity, and they never deserted the Savior.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The 15 Women Who Have Led the Relief Society: A Program for Relief Society Birthday Parties


Last year when I wrote my script for the Re-enactment of the First Relief Society I actually also wrote a script highlighting each one of the 15 women who have held the position of "General Relief Society President." My intent was to have it be done after the reenactment, but once I realized that the reenactment was going to be a lot longer than I'd thought I decided to separate the scripts and make them two different ones. So this year for our ward's Relief Society birthday party we did the other half of my script--- the one about each of the Relief Society Presidents. I've warned my Relief Society though that I don't have any more scripts up my sleeve for next year--so they can't get their hopes up!

Each woman had an introduction that included historical information about the time in which she lived and things that happened in the church and in the Relief Society while she was president. Then I had each actress read a quote by the president she was portraying and then she went and sat under her name on the stage. I wasn't in the performance this year because I wanted to watch and it was really a powerful thing to see all those women lined up on the stage. It reminded me that even though our clothes might be different and the world we live in more complex that we are are still all sisters in the gospel and are working towards the same goal.



I purposely left an empty chair after Julie B. Beck (the current president) to indicate that the line will just keep going and that in the future there will be more women who will serve as the General Relief Society President.

All my actresses did a wonderful job. I was so impressed with their costumes. I put them each in charge of finding their own and they did such a good job.

Here is our Belle Spafford (1945-1974)


And our Amy Brown Lyman (1940-1945)


Don't they look great!

I think the most touching part of the program was the very end. Instead of doing Emma Smith (the first president) at the start I saved her till the very last and this is what I wrote:
You many have noticed that we have skipped over one of the Relief Society Presidents tonight. That is because, the story of Emma Smith, (have Emma come out and in the middle of the stage) the first president of the Relief Society is a hard one to tell. We thought that it would only be appropriate and fair to have someone who knew her intimately, as a friend and fellow relief society sister, tell her story tonight. Eliza R. Snow would you please come up.
Then the woman who played Eliza R. Snow sang the song "Emma" by Jason Deere from "Joseph a Nashville Tribute to the Prophet." I've posted the song at the bottom of the post in case you haven't ever heard it. It is a beautiful song. The spirit was so strong as our Eliza sang it and the woman playing Emma burst out into tears. Afterwards they embraced and it was such a sweet moment and I couldn't help but think that if the real Emma and Eliza had been there that night it wouldn't have been much different.


I was a bit nervous about how this program was going to turn out-- I was afraid it might be boring-- but it turned out really beautiful. Half of the room was in tears when it was over and I consider tears (of joy, not boredom) to be the best sign that things went well! It was also nice that this one took MUCH less planning to pull off than the re-enactment.

If you'd like a copy of the script you can access it here. It runs about 35- 40 minutes and, like the reenactment, you are welcome to use it but PLEASE make sure you give me credit for writing it. I took some of the historical information from an anonymous script called "Emma's Garden Party" and I took all the Relief Society President's quotes from the book "Faith, Hope and Charity: Inspiration from the Lives of General Relief Society Presidents" by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt. All the quotes are real things that each woman said or wrote during her life time.

If you perform it I would love it if you sent me pictures!

Here is the Emma song. You can buy the sheet music here for $5.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Family Home Evening at MY House and Blog Hop Link Up

Thank you so much for everyone who has participated in the "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House" series this week! It has really been wonderful... but we aren't over yet because at the end of this post is a linky tool for you to link up your own post about what FHE looks like at your house. Make sure you hop over and read everyone else's posts too! Now it is my turn to share what Family Home Evening looks like at my house.

We have a family of four, me-- Heather, my husband-- Jon, and our two children Asher-- 3 years and Rose-- a year and a half.

It would be very accurate to say that our Family Home Evenings revolve around something we call our "Family Home Evening blanket". When my husband and I were newlyweds their was another newlywed couple who lived next door to us. We were good friends and took turns inviting each other over to "the other side of the wall" for a combined family home evening. Whenever we'd have FHE at their apartment this couple would pull out the MOST hideous multi-colored crocheted blanket and we'd all sit on it. The husband explained that growing up his mother always pulled out a specific blanket when it was time for FHE and the family would sit around it. When he and his siblings grew up they each wanted the blanket and so to appease them his mom made each of them their own-- identically hideous-- crocheted FHE blanket when they got married.

The idea of an FHE blanket stuck with me and the year after Asher was born I made my own version of a Family Home Evening blanket as a Christmas present for my husband.


I took all of my husband's and my old t-shirts and made them into a quilt. It was my first (and so far my only) quilt and it is horribly put together! It isn't square and the ties are totally crazy but I put LOTS of batting in it so it is really soft. It is the most coveted blanket in our house. We pull it out every Monday night and the rest of our evening sort of revolves around it.

We start by singing a song. Rose ALWAYS wants to sing "Do as I'm Doing" and starts to roll her hands as soon as we even get the blanket it out . Most of the time we have a hard time getting Asher interested in sitting still. For example, last week when I was taking pictures for this post Jon and Rose were sitting nicely on the blanket singing "Do as I'm Doing" (see the above picture) and when I started to look for Asher I found him outside on the porch wearing my shoes.


Are you getting a feel for what chaos FHE is at our house!

After song and a prayer we have "Announcements" which we start by patting our hands on our legs and saying "Announcements, Announcements, Announcements, dun dunt, a dun, dunt a dun, dun, dun" and then the first person to raise their hand in the air gets to say the first one. Asher always has his hand in the air first and every week tells us that it is his birthday. Which it isn't-- but I figure it doesn't hurt him to dream. Usually the other announcements are things that people have done well, fun activities that are coming up, or things that the family should know about. This is just about the only part of the evening where both kids always pay attention!

After announcements we recite "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" which I've talked about a bit more here. Just recently we started using Jocelyn's, from "We Talk of Christ", Family Proclamation ABC's to teach parts of the proclamation to my kids (because they get bored hearing us recite the whole thing). I am especially excited about the activity/coloring pages that CK from Made by Bedtime Tales made to go along with the Proclamation ABC's. This has been such a treasure for us.

After the Family Proclamation we have our lesson. Sometimes my husband and I discuss during the week what topic we should address on Monday night, but 5 times out of 10 we end up throwing something together at the last minute. Since my kids are so young I really like using the Nursery Manual because all the lesson are already planned out for you. The lessons that are always the biggest hits with my kids are when we do any lesson from the Book of Mormon that involves building a tent. For example, the week before General Conference my husband gave a lesson about King Benjamin's address. So we built a tent out of our FHE blanket (see I told you it gets used a lot!) and laid in it while Dad (dressed up like King Benjamin) stood on a chair and told us about the importance of listening to the prophet.



Then Asher tried Dad's beard on.


Sometimes our lessons go well and other times they are flops... or at least they feel like it. Yet the other night I learned a really important lesson. I was giving a lesson on how the temple, the church, and our homes are places where Jesus can dwell. Both of my kids were not, even remotely, paying attention. In fact, for a good portion of my lesson I think Asher was in the other room. I was super frustrated and decided to give up and stop. Then about 10 minutes later as I was cleaning things up Asher came into the room, looked me in the eyes and repeated WORD for WORD the lesson I had just given. It floored me. I didn't think he was listening. I realized that our children hear and see SO much more than we give them credit for and that even when we think they aren't listening we need to keep talking! Our examples matter so much.

Okay, so after lesson we have our activity and it is always "swinging". One of the kids lies in the middle of the FHE blanket and then Jon and I lift both ends of the blanket and swing them back and forth while singing little songs. They love it. We'd do it all night if it was up to them. We also use the blanket to "roll them to Mexico". The child lays at the end of the blanket and gets rolled up in it. Then the parent asks "Where do you want to go" and then once they tell you (usually they always want to go to one of their grandparent's houses) then you unroll them.

Here Rose is all ready to roll.


and both of them at the same time.


Then we have a prayer and a "reverent" song and we are done!

I am sure that the structure of our FHE's will change as our children get older. I don't envision us still swinging them in the blanket when they are teenagers... though who knows! I think the most important thing about FHE is just doing it and doing it consistently. Just like knitting we build strong eternal families one stitch at a time, one FHE at a time, one family prayer at time, and one day at a time. I have faith that by small and simple things, great things come to pass.

Now it is is YOUR TURN! Share with us what Family Home Evening Looks Like at Your House by using the linky tool below to link to a post you've written. Your post can be as long or short as you like and you don't have to be "perfect" at FHE to share either. Every one's perspective is welcome! Please remember though that your blog MUST be a public one or else no one else will be able to see your post!

The blog hop will be open all this week and I will announce the winner of the prizes on Monday, April 25th.




Friday, April 15, 2011

Family Home Evening at the Bartholomew's Home by Christina

I'm excited to introduce Christina from "Hands Full and Loving It (mostly)" for today's "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House". I love her perspective on Family Home Evening because you can tell in everything she does that she has a testimony of family. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!


Life at the Bartholomew home is anything but calm. With eight kids born in eleven years, our two boys and six girls (including one set of twins) keep us on our toes. Our oldest daughter turns twelve this month, and Family Home Evening has been a tradition since before she was born. Our format has adapted a lot over the years as our family has matured. When our kids were young, we often read stories from the Friend magazine or the scripture readers and played very simple games.

We are pretty flexible about family home evening. Occasionally, we’ll go to a play or fun community event, but usually, we stay home. We have a song, a prayer, a lesson, a game or activity every couple of weeks, and a treat. We often bribe our kids to listen by reminding them that the treat is for kids who are reverent. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We often have to shush the kids and remind them to listen, to stop poking their sister, to sing politely and not at the top of their lungs (or conversely, to sing the words and not mumble). It’s chaotic at times, yes, but we’ve had some wonderful experiences through Family Home Evening as well.

We don’t currently use a chart, but we have at times in the past. One thing that worked well for us for a time was to have a chart with the assignments, including a “talent presentation.” Our kids loved showing off for the family. We had some interesting dance moves demonstrated, some creative somersaults, and our favorite, the pillow trick. My son Michael had figured out how to get his whole body inside a pillowcase, with the pillow still in it. He was hilarious to watch and the rest of us would crack up as he contorted himself into various positions before asking his dad to close up the top and pick him up.


We feel our lesson time is the most important part of our evening – maybe not the most fun or even the longest part, but the most important. Kids are bombarded every day with anti-family and degrading messages. We need to do everything we can to combat that. We can’t shield our children from every bad word or negative influence, but we can give them the tools and the strength they need to withstand it. By teaching our children the gospel of Jesus Christ daily in scripture study and weekly in Family Home Evening, we are helping them to arm themselves with the Whole Armor of God.

Having said that, however, is not to imply that we spend hours preparing lessons. We don’t. Most of our lessons are prepared in fifteen minutes or less. Our secret? We rely a lot on reading and discussing aspects of the gospel. When I read the conference issue of the Ensign, I mark the parts of talks that stand out to me and then later, I’ll pull it out and we discuss it, teaching along the way. We ask questions like, “How does this apply to us?” “Who have you seen in our family who does this?” or we share examples from our lives. I usually lead the lesson, rotating at times with my husband and my older kids, but that doesn’t mean I’m talking the entire time. If the lesson is on gratitude, for example, I might begin by reading a scripture and then ask the kids to share something they are grateful for. We might talk about ways to show our gratitude and practice saying thank you. If the lesson is on kindness, we might talk about examples of people who are kind and how we can become more like that. Our younger kids aren’t as engaged in some parts of the lesson, but I know they are absorbing some of it and they are learning powerful things from the example of their older siblings.

I always close with my testimony and at times, I have challenged my kids to find out for themselves that what I’m saying is true. I’ve talked to my kids many times over the years about what the Spirit feels like and how to receive answers to prayer. One of the blessings of having children growing into the tween years is that I can see the effects of those things I’ve taught them. My oldest reads her scriptures on her own and writes in a journal, and her testimony is blossoming. My second son is becoming more confident in his ability to share and teach the gospel – he recently volunteered to substitute at the last minute for a talk in Primary. With just a moment’s notice, he got up and gave a great talk about the trials of Job and how we need to have faith in challenging times.

Recently, we’ve been using the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet as our lesson manual. Each week, we’ll read one section along with the scriptures that go with it and then discuss the standards. While some of the standards, such as those about dating and education, are not as immediately applicable in the lives of my children now, we feel it important to teach our children now so that they are prepared for the choices that come later. As Rosemary Wixom said at General Conference in October 2011, “The world will teach our children if we do not, and children are capable of learning all the world will teach them at a very young age. What we want them to know five years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today.”

Here are a few of our memorable family home evenings:

· We once taught a lesson on gratitude by cutting out pictures from National Geographic to show how people live in other parts of the world. We’d seen some entitlement attitudes creep into our family and we were able to teach “where much is given, much is required,” as well as humility.

· At the start of each school year, my husband gives me and each child a blessing. It is always a powerful experience to hear directly from Heavenly Father through those priesthood blessings.

· My daughter taught about the Word of Wisdom once by having three baskets, labeled “always,” “sometimes,” and “never.” She had all sorts of pictures she’d cut out from magazines or printed from the computer and had each child put their picture in the correct box.

· Five years ago, we had a family home evening where we had the children, all under age six, share with us what they wanted in our next home. My husband and I added our own desires, and we began praying as a family that we’d find the home with those things.

· Four years ago, we moved into our completed home and had a special prayer of dedication, blessing it to be a place of peace and refuge and safety for the children we had then and the children who would still join our family.

· Last December, we went to the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU, had dinner with our grandparents, watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and went to the Farley Family Christmas all in the same night.

· For the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas this past year, we read a true Christmas story each day as a family and enjoyed a small treat. The last few days before Christmas, we invited a different elderly neighbor each night to visit with us and share a Christmas story from their lives.

Our favorite Family Home Evening games:

· The Pillow Game. (by the way, our family is NOT obsessed with pillows – what gave you that idea?). In this one, we line up pillows on both sides of the room. One child chooses an animal and then the kids act like that animal all the way to the pillows on the other side of the room. Mom or Dad is the judge and chooses who did the best imitation of that animal, and that child chooses the next animal. We played this in my family growing up and even the littlest kids adore it. Acting like monkeys, kangaroos, and frogs is a sure way to build family unity.

· Do you love your neighbor?

· We celebrate birthdays at Pirate Island Pizza sometimes.

· We once had a Mario Kart Wii tournament for our activity.

I write weekly emails summarizing the events in our lives, including what we taught or did for Family Home Evening. Here are a few short notes from the past year:

  • This week, I gave the lesson on D&C 82:3, about “Where much is given, much is required.” I started with a “suppose” question about who would be more in trouble about getting into a brownie on the counter, Lillian (age 10) or Harmony (age 2). The kids all understood the principal. “Harmony’s just little and she doesn’t understand yet,” said Allison. We talked about how Heavenly Father expects more of us because of all the things we’ve been given, especially the gospel and our testimonies.

· On Monday, for our FHE lesson, we talked about the pre-earth life and what it might have been like there. I shared with the children how special it was for them to come to our family, and how exciting it will be when our baby is born and we get to know her again. Then we talked about each child in our family and everyone shared what they liked about them. It was wonderful to hear good things about each child and the children thrived on the positive attention from their siblings. When we tried to move from Sarah to Eliza, she protested, "Hey, you need to say more about me!" It also helped me to see my children more clearly and with more compassion.

  • [My husband] gave the lecture -- I mean, lesson -- last week on obedience. It was needed.

· Lillian was in charge of the Family Home Evening lesson two weeks ago. She’s been wanting to address lying and stealing (especially from HER room!) for some time, and she did a great job of it. She had set up areas of the room labeled with “Sister’s Room” “Dad’s Office” and “Kitchen.” Then she and Joey acted out a skit about a boy who keeps taking things from each room and then lying about it. She had Joey carry a backpack and each time he lied about something, she put a rock in it. She said that lying makes life harder. She read a couple of short stories from the Friend magazine and then we talked about what the boy in the skit could have done better.

· Last week, we had a particularly tough sacrament meeting. The kids were all loud and had to be shushed and our zone defense was breaking down. Even Lillian was talking loudly to Eliza several times. It didn't help that Sarah lost her front tooth, one she's been wiggling for several weeks, right during the sacrament prayer. She had amazing patience and waited to show me until after the prayer, but that was all she could think about the rest of the meeting. She wanted to show her new smile to everyone around us, drew pictures of the "tooth bunny" and was very excited. The lesson on Monday was about reverence and the purpose of going to sacrament meeting -- to remember the Savior. I summarized the story out of the recent Ensign about the family who had memorized the Living Christ document, but that was about as far as we got because, ironically, no one was being reverent at Family Home Evening either. We sent the kids to bed early, without treats.

· For Family Home Evening, we discussed the Friends section of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. I asked each person to think of a friend they liked and tell us why they liked them. Most came up with a variation of “they’re nice.” We discussed how to be a good friend and why choosing good friends is important.

· For Family Home Evening that night, I taught a lesson on kindness. We've been having more sibling squabbles than usual lately. It's funny because a month ago I would have said our kids get along wonderfully and hardly ever fight, but as the summer has worn on and the kids are spending more time together, it's gotten more frequent. I reminded the kids that Christ told us that we should love everyone and treat them kindly, not just people who are nice to us or are our friends. Christ said that even sinners are nice to their friends. What really makes us Christian is when we're kind to everyone, even when they annoy us, or get into our stuff or are unkind to us. I hope the message will sink in.

The most important thing about family home evening, in my mind, is just to do it consistently, no matter how hard or fruitless it may seem at times (I’ll never forget that disastrous lesson on reverence I tried to teach when we invited our new neighbors over a few years ago. It was so glaringly obvious why it was needed, as my kids bounced up and down, climbed on the neighbors, and were only quiet for about thirty seconds.).

But when we put the Lord first by making Family Home Evening a priority, we give Him a place in our home to work miracles, to have those moments where we KNOW our children are understanding us and places where the Spirit can dwell and perhaps become a permanent visitor. My husband had to work a lot of Monday nights a few years ago and sometimes, by the time Monday evening rolled around, the kids were cranky and tired and so was I. I wanted nothing more than to pull an “old woman in the shoe” and just send them all to bed, but I made it a point to have Family Home Evening even when my husband couldn’t be there. I was always impressed by the change in our home. I could be at my absolute wit’s end with no energy left, but as we sat down and I taught a simple lesson, the Spirit would be there. Some of those Family Home Evenings became very powerful spiritual experiences, and I could feel the Lord honoring my meager efforts. Just as Jesus could take five loaves and a few fishes and feed a multitude, He can take our noisy, busy Family Home Evenings and feed our children the Living Bread they will need for the rest of their lives.

Doing what the Lord has asked of us builds my confidence in His help. I often feel overwhelmed and inadequate to meet the tasks of raising this family of eight bright, energetic, and crazy kids, but I have felt great peace and comfort from the promises attached to family home evening and scripture study. Because we do both, I feel I can go to my Father for help with all of my problems, no matter how small, and that He will answer because I’m doing my best to do my part.

On our wall, we display this collage with photos of our family, each of our children, and one of my favorite scriptures, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work, and out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” I believe that Family Home Evening is one of those small things that will pay great dividends in the future.

Don't forget that on Monday I will be hosting a blog hop for you to link up to your own post about "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House." Everyone who participates in the blog hop will be eligible to win one of these two great prizes!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

20 Minutes Every Monday to a Better Life by Jocelyn

Today's "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House" comes from Jocelyn at "We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ." If you haven't seen her ideas for creating Christ centered Easter traditions you need to skip on over to her blog. Like always... she is inspiring.

Wordle: better lifeWordle: 20 minutesWordle: every monday



Let's face it, there is enough in life that is complicated. That is why I believe in keeping Family Home Evening simple.

Our family is made up of my husband and me, and three children ages 5, 3, and 2, so in addition to keeping it simple, we keep it short and sweet.

My motto for Family Home Evening is


"20 minutes, every Monday, to a better life."

And holding simple, consistent Family Home Evenings every week truly has lead us to a better life.

We have found that Elder Bednar's words about the best Family Home Evenings not being pre-produced to be so true. Some of our best FHEs have been completely off the cuff, but with the spirit and in bearing testimony to our children.

That said, I tend to plan out special FHE lessons about half of the time. About twice a year, I like to flip through Friend Magazines and craft magazines looking for ideas to base a lesson on. If I find something fun or seasonal that I'd like to do with the kids, I rip out the page and throw it in a manilla file folder. Then I slap a sticky note on the pages indicating what month/week I'd like to do these lessons, treats, or activities.

My husband and I keep a special shared online calendar through Google that contains just our FHE topics for each week. That way, while he is at work, he can check to see what we'll be talking about at FHE and think about what he wants to say before he gets home. Sometimes we stick with our plan, but we like to play it by ear...gauging the children's interest and energy level. We try to be flexible so Family Home Evening can be as enjoyable and productive as possible.

The OTHER half of the time, we just make up a lesson on the fly. My husband and I tend to pick a topic on Sunday night based on what we think the family needs to talk about so there is some forethought...like tonight's lesson for instance.

Last night before we fell asleep we said, "It would be nice to talk about following the prophet, since next weekend is General Conference." "Or 'Jennifer' Conference, as the kids like to say!" Then we laughed and fell asleep and Monday happened. Six o'clock rolled around and I hadn't planned anything, but my husband picked up the slack when he arrived home from work.

Another reason our FHEs are quick is because my husband gets home at six and my kids go to bed at 7pm...so they are tired, I am exhausted, and they will turn into little pumpkins if we don't move quickly.

So tonight, my husband hopped on the Friend website and printed off a coloring page with President Monson on it. The Friend is such an amazing resource. I think not enough people take advantage of the Friend, its printouts, recipes, and easy-to-read words of the prophets!


The page also had this scripture from Amos 3:7, which we read with the children
and based our discussion on:

"Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."

Tonight we gathered around the kitchen table, because there was coloring on the docket. After singing "Follow the Prophet," my husband held up the coloring page and asked if any of us had seen this man before. If you've seen him before, raise your hand.

We all raised our hands...the kids with much enthusiasm.

Then we talked about the scripture that we had read. My husband asked if we could think of some "secrets" that the prophet had revealed to us. We said that the prophet had taught us the secret of being happy in a family through The Family Proclamation. We mentioned a few more "secrets" to happiness that have come through prophets of the Lord. My husband challenged us to listen carefully next weekend during General Conference to see if they hear the prophets reveal any "secrets" to us.

The children colored as we talked.



We all chuckled, because Scarlett colored President Monson with purple hair, and we all thought that he looked like the Joker.

Before we could get too off-topic, I jumped up and dangled chocolate covered Oreos in front of them. We listened to the talk by Claudio R. M. Costa from the last Conference titled, "Obedience to the Prophets". I told the children that we would listen to his talk and if they could remember two of the 14 points he listed in his talk, they would get a cookie.

We listened to his talk, which was very relaxing for me.


I took notes, and felt spiritually fed for the first time that day.

Parenting can take so much out of you during the day. There is nothing in the rulebook that says FHE should only be enriching for the children! As much as possible, I try to slip in activities and lessons that can recharge our batteries as well.

As we listened to Elder Costa's talk, with the promise of Oreo cookies floating in the air, my five-year-old Guy concentrated and tried with all of his Preschool might to take notes.

He wrote down enough of the first point to earn a cookie:



(Point One: "The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.")

My 3 year-old Scarlett was busy listening while drawing a picture of my husband "walking into the church."




Everyone had about two cookies, while I quizzed them with "yes/no" questions about the full 14 points. Then we sang "We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet" while I started the dishes.

My husband ran the children upstairs to get them ready for bed, and I wiped down the table.


I glanced at the microwave clock. 20 minutes on the dot.

Then for about 20 seconds, it was quiet in the kitchen, and I felt a clear confirmation from the spirit, a peaceful feeling, a knowledge that our children were happy, that they had learned very valuable principles, and that they felt safe and secure and would go to bed feeling loved.

And there you have it.

20 minutes, every Monday, to a better life.

I expect that our FHEs will evolve as time passes and our needs change, but I figure about 18 years of this, 52 times a year, and we'll be pretty solid as a family! We will also have built some pretty wonderful memories for ourselves. And that's a great blessing in and of itself!




Don't forget that on Monday I will be hosting a blog hop in which you can share your own post on "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House". Everyone who participates in the blog hop will be eligible to win one of these great prizes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family Home Evening When Dad is in the Military by Ailihn

Today's "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House" post is from one of my blogging buddies Ailihn. She blogs at Memoirs of Mrs. Harris and I am always so impressed with how she manages her two little ones with her husband being a way so often. She is an inspiration to me and has so much spunk and love for life that it is contagious!



We are the Harris bunch. I, Ailinh (i-lean) am 23. I am the wife, the mother, and head of the household... well, sometimes. Husband (25) is an active duty soldier in the army, so he's always on the go away from home. Sometimes we get to tag along with him (like right now--hooray!), most times we don't. Our bunch also includes two mini troopers (ages 2 years and 8 months). Home, to us, is where the army takes us.

Family Home Evening (FHE) is one of the priorities in our home. Although I wish I could say we have a set and stable structure of how we carry out family nights, I can't. The army highly demands hubby's time, so some Monday nights we don't have FHE. Sometimes it is on a Tuesday, Friday, or Sunday depending on when Hubby gets home from the field. Sometimes it's over the phone or on Skype. Sometimes it's cut short unexpectedly. Sometimes it's over an hour. Sometimes it's done when we're all together on the couch. Most times it's done being thousands of miles apart.

Our FHE structure varies. But we're used to it by now. We've learned how to make it work and how to make it totally worth doing even if that means we've got to sing opening songs on speaker or eat treats in front of the other thru a computer screen.

Recently, hubs and I came to a conclusion that we wanted to be sure I was familiar with the basics of the gospel, so I can be more prepared as an individual and as a mother to teach our kids. So hubby had a trés cool idea: use the lessons in Preach My Gospel as a weekly FHE lesson plan. He used this guidebook on his mission and it helped him tremendously to teach those who were investigating the LDS church to know more of Christ and God's plan. He believed using this to teach our family will surely do the same thing. And boy, it sure did!

We would flip cover to cover and learn each lesson from the book every week. Hubby would be the teacher, and I would look over the upcoming chapter and come prepared with questions and/or thoughts.

And seriously. Doing this was So. Neat. T'was a fantabulous idea!

We both learned a great deal about the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as about each other. And might I add... hearing Hub's testimony every week was such a turn on. He looked extra handsome when he speaks spiritual. I love me a man who loves the Lord!


Occasionally, hubby would leave for weeks or months at a time, so the home would feel bare and empty without him. But every FHE night when he logs onto the phone/computer and we share to one another our testimony we have of Jesus Christ, it's as if hubby has been home all along. The Lord truly does bless the home that welcomes the gospel of Jesus Christ. In our case, He strengthens us each week that we're apart, making our trials seem lighter and our burdens more bearable. It draws our family closer together to know that no matter how far we are from one another, no matter the time zone difference, we're always reminded that families can be together forever.

It's remarkable to know how something so simple as holding family nights can bring incredibly huge blessings.

And I totally dig it.

Don't forget that on Monday I will be hosting a blog hop in which you can share your own post on "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House". Everyone who participates in the blog hop will be eligible to win one of these great prizes.