Merry Christmas! A Giveaway!

I hope you are having a good Christmas season so far. I hope that you are eating enough treats, but not too many. I hope that you’re holiday shopping is going well. Most of all; however, I hope that you are able to feel the real focus and reason for Christmas: Christ’s birth.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep the Savior at the center of our Christmases. I have a give-away today that might help you to keep Him and His birth in mind.

A good friend of mine is a great artist, and she is giving away four photo-art prints of Mary and Baby Jesus.

Wonderous Gift, by Sue Farmer

Wonderous Gift, by Sue Farmer

There are four different prints available. They are each 5×7 and printed on matte high-quality paper.

In order to enter:

  1. please like Sue Farmer Studios on Facebook (not only does she do beautiful art-photography, but she is an amazing painter).
  2. Also, check out Sue Farmer’s Etsy Shop here to see the other prints – Precious Savior, Fulfilled, and Blessed.
  3. Finally, comment on this blog – tell me your favorite print, and favorite thing about Christmas.

This contest will close on Monday 12/15 at 11:59 Arizona Time, so enter! And pass the word along. I will update this post with the winners, and I’ll send out the prints on Tuesday so you can get them in time for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!!!

Families, Apostles, and Testimony – President Henry B. Eyring’s Speech at the Vatican Summit on Marriage

President Eyring, one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often known as the Mormons) recently spoke at the Vatican Summit on Marriage.

You can watch his speech here:

I hope you watch this speech!

I believe in the family. I know that my most sublime joys and my most aching pain have come from family. This is because family is important. I can’t think of anything happier than catching my children do things like this:

Sasquatch Playing the Piano

Not only that, but when I think of my greatest heartaches, it usually has to do with a relationship with one of my family members. In fact, this morning, I was on a walk, and I was listening to a song. It was essentially about an alcoholic parent/step-parent. The child/singer seems to express both fear and anger toward the drug of alcohol and the effect that it has had on his family. In one point of the song, he sings a “letter” to his father. It is visceral and angry. I don’t want to get overly personal, but I relate to this song at some level. Listening to it today made me think, once again, of the pains I’ve felt in my life, and how much of these pains could have been avoided if we would just learn to take family more seriously.

I feel like the family is under attack. I know that we have been prepared for this day. In 1995, The First Presidency gave a Proclamation to the World about the Family. At the Vatical Summit on Marriage, President Eyring quoted from the proclamation.

So…I’m writing a lot, but I feel like I’m not getting to my point.

I hope you have watched the speech by now.

There were a few things that really struck me about this speech.

One
We have been taught the importance of Family. In the Family Proclamation, we learn that Families are ordained of God, we learn of our roles and responsibilities as husbands and wives, we learn how to have a successful family life, and we are warned of the potential problems that come when we violate marriage covenants and destroy the family unit.

Most of our problems can be solved by applying this simple document in our lives.

Two
President Eyring spent a good deal of time talking about meeting his wife. He spoke about how they are different, but because they have been unselfish, they have grown together rather than apart. Their differences do not divide them, instead, the differences unite them the way that a jigsaw puzzle pieces together in a complimentary manner.

President Eyring also spoke about his children and his grandchildren. You could sense the deep love and joy that he feels toward his family. I could relate to the joy and love he expressed. I haven’t been married to my husband as long, nor do I have grandchildren; however, I have felt joy, and I look forward to more joy. I look forward to snuggling grandkids and then sending them back to their parents when they are tired.

The thing is, I realized, in President Eyring, we have a church leader who has lived life. He has been a young father struggling to support his family. He has been a young husband learning to live with his wife. He has experienced the high points and low points of marriage and family. He has both doctrinal knowledge and experiential knowledge.

I feel so grateful to know that he speaks from a lifetime of experience.

I know that I’m not expressing this well. Hopefully you’ve just watched the speech, and you can feel his love for his family. Hopefully you can also feel the comfort that comes from knowing a wise, humble man has been called to help lead this church.

Three
Finally, I was overwhelmed by President Eyring’s final testimony – of Christ.

He bore witness of Christ, and then said, “who’s witness I am.”

Powerful!

We are led by living prophets and apostles. Just like in ancient times, when Christ organized His church with apostles, we have apostles who are witnesses of Christ.

I have had my own experiences with the Savior. I have felt the power of the Atonement in my life. However, I am not a special witness. I haven’t seen Him, nor have I heard his audible voice. Sometimes, it is a little tempting to doubt His existence – even when I have had so many experiences. It is tempting to think that my mind/heart are playing tricks on me. It is tempting to doubt myself!

However, the witness of the prophets and apostles confirms the witness I’ve experienced in my own life. I feel comforted knowing that there are people on this earth who have seen and know the Savior. They know Him as much as any of His contemporary apostles knew Him. It is comforting to know that I don’t need to doubt myself because there are others who have had a witness of the Savior, too. And I feel so grateful to know that I have been blessed to be a part of this church – that is led by the Lord’s chosen servants.

***
Did you watch the speech? What did you think? Share your thoughts!

Preach My Gospel Study Plan for Families Weeks Four and Five

chococatania:

Here are weeks four and five of my Preach My Gospel scripture Study program for families. Enjoy!

Originally posted on chococatania:

Just letting you know that I have updated the Preach My Gospel Study Plan for families. It now includes up to week five. I’ll continue to do my best to update this weekly!

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Family Scripture Study: Preach My Gospel (Week 2)

chococatania:

Here is week two for the Preach My Gospel Family Scripture Study Program. :)

Originally posted on chococatania:

Preach My Gospel Family Scripture Study

Just thought I’d let you know that I’ve updated the Preach My Gospel Family Scripture Study Program. You can find it here.

I will update this each week (with another week of lessons). You can always click on the sidebar (where you see the picture and the link for the scripture study program). This link will take you to the most current version of the program.

Thanks!

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Rendering the Enemy Powerless (Alma 50:12)

Currently, for my scripture reading, I’m still working my way through the Book of Mormon and studying about the Atonement (you can see the Atonement Study Project here).

Let me start by saying, If you believe in Christ; if you believe that God so loved the world that He sent his only Begotten Son so we wouldn’t perish; then you will love the Book of Mormon. I love the Bible and I love the Book of Mormon. As I’ve taken the time to study the Book of Mormon and the Atonement, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned about it.

I’ve been studying three main points about the Atonement:

  1. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
  2. There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.
  3. The Atonement is the greates evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children.

All of these points are important, but today, the second point, in particular, stood out to me as I studied Alma 50.

For the most part, Alma 50 is about wars between two groups of people: the Nephites and the Lamanites. At this point in the history of these two groups, the Nephites were a little more righteous, while the Lamanites were apostate. The Lamanites (and some dissenting Nephites) were trying to overthrow the Nephite government (which, by the way, was a democratic system). They wanted to kill all of the people who professed to believe in God, and they wanted to instill an oppressive government. (This sounds familiar…it’s a lot like what is happening over in Iraq and Syria).

The Nephites, however, had a very powerful and brave leader: Captain Moroni. He championed the cause of freedom, including and especially religious freedom, and he rallied others to help him protect their inalienable rights.

Okay…so, Captain Moroni was a good guy. And the thing is, he was such a good because Captain Moroni believed in Christ. Because of the power of the Atonement, and because of Captain Moroni was committed to his covenants, he overcame the natural man and became a disciple of Christ. Captain Moroni’s example shows us that discipleship doesn’t mean we are weak-minded fools. Discipleship will refine us and make us powerful.

David A Bednar Enabling Power of Atonement

Real Power

(The only kind of power that matters)
I realize that power is a loaded word. Captain Moroni wasn’t powerful over other people (that kind of “power” really doesn’t mean much, does it?). Instead, he had the most difficult kind of power to obtain: self-mastery. (See Alma 48:17.)

We also learn in Alma 50:

“Thus Moroni, with his armies, which did increase daily because of the assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them, did seek to cut off the strength and the power of the Lamanites from off the lands of their possessions, that they should have no power upon the lands of their possession.” – Alma 50:12

Not only was Moroni a master over himself, but he was able to use his resources to protect his people. Because of Moroni’s strength, vision, and organization, he fortified the cities of his lands, and the Lamanites had no power over them.

What this Means for You and Me

Okay. So what. I don’t really have anyone actively trying take away my possessions or lands. However, I feel like there is a daily battle I’m engaged in. The enemy is the devil, and he is very real.

When I choose to honor the covenants I have made, when I allow the Atonement to be a power in my life, then the enemy I fight against will have no power over me.

***
There are so many battles people are facing. Some of the battles we face are physical and obvious. The people in Iraq and Syria, for example, are experiencing excruciating stress and oppression. And, while I don’t intend to compare myself to them (because my life is super great), the fact remains that I have my own battles. People in the U.S. or other developed countries don’t seem to fare any better than others around the world. Just last week, a famous, rich, beloved celebrity took his own life.

We are all in a battle.

And, if we want to render our enemy powerless, then we simply need to come unto Christ and allow the power of His Atonement to enable us.

Family History, I Am Doing It (Again)

Years ago, I was very interested in family history work. I guess you could say that I had caught the “Spirit of Elijah,” the feeling that often accompanies Family History work.

The idea of the “Spirit of Elijah” comes from the following scripture:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6

This time has come. We, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe that Elijah has come again and that he has fulfilled his duty in turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

This promise is all centered in the temple.

Mesa Temple at Night

Mesa Temple at Night

Many people might feel like the Mormon temple is a place shrouded in mystery. It is not. The Mormon temple is a sacred place where we as individuals and families can covenant with God.

I have experienced the blessings of the temple in my life. I made covenants with God in the temple for the first time when I was 19. It was shortly before I was to be married (to my first husband). Even though this marriage would end less than seven years after we covenanted to be together for time and all eternity, I was blessed by the temple. I had never broken my covenant. I was always endowed with God’s power in my life.

Additionally, because of my knowledge and testimony of the temple, I began to do a lot of family history work. As I searched for the names and lives of my ancestors, I began to feel a closer connection to each of them. I was able to experience miracles, and I felt a surge of love for my family that had passed on in addition to my future family. My heart was both turned to my fathers and mothers and my own children.

There is nothing like the feeling of belonging in a family.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to feel like I could be happier as an individual – that I’d be happier chasing temptations and so called dreams (usually fleeting fun) all on my own. There is a side of me that is tempted to find the idea of “no strings attached” alluring. Now, some of those dreams aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but I also know, thanks to experience, that I’m not happier alone. I’m happier with my people: my family. We are all connected. We can’t get around that. And when we learn to embrace that, we find fulfillment and joy in our lives.

Over the next several months (or longer), I plan on blogging about my own adventures in Family History work. I feel like I need to start it up again. I have been blessed by many miracles as I’ve sought out my ancestors.

I encourage you to seek out your ancestors, too. Because of the experiences I have had, I know that If you want to experience a miracle in your life, then do family history work. Your family wants you to find them. They want you to remember them. They want you to learn from their mistakes and keep their good legacies alive.

Family Scripture Study: Preach My Gospel (Week 1)

chococatania:

I just wanted to share what I’ve done for my family this week. We have started a Preach My Gospel Scripture Study program.

I hope you like it!

Originally posted on chococatania:

In our homeschool, we are studying the Preach My Gospel manual for missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.



Preach My Gospel Family Scripture Study

Our course of study will include pages 31-126 of the manual and it will last 36 weeks.

We are currently doing it, so I will try to update this weekly. So far, our first week went really well. What I love about this scripture study program (so far), is that we will be learning the basics of the gospel, we will be studying all of the standard works, and we will be learning how to mark our scriptures.

You can download the first week of lessons here.

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My Faith, Captain Moroni, and The Atonement

Eczema Rash

It’s been a while, I know. These past few months, I’ve been consumed with teaching for BYU-Idaho and also prepping for homeschool (for the first time ever). Recently, my husband has also made some big life decisions, which are very exciting.

So, even though I don’t feel particularly “stressed out,” I know that my life is stressful. In fact, I know this is true because of this crazy eczema rash I’ve gotten all over my hands and arms.

I’ll spare you a picture.

When the crazy rash started getting bad, I asked Homey for a blessing. In this blessing, it was indicated that the rash was caused by stress, and I needed to learn how to manage it. (Getting rid of stressors isn’t really an option right now).

The rash got worse.

Well, I was getting pretty desperate, and one of my friends gave me a topical prescription cortisone product for my rash. It would clear up for a few days, I’d stop with the prescription, and it would get worse. This went on for a few months (!) Over time, the rash got much, much worse. What started as a small rash under my wedding ring became a rash on 8 of my fingers, up both hands and arms…yikes.

I’ve asked Homey for two more blessings. The same basic info was related: Heavenly Father Loves me, Christ has suffered the Atonement and has perfect empathy, this is caused by stress, and I needed to find natural ways to alleviate the issue.

As I write this now, I realize what a blessing that Priesthood blessings are. However, I will admit that during the final blessing, I wondered why I could just be healed. I know that God has the power to do it, so why can’t I be healed?

Of course, as this thought went through my brain, the words of the blessing rang out: this trial is to help you build faith in your Father in Heaven.

Okay.

Captain Moroni

Today, I read about Captain Moroni in my scriptures.

“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” – Alma 48:17

In the past, I’ve read this scripture with complete awe for Mornoi. What a cool dude. Untouchable. Untouchable by Satan, and also – by me. I want to be like Moroni, but he is so good…too good. I can’t come close.

However, I’ve been studying the Atonement in the Book of Mormon. I know that There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Christ. With this in mind, I have come to the realization that Moroni wasn’t just born cool and faithful. His faith and example come through his discipleship, which came as a result of his >firm faith in Christ. (See Alma 48:13. This means that becoming like Moroni, who could shake the very powers of hell, is possible–through Christ.

Part Three
So..if I want to be like Moroni, then I need to develop stronger faith.

I’m not sure if I’m a super faithful person or not. When I was younger, like most young people, I had faith. I was innocent and closer with nature. Then, I got older, more disconnected with what probably matters, and logic became important to me. I have always had a testimony because I’ve been able to logically understand the gospel. It makes sense to me, and discovering the mysteries of God is important to me as it galvanizes my testimony (logically).

Yet, I need to have faith. I need to be willing to suspend my so-called logic, and just develop a purer faith in the Savior. I suppose that is what this skin rash is designed to do in my life because my faith is wavering.

Now, I want to say that carefully. My faith isn’t wavering in a “I wonder if the gospel is true” kind of way. I will not and cannot deny the truthfulness of the gospel and my testimony. Instead, I think my faith is wavering in the same way as the man who uttered to Christ, “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.”

How I relate to this man!

I believe. I believe that Christ created the world, that He came, lived, suffered, died, and was resurrected. I know that He answers prayers. I know that He loves me. I know that He will speak to my soul when I search and am willing to listen. However, I have this rash that is spreading and getting worse despite my pleas.

And, as I plea for help, I feel the doubt creeping in my head, “He can help, but I doubt he’ll help me. I’m not strong or special like some people. (ie – Captain Moroni)” Stuff like that. Not helpful, and ultimately self-fulfilling.

So…as I read the story of Captain Moroni, I am both humbled and comforted. I don’t have to be a Captain Moroni to become like Captain Moroni. Instead, I only need to humbly go to the Lord, ask Him to help my unbelief, and let Him work a miracle in me through the Atonement.

His Atonement will help me to be the faithful woman and disciple that I want to be – rash or not.

***
What do you do to strengthen your faith during times of trial?

New Testament Study Companion: Luke

It has been a little over a year since I shared my last two Scripture Study Companions. (Matthew and Mark) Today, I release my third – LUKE!!! (I’m hoping that John, the last installment, will be out next month).

New Testament Study Companion: Luke

New Testament Study Companion: Luke


This book takes you chapter by chapter through Luke with questions and exercises/ideas for in-depth study. You can get this book a few different ways.

***

New Testament Study Companion: Luke – free eBook

Click here for the free eBook. This format will work for just about anything. :)

***

New Testament Study Companion: Luke – PDF

Click here for the free downloadable PDF version. If you prefer you can download this version to your computer.

***

New Testament Study Companion: Luke – Kindle Version

This will be updated soon.

***

New Testament Study Companion: Luke – Print Version

Click here if you are interested in a print version of the book.
You can also choose to have this book printed and sent to you for $3.04. This might be a nice option for people who like to hold things in their hands. It is also most likely less expensive and more durable than printing the eBook yourself.

About the New Testament Study Companion: Luke

This book is designed to help you study the book of Luke. It is like the scripture study series–in that you will read a block of text, and I have included many questions that will help you to ponder the scriptures you read.

Additionally, each chapter includes several exercises that will help you to find patterns, themes, concepts, scripture chains, cross-refernences, etc. These exercises will help you to study each chapter in-depth. I hope that each time you use this study companion, you will be edified and excited about scripture study.

***
Okay…so check it out. Let me know what you think. You can also find The Scripture Study Companion for Matthew and Mark. Be on the look-out for John!

***
Oh…and HUUUUUUUGE shout out to my very talented friend Stephanie Clawson. She has created the art for all of these scripture study guides. You can check out her blog here. It is both beautiful and inspiring. She truly lives the gospel. She also has an Etsy shop here.

Joy Project – Week 13 of 52

Week thirteen of the joy project.
3-23 – 3-29

March 23, 2014 – My Little Homies

I <3 These Two.

I <3 These Two.


I love these two.

There are times when I just look at these two, and my heart overflows with love. Nothing special happened in this moment. It was just a usual Sunday night with us eating dinner and the T-Rex going crazy. He can barely stand to finish a meal because he's got too much excitement. He loves to entertain all of us. After he's finished with his meal, he hops on Homey's lap. They are so cute…or should I say cool.

Joy is family. Joy is having a little boy that is a spitting image of his father, your best friend, lover, companion…everything!

March 25, 2014 – Swedish Furniture

We are so Swedish!

We are so Swedish!


Last week, we painted our bedroom. I love it. And Homey put together our desk.

Today, I was cleaning, and I had to smile when I saw this pile of Ikea tools.

Joy is a new desk and a fresh coat of paint on your walls.

March 26, 2014 – A Text from my Brother and Mrs. Featherbottom

Mrs. Featherbottom

Mrs. Featherbottom


I received a random text from my brother. I love him. In case you’re not familiar, this is a quote from Arrested Development. Over the years, Arrested Development has brought me a lot of joy. I believe in laughing a lot. Nothing releases stress quite like a laugh does.

Joy is awesome siblings who refer to awesome characters on awesome TV shows.

March 27, 2014 – The Orchid Tree

The Orchid Tree

The Orchid Tree


I have been envying/coveting a tree for some time. A few weeks ago, I noticed that several people in my neighborhood and around town had this tree that seemed to bloom orchids–giant purple orchids.

Now…rewind to last year when we moved into this house. It was late in the year – nearly Thanksgiving. We have this big tree in our yard. It seems nice enough. Then, last winter we had a week-long freeze. This is unheard of in Phoenix. Our Lemon tree didn’t die, but many branches did. Some of our plants were frozen to the point where they died. This large tree in our yard seemed to be under a lot of stress. It lost all of its leaves. We didn’t know if it would come back to life.

Throughout the spring it struggled, but leaves came back. It never bloomed. It was just struggling to get back on track. Throughout the summer, it continued to gain strength. There was hope for the tree. I was glad that we waited to see what would happen–we almost took the tree out.

I never thought much of this giant tree in our yard – other than it is great for shade and many birds love it.

I had noticed the orchid trees around the valley, and I started thinking I wish I had one. Oh how I wish I had an orchid tree! Imagine my surprise when I noticed a few orchids blooming on this tree. A few days later, and the tree is covered!

Yay!!!

Yay!!!

It’s funny. All along this tree has been here. Even though I hadn’t expected to find such joy in this tree, I have. I nearly feel guilty that I didn’t appreciate it in the past. There is something about that – about how often huge blessings are right under our nose. It just will take a while for them to bloom.

Joy is a gigantic, mature tree covered in orchids in your backyard. Joy is feeling God’s love in something as simple as a flowering tree. Joy is having a prayer answered before you even knew you had it. Joy is an unexpected orchid tree.

March 28, 2014 – Hiking

Hiking with the T-Rex

Hiking with the T-Rex

I had a few minutes alone with the T-Rex this morning. I figured that instead of our usual morning routine, we’d go and hike. So we did!

We went over to the trails and found a mountain to climb. This little boy loves climbing mountains. He jumped on rocks, oohed and ahhed over the views as we climbed to the top of the mountain, gasped at every single “yucky cactus,” and then chased a lizard into the desert.

Joy is being outside with this little T-Rex. Joy is living in this world, experiencing it, and watching a toddler experience it, too.

March 29, 2014 – Unexpected Blessings in Disguise

I was fully expecting that I’d be saying today’s “joy” was taking my daughters to the Women’s Meeting.

However, we had an emergency. A lice emergency.

I washed and combed hair for hours. After that, we got out the vacuums, clorox wipes, sprays, and cleaned every surface in our home. In the meantime, we washed every single sheet, blanket, pillowcase, and stuffed animal we own. It was madness.

Where’s the blessing and joy in this.

1) We’re alive and can even experience the adversities in life.

2) Only one of my children had lice.

Joy is remembering that even sucky things can be considered a blessing. Even sucky things are reminders that we are on this earth and enjoying the blessings of mortality. My five year old asked, “Why did Heavenly Father create lice?” Often, I’ve asked similar questions (about mosquitoes, ticks, and scorpions). But the answer is, so we could have joy. No, I don’t necessarily enjoy having lice in my home, but I can joy in the reminder of the blessings I have. And I can even joy in the fact that I’m experiencing it at all. I have children. I have a family. We all have heads of hair. There is much to rejoice in–even in something as repulsive as a louse.

  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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