Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Raising Active Children

Our children were always busy doing something. I have been asking myself why they didn’t just sit in front of the TV or computer all day.  I think the major reason was our family policy. Watching TV or playing on the computer were considered rewards, not rights. Play time was earned.

Though I’ll admit it was tempting, especially since I was often ill,  to consider using the TV as a babysitter to keep the children quiet and passive, we didn’t. TV was mainly limited to an hour or two in the evenings. As parents we were conscious of our example, so we didn’t just turn on the TV every spare moment to amuse ourselves or just keep us company.

We tried also to set an example of spending our time doing good things, and included our children in these projects. Our children helped rewire the house, learned to cook, washed cars,  planted gardens, and picked fruit. Besides projects, we provided regular work for them to do. We divided the upkeep of the house and yard and made assignments according to ability. Even toddlers were given small jobs to do.

Peace at Christmas

He couldn’t be serious, but my husband seemed quite serious when he declared, “If that’s how you are at Christmas, we won’t celebrate it.” What was I doing wrong? This wasn’t the joyful time I had anticipated.

We had only been married a few months, and as our first Christmas together approached, I became increasingly tired, pressured, and grouchy. I was also lonely. My husband was going to school and working full time with a two hour commute, so he was rarely home, leaving me alone in a small trailer with no transportation. Since he was a mailman, he was working overtime seven days a week to keep up with the holiday rush. Yes, I was lonely, but I felt I was learning to cope. I kept my environment bright and cheerful, put up decorations, played Christmas music, turned on the lights, and kept my entertainment positive and up-beat, avoiding sad tear-jerkers. I planned things to do and kept busy. What helped the most was finding another neighbor who’s husband also worked late. We spent many evenings together happily working on projects.

Help to Deal with My Health Problems

When I first began to collapse in my late teens, I wondered if I had long to live. At that time I had only been a member of the church for a few months, but I had faith in priesthood blessings. In the blessing the missionaries gave me, the Lord assured me that my illness would not seriously affect my mission in life. Through the more than forty years of illness that followed, I have clung to this promise. It has given me both the strength and the courage to continue my life: to graduate from BYU, marry, raise four children, and serve in the Church and my community.

The many blessings I received have sustained me through my illness. Over and over I have been promised that the Lord would help me and guide me to understand the causes, accept, and adjust to my illness; and He has. Knowing that the Lord understands what is the matter with me and what I need to do to feel better has been a great comfort to me. It  has given me peace when the doctors couldn’t discover the reason for my health problems. It also helped me through all the years when well meaning people admonished me to simply “get moving”, telling me I would then be fine.
Gradually, I was given experiences and promptings that eventually led us to discover that I have a rare condition, Addison’s disease, where my adrenal glands were being destroyed. With that knowledge, I  thought the doctors would  treat me and all would be well, but soon I realized that little is known about this condition and even less about how to treat it.

As months passed, I struggled with feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Once again, the Lord’s promises upheld me and helped me know what to do. For instance, one time I felt that I should not wait the normal hour after eating to check my blood sugar, but instead check it at just a half hour after I ate. We were all shocked to discover that my supposed level blood sugar wasn’t level at all. In fact, after a normal meal it was immediately rising to diabetic heights, then plummeting back down, so that an hour after eating my blood sugar ended up at a level even lower than before I ate. With this information, we were able to work out a very careful diet which helps me feel much better.
Through experiences like this and many others, I eventually came to realize that I need to rely on the Lord not on man. In the blessings, I was also taught that the Lord wanted me to grow by being responsible for myself. I had to quit waiting to “get better”, or for someone else to solve my problems. He expected me to all I could, then He would help me.

Not only have priesthood blessings enabled me to manage my illness, they have contained counsel to guide me in learning the lessons the Lord knows I need. Since I was not raised in the Church, one of the first and greatest challenges I faced was seeing myself as a child of God. I had grown up believing that my worth was determined by what I could for others. The long years of confinement to bed led me to reevaluate many of my past beliefs. As I sought new understanding through studying the scriptures and as I received blessings, the Lord reassured me over and over that I was loved. Slowly, I came to know that my worth was not dependent on what I could do, but on who I am--  a daughter of God.

A particular source of strength and guidance in my life has been my  patriarchal blessing. What at first I thought was just nice counsel, later provided the specific help I needed to cope with my illness. In my blessing I am told that if I express gratitude to the Lord, my faith and testimony will grow. This sounded easy until I had to face year after year of debilitating illness. I struggled with discouragement and often felt frustrated with my limitations. I hated having to be restricted to my home and not even able to read or move much of the time. As I began to change from focusing on all the things I couldn’t do to noticing and being grateful for all that I could do, I began to feel better, and my testimony grew. Slowly, I came to understand that happiness came not from doing things, but from being close to my Savior.  In fact, now I cherish some of the hardest moments because those are the times when I felt the Savior’s presence.

Seeing how the Lord is blessing and guiding my life also helps me accept others’ assistance. At first I resented the fact that I needed help, but as I began to see my illness as an opportunity for growth, I am now able to appreciate the service of friends and family and feel their love. Instead of just being upset about what I can’t do, I now see the positive side of our situation, such as my husband and I becoming more unified as we work together to solve problems and care for our family.

Over the years one thing my husband has done is willingly taken on more family responsibilities, such as doing the grocery shopping. Through this service not only has he become a more loving person, but, as I appreciate the things he does, my love for him has deepened. One experience is particularly impressed on my memory. When we first met, I was just finishing my degree at BYU, receiving a certificate in elementary education just four days before we married. We both agreed that I should devote my full energies to raising our children. This is a decision I have never regretted, but there was always the hope that I would be able to have a career in teaching after our children were grown. As my health continued to deteriorate this dream faded. Through this time my husband did everything he could do to enable me to teach in some way. For years he helped with more of the housework, so I could have the energy to volunteer at our elementary school. Sometimes, I was so exhausted that he even had to fix our food and care for me in the evening. Finally, there came a year when I couldn’t leave our home. That was the year that my husband gave me a great gift.  For the entire year he went down to the elementary school each week and picked up children's writing, brought their papers home for me to correct, then returned them to the classroom. I’ll always remember this loving service, and his efforts to help me feel useful and needed.

Besides strengthening our marriage, the counsel I received in blessings also helped me to be a better mother. I often felt guilty about all I couldn’t to for our children, but, through blessings, I came to see that our children were also being given opportunities to grow. Instead of focusing on all I couldn’t do, I was able to feel proud of them as they learned to do household tasks and care for the yard. I came to see that being a good mother wasn’t about doing everything for my children, but helping them to grow. My illness wasn’t preventing me from being a good mother; but was helping me to be a better mother by allowing my children to have the responsibilities they needed to develop their self-confidence.

Through the counsel in blessings, I came to understand that I was being given a great opportunity to devote all my energies to my family, and was being given a precious gift of time to develop my talents. I was led to understand what was truly important for me to do and how best to use my very limited energies. As I learned to simplify, organize, and delegate, I came to realize that there is much I can do. I have come to see my illness as an opportunity for me to develop empathy, and reach out to others by writing to missionaries, tutoring in my home, sending encouraging notes to others, writing for our stake newspaper, and even editing our city newsletter.

Both my patriarchal and other blessings, have given me the support and guidance to grow from my illness. Not only have they helped me to have better health, but, more importantly, they have changed my perspective from feeling unloved and frustrated to having faith in Heavenly Father’s love for me.  I can now see my illness as an expression of love from my Heavenly Father and know that He is a allowing me to have the experiences that will bring me joy now and help our family return someday to live with Him.

Feeling Loved when ill

Shortly after we were married, my health began to deteriorate and so did my self esteem. I had grown up being taught that my value was dependent on making others happy and now here I was barely able to move. I felt like a failure as a wife, mother, and Church member. Though I had joined the Church a few years before and been taught that I was a daughter of God, I didn’t feel that anyone could love me – even God.

At first I desperately plead with the Lord to heal me. I even tried to bargain with the Him, promising all the things I would do, if He would only heal me. I felt I couldn’t be happy and be a worthwhile person unless I had the health to enable me to do things for others.

I read the scriptures and prayed alot. As I read scriptures, I came to see the Lord’s love for His people and His patience with their weaknesses. In story after story I saw the Lord guiding his people’s progress by allowing them to have difficult experiences. As I prayed about this, I began to understand that Heavenly Father’s love was always there– I was just shutting it out.

I started to look at my experiences from another point of view. I related my feelings as a mother to helping me  understand Heavenly Father’s love. Often I had to tell my children that they couldn’t do something or have something and they would reply, “You don’t love me!” The Spirit helped me to see that this is what I had been doing. I had felt that God loved me only if he gave me what I wanted–NOW! Like a young child, I had been demanding, sulking, and feeling unloved when I didn’t get what I wanted.

Family Evenings Together

We’re not sure how it happened. We tried formal family home evenings. Some went well, and some didn’t. At the same time we were reading scriptures and stories to our children most nights. They loved it and kept asking if it was “reading time” yet. We were amazed! Gradually, what had begun as family scripture reading, evolved into something much more. We were spending more and more time discussing what the scriptures meant and how to apply them in our lives. We talked about Joseph of Egypt’s  integrity, and forgiveness; Daniel’s keeping the Word of Wisdom; Esther’s courage; Nephi’s faith; Alma the Younger’s repentance and humility; and of course, the example of love and perfection of the Savior. Abraham and Job made us ponder the purpose of trials in life. The Pearl of Great Price provided deeper perspectives into the Plan of Salvation.  The Doctrine and Covenants showed us the way to the Celestial Kingdom. As we studied the lives of people in both ancient and modern times, we came to better understand the commandments; the joy of keeping them and the  consequences of disobedience.  Our love for the scriptures and for each other grew as we shared our experiences, insights, questions, and testimonies in a safe, informal, environment.   Finally, we realized that we were having family home evenings not just once a week but five to seven times each week! We were simply using the scriptures as our manual.

Help to Get out of Debt

In January of 1999, we came a sobering realization- without overtime money we could not pay our bills!  We rechecked the figures many times, but there was no denying the seriousness of our situation.  We were thousands of dollars in debt, without any savings, or enough regular income to cover our monthly expenses.
We started asking ourselves questions.  Mainly, how did we get into this predicament?  That was easy- we’d been raising several children and there had been many medical bills which even our good health insurance hadn’t covered.  Yes, there had been considerable expenses, but this really didn’t justify our debt.  We took a closer look at our spending habits.  Soon, it became apparent how we became so far in debt.  It really was easy.  We had been basing our financial decisions on emotion.  Our criteria was simply whether one of us “deserved” something, or with our income we “should” be able to afford it, or it was a “sale too good to pass up”.  “Get it if you really need it, but don’t buy it if you don’t really need it”, was our nebulous creed for managing finances.  We each bought what we thought we needed.  We spent money when we had it and charged when we didn’t.  We were amazed that we weren’t even deeper in debt!

Serving Children

When I started volunteering at our local elementary school, I was just trying to give myself something meaningful to do as my last child set off on his own, but soon my service became more than just an attempt to fill an empty nest. As the year progressed, my health quickly deteriorated. Spending the day with a class of energetic eight-year-olds certainly helped divert my attention from a nearly overwhelming sense of anxiety and from the exhaustion I felt due to not being able to sleep well. I also had to deal with considerable pain, and the knowledge that the doctors were not only unable to discover what was the matter, but could not give me any help or hope. Under these stressful circumstances, I found the warm, supportive atmosphere in the classroom very comforting.

Though I received a lot of emotional strength from being at the school, I came home completely exhausted. My husband understood how important this service was to me. He knew that I had an elementary teaching credential, but had given up a career in teaching to raise our four children. He also knew that I had dreamed of having a class of my own when our children were raised, and that this volunteering might be as close as I would ever come to realizing that dream. Because he understood, he said, “A teacher has to teach”, and he cheerfully got our dinner and helped keep up the house.

My Remarkable Life

“No matter our age, circumstances, or abilities, each one of us can create something remarkable of his life,” Elder Wirthlin declared during April 2006 General Conference. Even me? Mentally I began to list my considerable health problems and all the limits they imposed, then I stopped — Even Me!
Slowly, I began to realize that I was allowing my health restrictions to imprison my soul. Where was my joy in living?

As I prayed for help in living a more meaningful life, I felt strongly that I needed to simplify my life by removing all unnecessary things and activities. This certainly didn’t seem to me to be the way to an abundant life!

I asked the Lord for faith, then, resignedly, began to eliminate non-essentials. Despairing, I could only see a bleak, barren existence stretching out before me. Maybe I needed to learn patience and endurance. It seemed so obvious to me that having better health and being able to do more would bring me happiness.

New Options

I felt like my life was withering. Because of health problems, I was going to be restricted to my home for an indefinite period of time. I felt depressed and wondered how I could manage, then a strong impression came to me that it was time for me to learn how to use the internet. So far I had simply avoided using the web, leaving all interactions with it to my husband, and, not being a very technical person, I had no idea even how to use it. Besides, I had heard that there were all sorts of evilness lurking on the net which, frankly, scared me.

Now, feeling I should learn to use the internet, I determinedly sat before my computer. My husband reassured me that all I had to do was turn off the computer if there was anything objectionable, and he had even bookmarked several sites for me, such as the Church site and some family history sites. I found that with just a few minutes of instruction, I easily learned how to find information on the internet.  Since I double check internet addresses before I click on them and stay with authorized and reputable sites, I’ve never encountered anything offensive. It only took a few days, and I was excited. Instead of being restricted, my life was opening up with more options than I had had in years!

A Warning that Saved My Life

An experience of my husband, Garrett Merrick

When we were first married, I worked as a postal clerk in Salt Lake City, Utah. I attended BYU during the day, then worked the evening shift in Salt Lake making the 45 mile drive home to Provo around midnight.

One winter night  I was busily sorting packages when there came to my mind a vivid picture of a portion of the road that I would be traveling on the way home, along with a strong feeling of danger. I continued to work for several more hours, then began my long drive home. In the light of my headlights I could see that the road was icy. As I crested a long hill and started down the other side, I saw that a car had slid off the road. It  was at the bottom of the deep depression between the two sides of the divided highway. Concerned that they might need assistance, I pulled off onto the right shoulder. As I opened the car door and stepped out onto the icy road, I suddenly realized that this was the exact place I had seen earlier in my mind at work. Normally, I would have quickly crossed the several lanes of traffic to the car stranded in the middle divide area, but as I remembered the strong sense of danger I had felt about this section of the road, I didn’t cross  immediately. Instead, I paused and evaluated the traffic carefully. I noticed that there was a large truck approaching, but it was far distant. There would be plenty of time for me to reach the car in the middle divide area before it arrived, but still I hesitated.  I decided to wait until not only the truck passed, but there was no other traffic approaching before I began to cross the highway. Partway across I noticed that the road was far slicker than I had expected, and I would surely have fallen if I had hurried across as I had originally planned. After checking with the people in the car and being assured that help was on the way, I again carefully crossed the lanes of highway to my car. Sobered, I sat there for a moment realizing that if I had quickly crossed in front of the truck as I had intended, I would almost certainly have fallen and would not have been able to get up before the truck arrived. As I remember this experience, I am ever grateful for a warning that saved my life.

Our Scripture Study

My husband and I felt something was missing in our scripture study. When our children were at home, my husband read from the scriptures after dinner while we cleaned up the kitchen. The children welcomed the company and enjoyed having something to listen to while they did the dishes. We stopped frequently to explain what words meant and to summarize or rephrase sections. My husband might even insert a child’s name in the scripture. Amid protests of, “Dad, it doesn’t say that!”, he’d finally admit, “maybe it didn’t, but it could have.”  Sometimes, we shared an experience from our lives which related to the scripture, and often, they shared experiences with us, usually from school. As parents, we had the clear goal of trying to help our children relate the scriptures to their lives.

Now that our children are grown and have homes of their own, my husband and I continue to study the scriptures. We follow the Church’s course of scripture study for the year and attend our Sunday School classes where we appreciate the teacher’s insights. We read the small course guide which contains the reading assignments. We also read the footnotes in the LDS edition of the scriptures, from the Bible dictionary, and articles which coordinate with our scripture study from the Ensign, occasionally sharing some thoughts from our study with each other. Though we learned a lot, we still felt that something was missing.

Christ Centered Christmas

When we were first married, my husband and I discussed how much we wanted Christ to be the center of our Christmas. Over the years we read the story of the nativity on Christmas Eve from the scriptures, and performed our own nativity pageant on Christmas day. We also played beautiful carols, displayed pictures of the Savior’s birth, and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, complete with a birthday cake.

One of the most important things we did, though, was to change the emphases from gift getting to gift giving. We knew that we remember Christ most when we act like him – when we give and love. Most adults enjoy Christmas because they spend themselves giving to others. We didn’t want our children to miss out on this experience, so instead of encouraging greed in our children by asking “What do you want to Christmas?”, we asked, “What are you going to give for Christmas?”

We explained that Santa was anyone who wanted to give a gift to others, but didn’t want them to know who gave the gift. We had fun as a family as our little Santa, complete with a red hat and cotton ball beard, would drop off goodies at a friend’s home then run, sometimes in circles!

The weeks before Christmas went quickly. It was a busy time filled with secret plans and present making. My husband and I kept our decorations, food, and present buying simple (just one present each), so we could enjoy helping our children make their presents. Even the baby gave her hand print on a piece of paper.

No presents were put under our tree until just before bed on Christmas Eve, then Santa and his elf (our younger children) would bring in the unlabeled presents and place them under the tree.
On Christmas morning we take turns giving presents. The youngest child begins, then on to the oldest person in the family. Presents were opened one at a time, admired by all, and thanks given.
Keeping our Christmas preparations simple and giving small presents helps us remember our Savior at Christmastime and brings His Spirit into our home.

part of this was published in

Simplifying Service

The question I had to ask myself was what did “magnifying my calling” really mean. To me it requires a willing heart and a total commitment to do what the Lord would have me do. When I feel tempted to follow precedent and do what other people expect, such as making fancy handouts, gifts, or writing out a soliloquy to present for a lesson, I pray. Praying helps me to focus on the goals the Lord wants, instead of focusing on pleasing people and gaining the applause of men (and women).
I have found that keeping my focus on eternal goals helps me be far more effective. I ask the Lord’s help to know what He wants me to do. What change am I to help bring about in others lives? What do these people really need to help them progress toward exaltation? On what should I concentrate my time and energies?

Now, instead of waiting till I have the proper gift, I simply extend my love by  visiting, calling, or sending a postcard to a person I visit teach. Instead of spending endless hours writing out a prepared script, I simply make notes on the concepts and references that should be presented in a lesson. (With younger children, I also make notes of learning activities that can be used to reinforce each concept.) This simple approach not only keeps the attention on the important principles, but allows for class involvement in the lesson, and thereby helps them apply these principles in their lives.

Besides being less tired and pressured  I find that when I eliminate all the “non- essentials”, I am more flexible and far more responsive to the promptings of the Spirit. Keeping my focus on the Lord’s goals, instead of people’s expectations helps me to both magnify and simplify my Church service.

Including non-member parents in our Temple Wedding

On the long ride from BYU to my home in California, I kept wondering how my family would respond to the news that I was getting married. My fiance had asked me to marry him just a few hours before, and now I was on my way home to spend a couple of weeks before starting my last summer class, so I could graduate in August.

Though I was excited, I had a growing sense of uneasiness about how my family would react to my marriage, and especially to my being married in the temple. Four years before when I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they hadn’t approved, and things hadn’t changed.

When I arrived home, I lasted a whole ten minutes before I blurted out my news. My step-father seemed happy, but not my mother. During the next few days, she kept trying to discourage me from getting married: Did he really love me? I hadn’t known him long enough. They needed to meet him before they gave approval. I should wait longer, perhaps a few years. Right now wasn’t a good time for the family to have a wedding. I wasn’t being considerate of them. Besides, I was wasting my education. Other family members took me aside and counseled me to at least put off having children for several years and “enjoy life first”.

Since I hadn’t realized that my marriage would be such an emotional issue, I prayed for help in dealing positively with my family. I tried to understand their feelings. I was the first to marry in the family, and the only daughter. Not being able to attend my wedding certainly was not the wedding of their dreams.

Tithing Helps Us Get Out of Debt

We had only been married a few years when we sold our trailer and bought our first home. Though we were thrilled to have a real home, there were many unexpected expenses, and we quickly became overwhelmed by our debt. Consequently, my husband began juggling paying bills. Tithing was viewed as just another bill and often paid a month or two late when we felt we could afford it. Soon, to our dismay, we discovered that all we were paying each month was the interest on our debt. We tried everything we could think of to get out of debt, but nothing changed. Finally, we decided to trust the Lord’s promises and pay our tithing first. Though we never fully understood how it happened, several months later we found ourselves out of debt. We were now a humble and grateful young couple who had learned that we would receive help beyond our abilities if we would just keep the Lord’s commandments.

I wrote more about our experience in getting out of debt in this article

Tithing Protected Us

We had heard that if you paid your tithing the windows of heaven would be opened and the devourer would not destroy your fruit, but we never understood what that meant until then. It was 1982 and we were on our way to my parents’ home to spend Christmas with them when a blizzard blew in. After fighting icy roads for a few miles, we decided to turn back. Disappointed, but grateful to be safely home, we called and told my parents that we were unable to come, then checked on the Cambodian family who were staying with us in our basement. We had agreed to sponsor this family of seven, with the help of our stake, so that they would not be shot in the refugee camp purges which were occurring at that time. They seemed fine, but showed us how some lights were not working. My husband checked the circuit, only to discover that some old wiring had come loose and electricity was arcing in our attic. In a short time, there would have been a fire. Stunned, we sat there as the realization came to us that not only could our home and all our possessions have been destroyed if we hadn’t returned home at that moment, but this family of seven might have been killed.  We felt a strong sense that it had been our payment of tithing which had protected us and this family, and we will always be grateful that the Lord kept “the devourer” away.

Blessed by Paying Tithing

In 1972  I was a young coed at BYU; far from home, and very lonely. My grandparents’ home was only four hours away by bus, and I longed to be with someone I knew, someplace like home. There was only one problem- it cost ten dollars for the ticket. I had ten dollars, but it was my tithing money. Since I joined the Church two years before, I had conscientiously paid my tithing. Maybe, I could wait a couple of weeks to pay my tithing and visit my Grandparents now. After all, I reasoned, it was good to nurture family relationships, and I was even going to get some family history information from my grandmother. Perhaps, this visit could even count as missionary work since my grandparents weren’t members of the Church. My justified dreams faded  away in the bright knowledge that there was no excuse for not paying my tithing. This money was the Lord’s, not mine.

Though not joyful, I determinedly paid my tithing and resigned myself to staying in Provo. I knew I had made the right choice and I felt at peace.

A couple of days later, I was crossing campus. It was a beautiful, warm fall day. As I was walking in front of the library, I saw a young man in the distance who I recognized. He was a member of my ward and I had heard that he was the son of one of my grandparents’ neighbors, but he never had even noticed that I existed. Now, he kept coming toward me and looking straight at me. A few feet from me, he stopped; smiled, and informed me that he was giving a few girls a ride when he was  going home that weekend. He asked if I wanted to come and told me I didn’t have to pay anything for the gas since he was going anyway. “Yes!” was my surprised and thrilled answer.

Though this young man never again spoke to me and no one has ever offered me a another free ride, I’ll always be grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who comforted a homesick young woman, but most of all, for His giving me the opportunity to gain a testimony of tithing. I now knew that I would be watched over if I paid my tithing first and faithfully.

Paid in Full

written about 15 years ago

Many years ago when I appeared for jury duty in our small town, I never expected to learn a lesson on the Atonement. It was just a small traffic court and our case was a woman who had received a ticket for speeding. Though the woman claimed she had stayed within the limit, she also expressed her opinion that the speed limits in town were too low. The policeman reported that he had clocked her going ten miles an hour over the speed limit, and that he had just had his radar gun calibrated the week before.

After listening to the evidence, the six of us on the jury were escorted to another room where we were to make a decision. We sat around a table, then, looking each other in the eye, five of us declared, “Guilty”, but one older woman didn’t agree. We told the police chief who was standing guard at the door. He touched the gun on his belt and informed us that we would not leave that room until we came to a unanimous decision, no matter how long it took. Sobered, we all returned to the table. We asked the older woman why she didn’t think this woman was guilty. She replied that she thought it would be mean to have the woman pay a fine. I felt a rising sense of panic. How long would I be here?  I had a school program to attend that evening for one of my children, and it was now late afternoon. I looked at the police chief again and knew that he really would keep us in that room until we agreed.

Cycle Breaker

Written about 15 years ago.

We left the Oakland Temple, two converts filled with optimism and determination to make a celestial family. A few years later, I was in tears. Where was the loving, unified couple we had hoped to be?  Our two fussy children hardly made us a happy family. What were we doing wrong?

As I saw us repeating old family traditions, I felt trapped. Neither of us had any idea  how to do better. It was then that we began to realize that we couldn’t change by ourselves. No matter how hard we tried, we would simply go in circles and never be free from the mistakes of the past.

We began to see that the power to change came through the atonement. This thought brought us comfort and hope, but we still didn’t know what to do. I know I prayed for my husband and children to change, everyone but myself, and suspect that my husband had similar prayers. I asked for help and nothing happened. I was discouraged.

Our Christmas with Cambodian Refugees

Many years ago (1981) we shared a most unusual Christmas with a family of Cambodian refugees. It began when a woman in our stake, who had just returned from serving in a refugee camp in Laos, explained that the camps were too crowded and the government was going to begin shooting the Cambodian refugees. She plied with stake members (our small town) to sponsor some of the families so their lives could be saved. Though we had no idea how we were going to manage it, we volunteered. We, and two other families, simply felt prompted that it was what we should do and had faith that the Lord would help us to be able to do it.

Fall passed as we nervously expected the Cambodian family to arrive. Finally, shortly before Christmas, word came that they would be flying into Salt Lake in three days. That is when we began to realize that we were not alone. Our stake president loaned us his large van so we would have room to transport the family of seven. He also gave us permission to use the showers at the stake center so lice wouldn’t be brought into our home. Clean clothes were provided from the small “store” of donated clothes that was set up in a members basement. Beds, blankets, and dishes were given to this family. On Christmas Eve each person was given a gift of a new coat. A doctor, dentist, and eye doctor all donated their services to give the family needed health care. Suggestions were given on possible jobs for the parents, and when they were unable to find an apartment they could afford, a generous man in our stake financed the purchase of a trailer for them to live in.

My Testimony of Marriage Principles

I wrote this ten years ago to answer a friend's question.

I had just read this article in our church magazine and remembered the question you once asked me about how to have lasting relationships. This couple is one of the happiest, most charming couples I have ever met. He is the Lord’s prophet and the leader of our church. They are in their nineties now and President Gordon B. Hinkley recently said:

     "I am so grateful for her. For 66 years we have walked together, hand in hand, with love and encouragement, with appreciation and respect. It cannot be very long before one of us will step through the veil (of death). I hope the other will follow soon. I just would not know how to get along without her, even on the other side, "(life after death).

Talk about a love story!

My husband and I both came from unhappy homes where our parents were divorced. We each joined the Church in our teens and have tried to follow true principles instead of our parents examples. It has been very difficult for us, but we have learned so much, now we have a fulfilling relationship, and the joy of seeing two of our children happily married.

Perspective of Womanhood

I wrote this many years ago as a professional woman who chose to be home and nurture my family.

Lord’s Perspective

defender of home
has mission to help family return to Heavenly Father
united with husband
eternal perspective of the significance of her work
responsibility to raise children shared with husband
she has stewardship over home- delegate work
husband is responsible to provide for the family
told she is capable- continually learning
encouraged to magnify gifts and talents
builder of society, home and community
views her life as fulfilling
told she is a leader, and nurturer
Is busily engaged in life
Is free to set own goals, schedule
told her family need her nurturing, leadership, emotional support
therefore she stays in the home and fulfill her mission and achieve eternal goals

Changing Our Marriage by Changing Me

I wrote this over ten years ago. Our marriage keeps getting better and better each year.

In the early years of our marriage I believed my husband loved me, but I sure didn’t feel very loved–  now I do. What has changed? Is he really very different–  am I? Sure we have shared a lot, but have we really changed all that much? What is different now?

A friend mentioned that she thought I have learned to relate better with my husband. I think she is right. I can remember an instance several years ago. I had packed up some Christmas decorations and placed them in the doorway informing my husband that they were ready to go up to the attic. For the next twenty minutes I watched in mounting frustration as my husband walked around the boxes. Finally I blurted out, “Why aren’t you taking the boxes to the attic!?”

He calmly replied, “You haven’t asked me.”

I thought I had. I thought I had been very clear.

Spiritual Rattlesnakes

I wrote this in 2001 for a Church newspaper. Media is far worse now.

“Pornography, though billed by Satan as entertainment, is a deeply poisonous, deceptive snake that lies coiled up in magazines, the Internet, and the television.” warned Elder David E. Sorensen of the Presidency of the Seventy during last April’s General Conference. He further explained that it is more deadly to the spirit than a live rattlesnake since “pornography destroys self-esteem and weakens self-discipline.” Elder Sorensen urges us all to set up “fortifications” in the form of personal ground rules to protect our families.

We interviewed several families and found that they considered their major “fortification” against the evils in the world to be the Gospel. They felt that it was essential to begin teaching good values to your children at a very young age. Some use Family Home Evening as an opportunity to set family media rules, discuss things their child has seen and heard, and role play how to handle difficult situations their child may encounter such an inappropriate video at a friend’s home.

Solving Problems the Lord's Way

I wrote this over ten years ago for our local Church newsletter.

“God won’t let me be ill.  He loves me and has the power to heal, so I’ll be well soon.”  As the days turned into months, I added a bargaining approach to my pleas, “If the Lord will restore my health, then I will be such a diligent servant.”  Slowly, my hope of making a deal which the Lord couldn’t resist, faded.  My convert naivety gave way to a more mature realization that Heavenly Father, instead of merely catering to my wishes for ease, loves me enough to give me what is best for me.
I began to wonder what I was to learn from this experience.  I optimistically hoped to learn the lesson quickly, then move onto something more fun.  When the months became years, I finally began to accept that the Lord knew what experiences I needed to encourage me to grow.  As this sense of purpose in life developed, I no longer felt frustrated.  At last, I could look at problems as opportunities, even as exciting challenges, like solving a tough puzzle.

Blessings of Chronic Illness

I wrote this about ten years ago and still feel very blessed and know I have learned a lot from my chronic poor health.

In my late teens, I began to take sudden short “naps”. By my early twenties the fatigue had become more severe and was joined by migraines, muscle cramping, general pain, nausea, dizziness, blurry vision, abdominal pain, confusion and depression. I wondered if the Lord really cared about me. We began to seek help from doctors, only to have the specialists declare that I was fine, advising me to go home and “relax”. At this point, I began to strongly feel the presence of the Lord in my life. I felt a peaceful assurance that something really was physically the matter with me, but it would not prevent me from doing what I needed to do in this life.

Looking back, I can see how the Lord used my illness to help build my faith in His love. As my illness continued, I came to know that the Lord cares about me personally. He will allow me to have the experiences I need to grow. Through my restrictions, I learned to base my self-esteem on being a daughter of God, instead of on how well I pleased others. Besides this spiritual help, I felt the Lord’s direct guidance in  dealing with my illness. I especially needed His help when the doctors were baffled. I found it a great comfort to know that there is someone who completely understands my problems and can help me.

How The Church is Organized

I wrote this a few years ago to answer a friend's question.

Here is a quick overview of how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized.

We believe that the same gospel and church organization which the Lord established in his mortal ministry has been restored again to the earth. This is why the name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (to distinguish us from the former or early saints, though many people simply call us “Mormons”).

We believe that the Lord guides his people today just as he always has, through a prophet and twelve apostles. These men have a few assistants to help them provide leadership to a large area of the world. Since these men devote their entire time to furthering the work of the Lord, they are paid a modest maintenance salary. These are the only paid clergy in the church.

About Missionaries

I wrote this letter about twenty years ago to explain about our son serving as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Our son is legally an ordained minister.  A friend of mine has a son leaving soon for Spain and the government is requiring a copy of his Seminary graduation (this is a four year course of scripture study which many students take before high school or give up an elective course to take) and a copy of his Priesthood ordination certificate before he will be allowed a visa.  Our son has been ordained an Elder in the priesthood and as such has the power and authority to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He can conduct meetings, baptize, administer the sacrament, and bless the sick.  He may even be called on to administer the affairs of a small branch of the Church.  So our son really is an official, functioning minister.  When he returns, he will continue with the same priesthood responsibilities only not on a full time basis.  To maintain his legal status as a minister and to enable him to be an example to those he serve and earn their respect, He is required to live certain standards.  If he violates these rules of conduct, he is returned home.  All faiths expect exemplary behavior from their ministers and missionaries.

Faith - Choosing to Believe

Written June 2014 to answer a friend's question.

I agree with you that you have to choose to believe. Some people no matter what experiences they have; no matter what they see, hear, or feel simply refuse to believe. I see the Lord's creations around me and I choose to believe in their creator. I have tried God's commandments and found them good and know they they have enriched my life and brought me and my family great happiness. I choose to believe in the giver of these guides to happiness. I have had many, many personal experiences where the Lord has helped and guided me. I trust my own experiences and choose to believe in a God who loves me. My brother once said to me that if there really was a God, then He should show Himself to him and he would believe.
Here is something to think about from the Book of Mormon - Alma 32:17 to 19
17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

 18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.

 19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

Faith and Signs

Written in 2012 to answer a friend's question.

Yes, I think people long to know why they are here, what is the purpose of life, and where they will go afterward. We all want our relationships to continue and want to be with our loved ones forever.

I believe there is a God and that He loves us more than we are capable of understanding. I know he loves me for I have felt His presence supporting me in my most desperate moments.

I believe that He truly is our Heavenly Father, the father of our spirits, and as our father, He wants us to grow and be happy. Our purpose for being here on earth is to learn to choose good over evil -- to learn and become more like our Heavenly Father. With His help we can progress and return and live with Him someday where we can enjoy eternal family relationships.

I believe that all good people who desire to know truth will be given it, and certainly the great religious leaders were given true principles. The rules on how to worship God were often made up by man in their effort to bring man to God. Though well intended, I prefer to listen to my Heavenly Father. I believe that God still gives revelations to man just like He did to Moses and the other prophets. God is who we should follow. Man's religions attempt to interpret God's will. I think He can speak for Himself. I believe He reveals His will  to His prophet who is on the earth today, and I know He answers my prayers. I have received so much help in my life especially with my health problems. Without His help, I doubt that I'd still be here.

You spoke about the importance of faith. I agree that it is essential to happiness. It is something we all use everyday. Without it life would have no meaning. I've heard faith defined as "the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1 Bible), and "If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true" (Alma 32:21 Book of Mormon).

Without faith that she could become a pharmacist would your granddaughter be going to college? Would any of us set goals? Would we even turn on a light switch? Would we get married and have children? (that sure takes faith!) Faith is more than belief. It is knowing deep down that something is true and being so sure of it that you are moved to take action. It is a principle of power.

Is faith something you can get from merely looking at something or touching something? No! If that was all it took then the ancient Israelites should have had great faith. They had personally experienced the signs in Egypt. They had even walked through the Red Sea on dry ground, but shortly afterward many turned from the God who had saved them, and wanted a golden calf made to worship instead.

Miracles strengthen the faith of those who have it, but displays of power by God do not create faith and character in those who do not have it. They will not even see the miracles. They will always want more and more spectacular events shown to them. They will even say that the miracle is mere coincidence, or that the person was just "lucky" (my mom says this of my granddaughter's surviving being run over twice, but I give thanks for the miracle). There will never be enough "proof" for a person who doesn't have faith.

Here are some scriptures I really like on signs and faith.

17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us asign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.
 18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to abelieve, for he knoweth it.
 19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression? (Alma 32:17-19 Book of Mormon)

Korihor was a person who was deceiving the people and Alma is the prophet
39 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.
 40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
 41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them?
43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
 44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30: 39, 40, 41, 43, 44 Book of Mormon)

Does this mean that we never can have any proof?  No.  It just means that the assurance will only come from effort on our part.  Many people give up responsibility for developing their own faith saying (like my brother did shortly after I was baptized), "If there is a God, then He should show Himself to me and then I would believe." Since God didn't do this, my brother felt justified in not making any effort to learn about God or religion.
I have found that faith, like anything else worthwhile, takes considerable daily effort. Yes, we must start with faith to "experiment with the word" (Alma again). As I live the commandments, study the scriptures, pray, serve others, and listen and follow the inspiration I have received, my faith has grown.  Through my own experiences I have come to know some principles are true; such as forgiving others brings peace. When I know that principle is true, then I have more than faith, I have a knowledge that it is true. I then use my faith to try out another principle so that, through my own personal experiences, I can know that it is true. This is how we progress here on earth.
I was thinking yesterday that we are going to have our 40th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. I may look a little on the worn side, but I am a whole lot  smarter than I was at 22! Faith does work!

Grace and Works

I wrote this to answer a friend's question in 2011.

I have been thinking about when members of the Church talk about grace and works, and I agree that it can be confusing. On one hand they stress the necessity of ordinances and good works, but when you ask whether they believe they can be saved on their own merits, they are shocked.

I think what is happening here is a lack of common background. Most Christians have centuries of shared struggle as great, good men have wrestled with interpreting the scriptures. There have been many councils and reformations. Though the resulting sects do not agree on all things, there is a shared awareness of difficult issues and defining terms.

Grandma and Grandpa's Testimony

I wrote this several years ago for our grandchildren.

I believe that there is a God and that He truly is our Heavenly Father, the father of our spirits, and as our father, He wants us to grow and be happy. Our purpose for being here on earth is to learn to choose good over evil -- to learn and become more like our Heavenly Father. With His help we can progress and return and live with Him someday where we can enjoy eternal family relationships.

I know there is a God because I have experienced His help in my life. I feel that He loves us more than we are capable of understanding. I know he loves me for I have felt His presence supporting me in my most desperate moments.

 I know there is a God because He answers my prayers. I have received so much help in my life as I have been married and raised our four children. The Lord has helped me to endure the many years I have had to spend ill and restricted to my home. He gave me the strength to endure the pain and frustrations. I believe He helped to us finally find out what was the problem and am grateful for the inspiration He has given me to help me know what to do to deal with a very rare and serious health problem. Without His help, I doubt that I'd still be here.

I have seen His guidance and help in my life. Jobs have worked out at the right time for our family. We found the right home for us. Opportunities have suddenly appeared, and we have been warned of dangers such as there being an icy spot on the road we had to travel. Everyday I see and experience God's love for me.

I Know There Is a God

I believe that there is a God and that He truly is our Heavenly Father, the father of our spirits, and as our father, He wants us to grow and be happy. Our purpose for being here on earth is to learn to choose good over evil -- to learn and become more like our Heavenly Father. With His help we can progress and return and live with Him someday where we can enjoy eternal family relationships.

I know there is a God because I have experienced His help in my life. I feel that He loves us more than we are capable of understanding. I know he loves me for I have felt His presence supporting me in my most desperate moments.

 I know there is a God because He answers my prayers. I have received so much help in my life as I have been married and raised our four children. The Lord has helped me to endure the many years I have had to spend ill and restricted to my home. He gave me the strength to endure the pain and frustrations. I believe He helped to us finally find out what was the problem and am grateful for the inspiration He has given me to help me know what to do to deal with a very rare and serious health problem. Without His help, I doubt that I'd still be here.

I have seen His guidance and help in my life. Jobs have worked out at the right time for our family. We found the right home for us. Opportunities have suddenly appeared, and we have been warned of dangers such as there being an icy spot on the road we had to travel. Everyday I see and experience God's love for me.

Monitoring Media

(TV, Videos, Magazines, Music) -- I wrote this in 1992 when we had children at home. There is far more need to monitor media now than there was then. There are more ways you can use technology to help you be in control of what you and your family see and hear.

1. Whatever we experience becomes a part of us- we must use our agency to choose the good and avoid the evil and harmful

2. Each choice we make affects other choices- we must use our time wisely; when we watch TV all evening we may have just eliminated the time we could have helped children with homework, talked with teens, played games, studies scriptures together, read good books together and individually, served others and time to build our relationship as husband and wife- building relationships within a family takes a great deal of time - doing things together and talking

3. By not making conscious choices, we steadily loose the ability to choose- few people can turn on a TV "just to see what is on" and not stand there watching for at least a few minutes even something they don't want to see or that they wouldn't choose to turn the TV on for;  we expose ourselves to sights, songs, messages that we wouldn't purposely choose just because it is there before us


In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, men and women are full equal partners both in the home and in the church. Men are given Priesthood responsibilities to provide spiritual leadership, and women have the natural responsibilities of Motherhood to nurture, teach, and lead. As we work together in complementary roles we all benefit.

I have watched my sons grow as they have been given Priesthood responsibilities a little at a time. At 12 a worthy young man can be ordained a Deacon and pass the Sacrament, collect fast offerings, and help keep up the church building. At 14 a worthy young man may be ordained a Teacher. His duties include those of a deacon plus they serve as home teachers; visiting families in the ward (local church group) and helping them. They also prepare the bread and water for the sacrament. At 16 a worthy young man may be ordained a Priest. He then has the authority to do all that a Teacher does plus he may baptize, and administer the sacrament. At 19 our oldest son was ordained an Elder. He had had four years of seminary during high school and was an official ordained minister as he served a two year mission in Ohio.

Reading Scriptures As a Family

   As our youngest asks, "Can we have The Reading now?",  we realize that he really enjoys our family scripture reading. We also look forward to reading the scriptures with our children because it gives us a great opportunity to teach them the gospel and assist them in building their testimonies.  There are several things which help us to create this atmosphere for learning and closeness.
One thing we attempt to do is set a casual atmosphere where our children feel our love for them.  So we try to not push them beyond their attention span, expect them to hold perfectly still, automatically understand Old English, or grasp new concepts on their own.  As we relax, our children ask more questions and everyone feels more at ease in sharing personal experiences.  One question frequently asked by our youngest is, "What does that mean in other language?"  The "other" language is words he knows.  As our younger children draw, do a craft, or some other quiet activity, we use questions directed just  to them to bring them into the discussion.  We gradually increase their involvement as they mature.  We begin with simple plot questions of "and then what did Ammon do?" and ease into questions which help them discover basic principles in the stories - such as courage and honesty.    Another way we keep our reading time more relaxed and enjoyable is by following our scripture reading with reading from other good books. We are careful, though, to clearly distinguish the "real" scriptures from the "pretend" stories.  This gives us more time together as a family, replaces most TV watching, encourages a love of good literature, and gives the children an extra incentive to remind us to have "The Reading", so we are more consistent.

Truth and Faith

When I was in my early teens I began to question organized religions. I felt that each religion had some truth, but many of the things they said just didn't feel right to me. I studied many religions including Far Eastern. I learned how beliefs were voted on at the Council of Nicea and later how Protestants leaders tried to reform and return to beliefs they felt were true. Religions were formed as people interpreted scripture and mixed it with what they thought was right. Though I admire these good people, this was not what I was looking for. I didn't want to just pick some religion that seemed the best of the lot, I wanted real truth. I wanted revelation from God. I don't understand how some people can just say, "This is what my religion says is true so that is what I believe".  I live by true principles and I test them out so I know they are true.