Sunday, April 20, 2014

It is finished

(dual meaning there in the title, quoting the Savior's  words as he was in the final stages of the infinite and everlasting  atonement...  and  in regard to giving my talk in sacrament meeting.  The Savior's words  are MUCH MUCH more meaningful...)

Our talks went well today.  I thought Tim's was  great, and I was left  feeling a little "undone" with  mine.  Just too  much information and not enough time to convey it all :)

I am posting her the basic plan I meant to follow.  Didn't really stick to it - but then again, I  never do.

Good morning, and Happy Easter,

It has been a very interesting week for me.  As I have been studying and preparing to give this talk today,  I feel I was blessed to have an increase of the Lord’s spirit with me, which lead to an increase in understanding regarding the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His great love for us.  In this regard -  it was a wonderful week!  On the other hand, it was also a rather challenging week.  Tim and Aaron were gone to California on a school field trip, and it was left to me to take care of everything here at home.  School easter parties to plan and host, carpools to drive, soccer games and practices, fulfilling my primary calling responsibilities, preparing meals, regular housework, overseeing and checking all the homework, making pinewood derby cars, and more.  one night in particular, the weight of everything was just too much,  and I could not sleep.  THe next day, as I stood at  my sink washing dishes in a sleep deprived stupor,  the thought came to me, How  does the prophet ever sleep?  If the weight of a kindergarten Easter party, preparing a talk for sacrament meeting, the upcoming pinewood derby, and my children’s homework are enough to put me in this state, how does President Monson ever sleep?  He has the weight of the entire world on his shoulders.  Now I haven’t taken the opportunity to confirm this with President Monson, but I am pretty sure that while he probably does have a few sleepless nights here and there, I believe the reason he can sleep at  night is because he has a great understanding of the role of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.  I believe he draws daily from the power and strength that is available through the atonement.

As I have studied this week, it became  clear to me  that I have not applied myself to understanding or utilizing the Atonement in my life as much as I should.  Yes, I know the basics.  Probably even one step above your basic “sunday school” answers, I was living off of the basic “missionary discussion answers” from 20 years ago.  Back in the days before “Preach  My Gospel,”  we used a set of discussions that we memorized.  The second discussion was all about the role of Jesus Christ in the plan of salvation.  I would teach it this way:

There are  two obstacles that stand in our way of becoming  like our Father in Heaven.  The first is physical death.  Because we each have  mortal bodies, at some  point we will all die.  Our bodies will remain here  on earth, our spirits will  move  on to the spirit world. This separation of our bodies and spirits  is called physical death.  The second obstacle is spiritual death.  Spiritual death is the separation of us from God because of our sin.  No unclean thing can dwell with God,  so because of  our sins,  we  cannot return to live  with Him unless we are first forgiven and cleansed.   

Because Jesus triumphed over physical death and was resurrected,  all of us will  be resurrected.   Resurrection is a free gift to each of us,  regardless of whether we  have done good or evil in this life.  Jesus also  made it possible to overcome spiritual death.  Through the grace of Christ,  we can become clean from  sin.  As part of the plan of his Father, Christ paid the penalty for our sins.  We are forgiven when we accept Christ, repent, and follow his commandments.  In this way,  we are cleansed of our sins.  We can become worthy to return to  the presence  of God.  The triumph of Jesus over physical death and  spiritual death is called the atonement.  Through the atonement  we can return to live with God.  

“In paying for the penalty for our  sins, Jesus  did  not eliminate our personal responsibility.  WE must  take  certain steps to show that  we accept  him and  that  we will follow  his commandments.   We call these steps the first principles and ordinances  of the gospel.”   we then went  on to teach about Faith, repentance,  baptism,  receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then ENDURING to the  end in obedience.

Now while  there is nothing doctrinally incorrect in what  I was teaching those 20 years ago, (or quite  frankly what I have  been teaching since then…) I am afraid  that I was very limited in my scope and understanding.  My limited  understanding of the atonement has also been a key factor in my feelings of  inadequacy and continually falling  short.   I  have a good friend, a  super achiever of a woman, who  several  years ago just kind of gave up.  She said to me,  "I just figured that as long as I’m  never going to be  “good enough” I might as well  stop killing myself trying."  Now she  just kind of “goes through the motions,” but without the hope and joy that that the savior has to offer.  I have to admit, that I have shared her feelings at times.  With my understanding  of “resurrection is a free gift, but there are certain things we  have to do  to   “earn” forgiveness.”   It was easy to always feel like I didn’t quite measure up.  Now pay attention there - I just used the word “earn.”  If you were listening closely before, the true doctrine of the atonement from my old missionary discussions never used the word “earn”.   Somehow  in my brain,  I changed a  few  words, and I am  not alone in this  ‘rewriting of doctrine.”  Many  people in the church have adopted a skewed idea of the atonement.   Somewhere along the  line  we  convinced  ourselves that  we have  to  “earn  our way” to heaven.  I  am going to attempt today to shift that thinking just a little  bit.

About a year ago I was doing some work  around the house,  and ended up in my room folding laundry.  The TV was  on  an Caleb was  watching  channel 11 PBS kids.  At 11:00 the kids programming  turned  off and the daily BYU devotional came  on.  I  was about done  folding the clothes  and was going to  turn off the TV and get back to work,  but as the speaker began, I was caught by his words and sat down to listen.  about 40 minutes later I was  still sitting there, tears running  down my face, and new understanding of the atonement starting to take root in my  mind.  The  talk was by Brad Wilcox,  and is titled “His Grace is Sufficient.”  I would love to read the entire talk to you, but I realize that would be a less effective use to my time, but I encourage you to  go home and pull it up  online and listen to or read it in it’s entirety.   In this talk, Brother Wilcox  gives an analogy that I can totally relate to and  understand.  The analogy of the  piano lessons.

"Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing, perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original).
President Spencer W. Kimball’s said it this way,  “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change."

The teacher gives  the student a piece of music.  The student practices it until  they have mastered the skills necessary to “pass it off.”  are  they then finished and  they graduate from piano lessons?  NO.  the teacher gives them a new piece to learn.  Maybe a little harder than the last one.  Maybe a piece that is a review of past skills they’ve learned.  The teacher is continually pushing them to improve.  
As a child I took piano lessons.  HATED it!  I saw practice as a punishment, not a pathway to change.   The  rule at  our house was 30  minutes of practice every day.  I had to sit on that piano bench and “practice” for 30 minutes!  I regret to tell you that I did  not  use my practice time to change for the better.  I sat there,  fiddling around,  but not  really  progressing.  Now, as an adult,  I look back  and wish I had taken advantage of that opportunity.  

A common question asked by those  who question our faith is “Have you been saved by grace?”  The answer is YES - ABSOLUTELY.  The follow up question SHOULD be ,  have we allowed ourselves to be CHANGED by grace?   We are not earning our way to heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”

“A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.”  As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48).

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). The scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, indeed, no unchanged thing will even want to.

Here is where I ran out of time for writing, so you just get to imagine how I wrapped things up... here are a few jumble of thoughts and quotes that I though I might need:

Redeem: to make better or more acceptable, to change for the better.  Christ did not just atone for us so that we could be saved.  He atoned for us so that we would could be saved AND redeemed.  That we could be made BETTER.  

This is  the role of Christ as our Redeemer.  He is giving us the chance,  each day -  to PRACTICE being like him.  And just like anything you really practice at - we can improve,  a  little bit each day.  I love my daughters piano  teacher, Sister Walker.  She does  not give her students a set time they need to  practice.  She gives them sills to practice.  She teaches them HOW to practice.  how much time is takes to practice is really up to them.  

Story about choir - the  difference between hearing something and being touched by it, vs making it a part of us.  SPadafora story.   

Richard G scott, october 2013

One virtuous young woman asked me what I feel is the most important thing they should be doing in their lives right now. I suggested they learn to recognize the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives.  

Challenge.  To spend the week preparing a talk on the atonement.  To dig a little deeper.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Talk preparation

So last week, Tim and I were asked to speak in church this Sunday.  You know me, I love to talk...  always have PLENTY to say, so no problem-o, right?   Not so much.  Maybe it shouldn't be this way, but I feel  a bit more pressure since it is Easter Sunday.

I have spend  this entire week  reading and studying about the Atonement o Jesus Christ.  It has been a wonderful week.  (on the other side of the coin, it has also been a challenging week because Tim left earlier Monday morning to go to California  as a chaperone on Aaron's  8th grade field  trip.  Being a "single parent" is not easy.)  Interesting  dichotomy.

It has been interesting to me  to learn so much this week, and yet I still don't have a talk prepared.  (or even anything close!)  SO many thoughts and ideas and feelings churning around  in my mind - and I just can't seem to narrow them down.  I went to the temple tonight, hoping for some clarity there.  It was wonderful - peaceful.  but not clear direction regarding my talk or some primary questions I was asking.

I want to invite the spirit in a way that the congregation will  be able to FEEL and know of the Savior's love. I desire that their understanding of how the atonement can help them everyday, in everything,  not just when we "sin."  I want to reach out to those who are struggling and feel they are always falling short - I want them to know that they are NOT out of reach of the atonement.  I've read  so many talks and books and everything, now I can't remember who said  what - or  know how to find a particular thought or quote again.  I was sitting up,  trying to write out an outline, hoping that would help  sort out the many jumbled thoughts in my mind, but instead, it is just ended up as a jumbled mess of  thoughts on paper...

I've decided I will go to bed instead, and hope that the spirit will communicate with  my soul  tonight while I sleep, and I'll wake up with a little more clarity.  Also glad to know that  Tim and Aaron will  be  home tomorrow.  YEAH!  (can't  wait to see if he was actually able to ind any time to write his talk - while riding on a bus with a bunch of  noisy teenagers and while keeping busy all week running from one destination to another... trying to keep 6 teenage  boys in line :)

Good  night

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break - Friday

Another beautiful spring day today.  Tim worked from home, so we got to see him a little bit more than other days, which is always nice.  The "FUN" plan for today was to have a campfire cookout, but that isn't until dinner time... so here is what we did the rest of the day.

Aaron went over to his friend Alexa's house to hang out for the afternoon.  I took Katrina to get her hair trimmed.

I  tackled some more laundry, included the dreaded sock pile!  - I'm finally getting close to the bottom of the dirty clothes MOUNTAIN, and hopefully our closet clean out projects will help future laundry mountains be a little smaller and  more manageable.  I also helped Tim review our taxes so we can  finalize those and get them submitted -blech!  The kids cleaned their rooms, then played outside and on the computer the rest of the day.

another unplanned adventure -  taking Caleb to the doctor.   (back story- last Thursday, Caleb woke up with a fever and complaining of a sore throat - also a croupy sounding cough.  I wasn't worried, as a few of the other kids  had just gotten  over having a similar sounding cough,  just figured it was Caleb's turn and I kept him home from school both Thursday and Friday.  Since last week,  he hasn't had a fever at all, and hasn't complained about his throat or anything else, but he kind of lost his  voice and the  cough hasn't seemed to get any better at all.   They were sleeping outside  again last  night and I woke up several times last night to hear him hacking away.  It concerned me enough that I thought I'd  better take him in today to make  sure  it really was the "nothing" that  I was treating it as.)  We got in to see one of the pediatricians, and she listened for a while (much longer than  normal) to his chest/ breathing/ coughing, but she said  it was all still up high and not to worry about the cough.  His  ears  were clear...   THEN  she looked in his  mouth.

She let  me look, and she was  right,  they were pretty BIG!  She did a strep test - and  sure enough, this 'mother of the year' let her  kid go all spring  break with STREP!  A stop at the store/pharmacy for an antibiotic and Popsicles,  and we were back home in time to get ready for the fire.

Fred and Christie had been invited to join us, and Katrina's  friend Elisa was here too.  The kids were their usual show-off selves, but it was fun.  Hamburgers and hotdogs, all flame broiled over the fire, chips,  veggies, fruit, and of course MARSHMALLOWS.  a yummy ending to a  good day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Break - Thursday

Well - today it  was MY turn to get sunburned :)

Today for the work part off  life, Aaron finished up his work for the Wagstaff's  by painting their fence.  He ended up not spending much "family time" with us today, but I try not to feel  too badly about it - he IS  a "teenager" after all, so I figure it is to be expected.

Also in the work category is that it was Katrina's turn to go through her drawers and closets, trying on everything and weeding out the "too small" or "don't ever wear it" items.  We filled up a large garbage bag of items to take to DI and reorganized what was left.

Tim was up at work again, so the kids and I went to experience a "new park" in Springville.  Aaron and I had been there once before and had nick named it "throw up park" - because there are so many spinning things.  The one time we stopped there,  both Aaron and I got a little dizzy and sick to our stomachs...  The other kids had requested that I  take them t o check  it out, so we took a little picnic lunch and off we went to "throw up park".  It was fun.  The kids ran and played, I watched, played a little, and read  my book a little - all  in the sun, hence the sunburn.

 After a couple  hours at  the park, we came home to pick up the DI donations, and off we went again.  We dropped off the donations, then went inside to see what we could find.  Bryan only has two pair of shorts, (I have them aim for 5  - 7 pair... the  one  per day thing)  We bought 3 more pair of shorts, and are hoping we'll  find some that are still working their way through the wash...  We also  bought 3 pair of shorts and a matching shirt for Aaron (he can  be especially hard on clothes and was getting low on everything.) plus two pair of gym shorts for Aaron, and lightweight sweatpants for both Katrina and Caleb.  Also found some new swim trunks for Caleb, and a new dress &  a new skirt for Katrina.  All for $50!

We then went to Macey's so Katrina could  buy some pansies.  (remember the ones  they helped Christie plant?  Well, Katrina found out where Christie bought them and has  been wanting to buy some for her own garden ever since.)  When we got  home, the kids all got busy working in Katrina's garden until dinner time.

A little bit of after dinner clean up, then we were ready for the next family adventure.  Aaron had gone swimming with  his friends, Luke & Issac, but the rest of us went bowling.

 We finished up just after 9:30, then drove over to the  rec center to pick up the  boys &  got  home just after 10 -

It was a  rather LONG  DAY! I think we will all sleep well tonight!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Break - Wednesday

Today Aaron continued working for our neighbor all morning.  I went to  lunch with some friends while Tim got pizza for the kids.  (Katrina,  Bryan, & Caleb had all earned a "free personal pizza" for their reading accomplishments.  They  had been wanting to use them, so we decided to day was as good a day as any)

At 3:30 I took the kids swimming at the rec center.  It was JAM PACKED - a mad house!  I really don't do well in crowds, and crowded swimming pools are a   nightmare, but the kids  had fun.  We were there until about 6:30, then came home and made tacos for dinner.

At bedtime I expected them to all  find their way outside again - it was Caleb's turn for the hammock tonight,  but instead I found that they had created a big "blanket tent" in the boys room and I found all 4 kids sleeping on the floor in their creation.

If you look closely, you will see that they held the blankets in place using ROCKS.  I did NOT take note of this, but it was brought to my attention when the next morning, Aaron had a big gash in the side of his head from a rock that was pulled down during the night.  I'm just grateful he wasn't hurt any worse than he was...  and that no one else was injured.  It reminded me of when I was young, and my sister, brother, and my sister's friend built a tent very similar to this in MY room to sleep in.  Only instead of rocks, we used straight pins to hold the sheets together and during the night the tent came down and there was a whole lot of "OUCH"-ing going on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Break - Tuesday

Not a super adventurous day, but the kiddos seem to be having fun nevertheless.  Aaron has been hired by a neighbor (along with his friend Luke) to do a bunch of yard work.  (he is gaining a greater appreciation of hard work,  although it appears he has been spoiled a bit by a few "high paying" jobs.  He was commenting to me today that "I'm not complaining or anything, but in about 2 hours (which is two weeks) mowing the    __________'s lawn, I get $50.  I worked today for 6 hours, lots harder work, and I haven't earned that much yet!"  AH - real life! ... a difficult but important lesson to learn.

ANYWAY - back to spring break adventures.  Aaron was working most of the day, Tim was at work, and the kids were happily playing, so I did a lot of reading and netflix watching.  (lazy, I know... but it's MY vacation too, right?)  Katrina had a slew of friends surrounding her and they ran around outside ALL day long (her neck is sunburned to prove it) while the younger boys alternated  running around outside and playing on the computer.  I DID go through the boys dresser drawers with them today, pulling out everything that is too small, packing up about 90% of the "cold  weather clothes"  and transferring in their "summer clothes."  We pulled out enough to fill a box (to overflowing) of clothes to take to DI, and we seriously thinned out the contents of their  drawers.  (I have found that this greatly reduces the amount of laundry that ends up in the "dirty clothes pile" and makes it SO much easier for them to keep their rooms clean  and put their own clothes away.)

The general plan was to go out on a  fun family activity once Tim got home from work.  Aaron was so  tired,  he just wanted to go to bed early,  and since bowling was the item on the list of "summer break things to do" that he LEAST wanted to do,  we picked that.  THEN,  while we were eating dinner, our  super-amazing  neighbor, Christie, called.   Our children LOVE LOVE LOVE to  "help" Christie.  They love to  help her with anything - but usually it is YARD WORK.  She called to let them know that she had  purchased a bunch of pansies and would love their help to plant  them.  OH THE DILEMMA!!!!  They  had their own version of a "family counsel" and  decided that they would rather help Christie plant flowers tonight, and postpone bowling for another night.  Worked  fine  for me.  I went and bought  the makings for rootbeer floats, and when they were done planting, we had  "fun" with those.  The kids also brought Christie  home with them, and  for the next HOUR - our house turned into a "talent show-off" contest.  Katrina read one of the stories she is  currently writing (it's a long one)  Bryan showed off his rock "collection" - Katrina played a few songs on the piano,  Bryan did a Whistling recital (3 different songs) and played a song or sorts on the  piano.  This might not sound like  much, but  trust  me, for the whole time it was "christie,  I have show you this,"  or "Christie, listen to this."  Caleb wanted so badly to  "show off" too.  He finally got up the courage to "play a piece" on the piano.  (No, Caleb does  NOT play the piano, then again,  neither  does bryan and it didn't  stop  him...)  he (caleb) "played" a few notes, all the while muttering, I don't  know how to play the piano, then he burst into tears (I assume from all the 'pressure') and ran over to hug Christie.  These children of mine are pretty crazy...   I cannot  tell you HOW BLESSED we are to live  next do to such WONDERFUL people!.  Fred and Christie are the  most patient, kind,  understanding, did I mention  PATIENT?, people  I know.  If we ever do move  from this house,  we are going to have to convince  Fred  and Christie to  move along with us...

So, rootbeer floats and showing off completed (only because I announced that it was past lights out time and they all needed to get their tails in bed)  the  boys are ensconced,  in their "matching scooby doo pajamas" in the tent, and Katrina  is taking her turn in hammock.

Spring Break - Monday

Since Tim will be taking time off this month to go with Aaron on the 8th grade California trip...  it makes it pretty hard to take more time off for us to go anywhere as a family for Spring Break.  So... we decided instead to stick close to home, accomplish some projects around the house & yard, and try to do something "fun" everyday.

Today's adventure was exploring "Zombie-land."   Never heard of it?  Don't feel bad - until last week, neither had I.  In south Provo, there is a place called Ironton.  Back in the early 1900's there was a steel company operating there.  It operated for about 50 years (i forget the specifics) but is now a big pile of ruins. Aaron "discovered" it while on a walk recently, became fascinated instantly, and named it zombie land, in honor of the spray painted aliens and zombies on the crumbled buildings.  (after I heard about it, I instantly made a rule about him never going there again without a "buddy."  After visiting it - my rule is absolutely reinforced and I suggested that having TWO buddies at all times would be even better than one.  Not exactly the safest place to hang out, and I sure hope he doesn't get seriously hurt or DIE... but I have to admit it is a great adventure spot for boys.)

Aaron saw pair of aviator glasses down in this hole, so he climbed down to retrieve them

Caleb & Katrina in front of the resident "alien"

An underground cavern filled with water

After our exploration, Katrina and her friends filled the kiddie pool with water (after all  it did officially get above 70*) and played  in the water while Bryan and I both got sunburned while working in the yard.

Tonight we made some cupcakes (a leftover kit from Halloween) then set up the tent in the back yard.  As I  type this up, Caleb and Katrina are in the tent, and Bryan is sleeping in the hammock.

I felt an overwhelming urge to shove my cupcake into Aaron's face - I just couldn't help myself :)