Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Summer of My Life


This afternoon I sat on the porch and watched the leaves fall off our maple tree. I basked in the crisp sunshine that warmed my face and took a deep breath of that smell.. the fall smell...and I felt joy rising inside my heart. I sat with my face to the sun and just drank it in, feeling how good it was to be alive.

My moment of contemplation was penetrated by three happy voices coming from the garden. I looked over and saw two children with enormous shovels trying to dig up the last of this years carrot harvest, and a baby without shoes eating old green tomatoes off the vine.

I laughed and realized that my life is never dull. Even in the moments when I try to slow down there is always work to be done, always someone, always something.

As I sat there and watched the leaves fall on the heads of my happy carrot diggers, it struck me that if my whole life were broken up into four seasons, that right now would be the summer of my life.

The hot, messy, busy, wild days of summer.

Summer is a time for playing, for discovering, and for spending time together. A time for  cultivating, weeding, pruning, shaping. It is a time for investing hard work into the things you cherish and want to grow.... and I am growing a family.

A beautiful, beautiful family.


And even though sometimes the heat of this season of my life can be unbearable and the work exhausting. It really is so much fun.  Right now I am my children's best friend and every day they take me along on their adventures. Even on the days when I'd rather be left behind, they carry me along and show me the world through their eyes. A world where everything  and anything is possible.

Yet watching the leaves fall reminded me that it won't always be like this. That sometime, in the coming- much-too-quickly- future, my season of life will change. That the hard work and play of summer will come to a close,  and it will be Fall,  the season of harvest. A time when my seeds will have all been sown, my plants will have grown and my work will change. I imagine that  this season--the fall of my life-- will also be a richly rewarding; a time of harvesting, preserving, gathering, and preparing for the future. I am sure it will be just as busy, but in a different way, and it is something I look forward to.

But for right now, my day of harvest is still a ways down the road. I am in the thick of the long summer days. Though, every once in awhile, I get a glimpse of blossoms and buds beginning to bloom in these little souls, and there is nothing more beautiful. 

 

Yes it is busy, messy, and exhausting, but it is also deeply rewarding and filled with so much joy.  And I know that just as summer passes to fall, this season won't last forever and that someday I will want it back again...so I might as well enjoy it. 

The summertime of my life. 
 



Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Things for Friday, Quilt, Farm, Car, Blog and Book Edition

                          -1- 

I just had to show off what I (almost) finished this week!


I started this quilt for Rose about three years ago, and finally finished it. The edge just needs to be bound, and I am taking it over this afternoon to a lady in our Ward who is going to teach me how to do it. I used an old bedspread for the backing and padding and so it might be a little tricky to bind, but hopefully it will turn out nice. 

This was my first quilt and so it was a learning experience. I built the quilt top only to discover I didn't like it and so took it all apart and re-made it. I also learned a lot about hand quilting ( which I really love to do) and discovered that if you stick the quilt frame in your scary dark basement you will never go down there to work on it and it will sit for a year. It is much better to set it up in your living room for a month and have everyone trip over it because then you actually get it done! 


I'm happy with how it turned out. It is a bit wild because I used scraps, but I like it that way. Each piece of material has a story-- a part of the first skirt I ever sewed, a piece of a bridesmaids dress, material from some of Rose's Halloween costumes, leftovers from the ring sling I sewed when I was pregnant with her, pieces of pajama pants, and other scraps that I have been toting around for years. 


I hope that one day she appreciates it and knows that every stitch was put in with love.... and there were a lot of stitches!

-2-

When we went on our trip to Utah/Idaho this summer I downloaded a few new (free... I'm cheap) apps for Asher to play on the way. On a whim I got a game called Hay Day which allows you create your own farm where you can raise animals, grow crops, make cheese, bread, popcorn and just about anything else you can think of. The game relies heavily on in-app purchases but I have the option turned off on my iPad and so Asher just has to earn all the points instead of buying them. He really likes the game and a few weeks ago I sat down with him to watch him show me something.

And I got hooked... bad. 

Which is so embarrassing because I remember DISTINCTLY the moment several years ago when I saw that one of my Facebook friends was playing Farmville. I remember saying to myself, "What sort of lame-o person spends their time PRETENDING to be a farmer. What a waste of time."  Just more evidence that I should never ever judge another person because invariably I end up doing the exact same thing.

You think I'd learn.

The only good thing about it is that Asher and I have totally bonded over this silly game. We are a team and the farm is our project. Tonight at dinner Asher was telling me all about the new candy maker machine we almost have enough coins for and I was telling him we need to make sure we find nails to make our barn bigger.

Yep... Nerdy with a capital "N".

-3-

This is an old story but I want to document it here for posterity.

Back in August I went with Jon to a Stake youth activity at a nearby reservoir so that I could meet some of my online Seminary students. Jon drove the young men in the Suburban and since we didn't all fit,  I took Jon's old beat-up 1980 Ford Ranger.

Do your remember Fred, the rusty old truck from the movie Cars? That is exactly what Jon's car looks like... rust and all. No joke.


It is a good truck but I am always embarrassed to drive it. The worst was when last winter Jon put an old washing machine in the back of it to give it more weight on the snowy roads. I'd driven it to the adult session of Stake Conference by myself (Jon stayed home with the kids) and since I'd arrived early I parked near the front doors of the building. After the meeting was over I was leaving with some friends and just about died when I walked out of the building and saw that Jon's truck-- with the old washing machine in the back-- was in grand display for everyone to see. There amid all the nice-- not rusty and crusty-- cars it looked liked something from Beverly Hillbillies. It took some real pride swallowing for me to walk over and get into that thing! 

Anyway, I digress.

So, we were getting ready to go home from the youth activity and I was parked on the curb waiting for Jon to round up all the young men. It was hot so I had the window down (of course the air conditioning doesn't work) when a teenage boy and his little brother stopped in front of me. The teenager was looking admiringly at the truck and came over to me with a big smile on his face and said, "1980 Ford Ranger, right?"

I smiled and he enthusiastically continued, "Oh, these are the best trucks. I just bought one awhile ago, but mine is black,  and we (pointing to his brother) have been restoring it. They have great engines. Oh, wow are these the original side view mirrors? You know you can fix this with super glue. Just put a little bit here. Really, this is a great car you have all the original parts. So lucky. I've been looking all over for some. I'm so glad I saw you today. It is so awesome to see a car like this on the road. They are just the best."

He continued to gush admiration for Jon's car, as I started unbelieving at him and wondered if we were looking at the same car. When Jon's young men finally loaded in I thanked him and wished him the best of luck with his restoration.

Then I smiled the whole way home, remembering the words of my young women's teacher. She was an older woman who, from her youth, had owned a beautiful baby blue Cadillac convertible. We were riding it in one night and we laughed that she was getting lots of attention from the men parked with us at the traffic light. "Girls, when I was young I use to think they were looking at me... but now I know they are just looking at the car."

It made me laugh to think that I now know what she was talking about. Still, who would have ever thought I'd get attention for driving a rusty, crusty falling apart in pieces pickup truck?!!

- 4 - 

I've had a few posts over on The Gift of Giving Life  recently and wanted to post them in case you missed them. First, I reviewed a book called "Delivered" by J. L. Van Leuven which is a fictional account of the midwife who attended the birth of Christ.  Here is a bit of what I said:

"I loved the idea and message that this book sent… that God is aware of each of us and that he prepares us for our missions in life in ways that we don’t always understand. I also loved the idea of imagining what Mary’s birth experience would have been like. I wouldn’t have ever imagined it like it happened in the book, but I enjoyed the author’s perspective and ideas. The truth is that we don’t really know what happened and so anything is possible. I loved imagining."

It is a fun read and you can read my whole review here and order the book on Amazon. 

Second, I wrote my thoughts about Elder Eyring's conference talk. Remember how he got SUPER emotional when speaking about his mother? His emotion really touched me as did his comparison to his mother's ability to receive revelation to that of a patriarch. It reminded me of an awesome story about Rebekah, the mother of Esau and Jacob. If you'd like to to read the story you can see my post here called "The Power of a Mother's Blessing".


-5- 

And last, but not least. Look at the picture my editor sent me two days ago.


It is a REAL book!!!

I got a confirmation tonight that says that my copies are in the mail to me-- right now--- and should be here in the next few days.

Just thinking about that makes me ecstatic and terrified all at the same time. I am SO excited to see this book and have it in my hands, but I am also nervous to see it. Up to now this book has only lived in my head and my heart and so I feel like an expectant mother, getting the courage to let go and let my baby be born. What if it is ugly, what if it isn't perfect, what if everyone hates it, what if, what if, what if....

Which really are silly worries because I think it turned out amazing.

 I am super ready to see it!

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Best Financial Advice


I feel spiritually filled after General Conference this last week. I don't think I even realized how much I needed that spiritual nourishment until it was over and I felt so much better.

There were so many wonderful talks and I could probably write a post about most of them, but I was especially touched by Elder Holland's talk on caring for the poor and needy. During his talk I felt prompted that I needed to share my thoughts about fasting and fast offerings.

Elder Holland spoke about our duty to care for those who are poor or struggling. At the end of his talk he spoke about the law of the fast and how our fast offerings are used to bless the poor and the needy in our congregations. He said,
"You will recognize that I speak here of difficult societal needs that go well beyond members of the Church. Fortunately the Lord’s way of assisting our own is easier: all who are physically able are to observe the law of the fast. Isaiah wrote:  “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? …  “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him … ? [that thou] undo the heavy burdens, and … let the oppressed go free … ?”  
I know that for a long time I didn't understand the connection between fasting and taking care of the poor. Then one day in college I was struggling with a problem and I desperately needed help from God. I decided that I was going to fast until I got an answer. Two and a half days later I ended my fast, and not only did I have my answer, but I also had a new understanding of fasting. At the time I was taking a class on International Development and we had been talking about global solutions to poverty. As I sat in class my hungry tummy rumbled and the thought came to me, "Would you be willing to go hungry so that some who was starving could eat?"

It was then that the connection between fasting and caring for the poor became clear to me. I realized that my going without food wasn't just about mastering my physical body or personal suffering. I was voluntarily sacrificing what I had, and what I wanted, on behalf of another. I was going hungry so that someone else could have food to eat. I was suffering so that someone else didn't have to. That was a powerful realization for me and forever changed how I viewed fasting. 

Fasting is a Christ-like sacrifice that not only blesses the lives of those who are in need but also allows God to open up the windows of heaven and bless you. Elder Holland bore testimony of this in his talk when he said: 
"I bear witness of the miracles, both spiritual and temporal, that come to those who live the law of the fast. I bear witness of the miracles that have come to me. Truly, as Isaiah recorded, I have cried out in the fast more than once, and truly God has responded, “Here I am.” Cherish that sacred privilege at least monthly, and be as generous as circumstances permit in your fast offering and other humanitarian, educational, and missionary contributions. I promise that God will be generous to you, and those who find relief at your hand will call your name blessed forever.  
I just want to add my own testimony to what Elder Holland said. I know that when we sacrifice for others and when we give generously to the Lord he blesses us. 

Several years ago Jon and I were struggling financially. Jon was in the last semesters of his graduate program and he no longer qualified for financial aid. We found ourselves emptying our savings in order to pay for his last year of tuition. We  had enough for our needs but were just squeaking by. It was a challenging time. 

Every morning and night when we would pray Jon would ask the Lord, "that we might have enough to meet all our debts and obligations."  Each time he would pray this I would get the prompting, "You need to increase your fast offering", but I would quickly push it aside because it seemed ridiculous. We were already paying a generous fast offering each month. In fact, I'd been thinking about decreasing our fast offering. Increasing it seemed like a bad idea. I was sure that if we did that we'd probably be the ones who would NEED the fast offering assistance from the bishop. 

Yet, the feeling persisted. So one day, when Jon and I were going through finances again, I told him I thought that the Lord wanted us to increase our fast offering. My husband is a man of great faith, and so he didn't even blink twice before he agreed with me. "Done",  he said, "Lets double it". 

At that point I was certain we were doomed. It seemed like a stupid thing to do. I wasn't sure how we were going to pay for everything 

It was scary, it seemed crazy, and probably went against sound financial planing... but we doubled our fast offering. 

And can I tell you what happened.

We never ran out. 

Some how there was always enough money. Enough money for food, enough money for gas, enough for our mortgage, enough to have a baby and pay the midwife, enough to finish school and somehow... even enough for our wants (like the time I won a brand new iPad at a raffle). 

The Lord took care of us. 

And not only that-- He was generous to us--- and I firmly believe it was because we were willing to be generous with Him and increased our fast offering at a time when it was really hard to do. 

I know my testimony is simple. But I wanted to add my voice to that of Elder Holland's, because I too have seen miracles come through fasting and paying a generous fast offering. I've come to see that if a fast doesn't push you physically and the fast offering doesn't stretch you financially, it really isn't worth that much. 

It is the times when you really take the Lord at His word and do all that you can when He really is able to open the windows of heaven for you and pour out the blessings. When you are generous with God He is generous with you.

What have your experiences been with fasting and fast offerings? What blessings have you received from the law of the fast?