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.

What is the Relief Society?

Sorry I haven’t written on the blog for a couple of weeks. We’ve had spring break, and I’ve actually started teaching for the Pathway program, so I feel like I’m on the computer all the time. ANYWAY…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mormon Women lately. Here is a list of reasons why:

  • The Ordain Women group has been gaining traction in the media. While I don’t agree with their movement, they have been making me think about being a woman in the LDS church including my roles, rights, and blessings.
  • In what seems to be a reaction to the Ordain Women movement, another Movement has sprung up – Mormon Women Stand
  • I often get overwhelmed by my duties and the challenges of this world. I crave a sisterhood with like-minded women who are noble, nurturing, and strong.

As these three things swirl in my brain, I find that there is one common solution to them, and that is The Relief Society.

What is the Relief Society?

First of all, it is important to understand what the Relief Society is. According to mormon.org, the Relief Society is defined as follows:

“The Relief Society is the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. Relief Society was established in 1842 for women 18 years of age and older. Its purpose is to build faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need.”

Now – onto how the Relief Society has been able to be the solution to the mind-swirling I’ve been having lately.

The Ordain Women Movement

According to the Ordain Women Group, their purpose is:

“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

First, and foremost, I don’t necessarily agree with the assertion made by the Ordain Women group. I don’t agree that there is an issue of gender inequality in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither do I think that the Family Proclamation perpetuates antiquated ideas or inequality between men and women.

This being said, I don’t deny the fact that some women might feel marginalized in the Church. I understand this. I have experienced being in counsels with men who won’t listen. I don’t personally believe that if I held the Priesthood I would have been seen as any kind of authority. I just think that some dudes are like that a little chauvinistic and kind of jerky – even if they don’t mean to be.

For some reason, this kind of attitude has prevailed over the millennia. I think that men have a hard time understanding why the women think that the way they do. Straight away, I think of Peter and Mary Magdalene:

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.” – Mark 16:9-11

To be fair: these apostles didn’t believe the disciples who saw Christ on the Road to Emmaus. And Thomas didn’t believe all of the apostles that had seen the resurrected Lord.

But I’ve always found this striking: Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She didn’t hold any kind of Priesthood authority, but He came to her and revealed himself to her. And the apostles didn’t believe her.

Sometimes I think that all of this misunderstanding between men and women comes only because men have a hard time understanding women, and it may seem that they tend to belittle and downplay women. I hate making this blanket statement because I have met and known many open minded men. But let’s just say that I have had discussions with men about women and emotions.

Really quickly – so – some men seem to downplay women because we can be a little more emotional or intuitive. Some men seem to only be able to respond to logic and reason. I totally understand this. And I say, It is totally illogical and unreasonable to ignore our intuition, emotions, and spirits! We are people, we aren’t robots. We have emotions and unique Spirits how would it be logical to discount this side of who we are when making any kind of decision in life???

(Oh, and I have also found that men have an especially hard time with women who react emotionally. I, too, find that it is best to not react, but this isn’t because I want to deny my woman-ness. Instead, it is because I want to make a wise decision. AND BESIDES, sometimes I think that men forget that anger is an emotion, and reacting in anger is often more illogical than a woman’s weeping…Interestingly enough, in the General Relief Society Broadcasts, I have experienced listening to prophets compliment and comfort the women. My opinion – it just takes some men, even good men, about 80 years to really understand the value of a woman’s emotions, opinions, and intuitive nature).

anyway!!!

I just want to say that while I don’t necessarily agree with the Ordain Women women, I don’t doubt that they honestly feel the way that they do. Additionally, I don’t think that it is necessarily wrong to feel confused, belittled, or unequal. That happens sometimes! And sometimes that happens for a good reason.

However, there is one thing that I do disagree with – and that is the way that the Ordain Women group has gone about their purposes. I believe that the best way to take an issue up with God is by taking it up with Himand praying! I know that God answers our prayers. I know that He listens to us. I know that He will influence our prophet and apostles if it is the right thing to do/pray about.

I mean, think about it this way – when members of the church desire to have a temple built in an area we are taught to pray, we are taught to pay our tithing, we are taught to attend the temple. We are not taught to write a letter Salt Lake and petition the prophet to have a temple. He isn’t in charge of the Church, the Lord is. Priesthood or not, every woman, every man, every child has access to our Heavenly Father. We just have to get on our knees. Heck, we don’t even have to get on our knees! Just Pray!

And now – to the Relief Society, I think that the Relief Society is the answer to this problem. When we understand our role in the church and in our family, and when we understand the blessing and honor it is to be a member of the Relief Society, we will understand what we need to do in order to have our concerns addressed.

The motto of the Relief Society is charity never faileth. Can you come up with anything more inspired, more enabling, more beautiful, more Christlike? As members of the Relief Society, we will seek to understand Charity more. We will be cognizant of the fact that Charity is a lot more than quilt tying and giving service. And as members of the Relief Society that understand the meaning of charity, we will also remember that Christ’s love never fails. Mormon teaches us about Charity:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” – Moroni 7:45-47

It just seems to me that if we, members of the Relief Society, understand what Charity is, then, when we have questions about the church – legitimate questions, when we have qualms, when we are wronged, when we have issues that come from our hearts, then we will address them with faith and with charity.

Relief Society can help us when we struggle.

Mormon Women Stand

I was invited to be a part of Mormon Women Stand. This is a group that seems to have sprung up in reaction to the Ordain Women movement. Here is their mission:

“Mormon Women Stand is a collaborative online effort to join like-minded female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who share a desire to make a public stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ and in support of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’. We believe standing together will reflect the divine nature and power that LDS women are endowed with to influence others for good. We unequivocally sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—commissioned by God and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. We support how the Lord has delegated priesthood authority to organize and administer the gospel among all of His children.” – Mormon Women Stand

Like the Ordain Women movement, I believe that this group is thoughtful. They want to stand up for their beliefs at a time when they believe that their beliefs are being assailed.

Initially, I went ahead and “liked” the Facebook group. I, essentially, agree with them. I believe in standing as a witness of Jesus Christ. I have promised to do so …in all times, and in all things, and in all places [I am in] even unto death.” (See Mosiah 18:10.)

But I started to think about this group. And I wondered, Why isn’t my membership in the Relief Society and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enough. As I just mentioned, because I’ve been baptized and have covenanted with Christ, then I have already committed myself to being His witness.

Additionally, as a member of the Relief Society, I have also decided to live up to it’s motto – that Charity never faileth, which means that I wouldn’t really be provoked or threatened by other groups or adversity – whether it comes from an external or internal source.

My membership in the Church and in the Relief Society is enough, and instead of singling myself out (whether with the Ordain Women group or with Mormon Women Stand), I ought to simply seek sisterhood with all saints in the gospel. I feel like Satan is trying to destroy us by dividing us, and even if our intentions are good, if we aren’t careful, then we might stop being charitable. And if we aren’t charitable, then we will fail.

I Crave Sisterhood

This leads me to my last point, and why I love the Relief Society, and why I need the Relief Society.

Yesterday, I read an article about Peter Lanza and Sandy Hook in the New Yorker. It was sad, terrifying, horrible, depressing, you name it. I also read An article about the rising generation and problems with p*rnography. It was sad, terrifying, horrible, depressing, you name it.

Both of these articles, read within hours of one another, had me wondering, how do I do it? I have four little children. I have three beautiful girls, and one delightful son. I see the good in them, and I want that to shine throughout their lives. I want them to know the good in themselves. I want them to know God, and to know the truth.

But there are so many lies. So many difficulties. What do I do???

And, I realized, the answer is The Relief Society.

Through the Relief Society, I have been able to meet like-minded sisters who also are striving. Some of the sisters are young, married mothers; some of these sisters are women who have never married; some sisters are women in the middle of their lives like me. Some are old, some are divorced, some are tall, some are short, some are thin, some are blonde, some are white, some are black, some are from Mexico, some are from Croatia, some are just like me, some are nothing like me. but we are all sisters, and we are all striving to obtain charity – that pure love of Christ which never fails.

This Saturday evening at 6PM MDT, the General Women’s Broadcast will be aired. We will be meeting as women – as sisters – ages 8 and up – to be taught by our leaders, the apostles, and prophets. We will be able to attend this meeting, for the first time, with our mothers and young daughters. All together!!! We will be reminded of our work, we will be edified, and we will be able to leave the meeting resolved to keep striving and overcome the sad, terrifying, horrible things that the world is trying to throw at us.

***

Moi, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and the Relief Society.

Moi, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and the Relief Society.

I am so grateful for my membership in the Relief Society. Ironically, the longest I’ve ever been in Relief Society was when I was a teacher for about three or four months. Otherwise, I have served with the children or youth. But this doesn’t nullify my membership in this divine group of women. I love knowing that anywhere I go, I will find women that I can call my sisters. I’m convinced that we, members of the Relief Society, can change the world – little by little. I don’t think my claim is outrageous, either. After all, the Relief Society claims that Charity never faileth, and we have the opportunity to live up to this standard.

Through my membership in the Relief Society, I have become a better woman. I have come closer to my Heavenly Father. I have been able to better understand the meaning and purpose of my life, personally. At Relief Society, I have felt camaraderie, I have laughed, I have cried, and I have been elevated.

***
Are you a member of the Relief Society? How do you feel about being a member of this sisterhood? What can you do to commit yourself to it’s motto – that Charity never faileth? What are your feelings of Relief Society and being a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

If you are not Mormon, what are the questions that you have about the Relief Society and about women in the LDS church. I am open to a kind and honest dialogue, so ask away!

Joy Project – Week 7 of 52

Time for a little catch up…

Week seven of the Joy Project

February 10, 2014 – Priesthood Blessings

Homey and Little Homey at the Gilbert Temple Open House.

Homey and Little Homey at the Gilbert Temple Open House.


This isn’t about the Gilbert Temple Open House. Instead it is about Homey. I chose this picture of the temple because it is through temple covenants and the Priesthood that Homey has become the man he is today. He takes his covenants seriously and serves our family.

Today, I went to the doctor because I’ve been having earaches. The doctor gave me advice, and I was feeling a little bit unsure. I decided to ask Homey to give me a Priesthood blessing.

One thing I’m really grateful for is the fact that any man in the church, as long as he is found worthy, can officiate in the priesthood. This service isn’t relegated only to those who go to seminaries. It is available to all men starting at the age of 12. The Priesthood teaches men to serve God and honor the commitments and covenants they have made with Him. When men magnify their priesthood, they also magnify womanhood. They show more love and compassion. They serve others. I really think that the priesthood is what makes a man. Instead of being married to some “guy” or some “boy,” Homey is a loving, strong, and capable man. This is because of the Priesthood that he bears.

I asked him for a a blessing, and I was filled with joy as I felt the words that Heavenly Father had for me.

*If you are not Mormon, but want to understand what a Priesthood blessing is, you can either email me or read more here.

As Homey began the blessing, I was verbally reminded of how much Heavenly Father loves me. As Homey uttered the words, I realized that every blessing I’ve received or witnessed has started in a similar way. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each of us, and they want us to know this, too.

Joy is being married to a man who honorably holds the Priesthood and uses this power to serve our family. Joy is receiving a blessing and being reminded of God’s love for me, specifically. Joy is knowing that I’m on track, I can stay the course, and that I can be confident.

February 11, 2014 – Tiger

T-Rex and Tiger

T-Rex and Tiger

There are times (a lot of them) when the kids cry, tease, and are just mean to one another. I don’t really understand it. Well, I suppose I do. They are tired. They are dealing with changes in their own lives. They are human.

My oldest two (Tiger and Panda) are really good to one another, but every once in a while, they can be – well – jerks. They have their own little power-plays, and the contention drives me up the wall.

Yesterday, after an altercation, I made Tiger and Panda apologize and then take a time out in their rooms. While in their rooms, they had to write an entry in their journal – about how to be better to each other. I didn’t make them read what they wrote, I simply told them to do it.

Today, I had another experience during a quiet time of the day. It brought me a lot of joy. I was reminded of what a good girl Tiger is. She wants to do what is right. She doesn’t want to fight with her sister, but they disagree at times. Her life is changing. She is in the Young Women’s now. She is in Junior High. Her world is shifting, and sometimes that is difficult to negotiate, but she wants to choose the right. She has a testimony. And, even when I giver her punishments, she loves me.

Joy is a daughter who wants to do what is right.

February 12, 2014 – Art Closet

Today, I started on a big project.

Big Time Clean-Up Job

Big Time Clean-Up Job

I have an art closet. It is supposed to be a linen closet, but I have to admit, I’d rather stuff my linens under the sinks and above the toilets so I can have space for all of my craft supplies.

If you think this is a lot, you should know 1)This isn’t even half of the closet. 2)I have downsized from a craft room to a craft closet, and that was a big deal.

Like anything in life, you can go along, ignoring your art closet (or anything else, for that matter) until the point comes when you can’t open the door for fear of being crushed by your junk. That’s when you need to clean it out!

So I did. It took a little while, but it was fun. I was able to find some things that I had been looking for. I also found things I didn’t even know I had…like this gem:

Hahahahaaaaa!

Hahahahaaaaa!

Joy is cleaning your closets. I forget this all the time. Whenever I need to clean a closet, I put it off telling myself how much I loathe cleaning and organizing. In this procrastination, the mess usually gets so bad that it reaches a fever pitch where I finally give in and clean. And then, every time I do, I’m so happy that I did it! Joy is finding old stuff and being reminded of projects that need completing. Joy is finding an organizing book in the back of your horribly crazy craft closet.

February 13 – A Sleeping Boy

I know that a lot of these posts are about my kids. But really, nothing brings me more joy than something like this:

I don't have enough kisses for him.

I don’t have enough kisses for him.

Our little T-Rex is always full-throttle. He is “all boy.” He loves to run, jump, play, and do anything that is life-threatening.

He is happy, happy, happy, but is also a little on the aggressive side. (I don’t mean that he is mean-aggressive, I just mean that everything he done is rougher and tougher. When he plays, he is playing aggressively. When he hugs and kisses, he squeezes and slobbers. Everything is more intense with the T-Rex.

I love it.

Yet, it gets a little tiring, and I have to admit that one of my favorite things in the world is when he is peacefully sleeping after a long day of playing.

Joy is a little boy that is all boy. Joy is having a fourth kid that is still teaching you so much about everything. Joy is seeing that active little boy rest.

February 14, 2014 – Valentine’s Day

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have changed throughout the years.

Valentine's Flowers

Valentine’s Flowers

There were times when I was against it (the principle of it, of course). When I was in high school, I thought of myself as smart and not bound by convention. In fact, I loved to buck against convention. All of my friends were skateboarders and had dyed hair. (I never did that – and not because of convention – it was out of being even more unconventional. I didn’t want to follow the group of kids who were doing something just because everyone else wasn’t. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I’m sure a psychiatrist has something to say about this). Anyway – during those years, I hated the idea of Valentine’s day because it seemed so contrived and fake. We should just love one another.

When I got married (to Rusty), I was originally feeling like Valentine’s Day was a load of phooey. I would tell him that I didn’t need any jewelry or card. I didn’t want a teddy bear. Whatevs. I worked at a Hallmark store, and there was more than one man who rushed in 10 minutes before close and asked me, “Do you think that you can find me a Valentine’s card that my wife would like?” (uhhhhh)…

My feelings about Valentine’s day began to shift while I was married to Rusty, however. Our marriage was *lacking* to say the least. We rarely dated. I rarely felt like Rusty knew I existed. Valentine’s Day became a day that I felt, “Surely he’ll do something for me today. Surely he’ll care about me today. He has to.” I was originally grateful that there was a day where we were forced to remember our loved ones.

Then, Things fell apart between Rusty and I (Were they ever not?). This happened only a few days before Valentine’s Day. I spent Valentine’s Day 2005 feeling sorry for myself and every other person on the earth. (Whether or not they were in a relationship, I was sorry for them. It was a cynical time in my life).

While I was single, Valentine’s Day got a little better. One year, a man I dated got me roses and chocolate. It was cheesy and cliche. It was conventional and normal. It was everything I was against (when I was younger), but I was grateful for the attention. This man’s romanticism (and machismo, I dare say), was exactly what I needed after nearly 7 years with Rusty).

After this experience, though, I kind of went back to my original feelings about love/Valentine’s Day – cheesy and kind of stupid.

Then, I met Homey (online)… Even though we were 2,000 miles apart, I had my best Valentine’s Day ever. It was simple and honest, and that is when I started to like it.

Valentine’s Day isn’t about chocolate, jewelry, teddy bears and cards. It’s about honesty and love. Being with Homey has taught me this. Valentine’s day is a day we can celebrate our relationships. One legend tells that back in the day, Christians couldn’t get married, and St. Valentine would marry them in secret. Pretty rad. Another one says that Claudius II (I believe) felt that unmarried men made better soldiers, so marriage was outlawed in Rome. Valentine would marry these men in secret. (Also rad). I believe in marriage, and it seems like every legend of St. Valentine centers on marriage and love.

And now that I’m married to Homey, I feel love in my marriage all the time. Valentine’s Day came, and I wasn’t even looking forward to it – not because I hate it, but because it doesn’t matter that much to me anymore. I don’t need it to exist so that Homey will recognize me, pay attention to me, or express love to me. I know he loves me. Valentine’s day is a nice date night, where Homey buys me some flowers and maybe a little gift. But he really doesn’t need to because his real gift to me is his willingness to make me feel secure and loved in our marriage every single day.

I will say, though, Valentine’s day has the cutest decor. :)

Joy is a holiday dedicated to love and marriage. Joy is knowing that you have a spouse who cares about you, prays for you, cheers for you, listens to you. Joy is having evidence of this 365 days a year, not only when he is forced to by Hallmark.

February 15, 2014 – Gardens

We took a family adventure to the Desert Botanical Gardens. It is beautiful.

Chihuly in the Garden

Chihuly in the Garden

This Saguaro is dying, you can see its "skeleton"

This Saguaro is dying, you can see its “skeleton”

Butterly

Butterly

Deedle's Dirty Toes

Deedle’s Dirty Toes

Hummingbird in the garden

Hummingbird in the garden

More Dirty Toes.

More Dirty Toes.

Blooming Cactus

Blooming Cactus

Severed Cactus Limb...pretty

Severed Cactus Limb…pretty

Touch me

Touch me

BZZZ

BZZZ

Blooming Cactus

Blooming Cactus

:)

:)

So much love.

So much love.

It was a nice day, the kids ran and played. T-Rex got too close to cactus and would say, “ooohhhh! Yucky Cactus!” (He has learned that cactus are painful through sad experience). I loved spending time with the family.

Joy is taking a ride to public(?) professional (?) gardens. Joy is taking time with family on a Saturday afternoon. Joy is a bunch of cute kids and dirty toes.

February 16, 2014 – Happy Birthday!

My old man is 60 years young.

Senior Portrait

Senior Portrait

I’m grateful for my dad. He adopted me when I was four, and I’ve known him since I was two. He raised me and cared for me. He taught me to read, enjoy baseball, bake cookies, and have a sense of humor about everything. I’m grateful for him, and I love him.

Joy is having family. Joy can be laced with melancholy knowing that your dad is thousands of miles away. Joy is looking forward to visiting him. Joy is having a good example of how to be a parent. Joy is having a dad – no matter how he came into that role in my life.

***
What has brought you joy this week? (Don’t worry, I’ll be updating more later today/tomorrow!)

The End of the Beginning (Part 32 – the finale – of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part thirty-two of the Homey and Me Love Story.

While waiting for the cancellation of my first temple marriage, Homey and I decided to keep moving forward with our wedding plans. I still needed to meet his parents and we needed to find a place to live in Mesa, so he sent me a buddy pass, and I flew out to AZ.

The flight to Mesa happened to be the worst ever flight of my entire life. Because I was on a buddy pass, I was flying stand-by: which means no assigned seats. I ended up in a seat between this large older man and a and thin older woman (I later realized she was the man’s wife).

I had my book, but was honestly a little too excited to read. It had been three weeks since I last saw Homey. I was going out of my mind.

The plane took off, and that’s when the bodily functions began. Not my bodily functions. The man next to me – kept farting, burping, and breathing on me. It was so disgusting. He seriously lifted up one of his *cheeks* and let out audible gas! And smelled incredibly gross. I shoved my face into my book so that I could breathe in the pleasant smell of books rather than the putrid odor of his flatulence. About twenty minutes before we were supposed to land, the woman sitting next to me starts speaking to him in German. I realized, they were married! Gross! And I had to sit next to him. Although, I admit, she lives with this man. I can understand why she’d want a five hour break from him.

Not only was I excited to land so I could see Homey, but I longed to felt free after being stuck to the large, gassy, German dude.

(super gross…I know).

I got off the plane, recounted my experience to Homey, and laughed, taking great pleasure at my suffering. We are perfect for each other.

The weather was sunny and beautiful in Arizona, and it felt like a good sign.

I honestly can’t remember most of the details of this trip, except how I felt one night. For most of the trip, Homey and I had fun plans. I spent about a week in Arizona. We went to a baseball game, we went to a Shins concert, we ate at In and Out, we toured apartment complexes and even put a deposit down on one of them. I was feeling overwhelmed with happiness; my life was changing.

Though we always had a lot going on, one night, Homey and I stayed in. I was staying at his parents house. He cooked for all of us, I chatted and got to know his parents, and then Homey and I watched a Stranger than Fiction. I had never seen it before, and was excited to see it. The movie was a bit of a departure for Will Ferrell, but it was still really good.

I have to admit, I’m not much of a fan of romantic comedy. I know that sounds like a cardinal sin. But, for the most part, I hate romantic comedies. There are a few that I like, but for the most part, romantic comedies are so far-fetched that they have ruined the process of dating and love for so many women (and men). Plus, most romantic comedies have very poorly developed characters and even worse dialogue. I know I sound picky. And, for the most part, I am.

While Stranger than Fiction is more along the lines of romantic comedies, I liked it. There was an unrealistic, even magical element to it, but it was executed so well. I felt like the situations were actually more believable, the characters were developed, and the dialogue was interesting.

Most of all, I liked this movie because I felt like it highlighted the beauty of ordinary love.

***
When I was first going through my divorce from Rusty, I struggled between feeling like love, loyalty, and marriage was a hopeless notion and hopeful notion. One day, I went into church and sat in my pew. I looked around at our congregation, and the ugly thought surfaced,
I wonder how many men here have their own dirty little secret. I wanted to believe that every marriage was a lie.
Yet, as soon as that thought surfaced, another chimed in, Catania, there are good men in this world.
But Rusty seemed so good, and was so bad. My stepfather cheated, my father cheated, my biological father isn’t a part of the picture and never has been. It’s easy for these guys here at church to act good. But Really? Rusty acted good, and we know the truth. Are these men really any different?
Just as I had these thoughts, my Bishop caught my gaze. I tried to force a smile, but he didn’t really smile back. Instead, as he acknowledged me, he simply began to weep, and I knew that yes there are men who love their wives, there are men who love their children, and there are men who love their God. I could see, from my Bishop’s sympathy, that marriage and love could be a sublime experience.

This small gesture became a small ray of hope.

One night, shortly after my separation, I was talking with Spunky on the phone.
“I just want to find a sexy man, hold hands with him, and walk with him on the beach at sunset.” She said.
It was like high school all over again for us. “That sounds nice,” I returned, dreamily.
“The sea breeze flowing through my hair, and every once in a while, he’d kiss my cheek.”
Her dream sounded perfect, but after a moment, it was sitting right with me. “You know,” I started. “I don’t want that.”
“Well, then, walking through the streets of Paris or Rome,” she countered.
“No,” I said. “I don’t mean it that way. I mean, don’t get me wrong. A walk on the beach or in Europe would be nice, but I want something more. Or actually less.”
“What do mean?”
“Well, I mean, just imagine, sitting there, with a dude that you like, that likes you, and you’re just laughing together. No beach. No Europe. Just you, and a guy who actually cares about you.”

At that moment, I realized that I just wanted to have an experience where I was loved for who I was – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I looked forward to an experience where I was with a man who was undistracted and kind. I looked forward to a connection. I could enjoy a walk on the beach, or a trip to Europe with anyone – male or female – or even alone! But my dream was to experience a deep, meaningful, intimate relationship without the aid of a beautiful backdrop.

Having been married, I knew that there were happy times, beautiful times, low times, and ugly times. I knew that not every single day would be a walk on the beach. I knew that we would need something real, and that was my dream.

***
While Homey and I started watching Stranger than Fiction, he began to fall asleep (a marathon week of concerts, baseball games, apartment hunting, and more led to a really tired finale). I snuggled up to him in a very mushy way and watched the movie. After a while, he woke up.
“Tired?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it’s a good tired,” he replied.
“Keep sleeping.” I offered.
“I feel bad, though. I’m missing the movie.”
“We can watch it again.” I assured him.
“I’m going to watch it.”
“Okay. I bet.” He laughed, and stubbornly tried to watch the movie. His exhaustion won out, and he snoozed the rest of the time.
I didn’t mind, though. Everything about the moment felt right. As much as I loved going to baseball games and concerts, sitting together and enjoying a nice evening was just as amazing. I felt like the vision I had years earlier was being realized.

I was with someone I felt comfortable with. And he felt comfortable with me.

A lot of times, people say that you know you are comfortable with a person because you can fart, burp, or do something else gross in front of them. And maybe that’s true. But there is a difference between comfort and lack of respect. I thought of that woman who didn’t want to sit next to her stinky husband on the plane, and I was grateful that I was with a man who respected me, but was also so comfortable with me that we could be doing nothing and be happy.

***

The week in AZ went by too quickly. I was back in PA, and now we were counting down the days until the wedding. We still hadn’t heard about the cancellation of my first temple marriage. We were planning the wedding without knowing if it was going to happen.

Two weeks after I returned back to PA, Homey would come out and would stay in PA until we were married, home from our honeymoon, and ready to move to Mesa.

***

Thankfully, the Bishop agreed to let Homey stay at his house for a few weeks before the wedding. Though the Bishop had met Homey before, this time, when Homey arrived to PA, the Bishop had a little bit more to say to Homey.
The Bishop invited us into his living room, and began to question Homey.
“So…what do you do for a living?”
“I am selling my Smoothie Business and just got a job working for a CPA. I have a Masters in Accounting.”
“Oh, okay,” the bishop said with a nod. “Where did you study?”
“BYU” (another mental check in favor of Homey).
“Did you serve a mission?”
“Yes.” (right answer, thank goodness.) It was funny to see the Bishop this way. While he wasn’t being mean, he also wasn’t his usual jubilant self. He was very serious as he interviewed Homey. Neither Homey nor I were expecting it.
“Where did you serve?” the Bishop asked.
“The Italy Milan Mission.” With that, the Bishop jumped up out of his seat. The Bishop’s wife, Homey, and I just sat there as the Bishop ran into another room.
A minute later, the Bishop returned with three large binders. Family History binders.
As the Bishop began to open them, he asked Homey, “Have you ever heard of the Waldensians?” At that point, Homey’s eyes lit up.
“Yes. I actually served in a small town called Pinerolo, Italy for about seven months. It was near the mountain where the Waldensians hid.”
At this point, you *the reader* probably have no idea what the Bishop or Homey are talking about. If you do know, then you’re probably an Italian-American with Mormon Pioneer heritage – a descendent of this group of people. I had no idea what Homey or the Bishop was talking about. Sister Malan, the Bishop’s wife, sounded like she had heard these stories before. Sister Malan and I exchanged pleasantries while the Bishop and Homey discussed Italy and the Waldensians.
I was fidgeting with my watch when the Bishop’s wife declared, “I think that they have a place to be.”
We all laughed, and the Bishop excused us to go. As Homey and I left, the Bishop took me aside and whispered, I really like him.
I responded, “Me, too.”

***
On May 1st, 18 days before our scheduled wedding, I received a letter in the mail from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s here,” I told Homey.
“Wow. Open it.”
So, we took it to my mom’s kitchen, and opened the letter.

The first presidency approved my request! My temple marriage from Rusty was cancelled! I called the Washington, D.C. Temple and confirmed with them that we’d be getting married on May 19.

I had my Bishop’s approval. I had the approval of the First Presidency. Now, I needed to get approval from my dad.

***
When I told my dad that I was marrying Homey, whom I had met online, he asked, “When are you getting married?”
“May 19th.” (It was a month away at the time).
“Wow. May 19th. So, is that the day he gets out on parole?”
“Ha ha, dad. I know I met him online, but I promise, he’s a good guy. He’ll be out here soon, and you can meet him.”
“I’d like that.”

So, at the beginning of May, Homey, Tiger, Panda, and I headed up to Boston.

I can’t remember the details of this visit, but I remember that it went well. We hung out together as a family, we chatted. Homey was interested in talking to my dad because of his interest in stocks (my dad is a stock trader). They had actual adult conversations about money and stuff that I still don’t understand. Later on, my dad said to me, “That Homey, he’s a pretty sharp kid.” That’s about the best kind of compliment you can get from someone like my dad.

One evening, during dinner, as we were having usual dinner-time banter, Homey cracked a few jokes that left us all laughing – especially my step-mom. She said to me, “He’s really smart. And funny…I like him.”

We had a great weekend in Boston, then headed back to PA to make final preparations for the wedding.

Wedding Preparations

You might be wondering, how on earth do you prepare for a wedding in less than three weeks.

hahahahahahaaaaaaaaa! The secret is: have the world’s best wedding ever.

Our wedding consisted of: inviting our very closest friends and family. (Less than 30 people, total!), a reservation to be married in the smallest sealing room at the Washington D.C. temple, and a reservation for lunch at Bucca di Beppo.

So, I was able to make both reservations in one afternoon. We called all of our friends and family, telling them that the wedding was happening, then I went shopping to get a wedding dress. Easy peasy.

The Bachelorette Party

On May 18, Homey and I visited with my Bishop one last time. I wanted him to attend my wedding, but he’d be traveling on business. We met with the Bishop, and he gave me a Priesthood Blessing. I had received countless Priesthood blessings from my Bishop through my years as a single mom. This, he mentioned, would be the last one he gave me.
My Bishop looked at Homey and remarked, “Now, when Catania needs anything, you will be able to bless her. I hope that you will.”
Although I have no blood relation to my Bishop, I considered this my first and last Father’s blessing.

He gave me a blessing, and then Homey, my sister, and I went to Washington. When we got there, Homey met up with his family. My sister and I met up with Freckles and Spunky.
Freckles asked, “Do you have a photographer?”
“Well,” I replied. “My sister brought her camera.”
“Okay, good.” She said.
My sister chirped in, “Yeah, I’ll take the pictures.”
“Thanks, guys.”
“Well, do you have any flowers?” Spunky wanted to know.
“You know, I thought about it. I wanted to get some Gerber Daisies, but never really got around to it. No big deal, though.”
“No! You need flowers,” she insisted.
We drove over to a Giant Food store. It was about 9:30 PM. “They might not have much variety, if they have any flowers at all,” I said. “I’ll just take whatever they have.”
We walked into the Giant foods, and there was one lonely bouquet of flowers…

Wedding Flowers!

Wedding Flowers!


“Perfect!” We snatched the last bouquet. It was a little ragged, but Freckles had a solution. “Let’s just go to Wal-mart, pick up some floral tape and cute ribbon. Then it will look professional.”

So, we did exactly as she suggested, and I had a bouquet!

“How are you doing your hair,” my sister wanted to know.
“Uh…” I began.
“Have you thought of anything?” they all wondered.
“I mean, we’re getting married. I have a dress. We have reservations to fly to Cancun. And we’ll be eating tomorrow. The important stuff is covered.” I chuckled.
“We need to figure out your hair.” My sister stated.
“Okay. I guess we’ll put it in a ponytail. I don’t want anything fancy. I mean, you’ve seen my dress. I just want something simple.”
“A ponytail is perfect,” my sister agreed. “Let’s just get some ribbon for it.
We looked through the ribbon, and I originally picked a pink one that matched my flowers when Spunky shouted, “I have the perfect idea!”
She held up a spool of ribbon that read, “I [heart] my pet I [heart] my pet I [heart] my pet.”
“Funny,” I agreed.
“What?” My sister asked.
“You don’t get it,” Spunky began to explain, “let’s add an “e” to Pet. Then it will say, ‘Pete’!”
Without hesitation Freckles grabbed the ribbon and added, “We need a sharpie.”

So, with floral tape, ribbon, and sharpie in hand, I was finally ready for my wedding.

This went down as the most productive bachelorette party in the history of everything.

The Wedding

The morning of the wedding, I arrived at the temple with plenty of time. I had chosen a very informal wedding dress (and it was black), so I simply changed into my usual temple clothes.

If you are not familiar with a temple, Mormons get married in temples. There are special rooms for brides to do some last minute preparations before they are married.

These rooms are beautiful and ornately decorated. The Washington D.C. temple is large and can accommodate many brides any given day. Saturdays in May are especially busy. Inside of the Bridal room were many young women and their mothers: cinching up dresses, reapplying make-up, and fretting about last minute details for their receptions. I sat, completely at peace. Well, I was nervous. I was about to get married. But I wasn’t bogged down by a million other details. I was able to think about Homey, soak in the experience at the temple, and mentally give a prayer of gratitude.

My sister sat at the mirror set aside for brides and applied her make-up. We all laughed about it, and I felt so much relief knowing that I didn’t have to worry about a thing. All I had to do was get married.

***

When my time came, I was led to the sealing room, where I saw Homey, our friends, and our family. It was a very touching experience. I was both happy and sad. I was happy to be surrounded by the people I love. I was sad that there were several people I love missing.

The sealer spoke to us for a few minutes, then performed our marriage, and we were married. Not only were we married, but we were officially sealed to one another as husband and wife for time and for all eternity.

Yay! Newly Married!

Yay! Newly Married!

Our Family.

Our Family.

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

***

When I was fourteen, I received a very special blessing, my Patriarchal Blessing. In this blessing, I was promised, “I bless you that you might also see through to the day when you will be able to find a fine young man, a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood who will be willing and able and worthy to go with you to a temple of the Lord, there to be sealed together for time and for all eternity.”

When I married Rusty, at the age of 19, I found this phrase somewhat cryptic. I knew that marrying Rusty was the right thing to do, but at the age of 19, it didn’t seem like I had to see through to the day.

The day I found out about Rusty’s infidelity, I began to understand what this phrase meant. When I decided, finally, to divorce him, this part of my patriarchal blessing fueled me with hope. And, through God’s mercy, and his willing servant (my Bishop), I was able to find a fine young man.

My Patriarchal Blessing continues, “Recognize, Catania, that that is one of the choice blessings a man and woman can receive on this earth.”

I have come to know that this is true. This May, Homey and I will be celebrating our Seventh anniversary. While it isn’t a long time, by any means, we still love one another. We still cherish one another. I love Homey more now than I did when I married him.

Homey has proved to be exactly the man that I both wanted and needed in my life. With Homey, I’ve become a better mother, wife, friend, and woman. He magnifies my womanhood. He loves me and respects me. When we were dating, Homey would jot down little things that he liked about me on a pad of paper. It is a list of little phrases – usually based on things that I said or did. I don’t think that he knows I found this list (I found it one of the times we were moving). Obviously, when I read through this list, I was reduced to tears. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there is a person, a man who cherishes me because I’m me: because I like to crochet, because I fall up the stairs, because I have pretty eyes, because I love to study the scriptures… Yet, he does love me, and I love him. We’re pretty lucky.

Of course, we’ve hit bumps in the road. Within the first year of marriage, we had experienced a colonoscopy, surgery, and cross-country move. The last seven years have not been uneventful. Homey adopted Tiger and Panda, we had two more children. We moved cross-country again. And then again! Homey has had seven different jobs. We are still discovering more about ourselves, each other, and our children. But this journey is so much better with a companion. It isn’t always simpler or easier, but it is, undoubtably, better.

So, while this is the last entry of the “Homey and Me” Love story, it isn’t the end. Our wedding was a commencement.

I hope that as you’ve read my story, you have not only been uplifted by a love story, but you have also felt the power of and love of God. Every time I think about meeting Homey – and I mean the whole story including the years preceding my meeting Homey – I am ultimately struck by the love that God has for me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that He loves all of His children. I know that He loves you, that he weeps with you and rejoices with you. I know that He wants to bless you with the righteous desires of your heart. And I know that when we allow ourselves to submit to His will, then we will have what He wants for each of us: happiness and joy.

Joy Project – Week 6 of 52

Week Six of the Joy Project

February 3, 2014 – Homey and Little Homey

:)

:)


Lately, Homey has been researching the world of iPhone Apps. (He writes about it here.) The kids are actually loving this because it means that someone in this house is finally using their phones for games.

The T-Rex is the happiest about this. He is just as obsessed as anyone with the little games like Flappy Bird and Sheep Happens. I think those are the names of the games. I have not downloaded any game apps to my phone. I have no idea.

While I’m not really much of a supporter of iPhone game apps (I waste enough time as it is), I don’t mind that Homey is doing this to research his newest ideas, and, most of all, that he lets his children be a part of the process.

I was sitting on the couch, crocheting, when I looked over at these two. Aren’t they cute. The T-Rex is a spitting image of Homey, so I sometimes call him “Little Homey.” Especially when they’re hanging out together like this (which is pretty much anytime that Homey is home.)

Joy is having a son. I love my daughters, too. I have written about them and will write about them more. But I’m so glad that I was finally able to have a little boy. Joy is seeing him follow in his father’s footsteps. I can’t think of a better example of manhood than Homey. Joy is witnessing cute little quiet moments like these – while I quietly sit on the periphery. Joy is my “homies”.

February 4, 2014 – A Finished Project

Youth 2014 Scripture Study Series

Youth 2014 Scripture Study Series


On Tuesday, I finally finished my most recent scripture study series – Come Unto Christ based on the 2014 LDS Youth Theme.

I love working on these. They are actually a lot of hard work. Hours go into creating a study guide with questions that will help the user learn more about the scriptures. I create these for free, and I really hope that people use them and benefit from them.

I create these little study guides for two main reasons 1) I love learning more about the scriptures. 2)I know that I have been blessed to study the scriptures, and I want to share that talent with others. 2a) I don’t want to just share this talent with others by saying “look at what I know…”, but I want to help them to have their own experiences. I feel that with the right questions, they will be able to learn to ponder the scriptures for themselves. No one needs my commentary.

So…I finished this one, and put it on my blog. I sent it to Melanie at Sugardoodle, and I was pleased to see that she posted it on her Facebook. The post got a lot of hits and downloads. I’m hoping that people will be able to enjoy this scripture study guide, and that there aren’t too many typos!!!

Joy is working hard. Joy is starting a new project. I always have a ton of energy when I start something new. Joy is also muddling through the less exciting period of a project. Usually, I lose steam, then slow waaaayyyy down, but joy is making it through this process, remembering that even though the initial novelty has worn off, I’m still making progress. Joy is finally finishing and seeing that the work you have done is pretty good. Joy is finishing a project!

February 5, 2014 – The Gilbert Temple

Today, the kids had the day off. We cleaned the house, then went down to Gilbert for the Temple Open House.

Amazing

Amazing

It was absolutely amazing. The experience began with us meeting in the church building next to the temple. We listened to Mo-tab and then watched a short film about temples.

Afterward, we were escorted to the temple.

It was so cool to go to the temple with my children. Typically, temples are closed to the general public. In order to enter into a temple, a person needs to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he or she will go to the Bishop to have a worthiness interview. Then, upon recommendation, the individual may enter into the temple. One of the requirements is that the person who wishes to attend the temple must be at least 12 years of age. Even then, a 12-year old cannot experience every aspect of the temple.

It isn’t until you are an adult that you can go to the rest of the temple.

People are mystified by Mormon Temples, and I can see why. They are beautiful, and they are sacred. We live in a culture that doesn’t put much importance to sacredness, and I think that this is the reason people get so upset that we aren’t more “open” to what happens in the temple. I will say, however, that the temple is a sacred house of God; it is a house of prayer, fasting, faith, learning, and glory.

Sisters!

Sisters!

Before a temple is dedicated, it is open to the general public. We went through the temple. We saw the baptistry, rooms for instruction, and the room where a husband and wife are married and sealed to one another for time and all eternity. Sasquatch especially loved the chandelier in the marriage room. The crystals were so sparkly and beautiful.

Cute!

Cute!

Joy is the house of God. Joy is the temple. Joy is going to the temple with your family, and being reminded that this is what it’s all about. Joy is being able to envision a day when I’m at the temple with my children because they have also chosen to live worthy of the temple and to make and keep sacred covenants there.

February 6, 2014 – A Good Book

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

We are reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for book club. I just started reading it, and I love it. I love that it is about women, women’s relationships, and even a secret woman’s language.

I wish that our world would appreciate women more. And I don’t mean to say that we should be trumpeting the message that women can do anything…they can do men’s things, too. (That’s fine with me, but it’s not the issue I have). I wish that our world would love and treasure those things which have traditionally been considered womanly.

For example, I’m working on a crocheting project (that I’ll share with you soon), and I just love the intricacy of crochet. It is functional and beautiful. It is something that has traditionally belonged to women. Crocheting, quilting, knitting, gardening, cleaning, baking – being “domestic” shouldn’t be things we eschew, but should be championed. I’m not very eloquent right now. I just want to say that I love being a woman. I’m even grateful for traditional women’s roles and responsibilities although they aren’t really openly valued. Motherhood is a divine role.

Reading this book made me think about what has made me who I am–especially as a mother. It also made me soooo grateful that I wasn’t a woman during this oppressive time that the book is set in.

Joy is a good book.

February 7, 2014 – Scaring the Birds

Last year, we over-seeded our lawn. A day or two after Homey finished overseeding, we noticed flocks of birds picking in our grass–eating the seeds we had just thrown down.

Homey was frustrated. The birds were trying to ruin our lawn, so he created the perfect chore for the T-Rex

He takes it very seriously.

Joy is a little boy who will randomly bust out with a loud shout, “RAAAAWWWWR!” Joy is a son who will follow his father’s instructions. :)

February 8, 2014 – Chocolate

A fair dedicated to chocolate.

A fair dedicated to chocolate.

Sampling the Fudge

Sampling the Fudge

Sasquatch approves.

Sasquatch approves.

Homey likes it, too.

Homey likes it, too.

Panda loves the chocolate.

Panda loves the chocolate.

This boy is as sweet as his chocolate.

This boy is as sweet as his chocolate.


Glendale, AZ has a chocolate fair every year. You read that right. An entire fair dedicated to chocolate. Naturally, we went. We walked around, sampled chocolates, then settled on this fudge.

I bought three hunks(? not sure the technical name of a hunk of fudge) of fudge. I thought that it would last us a week or longer.

It was all gone by Sunday night…

Joy is chocolate. Joy is this bitter-sweet treat. Joy is living in a family full of chocoholics, fighting over every last piece of fudge.

February 9, 2014 – Children

No picture for this one. But maybe a video.

I am the primary chorister in my ward. It is my fifth time with this calling. I have never loved a calling as much as I love this one right now.

I get to teach children to sing. Not only that, but the songs we sing are doctrinally rich.

One of the best parts of my day is going into the nursery (ages 18 months-3 years). They are antsy and don’t really sing much. We sing several “wiggle” songs. I love seeing them wiggle their toes and noses. They take wiggling very seriously.

Every week, I end with the song I am a Child of God. I’m not sure the reason, but every single child sang this song so earnestly on Sunday. They sat in their chairs, arms folded, singing as hard a they could.

I was overcome. I couldn’t even sing! I felt their spirits so strongly, and I wanted to shout, “Always remember this: You ARE a child of God. The world around you will try to make you forget, but you must always know that you are children of God.”

Joy is knowing that we are children of God. Joy is being reminded that I am a child of God. So often, I forget or even doubt my true divine nature. Joy is seeing a group of children confident in the fact that they are children of God. Joy is learning a lesson from a group of toddlers that brings a tear to my eye even as I write it down right now.

***
What has brought you joy this week??? Please share!

Marry Me! (Part 31 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part thirty-one of the Homey and Me Love Story.

It was March 17th, there was a dusting of snow still on the ground from the storm the day before, and Homey and I were at my house…shooting the breeze. Well, actually Homey was on one knee, shaking, and sweating despite the fact that it was only 65° in my house.

Homey held up an open ring box, with a diamond ring sparkling, and demanded, Marry me!

I started to say yes, but then laughed, realizing that he left me no option to say yes or no. I motioned for him to get up, started putting on the ring, or maybe I was hugging him…I don’t know. I can’t really remember the details. But I’m sure that we were kissing and that we were so mushy that you would have needed a barf bucket if you were there. It was the best.

Before Homey had come out to PA, we had given ourselves a curfew, and we were getting really close to it. So we hugged, kissed, celebrated, and then Homey left for the night.

I wanted to call him right away. Instead, I started texting him. We texted back and forth until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.

I was engaged…to be married.

I went to my bed, alone, realizing that this experience was limited. Everything in my home was different. I wouldn’t walk up my creaky stairs many more times. I wouldn’t be sleeping alone much longer. I wouldn’t be checking my phone every three seconds to see if I had a text from Homey. Soon enough, I’d be moving to Arizona, and we’d be together. In fact, we’d be together forever.

I wasn’t on cloud nine. I was on cloud nine-hundred ninety nine.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of happiness and excitement as I showed off my engagement ring and told everyone my big announcement. With every repetition of the phrase, “We’re engaged!” the fact that I was engaged felt more real.

***
Homey went back to AZ, and we continued to email and talk on the phone, but now our conversations were laced with real plans. It was an exciting time.

One of the first things I had to do to prepare for our wedding was talk to my bishop about canceling my temple marriage to Rusty. Here’s the thing, marriages performed in the Mormon temple are considered to be eternal. When we are married, the priest performing the wedding doesn’t say, “’til death do you part.” Instead, under proper authority, this priest is sealing a husband and wife as a married partnership together forever. This scripture explains:

“And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens;…” – Doctrine and Covenants 132:46

Marriage isn’t only a social construct. It is ordained of God. It is a covenant, the crowning covenant, that we can make during our mortal lives. Marriage is an eternal covenant made between God, husband, and wife. Getting married in the temple isn’t just a wedding. The temple marriage is a significant and sacred covenant. Divorce isn’t really meant to be an option.

Elder Oaks explained,

““Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:8–9).

The kind of marriage required for exaltation—eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because “of the hardness of [our] hearts,” the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.” – Dallin H. Oaks

So, if we are living the way that we should, then we would have no need of divorce. We would not enter into a covenant that we didn’t mean to keep. If we are serious about our commitment to God, then we will be serious about our commitment to our spouses, even when it is difficult. When we truly accept the gospel and the covenant of temple marriage, we rely on the Atonement to aid in our marriages.

Even though my story is ultimately a happy one, divorce has always brought confusion and sadness in my life.

Divorce isn’t ideal, but Heavenly Father knew that people wouldn’t keep their covenants. He knew that there would be victims. He knew that there would be a need for divorce, so He allows for it under certain circumstances, but it isn’t meant to be a quick solution.

In the Mormon tradition, when a man and woman who have been married in the temple are legally divorced, the blessings and obligations of the temple covenant are not automatically revoked. Only someone with authority from God can cancel the temple marriage. As the Savior teaches,

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. – Matthew 19:6

Because the temple marriage isn’t instantly revoked at the time of a legal divorce, Mormons go through another process. Often, it is referred to as a “temple divorce.” However, as I began my own process, I soon learned the true name of this process: the cancellation of temple blessings. What a difference this makes. “Temple divorce”- sounds pretty cut and dry – sign a paper, and voila… However, “Cancellation of Temple Blessings” sounds more difficult. I don’t want to lose out on my blessings. I don’t want the covenants that I have made and kept to be cancelled. For this reason, most people do not receive a cancellation of temple blessings when they are divorced. Instead, they wait until they can be re-married, so as not to lose the benefit of such covenants.

I had not broken my covenant with God nor with Rusty; therefore, I still received the blessings of this covenant. These covenants are very sacred, so I can’t really spell it out to you, but I can tell you that I was protected throughout my marriage to Rusty, throughout my divorce, and throughout my life as a single woman. Someone asked me what good my temple marriage had been since my marriage had ended in divorce anyway. To this person, I proclaimed, It wasn’t the temple that failed me; it wasn’t God that failed me. It was Rusty. I have lived worthy of my covenant, and can still appeal to God for all of the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant…What good was my temple marriage? It led me to be closer to my God, the temple has infused my life with the Spirit. And the Spirit has saved me – literally and spiritually.

So, I was being blessed by this covenant, but now that Homey was in my life, I knew that I wanted to be able to make this covenant with him. In order for this to occur, I needed to see my Bishop and begin the process of a cancellation of temple blessings.

In some ways, this process was exciting. I would be getting married soon! I was moving on! My prayers were being answered. But for the next six weeks, I would feel so much stress – the stress of completing all of the components of this process, and the spiritual stress that also accompanies all big changes. It was a challenging process. There were three main ways that the cancellation process kind of scared me.

One – The Process itself

First of all, the process of a cancellation of temple blessings is exhausting. I had to meet more often with the bishop. I had to have extended worthiness interviews. Old “stuff” that I hadn’t thought of in years was brought back to light. I had to write a letter to the First Presidency. My bishop would have to get in touch with Rusty. My bishop would have to get in touch with Homey’s Bishop. After all of this, I’d then have to have an interview with the Stake President.

The Stake President and Bishop would also send letters to the First Presidency and give their thoughts.

My request, forms, and letters would all be sent on to General Authorities, and they would evaluate everything. Prayerfully, a decision would be made by the First Presidency. They’d send me back a letter, and I’d know if they had agreed to cancel the temple blessings or not. It was a long process that required a lot of work.

Homey and I prayed about it and decided to set a date for our marriage. We didn’t know if I would be granted a cancellation of temple blessings. We decided to act in faith. I had kept my covenants. I knew that God would keep His, too.

So. I met with my bishop, and I started the process. The first thing I had to do was write a letter to the prophet. If you are not Mormon, you need to understand how huge this is. Essentially, I had to write a letter to the Pope. The only one who can revoke the covenant of a temple marriage is the prophet. Yikes!

I wrote my letter to the Prophet and First Presidency of the church. You can read more about that experience here. I sent a copy of this letter to Homey. I was so happy to receive his response.

Catania, this email is gonna be brief. I just want to thank you so much for sending me a copy of your letter to the First Presidency. You are an AMAZING woman. I’m so lucky. ohmygosh I will never forget how lucky I am. I LOVE YOU more than raccoons love shiny stuff in a box.” – Homey to Catania, March 2007

Not only was it nice to hear Homey talk about how much he loved me, I’m so glad that he compared himself to a raccoon. He really was my kind of guy.

Two – An Unwanted Reminder

Even though Homey was supportive of me, and even though he knew my past, the process of a temple cancellation was a constant reminder to me and to Homey of my past.

Sometimes, I just wanted to pretend that I had never been married before. I wanted to be pure. I didn’t want a shadow to hang over my relationship with Homey. For the most part, this was possible. Rusty was such a distant memory that it never came up between Homey and me.

However, when we began the process of the temple cancellation, there was no getting around the constant reminder of my first marriage, my past life, and I kept worrying that Homey would be turned off by all of this. Homey was, after all, a bachelor who had never been married. Would all of this talk about Rusty and my first marriage make Homey realize that I was tainted meat? that I was worthless?

Just when my worrying and fear would reach a fever pitch, I’d get an email from Homey and be comforted by his words:

“I just barely fell asleep on the couch and had a dream that we were married…and we were at the golf practice facility hitting golf balls. My oldest bro was there with his kids (this will probably happen because he lives in Tucson and loves golf), and Tiger and Panda were there running around with them. This one will definitely all come true in just a few short months. Anyway…it was good because it feels so right every way I think about us together.” – Homey to Me, March 23, 2007)

Or…Just when I was sure he’d realize I was “tainted meat” and that he was “settling,” he’d say something like this:

“Why are we getting married? Pregnancy, financial security, loneliness or wanting to get out of the family home are not valid reasons for getting married.

We’re getting married because I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved and God’s plan for us is that we are married to one oanother to obtain all the eternal covenants, blessings, and ordinances that Heavnely Father has outlined for us. I want to be with you all the time. And if I HAVE to go to work, then I want to be with you the rest of the time (other than maybe a round of golf here and there… ;) I really truly love you. you’re not pregnant, we won’t have (much) financial security, I’m not lonely, and I don’t live with my parents…so it must be love. :) – Homey to Me, 29 March 2007

Even though our meeting was unconventional, it was right. Through the process of the cancellation of temple blessings, I was learning that all of the afflictions I had experienced in life were consecrated for my gain. (See 2 Nephi 2:2.) I began to learn (and frankly, I’m still learning this) that I didn’t need to fear. I could trust God, and I could trust Homey.

Three – The Usual Fear that Comes from the Adversary

Besides the constant reminder of my divorce and the process of the cancellation, I was facing a third challenge: the Adversary. This challenge proved to be the most difficult.

It seems like from the second that Homey proposed to me (well, the second he got back on the plane to AZ), I was bombarded with doubts. I have already discussed some of the doubts (about divorce, etc.) I constantly worried about my worthiness. I worried that the cancellation of temple blessings wouldn’t happen. Some of the people who should have supported me proved to be the biggest problems. I was constantly second guessing myself.

Worst of all, my cold feet returned, and with a vengeance. I began to wonder, Do I love Homey? Really? Will I really be happy with a man, or am I happier without one?

I came to the conclusion that I was in love.

Which led to another doubt, Should I really be marrying Homey, or am I blinded by Love? I have always been so blind. I’m a terrible judge. Perhaps I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.

I wanted a “big” sign that this was right. But instead I was simply feeling a quiet sense of peace. I had to remind myself of the miraculous nature of a quiet sense of peace.

One Saturday, I went to the temple. I was feeling burdened with all of the stresses coming in my life. By then, I had quit my job, and I was already living with my mom again. In some ways, major decisions had been made that I couldn’t “unmake.” I still didn’t know if our wedding would happen. I was still waiting to hear from the First Presidency on the cancellation. I was overcome by my emotions and stress.

I walked into the temple sad. Sadder than I had been in a very long time. Would I be able to feel peace without the nagging of doubts?

I attended the temple, and my heart began to settle. I was reminded that I could trust God. He is a God of Miracles. He created the Earth; surely He could perform the miracles I still needed in my life. I felt his love, and by the time I was leaving the temple, I without really knowing it, I started singing a song in my head,

“You can make the pathway bright,
Fill the soul with heaven’s light,
If there’s sunshine in your heart;
Turning darkness into day,
As the shadows fly away,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today.
f there’s sunshine in your heart,
You can send a shining ray
That will turn the night to day;
And your cares will all depart,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today. – You Can Make the Pathway Bright, Helen Silcott Dungan

I hummed the song as I walked to my car. When I got in the car, I sat down and said a silent prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for the chance to go to the temple. Suddenly, the song I was singing dawned on me. I know that the song was Heavenly Father’s way of telling me that things were okay. Instead of worrying, I could make the pathway bright by allowing God’s sunshine in my heart.

I also realized that we have agency. Even when the Lord blesses us, we have agency. We don’t have to accept the gifts that God gives us. Heavenly Father had personally answered my petitions and prayers (and Homey’s), and allowed us to meet and court one another. While this was an answer to my prayer, I didn’t have to accept the gift. I could still walk away. However, I knew that Homey was a miracle and a gift, and if I chose to walk away from this blessing, I might not receive another.

Though so much of my future would be an act of faith, I could trust in God. I could be happy. I could scatter sunshine. I knew that His hand had been in my life up to this point, and that as long as I continued to come to Him, His hand would stay in my life–guiding me, stabilizing me, reaching out to me in love.

***

A final excerpt from an email from Me to Homey:

“I read a quote today–from Boyd K. Packer. It included the following scripture, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). I realized that I need to take this to heart. Sometimes I get afraid, Homey. Sometimes I’m afraid that the temple cancellation won’t happen. Sometimes I’m afraid that we won’t be able to get married for a while, and that we’ll miss Cancun, and that it will be difficult. Sometimes I get afraid that moving is going to be too difficult and hard. Deep in my heart, I know that these fears are unfounded and wrong. They are, quite honestly, Satan’s stupid whisperings. He’s trying to get me down. He tries in so many ways. But today’s quote helped me to know how I can overcome my fears–BE PREPARED. I have a bit to do for preparation, and it’s a good thing that I have 53 days to do it. That’s plenty of time. And this helps me have confidence. I’m grateful for the adversities that we are facing together. It helps me to love you even more. It helps me to see that our love and marriage are wonderful things. I know Heavenly Father is happy about them. He is the one who set us up! I know that we still have more to overcome. And I know that if I continue to put my confidence in the Lord, supporting you as you also put your confidence in the Lord, then we will be able to work together. It is exciting, Homey. I’m realzing–instead of me being the only one–the only one to receive revelation, the only one to feel the Spirit–I will have you, too. I know that you can lead me, and that I can trust you. It’s exciting–we’re going to be married. We’re going to be “one flesh.” We’re going to be united. I’m really happy about that. I have a lot to learn about this. I think that I come from a deficit because I learned bad habits. This experience will help me to learn how to be a good wife, I think–and how to truly trust in both the Lord and in His Priesthood.” – Me To Homey, 27 March 2007

And this is what happened…we struggled as we waited, together, on other sides of the country, to see if we would be able to get married in the temple. Every day, I checked my mail. Every day I prayed. Every day I wondered, will we be married at the Washington, D.C. Temple in May? Will we be able to celebrate with friends and family? Will we go to Cancun? or…will we tell our friends and family to cancel their plans? Will we have to postpone the trip to Cancun?

Will we have to wait?

Joy Project–Week 5 of 52

Week five of the Joy Project

January 27, 2014 – Good Health

Unfortunately, it seems like it takes bad health to help us appreciate good health. I mean, I really try to appreciate my health. I eat fruits and veggies, I floss my teeth every day, I drink water, and I run. But I still get sick or injured, and when I do, I realize how wonderful good health is.

It’s even worse when our little ones get sick.

Today, T-Rex and I were doing some grocery shopping, and suddenly he started crying. Like really crying. I mean, I haven’t heard him cry this way since he was teething.

Fortunately, he is old enough to tell me what is wrong. He clutched his ear and started shouting, My ear!!! It really hurts mommy! I wanna go home. Unfortunately, for him, he’s the youngest of four, we needed groceries, and I was halfway done. I gave him a muffin to distract him for a few more minutes. When he lost patience, I went over to the medicinal section of the store, found a box of eardrops, ripped them open, dropped four drops in his ear, then, for good measure, I let him play with my phone. (This is huge. My kids don’t get to touch my phone, ever.) He seemed okay, so I finished my shopping.

By the time we were leaving, he was clutching his ear again. I felt a little horrible at this point (only because I was talking to the cashier and had to be accountable for my stalling). I explained to her that we had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon (his well check-up! Perfectly timed!), and I tried to convince her that I really do care about my children.

We got home, I gave him Acetaminophin, and let him watch a movie. He settled down, and later was proscribed an antiobiotic for an ear infection. (This is the first ever ear infection for any of our children!)

Where’s the joy in this?
Joy is good health. It is a body that functions. And joy can even be bad health because it is knowledge that we are here, on this earth, enjoying this world in any way possible. Joy is experiencing a sick day – making the nice, healthy days even more dazzling.

January 28, 2014 – An Adventure and Hope

We went on an adventure today–to the thrift shop.

I forgot to take a picture, but I’ll be better in the future, I promise!!!

In my quest to be a better, more exciting but also wiser mother, I’ve decided to kind of “package” our chores and errands a little differently. I needed to take a load of clothes and stuff to Goodwill, so I announced that this weeks’s adventure would be to the thrift shop!

Apparently, I’m better at sales than I previously imagined, as the kids were excited.

Usually, I do adventures during the school day with the younger two. My older kids are reasonably jealous, but for now, that’s just how it is going. I can’t do adventures after school, and we already have enough going on over the weekends. So, Panda was delighted to hear that this adventure would be happening while she was sick at home.

Panda, Sasquatch, the T-Rex, and I loaded up our goods, got a few dollars, and headed to the local Goodwill. I don’t think that I’ve ever taken my kids to the thrift shop. We sifted through books and trinkets. I didn’t let them look through the toys. (We probably donated half of them! Our house is overrun with toys that the kids don’t play with anymore!) We found a few treasures and took them to the register.

It was another successful adventure…for the most part. I kept feeling a mixture of sadness due to Tiger’s absence and hope. I’ve been thinking about homeschooling lately. In some ways, the idea seems insane to me. But I also have many other reasons why I’ll be doing it. As we took our little adventure to the thrift store, everything about my life felt so natural and meaningful. It was a confirmation to me that homeschooling next year is the right thing for our family.

Joy is a little adventure. It is family. Joy is receiving small, simple whisperings that you are on the right track–even though the right track can be so unconventional and crazy.

January 29, 2014 – The Perfect Morning

I've got a great life.

I’ve got a great life.


I really can’t complain. I get to study my scriptures, at my table, with this little helper every morning.

Joy is a playful puppy who will take a break to rest his shaggy little head in your lap while you read scriptures.

January 30, 2014 – An Active Three-Year Old Boy

Setting up

Setting up

The throw

The throw

strike!

strike!

These days, my house often sounds like a bowling alley. The T-Rex loves these cheap bowling pins we got from an unnamed box-store years ago. The T-Rex is picky. He must get a strike. If he doesn’t get a strike, it is likely there will be a mild melt-down. However, when he gets a strike, he jumps, he dances, he does the splits. I love his little celebrations.

Joy is having a three-year old boy in the home. Sure, life can a little wild, competitive, and emotional, but it is joyful nonetheless.

January 31, 2014 – Subbing

Wow.

Wow.

Today, I had the chance to sub for Sasquatch’s preschool. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work. I came away with the realization that we don’t pay our teacher enough! ;)

Joy is hanging out with a bunch of eager four and five year olds. Joy is seeing them learn. Joy is reading with them and teaching them about Punxatawny Phil. Joy is also knowing that I was subbing, and that Mrs. G. will be back on Monday!

February 1, 2014 – Righteousness

wild times

wild times


Homey, his brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and I went to the Phoenix Open. It was a lot of fun. I’ve never been to a PGA event before. I have to admit, I’m not all that into golf.

Homey, however, loves golf. You have to realize that saying Homey loves golf is the understatement of the century. I’m sure that many of you can relate.

It was fun to go to a PGA event – to see truly great golfers and to see Homey so excited.

The Phoenix Open, however, isn’t like most Golf Tournaments. It is rowdy. People drink a lot. There is a lot of swearing and girls dressed very immodestly. The tone is “party.” It isn’t too different than a football or hockey game. Actually, I think that most of the football and hockey games I’ve been to have been a little more family friendly.

Even though we had a lot of fun, there was a general sense of disappointment(?) when we left. I’m not sure if disappointment is the right word. Discomfort, for sure. My sister-in-law said, “I feel like I need to take a shower to rid me of the spiritual filth.” I understood what she meant.

While we had fun, I came home with a greater appreciation for the gospel. The gospel teaches me to love my body, my temple. The gospel teaches men to appreciate and love women–rather than objectify them. The gospel teaches us that wickedness never was happiness and why this is true.

Joy is righteous living. Joy may not seem as exciting – in a worldly perspective – but that worldly perspective is skewed and just plain wrong. Joy is control over my body and emotions. Joy is consciously experiencing the world around me. Joy is appreciating the talents of others in an uplifting way.

February 2, 2014 – Serving Others

I don’t have a picture for this, and I don’t have details, but I have my little “Joy is” statement.

Joy is serving others. Joy is praying to God that you can help someone. Joy is receiving an inspiration that you don’t even understand. Joy is following that prompting, quietly and anonymously serving someone, and then finding out later that she was in true need of the service provided. Joy is knowing that Heavenly Father is mindful of all of us, and if we let Him, we can be instruments in His hands to bring happiness and comfort to others.

***
What has brought you joy this week?

Come Unto Christ Scripture Study Guide

Well, this is a little late, but it’s finally here!!!

Youth 2014 Scripture Study Series

Youth 2014 Scripture Study Series

Introducing a new Scripture Study guide, program, series…whatever you want to call it. This scripture study program is divided into 8 parts. You can complete them at your own pace.

Even though I’m not serving in the Youth program anymore, Tiger is a young woman. I wanted to create another scripture study series that would help me to understand more about the youth theme for the year so that I could reinforce it in the home.

The scripture study program is broken up in the following assignments/categories:

  1. Introduction to the Series – This includes a quick overview of the scripture and we study supplemental material from the General Young Men’s and General Young Women’s presidencies.
  2. The Invitation Part One – This assignment will explore the first part of Moroni’s invitation – to come unto Christ.
  3. The Invitation Part Two – This assignment will explore the second part of Moroni’s invitation – to be perfected in Him.
  4. The Invitation Part Three – This assignment will explore the third part of Moroni’s invitation – to deny yourselves of all ungodliness.
  5. Logic Statement – If… – In this assignment, we will study what it means to deny yourself of all ungodliness, and why that’s important.
  6. Logic Statement – If… – In this assignment, we will continue studying the “if” portion of Moroni’s logic statement – to love God will all your might, mind, and strength.
  7. Logic Statement – Then… – In this assignment, we will study the next portion of the Logic statement – which is receiving grace.
  8. Second Logic Statement–If, then – Moroni concludes this verse with a second logic statement. This assignment will explore an practical example of this logic statement. We will see how this whole scripture comes together in this assignment.

You can download this entire scripture study series here:

Or Click on this link.

By the way – this would be a great value project!!!

***
So, download the scripture study program and complete it. Let me know how it goes. Also, if you notice any mistakes, please email me or leave a comment below!!! Also, be on the lookout. I hope to make this scripture study series into an App soon. :)

Joy Project – Week 4 of 52

Week four of my joy project…also I’ll be posting other stuff soon. I know that it has been a lot of this lately. Sorry. I’ve got to get back on a good schedule. Life has been life lately.

January 20, 2014 – A Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Little T-Rex!

Happy Birthday Little T-Rex!


Today we celebrated the T-Rex’s birthday. The girls had the day off of school, and Homey had work off, so we were able to hang out together as a family. We had so much fun doing all sorts of activities chosen by T-Rex. We went to the dog park, the duck pond, and the Phoenix Temple. We got haircuts, ate cake and played wii. I love this little boy.

The T-Rex was so cute at the duck pond and the dog park. While at the duck pond, he cheered and jumped up and down, so excited to see the ducks. I handed him a piece of bread, and he was too excited to think and break it into pieces. Instead, he chucked that entire slice into the water and laughed as a horde of ducks fought over it. We all laughed as we saw the entire slice sailing through the air.

Joy is having a little boy in our house full of girls. Joy is an active, happy, curious, playful son. Joy is my T-Rex. He’s always full-throttle, no matter what he’s doing. Joy is seeing a child happily experience this world in his own distinct way.

January 21, 2014 – Flowers and Temples

I don't know the name of this flower, but it is pretty.

I don’t know the name of this flower, but it is pretty.

The Phoenix Temple from the trail.

The Phoenix Temple from the trail.


I know, nearly every entry is either kids or running. That’s a lot of what I do. Well, I actually do a lot more than those two things, but both kids and running are such consistent forms of joy in my life.

Interestingly enough, both kids and trail running are really hard. Perhaps why they can also offer so much joy.

I love seeing unexpected things on my run. Today, I saw some pretty purple flowers. Winter time is a lively time in the desert. Flowers are blooming and bees are buzzing. It was nice to look down, and see these tiny purple flowers.

They can teach us something, don’t you think? They inhabit such a desolate, harsh world. The Sonoran Desert isn’t really the easiest place to thrive. Yet these flowers were prolific among the rocks. They don’t long for a “better” place to live. They simply bloom where they are planted and make the world a better place in the little way they know how.

I can do the same. We can all do the same. Imagine what this world would be like if we were all happier to bloom where we are planted, if we were happy to be little purple desert flowers, instead of all competing to be giant American Beauty roses. Peace on earth won’t be achieved through meetings by talking heads and world leaders. It won’t be achieved through war, sanctions, or regulations. Equality isn’t going to come simply as a result of laws and executive orders. If we want lasting peace and unity, we simply need to beautify the little corners of the world we live in.

This little purple flower isn’t much to look at on its own. The profound effect comes from hundreds, thousands of little purple flowers blooming and spreading across the desert floor.

Joy is going on a trail run, breathing hard, feeling my legs burn, and then finding that place where I can let God and nature teach me that it’s okay if I’m not famous or important. Joy is knowing that a nameless, purple desert flower is beautiful and makes a difference in her world.

January 22, 2014 – Varicose Veins

I’ll spare you a picture.

It sounds like a strange thing to find joy in. And, admittedly, I usually complain about my varicose veins. They are unsightly. They hurt.

But I’m convinced that joy and pain are opposing forces – which means that even though they are different, they are connected. So…if I believe this, then it is possible to find joy even in pain; gladness even in misery.

Which brings me to my varicose vein.

After long runs, my veins tend to throb. Because I have been training for a marathon, my varicose vein has been especially sensitive. I woke up feeling them throb, and wanted to complain. But then I wondered, where’s the joy in my painful, ugly, throbbing varicose vein?

Of course, I could say, I’m grateful for my varicose veins because at least I have legs. At least my varicose veins aren’t worse, etc. But I wanted to find more than that.

And I realized, my varicose veins are physical proof–of my motherhood. They were a result of my first pregnancy and have gotten worse with each repeated pregnancy. Of course, in the past, I’ve been prone to say, “Dang kids, they ruined my body!” And, it’s true, my body is forever changed because of child bearing.

However, instead of being frustrated by my transformation, I’ll find joy. My varicose vain is a battle wound that I’ll wear with valor. When it throbs and aches, I’ll think of the children that I bore. It is physical evidence of both the temporal and spiritual transformation I have undergone through motherhood. Just as my veins are a little more worn and tender, my heart is more worn and tender. The sacrifice is more than worth it.

Oh…and not only that…but my varicose veins are reminders. They are reminders of my miraculous body, good health, a functioning nervous and cardiovascular system.

Joy is knowing that even the annoyances I face in life can be blessings. They might be symbols or reminders of sacrifices I’ve made. They might be blessings, in and of themselves. Joy is knowing that I have an able body that has been able to withstand the trauma and miracle of childbirth.

January 23, 2014 – Adventures

The flower shop.

The flower shop.


I’ve started a new tradition with the little ones…adventures. (Mom tip: when you call mundane activities and outings adventures they seem awesome.)

We decided to go to the flower shop for today’s adventure. There is a little flower shop near my house. Sasquatch, T-Rex and I visited it. Sasquatch was so cute and excited. We looked at the many varieties of flowers, the displays, the balloons, and decor. We walked into the refrigerated section where Sasquatch and T-Rex each found a flower to buy. T-Rex chose a red gerber daisy because it was the same color as Mario. (He’s obsessed with nintendo…). Sasquatch chose a yellow rose.

The woman at the flower shop was so nice. She talked to the kids like they were adults. She carefully wrapped each flower. She asked Sasquatch questions, and my heart burned to see Sasquatch communicate with the florist like a little adult.

Joy is adventures with your little kids. It is finding the wonder in life – which we so often pass by.

January 24, 2014 – Date Night

Exciting

Exciting


Usually Tiger babysits for our date night, but she had a party, so we had a “date night in”. Actually, it was just what the doctor ordered.

We picked up some Rubio’s and a Redbox. I sat and crocheted as Homey fell asleep during the movie. Perfection, if you ask me.

Joy is a date night with Homey. While I love going out (I really do), there is an inexplicable joy about a quiet night at home–where you don’t have to talk, you don’t have to think, you can just be. This kind of joy really only comes as you age with your spouse. Homey and I have only been together for 6.5 years. We have a long way to go, but I am so grateful for his companionship.

January 25, 2014 – Correction

Chollas on a trail run.

Chollas on a trail run.


Another lesson from a trail run.

As I embarked on my run, I heard a woman screaming, cursing, and threatening her children. I was embarrassed and angry. Everything in my soul wanted to walk up to the woman and ask her what her problem was. Homey and the family were with me.
“I’m going to say something to her. This is out of control.” I said to Homey.
“Just leave her alone.” He warned.
I listened to him. I didn’t want to cause a scene. I didn’t want to make it worse for her children.

But I couldn’t get them out of my mind. As I ran up the trail, I thought of what I should have said. I thought of my brother, who was taken from this world at the age of 18. If she knew that the little ones she was cursing out with the vilest of profanity would only live to the age of 18, is that what she’d choose to say to them?

I prayed and asked for forgiveness, sorry that I didn’t stand up for those little ones.

I wondered what would Jesus have done?

In my mind, I felt like He wouldn’t have confronted the woman. However, He wouldn’t have ignored her, either. Instead, He would have served her.

Next time, if I overhear a woman, frustrated, at her wit’s end, cursing her children, instead of passing judgment and professing on how I think she ought to conduct her life, I’ll just ask, Is everything okay? Is there anything I can do to help you? (or something along those lines). I will extend her true, Christ-like love and serve her.

I was frustrated with myself for ignoring the situation. I prayed that the children would be protected; that the mother would calm down. I prayed that they would all be able to be happy. And I asked Heavenly Father to forgive me for passing judgment. Because I passed judgment, I also passed up a chance to serve.

Joy is knowing that Heavenly Father will correct you, if you will let Him.

January 26, 2014

Today, Tiger gave a talk in church. I meant to get a picture, but the day was crazy. I ended up spraining my ankle after my trail run on Saturday. I had three sick children. I went to sacrament to hear Tiger’s talk and then left.

This was Tiger’s first talk.

Tiger spoke on gratitude. She gave an organized, interesting talk. She cited the scriptures and applied lessons. She inspired everyone to be more grateful and to live up to the blessings that come to a grateful heart. It was pretty awesome.

Joy is watching your children bloom into these people. Joy is seeing your child become an individual who thinks and acts on her own accord. Joy is seeing that this individual that you are raising is choosing the right. Joy is listening to and learning from your offspring.

What has brought you joy this week?

Joy – Week 3 of 52

Week three of my Joy Project.

January 13, 2014 – Family Home Evening

Every Monday night, we always hold family night. It is relatively formal: we meet together, we have a lesson, sing a song, have prayers, and, most importantly, a treat. There is an agenda, and we do what we can to keep it consistent. Just because this meeting in our family is formal, doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! We are goofy, the lessons vary in length (depending on who is teaching them), and mostly we look forward to spending this time together.

This week, Tiger was in charge of teaching FHE.

Tiger, Sasquatch, and Panda

Tiger, Sasquatch, and Panda


She chose “Saints” as the subject for FHE.

So, here’s one of secrets I’ve discovered regarding FHE. When you let your kids teach, you can have great one-on-one discussions about the gospel. I have better gospel-centered conversations with my children while they are preparing to teach FHE than any other time. This Monday was no exception. Tiger and I discussed the qualities of a saint. She and I studied the scripture: Mosiah 3:19 which states:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” – Mosiah 3:19

Okay…I’ve talked too much about FHE and not enough about joy.

Joy is having gospel-centered discussions with your children – no matter their ages. They can be three or nearly thirteen. Joy is knowing that my daughter, who is nearly a teenager, wants to study the gospel and has a budding testimony. Joy is knowing that because I’ve made sacrifices in my life to teach my children, they have accepted the gospel and want to cultivate their own testimonies.

January 14, 2014 – Writing

It's fun to solve a problem.

It’s fun to solve a problem.


I’ve been working on writing daily. Sometimes I do well with this challenge. Other times, not so much. I’m using prompts that I downloaded from wordpress. One prompt was especially difficult for me at first, but I tried it, and I was so happy with the results!

(Click here if you want to read it).

I’ll admit that the story I wrote wasn’t all that happy, but I’m intrigued by it, and I think that I want to flesh it out into a real short story. This year, my goal is to submit writing to be published.

Joy is being creative. For me, joy is writing. Writing is especially joyful when it seems impossible at first, but then the experience is both intriguing and cathartic.

January 15, 2014 – Beautiful Food

Prep work is the best.

Prep work is the best.

Food is pretty. That’s all there is to it. In food, you find a culmination of miracles. Food sustains life. You can find mathematical functions. (Isn’t this picture of celery pretty much a fractal?) In food, your biological curiosities can be quenched. Not only that, food is yummy and beautiful.

Joy is food. Not only food, but prep work. I love cutting up celery, onions, carrots, garlic. I love slicing, dicing, and even shredding. Joy is experiencing food with all of your senses – not only taste.

January 16, 2014 – The Phoenix Temple

The Phoenix Temple is being built. The temple is a holy place.

The Phoenix Temple is being built. The temple is a holy place.

Pretty neat, don't you think?

Pretty neat, don’t you think?

This temple is only a few miles from our house. I'm soooo excited!

This temple is only a few miles from our house. I’m soooo excited!

We are excited because the Phoenix temple is nearly finished. Soon enough it will be open, and we’ll be a hop, skip, and a jump away from the temple.

I love the temple. If you want to know more about temples, then check this out.

I love temples because when I attend the temple, I feel peace – not only during my time in the temple, but peace and joy infuses my entire life. I’m reminded of the love that Heavenly Father has for me, and I’m renewed with a sense of purpose. I feel comforted and invigorated when I attend the temple.

Joy is the temple, and knowing that soon I’ll be only a few miles from one.

January 17, 2014 – Waking in the Night

I’ll admit, three weeks ago, I never would have said this. But looking for joy in everything is changing how I see my life–including inconveniences.

Last night, the T-Rex woke up five times during the night. I got no more than 2 hours of continuous sleep. I felt so sleepy. Every 45 minutes or so, I’d hear him cry, “Mommy…I need covered!”

Thanks to my determination to find joy, I decided to be happy about the late-night request. Instead of complaining internally, I just went to his room, and covered him up. I gave him a kiss, and relished the moment. This choice helped me to see a new perspective. I remembered that this time will pass by quickly. Already the T-Rex is so big. Gone are the days when he’d snuggle on my lap for a nap. So, if I have to take a snatch of his snuggles and love at 2:27 AM, then that’s fine with me. He’ll be grown soon…And, not to be morbid, but I was reminded of my brother’s early death, of the death of Emily Parker, and so many other children. And I thought that I would snuggle my child happily for all of the moms that can’t snuggle their little ones anymore.

The neat part is this: when I’m sweet, my kids are sweet back to me. I snuggled the T-Rex back into bed, and gently warmed him up. Instead of being frustrated by the situation, I simply soaked it in. Because of this choice, the T-Rex wasn’t frustrated by my frustration. My choice to see joy calmed him, too. And he whispered, “Mom, I love to go on adventures with you.”

What a sweetie!

What a sweetie!

Joy is sharing a snuggle with your little ones – on their time, which sometimes happen to be repeatedly in the middle of the night.

January 18, 2014 – Excitement for New Moms

I went to a shower today, and I was beside myself with excitement for this new mom. I wish I would have brought my camera!!!

This is her first child, and she radiates love and excitement. As I watched my friend open her presents and rejoice in each toy, onsie, pack of diapers, and blankie, I thought back on when I was pregnant with Tiger – thirteen years ago! I thought back on the amazing journey motherhood has been. I had no idea what to expect then. There have been many surprises, many blessings, many disappointments. But in all, being a mother has brought me more joy than anything else I could have imagined.

Truly, children are an heritage of the Lord. (See Psalms 127:3.) And I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has blessed me with four of them.

Tiger

Panda

Sasquatch

(He hurt his head. I kissed it, then he insisted on a band-aid!)

(He hurt his head. I kissed it, then he insisted on a band-aid!)

Joy is motherhood. Joy is having children. Joy is sharing the joy of motherhood with the only ones who understand it–other mothers.

January 19, 2014 – The Sabbath

No picture for this one.

Today, I went to church and felt the Spirit so strongly throughout. Sacrament was a wonderful experience, and we had two really great speakers. After sacrament, I saw a friend and was able to share her happy news. I felt so much joy for her, and was reminded of how I’ve experienced this joy in my life, too.

On my way out of sacrament, the missionaries found me, and I was able to take a young girl to her class. I was happy to know that there are people who are hearing the gospel for the first time, and expressing the courage it takes to come to church.

Last year, I struggled so much – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In some ways, I was tempted to give up on God, feeling like He had given up on me. But I can see that He was, in His mysterious way, teaching me the exact lesson I wanted to learn. I learned about love, His Atonement, and discipleship. And I’m so grateful to feel His Spirit consume my life once again.

Joy is worshipping God, and feeling His Spirit.

***
What was joy to you this week?

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