Monday, December 30, 2013

GREATEST HITS OF 2013

I can't believe another year has flown by.

I know it is cliche, but time really does go by too fast.

I heard an elderly couple in the grocery store talking about how time seems to move even faster now that they are older and it just scared me. If time is going to start moving even faster than it does now, I am seriously going to have to start slowing down my life... or I will miss everything! 

For Asher's birthday I was printing off pictures of him for his photo album and it just about made me cry. He has grown up so much, even in just the last six months, and except for having to buy him a new stash of shirts... I hardly even noticed it. 

My baby really isn't much of a baby any more. 

Then... I was hanging up our wedding pictures in the hallway and realized that Jon and I look young. It had never occurred to me that I have aged. I still feel like the same 21-year-old whose happy, excited eyes beam out at me from those photos. But, I'm not really. My hair is different, my hips are wider, my face more lined, and my heart and soul have expanded bigger than I ever imagined they could. I have learned and grown so much since then, but it has happened almost without me even noticing it. 

It makes me sad, and yet happy at the same time. 

Sad because I can't get back what has passed, and happy because I have so much more to look forward to. 

I guess it is a good trade off. 

Anyway, sentimental new year thoughts aside.... 

It has become a fun New Year's tradition for me to share with you my most  popular posts of the year. So... without further ado. Here are the TOP FIVE winners for 2013! 

Dun.. dun... dun..





"...After I went through this I saw that if my children internalized the basic concept of those nine attributes, that many of the other virtues and skills I wanted them to learn would come naturally or easier. In fact, it dawned on me that these nine qualities were THE MOST IMPORTANT things I could teach my children.

 If they never learned to read but had Christ-like charity for others, or if they couldn't add or subtract but could obey God, the prophet and the Holy Ghost, or if they didn't know where Cambodia was but had unshakeable faith in Christ... they would have learned what really matters. 

Don't get me wrong, I still plan on teaching my children how to read and add and subtract but I have realized that focusing on teaching them how to become like Christ is the-single-most- important job I have as their mother. And whether I home school, public school, or do something in between that responsibility doesn't change. 

So for our pre-school this year I have devoted one month to each of those nine Christ-like attributes. I separated "Honesty" and "Respect/Reverence" from their umbrella categories and gave them their own month because I felt like my kids need extra help in those areas.  As I get them done I will post them and make a list at the end of this post. " Read the rest






"...It almost made me cry to think that here, in front of the whole world and in front of our almighty God, this sister was praying the prayer of my heart.

But I don't think it is just the prayer of my heart. I think it is the prayer of hundreds of thousands of LDS women around the world. As I have listened to women I have felt that many of us are hungry-- ravenously hungry-- for more understanding about who we are and what our mission is on the earth. It isn't that we are dissatisfied with our faith, it isn't that we feel unequal or left out, and it isn't that we want to be ordained to the priesthood. We are just ready for MORE.

More light. More understanding. More truth.  

I think this hunger is what is driving things like the Ordain Women movement and other religious feminist movements. They clamor for the priesthood thinking that it will fill the hungry void, but it won't.

Priesthood is something that is given to priests. A priest is a man. We are not priests.

We are priestesses, and what we really want is priestesshood." Read the Rest






"...It completely changes our perspective on Eve if, instead of thinking of her being tricked into eating the fruit, we see her undergo an intense multilevel experience before choosing to partake. It is important to remember that Satan had used the symbol of the serpent, a symbol of Christ, to try to deceive her into thinking he had power and authority. He also didn't lie to her outright, he just told her half-truths.
"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die (Lie) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Truth)" (Genesis 3:4-5)
Yet even his disguise and half disguised lies were not enough to deceive Eve into blindly eating the fruit. What Satan's efforts did do however was  to beguile her. He made her question, made her doubt, and sent her on a soul searching journey. 

What was her purpose in the garden?

 How were she and Adam to fulfill God's command to multiply and replenish the earth?

What was God's plan for her? 

Was there any other way it could be accomplished? 

These may have been questions she struggled with in the garden and one can only imagine that her choices must have weighed heavily on her heart. 

Eventually Eve chose to eat of the fruit, but not because she was deceived.
"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it waspleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat,  and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." (Genesis 3:6)
Eve ate because she saw." Read the rest





"There was a time in my life when I had a lot of anger about issues relating to women. I wasn't angry at a specific person or organization per se, but angry at a world that treated women as objects, raped them, enslaved them, prevented them from being born, paid them less money, and undervalued their contributions. Like the Savior cleansing the temple I felt my anger was justified; I was seeing injustice and I was getting motivated about it. Yet the more I went down that path the more I saw that anger was a drug and an illusion. Being angry about wrongs didn't really change anything.

 Most of all I could feel that my "righteous indignation" was killing a beautiful part of my soul.

I found that I was becoming more judgmental of other people, that I was more easily provoked to anger and impatience by things people said or did, and that I was slowly loosing my faith in the goodness of other people's hearts. Most of all I wasn't as happy. One day it dawned on me that if I went much further down the anger path, I would never be able to come back up again. 

It worries me to see people embracing, even unknowingly, an attitude of anger as it relates to feminist issues, or any issue for that matter. Not just because of what it does to their souls, but because actions motivated by anger-- in any form-- will never really change anything.

Let me explain...." Read the rest




"...In D&C 123 Joseph Smith urged the Saints to make statements as to the abuse and sufferings they went through. He wrote:  
"It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression... Therefore it is an imperative duty that we owe, not only to our own wives and children, but to the widows and fatherless, whose husbands and fathers have been murdered under its iron hand; Which dark and blackening deeds are enough to make hell itself shudder, and to stand aghast and pale, and the hands of the very devil to tremble and palsy." (D&C 123: 7, 9-10)
I was curious to know what it was that these wives and children went through that was enough to make "hell itself shudder", and so I did a little research. I was able to find the affidavits of several of the early church leaders, including Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, and Sidney Rigdon,  who testified to a court of law about what they and the Saints went through.


Reading their accounts, given in their owns words, was powerful and overwhelming. I realized as I read their testimonies that the violence the saints went through was not just the "suffering or hardship" that we often talk about. They were facing genocide-like violence. The soldiers had been commanded to drive the Mormons out of Missouri or destroy them. They had full license to use any sort of horrible means they could devise, which they did.

As I read these accounts I saw men and women literally fleeing for their lives. If they were caught they faced violence that was comparable to any of our modern day genocides--- think Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Kosovo --- and you get a better idea of what they were facing.  And just like in any genocide, rape was one of the primary weapons.

I feel like it is important to share these early LDS women's stories.  It makes my heart ache to think about all they went through for the gospel.... and that we don't even know their names. Granted, they probably didn't want their names to be shared given the nature of their experience, but I think they need to be remembered. 


Warning: Some of these accounts are hard to read and so if you are sensitive to things like this you might want to skip the rest.... Read the rest

Thank you so much for reading this year. I appreciate all the emails, comments, phone calls, visits, and prayers that I have received this year from my readers. Thank you so much. I can't tell you what it means to me to know that the Lord is able to use something that I write to touch your hearts. 

I'd love to hear from you what your favorite post was this year! 

Happy New Year! 

Oh, and don't forget to make your New Year's Miracles. I wrote four last year and TWO (kind of three) of them happened this year!

Miracles really do happen. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Behold the Condescension of God!




“And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!” 1 Nephi 11:26

My oldest son was born not long before Christmas. His birth was beautiful and has forever changed my feelings about Christmas. As I stared into his sweet, pure face that first Christmas day my heart was overflowing with gratitude to think that Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth, the great “I Am”, came to earth as a humble baby. The salvation of our souls and the fate of the world depended upon him, and yet he had enough trust in the goodness of the world– in the goodness of a woman — to come down to earth….helpless, poor, and humble.

I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

Why?

Why would God come to earth as a baby? Why would he come to an unknown girl and her young husband? Why would he be born into poverty and anonymity when it was within his power to come with glory, might, and majesty? When all he had to do was speak and the earth was created.

Why then come as a baby?

I'm over at The Gift of Giving Life today, click here to read the rest (and see the beautiful video). 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A "Mary" Sort of Christmas


Christmas time leaves me feeling a bit frazzled.

I always seem to leave Christmas shopping and gifts until the last minute and end up stressing about them way more than is necessary. A few days ago it dawned on me that Christmas is not far away and that I hadn't bought or made any gifts yet. I panicked and started running around to stores and ordering things from Amazon like a wild woman. The last few days I have been so caught up in the ensuing adrenaline rush of getting packages in the mail (really, that is almost down right addictive) and making picture perfect Christmas plans, that I feel like the holiday season is slipping through my fingers.

Last night I realized that I haven't, not even once in the whole two weeks we've had our Christmas tree up, slowed down enough to just sit in the dark and stare at it's beautiful lights. I haven't sung one spontaneous Christmas carol (though Asher and I did have a great dance party to "Go Tell it on the Mountain") and I haven't, for more than a moment, thought about the miracle of Christ's birth.

In all honesty I feel a bit like Martha in the New Testament who, wanting to make things perfect for Christ, was "cumbered about much serving" and begged Jesus for more help. In response Jesus, oh so kindly, reminded her that she was using her strength for things that weren't important. While on the other hand her sister Mary, who was spending her time sitting at the Savior's feet, was choosing "that good part." (Luke 10:39-42)


I've made a promise to myself that this year I am going to choose "that good
 part" when it comes to Christmas celebrations. I still very much enjoy the gift giving and family holiday traditions, they are important to me, but I am not going to let those things start"cumbering me". 

I have promised myself that this year I will spend less time thinking of what gift to give those I love and instead be more present with them (no pun intended... really).

A promise that I will spend more time on my knees and in my scriptures than I do shopping or ordering things online.

A promise that I will take time every day to slow down and be still; to sing Christmas hymns in the dark to my babies, snuggle on the couch with my husband, and admire the Christmas tree lights.

A promise to drink a cup of hot apple cider very slowly and watch the squirrels run around my yard, to brave the cold and play in the snow, to not let the bell ringer at the grocery store's  bucket go empty, and to visit those who might be lonely or sad.

Most importantly, a promise to make time to ponder about-- and express my gratitude for-- the immeasurably divine gift of a Savior.

I am setting aside the MARTHA Stewart sort of Christmas and am aiming for a MARY sort of Christmas this year.

How about you?

What do you do to keep Christmas focused on Christ? 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Five Things For Friday, Poor Neglected Blog Edition





-1-

Okay, so I know it is not even close to Friday anymore (and I have 6 things today) but I really wanted to write this all weekend and I never got the chance. I am feeling sad that this blog has been neglected the last few weeks. I have so many things that I want to write and just not enough time to write them. It is frustrating. I really need to get a better time management strategy figured out. It would help if I could just get myself to wake up early in the morning, but that hasn't been happening. I think I need a good alarm clock, one that won't wake up babies when it goes off. Maybe one that would shake my bed or just poke me in the eye until I got up.

That would be nice.

 It is really no fun to get up early to get things done, only to have three little ones wake up at the same time. Then not only can you not get anything done, but then the littles all woke up at 5:30 AM and by 3:00 PM that means disaster and destruction. I haven't been able to convince myself yet that it is worth it. If I could be guaranteed at least one uninterrupted hour I would jump at it... but without that guarantee my bed is much too comfy.
 
-2-

One of the main reasons I've been absent is because about a month ago I got a new calling that I am a tad bit overwhelmed by-- teaching ONLINE Seminary.

Seminary is the LDS education program for teenagers and often it is done as early morning classes or in a release-time class during school hours. Just recently the church started offering online classes for students whose circumstances (distance, health, etc..) make it hard for them to do early morning classes. Our stake is pretty big (it would take you three hours to drive from one end to other) and so there are quite a few students for whom this program works perfect.

Four days a week the kids work through online lessons that come from CES (which are SO well done) and then have writing assignments and class discussions. On those days I do the lessons with the kids, "grade" the writing assignments, and participate in the class discussions. Then one night a week I hold an online seminary class where they all log-in with their webcams and we have a "face to face" class. It is really a lot of fun, even though it is strange to teach a seminary class over the computer. The first time we did it I was so lost, but now that I've done it a few times it is getting easier. The web conference program the church has is really interactive and so there are lots of fun things that we can do. I am sure that it will just get better and better as we go along. Though I am still wondering how I bring the spirit to an online class?

So really, seminary has been eating up most of my computer time the last few weeks! But I am hoping that now that I have things better figured out I will be able to balance things better. I know that there aren't very many ONLINE seminary teachers out there (yet) but any suggestions from experienced seminary teachers would be appreciated!

-3-

I discovered Instagram a few months  ago and am in love. I am not a great photographer and so it is pure magic to see it take my bad camera photos and turn them into something beautiful... or at least interesting. I have been posting lots of pictures and it has been a fantastic way to stay in touch with family and people I love. Right now my account is private (meaning only people I allow can see my posts) and I have been debating the pros and cons of having a public Instagram account. On one had I'd love to connect with more people and share the fun and beautiful moments of my life. Yet on the other hand I am a bit creeped out at how easy (it seems) for people to find and use your pictures. I know that anyone who wants to can see (and technically swipe) the pictures I post on my blog, but somehow it doesn't seems as invasive as someone following my Instagram account. It just seems too easy for weirdos to find me through Instagram and I don't really know if I want people I don't know viewing every picture I post of my kids. Still it seems like most people I know on Instagram have their account public, so I am  torn. Any thoughts, opinions, horror stories, that might help me make up my mind?

-4-


Jon and I watched the BYUtv production of Silent Night awhile ago and it is fantastic. It tells the true story of the man who wrote the hymn Silent Night. His name was Joseph Mohr and was a Catholic priest who went against his superior to put together a choir from the people he met at the tavern. I guess it was a big deal that he wanted them to sing in church in German and not Latin, and so it made quite the stir. The story behind how his hymn came to be is just so sweet and it is really a remarkable story.  I was very touched by it, not to mention that the history is fascinating! It has made singing Silent Night even more special for me and turned my thoughts towards the Savior. I think you can watch it for free online until the end of December. It is very much worth your time and is a great one to share with friends and family!

-5-
 
 
Rose has been going through a cute phase right now. She is still my little firecracker but she has these moments that just melt my heart. For example, the way she talks is just so sweet. About every other sentence is sprinkled with character and her latest phrases are "whatcha' think" and "somethin", as in "Watcha' think could I have that cookie, or somethin."

You really have to hear her say it, to do it justice.

She also asked me the other day if we could go to the "Good Whale". After a few minutes of her repeating it I finally figured out that she meant the Goodwill (the second hand store). I had a good laugh about that one, but didn't tell her the mistake. It is just so cute I don't want her to stop calling it that!

-6-

I also had a sweet experience with Rose in church last week. We hadn't been in Sacrament Meeting for more than five minutes before she was begging me to let her go get another drink and go the bathroom again. I told her no, and then she screamed and threw her toy cell phone (which she wasn't suppose to have) across the chapel.

It nearly took out the old ladies on the back row.

I grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out of the chapel screaming all the way to coat rack. I made her put on her coat (only after chasing her down the hall after she tried to escape), marched her out into the parking lot and put her in the car. By this time she was crying and screaming as loud as she could that she wanted to go back, but I told her we were going to sit in the car until she calmed down. We sat there for about 10 minutes (in the cold) before she was sane again. As we were walking back I told her that I was sad that we had to go out because we probably missed the sacrament and that we wouldn't get to have the power that comes with taking it. We'd have to wait a whole week.

When we got back the sacrament had already started and so we sat on the couch in the foyer to wait until it was over. I sat down and Rose, now perfectly calm, looked at me with big eyes full of tears and said, "Oh, Mom I really wish we could take the sacrament." I was just about to tell her that we could next week when right then a deacon stepped into the foyer with the bread. Rose's face just lit up like a star. She took a piece of bread and smiled at me as if to say, " My wish just came true, God heard me! " We ate the bread and then Rose snuggled up against me on the couch and I put my arm around her. We sat there in perfect silence while they blessed the water. After the prayer I looked down and saw that Rose was wiping her eyes.

"Are you crying?" I asked.

"No," she said as she wiped another tear.

"Are you feeling the Holy Ghost?," I asked her.

She looked up at me with the sweetest smile and said, "When he said the sacrament prayer I felt really good inside." 

I pulled that little girl in tighter and whispered into her ear that that was what the Holy Ghost felt like. And when they finally brought us the water the two of us drank it with reverence. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was more grateful-- and more excited-- to take the sacrament than I was then. I knew that God was aware of my little girl and that he had sent his Holy Spirit to teach her-- and me-- that He was there. I hope that I will have many more moments of sharing the feeling of the Holy Ghost with my daughter, but there was nothing more sweet than this first time.

Those are the moments that make motherhood worth doing. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Who Cooked the First Thanksgiving Meal?


John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, my ancestors!
The kids and I read a wonderful book about the Pilgrims the other day for school. It had lots of information about them that I had never learned before, including the fact that only 5 of the 18 women who sailed on the Mayflower survived the first winter!

Just think of that ladies.

That means that there were only 5 women who cooked the first Thanksgiving feast--a feast that lasted three days and fed an entire pilgrim colony and 90 Wampanoag Indian men.  Hats off to those five women! Don't  forget to give them a tribute sometime this Thursday when you are starting to get overwhelmed by the stress of preparing your grocery store turkey with your stuffing from a box and your cranberries from a can.  They had a much bigger job!

One of those five women who cooked the first Thanksgiving meal was Priscilla Mullins, who happens to be one of my great-grandmothers. Several years ago my grandmother's cousin did all the genealogy work and  submitted it to the Mayflower Society, so I am a bona fide descendent! Which is neat.

Priscilla was eighteen when she boarded the Mayflower and traveled with her father,  mother and brother Joseph to Plymouth. During that first hard winter in the New World Priscilla lost both her father, her mother, and her brother to sickness-- making her an orphan and completely alone.

She is recorded as being sweet in temper and blessed with great patience. She was talented at spinning and spun wool and flax for the pilgrim colony, as well as taught school to the children and helped with the cooking. She also happened to be the ONLY unmarried woman in the colony of marriageable age, which obviously made her much desired.

There is a famous poem called the "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tells the story of Priscilla's courtship. According to tradition the newly widowed Captain Miles Standish, who was the only solider in the colony, wanted to marry Priscilla. He asked his friend John Alden to propose to Priscilla on his behalf, to which Priscilla famously responded, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" So he did, and won the girl. Priscilla and John Alden, who was the cooper (barrel maker) of the colony,  were married around 1622 and would most likely have been the third couple to marry in the new world. They had eleven children and now have thousands of descendants..


The poem from Longfellow (who was a direct descendent of John and Priscilla) was long thought to be a romantic  family tradition, but recently scholars have found that the story had been handed down and was first published by John and Priscilla's great-great grandson in 1814 (source). So there is likely some truth in the story.

Which means that I come from the line of a strong-minded woman-- who even if she was the only available woman-- wasn't afraid to speak her mind and get what she wanted.

That is a heritage I don't mind passing on. Especially if it comes with super-awesome-cooking-thanksgiving- for-a- huge- crowd skills!

Which, by the way my mashed potatoes turn out, I'm thinking it doesn't.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Asenath

Detail from "Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph" by  Rembrandt

Her Story:

After Joseph, who had been sold into Egypt, successfully interpreted the Pharaoh's dream Pharaoh rewarded him by making him the ruler over Egypt. Joseph's name was changed to Zaphnath-paaneah and Pharaoh gave him Asenath, the daughter of Poti-pherah the priest of On, as his wife. After marrying Asenath Joseph "went out over all the land of  Egypt" overseeing the effort to save food in the storehouses for the seven years of famine that would follow the seven years of plenty. It was during those seven years of plenty that Asenath gave birth to two sons whom Joseph named Manassah and Ephraim. Manassah, whose name means "forgetting" was the firstborn son, while Ephraim, whose name means "fruitful" was the younger brother.

Together these two sons inherited the promises of the Abrahamic covenant from their grandfather Jacob. Genesis 48 says that when Joseph heard that his father, Jacob was dying that he took his two sons to him to be blessed. Jacob then placed one of his hands upon Manassah's head and the other one upon Ephraim's head and began to give them both the blessings of the covenant. In his old age Jacob had lost his sight, so when Joseph saw that he had placed his right hand upon Ephraim's head he tried to correct Jacob and move it to Manassah's head, since he was the eldest son. Yet, "... his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he [Manessah] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations."  Ephraim was given the blessing of carrying the birthright and in the latter-days it is the children from the tribe of Ephraim who have the privilege to first carry the message of the Restoration of the gospel to the world and to lead the gathering of the ten scattered tribes (Deut. 33:13–17; D&C 64:36; 133:26–34).

Speculations About Her:
  • There is an apocryphal book called "Joseph and Asenath" which details the story of Asenath's conversion to the God of Abraham. The book is thought to have been originally written in Greek and to be a Jewish work composed sometime between 1 BC and 2 AD in an attempt to explain why Joseph would have married a woman outside of the covenant, let alone the daughter of a pagan priest. Wikipedia gives this summary of the contents of the book: 
"Aseneth, a virgin who has rejected numerous worthy suitors, falls in love with Joseph when he, as vizier of Egypt, visits her father. Joseph, however, rejects her as an unworthy idol worshiper. Aseneth then secludes herself in her tower, repents of her idolatry, confesses her sin, and embraces Joseph's God. Begging for God's acceptance, she then receives an angelic visitor (looking like Joseph), who assures her that her prayers are answered and that she is now a new creation. There follows a strange and extended ritual, where in order to confer on her immortality, the angel shares with Aseneth a magical honeycomb, and is told of her heavenly counterpart Metanoia (Repentance).

The honeycomb, which the angel marks with a cross, causes a swarm of bees to surround her, and some return to heaven though others die. The meaning and significance of this episode of the bees is uncertain, and appears to have some sort of connection to initiation rites of mystery religions. There may also be a connection with the otherwise mysterious name of the prophetess Deborah, literally bee, from one of the oldest parts of the Book of Judges. It is uncertain whether the involvement of a cross indicates a Christian influence or not.
Aseneth, promising to love, honour, and obey Joseph, is now seen as a potential wife by him, and the two marry and she bears him Ephraim and Manasseh. Then in the final chapters of the book, Pharaoh's son, in love with Aseneth himself, attempts to seize her, persuading Dan and Gad to assist him and kill Joseph. However, Benjamin, Joseph's loyal brother, foils the attempt, and Pharaoh's son receives fatal wounds. Aseneth forgives Dan and Gad, and Joseph and she go on to rule over Egypt."
  •  Another Jewish tradition claims that Asenath was really the daughter of Jacob's daughter Dinah, conceived during her rape by Shechem. Jacob's sons wanted to kill the baby but Jacob stopped them. Instead he put a gold plate around her neck with the story of her birth and sent her away. An angel orchestrated it so that she was found by Potipherah, the priest of the Egyptian city of On, who took her as his daughter. In this way, Jewish tradition claims, God provided Joseph with a bride of his own lineage even though he was living among pagans in Egypt. (source)

My Thoughts:

In some ways Asenth is the forgotten matriarch. We often talk about the faith of Sarah, the strength of Rebekah, or the patience of Rachel and acknowledge their  important role in establishing the house of Israel. Yet somehow Asenath is always forgotten. Perhaps it is because we know so little about her, or perhaps it is because she doesn't fit the stereotypical "matriarch" mold that she makes us uncomfortable.

One of the big questions about Asenath is why, after all the painstaking work God went through to ensure that Issac and Jacob married women among their own people that He then allowed Joseph, the birthright son of the Abrahamic covenant, to marry an Egyptian woman. Yet not just any Egyptian woman, an Egyptian woman who was also the daughter of a pagan priest. Scholars even think that Asenath's name in  Egyptian means "she who belongs to Neith (the goddess)".  It is likely that she had been taught from her youth to worship and sacrifice to the Egyptian Gods. Not exactly the type of woman you'd think God would entrust his covenant to, and certainly not the type of woman one would imagine to become a matriarch of the house of Abraham.

Yet she was.

In fact, for many Latter-day Saints who have received their patriarchal blessings and know they are from the lineage of Ephraim, Asenath is their matriarch. She is their link-- their branch-- in the family of Abraham.

So how do we explain Asenath?

In my opinion, some of the apocryphal "Joseph and Asenath" narrative seems a bit too fantastic to be authentic. Even so, I think that the overarching message of the book is true-- that  Asenath underwent a powerful conversion to the true gospel and the true and living God. We don't really know what Asenath's conversion story was, yet I think that the fruits of her life-- evidenced through her two sons--indicate that she was a woman who understood and taught her children to make and honor covenants with God.

She was fully converted.

I wouldn't be surprised if she did in deed, like the Joseph and Asentah narrative suggests, receive a visit from a heavenly being and receive divine instruction from heaven. God had a lot riding on Asenath. It was through her and Joseph's lineage that  the Abrahamic covenant had to be passed on in order for God to keep his promise to Abraham. God needed a woman who would teach her children and prepare them to receive and honor the blessings and responsibilities of His covenant.  He couldn't just leave things to chance. Several times in the scripture we read how, when God really needs to get someone to shape up, he provides them with sudden, unexpected, and miraculous conversions, like those of Paul and Alma the younger. It is beautiful to think of Asenath as being a female recipient of such a miraculous conversion experience. That just like Paul or Alma she turned her life around 180 degrees and became a strong, holy woman of God; a powerful force for truth that has echoed down through the ages to all of her posterity.

It is significant to me that one of the missions given to the tribe of Ephraim is to carry the message of the Restoration of the gospel to the world and to lead the gathering of the ten scattered tribes (Deut. 33:13–17D&C 64:36133:26–34). The children of Ephraim are to seek out those who are wandering in darkness and bring them to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and help receive their baptismal covenants.

 How fitting it is then that the mother of that tribe would be a convert herself.

Asenath is a beautiful reminder that whether we are born into the gospel or we are converted later in our lives, we each have the same privilege before God. God is no respecter of persons; and no matter your past--even if you happen to be the daughter of a pagan priest---he can build great and marvelous things through you.


"Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph" by  Rembrandt
Questions to Think About:
  • I love how Rembrandt depicts Asenath in this picture (above). How do you think she prepared her sons to receive the Abrahamic covenant? How do you think she felt when she saw her younger son receive the birthright instead of his older brother? 
  • What parallels do you see between her story and the stories of the other matriarchs, especially Rebekah's? 
  • Why do you think Asenath is the forgotten matriarch? 
  • How could Asenath's story be an example to new converts? What value do you see in her experiences? 
  • Have you ever witnessed someone undergo a miraculous conversion? How did it strengthen your faith? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I AM WRITING A BOOK

For real.

I have been working on it for the last few months, but didn't know if I could tell anyone about it. But, since I just signed the contract that says they are going to publish something I write... or take a pound of my flesh... I figure I can let the secret out of the bag.

Several months ago Cedar Fort Publishing contacted me to see if I'd be interested in writing a book about Women in the New Testament. Even though I was a bit overwhelmed at the time (still am) I said I would. You see, for several years I've been getting inspiration for a book on women in the scriptures. Just a few months before they contacted me I'd even started to keep a detailed list in my scripture journal of all the women in the New Testament. I didn't know why, except that it seemed like a good idea. So when they asked me to write a book I knew that I shouldn't pass up the opportunity.

I am hoping this book will be a beautiful glimpse into the lives of the women of the New Testament. I want people to realize that these were REAL women, with real lives and real problems; there isn't a single problem modern women face that these women didn't also wrestle with. Okay, maybe they didn't have to worry about their cell phones falling out of their pocket into the toilet and other such technology related issues. But the big ones-- heartache, disappointment, marriage, children, divorce, abandonment, health problems, family feuds, birth, death, covenants, politics, priesthood, apostasy, old age, war-- they knew about those.  I hate it that so many of these women have been forgotten. I am hoping that I can intrigue people and inspire them to open up their scriptures and learn more about God's amazing daughters.

It is also going to have amazing art work. My talented friend Mandy Williams has been working on taking photographs of over a dozen women from the New Testament. She has been sending me her rough drafts and they are just amazing. It is going to be so awesome to see all these women all put together in a book. The photographs just make their stories come alive. I am really excited about it.

Though, we might be a bit crazy undertaking this together seeing as we both just had babies and we both have four children under the age of seven! Oh, and are both homeschooling. Maybe we are crazy (somedays it sure feels like it) but it is also miraculously coming together. Which sort of feels like a miracle. I think these women want their stories told. 

I already have several of the chapters written but I would love some help from you. What type of things would be valuable to you in a book about New Testament women? Which women would you like to see me write about (and see artwork of)? What type of information has been the most helpful for you on my blog, history, word origins, personal stories, gospel applications, etc? How can I get men to read it? 

I'd love some feedback. Some of the women I am including in the book I have already written about on my blog (which makes it easier) but many of them I haven't. I still have a lot of work to do! Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

So, if it is quiet around here the next few months just know I'm still working... and you'll be able to read it, beautifuily laid out with amazing art work, this time next year! 

Either that or I'll be one pound of flesh lighter. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Boo"tiful Nauvoo

This weekend we went to Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo was the last settlement the Mormon pioneers had before they were driven out by persecution and migrated to the Salt Lake Valley. It is a really interesting town because many of the original houses and buildings have been restored or rebuilt by the LDS and Community of Christ churches, including the Nauvoo temple. Today Nauvoo is an incredible historic village staffed by dozens of missionaries who dress up and reenact what life would have been like in  Nauvoo when Joseph Smith and the saints lived there. If you ever get the chance to visit I would highly recommend it!

In fact, it will be eight years this February that Jon and I went to Nauvoo on our honeymoon. Yes, I said Nauvoo in FEBRUARY!  Jon spent a semester in Nauvoo when he was at BYU, studying early LDS church history and American history. He loves everything about Nauvoo. So when he was choosing where he wanted to take me for our honeymoon he couldn't think of a place he wanted to share with me more than Nauvoo. He kept our destination a surprise until a day or two before the wedding when I begged him to tell me so I would know what to pack. A swimsuit? Skis? Nope... I was going to need a hot water bottle and wool socks! I will admit that when Jon told me were going to freezing cold middle-of-nowhere Illinois on our honeymoon that I was a bit dissapointed. I had been thinking of some place W-A-R-M. Yet then when I realized how special Nauvoo was to Jon I warmed up to the idea. And really it turned out to be a wonderful place to go on our honeymoon. One day we spent the WHOLE day in the temple, working our way up from baptisms on the bottom all the way to sealings on the top. The missionaries in the temple were really cute about us. They kept twittering about how were "the newlyweds". There really wasn't any better way to spend the first few days of our marriage than being surrounded by droves of happily married missionary couples.

So, Nauvoo is a special place for us.

This weekend it was really sweet to go back to the place where we started our marriage with four little ones in tow. It really made Jon and I realize how far we have come, and all that we have gone through together, the last several years.


It was also fun to go to Nauvoo this time of year because it isn't very crowed and the leaves on the trees are beautiful. Nauvoo also does a great Halloween celebration they call "Boo"tiful Nauvoo. For years I have heard Jon talk about how much fun Halloween is in Nauvoo. So this year, since we were just a few hours away, we decided to take the kids. They lined the main street in Nauvoo with over 500 pumpkins and had a wonderful "pumpkin walk" up and down the street, with food vendors and trick or treating. The town really came out for it and everyone was dressed up in costumes. Asher was really looking forward to the goblin parade, which ended up being a parade of anyone who wanted to marching down the street in their costumes. Some people really went all out! It was very small townish and very fun.


Loved the empty tomb pumpkin! Though it turns out that this visitor's center should be renamed the "anti-Mormon" visitor's center. Ack!
The kids were excited to get dressed up in their costumes. Abe is going as a mouse this year (re-cycled from last year), Rose is going a gypsy (because they wear lots of  jewelry) and Asher is going as a Jedi (because they carry light-sabers... or in this case pointy sticks).




We had a great time in Nauvoo and got really excited for Halloween. I hope you have a great Halloween this week (if you live in the US) and that you don't forget to celebrate it the very best way-- by honoring the dead. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spending Time in the Scriptures Every Day


In college I had a Bishop who was one of the most spiritually in-tune people I have ever met. He taught us to love the scriptures through his own example. Every morning he would get up at 4 AM to study and pray for an hour. He did this no matter where he was, no matter what time he had gone to bed the night before or what he had to do that day. He always made time for scripture study. I asked him once about it and after a long moment of silence he asked me this, "Heather, what if you knew that the reward for reading your scriptures for 5,000 hours was to see the Savior's face in the flesh? Wouldn't you get up at 4 AM every day too?" 

His words pierced my soul and I realized that if I wanted certain answers or certain spiritual experiences I must put in the work required to get them. I am nowhere near the devotion of my college bishop (yet) but for the last several years I have been consistent about studying my scriptures. Usually I have done my study while my children take their afternoon naps. This has usually been the best time for me because I am awake, alert, and usually have at least an hour of quiet and uninterrupted time. I always make it a point to do my scripture study first thing after I put them down for a nap, before I wash the dishes, before I check my email or change over the laundry. If I don't do it first then I know I will get distracted. For the last five years this pattern has worked for me and I have learned to love-- and devour-- the scriptures.

But... the rhythm of my life has changed.

My oldest two no longer take naps and my babies seem to have opposite napping schedules-- when one is asleep the other is awake. I have tried instituting "quiet time" every day where the younger two nap (hopefully) and the older two play in their rooms by themselves for an hour. Some days it works and other days it  falls apart in pieces. I have found myself getting frustrated that this coveted nap time (aka. "me time") is not as consistent or quiet as it use to be.

So, I have found myself adopting a new scripture study philosophy which comes from my hero, Julie Beck. She said,
 "Many answers to difficult questions are found by reading the scriptures because the scriptures are an aid to revelation.  Insight found in scripture accumulates over time, so it is important to spend some time in the scriptures every day." (Source)

That last little phrase has become my new scripture study mantra:

Spend SOME time in the scriptures EVERY day.  

Spiritual knowledge accumulates little by little, distilling upon your soul like dew from heaven. It is much more valuable to spend a little time in the scriptures every day than it is to spend lots of time in the scriptures once in awhile. Sort of the difference between accumulating your food storage  little by little every week so that you are prepared, versus racing to the store when a tornado warning comes and stockpiling it all at once. With the first way you can live in a state of peace and security knowing your are prepared, while with the second one you are always afraid that some major catastrophe will take you by surprise.

So, no matter how crazy or hectic my days are, I am trying hard to make sure that I have dipped into the scriptures-- for some amount of time-- everyday. Some days this means that I read two verses and call it good,  other days I have a spiritual feast and study for hours, and most days are somewhere in between. The important thing is that I am opening my scriptures every day and showing God I am willing to learn and to receive.

So what works for you? How have you made time to do your scriptures study daily?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ROCKIN' THEIR BABIES {giveaway}



Today I am excited to share the music of Marie Pearson Tarbet. I was put in contact with Marie several months ago and was so touched by the message and the beauty of her songs. Today I want to share with you two of her songs  "Rockin' Their Babies" and the "The Gift". Both of these songs make me cry when I listen to them (so get your tissues).  In fact, as I was typing this post my husband came in to see if I was okay because he'd heard me sobbing.

Yes, I am okay. Just deeply touched.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, and don't forget to the enter the giveaway!





STORY BEHIND ROCKIN’ THEIR BABIES

My oldest daughter came home from 2nd grade one day excited about the “ancestor dolls” they would be making at our public school.  She had to make a paper doll dressed like one of her ancestors and tell the story about that person.  My mind immediately jumped to the stories I had heard growing up—a great great grandfather in the Mormon Battalion, another ancestor was a young boy who knew Joseph Smith.  In the midst of these stories my daughter interrupted me and said, “no no no, it has to be about a girl ancestor.”  This made me stop because I was having a hard time remembering any great heroic stories about my female ancestors and realized I didn’t know enough about them.  After doing some research we settled upon her great great great grandmother who died in childbirth in Nauvoo, leaving her other two young sons.  But there wasn’t much written about her sacrifice.  For months I thought about her as well as all the modern mothers.  Reflecting on all the toddler noses we wipe, and messes we clean and kids we rock and tears we wipe—and no one knows about it!  “Where’s the notoriety?” I thought.  “These women will never be in the history books!”  But then I came to the conclusion that although we are not in the history books, these mothers have all truly made history, and that the recorded story of our society and church would have turned out vastly different without these women.  I realized that God knows about all the sacrifices we make and especially all the women who made the ultimate sacrifice dying while giving birth to another life.  Yes, our contributions are often more private than public, but that’s OK. We are definitely in heaven’s history book, and that’s a pretty important book.



STORY BEHIND THE GIFT
About 6 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was shocked because I thought this should only happen to older women and definitely not to me.  My three kids were still in elementary school.  After the initial diagnosis I felt kind of like an onion with lots of lots of layers that keep peeling off.  I had been so busy running here and there, doing the this and that of things I felt were so important. Suddenly all those layers of my life kept peeling off and peeling off until I was left with just the core of myself.  I realized that only one thing mattered to me anymore and that was that I wanted to live—but NOT just to live so I could go out and do all the things I wanted to do.  I wanted to live so I could be there for my three beautiful children and husband.  Family.  That was it. For me, I came to the conclusion that living is not the greatest gift, but being able to live so I could serve those I love is the greatest gift.  This youtube video features pictures from my family and others friends I have that are cancer survivors.  Celebrate your reasons to live!


Marie Pearson Tarbet is one half of the brother/sister duo The Pearsons.  She and her brother Larry are singer songwriters with a style all their own! They’re known for their diverse songwriting, memorable melodies, and lyrics that offer a candid view into the soul. Marie is a 2 time breast cancer survivor and their song “The Gift” has been performed at Susan Koman Race For the Cure and multiple American Cancer society fundraisers throughout Southern California. You may hear Marie’s familiar voice on many national voice overs. She has also been a speaker at BYU women's conference and this spring Deseret Book will publish a book that includes one of her speeches.  Marie and her husband are the parents of three children and live in Southern California.

Giveaway!

Today Marie is giving TWO of my lucky  readers copies of BOTH her CDs "There She Goes" and "'Til It Storms". If you would like to enter the giveaway please do one (or all) of the following:

1. Leave me a comment telling me which song touched your heart the most and why.

2. Like The Pearsons on Facebook

3. Share one Marie's songs on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or any other social media site you can think of.

Please leave me a comment letting me know which ones you did. The giveaway will be open until Tuesday, October 22nd at Midnight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Perks of Having a Rich Dad

I was eight months pregnant with Tabitha when the royals, William and Kate, had their royal baby. At the time I was nesting and trying to carve out a space in our house for the new baby. Babies don't really need very much, but the one thing I really needed was a new dresser to put the baby's clothes in. We were already short on dressers, only having two (and a half) dressers for five people, and I didn't know where I was going to squeeze in more clothes. I really wanted to buy one but we have been trying to stay on a strict budget and there was no extra money for a dresser. I'd been asking around if people had extra ones they wanted to get rid of and checking cragislist for free or very cheap ones, but nothing had come up. I decided to make do by just putting some of her clothes in a basket on my nightstand.

As I read the news about William and Kate's baby I couldn't help but be a little jealous. "It just isn't fair," I told myself, "I bet they have a dresser for their baby, probably even three or four. Why does my baby only get a basket?"  In that moment it seemed supremely unfair to me that I was not a princess and that I didn't have royally rich parents who could buy my baby whatever I wanted.

Then I remembered something that my beautiful friend Felice wrote on her blog:
 "Lately I have been realizing that I do have a rich dad--he owns the whole world. And when your dad is rich, you don't really have to worry. He can support me, but only if I let him."
There isn't anyone I know who is better at trusting the Lord than my friend Felice. She has taught me so much about turning your life over to the Lord and letting Him support you. So the truth of her words really resonated with my heart.

It is so easy to forget that, as a literal child of God, I really am a princess and I do have royally rich parents. In fact, their riches make the combined wealth of all the billionaires, nations, and stock markets in the world look like pocket change.

Felice's words reminded me that if I wanted-- or needed-- a dresser that all I had to do was ask my Dad for one and be patient.

So I asked. 

But nothing came.

Then two weeks after Tabitha was born Jon suggested we take a family drive to "the beach" ( a big sandbar by the river). I was still in the "wear PJs all day" stage of my postpartum recovery and so Jon wasn't expecting me to go. Yet, for some reason going sounded like a really good idea. So I changed out of my PJs, we loaded up the kids into the car, and headed out to the beach.





On the way home we drove past a house and there, out on the curb, was my dresser.  I screamed in joy and made Jon stop.  It was free and so we loaded it up right then and there and took it home.


It is sort of ugly, but it is in really good condition. A coat or two of paint and it will be exactly what I wanted.

I know that some people would just call this a happy coincidence or good luck... and perhaps it was.

Yet I can't help but feel that it was a gift from my Dad. A Dad who knows, perfectly, what I need and what I want. A Dad who controls the elements, determines the fate of nations, and holds the universe in the palm of His hands. A Dad who is capable of taking care of me, and providing for every desire of my heart, if I will only allow Him to. 
"Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?" Luke 12:27-28
I have been getting the dresser ready to paint and working on it is bringing me a lot of joy. It is a sweet reminder to me that God knows me and listens to my prayers. And if He listens to me about something as seemingly insignificant as an extra dresser, how much more does He listen when my needs are really significant?

Remembering this has helped me learn to let go. To let go of my preconceived notions about what I need and what I want and to  trust God. It is sometimes scary and but I am-- slowly-- learning that He knows what I need better than I do.

And let me tell you, there are some real perks of having a rich Dad.

So don't be afraid to ask.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Not About the Priesthood: What LDS Women Really Want

"And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries"   D&C 6:11 


Last Saturday was the General Relief Society meeting for the LDS church. I was moved by each of the talks but the part of the meeting that really touched my soul was the end. The closing prayer was given by a member of the General Relief Society board. Usually I don't pay much attention to what is said in prayers (sad, but true) but the tone of her prayer was so heartfelt it caught my attention. Her last petition pierced my soul.
"Help us gain a greater understanding of our mission on this earth as thy daughters in these Later-days."
As she spoke those words my soul shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes! That is the prayer of my heart too." 

It almost made me cry to think that here, in front of the whole world and in front of our almighty God, this sister was praying the prayer of my heart.

But I don't think it is just the prayer of my heart. I think it is the prayer of hundreds of thousands of LDS women around the world. As I have listened to women I have felt that many of us are hungry-- ravenously hungry-- for more understanding about who we are and what our mission is on the earth. It isn't that we are dissatisfied with our faith, it isn't that we feel unequal or left out, and it isn't that we want to be ordained to the priesthood. We are just ready for MORE.

More light. More understanding. More truth. 

I think this hunger is what is driving things like the Ordain Women movement and other religious feminist movements. They clamor for the priesthood thinking that it will fill the hungry void, but it won't.

Priesthood is something that is given to priests. A priest is a man. We are not priests.

We are priestesses, and what we really want is priestesshood.

In Daughters in My Kingdom it reads,  "As President Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Church, stated, “It is within the privilege of the sisters of this Church to receive exaltation in the kingdom of God and receive authority and power as queens and priestesses.”

Also, Bathsheba W. Smith, the fourth general president of the Relief Society, who was present at the organization of the Relief Society taught that the Prophet Joseph Smith,  “wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul’s day, ‘A Kingdom of priestesses' ” Source

The truth is that the Lord has already given women a great place in His kingdom. He has given us priestesshood. The thing is we don't fully understand what it is that we have. We don't fully understand or comprehend our power.

Nor have we yet caught the vision of what the Lord really needs His daughters to be doing on this earth. As Julie Beck, the former president of the Relief Society, said, "What the Lord envisioned regarding... Relief Societies has not yet been fully utilized. Many... Relief Societies are at present much like sleeping giants waiting for you to breathe new life into them."Source  We have much knowledge and much direction, but we still don't fully understand the magnitude of who we are and what we are capable of.

And that is what we are hungering to know.
 
So how do we get it?

By protesting? By writing letters? Through agitation? By shows of solidarity and social media? 

I don't think so.

The sister who prayed in the General Relief Society meeting laid out in her prayer what it is we need to do if we want to gain more. She petitioned the Lord to, "Bless us with a greater desire to understand and keep our covenants, a greater desire to not only read but search the scriptures, to have the confidence to ask thee with greater intent and greater faith, knowing that an answer is sure." 

If we want more understanding we need to be using our energy to understand-- really understand-- and keep our baptismal and temple covenants. We need to be reading and studying our scriptures everyday, and we need to be asking God, with greater intent and greater faith, for more light and knowledge. Revelation only comes to those who ask.

Still, we need to remember that God knows what we need better than we do. Sometimes I think He laughs when we get worked up and ask Him for something that looks like this


When He is just waiting-- and wanting-- to give us this


He can fill our hunger, more abundantly than we ever dreamed, but it takes work on our part. To gain a greater understanding of our mission on this earth as daughters of God we must constantly be working to align our wills with the will of God. We must be willing to let go of what we think we need and what we think we want and let Him feed us.

The additional light and knowledge so many of us hunger and thirst after is coming-- to us as individuals and as a church--we just have to be ready to receive it.