Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lighthouses and Random Thoughts

This last week has been a busy one for me in my church responsibilities... and each thing I've worked on has given me an opportunity to reflect on a few ideas. They aren't deep doctrinal thoughts and may not be enlightening to you, but I'll share them anyway.

Last week we had New Beginnings for the Young Women in our ward. We based the night on the 2009 Mutual Theme which is found in Timothy 4:12. It reads "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." We ate yummy soup and cheesecake, which always starts a night off well :). We had lighthouses all around and our YW President spoke about how we can be like a lighthouse to those around us by being an example of the believers. Several of the young women spoke about each of the Young Women's Values (Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and the newly added value of VIRTUE) and how that value can help them be an example of the believers. I love listening to these girls (12 to 18 years old) speak from their hearts about spiritual matters.

Our bishop spoke last and reminded us that light from lighthouses reaches a certain distance before it can't be seen anymore. He mentioned that one lighthouse had the capacity to reach 20 miles, which seems like a long way! He asked us to think about our own circle of influence and what we can do to make sure that we are a good example to people within that circle. As I think about how technology allows us to communicate, I am encouraged (and a little overwhelmed) to think that our circle of influence can reach all the way around the world. I don't claim to have a strong voice or influence, but I do hope that I can be a force for good.

On Sunday Ryan and I spoke during our Sacrament Meeting and we were assigned to speak about my granddad's last General Conference talk "Come What May, and Love it." When I first heard our assignment, I was excited and thought (pridefully) how great it was, because I could perhaps give some more insight to what he had said since I was his granddaughter. Very shortly after, I started to realize the error of my thinking and panicked... "Oh no! People will expect me to give more insight to his words!" We made it through our talks, and I was grateful for the chance to study my granddad's wise counsel more in depth.

His talk is about making it through challenging times in our lives by laughing, seeking for the eternal, understanding the principle of compensation, and relying on the Lord. The one thought that has stuck with me is about trying to gain an eternal perspective. I know that Heavenly Father can see and understand me and my life in a clearer way than I can. I can even verbalize that. But when it comes to praying and even desiring or hoping for certain things, I think I have it all figured out. I wonder if my imploring, however heartfelt, is the spiritual equivalent to asking to eat candy and drink soda for all of my meals or to play video games all day long. When my kids ask for things that aren't good for them, I say no, over and over again. In their minds, the requests they make are reasonable and good. In my "wisdom" though, I can see that some things aren't in their best interest--I know the consequences and I can see a broader picture. I say no because I hope for more for them and I know that in the long run, they will be glad I said no. Sometimes I don't get what I ask for from Heavenly Father either. It isn't because He doesn't love me--it's because He knows more and blesses me with the things that are best for me, on a grander scale than my mortal eyes and mind can understand. It is precisely because He loves me that I don't always get what I ask for. I have a strong desire to change my prayers from "Please bless me with..." to "Please help me to accept the ways that I am blessed..."

And a last thought is from the Relief Society lesson that I taught from Elaine Dalton's talk "A Return to Virtue" which was fitting since virtue is the newest addition to the Young Women's values. She said, "Virtue is a word we don't often hear in today's society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost." One sister in our class noted that in our society, virtue isn't just a word not heard often, but it can be thought of as being negative, prudish, or old fashioned. The thought that has been going over and over in my head is that we need to be the guardians of virtue... no one else will do it for us.

I love what President Monson said (and that Sister Dalton quoted in the talk): "You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow." (This brought the lighthouse idea full circle for me.) At the end of the lesson I had the sisters sign a banner, pledging that they would return to virtue. Some of the ladies (particularly the older ones) thought I was off my rocker as I handed them a permanent marker and asked them to write on my tablecloth, but I think that if we do something tangible and make a statement that we will do something, it's more likely to happen.

All photos in this post were taken by Ryan Harper of Ryan Harper Photography. The first and third are a lighthouse that is on Cape Cod, MA (taken in September 2007) and the middle photo is of Pigeon Point on the California coast (taken in November 2008).

**Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Great Day in History

Today I feel blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America. As I watched the inauguration of our 44th president, and the first African-American to hold this office, I felt impressed at the magnitude of what took place today. During his prayer, Reverend Joseph Lowery referred to Obama as a servant of the Lord, which struck me. Another person encouraged us all to pray for President Obama and those he serves with. I am hopeful that we can all support Barack Obama as OUR president, whether or not our vote was cast for him (mine was, very enthusiastically). I truly believe he is a good man with integrity and that he will do his best to lead our great nation.

I loved this blog post (lift where you stand) that was written by someone who voted for the other candidate, but is ready to support President Obama. It references a wonderful general conference talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf about doing what we can, wherever we are, and with whatever we can contribute to help the group accomplish great things.

Now is the time for us all to lift where we stand.

**Were you moved by the inauguration?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Donut Falls

For our day off from school today (Ry had to work) we went on a winter hike with my mom, my brother-in-law Slade (Erin's husband) and his three boys, and my sister Lindsey and her son Jonah. The weather in the valleys has been cold and smoggy (gotta love that inversion!) and it was so nice to be above it all--it was sunny, warm, and the air was clean. It was a great way to spend the day! The path was pretty well groomed by previous snow-shoers and cross country skiiers.

We made it all the way to the falls (it's only about a mile hike to the falls, but there were times that the kids weren't sure they wanted to keep going). We talked about finishing what you started, pushing on just a little bit more, even when it's hard and all of that... and we were glad we did. I'm not sure the kids got the deeper meaning of it all, but it got me thinking about pressing on, pushing forward, etc.

Most of the falls were frozen over, but we still got a glimpse of the water.

Crazy cousins: Tayden, Liv, Coleman, Evan, and Brady. You can tell it's warm--Liv shed her coat. I wished I had dressed with fewer and thinner layers too.

I had to include this shot of Brady (2 years old)... he had his finger up his nose for a good few minutes while he got a ride on the sled.

We finished off by sledding for awhile and going back to my mom's for hot chocolate and lunch--a great way to spend the day!

**Do you enjoy winter hiking?
**Have you been sledding yet this year?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Now and Then

The last few months have been full of happy reunions with old friends and people from the past. I haven't always had my camera with me, but we got some fun photos from a few gatherings and I've dragged out some pictures from scrapbooks to show the early days when we first met. I have been so blessed throughout my life with wonderful people around me--I feel like I can honestly say that I have a lot of "best friends." Here are a few of them:

Here I am with my friend Lisa just before Christmas. We met at church on my first Sunday in a new ward in 1989. We were just getting ready to start high school, and I wasn't very happy that we had moved. I remember seeing her in the hall and she asked how old I was... she said she was 15 and I got so excited... I said, "Oh! I'm 15 too!" Then I asked what her name was and when she said "Lisa" I said "Oh! My name is Lisa too!" We became fast friends and spent lots of time together--working at her dad's store and doing caterings, fighting over a cute boy that we loved, and watching and rewatching "Saturday's Warrior" on Sunday afternoons. Lisa is great--I'm so glad we have remained friends after all these years.

Monster Mash was our first dance at Cottonwood High--none of us girls was 16 yet (shhhh, don't tell my kids) but we convinced our parents we should get to go to this girl's choice dance. Our friend Sara is on the left. The boys (all in our ward) were good sports when we told them they got to wear eyeliner for part of their costume. in the middle of the prayer on the food the table started tipping and everything slid towards me. We laughed and laughed--I think I caught a big bowl of spaghetti. I still love to laugh with Lisa.

Loretta (left), Patrice (right) and I became friends during our sophomore year of high school, almost 20 years ago. Our other best friend Kim wasn't with us that day (she lives in Indiana and didn't come for Christmas this year) and we missed her! Patrice and I were roommates during our first quarter at USU, but we found that we were better friends if we didn't live together. Loretta lives in Georgia now, but she comes home once a year and we take advantage of the time to get together, eat good food, and visit. These girls have been with me through good times and bad and they are wonderful, in so many ways.

Here we are at another (girl's choice) dance in the spring of 1990 (nope, still not 16). We are with some other friends--on the back row is Kim (mentioned above) who now lives in Indiana; Heidi is on the front row and lives in California (I got to visit her a few months ago!), and Mary, also on the front row, lives in Nevada (and I've happily reconnected with her on facebook recently). We have no idea where those boys are now!

Heather (left), Lesli (right) and I met at the MTC in November 1996. They were companions and we shared a room and were in the same district with a bunch of mostly cool Elders. There was one Elder who had a serious attitude problem, so we decided to kill him with kindness. We were so nice to him and after only a couple of days he turned around and ended up being a great missionary. We all went to different missions, but we've kept in touch over the years and we try to get together now and again. I love that we spent two months together learning Spanish and strengthening our testimonies of the gospel while preparing to embark on one of the greatest adventures of our lives.
My companion Hermana McLaughlin (we don't know where she is now), me, Lesli, and Heather in the MTC--Good times.

We thought we were so funny posing for this picture of us climbing up the stairs to our room (on the 4th floor!), exhausted after our long day in the MTC. We had no idea what was in store for us when we got into the field!

I love staying in touch with friends and rekindling friendships from years gone by. I'm so thankful for the great women in my life!

**Did you go on "dates" before you were 16?
**How do you stay in touch with your friends?

Bounce U!

Last weekend the kids and I got invited to a fun birthday party at BounceU. It was a great place for the kids to play and have fun, The staff members assigned to the party took care of everything (even writing down the gifts and givers!) and were great with the kids. I especially loved that there was only one party in each of the two rooms, so the hostess (and parents) didn't have to worry about a bunch of other kids. It was clean and new and we loved it!

Lovely extreme close-up of Liv through the red netting...

They had a fun place to shoot hoops...

...and these giant boxing gloves were hilarious. Coleman kept falling over because they were so heavy.

Olivia was hoping for a "fight" but Coleman couldn't stay upright long enough to get anything going. The adults thought that a match between the birthday boy's mom and dad was in order, but they didn't go for it.

Both kids loved the slide. They had sacks to help them go faster.

The spider web was another favorite--Coleman needed help getting up through all the layers but Olivia scrambled right to the top and came down the slide.

Coleman even talked me into doing the obstacle course with him... it was so slippery I had a hard time making it through. I was out of breath by the time I finished... and very sore. I tweaked my shoulder and somehow ended up with two skinned elbows, but at least I did it, right? The static electricity was shocking :).

**Do you play at bouncy places with your kids?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A to Z Tag

My friend Emily tagged me with this fun A to Z list.... so here goes, all you need to know about me from A to Z!

A--Attached or Single: Attached to Ryan for almost 10 years now
B--Best Friend: Ryan :) (and a whole bunch of wonderful women)
C--Cake or Pie: Both? Chocolate cake with frosting or key lime pie
D--Day of Choice: Saturday
E--Essential Item: Cetaphil lotion and contact lens solution
F--Favorite Color: green
G--Greatest Accomplishment: Being a wife and mama
H--Hometown: I moved around a lot while I was growing up--I was born in SLC, then we lived in Spokane, WA; Novi and Birmingham, Michigan; Riverside, CA; and back to SLC at 11
I--Indulgences: Acrylic nails (I wish I had them again) and Haagen Daaz dark chocolate ice cream bars (or any other number of treats)
J--January or July: July (if it's not TOO hot)
K--Kids: 2 marvelous kiddos
L--Life is incomplete without: My husband and kids (that's the safe and serious answer--but I'd also say: CHOCOLATE!)
M--Marriage Date: August 2, 1999
N--Number of Siblings: 12 (it's complicated)
O--Oranges or Apples: Apples (preferably with caramel)
P--Phobias or fears: slightly claustrophobic (like the time we were in NYC at the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center), arachnophobia (although I have shown extraordinary bravery around spiders when it was necessary)
Q--Quotes: "In all living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." (Gordon B. Hinckley)
R--Reasons to Smile: new clothes, kids, good friends, good food, finishing a craft project or quilt
S--Season: Fall--I love the cool weather and all of the colors. Let "hot chocolate season" begin!
T--Tag 5 Friends: Anyone who wants to play (that means you Sara W!)
U--Unknown fact about me: I have a really bad temper (Ryan and the kids said they didn't even know that, so maybe that means my attempts at anger management are working!) and I'd really love to be able to dance but my coordination doesn't match my desire
V--Very favorite store: it's a toss up--Costco or Target
W--Worst habit: I always put things in a pile so I can deal with them later, the result is unmanageable clutter
X--X-ray or Ultra Sound: since most of my x-rays were when I had kidney stones and most of my ultra-sounds were when I was pregnant, I'd for sure go with ultra-sounds
Y--Your favorite food: depends on the day--right now I love soups and I love to order mashed potatoes at any restaurant I go to (one time they brought me instant mashed potatoes!!! Olivia loved them though--she called them "popcorn potatoes")
Z--Zodiac: Cancer

**Did you learn something new?
**Are you going to do this tag?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Art of Juggling

Last Sunday as I was listening to Music and the Spoken Word I was reminded of something else I want to work on in 2009--finding a balance between the things that I have to do, the things that I should do, and the things that I want to do.

Over the coming months I want to make sure that I make time for cultivating and improving abilities (and responsibilities), my physical health, my relationships, my spirituality, my intellectual prowess (do I still have that?), my emotional well being, my service to others, and any other area that might need refinement.

The challenge lies in the fact that there are a limited number of hours in each day and a limited amount of energy that I can put forward. My "to do" list seems to stay fairly constant because so many things are on-going or repeating. Despite that fact, I still like to make lists and I get great satisfaction when I can cross something off. I've tried the whole electronic tasks or lists, but it isn't the same as physically writing on paper (cute paper and a great pen help) the things I want to accomplish, then being able to cross them off once they are done. Some days, I list things that I've already done (like showering or making my bed) just so I can cross something off the list and have a tangible record that I have accomplished something.

I love the scripture that Lloyd Newell quoted, found in Ecclesiastes 3:1: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." I need to keep reminding myself that there are many worthy and worthwhile pursuits that may not necessarily be part of this wonderful season of life that I am in.

In 2009 I want to make the most of this--my season in life--as a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, neighbor, volunteer, and servant of the Lord.

**How do you prioritize to make sure you do the most important things?
**Are you a "to do" list maker?
**Do you love the season of life you find yourself in?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Second Grade Soap Opera

I'm not sure what's going on at our elementary school, but apparently Olivia's got it going on...

I went to the school a couple of weeks ago and a cute little boy that looked vaguely familiar said, "Aren't you Olivia Harper's mom?" I told him I was and asked if he was her friend. His answer: "Yeah, I used to be her boyfriend, but she dumped me." Huh.

Then today, she came home from school with this note from another cute boy that she's been pining for and until today he acted like he loved her too. It's a little hard to read, but this is what it says:


I want to brake up with you beacas you will not like the things I will be doing when I am biger I will tock to you and get back agin. I wil bild light sabers and orther things. And if the love gets to strong I mite get to mad. I do not want you to get hert.


Seriously??? Where does he come up with this stuff? The kicker? He wants her to write back!

**What should she say?

(I told her to write: "That's okay, my mom said I'm too young to be in love anyway.")

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I Love To See The Temple

Last week I went to the temple early in the morning. It was dark and bitterly cold and I noticed a few other people walking from nearly empty parking lot. Each of us hurried to get out of the cold and into the warm, peaceful refuge of the temple. I felt inclined to break into a run, but I kept it to a brisk walk to keep from looking like a total idiot. It struck me that I want to cultivate that same anxious and excited feeling to get to the temple often--to serve, to worship, and to learn.

Once inside, I chuckled with the cute elderly woman that not only was I there on the last day of the month, but it was also the last day of the year. She smiled at me and said, "It's okay, dear, you're here, and that's what is important." Indeed.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

To Be A Queen

In the past I have set New Years Resolutions and have been sorely disappointed in myself when I don't reach them. Likewise, I've felt something of sadness when reaching my goals doesn't have the glorious results that I think should come from such hard work and dedication. As the new year is upon us, I have a new approach: I am not going to set goals. Mind you, there are many, many things I want to improve on and focus on in the coming year, but I am not going to set any specific, measurable, or attainable goals. How's that for trying to reach my potential? In light of that, I want to post about things that will help me with the improving that I want to do.

I've been reading a great YA fiction book called The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. I came across a paragraph about the heroine, Alyss, who was about to start her training to be the queen of Wonderland the queendom is attacked by her outcast aunt who has returned to regain the throne that she feels is rightfully hers. Alyss narrowly escapes death and learns that both of her parents have been killed. She travels through the looking glass and lands in the streets of London (through a puddle) and comes in contact with a street urchin who befriends her and helps her survive . The author explains that Alyss has had a first-hand, real life experience that taught a lesson which would have been in her curriculum for becoming a queen if she had proceeded with her training. It struck a chord for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that all women have the potential of becoming queens--in their own homes and in an eternal perspective (my previous post on being a queen was more comical than anything serious, but it's good to know that my kids think I'm a queen)... Second, the lesson is on something that most of us struggle with--judging others without having a full vision or understanding of their position and challenges. The lesson is:

"For most of the universe's inhabitants, life is not all gummy wads and tarty tarts; it is a struggle against hardship, unfairness, corruption, abuse, and adversity in all its guises, where even to survive--let alone survive with dignity--is heroic. To soldier through the days in the wake of failure is the courageous act of many. To rule benevolently, a queen should be able to enter into the feelings of those less fortunate than herself."--The Looking Glass Wars, page 102

So there is one of the things that I will work on this year... trying harder to walk in other people's shoes without passing judgment and also assuming (understanding) that most people are dealing with unknown challenges and trials, and therefore feeling more compassion for others. I know it will help me be a better "Queen of Everything."**Any thoughts?