Lessons from Eve – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Lessons from Eve, by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the October 1987 General Conference.

adam-eve-altar-39689-gallery

 

I am always both excited and ambivalent to read about Eve.

Excited because I love her! I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of this, I never really knew that Eve was anything but a hero. Her choice, to partake of the fruit, ushered in mortality – for all of us. If she hadn’t made the choice to partake, Adam and Eve would still be in the garden right now, and we would be waiting for their choice to take on mortality so we could have a chance to be here!

Ambivalent because I love her! And I’m a woman. And sometimes I feel a little nervous to read/hear what a man will say about a woman. But President Nelson, when he gave this talk, was an apostle of God. Throughout his talk, he spoke of Eve with great respect and understanding.

I will organize this blog post the same way he organized his talk – the five fundamental lessons from Eve.

Lesson One – She Labored Beside Her Companion

In the story of the creation, Heavenly Father creates Eve from the rib of Adam. Now, I don’t know the details of the Lord’s creation of man and woman. Was the explanation that Heavenly Father gave to Moses (as recorded in Genesis) 100% literal? I don’t know, but I do know that Heavenly Father probably didn’t even explain every single detail to Moses.

So – here’s the thing. Heavenly Father was speaking to Moses. I’m not convinced that Moses had a deep level of understanding of astrophysics, chemistry, botany, biology. He was raised by the daughter of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt! I’m not saying that Moses was a stupid man, but I just don’t think that God could have him come to the burning bush and then understand every single detail of how the world was created.

Instead, I have always thought that Moses was taught what he needed to know in a way that he could understand. This does not make God a liar! God just understood his audience.

Here’s an example: When I was in elementary school and middle school, in math, I learned that you can’t solve for the square root of negative one. If I tried to find the square root of negative one on my calculator, then the answer was “error.”

Then, in high school, when I was taking algebra, we did a unit of study about how the square root of negative one is an imaginary number! Even though the answer to the square root of negative one could not be found on the number line as a real number, didn’t mean that it didn’t exist. There was now the possibility of an answer to the problem that before taking Algebra I was deemed something that we could not do – an error.

Did imaginary numbers make my math teachers in elementary and middle school liars? No. They were teaching me the basics.

Now, to think about this example in the context of the creation of the world. I suppose that if the Lord was showing how he created the world to Einstein, he would explain things differently.

Yet he revealed the creation to Moses, and that is the account that we have today. Why would the Lord reveal the creation to Moses and not to someone who might understand the workings on the creation better? My guess is – it doesn’t matter.

As President Nelson explained:

“The very purpose of creation was to provide bodies, to enable these eagerly awaiting spirits to enjoy mortal life and experiences.” – Russell M. Nelson

The story of creation, then, answers the question of why…not how. And, for now, the why is much more important.

Keeping the why in mind, now think back on how Heavenly Father taught that he created Eve from the rib of Adam. Again a quote from President Nelson:

“I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side.” – Russell M. Nelson

Adam and Eve are partners. They didn’t compete with one another. They worked together on a team for a common purpose.

***

One more thing:

“Adam held the priesthood. Eve served in matriarchal partnership with the patriarchal priesthood.” – Russell M. Nelson

For the most part, the concept of “patriarchy” has a negative connotation in this modern time. The Lord never intended for His priesthood – which is patriarchal – to be the vehicle for abuse or unrighteous dominion.

Instead, the patriarchal priesthood, like Adam with Eve, works in partnership with matriarchy. You can’t have a father without a mother! It’s impossible. The very purpose of the creation of the world was to provide bodies to the children of God – who prior to the creation existed only as spirits. God knew that in order for this to happen, he would need to create a mother. So he did. And she labored alongside her husband – equal in value and purpose – each with a different role to fulfill so that this huge task could be accomplished.

Lesson Two – As Adam Bore Responsibilities of Fatherhood, So Eve Bore the Responsibilities of Motherhood

Again, we must remember God’s work and His glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men and women. This is why He created the earth – so we could obtain bodies. Though our bodies are mortal, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be saved and then inherit immortality and eternal life.

That’s the big-picture, macro level goal we’re working on here right now. With this in mind, we can then begin to understand the micro-level, too. The same purpose applies to our lives no matter how “small” or inconsequential the tasks of our lives seem to be.

We have responsibilities.

Generally – men bear the responsibilities of fatherhood and women bear the responsibilities of motherhood. Generally!

Some of us are mothers. This means that we need to take motherhood seriously. It’s why we are here. It is the most important thing we will do in our lives. It will bring us fulfillment and joy.

Now, this is just a blog post, so I don’t want to get too much into the weeds – other than to say that motherhood is a lot more than changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking. Motherhood means reading to our children, laughing with them, developing our individual talents (without our children!) so that we don’t feel depleted, exercising and maintaining good health…it can mean that we like to bake or we hate it. Motherhood can mean that we send our kids to public school or we homeschool them. Motherhood can mean that we work for others full-time or part-time, or it can mean that we don’t work for others, but of course we are all still working! Motherhood can mean that we are class-moms or not! (I was never a class mom. Instead, as I told my kids, I drew them books. Class-momming was not my forte). Motherhood looks different in different parts of the world. Motherhood looks different at different times in our lives. The only way that motherhood is the same for each and every one of us is – we are trying our very best. We are praying about our children, our situations, our strengths, our weaknesses, our needs, our riches, and then we are making decisions on how to “mother.”

I love this quote by President Nelson (about his wife, the mother of their children):

I’m glad Sister Nelson has not tried to be a “supermom.” But she has been a “soothing” mom. This she has done simply by being herself.” – Russell M. Nelson, emphasis added

This she has done simply by being herself! Even though I know that I simply need to be myself, I still need this reminder.

Recently, I’ve been a little worried – we have been moving a lot recently. And I have kids from the ages of 17 to 7. Really, we’ve been moving a lot. My sister’s family – a military family – has had more stability than we have. It has me so worried about my kids sometimes.

The worry and fear causes me to question the choices that I’ve made – with the Spirit – and then I find myself expressing my worries to the Lord. I may have “expressed” these worries a few nights ago. As I did, I felt a gentle reminder: Don’t worry. Your children NEED you.

My children need me and they need the experiences that come with me. I think that this is true for us all. We can be the best mothers simply by being ourselves, and remaining confident that our children need what we can offer them – not what is being offered by other (good!) mothers around us.

***

Of course, not all of us are mothers. President Nelson stated:

“For you childless sisters and those without companions, remember the eternal timetable of the Lord is much longer than the lonely hours of your preparation or the total of this mortal life. These are only as microseconds when compared to eternity. Your willingness and worthiness are surely known to Him. The spiritual rewards of motherhood are available to all women. Nurturing the young, comforting the frightened, protecting the vulnerable, teaching and giving encouragement need not—and should not—be limited to our own children.” – Russell M. Nelson

One of the kindest, most nurturing women I’ve ever met was not a mother. I worked with her in a Young Women’s presidency. She did so much for the young women in our ward. And she did so much with her nieces and nephews. And, as a parent, I can say that I’m grateful for these kinds of relationships that my own children have with other good, nurturing adults. Though I do so much for my own children, I know that they need other positive relationships, too.

Lesson Three – Eve and Her Partner Worshipped the Lord in Prayer

A few days ago, I studied the talk “Joy Cometh in the Morning.” I love the promise that joy comes in the morning, and right now, I’m working through a long, dark night which requires so much faith. Yet I forget that prayer will change the night to day! I truly believe in the power of prayer, yet I let my prayers become so casual. Why is that?!

President Nelson pleaded:

“I plead with the women of the Church to accept individual responsibility to know and to love the Lord. Communicate with him. He will impress upon your mind inspiration and personal revelation to give you strength.” – Russell M. Nelson

Eve and Adam prayed together. We don’t know much about Eve, but I know that she was a seeker. Her desire for knowledge is what led her to partake of the fruit in the first place. Because she was a seeker, I think that it is safe to presume that she was also a pray-er – not only in companionship with her husband, but also individually.

Prayer helps us to keep an eye of faith. Prayer will calm our trouble souls. Prayer is also the work we need to do in order for Heavenly Father to give us blessings He is willing to grant.

Lesson Four – Eve and Her Husband Heeded Divine Commandments of Obedience and Sacrifice

YES!

So often we think of Eve as being the one who transgressed by partaking of the fruit. But she is an example of obedience!

Eve and Adam learned about the connection between sacrifice and obedience. President Nelson teaches us about the result:

“As we comply with these and other commandments, something wonderful happens to us. We become disciplined! We become disciples! We become more sacred and holy—like our Lord!” – Russell M. Nelson

There is nothing more that I want than to be a disciple of Christ. I am grateful to know that the mother of all living was an obedient disciple of Christ who sacrificed so much in order to be obedient. We are all beneficiaries of her discipleship.

Lesson Five – Adam and Eve Taught the Gospel to their Children

In order to teach, we must know. President Nelson stated:

“Study the scriptures and internalize them. Teach faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then let your commitment to the mission of the Church be evident in all you do.” – Russell M. Nelson

I really think that this lesson could be combined with Lesson Two – bearing the responsibilities of motherhood.

Adam and Eve received the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Sometimes it seems like we focus a lot on the “multiply” aspect of this commandment. Have children.

But the phrase “and replenish” keeps ringing through my head. The idea of replenishment is more than simply multiplying. Instead, replenishment implies that we are also nourishing. I’m having trouble expressing this.

I bought a house plant a few years ago. I set it on my windowsill with the intention of repotting it. The plant sat on the windowsill for days, weeks, and months.

For those initial days, weeks, and months it was doing fine. I still watered it, and it was growing. But over time, the plant was suffering. I tried watering it more, but the plant didn’t respond well. I tried placing it in a spot with more sunlight, but still the plant struggled. Nothing I did was helping.

I finally realized that for nearly two years it had been sitting in its original plastic pot (that it was in when I bought it! Yikes!) and though the plant had been growing, though the leaves had been multiplying, nothing was being replenished. And over time, the soil became depleted, which had a deleterious effect.

I got a bigger pot, some brand new potting soil, and transplanted my tender, dying plant. I worried that it was too late, but it was worth a shot.

And wouldn’t you know, in just a few days the plant looked amazing!!! Then it really grew. I mean, it took off growing! I couldn’t keep it on the windowsill or in the kitchen.

All because the nutrients had been replenished.

In my mind, our command to “multiply and replenish” the earth is the same. Not only are we supposed to have children, but we are supposed to create an environment that will “replenish” our societies and our world. This is best done when we teach our children the gospel.

***

This is a long post, so I’ll wrap it up.

I’m so thankful that we know the story of Eve – though it is so short and often so misunderstood. I’m so grateful to know that it was a woman that was brave enough to seek knowledge and make a choice that would even put her at odds with God in order for her and her husband to progress.

I’m also grateful to know that this was a part of the plan. Heavenly Father honors our agency so much that He wouldn’t force Adam and Eve into mortality. He would let them choose, and they both did.

I’m grateful that we are led by a living prophet who not only understands these stories, but champions them! He loves his wife. He is grateful for Eve. I’m so grateful to know that President Nelson doesn’t bear his priesthood in an abusive or oppressive way, but understands that it works in lock-step with motherhood and womanhood.

There is just so much more I could say about this subject, but I must stop for now. Thanks for reading. And thanks for being patient with me and my rambling thoughts. 🙂

I’m the Canoe

canoe

I’ve been trying to figure out an analogy for a few days.

Imagine a canoe. There are people in it. One person is seated toward the front of the canoe, with a paddle. This person is strong. He/she is primarily required to paddle.

There is a person in the back of the canoe. This person is the most experienced of all in the canoe, but not necessarily the strongest, physically. This person is in charge of steering the canoe, and must be able to diplomatically lead the rest of the people in the canoe while directing their little boat.

Though not pictured, imagine that there is a person in the middle of the canoe. This person also has a paddle, but isn’t quite as strong as the person seated in the front, nor is this person as experienced as the paddler in the back of the canoe. The middle-person is learning about canoeing. As far as propelling the canoe goes, he may not be the most important canoe-er, but he is there.

I’ve been thinking about people in a canoe – in terms of family. In thinking about this, the question is, who is the paddler in the bow? In the stern? In the hull?

Well, it’s obvious to me that children are the paddlers in the hull. They are part of this team, they paddle from time to time, they help, but are not of critical importance…yet. They are training and gaining experience for when they will one day sit at the stern or the bow.

So. That leaves us with the person sitting in the front of the canoe and the person in the back. I’ve been wondering, which one am I?

There are days when I feel like I’m steering this ship. You know what I mean. I remember in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the mother explains to the daughter:
man is the head

Even though this is funny, and I admit that I can act somewhat “neck-like” at times (without being manipulative, of course!), I don’t know if I’m the one on the back of the canoe. We don’t always move according to my direction. Maybe I’m actually in front.

I’ll also admit that there are days, many days, when I feel like that I’m in the bow. I’m paddling, paddling, and paddling. I wake up, feed the kids, exercise, start homeschool (which is quite a list in and of itself), feed the kids lunch, keep them from fighting/destroying the house/general chaos, throw a load of laundry in, talk to my husband about the business, take the kids to the library, make dinner, … you get the idea. We all do this.

I’ll say that again. We all do this. As in, not only are mothers paddlers, but fathers are, too. I know that my husband has a billion things going on in his life: he has to paddle, paddle, paddle.

I don’t think I’m steering. I’m not sure if I’m the primary paddler either. But I know that I’m something in this little analogy that I’ve got swirling in my head.

***

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated. It was Saturday, I had been looking forward to some time just sitting, breathing, and catching up. But, the whole day flashed before my eyes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but my expectations for the day weren’t quite met, and I needed a little encouragement. A little buoying up.

I was thinking and praying about my frustrations of the day when I realized the solution to my analogy. I’m not steering the ship, nor am I powering it forward. I’m not sitting idly in the hull. I’m not any of the oarsmen.

I’m the canoe.

I bear up my family, support them, stabilize them. My role isn’t particularly glorious, neither is it obscure. I’m simultaneously a part of the action yet partially submerged under water.

Sometimes I feel tired and “waterlogged.” And then the question comes to my mind, who ever really takes time to appreciate the boat? I might spring a leak, which causes panic and maybe even a fair amount of cursing. 😉 Despite everything else that is going right, those paddlers in the boat can only see the one small fissure. Of course, that fissure is letting in water, so I can’t blame them. I just wish they could see how often everything goes right.

This line of thinking isn’t necessarily helpful as it usually leads to further temptation – It’s a temptation for me to imagine life without them for a moment. No burden to bear. No dirty feet, no rocking back and forth. No bickering about who is paddling, about who splashed whom. I’m tempted to think of a life other than carrying my people, their needs, their worries, their weight back and forth – all done without much of a thought of that vessel that carried them.

It’s tempting to imagine life in the middle of a peaceful lake, with me just floating aimlessly.

Yet, the truth is, I am the canoe, and when you see a canoe in the middle of the lake, empty, it’s a problem. Typically, an empty canoe looks like this:

docked canoe

An empty canoe is docked. It’s going nowhere. While it’s not useless, you could say that an empty canoe doesn’t have much of a purpose. A canoe’s purpose comes into play with every person that boards it: Children, spouse, friends, siblings, students, and more. While it can be tiring to bear the weight of these people, I must admit that I’m honored. I don’t mind being partially submerged, stepped on, sat upon. I don’t mind being weighed down and directed. Without them, I’m going nowhere.

And I also know that without me, they aren’t going anywhere, either.

***
This morning, still a little down, I decided to re-read the talk, Behold Thy Mother, by Jeffery R. Holland, one of the current Twelve Apostles.

Anyone who is familiar with General Conference (A meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where we hear from a living prophet and apostles) knows that there are talks for women or about women/motherhood from time to time. I have to admit that I’ve always liked these talks. They encourage me. They motivate and inspire me.

However, I will admit that I’ve had this sneaking suspicion from time to time – are these talks just “pep talks?” Are they obligatory, “keep the women happy” talks?

This morning, I re-read Elder Holland’s talk, and I was reminded, this isn’t just some pep talk to tide me over until next conference. No. These talks are messages from God. The Lord knows that I am a canoe, and He is grateful for my decision to be this kind of a woman.

Elder Holland taught:

“Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. “My Father sent me,” He said, “that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that as I have been lifted up … even so should men be lifted up … to … me.”

But can you hear in this language another arena of human endeavor in which we use words like bear and borne, carry and lift, labor and deliver? As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, ‘Behold thy mother!'” – Jeffrey R. Holland

We women are all “canoes.” I don’t mean only mothers, either. I know other women who have born others up, strengthened them, and even delivered them. I’ve had these types of women in my life. Of course my own mother, I’ve had others, too. Kerri, Stephanie, Kara, Sister Chisholm, Vanessa, Chandra, Donna, Jocelyn, Hillary, Janay, Rachelle, Krista, Niki, Celeste, and sooo many more women. They have helped to bear me up and deliver me along when I’ve needed some support. At times, I’ve been a willing paddler, while they have acted as my canoe.

Elder Holland continues:

“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.

A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: “How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’” – Jeffrey R. Holland

At first, last night, when I realized I was “the canoe,” I felt a quiet sadness wash over me. I thought of my roles as a woman: as someone who has given herself to her husband and children. Though I have done so willingly, last night I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering when it will be my turn to fulfill my own dreams and chart my own course. When will they support me?

Heavenly Father heard my frustrated prayer, and I was comforted in my heart, but I also felt a confirmation from the Spirit: Yes. You are a canoe. Yes, I’ve made sacrifices, and I will continue to do so. But the Lord would help me to understand more in the future.

As I said, I felt comfort wash over me, even though I was still a bit troubled at the thought of being a canoe. I decided I’d just be patient, go to sleep, and that I’d figure this out later.

***

This morning, as I read Elder Holland’s talk I felt confirmation of my thought last night. I am indeed a “canoe.” We women, who are choosing to righteously nurture those in our lives – our families, friends, and even strangers – we are canoes. It’s not particularly glamorous, but to the Lord and to the people in that boat it is valuable.

I am the canoe.

Joy is…5/52

Yeah, yeah, I know that I haven’t listed 2-4. I have kept them up in my book, but I have been a bit delinquent when it comes to blogging… 😦

So, I’m just going to do my best, and write about a moment this week when I felt a lot of joy…

Temple at Night
Temple at Night

This week Homen and I went to the temple, and I felt a lot of joy.

I was reminded of a few things:
1) I was reminded of my value as a mother. I have consistently been reminded of my worth and value as a mother when I attend the temple. Again, last Thursday night, as I attended the temple, I was reminded of this truth.

I feel like there are forces that try to downplay the value and influence of women. I find this frustrating. I also think that there are people who try to claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) doesn’t value women. However, this has not been my experience. In the temple I was reminded that the influence of a woman is incredibly important. If it wasn’t for Eve, we wouldn’t be experiencing mortality. Adam and Eve would still be in the garden, alone, tending to it. Bliss, I suppose, but not joy.

Women, mothers, have a profound influence on the lives of their husbands and children. This isn’t some kind of subordinate role. It is incredibly important. What I’m doing is incredibly important! I know this, and I know that I have both responsibility and blessings to be able to do all that the Lord expects of me.

2) I was comforted regarding some of the goals I have in my life. There are things that I really want to do in my life. Some of the the things I’d like to do and be have to do with my spiritual and religious identity. Some of them may seem less religious. They may seem more “selfish.” I was reminded, in the temple, that these desires are not selfish, but that the Lord has blessed me with talents because He expects me to do something with them!

It was a nice reminder.

3) I felt peace about the course that Homey and I are taking in our lives. Homey and I are trying some new things – new “scary” things. I started homeschooling the kids. He’s working on creating his own business. This has been an exciting time, but it is also intense. It requires a lot from each of us, and it requires a lot of guidance from God.

It is great to go to the temple, and to be reassured about the decisions we have made – especially when they are so unconventional and difficult!

***
The temple brings me joy. I can’t say that I have had many “singular” experiences in the temple. I haven’t seen visions or any kind of spectacular spiritual experience. Instead, my temple experiences have been cumulative. Every time I go, I learn – degree by degree.

Elder Bednar compares this kind of spiritual process with night turning into day. The dawn doesn’t come in one major event. Instead, the sky lightens degree by degree, until finally the entire sky is illuminated.

This has been my temple experience. I learn a little at a time. It isn’t dramatic, but as I think of how my life has changed over time, I can see that each little ray of light that I collect from each temple visit adds up to an illuminated life.

***
So – this has been a joyful experience for me this week. How about you? How have you felt joy?

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 ❤ 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.

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?

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?