Saturday, August 4, 2012

For All the Moms

The last two years when I received the draft of my parents' Christmas letter, I read all the amazing accomplishments listed for my siblings and then got to my single sentence and couldn't help but feel like it was all wrong.  I mean, it was accurate and succinct, as was necessary when trying to cram in details of a large, growing family in a single page.  Besides, there really just are no grand awards for the things a mother does all day.  But the simple and short sentence kind of made the impression that being a mom was uncomplicated, dull, and unimportant.

"Sherrie is rising to the challenge of raising three wonderful children ages four and younger."  (Last year it said "ages three and younger.")

The first year I just let it go, accepting the unfairness of worldly standards.  But by the second year of having the exact same sentence, implicating no progression or growth in any way, I decided to write my own. I borrowed a few of the fancy words and accomplishments of siblings and translated them into my world of motherhood.  Here is what I came up with:

"Well Sherrie is working on her Mo.M degree at HOME doing research into diaper brands and kid friendly foods.  She did another Internship this summer (her fifth year in a row!) and the kids just love her so much they can't afford to let her go (not even to the bathroom).  She is hopeful that they will begin paying her for her hard work soon.  She took first place in the Jr. Sleep Deprivation Challenge Championships for all mothers of reflux/colicky babies and qualified for the US Jr. National Sleep Recovery team.    She graduated Valedictorian from Diaper Changing Two Children with a DDCA (Daily Diaper Changing Average) of 5.  She also earned 10 letters in cleaning, cooking, driving, refereeing, consulting, nursing (as in medically), nursing (not as in medically), crying, loving, and counseling.  While the number of days the floor was mopped hit an all-time low in 2010, 2011 showed a huge improvement for a total of 6 days!  Don't miss her on Channel 27 news whenever they need the opinion of which snacks are easiest to throw in the diaper bag for outings."

Now doesn't that give a better idea of what the life of a mom is all about?  Thanks dad for always putting together a great newsletter and for indulging me in this by actually putting it in there!


*Writing Tip:  Notice how length, word choice, and specific details can bring ideas alive and convey hidden messages.  The first example with a single sentence and no details implied simpleness and unimportance.  The second one showed complexity and excitement with specific examples, colorful words, and multiple sentences for a single idea.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Crash and Burn

Shortly before my husband left for a week-long work trip, I felt foolishly confident in my ability to handle everything on my own.  I had visions of sparkling rooms, newly organized closets, multiple projects completed, etc. Logically it made sense.  The kids would go to bed, I would get to work, then go to bed early and rise early to prepare for the day.  There would be no other person's preferences for how to spend the time.  I felt empowered, strong, and independent.  Who needed a husband anyway?

I still can't seem to figure out what went wrong.  Reality bull-dozed right over me and flung me to the gutter where I was feeble, helpless, and all alone.  The house and I were both in shambles.  All my visions were shattered.  By the last day I crawled into bed only minutes after the children and just lay there, utterly and completely exhausted.  I was like that annoying toy with a dying battery that starts to make a sound and then cuts off and repeats over and over and over again until you recharge it, but you can't because you can't find the charger so you just throw it against the wall until if finally spluttters one last desperate whine...and dies.

Well, I didn't die.  But I would sooner die than experience that week again. There was some good that came out of it all, as there always seems to be. Humility. I learned how much I really do need my husband.  Somehow his presence alone recharges my batteries. Without him even lifting a finger to help with the chores, my burden is lighter with him around. I can't explain it and I don't get it. All I know is it is true because I lived it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Scripture Challenge: Week 6

3 Nephi 18- The End!!!

To Ponder and Apply:
How is "hope" a Christ-like quality?  Why does the Book of Mormon end with the destruction of 2 civilizations?  (Remember, it was written for our day).  What hope can come from those stories?  What can we learn from those people?  Why would Mormon and Moroni write what they did in the final teachings of the Book of Momon?

Bonus:  Liken the Scriptures
Insert your name whenever possible to "help make scriptural teachings more personal" (Studying the Scriptures, Book of Mormon Student Study Guide, 2000).  Also, sometimes questions are asked and no answer is given.  Take the time to answer those questions as they apply in your own life.  

"...for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning" (1 Nephi 19:23).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scripture Challenge: Week 5

Alma 58-3 Nephi 17

**Random Tip: Want to be better at remembering where specific scriptures are?  Try not using a bookmark when reading and see how much easier it is to locate references!

 To Ponder and Apply: 
These chapters begin about 60 years before the birth of Christ, include His time on earth across the seas, and end with His personal visit to the people in the America's.  It would be very intersting to note any preparations for His coming, the state of society at the time, and any possible influences to the people while the Savior was on the earth, though very far away.  Are we seeing any similar trends in our society today?  How can we prepare for His second coming?  What were the teachings of the Prophets prior to His coming and how do they compare to what the Prophet is telling us now?

Bonus: Apply and Do
It's one thing to think about the teachings found in this book, and it's another thing to actually do something with what you learn.  The challenge this week is to find something to implement in your life.  Is there something you need to change?  Something you need to do better?  A habit you need to lose or one you need to acquire?  From the words of the prophets to the teachings straight from Christ himself, there should be plenty of things we could begin to DO.
"The real value of knowledge you gain from the scriptures comes when you live what you learn. Greater closeness to the Lord and feeling the peace He gives are just some of the blessings that come to those who live the gospel. In addition, the Lord said that those who live what they learn will be given more, while those who will not live what they learn will lose the knowledge they have (see Alma 12:9–11)" (Studying the Scriptures, Book of Mormon Student Study Guide, 2000).
 “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Scripture Challenge: Week 4

Alma 23-Alma 57

To Ponder and Apply:
The first half of this section is still a lot of preaching, including Alma's instructions to his sons.  Continue taking note of common teachings and share with the group what might be the most important concepts to teach to our children.

The second half begins the war chapters.  What wars are we fighting in our lives? Who or what are our "enemies," real or imagined? How do we conquer them?  Are we the attackers or are we defending?  How can our personal conflicts be resolved peacefully?

Bonus: Ponder
Last week you were challenged to write down your thoughts as a way of pondering and previously you were encouraged to pray.  Below are some more ways to help you ponder and apply the scriptures to make your study more effective.
"The word ponder means to consider, contemplate, reflect upon, or think about. Pondering the scriptures, then, is reverent reflecting on the truths, experiences, and lessons contained in the standard works. The process of pondering takes time and cannot be forced, hurried, or rushed...

"President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) emphasized a similar approach to studying and pondering the holy scriptures in general and the Book of Mormon in particular:
“If [the Book of Mormon writers] saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’

"President Benson’s teaching helps us to follow the counsel of Nephi to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Ne. 19:23). Thus, asking questions about and pondering the things we have studied in the scriptures invite inspiration and the assistance of the Holy Ghost."  (Elder Bednar, "Because We Have Them before Our Eyes")
Time is short with all the reading to cram in this 6 week period, but hopefully we can find those moments throughout the day when our minds are thinking of frivolous or worldly things and try to change our focus to what we have read in the scriptures recently.  I think we will notice a change in our speech and actions when our thoughts are more Christ-centered and our scripture study extends through the entire day in our hearts and minds. 

"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts."  (Moroni 10:3)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Scripture Challenge: Week 3

Mosiah 16 - Alma 22

What to look for:
In these chapters a common theme to pay attention to is how the decisions of the fathers affects the children.  Using these stories, how can you escape your personal bondage, no matter if a result of your own choices or the actions of parents or others?  If you feel no bondage, do you recognize your blessings and why you are blessed?  Are you rebelling against those blessings?  Why?  When making your own life decisions right now, think of how it may affect your children and even generations to come. 

There is a lot of preaching in these chapters to a variety of audiences.  Righteous believers, a little wayward believers, those who once believed and don't anymore, and those who have never been taught.  By noting the teachings common to all of these people, what are some of the most important concepts we should teach our children and know for ourselves?

Bonus: Write it down and Share
I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the questions above, as would others in the e-mail group I'm sure.  Try to keep a notebook handy while reading or jot down your thoughts as soon as possible afterwards.  Share these thoughts with a spouse, friend, or our e-mail group.  
"Writing down what we learn, think, and feel as we study the scriptures is another form of pondering and a powerful invitation to the Holy Ghost for continuing instruction."  Elder Bednar, "Because We Have Them before our Eyes"
 “You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Express gratitude for the help received and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will permit the Lord to guide your life and to enrich the use of every other capacity latent in your being. (“To Acquire Knowledge and the Strength to Use It Wisely,” Liahona, Aug. 2002, 12–14; Ensign, June 2002, 32–34)"

“Behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:3).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Scripture Challenge: Week 2

2 Nephi 19-Mosiah 15

What to look for: Ways to have the Holy Ghost as your companion

Bonus 1: Holy Ghost Present
The goal this week is to have the spirit with you as you study.
“Scripture comes from God by the power of the Holy Ghost. It does not originate with man. It means only what the Holy Ghost thinks it means. To interpret it, we must be enlightened by the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:20–21.) It takes a prophet to understand a prophet, and every faithful member of the Church should have ‘the testimony of Jesus’ which ‘is the spirit of prophecy.’ (Rev. 19:10.) ‘The words of Isaiah,’ Nephi said, ‘… are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy.’ (2 Ne. 25:4.) This is the sum and substance of the whole matter and an end to all controversy where discovering the mind and will of the Lord is concerned” (“Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Oct. 1973, 83).
Elder Eyring: The Holy Ghost confirms to us the word of God when we read it. That confirmation, repeated often, strengthens our faith. And it is by faith that we overcome obstacles and resist temptation.
Bonus 2: Prayer
Prayer is one way to invite the spirit to our study. Pray before, after, or both every time you read this week.
There is nothing more helpful than prayer to open our understanding of the scriptures. Through prayer we can attune our minds to seek the answers to our searchings. The Lord said: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ (Luke 11:9). Herein is Christ’s reassurance that if we will ask, seek, and knock, the Holy Spirit will guide our understanding if we are ready and eager to receive” (Elder Howard W. Hunter in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 91; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).

2 Nephi 32:9
But behold, I say unto you that ye must apray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall bpray unto the Father in the cname of Christ, that he will dconsecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the ewelfare of thy soul.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The official start day of the scripture challenge was last Sunday.  Unfortunately, I was so busy doing things for my calling and getting kids ready for church and setting everything up for the challenge, that by the end of the day I was too darn tired to actually begin my reading!  Nice.  Starting behind on the first day. 

Monday rolls around and I'm trying to figure out just when I can do my catch-up, because of course I didn't follow my plan in the morning.  Then a friend called up and invited two of my three children for a play date sans me.  With fewer children to care for, my options grew.  But how should I fill the time?  We were totally out of milk and my house was a mess.  However, it was time for the little guy to nap so I decided the best thing was to put him down to sleep.  My husband could pick up the milk and what turned out to be a much longer grocery list by the end of the day...thanks Dear! :)  So now it was between reading my scriptures or cleaning my house.  I decided I had to make it a priority to read (since I hadn't up to this point).  Well I read and took notes from the first day's reading and then cleaned a bit before I had to pick up the kids, hoping that somehow I could still make up my lost ground.  I didn't that day, but the amazing thing was that by some miracle I was able to get most of the cleaning done that was scheduled that day.  (Anyone juggling three little ones at home all day can understand what a miracle that really is).

As the week has gone on, I've tried to put my reading first whenever I have a choice of how to spend my time.  As I have done this, somehow my other duties have been completed as well and I managed to catch up on the reading!  Some credit should go to the healthy living challenge I am doing because since starting that my headaches have dissipated and it sure is a lot easier to get things done without fighting migraines!  But even since my health has improved, I have never been so on top of my housecleaning (don't think that means my house is clean, I'm just fulfilling the bare minimum that I have planned for each day!).  I know that the Lord has blessed me to be able to accomplish the many tasks I have to do each day, including spending quality time with my children, because I am putting Him first. Treating our bodies and spirits right will help us to be and do our very best.

I hope others have seen the blessings flow from taking the scripture challenge seriously.  Even if you are so behind you'll never catch up, just make it a priority to read and I know you will see the Lord's hand in your lives.  Please share with us your experiences! 

(PS if you haven't received e-mails from me and are doing the challenge, please let me know.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scripture Challenge: Week 1

By the end of this week, you should be up to 2 Nephi 18 (pge 88.5)

Some things to start you thinking: 
These chapters show a stark contrast between characters, particularly Nephi compared to Laman and Lemuel. Look for how your topic may have played a role in the direction each of their lives took and in the decisions they made.  Whose pattern are you emulating in your daily decisions or actions? 

Another thing to consider would be family relations. How were conflicts handled between family members?  What worked and what made things worse? What are some things you can do in your home to create more peace or to change bad feelings you may have toward a member of your family?

Disclaimer: I've written this post several times in my head, but have found myself too swamped to actually type it up and at this moment I am super tired, so I'm pretty sure it won't come out right and I'll forget half of what I wanted to put! I also meant to post it a lot sooner as a way of preparing for the challenge, but alas, the time to prepare is gone. Still, I hope some of these things can be helpful to some of you in this journey.

Each week I would like to post some tips or extra bonuses to the challenge. They shouldn't be anything time consuming, but rather ways to help with completing the challenge and also making it more effective. Having said that, however, this one might be time consuming...but hopefully it will help us get more from our reading and save time in the long run.

Study the doctrine behind the topic so it's easier to see the applications in the stories.  This would have been easier had I posted this before the challenge began as I had planned.  For now, if you happen to get ahead or find extra study time, here are a few sources I have found for "hope."

Sometimes I get tired of all the planning I have to do.  Meal planning, plans for my callings, plans for keeping my children occupied during the day, plans for soccer practice, planning for when to plan, etc.  It gets tiresome.  And yet, it is a tip that I think will help in accomplishing this crazy goal we have set and also give a little hope to see it just might be possible!  Here is the pattern I have used for my planning.

When to read:
MWF 6:30 AM
T TH Sat Sun 7AM

How to read: From the actual Book of Mormon with notebook for notes sitting at a desk after taking a shower to wake me up.  (Although I may just listen to the Isaiah chapters on my Ipod in order to push through them more easily).

Plan B
If the morning time is missed or cut short or I just don't read fast enough, I will listen to it on my Ipod while running or at other times during the day when possible. Saturdays and Sundays will be done during kids naps or in the evening if I miss the morning slot.

Part of the goal of this challenge is to help change our priorities a bit.  Therefore, there are some things I need to give up or put off if my reading is not done.

  • I will not check social media (i.e. Facebook or blogs or even e-mail) until my reading for the day is done.
  • I will not watch any shows or movies until my reading is done for the day.
  • I will not clean anything in my house until my reading is complete. 

Just kidding on the last one, although I might use it for an excuse at times!

Back-up to Plan B
If by chance things are really not going my way and I've had a super crazy day and couldn't get it in, I will not crash in bed until I make a specific plan for the next day of how to get in the extra pages.  I will not get behind more than one day, even if it means locking my children in their rooms for a little peace and quiet!  (JK again) 

Ok.  I think I have a pretty fool-proof plan, don't ya think? :)  I'm now beginning to believe in the possibility of this goal!  Let the games begin!

(PS I will be e-mailing some info including schedules and the sped-up audio files we made.  If you do not receive one tonight, let me know.  You will miss things if you are not on the e-mail list, particularly the discussions).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spiritual Challenge

How much time do you spend on your physical needs during the day? (Shower, teeth, hair, make-up, food, exercise, sleep, etc.)

How much time do you spend on your spiritual needs?

It seems to me that sometimes the spiritual side of things can get neglected in the daily lists of things to do. Even when time is given to things like scripture study and prayer, what is habitual can become mundane. I would like to present a spiritual challenge to help spark things up a bit.

The Speed-Read Scripture Study Program

What it is:

Read the entire Book of Mormon in only 6 weeks focusing on a single topic.  The suggested topic that I will be studying is "hope."  We will have some form of online discussions to keep each other motivated and to share with and learn from everyone else.

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, ... and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

—Joseph Smith, Introduction to the Book of Mormon

Generally when I study the scriptures, I like to take my time and analyze all the little details. And yet, I have thought it would be fun to read the whole Book of Mormon thinking of only one topic. I can't imagine how much that would drag on if it took forever to read it! So I tried the impossible and set my goal at 6 weeks focusing only on "Faith" as my topic. Unfortunately, I fell so far behind, that with only one week left, I was barely beginning Alma!

The amazing part is that even though I didn't actually finish my goal last time around, I have loved how much improved my scripture study has been. I can feel a difference in me and in my life having put more emphasis on reading. The most prominent feeling I've experienced is a greater desire to do missionary work. I have discovered new analogies to my life and new things to do as a parent with my children as I've done this fast reading of the stories instead of scrutinizing every verse. It's been a really cool experience. I'm hoping that some others will be willing to join with me in the next 6 weeks to keep me accountable to staying on track.

Why Hope? 

My in-laws suggested a family study based on the 6 Attributes of Christ section found in Preach My Gospel. The first attribute there is "Faith" and the next one is "Hope." Hope is also a basic principle that would probably help with most problems or issues in our lives and I personally have never studied it before. Who hasn't felt discouraged about things in their life recently? (Being a good parent, child, or spouse; feeling good about yourself physically or spiritually, etc.)  However, if you have a different topic, that is fine.
“When I read the Book of Mormon, something inevitably happens to me. My burdens feel lighter. Faith and hope replace my worries, concerns, and doubts. Life appears brighter.”
--Richard G. Hinckley, "Fruits of the Book of Mormon," Liahona, June 2008

Not Enough Time in the Day?:

It's just 12.6 pages a day. That's less than a chapter in the Twilight books!  When I got behind, I finally discovered some tricks. I put it on my iPod and listened while running in the morning or doing mundane chores like dishes when kids were napping. I didn't like that as much as reading and writing my notes, didn't get as much out of it, but it went faster and I think it was the only way to make up lost ground once I was behind.

We've also taken the original audio files for the Book of Mormon and sped them up by 50%.  So you can listen to 10 minutes of the Book of Mormon in only 6.67 minutes.  We'll figure out how to distribute those files to anyone who's interested (or create a tutorial on how you can do it yourself).

Who's in??

Leave a comment or send me an e-mail if you are feeling up to this challenge.

"Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."
--President Hinckley, regarding his reading challenge given in 2005