February Focus: "Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation" (Helaman 5:12)

January Focus: "Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (2 Ne. 22:3)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

These People Call Me "Mom"

You know, sometimes this parenting gig can be hard work--like when your husband is traveling 50% of the time and kids get sick and life is crazy-busy.  Sometimes I mess up; I don't say all the right things or I raise my voice.  Sometimes the kids eat ramen noodles for dinner or I tell them it's "smorgasbord" night (which means chicken nuggets for one, strawberry Gogurt for another, a bean-and-cheese burrito for a third, a bagel spread with peanut butter for another, and maybe I convince the 5th one to eat some fruit).  I don't always remind them to brush their teeth or make their beds. They often argue with each other or me, sometimes grumble about chores, and even have temper tantrums.

But, 100% of the time it is a privilege to have them call me "mom". Even on the rougher days, when I lock myself in my room for a brief time-out, there are always so many sweet blessings to be found.  We always say "I love you".  I always remind them to say their bedtime prayers.  The little ones always remind us to have scriptures.  There are smiles and hugs and forgiveness.  As they get older, there are great conversations to balance out the ones full of drama.  While they are still young, there are still little arms around my neck and morning cuddles.  Every phase has something wonderful to enjoy.  Each child is unique, and it is a pleasure to watch these five amazing kids grow and learn and flourish.

February was an exhausting month; I'm glad I had Jeff and these five along for the adventure.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"O Ye That Embark. . ."

Being in our Young Women Presidency is such a privilege which I enjoy immensely.  Back in January, we had our New Beginnings event to introduce the program to those girls who will be turning 12 this year.  Since the 2015 Mutual Theme is "O Ye That Embark in the Service of God", we gave our event a travel theme.  We decorated with maps and suitcases and photos of temples from all over the world, and we had our current Young Women each share thoughts on what they "carry" in their "spiritual suitcases."  I was so impressed with these girls and the thoughts they shared about scripture study, music, journal writing, and more. Also, this New Beginnings was special, because Brisa was there!  It's hard to believe she will be 12 in just a few short months.

Here are some photos of the decor plus a tutorial for the easy-peasy job I took on of making "passports" out of Personal Progress books for the incoming girls.  (Sadly, I don't have any photos of the Young Women who are the heart of it all.  I am especially sad that I didn't have someone take a picture of me and Brisa).

{The adorable cupcakes made by my friend, Katy}

{How do you like my old Personal Progress book?  Brings back the nostalgia...}

{This fun sign was made by my friend, Aleah}
 So, to tie in with the travel theme, we gave each incoming girl a new Personal Progress book designed to be a passport.  I just used cardstock (some navy blue and the rest black because I ran out of the blue) and oval label stickers.

 I really just winged this whole project/made it up as I went.  I did eight of these in about half an hour.  I started by centering each book on a piece of cardstock that I had cut to about 9x12 (I think):

 Then, I notched the corners for easier folding and also cut a notch at the top and bottom where the spiral binding is:

 I used a bone folder to score lines for folding and wrapped the paper around the front and back covers.  I wanted these to be temporary, of course, so when I used glue dots to secure it, I only placed the glue dots on the cardstock and not the actual Personal Progress books:

 Lastly, I affixed an oval, adhesive-backed label  which Jeff helped me design:

 Jeff and I found a bunch of travel-themed clip art (planes, Vespas, bicycles, trains, cars, scooters, etc.) and printed them on small return address labels.  As each of the Young Women finished presenting their "spiritual suitcase", they would place their sticker (we had one type of transportation sticker for each one) on the back cover of the passports of the incoming girls--like getting their passports stamped.  You can see some of these stickers under the stack of books here:

 We encouraged the girls to travel to the temple and embark in service to others.  It was a great evening!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When Fridays Meant Frisbee and a Freezer Full of Food

I woke up with a heavy heart.  Last night I went to bed with a tear-streaked face.

Yesterday I got the news that Chris Tryon had passed away in a car accident. . . .Years ago, when Jeff was a bishop, Chris was part of our "Frisbee gang".  He didn't come as regularly as Aaron or his younger brother, Reed, but he was pretty regular for a while.

Like all the teenagers who played Friday Frisbee with Jeff over the course of a couple years, Chris carved out a place in my heart.  I forgot how much of a place those boys (and a few girls) had until last night.  I was shocked by the extent of my grief for someone I haven't seen in years.  I believe I am not just mourning the end of Chris's young life, but also grieving the passing of time.  I miss all my "kids".  Each of them became like family. I am imagining the heartache of Reed and Andrea and Afton and Aaron.  I just want to be able to see each of them again and wrap them up in one big, group hug.

I remember fondly the way my walls would practically echo with the sound of their laughter.  I recall how Jeff and I would cheer for the good things in their lives, and I have distinct memories of the hours of fervent prayer we spent on their behalf, the heartache we felt for each detour their lives took.
It was a time when I would bake at least once a week just in case someone dropped in after school.  We bought a freezer and stocked it full of food, including the tater-tot-like things which Reed and Aaron called "little bites of heaven".  It was a time when Jeff and I would consciously leave the porch light on until at least midnight, often later, so that our group would always feel welcome, no matter the hour.

Memories were made and bonds were forged.  And today I find myself wanting to stock the freezer, pull out the baking supplies, and unlock the front door.  This week I'll leave the porch light on. . .for Chris and for all the Frisbee gang, each of whom have left my heart permanently changed.

Chris, since you got there first, maybe you'll think of us and every now and then send some "little bites of heaven" our way, just for old times' sake...

{I'm sad that I couldn't find any pictures of Chris, but here are some old photos of some of the Frisbee gang}

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Trust in Times of Trial

I've known for a while now that I wanted to write a blog post about trusting in the Lord.  I have slowly been working on a series of blog posts that chronicle my personal experiences with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (Click here to read my post about hope).

I have thought and pondered what I might say for a couple months now, and I have wondered why it has taken me so long to put into words a principle that I cherish.  This morning I realized it is because the Lord is in charge of the timing and my post needed to happen this week.  Ironically, even the "when" of my post was teaching me more about trust.

The LDS Guide to the Scriptures gives me this definition of trust: "To rely upon or place confidence in someone or something.  In spiritual matters, trust includes relying on God and his Spirit."  For me, trust is the foundation of my faith.  Faith is the action word, the things I do, because of my trust in the Lord.

I don't have all the answers.  I don't even have a lot of the answers.  But I was blessed to come to earth with a lot of confidence in my Heavenly Father.  I'm not good at following authority figures; I really dislike being told what to do by other people.  Yet, somehow, this has never ever extended to God.  I have been blessed to keep my innate confidence in Him intact and for this I am deeply grateful.

Even though I don't have perfect knowledge, I have had some pretty majorly traumatic experiences in my own life. I have witnessed tragedy and terror and sorrow of many kinds in the lives of those I care about.  I have been the target of other people's anger, hatred, dislike, jealousy, and misunderstanding.  I have been beaten until I had welts on my back.  I have, as an adult, witnessed youth make poor choices, and in my own youth watched a dear friend make the long journey of repentance after years of wild living.  In high school and college, I have had friends who had to get restraining orders against their boyfriends and who feared for their lives.  I have suffered loss through miscarriage and watched others lose their children and babies due to illness and accident.  The list could go on and on.

And I testify with all my heart that through it all my Savior has been there, for me and for others.  There have been those who reject the gift of His outstretched hand and the comfort He offers, but He is always there.

I don't have all the answers, but I don't need them.  Line upon line as I experience both the bad and the good this life has to offer and as I consistently place my trust in the Lord, my peace increases.

Trusting in the Lord means simply turning all your worry and pain and suffering over to Him.  It means believing that He will help you to heal, that He will make it all right.  Trust in God means that even when you, like me, don't have all the answers you still have faith that God does and that His plan is one of love and mercy and goodness.

It does not mean that life gets magically easier, but it can bring you peace in the middle of chaos.  It can bring you moments of joy during times of great sadness.  It can bring you light in a world of darkness.  It gives us a reason to get up each day and keep trying, keep going, keep loving, keep forgiving.

As Elder Bradley D. Foster states in a beautiful talk I read this morning entitled, "Trials, Tribulations, and Trust in the Lord":

May we all face our challenges with faith, endurance, and trust in our Heavenly Father and in His plan for each of us. Remember, it’s not what happens to us that matters; it’s how we handle what happens that makes all the difference. “When the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces,” the Savior’s power and assurance can still make it possible for us to experience joy and peace.
I testify that the Savior will abide with you in your darkest hour. He is there, and He has declared, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
This is my prayer and testimony to each of you wherever you may be and in whatever way you may be suffering today.  He lives, He loves us, and He can heal us.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thankful Thursday (a day late): January 2015

Ten things I'm grateful for this month, in no particular order

1. The temple:

    Before the Christmas/winter break was over, Jeff and I squeezed in a temple date at the beginning of January.  Last weekend, he and I were invited to attend the sealing (at the Gilbert AZ Temple) of a couple we have met through Scouting, and I was asked to take some pictures after.  Yesterday, I drove up to the Phoenix AZ Temple by myself after dropping the kids off at school. Next week I plan to go do a baptism for a family name Brisa found.  Once I have done that I will have participated in every temple ordinance this month which is a sweet blessing.  I was reminded yesterday as I was there that when I go to the temple I am blessed with power and clarity, confidence and peace.

2.  Saving up for large purchases:

     Jeff and I have been working hard on our financial goals for the past few years.  This December we were able to order some much-needed furniture as the couches upstairs were completely broken, and our dining room table could barely fit our family of seven let alone any guests.  I love my furniture, love decorating and making my house beautiful (I almost majored in interior design at ASU), but even more, I love the peace that comes from knowing that we saved and waited so that we could buy good-quality furniture without going into debt.  Every purchase is sweeter when you can afford it.  It is worthwhile to stick with our goals.  I hope I can help my children learn this lesson.  We started out our marriage with a card table as our dinner table, progressed to two different tables that were hand-me-downs from family, purchased our old dining table at great sacrifice as our family was growing, and planned and waited until we could finally buy this beautiful long, hardwood table and chairs. Our couches were all hand-me-downs (or even dumpster finds!) for a very long time. I am grateful for our poor days and the opportunity in our marriage to work together to reach goals.

3.  Arizona skies

4.  My calling to serve the Young Women:
     The girls in my ward are amazing and incredible.  They are fun and smart and beautiful.  I got to teach the lesson on Sunday and felt the Spirit so strongly as I reminded them they are loved by Heavenly Father.  I get to help plan a ward Young Women camp for the summer, and I'm looking forward to it.  I work with an amazing presidency, too! This week we had our New Beginnings event for all of the girls who will be turning 12 this year.  I am excited that my Brisa is one of them (can you believe it?!).  I'll post this weekend about our New Beginnings, but here is a sneak peek:

5.  That the Scout Adult Recognition Dinner went well and is done :-)

6.  My kids:
     I'm not gonna lie; motherhood can be hard.  Most good things take effort.  My family is worth all the effort I put into it.  Love these kids so much!  They aren't perfect, but they are good.  They are valiant and they are trying to be the best they can be.

{Sam participating in the district spelling bee; he is headed to regionals!}

{Brisa and I enjoyed milkshakes after a doctor visit earlier in the month}

{Josh and Mark both got character awards for "Responsibility" this month; all five kids got Principal's Pride awards for getting all A's on their report cards}
{Sarah is going to be 8 this year!}

{Mark learned how to draw stars and is super proud of himself!}

7.  Tilapia:
     Random, I know.  I have discovered that I enjoy eating this fish.  I really don't like most seafood, but I like the mild flavor of tilapia.

8.  The scriptures:
     As I have tried to drink more fully from living waters, I have been greatly blessed.

9.  Good friends!

10.  Last, but never least, Jeff:
       He was gone on a five-day business trip last week.  He has another one next week.  On the weeks he is home, he has been busy going on visits with bishops as January and February are our ward conferences in the stake.  I don't take for granted the few hours we have together.  So thankful for him and the love we share!

{He's working on a project which he and I just recently finished; I'll post about it soon.  Also, friends--here is the infamous orange shirt!}

*What are you thankful for, big or small, this month?*

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Phoenix Arizona Temple

{Photo Credits:  all photos taken by Becky Porter}

Photos taken on November 17, 2014, the day after the Phoenix AZ Temple was dedicated

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wordless Wednesday -- Baking with Brisa

{Photo Credits: Sam Porter, except last two photos taken by me}