Monday, April 28, 2014

The Firstling of our Flock

Wednesday night Jon went out to check on the animals before bed. He closed up the pen and counted, "goat, sheep, sheep... lamb!" Standing right next to Cutie Pie (our ewe) was a tiny little lamb nursing. Jon came running back the house hollering that we had a lamb in the barn. I couldn't believe it. I rushed out the see and saw the cutest little animal ever. She was still wet and probably had only been born about 45 minutes before. The crazy thing is that we didn't even know Cutie Pie was pregnant. We hoped she was (we do have a ram after all) but we had been checking her regularly and it didn't seem like she had gotten any bigger or changed at all. We just assumed that our goat had interfered too much in the mating process (remember our love triangle?) or that Solomon (the ram) was just too young to figure it out. Evidently... he figured it out.

So, this little lamb was a complete surprise!

It was late when we found the lamb and so we decided not to wake the kids up. In the morning Jon read scriptures about the "Lamb of God" for scripture study and then we told the kids that we had a surprise for them. They were just as surprised and excited as we were to see a lamb. Rose told me that it was the best surprise EVER. I have to agree.

She is so cute, and we can't get over watching her. We named her "Sweetie Bell" (which may or may not have been stolen from My Little Ponies :) It has also been so sweet to watch what a good mother Cutie Pie is. She protects it, licks it, nuzzles it, talks to it, nurses it, lets it climb all over her, and it follows her around everywhere. You can tell that she loves her little lamb. I feel like a grandma watching my own daughter mother... it makes my heart so happy and proud!

I didn't realize that lambs are born with really long tails and that it is common to "dock" or to clip their tails shorter. This is done for hygienic purpose because the tails can often become infected or dirty.  It has to be done in the first week of a lambs life. We are planning on docking Sweetie Bell's tail and as I was researching docking methods I learned some interesting scriptural facts about lambs too.

Mom and Dad with docked tails, and baby with a long undocked tail
See how long her tail is.  And she waggles it really cute too when she nurses! 
 In the scriptures the ancient Israelites were commanded to offer lambs of the "first year without blemish" as offerings at the tabernacle. I always assumed that "without blemish" meant that it couldn't be deformed or have gotten hurt, but that isn't what it means. To be without blemish meant that the lamb had not had its tail docked (clipped) or been castrated, which are common procedures to do to lambs. This means that a shepherd would have gone through his whole heard docking and castrating lambs, except for those that were the being set apart for sacrifice. From the moment of their birth these lambs would have been marked, and easily recognized, as sacrificial lambs because they would have looked different from other lambs. So it is powerful to realize that when Jesus was the called the "Lamb of God" it meant that he had been set apart from His birth to be a sacrifice. Which is a profound thought. 

This tidbit got me excited about lambs in the scriptures and as I was studying I was also intrigued by the word "firstling".  In Exoducs 34:19 God commanded that,

" All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male." 

And in Number 18:15 He stated,

" Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the Lord, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem."

Whether it was the first born  male baby of a woman or the first born male baby of a sheep, goat or cow it was to be dedicated to God. Robert J. Matthews explained,
"‘Firstling’ does not necessarily denote the oldest of the flock, but the firstborn of its particular mother. A ‘firstling’ is a male, the ‘first to open the matrix’ of its mother ( Ex. 13:2 34:19 ). Each mother in her lifetime could produce only one firstling, but a flock of sheep could have several firstlings born each year. In order to know which lambs were acceptable for sacrifice, the owner would have to know his flock. Some notice would have to be made of mothers and of young. Otherwise, how could anyone know which mothers had produced offspring for the first time? There is no way that a man, Adam or anyone else, could know which males were firstlings unless a record and some identification of mothers and offspring were kept. This requirement removes the element of chance and of haphazard obedience, or sometime obedience. Not only is one’s faith shown in the willingness to offer a sacrifice but also in the care required and the preparation needed beforehand in making the selection of the proper animal.
This particular passage of scripture illustrates the concept that the commandments of God require the intelligent and deliberate attention of those who are seeking salvation. It gives a reason for Paul’s observation that ‘without faith it is impossible to please’ God ( Heb. 11:6 ). For without faith one would not have kept a record and marked (at least mentally) which animals were proper for sacrifice” (Robert J. Matthews, “The Doctrine of the Atonement,” in Studies in Scripture, Volume Two: The Pearl of Great Price, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson [1985], 118–19).
Since Sweetie Bell is a ewe lamb she can't technically be the "firstling" of our flock (as that needs to be male) but it has been fun to learn more about sheep and how they fit into the scriptures. To ancient people sheep were an every day part of their lives and they would have understood the symbolism and message that God was trying to get across to them. Yet today many of us have no clue what God meant when he talked about an unblemished lamb, a firstling, sheep following the voice of the shepherd, wolves in sheep's clothing, or separating goats from the sheep. It has been fun for Jon and I to not only learn more about taking care of sheep, but to make spiritual and scriptural connections as well.

I am finding that I am a shepherdess at heart--- I really love these woolly creatures.

The goat on the other hand.... is a totally different story. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Book has a Cover!

Isn't it pretty?

I am so happy with how it turned out!

Can you guess which woman is on the front cover? (Keep reading and I'll tell you).

I finished writing last week (Hallelujah!) and it feels so good to have all the thoughts out of my head and on to paper. I printed off the whole book this weekend and I was astounded at how much I have done. I've written about more than 80 women in the New Testament, and still could have done more. I told myself that I am not even going to look at my New Testament for awhile because I will find something else I could write about and it will drive me crazy. I think that is the hardest part about writing a book-- there is always something else you could say. But I guess you just have to stop sometime!

All printed out, a real book! 
It has also been so fun to see the photographs come together. Mandy has been working so hard and they are turning out incredible. This is going to be SUCH a beautiful book.

The photograph on the cover is one of my favorites. It is the Widow who gave her two mites (Mark 12:42-44), notice the little boy holding the bag with the money in it. I think I love it so much because this woman's story is all about consecration, about giving the Lord everything you have even when it is more than you think you can give. I feel that motherhood has been a way in which I have consecrated myself-- my body, my time, my energy, and my talents-- to serving the Lord. Sometimes I feel like I don't have much more than two mites to give, but God knows my heart and knows that I am giving all that I have... and that is enough. So when I look at Mandy's photo I see myself, walking towards the temple, laden down with children, having faith that what I have to give is enough and that the Lord will make up the rest.

I didn't write that in the book, just so you know. I wrote something a little different, but I guess you will have to wait to find out what it is until the book comes out.

Which won't be too much longer!

Thank you for hanging in there with me through all this, I promise I will get back to blogging regularly once I get this project done.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five (and half) Things for Friday, Birthing a Book Edition


My kids are so excited for General Conference that their enthusiasm is like electricity in the air. They LOVE General Conference and it ranks as a "holiday", right up there with Halloween and Christmas (except even better because it happens TWICE a year). They have been saying cute things all day like, "When we wake up in the morning it is going to be  General Conference!" followed by whooping all around. Or "I can't wait to go to sleep because it means it will be General Conference!"

It is down right adorable.

I give ALL credit for their love of General Conference to my mother-in-law. When we lived in Utah we would always watch Conference with them and, from the time they were little, she started having them play "General Conference Bingo", but with awesome prizes. Not only would they get candy to mark their squares with, but she would also have four or five brown paper bags for each child with surprises inside. When they got a Bingo they could open one of the bags. Evidently, they really love it. She also started the tradition of having the kids go run around outside whenever the choir started to sing, which they also love. It is cute to see them bolt out the door at the first sound of the organ. I think listening the the choir sing, while watching them run around the yard, might be my favorite part of conference.

Though, since we are in perma-winter here (and it just snowed again last night) I don't know how much running around outside there will be this year!


Speaking of General Conference. I LOVED the General Women's Meeting on Saturday. I had been a bit skeptical about how it was going to work having the Primary girls there, but I thought it was incredible. There was such a strong spirit of unity and love in our Relief Society that night. It really struck me hard how much women-- from age 8 to 88-- need each other. It was also neat to hear one of the speakers (forgot who) talk about how Satan is targeting girls younger and younger and how we need to teach them who they are at younger and younger ages. I thought that was a really powerful message, and it made me realize why our leaders had been inspired to include the Primary girls. These young girls are going to need lots of spiritual power and they need it young.  They are incredible women in embryo, and it makes me really excited to see them grow up! They are going to be a great force for  good in the world.


On a sadder note, about three weeks ago my car started acting funny. It started to shake and lunge. When Jon opened up the hood to see what was wrong he discovered that some squirrels had built a nest inside our engine compartment! There was a huge nest with two (dead) baby squirrels in it. It was so weird, especially because I had been driving the car everyday. It is strange to think that I have been driving around town with a car full of baby squirrels!

We noticed at the time we took the nest out that they had chewed several wires and figured that was the reason our car was acting strange. The day after we discovered the nest Jon had to go on a trip for a week, and since the car still worked, I drove it all that week. It was still acting funny but it was working, so I didn't complain. In fact, I gave the sister missionaries rides almost every day that week, and I told them that  the only reason my car was working was because I was getting blessing for helping them.

I said that jokingly, but when Jon got home he took a better look at the engine and couldn't believe what he saw. The squirrels had eaten through almost EVERY wire and connection in the engine; the battery wires, the harnesses, the spark plug wires, the compression hoses. Everything. There was NO way our car should have been working. I really must have been getting blessings for serving the missionaries! 

Jon fixed most of the wires and it was working for a day, but then it stopped working again for some mysterious reason. He has done just about everything he can think of to get it going again and nothing is working. It has been about two weeks that I have now been without a car, and it is getting old. Hopefully, we get it  fixed soon or find a replacement we can afford.

The kids, after I had a bit of a break down about it yesterday, told me that they think we should make the squirrels fix it. They are the ones who broke it after all!

If only.


Not having a car has been really hard, but we have been making the most of it. On Tuesday we bundled up in our winter gear and made a long walk to a friend's house to pull an April Fools joke on her. She is a sweet older woman in our ward who has been a bit like a Grandma to us out here. April Fools is her birthday and so we wanted to give her a fun surprise for her present. We found out she was going to be gone all morning and her husband let us in the house to decorate her fridge like this...

We had a lot of fun doing it, and she called later and told us that she had laughed and laughed about it.

It was definitely worth the long walk!


Asher has been really interested in video games lately. We don't have a gaming system but he loves to play Angry Birds and Bad Piggies on the iPad. He started asking me how to make video games, and I had NO idea. Luckily one of our home school friends has a 9 year-old son who is really into computer programming. They told us about a website called SCRATCH that teaches elementary school kids to program. It is a bit like building with Legos as it has blocks of computer code that you "click" in and arrange to create programs. You can download instructions for projects to make or you can buy the  really great book that goes along with it. The book is a story that has projects you have to complete to help the main characters accomplish their mission. It is a bit advanced for Asher (he can't read most of it yet) but we have been doing it together and he has loved it.

It is also really fun because I am learning how to computer program. Which is awesome, because to me computers might as well be magical creatures from Oz. It has been neat to see how it all works! 

In fact, as I have been doing SCRATCH with Asher I have realized how important it is going to be for him, and all my kids, to be fluent in "computer language." They are growing up in a world that is just getting more and more digital and I want them to be empowered to create with computers, instead of just having technology be something that happens to them. When they understand how the computer works and can manipulate it and create with it then video games change from a passive activity to an active one. They are acting on  the technology rather than being "acted upon" by it. I think that is going to be a very important difference in the world that our kids are growing up in.

They are suppose to have a SCRATCH iPad app in the next few months for pre-readers, and I am really excited about that. This is something I look forward to learning along with my kids.

Also, this is an awesome TED talk about Scratch and teaching elementary schools kids to code.


And last but not least... an update on my book!

I am SO close to being done that  it hurts... literally. I feel like I am in "transition" phase of birthing this baby. I currently feel like I am never ever going to be able to finish it, like it was the stupidest idea in the whole universe to undertake it, that no one even cares about women in the scriptures, and it is going to be a royal flop.

None of that is true, but that is what my oh -so- positive self talk has been saying lately. Luckily Jon keeps me grounded and laboring onward.

Today or tomorrow I should finish my last woman (did you know there are 85 women in the New Testament!) and then I just have my Introduction pieces to write and the appendix to organize. Also, there should be a cover very soon! I'll give you a peek as soon as I see it. The photography is turning out so beautiful!

I can do it! I just have to keep reminding myself that this baby is worth it... right?

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy General Conference!