Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's Working and What Isn't-- A Homeschool Update


I've been thinking for awhile that I needed to do a homeschool update and share what has been working for us this year, and what hasn't. I know that I learn so many good things from other people that I thought I'd mention what we have been doing in case it is helpful to anyone...or if you have any suggestions of things to try. 

This is our second year of homeschooling. Asher is doing 1st Grade and Rose started Kindergarten. Overall we have really been enjoying it. I won't lie and say that we don't have tantrums at least every other day, that often the things I plan turn out to be total flops (or I am too lazy to do them), or that there are not days I think I must be totally crazy for not taking the public school option and having at least five hours a day without FOUR kids under the age of 7 running around my house.

Yet, when it comes right down to it I know that this is what God wants me to be doing right now, and-- for the most part-- it working! It has been amazing to see how this process of home school has changed me as a mother and helped me learn to be a nurturer . Home school makes you face your parenting weaknesses and family problems in  a head on approach. There is no avoiding them when you are together so much. We've worked through a lot of things, and everyone is learning. Things aren't perfect.... but there are moments that are.

It is also so rewarding to see the friendships between my children and to see them learn and to be an active participant in all of those moments.  I'm grateful for this time in my life.

It is precious.

So I'll share what we have been up to as long as you realize that not everything goes perfect everyday. It is a work in progress. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Moses' Ethiopian Wife

"Moses and his Nubian wife" by Jacob Jordaens ((1593-1678)

Numbers 12:1

Her Story:

This woman married Moses, the prophet who led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. She is called an Ethiopian, which can also be translated as  Kushite, meaning she was from the ancient African kingdom of "Kush", which is where modern day Sudan now is.  In  Bible times this was a powerful kingdom, sometimes rivaling Egypt in technology and power,  and one in which women often held the highest roles in government. It is mentioned several times in the Bible and can be referred to by several names including: Ethiopia, Kush or Cush, and sometimes Nubia. These people were known to have very dark black skin and Jeremiah even alluded to this when he wrote:
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."  (Jer. 13:23).

We know very little about this woman except that she, at some point was married to Moses, and that there was something about her, and the circumstances of her marriage to Moses, that upset Miriam and Aaron. It was this situation that caused them to question Moses' prophetic role and ability to receive revelation from the Lord. Eventually this opposition to Moses resulted in Miriam being stricken with leprosy. Yet, she repented of her mistake and after seven days outside of the camp she was healed and returned to travel with the children of Israel.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Three Biblical Love Stories

My wonderful, amazing, beautiful little sister got married just before Thanksgiving. It was incredible to watch her-- my little sister-- get married to a wonderful man, in the right place, and in the right way. Her wedding was beautiful, magical, and holy.

Really, it was perfect in every way. Even the torrential rain was perfect, because as she optimistically told me in the Bride's dressing room in the temple, "A wet rope makes a tighter knot. So it is good luck to 'tie the knot' on a rainy day!"

Her day was also special for me because she asked me to speak at their ring ceremony. Her husband's (that feels so weird to type) family are not LDS and  since they couldn't go inside the temple they had a nice event where they had speakers and exchanged rings. With her permission I'd like to share what I said at the ring ceremony. And just so you can get the full effect, here is the photograph the photographer took of me giving it. I just about died that I had to read it off my phone (I had printer problems) but I think it turned out okay anyway. 

Hilary and Dave, I am so honored to be a part of this incredible day in your lives. Your love story has been and will be... epic. It will be something your children and grandchildren will pass down and share for generations. And so as I thought about the impact your love will have on future generations I thought of some of the love stories we have from those who have gone before us.  I’ve entitled my remarks today “Three Biblical Love Stories” and hope you will find strength from the stories of these incredible examples of love.

Adam and Eve

The first love story I want to share is the very first love story-- Adam and Eve. When I think back to these two people I am impressed with their courage. They were willing to tackle a new world together, relying only on God and each other.

In Genesis 2:22-24 it tells their story:

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

I’m not exactly sure how Eve was created, but it is a powerful image that she was made of Adam’s rib. A rib comes from your side and it is a beautiful illustration of how a husband and a wife are to walk side by side. The woman doesn’t walk behind or in front of the man.  You are equals and you walk together.

Hilary and Dave the lesson I want you to remember from Adam and Eve is to BE UNIFIED.

After the promises you have made today you are just like Adam and Eve-- and there is no one else in the world. You are joined at the hip—side by side. Counsel together and make decisions as a team. Remember everyone's dreams are important. Listen to one another and share your hearts with each other, don’t hold anything back. Two learning to be one can be hard, but as you learn to be unified you will influence and shape the world just like Adam and Eve did.

Isaac and Rebekah

The next love story I want to share is one of my very favorite Bible stories. It is the love story of Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac was the miracle son of Abraham and Sarah, and because his parents wanted to make sure that he married a woman who shared his same beliefs, they sent their servant hundreds of miles to seek a bride for Isaac. The servant came to the well outside where Abraham’s brother’s family lived and, not knowing how else to find the right woman, he asked God for a sign. He asked that the first woman to come to the well who offered to draw water for his camels would be the woman God had chosen to marry Isaac.

The first woman to come to the well was Rebekah, who astonished the servant by offering to water his camels. After, he went with Rebekah back to her Father’s tent where it was arranged for her to marry Isaac. Yet instead of allowing her the several weeks needed to get her dowry and things ready for her to leave, He asked that Rebekah leave with him the very next morning. This was a decision that her family thought only Rebekah could make and so they asked her if she would be willing to go immediately and leave her family forever, travel hundreds of miles into a strange land, and marry man she’d never met.

And in an act of great faith Rebekah replied, “I will go.”

Then in Genesis 24:61-67 it says that,

“And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. {Which can also be interpreted as she "fell" off the camel... something I thought Hilary could appreciate}

For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself. 

And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her." 

I love the last line, "and he loved her”. Isaac and Rebekah had never met before they were married. They went off faith, and they learned to love one another. Choosing to love someone is always an act of faith.

Dave and Hilary, the lesson I want you to remember about Isaac and Rebekah is that love is a Choice. 

As much as you think you know each other now, the truth is that you really don’t know each other at all. I’ve been married to Jon for nearly 10 years and there are still days when I look at him and see depth in him that scares me. I realize that I have just barely scratched the surface of who he is as an eternal being. Yet, the best part about being married is that you two now have eternity to discover and learn about each other. It is an incredible journey and one that I am so excited that you have undertaken today.

Christ as the Bridegroom

The last love story I want to share is the greatest one of them all.

Throughout the scriptures Christ refers to himself as the bridegroom and the church, or those He has saved, as the bride. This is a powerful image and helps us understand just what type of love God expects husbands and wives to have for each other. In Ephesians 5:25 it says,

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.

And I think the reverse is also true,

“Wives, love your husbands, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

That is no small thing to ask. Christ gave everything for us. He suffered beyond anything we can imagine, He took blame and responsibility for things that were not His fault, and He humbled himself below all things. This is the type of love that Christ asks husbands and wives to have for each other.

Hilary and Dave the lesson I want you to remember from Christ is to sacrifice for each other. 

This is an easy thing to say, but much harder to put into practice. We are by nature, selfish creatures, and learning to sacrifice for another person is hard. But as the hymn says “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven” and I know that as you find ways to sacrifice for each other your love will grow. A marriage without sacrifice is like a tree without water, it will wither and die. Always keep your marriage and your love nourished by making sacrifices, big and small, for each other.

And as I end I just want to express my great love for both of you. Individually, you are both amazing people but combined you are absolutely incredible. Great things await you and the two of you are going to be a power to be reckoned with.

All photographs by MalloryReneePhoto

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Chance to win Free Artwork, a Copy of my Book and the Study Guides!

My book "Walking with the Women of the New Testament" has been out now for almost two months and I have been amazed at how well it has been doing. I know that many stores have sold out of it (it is even out of stock on Amazon right now) and the publisher already ordered a second printing! It is surpassing my expectations and so.... thank you! Thank you for your support and interest and for caring about the women in the scriptures. It has been wonderful to get emails from people telling me how the book and the stories have impacted them.

I think one of the best emails I got was from a High School friend (who didn't even know I had a blog) who was astonished when one of his Facebook friends posted about me and said she was excited to get up in the morning to do her scripture study because she'd gotten my study guides and was excited to study the women of the New Testament. It made my day to hear from an old friend, and to hear that my book is getting people excited about getting up early to read their scriptures!

That is joy and happiness to my soul. 

I know that many of you have received copies and have been reading them and I'd love for you to write and post a review. And to encourage you to write a review of the book Mandy and I are doing a giveaway! 

To enter the giveaway you need to do one of the following: write a review of the book on either Amazon or Goodreads, write a review on your blog, or write a review and share it on your Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram feed. If you don't have the book you could do a review of the first volume of the study guide, which you can get for free by signing up for my newsletter (on the right hand side of my blog).

And it doesn't have to be a positive review (though obviously I'd be excited if it was) to count. I'd rather have people give honest feedback and opinions. I think a variety of opinions is valuable so feel free to be honest.

Okay, with that said... the prizes will be (drum roll...):

Is that enough to entice you? I hope so!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Greatest Hits of 2014

It is that time of year again! 

The time when I go through all the posts I have written in the last year and share which ones have been the most popular. I certainly didn't write as many posts this year as in the past, but that is because for most of the year my writing time was consumed by  "Walking with the Women of the New Testament". Still, it was exciting to look back and see that some of my most visited posts were the ones about my book coming out

Which made me happy. 

I have heard such good feedback from people about the book and it made me down right giddy on Christmas (even though I had the stomach flu) to think about all the people who would be opening up my book as a gift! So thank you to everyone who has bought it, given it away, or even just admired it from afar. 

Also, I am excited by the amount of people buying and downloading my Women in the New Testament Study Guides! I can't wait for us to start studying the New Testament this year in Sunday School, there are going to be so many good conversations about women... I can just feel it! 

But back to the topic of this post... in case you missed them... my FIVE most popular posts this year were..... 

1) Being Called Woman

"Several times in the New Testament Christ calls his mother, Mary, by the term "woman." He does it at the start of his ministry, when he performs his first miracle at the wedding in Canaan. When she expresses concern that there is no wine he responds,"Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come." (John 2:4). Then at the end of his ministry, as he was dying on the cross and his hour has come,  he looked down at his mother and exclaimed,"Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26)
In modern English the use of the word "woman" sounds derogatory and coarse, or as one commentary I read said, "Like a motorcycle biker calling his girl." Yet, Jesus obviously uses this word with respect for his mother. In fact, he uses the word more as a title than a pet name or a term of endearment. He calls her "woman" much in the same way that we might call someone "lady." To us the word "lady" indicates a woman of nobility, influence and power which is what the word "woman" would have meant to Mary when Christ called her by it. Go back and re- read those scriptures in John again but this time substituting the word "lady" for the word "woman." Can you see and feel how that illuminates what Christ is saying to her? 
There is so much meaning tied up in that one little word... woman. Yes, Mary is his mother. Yes, she is his friend. Yes, she is his follower... but mostly she is a Woman. It is not a coincidence that he addressed  her by this title at both the start of his ministry and at the end of his ministry. He recognized in her the nobility, power, influence, and glory that there is in being a woman- and even in his final moments on the cross--there was no greater title he could call her by. Read the rest

2) When Nurturing Doesn't Come Naturally

"That word " nurture" bothered me for a really long time. 
I did not see myself as an innately nurturing person. As a young woman I didn't really have a desire to be a mother. I hated to babysit and didn't really enjoy being around children. I remember once having a conversation with one of my high school friends in the corner of the drama room. I made her promise that if I ever chose to be a stay-at-home mom that she would hunt me down, hit me over the head with a bat, and remind me that there was nothing I dreaded more than being tied down to a baby and a husband. I was certain that I just wasn't cut out for motherhood, and that my talents would be better used else where. 
Then I had a baby. 
And all of a sudden I was filled with a crazy, intense love. It was a type love I'd never experienced before. It didn't manifest itself like other types of love I had experienced; it wasn't giddiness, tears, excitement, or passion it was just... fierce. 
I loved that little baby like I loved myself; completely exasperated and critical of him one moment and then head over heels in crazy love the next. That kind of love scared me and fascinated me at the same time. I found myself pouring everything I had into him--my time, my body, my thoughts, my dreams, everything. Yet I still didn't feel like a nurturer. Read the rest 

3)very Late Father's Day Post

"I have been feeling sad about Solomon all week, about my wonderful ram who bravely protected his family... at the cost of his own life.
I know that "The Family: A Proclamation to the World"  doesn't really apply to sheep but I have been thinking about the part that states, "By divine design, fathers...are responsible to provide... protection for their families." It impresses me that there was something innate in Solomon that compelled him to stand up for his family in the face of danger and to take the brunt of the abuse in order to save his "wife" and child.
He has made me think about all the good men in my life-- Jon, my father, my brother, my father-in-law, my brother-in-laws-- good men who I know would stand up for me. Men who would sacrifice their own desires, security and even their lives, to keep me and my children safe.
It isn't that I am a damsel in distress. I am certainly capable of standing up for myself..." Read the rest

4) Women in the Scriptures Jeopardy

This is really a fun presentation and is perfect for introducing a group to the known (and little known) women of the scriptures. It includes women from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. When I gave the presentation I had people keep track of how many points they earned and then gave out prizes to those who got the most. I think it worked really well. I also talked a little about each woman after she was "revealed" and it opened up some great topics for discussions. 
The reader who requested it is going to use it for her Mother's Day Relief Society lesson, which I thought was brilliant. Read the Rest

5) Miriam: Leprosy and a Bad Case of Spiritual Ego

Miriam's question wasn't wrong-- it was a good question about the way in which God was operating His kingdom on the earth. Later on we see that her process of questioning opened up an important dialogue with God about the role and responsibilities of the prophet. It was because of her question that the Lord was able to give the Children of Israel more understanding about how the priesthood and God's kingdom operates.  The question isn't what was the problem. The problem was that Miriam had, at at her core, what I have heard called  "spiritual ego". I loved how this woman explained what "spiritual ego" is:
What exactly is the spiritual ego...[it ]is borne the first moment... that a profound spiritual realization has been made. It is that part of self that feels it has accomplished something very special and it causes us to feel superior in relations to others because we believe we have made a realization that sets us apart from the masses. If we find ourselves at any point along the path of spiritual growth and expanding consciousness, feeling that we’ve arrived, conquered, or accomplished something really spiritually superior, and that this accomplishment puts us above others in any way, we can rest assured, we’ve activated the spiritual ego. 
When we have spiritual ego we have an over inflated sense of our own spiritual ability and understanding. We begin to think that we are somehow unique, that God has told us or given us something that others don't have. When we have spiritual ego we don't ask questions sincerely desiring an answer or direction. Instead we ask a question, already thinking that we know what the answer should be. The problem is that, when the answer comes and it isn't what you were expecting, it can be really hard to humble yourself and accept counsel. As a result it is usually spiritual ego that causes people to apostatize or leave the church. Read the Rest

Thank you for reading this year! And for your love and support for this next year... 2015 is going to be great!  

Happy New Year!!