Sunday, November 28, 2010

Family, Inc.

I love this time of year. In fact, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it hasn't yet become overly commercial and that the focus is still simply on giving thanks.

I was dismayed to learn that some stores are now opening on Thanksgiving Day to attract early holiday shoppers. I sincerely hope this does not become widespread. There seems to be such a true "Peace on Earth" on Thanksgiving. Folks seem content to be at home. The holiday frenzy that runs from "BlackFriday" until after New Years has not yet begun and world just seems "still."

This year we joined with our extended families for Thanksgiving and therefore I did not prepare an entire meal, but I did get to contribute one of my favorite items: pie. Making pie from scratch always reminds me of one special person, my paternal Grandmother, Sarah Aldora Alder Keller.

Grandma Keller, as we called her, was an extraordinary woman. Not only did she graduate from college in the 1930's, but she raised four children and even took more college courses. She was an expert teacher and had a gift for preparing then sharing in just the right way. She used her gifts to serve others. She taught for many years at the Intermountain Indian school in Brigham City miles away from her home in Logan, Utah where she continually built confidence and character in many struggling youngsters. Also, while my Grandpa Keller served in the Department of Agriculture under Ezra Taft Benson, Grandma taught Sunday School in College Park, Maryland. People of all faiths would attend her class and would come from miles sometimes to do so. It was there at the University of Maryland that she took a course in Philosophy as well.

You would think that such an intelligent woman would not be very domestic. You might imagine that such a person wouldn't know her way around the kitchen, but this was not the case! On the contrary, Grandma Keller was the very epitome of grandmotherly cooks. As a child, I didn't know anything about Indian schools, philosophy classes, federal departments and such. I only knew one thing: my Grandma Keller was the best cook in the world.

Grandma would spend most of her time in the kitchen. I was fascinated by her cooking and baking skills. I followed her around in the kitchen, wanting to be a part of it all. She never shooed me away or acted as if it were an imposition at all, though now I can see that my constant "helping" was most likely more work for her. During these countless hours together in the kitchen (in the days before video games or even VCRs!), she taught me so many things. I remember the lessons on fractions. I could double and triple recipes in seconds! We went over the Articles of Faith, the state capitals, we talked about family history and other family issues, and of course, we cooked. I stirred, mixed, kneaded, prepared wax paper or pans, etc.

I knew when it was time to be silent too, like when the caramel was just about to form, or when the nougat was at the boiling point. I watched silently in awe during those moments when she would work her magic; my eyes mesmerized by her hardworking, skilled, beautiful hands. Her hands were as "doughy" as her rolls. Sometimes while she kneaded, her grandma hands would disappear as she became one with her creation for a moment.

Grandpa and Grandma Keller have been gone for a while now. I am grateful that they are together, but I sure do miss them. Grandma Keller was a "kindred spirit" to me. She was patient, soft spoken and wise. She treated me with respect and as if I were much older, always trusting me to understand and to be a positive force in my family.

So, the other day while I was busily making pies (Grandma would be happy!), I suddenly tried to remember a particular word that she would use to describe a certain cooking process. Grandma was raised in Cache county and her dialect reflected that. I loved how she said "lard" for example, which came out more like "lord." There was a special word she used to describe the process of mixing ingredients together until they were just right. As I worked the shortening into the dry ingredients, trying to make a coarse meal, I labored through mental gymnastics trying to remember that word! It was on the tip of my brain, though I'm sure I had not heard Grandma say it for more than 25 years. Finally it came to me! A tear came to my eye just as a smile came to my lips. "INCORPORATE!" that was the word! She would always say, "stir this until the flavors incorporate," "mix that until the wet and dry ingredients incorporate," etc. I was cutting in the "lard" until it was "incorporated" into the dry ingredients. I paused to reflect how this word applied to more than baking.

For Grandma, family was everything. She was unafraid to teach essential life lessons even when it meant great sacrifices for herself or her children. She built character and confidence in each member of her family whenever she could. Although she was qualified to work in any setting, her greatest desire was for the betterment of her family. One example was how she insisted that they have cows mainly to provide honest labor for her children. Her "business" was family. This realization has helped me see with more clarity than before, what my daily business should be. As I use my gifts and talents to benefit people outside my home, I am trying my best to still "incorporate" the needs of my family. For example, drama and music are two things I love. I therefore enjoy conducting musicals, but I do so where my children will be involved with me. This is a joy, to use my non-domestic talents, but still involve my family.

I know that Grandma Keller left a legacy more far-reaching than just my life. She affected many people, including strangers, but especially all my cousins, and now our children, as the next generation learns of her and reaps the benefit of her education.

I will ever be grateful for her friendship, her example and her lessons to me. I see now that during all those hours in the kitchen, she was "incorporating" me. I am thankful at this Thanksgiving season for her ability to incorporate family with her many talents. I am thankful for her good son, my father, who passed down many of her strong character building ideals and her baking traditions from homemade bread to candy. I am thankful for my mother who knew my needs and allowed me to spend so many uninterrupted hours in the kitchen and elsewhere with Grandma.

Most of all I am thankful for my Heavenly Father who is the wisest of all parents. Who organized this earth experience and organized our families with such care. I am thankful He allows and even expects us to use our God-given talents to build the kingdom in every way, including building joy for all involved.

I hope someday I will have a child or a grandchild who remembers my "hands in the dough" of life and knows how very much I love and live for "Family, Incorporated."

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS: I made apple and pumpkin pie, yum! (photos taken by my amazing daughter Michaelah)

"The Family is ordained of God...the Family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

The Proclamation on the Family,
First Presidency 1995

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sharing Mascara with my Teenage Son and Loving It

The summers of my youth were spent under the stars performing at our local outdoor amphitheater. How I loved it! The smell of grass, the cool balmy evenings; folks stretched out on the sprawling lawn with their blankets all cuddled up and enjoying "Music Man," "South Pacific," or "Oklahoma!" as only Jerry Elison could direct.

Two summers ago realized my children were growing up at an alarming rate. My oldest was already 16! None of them had ever been in a Scera Summer production. I was completely ripping them off! And, they would never understand this one place in my heart, this one love of soul without having that experience. ("What about your husband?" you say? no worries, I made him be in a play with me there while I was 5 months pregnant with our oldest. I wisely realized it would be our last chance! He got a bigger part than me, the stinker!).

Anyhoo, I decided to persuade my eldest son to try out for "West Side Story" to be performed in June of that summer. He finally agreed. He made it! Yes, he was ok talented at that time, but let's just face it, he's also a guy. and they always need guys. Or so I thought. Wow! He was amazing! He was one of the Jets (can't think of his really hilarious name at this moment, but hopefully he can remind me!). Anyway, I couldn't believe how much dancing he learned and he was really quite good!

Well, it has gone on from there. He has had several lead roles at the high school, just recently appearing as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls this last week. He was fantastic! To top it all off, he was named the Orem High School Sterling Scholar for Speech and Drama just yesterday!

That summer in West Side Story he came to me on opening night and said, "Um, mom, do you have any mascara I can borrow? They said I'm supposed to bring it." I handed him some and smiled. "Hmm" I thought for a moment, "is this a good thing?" but then I thought about many of his peers. It seems to me that the average american teenager spends hours in front of the computer or TV each day. Many are overweight and unhealthy in many ways. I thought, "This IS a good thing! He's out there, exercising, learning, growing, sharing his talent, telling an important story, making people remember things, feel things; and best of all, smelling the grass and seeing those stars."

He's such a wonderful kid. Just turned 18. Wow. I'm having a hard time with that. But he's grown up so great that I can hardly grumble. In less than one year he'll be out of my home. You always hope you've done enough. I have faith that the Lord will make up the difference. So, this is my little belated birthday tribute to him. Love you sweetheart!

Jacob: Drama Sterling Scholar, 4.0, Senior Class President, Choir student director, obedient, loving son and brother. Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

"Every son and every daughter of God has received some talent, and each will be held to strict account for the use or misuse to which it is put."
Joseph F. Smith

(Check out video clips from Guys and Dolls on my Facebook page!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On the Right Track
Don’t Chuck Your Banjo in the Fire
(written 1/2009)

Recently I started running at the BYU track in the early morning hours with my neighbors. To say that run "with" them is not entirely accurate. Actually, they kindly drive me there and then leave me to my own fate while they glide around the track for forty-five minutes like gazelles.

While they run, I attempt my own routine of running, then walking, then running again for about 30 minutes, after which I have to stop and start “stretching out.”

I suppose I could feel self-conscious that I am not as fast as they are. I could feel really badly about my lack of physical fitness. I could wallow as I watch them and many others lap me time and again. But instead, I just keep on moving around and around, knowing, that even if I am not the fastest, strongest, leanest person there, still, because I am there, at least I am on the right track!

The other day I ran into two old friends there. One I had known in Berkeley sixteen years ago. The other I had known in Philadelphia twelve years ago. Now it seems they live across the street from each other in Provo! It was fun to walk a lap or two with them and catch up. What a great place to meet people! Later that same morning I saw Sister Susan Tanner (recently released General Young Women’s President) on the track. I’ve never met her personally, but just seeing her there gave me a thrill. I caught her eye and we exchanged warm smiles. I felt a beautiful spirit in her presence. Talk about the place to be! Wow! Wonderful people are on the BYU track at 6 am on winter mornings. This is good to know. And even better to experience.

There are lots of other folks there too. Some remind me of my grandparents. They don’t move too fast, but there they are, plodding around every corner. Some are hunched and stooped, but they keep on going with smiles on their wrinkled, well-worn faces. Others are younger. Two couples actually had strollers on the track! One gal walked with her baby in a Snugli. Some are in groups chatting away. Others are very alone, tuned in to their own music. Each of these people is someone I would want to know, though each of their stories is unique.

pondered how the track was much like the church. All of us come to the church from a different place. Some of us are recent converts, maybe we’re just starting out and feel like we aren't as fast yet as we'd like to be.  Others have pioneer ancestors who paved the way and who seem to be able to sprint for miles! But wherever we are on this “track,” we are each at our own pace and yet, all in it together. We may walk for a time with a certain group of friends, then, we grow and change. Perhaps we reconnect with special friends at a later time. Perhaps right now we are just “going it alone,” marching to the beat of our own “drum.” But surely, if we stay on the track, surely we will eventually become faster and stronger! Not tomorrow, but perhaps in the next generation, our children and theirs will be sprinting as leaders on this track.

It does not matter where we are on the track. It only matters that we are there! If we are on the right track, Elder Bruce R. McKonkie lets us know that we cannot fall off of it!

“. . .You don't have to be perfect to be saved. If you did, no one would be saved. The way it operates is this: you get on the path that’s named the “straight and narrow.” You do it by entering the gates of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. If you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path. There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time that is given to men to prepare for eternity. Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working seriously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved. You don’t have to live a life that’s truer than true. You don’t have to have excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing, what you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and descent people live in the Church—keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes—because this is the time and day appointed, this is the probationary estate—you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Probationary Test of Mortality,” address given at the University of Utah, Jan. 10, 1982.)

My brother Nate plays the banjo. With this wonderful skill, he has toured all over the world, spread much joy and had many missionary moments. He is so good, in fact, that one could possibly call him the second best banjo player in Utah. The best banjo player in Utah is a natural-born wonder named Craig Miner. Craig plays the banjo as if it were a classical guitar: effortlessly.

Recently, Nate began teaching my 11 year-old son how to play the banjo that he just got for Christmas. Thinking that he is no good, my son has decided, after three lessons, to quit banjo forever. My son reasons that compared to Nate, and compared to his cousin (another beginning student), he is not very good. Nate explained to my son that Craig Miner is better than he is. He then said, “Should I therefore just throw my banjo into the fire? Just because I am not as good as Craig, should I just give up and be nothing?”

I thought about that a lot. Nate has done so much good all over the world because he plays the banjo so well! It would be unthinkable that he should quit just because there exists some other person who happens to be better than he is!

I have this nagging habit of constantly comparing myself to other women in the church. I don’t do it with any malice. I just know and recognize that I am not as good as so and so at ____________. Therefore, I should not have this calling, these children, this house, this car, this body, etc. etc. I talk myself out of a whole lot of good because I am not the “best.”

I think the “right track principle” can be applied here. If we are all in this together, and yet, each on his own journey, then it doesn’t matter how good I am at something! I’m still on the right track! I am in the right place at the right time and I am doing my personal best. As I endure to the end, I will gain speed, accuracy, strength and skill. But no matter where I am now, or later, I am still doing good, just by being there! And who knows? I might just be providing the example that someone else on the track needs to keep going! Or maybe I am an example to some outside the track who see me go in each morning and see me come out with a smile! Maybe they are wondering, “Hey, what am I missing in there?”

So, whenever you are tempted to compare yourself to someone else or if ever you decide that your current level of skills and gifts are not “good enough” to share or to build the kingdom, remember! Don’t chuck your banjo in the fire! Just keep on going! You’re on the right track!

P.S. For anyone who has already read this, forgive me. It's been on my mind lately and I thought I'd share it with the new readers too. Thanks!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to School!

This year was the best back to school shopping ever. The kids had earned and saved up their own money to pay for their supplies/clothes. After the shopping trip, one daughter said, "I feel proud of myself!" It's a good thing they paid for themselves, because the school "fees" just about broke us! (over $1200 for seven kids in public school!). We'll have to start budgeting for school fees year round.

This song from Tarzan ("You'll be in My Heart") is "my" song with my kids. Every time I hear it, I think of each one of them and my heart smiles. I wanted to dedicate this song to each of them now as they start the school year. No matter where they are, they are still in my heart always.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Supposed Inefficiency of Manual Sprinklers

There is a little house in our neighborhood which has been for sale for a very long time. I finally got up the courage to call the realtor to ask if I could "stage" the house to help attract a buyer. He kindly allowed me to do that (sad that I have so much extra furniture in my garage that I actually COULD do that). ANYWAY, as time has gone on, there has been some interest, and even an offer, but nothing the seller could agree to.

Meanwhile, the summer heat has taken a toll on the yard. It completely turned yellow. So, we jumped into action again. Now we are watering by hand every day and mowing the yard, etc. The owner called and was grateful for the help, said he'd pay my boys to do it. Often, however, its been just me out there moving the little sprinkler around the yard during the day.

At first I was trying to set the sprinkler (the kind that produces a "rainbow" of water that rotates from one side to the other) right in the middle of each yellow patch. The yard is smallish and I didn't want to "waste" water by having the "rainbow" arch of water land on any of the cement or the house itself or the gravel driveway, etc.

After many days I have noticed, however, that there are some dry patches that literally can NEVER be reached when I use this method. I have realized that sometimes, I HAVE to run the sprinkler in a place where much of the water lands on cement in order to actually hit certain dry patches. (I realize that if I had a different sprinkler head, this might not be true, but as I don't, this is the case).

It got me thinking about people. Sometimes I think that as parents and friends and extended family members, when we attempt to "love" someone, we try to be "efficient." Meaning, we try to give them what they need without wasting too much of our precious time or energy doing something that we really don't want to do. Perhaps sometimes we feel our efforts are wasted and that our words of love are perhaps falling on "deaf ears" or onto cement.

However, as I have watched these little patches of grass grow, I have realized that "showering" someone with the love and affection THEY need, in the ways and places and times that THEY need it, is perhaps the ONLY way to help certain relationships and love "grow."

We may feel that we are expending too much time or energy (do I really need to SIT DOWN and watch cartoons with my kids?) or that our efforts are misdirected and mostly miss the mark (is it really worth the all the money to go on a family vacation? can't we just stay home and hang out with each other? Does my extended family really care if I show up to their baseball games or piano recitals?), but I am starting to feel that any and all our efforts to love those around us, especially our children, are never wasted, no matter the cost.

In other words, love cannot be inefficient, love cannot be quantified. And next time I'm tempted to opt out of some seemingly silly bonding time, I will remember those little dry patches and just what it takes to reach them.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Closed For Inventory

All moms understand how hard it is to get to the store. You plan around naps and extra curricular activities. As you have more children, you might even plan so that you can go alone, perhaps in the evenings. But then you run the risk of certain stores being closed, etc. There never seems to be a really convenient time to go shopping. And of course, if you finally get out the door at a decent time, someone will need a diaper change or a change of clothes or a snack, etc., etc!

There is one store in particular that I have been meaning to get to for weeks. I pass it often while on the way to my regular shopping destinations. However, this store is full of breakable trinkets so I know I can't bring too many children at once. Finally last week, there was a perfect window of opportunity. The planets were aligned just right! I excitedly pulled up, parked and bounded to the door, only to find this sign: "Closed for Inventory: Jul 5-9." Wow. Really? Does anyone really "close for inventory" anymore? And for a whole week? I was shocked. And frustrated. Do they know how hard it is for me to get to their store?

But then I thought about it. As I slowly made my way back to the van, I realized that the trip had not been totally wasted. I had, in fact, been reminded of a very powerful message. I too need to take time out of my busy, regular schedule to take stock of my life. I imagined me posting a similar sign on my bedroom door. I should be making time, perhaps each day, to really ponder my mission, to determine my priorities, to discover where I lack and where I have an abundance that I can share.

All too often I feel I am "spinning my wheels," forever journeying and never "arriving" at my destination. Of course, being a parent is a constant journey. And truly, there is no destination other than the daily joy as we witness the growing of our children. Still, I have such better days and nights when I have taken some time to commune with my God, to ponder the things of eternal value before getting back on the race track.

This sign, "Closed for Inventory," has become an important reminder and an invitation to me to MAKE time (it won't happen otherwise!) to search, ponder and pray each day. And maybe every once in awhile, to spend even more time ( a week?) really deeply searching and assessing.
Hopefully, my family will be happier and better off as I really try to create this balance in my life.

Take Time to Be Holy

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,

Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

(by William D. Longstaff)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I have a black thumb. Anything I plant dies. Luckily my husband takes charge of the garden each year.

Still, I have a love of vibrant flowers. I enjoy having pots of flowers in spring and summer, but I have to keep replacing them because I keep killing them. I just don't seem to comprehend the delicate balance of water, sun and fertilizer needed to keep them alive.

This is not due to lack of attention. I check on them several times each day. In fact, I think I might be over watering and over feeding them. Basically, I hover, paranoid that they will die right before my eyes if I don't DO SOMETHING.

As the years have gone by I have learned a thing or two. Now the flowers last at least a week before dying. This is what I have learned: Don't water or feed too much! Basically, "don't hover." It seems they grow and flourish on their own most of the time. They don't need a lot of anxious attention from well-meaning me.

So, you can guess my metaphor. I have also come to know that children are like flowers. To flourish and grow, they need the right balance of water, food, sleep and sunshine. They need parents. But, they also need to be left alone to make their own decisions. They need to find their own light. They need to struggle and roam and find their own water and nourishment. Whenever I "hover" they shrink and become petty, angry, selfish, bored. Basically, they die.

This is why, whenever I leave the children in my husband's care, they have a marvelous time. He does his thing and isn't too worried as long as there is no blood on the carpet. They learn and grow and "duke it out" as they find their own way. Whenever I return from a long absence, everyone is perfectly calm and happy.

So, as I struggle each year to keep my flowers alive, I realize how very much my garden of children need me to love them, but also at times, leave them to their own experience.

"A gardener is what I am,
a simple and honest man,
I reap and sow,
I make things grow,
and do the best I can."

-the Gardner (Christ) from "The Garden" by Michael McLean

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Child of God

Eighteen years ago my husband and I drove our dusty, old car to pick up my mother-in-law from the airport. Her visit was not unusual, though they lived 1500 miles away, as my father-in-law is a pilot and they enjoy flying privileges.

This trip, however, was special indeed. This time she carried a most precious bundle: a beautiful baby boy. She was bringing him to be placed with his new adoptive family. The LDS family services building was on the way home. We soon stopped and entered the building. There we came to the room where an anxious family waited. Our eyes met theirs and we all began to weep. It was one of those sacred moments where words fail.

The father, a musician, gently accepted the boy into his arms. He gazed deeply into the child's eyes, then began to sing a song he had written for the occasion. This wonderful family had girls of their own, but now added their first boy. His was a tender lullaby expressing heartfelt joy.

What made it all the more meaningful for me was the fact that a few months earlier I had been visiting my parents-in-law and had met the sweet birth mother of this child. She was staying there in their home where many others had likewise been sheltered and loved. This young mother and I shared conversations about the gospel, our lives, how we were different, how we were the same. She was a very deep thinker with the most brilliant smile. I instantly loved her. Some unhappy experiences had led to her situation, but she had made brave, wise and loving decisions, including a plan for adoption. It was a privilege to meet her and I knew I'd never forget her grace and deep soul.

Over the years, I was able to keep in touch with her since she had formed such a close relationship with my husband's parents. They considered her a daughter, so we often saw pictures and letters from her.

In time she married a wonderful man in the temple and had a beautiful family.

Years went by. My husband and I lived away for a long time. When we finally moved back west, we ironically ended up in the neighborhood where this young man and his wonderful family now live. Hence, I have been able to see him grow up and become a most amazing individual.

Not only does he act and sing and dance (and has been featured in a church wide video production), but he was also elected Student Body President of his high school, and was voted Homecoming King by his peers. He is humble, loving, and inclusive; an extraordinary person.

Each time I see him, on stage or in the community, I see his unconquerable smile. That same brilliant smile. I think of his birth mom and wonder if she knows, somewhere in her heart, how amazing he has become. She had faithfully placed him with another family in a happy, supportive community where he grew and achieved and shared the great love he was given.

Why do I tell this story? Because this week, he is graduating from high school. He is officially "welcoming" the audience to the graduation. And so, through third parties and letters, he has invited his birth mother to come meet him, and to attend. His unbelievably fantastic family encourages his decision.

I have a son just about his age and have been at the high school often for many occasions. Also, since we live near his family we see them many times a week around town. It has been interesting over the years to visit the birth mom, or to see pictures of her and her family, and then, sometimes even the next day, to see this young man (though they live states apart). I have had a unique perspective, following both of their lives and knowing the connection, but not being able to share information or feelings.

I have thought how he must often have wondered who she is, what she looks like, what her life is like and so on. He has maybe wondered, "Who am I? Where did I come from?" I live so close to him and I know the answers to many of these questions, yet have not be able to tell him. He has had to live by faith, seeking his Heavenly Father's comfort and guidance.

Now the time has come for them to meet. It will take place in the home of my husband's parents this week. Now his faith will be realized. He will be able to see, embrace and talk to her himself!

As I thought about this happy meeting, I imagined my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I can't see Him or receive any tangible communication at this time, yet, I know He is real. I know that ever since I left His presence, He has had my best interests at heart. I'm sure He has worried about me far away on Earth. I'm sure He has wanted to swoop down and intervene and show Himself to me, especially in my darkest times. I'm sure He has wished to show me exactly who I really am. Yet, this is not been allowed now. Instead, I have had to walk by faith.
Luckily I was placed in a wonderful "adoptive" family who loves me and reared me in righteousness.

I wonder, however, how it will feel to someday look my Heavenly Parents in the eye, to embrace them and know without a doubt who I am and from whence I came. It will be such a stirring moment to finally realize my faith that truly "I am A child of God."

I Am A Child of God,
And He has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home,
with parents kind and dear,

Lead Me, Guide Me,
Walk beside me,
Help me find the way,
Teach me all that I must do,
to live with Him someday

P.S. I got to escort this young man to my in-laws house for his special reunion with his birth mom. That too was a treat for all of us. It was natural and beautiful. We all felt the full circle of life. They spent hours catching up while I spent time with my parent's-in-law, but I could hear lots of joy and laughter from the other room! Truly God is good, and Faith proceeds the miracle.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Today is a special day. Nineteen years ago today my husband and I knelt across an altar and pledged an eternal commitment: to each other, and to God. How old was I? Nineteen! So that's the number of the day!

Although imperfect, it has been a journey of joy. I can say without reservation that marrying John, even at the age of nineteen (almost 20!), was truly the best decision and the foundation of my life. He is the happiest part of my world, the light and love of my life. Of all people on earth, it is he that most reminds me of our Savior. When he embraces me, I feel embraced by the love of the Lord. And, by this time next year, I will have been married for longer than I was single. Truly our lives have intertwined. We are one.

To commemorate this special day, and Mother's Day soon coming up, I will share a talk that I gave in Stake Conference last December. It tells a bit about my journey into marriage and motherhood. I hope one thing will be clear: my testimony is that no marriage is perfect, no parents are perfect, no children are perfect, hence no family is perfect. However, we are all "perfected" in Christ. As we are repenting every day and trying our level best to prioritize Him through service in our families and otherwise, we are perfected daily through the Atonement.

When John and I were first married, 19 years ago, we didn't yet know how to communicate well. We had only known each other 5 months the day we were married! We didn't have all the answers, but we had the gospel of Jesus Christ. Coupled with our covenant to stay together, come what may, we have forged an eternal bond forged in a refiner's fire. If we can come this far, I honestly believe that any marriage can. As has been said, Christ is the great "healer." When He lays His hands on something, it lives. When He lays His hands on a marriage, it lives.

I want to publicly thank my tireless husband for being so Christ-like in all his dealings with me. He is a perfect gentleman as he endures my . He is slowly helping me become "more perfected" in Christ as he sets an example of temperance, kindness, respect and mercy.

For my part, I have never given up. Even when times have seemed bleak, I drew a line and never crossed it. This complete fidelity of heart, mind, body and conversation has allowed me to focus on the positive and realize the potential in both of us, separately, but most of all, together. My sister has a plaque in her house that sums this up. It states, "Choose thy love, Love thy choice."

I am confident that the next 19 years will bring more challenges. As our children mature and make life altering decisions, we are bound to experience deeper levels of sorrow and joy. Still, through it all, I have faith that with John at my side and Jesus as our guide, we can weather the storm and build a home wherein love may dwell. Happy Anniversary sweetheart!

The Joy of Motherhood

Stacey Thompson

Sharon Stake Conference December 5, 2009

And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our

transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and

evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the

obedient. (Moses 5:11)

Brothers and Sisters, today I will speak on the Joy of Motherhood.

I was born the oldest of 10 children and consequently began changing diapers while

some of my peers were still wearing them. After a chaotic childhood, I looked forward to the solace and self awareness that college life could bring. Therefore I was not prepared to meet my eternal companion at the tender age of 19. I had dreamt of

serving a mission for as long as I could remember. Getting married would forever take away my chance to serve as a young, single sister. This thought caused a hole in my soul.

When we knew our relationship was serious, I asked my future husband if he would wait for me to return from a mission. With integrity that he has carried throughout our marriage he said, "the prophet told me to come home from my mission and not delay getting married. I will be anxiously engaged in finding a wife while you are gone, should you choose to go. However, if I am still single when you come back I will gladly marry you the day you arrive home." I didn't like my odds. Although I questioned the timing, the Holy Ghost whispered just enough to let me know my path. I knew I'd never met a finer, more Christ-like man, and I knew he loved the Lord more than he loved me. I also knew he'd be married to some other lucky girl if I put off our marriage for 2-3 years.

Thus I experienced my first sacrifice for the sake of motherhood. I chose eternal marriage and put behind me forever the mission dream. Years later, with four little babies, I recalled that decision and experienced again the pangs of sadness. I had felt so close to my potential investigators! Like they were waiting for me to come. But my husband taught me, "cheer up! You already have four converts!" He was of course referring to our children. I had never thought of that before. It was years before I realized that my most important convert was myself. Brothers and Sisters, I am a convert to the Joy of Motherhood.

I admit that growing up I was not much interested in domestic things. I loved school and devoured any chance to learn. I took summer school for several years just for the fun of it. I also loved music and acting. Bro. Jerry Elison, now of the 8th ward, and othersgave me opportunities to live out my theatrical dreams. I also learned choral conducting by watching Margaret Brown and Preston Woolf in the 3rd ward. Through sacred music I found great joy and peace. I also took many dance classes. I was an English major and I also fiddled in the folk band. These were righteous endeavors and I excelled. Guess what I didn't know how to do? Cook, clean, organize, bottle food, manage, make decisions, budget, beautify, or discipline children. I was terrified to start our own family. All I could remember from eighteen years at home was a blur. The endless monotony of changing babies, piles of laundry, vats of food, always feeling too cold, or too sweaty, never enough room on the couch, never enough time alone in the bathroom, and the constant fatigue of waking in the night to newborns' cries. Nope it didn't sound too appealing. I wanted some vacation from the "Joy of Motherhood."

Now my lack of homemaking skills was not my parent's fault. They made us work very hard and I'm sure they assumed that all of it was "sticking" in my brain, but mostly I was part of an assembly line at home. There was always another person

helping with this and that such that I did one part, but not the whole. We did have daily early morning scripture study without fail, family dinner every night, kneeling family prayer twice a day, and FHE faithfully. Still, being the oldest, I experienced mostly the fertilizer of these experiences and not much of the fruit (which came years later). I am ashamed to say that I did not begin to value these experiences or the habits they instilled in me until many years into my own parenting journey. My noble parents were tireless in their efforts to raise 10 righteous children. I never imagined how their example would influence my life and subconciously shape my decisions. Their sacrifice is beyond compare and the pattern of their lives is the lamp that now lights my feet. Because of them I can have faith and hope on a daily basis that, as Pres. Hinckley was fond of saying, "everything will turn out alright." Because I have witnessed first hand how my siblings grew out of their childish ways and became marvelous people, I have hope. I could not thank them enough for the greatest gift they have given me, namely my siblings, each one a cherished friend, confidante and counselor.

But as a naive almost 20 year old, my youngest sister, now on a mission, was but three years old. She repeatedly jumped down the stairs at our elegant wedding reception and apparently destroyed some antique candles by biting them. My conversion to the "joy of motherhood" was a long way off.

But my sweet companion shared his vision of how it could be. He was the second of two, four years apart, and the only son. His longing for more siblings matched that of his parent's for more children, but it was not to be. Instead he was left with a yearning and a feeling that there were in fact many spirits waiting to come to his home. AHH!!!!! Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Gently, but with conviction, he shared his testimony of family and parenthood. He share the following with me: "After marriage,young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college. Young married couples can make their way and reach their educational heights, if they are determined." (Kimball, 328) It took me eight years to finish my undergraduate degree. I had three children and was expecting the fourth when I finally finished my undergraduate degree. I testify that this promise is true! My husband is still going to school. He hopes to finish his PhD later this year. It's only been 18 years.

At many times in our marriage I thought that I would be better off in the work place. I was so much better suited for it. I knew I could make a nice income. Maybe he could stay home and be mister mom. There were many ideas, but we continued to follow prophetic counsel: "Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create bodies for the immortal souls who await." (Kimball, 327). Elder Scott says this: "Of course, as a woman you can do exceptionally well in the workplace, but is that the best use of your divinely appointed talents and feminine traits? As a husband, don’t encourage your wife to go to work to help in your divinely appointed responsibility of providing resources for the family, if you can possibly avoid it. As the prophets have counseled, to the extent possible with the help of the Lord, as parents, work together to keep Mother in the home. Your presence there will strengthen the self-confidence of your children and decrease the chance of emotional challenges. Moreover, as you teach truth by word and example, those children will come to understand who they are and what they can obtain as divine children of Father in Heaven." (1994) Still I worried about our meager income and remembered hardships when I was young. I wanted better things for my children, but then I read this: "Of course, it will be harder to get your college degrees or your financial starts with a family, but strength like yours will be undaunted in the face of difficult obstacles. Have your family as the Lord intended. Of course it is expensive, but you will find a way, and besides, it is often those children who grow up with responsibility and hardships who carry on the world's work." (Kimball, 324).

We tried to do what we could to make it when times were tight. At one point we actually moved into a one bedroom apartment with three little kids. We had a marvelous time. We were in the first ward then. We loved it! The children slept in the one bedroom and my husband and I slept on an

old, uncomfortable pull-out couch in the front room. We lived there for a year.

We just did whatever we had to do to make it work for me to stay home. I have learned much from this. We know that sacrifice is what produces faith. “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power proficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.” Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith #6 . I can testify that as we have constantly tried to obey this counsel, we have been blessed beyond reason financially. Also, our children have grown up working hard. They amaze us with their goodness and strength.

"Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life." (Ezra Taft Benson)

Is it hard? Yes, but I have learned that with the Lord, I can do hard things.

And I believe that it is joyous precisely because it is so hard. I have learned to embrace the sorrow because I know it is bringing great things, great joy. We can only know joy because we know sorrow.

Over the years, my skills have improved and I have had many moments of great joy with my precious family. I actually love to cook now and it is a joy to me to have my children join me. I love to hear, "Wow, how'd you get to be such a good cook mom? When I get married, I'm going to make this stew for my husband!" I love how my girls talk to me about boys.

And I also love my boys. When they were younger, we knew that family home evening was working because one day, while we were living in Philadelphia, the neighbor boy came over. When he began to be unkind to my little daughter, her four year old "big" brother came to the rescue. He immediately pounced on the boy and started choking him and said, "you have to be like Jesus!"

There has been humor and the tears over the years, I want you to know that whatever I didn't know how to do the Spirit taught me how to do. (As we lived away from family for many years in both California and Philadelphia). I could share countless stories and scriptures that have shaped my life and guided my efforts as a mother, but we just don't have time here today. I will say that I learned to "feast upon the words of Christ, for the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do." (2 Nephi 32:3)

One very sacred experience I would like to share came when we were living in Philadelphia. My husband was the bishop of a very busy ward. This was aninner city ward with 26 different nationalities represented. He was also working full time and going to school full time. We had six children under seven at the time, including one year old twins. I had been teaching seminary in the ward and was also doing cub scouts and the primary music.

I was due with the seventh child in just a few weeks and I had been home schooling the oldest three children. I was very worried about the new baby coming because I just didn't think I could handle a newborn and the other six as well as home school at the same time. However, I was very frightened by the "environment" at the public schools. I was worried about the language they might hear or other worse things they could be exposed to. This problem weighed heavily on my mind one evening just after Christmas. My husband had taken the children for a drive while I was trying to carefully put away the Christmas ornaments. I was listening to Handel's Messiah while doing this. Suddenly I felt a prompting, "turn the music off." I thought, "It's the Messiah, why should I turn off the music?" I kept working, but then I felt it again, "Turn the music off, I want to talk to you." This time I obeyed.

I turned off the music and went to a secluded room. I knelt down said, "I am here Lord.'' Nothing happened. I began to pour out my heart concerning the school situation. I expressed my fears for my children and my dilema about the new baby. I told the Lord that I wanted to protect my children. How could I send them to school if I couldn't be there with them at all times to watch over them? The answer was quick and clear. He said, "They were mine before they were yours. You will not be with them at all times, but I will be." I knew then that they needed to go back to school. I knew that no matter what they would experience there, it would be for their own good. I also knew that the heavy burden of parenting was lifted off my shoulders that night. I learned that I was not alone in this task. I was yoked with Him. He would always be there and He would swoop down and intervene as needed for my children just as he had done for me at critical moments in my life. I realized that in a very literal way, He was their Father. It took a great deal of trust, but I knew in whom I trusted.

I sent them back to school, the spirit returned to our home in greater abundance as I was better able to focus on eternal things and creating the environment at home with better balance.

All throughout our marriage, the Spirit has been my tutor. Now the joys are

overflowing. I wish I could share more, but the time is gone. I am very grateful for this assignment. I am very grateful for Sharon Stake. I love you all. I love my Savior, my exemplar, Jesus Christ. I say these things in His name, Amen.

*As a side note: The whole reason I started this blog was because I had such a divine experience preparing for this talk. In the end I realized that many mothers and even I do not realize that the greatest joy possible on earth comes through our marriages and our children. We hear that, but it does not always penetrate to our hearts. After researching and working on this talk for weeks, I was given an undeniable witness of the joy and magnitude associated with the sacred role of Mother. I want to share this message of joy, hope and faith to as many women/mothers as I can in the whole world. I hope you'll help me share the joy! Thanks so much for reading.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tender Mercies

Nothing really profound to say today, but I just wanted to share some recent "tender mercies."

We've been trying hard to "live within our means," so we've been carefully tracking our budget. Last week we ran out of gas, milk and just about everything edible in the house a couple days before pay day. To make things stretch, we walked to more places and we ate weird food storage-y items. We scrounged for change in the couch, etc. to find seven dollars to put gas in the van for the last day.

We were down to the last 2 diapers. I ransacked the car, all diaper bags, my purse, etc. but turned up nothing. With one more day to go, I was wondering if I should go door to door asking for diaper donations. That night we put the last two diapers on the two babies for bed. It was late, like 9:00 and we were ready for family prayer. Suddenly there came a knock at the door.

It was the ward clerk! For some odd reason he came over at that hour to bring us a reimbursement check for some Scout stuff my husband had bought. Weird. Usually they would just want until Sunday to give that to us. The check was for over $100. As we knelt for family prayer, I told the children that it was a miracle. The Lord had seen our obedience, our sacrifice. Although we weren't going to make it another day with no money, He saw our need and swooped in to fill the gaps. What a tender mercy!

Despite the lateness of the hour, John looked at me and said, "go get milk and diapers and put gas in the car!" I did so happily, grateful for the love I felt and for the lesson we all had learned.

Similarly, I recently started worrying that I needed to be signing our soon -to- be four year old up for preschool somewhere. He is very intelligent. He already knows most of his letters and I can see that he needs the extra challenge. However, as I researched, I discovered that such a thing would not be in our budget.

The very next day I got a strange call. My other children's elementary school called and said that a certain woman (the mother of another child there) wanted to speak to me and left her number with the school (since we had recently moved and switched phone numbers, she didn't know how else to reach me). Although I know this woman well and admire her, I have never spent much time with her, other than casual conversations at school functions. I was curious to know why she wanted to speak with me.

I called her back, but left a message. She called me, but I couldn't talk just then. As a busy mother herself, the two of us played phone tag for days. Finally I saw her at a school event. I apologized for not getting through to her, but she said it was fine and then explained her reason for calling me.

This sweet woman has a large family too. Last year, the unthinkable occurred. Her bright-eyed, toe-headed toddler, about four at the time, had been accidentally run over and killed by an extended family member in their own driveway.

Of course the whole family was devastated. But they were also enfolded in the arms of the Savior's love as they bravely soldiered on. As part of the healing process for them, they decided to generously set up a "scholarship" at the preschool their son had attended and loved. She was calling to offer that scholarship to me.

I was flabbergasted to say the least. I hadn't told anyone that I was investigating preschools, not even my husband. Furthermore, since we had moved, I had not been around the elementary school much and had not seen this woman for months! Why she thought of me I'll never know. But she explained that she had awakened in the night on more than one occasion with my name coming to her. I humbly and gratefully accepted her unbelievable offer.

I don't always understand the Lord's will or His timing, but I do know that He keeps His promises. And for us, at this time as we struggle to raise nine children on a budget, we know that He has truly multiplied our meager efforts and showered us with tender mercies.

I, the Lord, am abound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no bpromise.

D&C 82:10

Bring ye all the atithes into the storehouse, that there may be bmeat in mine house, and cprove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not dopen you the ewindows of heaven, and pour you out a fblessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Malachi 3:10