Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

*Sigh*  New Year's Eve.
I was standing all alone in the kitchen, peering into the fridge in search of an afternoon snack, and mumbling under my breath, "Another year has come and gone and here I am standing in the exact same spot I was last year wearing my same stupid work clothes and eating another stupid snack!"  I slammed the fridge door, a little perturbed by the lack of fulfilling change in my life, and turned to my fish in the sink window.  "And what about you, Staccato. What have you done with your life this year?  Still sitting in your same stupid spot in the windowsill?!?  Well, congrats to you too."
(Yes, I do verbally abuse my beta fish.  I'm really working on it.  I know it's not healthy)
But then I tilted my head to the side the way a puzzled golden retriever would turn after hearing an unfamiliar whistle and examined my little Staccato fishy.  His year had changed...  He got a new fish bowl. 

I nodded my head to myself and looked around.  My life had adjusted too.  They may be the littlest of details, but they have changed none the less.  I started glancing through our family pictures from 2014 and cheered up.  What wonderful memories we made this year.  I turned my attitude around and quickly apologized to the fish.  Anyone experiencing similar feelings without dramatic changes in their lives over the last 365 days, I suggest sitting down and making a list of the little things that made your year special.  

Here's mine...

We took a trip to the coast.  A couple actually.  We had gone camping with friends and one time found an adorable Air B&B right by the water.  The ocean just does things to your soul.  I love sitting in the sand and soaking up the mystery.

Spent time with the Fam-Bam and friends.  We didn't get to do that much traveling this year but were blessed to have quite a few visitors come to The Dalles.  Lots of trips from my parents, Kenny came for a soccer game with Mitch, Mary came for a job interview, Mo&So, Matt&Keri, Scott&Melissa, Klint&Kim, Adam&Lisa, and Ben&Lydia.  Anyone I'm missing?  Wonderful memories.

A lot of exploring in the gorge.  Mitchell was on a new hike every week it seemed like and we fell more and more in love with the beautiful northwest.

My work got first place in the Cherry Festival Lip Sync Contest.  It was my first year winning and so much fun.

We celebrated the life of my dear, sweet grandma Hutchings.  She was an amazing woman and since she has been gone I have felt closer to her now than ever before.  I think she has been pretty busy this year as my guardian angel.  I've needed the help.

Congrats Mitchell!!!  He finished school and got his degree.  I am so proud of all of his hard work he put into his education and the wonderful man that he is.

Crockett family reunion.  All. of. us.  So many bright and wonderful personalities all rolled into one spot.  This was by far one of the best memories of the year for me.

Mitchell hiked across Oregon.  THIS IS HUGE!!!  I am so proud of my husband for following his dreams.  He trekked the Pacific Crest Trail starting from the California border and finishing in Washington.  I can never fully comprehend the pain and endurance, planning and preparation, or determination and courage it took to accomplish this task.  This man is my hero.

Attended my first college football game.  GO DUCKS.  It was a cold and rainy day, but I came prepared with my six layers of bottoms, six layers of tops, and four pairs of socks.

The hubby got a job.  Again, I am so proud of Mitchell this year and all he accomplished.  He had a big year.  I am so thankful for all his hard work he does for our family.

I have had so much fun writing this year.  It has been the most amazing outlet and has saved me.  I am ridiculously excited to go back to school and get a degree as soon as I can so my words can actually make sense when I write them out.

Thinking back to who I was a year ago, I have realized that I am so much different.  There have been so many experiences that have shaped me into me at this moment and I am so excited to see where I will be a year from now.  Happy New Year everybody!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

I love disclaimers.  Mitch always teases me because I am obsessed with using them...
            Disclaimer #1: I have shared part of this thought recently in a testimony meeting, so anyone in my ward who reads this may find it repetitive.
            Disclaimer #2: I’m not sure many people will be able to relate to this post, but I have had this feeling pressing on my mind that I need to share this, even if it is only meant to help one person out there somewhere. 
            A few months ago I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with my mom to Portland for a Time Out for Women conference.  There were many fantastic speakers and talented artists who performed that weekend and the spirit was felt so strong.  That evening one of the singers shared a touching experience about the struggles she used to have involving infertility.  Her heart reached out to all those in the audience who were facing the same trial. 
            I believe that sometimes we are given trials so that we can be there to comfort others who later go through similar struggles.  And I know this to be true with this individual sister because she was there for me when I needed her.
            The other night I was feeling down and heartbroken about not being able to have children.  I was pondering if I was missing something, if there was something God was trying to teach me that I still hadn’t figured out yet or if there was anything I could do to make it better, and I felt a strong impression that it was finally time.  Time for me to share exactly what I am going through and be there for somebody the way this lady was there for me.
            Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you are wrestling with this trial of infertility as well, I want you to know that I love you and I am here for you and I know exactly how you feel.  You are not alone.

            Yes, I know.  I too have scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed and seen four different ultrasound picture birth announcements in the same day.  I have congratulated my pregnant friends that got married after me with their first child… and second… and their third.  I have watched my friends who struggled with infertility along side me move on and have children of their own.
            I know how it feels to sit at church where every moan of a baby slowly scrapes at the inside of your heart.  To miss someone before you have even met them. 
            I have been there too at the grocery store or at work when the impatient parent who is having a hard, tired day verbally abuses their son or daughter and I am screaming on the inside thinking, “You have NO IDEA how lucky you are to have that precious child in your life!”  It has frustrated me too.
            I have felt the pain of the stinging hope that disappoints you every month when you receive that negative test.  Every time.  You always know it will say no, but you allow that vulnerable “maybe” to take over your emotions and shatter you.  Again and again and again and again.
            I’ve felt the emotional pain that is so overwhelming that you physically just want to throw up, desperately searching for any way to get rid of the heavy unhappiness that weighs down on the organs inside of you.  I too have soaked the blankets in tears as I pleaded in prayer beside the foot of my bed.

            I have always had wonderful support from my amazing husband, my friends, and my family.  Like this experience with the sister at the women's conference, I have always been grateful for the comfort of those who have gone through this trial in the past and have shared their similar stories, telling me how “someday your turn will come.”  I wanted to be one of those people.  I have tried to keep this inside of me so that in the future I could be that mom who is there for someone in a similar experience and share with them how someday their time will come. 
            But I feel like I need to share this now while I am still experiencing it.  Because I want whoever that someone is out there that might be going through this with me to know that there is still so much joy, even now, while we are here.  Life is so beautiful.  You can feel it when you look up at the dazzling stars or hear it through the twittering birds of springtime.  Even though we don’t want to admit it, we can catch a glimpse of relief when we get to sleep in or spontaneously leave on a weekend trip without a care.  Or the awesomeness of having guests over with kids and maybe they will destroy your living room in that 24 hours while they stayed, but as soon as they leave you can wipe up the mess and vacuum the spilled Cheeros and relax again in your fresh home.  We can enjoy what we have now.

            Find a passion that distracts you from the pain, close your eyes and enjoy the peace, smile, count your blessings out loud, write them down even, SERVE OTHERS.  There is no better way to be happy than by losing yourself in the service of others. 
            These have been the hardest years of my life.  But with that, I have never been closer to my Heavenly Father.

            Let me tell you the second part of my experience at that women’s conference…  When this sister was speaking and telling me the same thing I am telling you right now, I was crying like a baby.  Like, UGLY crying, where you let your hair drop in front of your face to keep the people next to you from seeing how gross you look.
            While I bawled and listened to this speaker, my mom was sitting beside me and when I looked over she was weeping too.  As far as I know, it was never hard for my parents to have children.  This moment meant so much to me.  Even though this wasn’t her trial, her tears were for me.  She was aching because of the pain I felt. 
            I can’t help but think we are given parents in this life to catch a glimpse of the love our Heavenly Father and Mother have for each one of us.
            I don’t believe God is up in heaven, sitting on his throne looking down on us and thinking, “Suck it up!  Everyone has been given adversity so just deal with it!”
            I think He aches for us too.  I think it brings Him sorrow when He has to watch us in pain. 

            I KNOW that our Savior knows our pains.  He knows EXACTLY what it feels like to be going through what you are going through.  If my words don’t help bring you comfort, at least let the Savoir into your heart and know that He can bring you peace.  He can give you strength when you are trembling and feel there is no more hope left.  He loves you, your Heavenly Father loves you, and my heart aches for you too.  I pray and wish you happiness, whoever you are out there.  If I could reach out and give you a giant bear hug I would.  I would love to be that shoulder for you to soak your tears into.  Know, please know, that you are not alone.

You are not alone.


For more #TestimonyTuesday videos click HERE.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Year's Resolution

We all know her.  The woman of flawlessness who on her worst day rushes out the door without putting on makeup and still presents herself as absolutely impeccable.  Because she looks amazing without makeup and she seems more beautiful in her cute sweats than you felt on your prom night.  I can go on and on about her gorgeous children or her unbreakable charm, her beautifully manicured fingernails and her unbelievably delicious smelling homemade cookies.  No seriously, I don't believe it.  Even the store-bought bakery ones don't smell that good.  What is her secret?!

They come in all shapes and sizes and they are different to each individual.  But no matter who we are, no one can deny the existence of the "Perfect Patricia."

In comparison, here's how good I am at things...

I remember my P.P. growing up.  She was the mom of one of my best friends.  Her hair was always fabulous and flipped out like she just had it shaped at a salon.  She was my seminary teacher and I remember trying to pay attention to the lesson, but kept finding my mind wondering to her cute shoes and where she must have purchased them.  She was an interior designer, so her home looked like it was featured in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, but even better than that.  It was too good for BH&G.  The guest bathroom was themed after Book of Mormon heroes with big green ferns and low lighting to make you feel like you were deep in the jungle with the exploring Nephites.
Oh yes, she was my role model.  When I grew up, I wanted to be Sister Perfect Patricia.

We've all heard this story countless times.  How we shouldn't get down on ourselves and compare lives.  And how we shouldn't stress over our worst qualities and liken them to our heroes' best ones.  It's unhealthy!  But it's also really easy to catch yourself doing.

Another time showing me being good at things... Like making collapsing gingerbread houses.

I remember sharing these feelings with my husband once.  I explained to him my Perfect Patricia and asked why I couldn't be just like her, why she made it look so easy to do and here I was feeling helpless.  And I LOVED the advice that Mitchell responded with.

He said, "Baby girl (because that's what he calls me), don't EVER desire to be somebody else.  That's coveting and that's breaking one of the big ten.  You can look at the qualities that you admire about a person and in a healthy way desire to improve those in yourself, but never want to be anyone except for you. If you want to dream of being a better person, dream of a perfect version of yourself to shoot toward."

Isn't he awesome.

Just be your best YOU.  No more comparing yourself to others!  I think that's why I have always loved non-team sports.  Like track.  When I run or jump, I don't have to think about the person competing beside me.  I could get last place in an event one day and be in the best mood because, guess what, I broke my own personal record!  I could take literal measurements and see a new improvement in myself and that was all that mattered.

For the last lesson of the year I am going to give the YW this handout at the beginning of class and have them constantly thinking and recording all of the ways they want to improve themselves.  At the conclusion, I'll hand out color pencils so they can fill in the boxes to label each goal.  Then they can underline and select a time when they want to begin working on them.

Download HERE

I started filling one out as an example to show how I color labeled each category.
Happy New Year everyone!!
Be your best you!!
Forget about the Perfect Patricias!

P.S. We still love you Perfect Patricias.  Thank you for always giving us hope that maybe someday we can all look like we have everything together.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Is It Important For Me To Gain An Education And Develop Skills? (Part 2)

Get this week's lesson here.
If you want to check out how I presented this lesson last year, you can find it here.

There are some great videos I found on the LDS site.  For some reason they didn't have any suggested with the lesson plan.  So if you're a video lover like me, here was one of my favorites...

I know I need to get better about less ME-TIME teaching and more GIRLS-TIME discussing.  Something that went surprisingly well this week was assigning each young woman a paragraph under Education in FOR THE STRENGTH OF YOUTH.  Then I gave them the opportunity to lead their own discussions about their paragraphs and they did awesome!  They applied it to their own lives and gave each other advice and it was just... awesome.

I decided this year that I wanted to make the girls an education "dream board" where they could hang anything that would motivate them to be enthusiastic about learning.  WARNING!  WARNING!  WARNING!  Chicken wire is EVIL.  Please wear work gloves when handling it so you don't look like you were playing patty-cake with Edward Scissorhands.  Found that one out the hard way.

I searched Pinterest for a bunch of great motivational pictures and LDS education quotes that the girls could choose between to add to their individual board.

Click here for Bucket List print out.

My inspiration behind making the dream boards came from here.  It gives you directions how to build it and everything!  So awesome!  I ended up buying long wood stakes from Home Depot for the frames that were about 30 cents each!  AMAZING!!!

YW in Excellence 2014

I love my calling.  These young women are absolutely amazing.  I feel so honored to be bumping shoulders with these spiritual giants.  For anyone who has a calling with the youth or the primary, I'm pretty sure we're all gonna die someday and when the veil is lifted and we remember where we all came from, we will feel so humbled knowing that we had the opportunity to mingle with such a valiant, chosen generation.

For YW in excellence this year we put together a quick slideshow to watch after the program was over.  Such a fun group of girls!

P.S. The LDS YOUTH website always has great free music available to download if you ever need slideshow song ideas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nephi's Lullaby

Don't you love those scripture days where your reading slams you in the face like an ultimate punch and pours into your heart like a bowl of warm tomato soup?  It is the BEST feeling in the world.

The other day I was reading in 2nd Nephi.  Chapter four is where Nephi is being extremely poetic and, I think, having some sort of emotional meltdown.  The kind we all have every now and then... where we are SO HARD on ourselves.

He talks about his soul lingering in the valley of sorrow.  "O wretched man that I am!"  You take a journey with him as he lists all these AMAZING blessings he has been given: God had led him through the wilderness, confounded his enemies, showed him visions, and filled him with love.  Even with all of this, Nephi still is imperfect and catches himself sinning.

Two things about this hit me...

First, I felt so sorry for Nephi and could relate.  That overwhelming feeling of guilt for our sins and imperfections is a very real thing.  And the words he used to describe his sorrow were so beautiful and straight from the heart.

Second, it kind of makes me feel better about myself.  If a prophet of the Lord still makes mistakes, then it's okay that I make them too.  Stop being so hard on yourself.  It is completely fine to not be flawless.  The Savior has given us the wonderful gift of the atonement so that we won't have to do this alone.

As I sensed the emotion in his words, I wanted his feelings to be translated into music.  The joy of his blessings, the sorrow of his imperfections, and the hope that, with the Lord's help, he could still endure.

So, I hopped on the piano and tried my best to translate what it meant to me.  Nephi would probably listen to it today and think, "Um, no Jess, you've totally misinterpreted what I was trying to say."  
Ha ha!  And that's okay.  This was still a big stepping stone for me.  The last time I wrote a song was in third grade with the title "Puppies in the Meadow" that I'm pretty sure could have been played with two fingers.  I'm grateful that Heavenly Father blesses me with tiny miracles like helping inspire me to try to write a new song.

PLEASE read the verses!!!  Feel his emotion.  Nephi is so amazing.

2 Nephi 4:16-35
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
 17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
 18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
 19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
 20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
 21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
 22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.
 23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
 24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
 25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.
 26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
 27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
 28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
 34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
 35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

I know some people (like my nephew and my husband) learn music better by watching fingers than by reading sheet music.  Do you know how hard it is to get through an entire song without messing up when a camera's recording you? ...Unsuccessful.

Click HERE to download the sheet music

“We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”
-- President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 111

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

I'd like to share today that powerful moment in MY LIFE when I knew for myself that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

In high school, I took RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD as one of my class electives.  For our final assignment we were challenged to give a presentation on one world religious leader of our pick.  Obviously... Obviously, my choice was Joseph Smith.  I'm pretty sure I was the only mormon in the class, so it was only appropriate to represent, right?

As the week went by, I was able to sit down and give the prophet my undivided attention.  I learned so much about this truly great man.  I began to know who he really was and recognize all of the service and sacrifices he had made for the church.

The end of the week had come and the due date for my school presentation was swiftly approaching.  I had my speech prepared and was adding the finishing touches to my visual aid poster board.  All that was left to do was find a picture or two of Joseph to add to my project.

I remember late in the evening, sitting alone in our quiet living room on the old, wooden rocking chair that a creaked with the shifting weight of each sway.  I was reading through a book of Liz Lemon Swindle's painted scenes for the life of Joseph Smith.  The pages flipped to this image of the day Joseph was martyred, holding his brother Hyrum who was shot before him.

Click HERE for more information about the art piece

Of this moment John Taylor said:

"Immediately, when the ball struck him, [Hyrum] fell flat on his back, crying as he fell, 'I am a dead man!'  He never moved afterwards.  I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum and leaning over him exclaimed, "Oh! My poor, dear brother Hyrum!"

My eyes swelled with tears as I saw in this portrait the love the prophet had for his brother.  And immediately the question pressed on my mind with great heartache...


Why did Joseph suffer so?  Why would he lose his brother, suffer the persecution constantly knocking at his door, be dragged out into the street to be tarred and feathered, risk the safety of his family, spend freezing winter nights in a gloomy jail, and die for his beliefs?  

It makes me think of Sam from Lord of the Rings...

"It's like in the great stories, Mr Frodo, the ones that really mattered.  Full of darkness and danger, they were.  Sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy?  But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass, a new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer.  Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going because they were holding onto something."

I realized that Joseph Smith was holding onto something.  Something so important that it was worth every sacrifice that he went through, even up to the last moments of his life.  He was holding onto the truth.

 "I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."

I am so grateful for all who have made grueling sacrifices so each of us can know the truth and have the gospel in our lives.  I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet.  He saw God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in a vision.  He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. And he restored the Church of Jesus Christ for everyone today as latter-day saints.  It makes me smile thinking about how awesome it is!  I am so, so grateful.

Monday, October 6, 2014

General Conference Weekend

Feeling so great and refreshed from general conference this weekend.  I don't think I can wait six more months to fill my G-CON tank again.  Why can't every week be like this?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

Today I would like to share my testimony of latter-day prophets.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are blessed to be led by a living prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson.  We are given the same gift as the people of old, a man called of God to guide this church and a direct mouthpiece of the Lord.  I sustain him with all of my heart, along with our counselors of the first presidency and quorum of the 12 apostles.

I am so excited for this upcoming weekend of general conference, a semiannual worldwide gathering in which Church members and others meet to receive inspiration and instruction from church leaders.  The conference is recorded so everyone can watch it live on television or online.

Life doesn't have to be a one-way glass mirror window where we are being silently observed, yet feel completely alone.  Our lives are sprinkled with little glimpses into what lies behind that sheet of glass separating us from our Father in Heaven.  We are given scriptures, prayer and personal revelation, priesthood blessings, and our loving prophet and apostles to lead and guide us.

General conference is a beautiful opportunity for each of us to ponder and pray and to receive inspiration from the speakers to guide us in our personal struggles.

" I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life. In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us." —Elder Robert D. Hales

I am so grateful to live HERE, NOW, in THIS time and age where we have a prophet to follow.  I'm thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who is there watching over us, and if we observe closely, he can touch our spirits through the gifts of revelation he has hidden in our lives.

I invite EVERYONE, church member or not, to take part in this fantastic event and listen to the prophet's voice this weekend during general conference.

To watch general conference online you can click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Do We Fast?

Get this week's lesson here.

I have never been so HUNGRY while preparing a lesson.  All week I found myself constantly snacking whenever I would sit down to work on this...

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
John 6:35

To help the girls answer common questions about fasting I put together some Q&A puzzles.  The questions can be on the board and each person takes turns reading and matching their answer puzzle pieces.

When I printed these out I used card stock paper (P.S. Card stock paper has been my BEST FRIEND ever since I became a YW advisor.  Love, love, LOVE card stock).  I did one puzzle per page so the questions are big enough to read on the board.  Then I printed out smaller puzzles with two per page for each young women to take home and use to teach their next family home evening lesson.

Also, the other week I saw one of the girls filling out her tithing slip and wanted to make sure she was filling it out right.  To give the girls a little practice with their tithing slips and understand what it will be like paying tithing and fast offerings when they have large families, I'm bringing cards from the game of LIFE.  Each girl can have a different income and roll a die to see "how many kids they'll have" and fill out their practice slips with the different scenarios.  

SIDE NOTE: Was I the only child who always wanted to have the SUPERSTAR career when I grew up?  
Someday, Jess... Someday.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

Sometimes I don't get it.  I look around at everything.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  And I don't understand how a person can take in the beauty of life around them without believing there is something else there and something greater than us.  Like holding a sleeping baby that nuzzles into the warm skin of your arms, or soaking in the sound of the wind slipping through the trees, or becoming lost in the glorious stars that umbrella the night sky.

My spirit gets frustrated.  And it wishes it had a giant spiritual frying pan it could whack other spirits on the head with.  Not literal here, people.  Spiritual.  I hope I don't sound like a violent person that wants to cause anyone physical pain.  I just want them to experience some major spiritual awareness.  Like, BAM!  Did you feel that one?!?  And then get a big, purple spiritual "goose egg" bulging out of their testimonies.

On Sunday we talked about dressing yourself in the spiritual armor of God: Having your loins girt about with truth, having the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, taking the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, and the helmet of salvation.  Notice how this is all armor of protection to defend your spirit?  Then it mentions one more thing... The sword of the Lord's spirit which will pour out upon you and His word.  This is our only weapon of offense.  It is what we are given to strike with.  It's more than just keeping yourself safe, it's about affecting those around you.  I feel like when we bear our testimonies and share with others the truth, it is our way of wearing the whole armor of God.  If there was anything I could say to help pierce the testimonies of those who dwindle in unbelief, I hope I am able to share something that could help them in even the tiniest way to consider believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So here it is, my sword (or frying pan):

I know God lives.  I can feel the presence of the Holy Ghost in everything sacred that surrounds me.  And I can feel Heavenly Father's love for me when I glance at my mirror's reflection and see a child of God.  I know Jesus Christ once walked this earth, that he suffered for my sins and died for me that I might live again.  He made the most selfless sacrifice so each one of us can return to our Heavenly Father.  I know this!  All of it!  Its truth soaks into my heart like syrup into a hot waffle.
No article on the internet or disproving science theory can shake this testimony cemented inside of my soul.  I have witnessed TOO MANY miracles and acts of God's love in my life to ever deny this.
I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and through the power of God he was able to restore the gospel and organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  When I read the Book of Mormon I can feel its truth testifying to me the words of Christ and that He lives.  I know we have a real, living prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson.  I love him so much!  I can't wait for general conference next month when I can listen to him speak to his saints as a mouthpiece of the Lord.
I am so terribly flawed and constantly falling, but I feel so blessed knowing we have a Father in Heaven who loves us enough to clear a pathway where we can return to His presence.  I am so excited for the day when I can see Him again and fall into his loving arms.  I just want to be with Him!  I know He and my Heavenly Mother are watching over me here on earth.  When I think of the love I feel towards my family I catch a glimpse of what it must be like to feel their heavenly love for each one of us.

Please know that I know.  I wanted to be bold and straight with my testimony this week and slice through like the blade of a sword.  

The gospel is so real and so beautiful and has changed my life.  Anyone interested in learning more or exploring the gospel can search here at

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

Today I would like to share my testimony of the unshakable truth that I know our families can be together forever.  

CHURCH HISTORY (in the words of someone who partially paid attention during early-morning seminary): When the prophet, Joseph Smith, restored the gospel to the earth, he and Oliver Cowdery were visited by the prophet Elijah in the Kirkland Temple who conferred upon them the priesthood keys so we could be sealed to our families for time and all eternity.

This wonderful event that took place April 3rd, 1836 fulfilled the Lord's promise in the book of Malachi in the Old Testament, saying He would send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord to turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers.

The first presidency and council of the twelve apostles state in THE FAMILY: A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD that "the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.  Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally."

Everything inside me knows without a doubt that this doctrine is true.  Our Heavenly Father has given us the sacred blessing of families and oh how grateful I am that He loves us enough that we can be sealed to them forever.  

I am grateful for temples.  In the House of the Lord we can perform sacred ordinances and covenants for our families.  What a wonderful, precious time in history we live in where we have the opportunity to have this knowledge and perform these blessings!  What a beautiful comfort it is to know that when our loved ones pass on we will see them again after our earthly life is over!

I was looking through old blog posts and came across this beautiful memory that I recorded years before and wanted to share...

FaMiLiEs aRe FoReVeR
Yesterday was a big, big day for my little brother.  He will be serving a full-time mission for the church in Londrina, Brazil for two years starting this fall.  Today he can officially check off "going through the temple for the first time" on his long list of things to do before leaving.

What an amazing, tear-jerking moment I was able to witness as my whole family stood in front of me inside the walls of the temple.  I wondered if my parents could have possibly imagined 29 years ago that one day they’d be standing in the celestial room with all three of their children at once. 

All three kids when we were little....
... All three kids now 
(don't worry, these are actual sizes.  
They somehow make 5'10'' look like Gimli).

Yesterday my testimony grew so much!  I wanted to be a missionary!  I wanted to shout from a mountain and tell the whole world, “THIS IS IT!  THIS IS WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT!”

FAMILY.  The temple gives you this precious gift that you never have to let go of.  You never have to truly say goodbye.  Everything is put in an eternal perspective when we realize we can be sealed to our families for time and for all eternity.  Death cannot separate us and we can always be together forever!

I love the temple!  My words can’t express how much it means to me!  My heart can’t contain the love I have pouring out of me because of what this gospel has given me!  Sorry if this is super intense, but I promised myself when I left the temple yesterday I would share exactly what I feel.  I don’t want to regret keeping something so important inside of me when there are so many people out there I could share it with.

I love my husband!  I can’t wait to have a family with him!  To be a unit and a team that can always depend on each other and always be there for one another… always.

Eternal families.  This is my testimony of them.  I love my family so much!

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