Thursday, September 7, 2017

Five Heavenly Nudges And One Huge Forest Fire

In Sheri Dew's recent book she talks about praying everyday for a spiritual experience.  It sounded like a great idea and I wanted to hop on the bandwagon.  Everything was going well and I was truly getting my daily dosages of Vitamin HG.  Then Saturday came along and I was suddenly spiritually ultimate punched in the face!  In a wonderful way!  


So many spiritual experiences poured into my life from one single event.  The only way I can think to describe it is that heaven was nudging me over and over again with different spiritual reminders.  

And the whole experience began with an illegal firework...

View from our back deck Saturday afternoon

We live in the northwest right in the heart of the gorge.  We returned home from an afternoon swimming to find smoke billowing up from our back hills.  Based on news reports the story was that a group of teens were goofing off and throwing smoke bombs in the forest.  

The dry forest...  

During the heat of the fire summer season... 

People are good at things.  We'll discuss this later*.

NUDGE 1: JESS, BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR BLESSINGS

The fire grew and grew AND GREW.  Our neighborhood became a ghost town as everyone vacated their houses.  We were the last sliver of the city that could remain with a level two evacuation warning (have everything packed and ready to leave at a moment's notice).  

It felt a little surreal trying to decide which items to take and which to leave behind.  This became a beautiful reminder of what things are truly important in this life and what things are "things" that can be replaced.  I looked over at this little guy napping beside me and felt so much gratitude for the blessings in my life: My eternal family, my friends, and my testimony of my Savior.  Everything else I had been given in this life was just temporary.


NUDGE 2: FIND THAT PEACE IN YOUR HEART, JESS

The prophet is great, the scriptures are magical, but I can't get over how awesome it is that we can personally communicate with our Heavenly Father for individual and family guidance.  Another challenge I took on from Sheri Dew's book was to pray to recognize personal revelation.  


A few weeks ago a friend of mine was discussing this subject and she explained how you can always identify a spiritual prompting versus your imagination by whether or not you feel peace in your heart when it happens.  I cannot count how many times this week I have felt the Holy Ghost's prompting while making decisions and recognized that familiar peace.  This experience has helped me finally translate when that feeling in my heart is personal revelation coming from God.

NUDGE 3: JESS, PEOPLE ARE GOOD, LOVING, AND PRAYING FOR YOU

What wonderful, hardworking men and women left their homes and families on their holiday to come protect us.  I was so grateful for the awesome firefighters and police that have been keeping us safe.

The fire may spread fast, but the news spreads faster.  This experience has shown me how many good, loving friends are surrounding us.  I counted and within three days literally 14 different families we knew invited us to sleep in their homes if we didn't have a place to stay.

I counted another number: SEVENTY-SIX people told us they were praying for us through social media, text messages, phone calls, and "two hands clasped together praying" emoticons.  Our family could feel the love gushing into our lives from so many individuals who cared about us and about our home.  I was overwhelmed.

NUDGE 4: OH, HE IS COMING, JESS. HE IS KNOCKING RIGHT AT THE DOOR

Sunday night: The glowing flames stenciled the dark mountainside and kissed the treetops.  It felt as though God had delicately glided a burning paintbrush across the long horizon.  I watched the forest bleed ashes and smoke that climbed up into the never-ending sky.  

The majority of us mortals cringe in fear at the thought of being burned.  The agonizing pain of fire to flesh sounds almost unbearable.  But standing there, alone in the darkness, I could feel no negative energy flowing from the breathtaking scene.  No, it seemed almost as though the earth was gently sighing.  She was resting.  She was replenishing.  


As the moon glowed blood red and the darkness lit up like Mordor, I felt a twinge of desire to review a couple of scriptures....

Doctrine and Covenants 29
11 For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand.

14 But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath;

Doctrine and Covenants 39
24 Behold, I come quickly.  Even so.  Amen.

I love reading scriptures about the second coming.  There is such a thrill watching these humbling calamities and knowing it's one of God's ways of telling us the Lord will be here soon!  I am so excited for Christ to come to earth.  I cannot wait for the world to be cleansed and made pure.

NUDGE 4: BUILD YOUR HOUSE UPON THE ROCK, JESS

By Tuesday the whipping winds were making us nervous.  The fire had blossomed to about 30,000 acres.  And our home sat a half a mile from the east edge of the flames.  There was a knock on the front door where we found our bishop checking in on us before taking his family and saying goodbye.  He spoke with hope that the town would be spared, but a small tremble of worry was hiding in his voice.  "This is a beautiful house," he said and glanced around our living room with tears in his eyes before leaving.  "I hope it's still here when all of this is over."

It didn't take much time after that for my husband and I to make the decision to get in our two cars and leave.  After buckling our son in his car seat, I hugged my husband standing in what might be our last time in our little front yard and started the car.  

Talk about a stand-still moment in time.   This home was our special sanctuary.  It was a sacred temple filled with love and beautiful memories.  And our minds forced us to realize the small possibility that it might be taken away from us.

For some reason, with all the spinning feelings spiraling inside of me, one prominent visual came to my head.  I was picturing Lot's wife from the bible.  That's right, the one that looked back and turned to a pillar of salt.  Obviously, there's nothing wrong with taking one more long glance back at a place that's special to someone.  I wasn't afraid of becoming a table companion with ground pepper, but something inside of me forced my eyes to look forward.

As we silently drove away I again felt that familiar peace, focusing on the future and knowing that God was leading me exactly where I needed to be.  

The highway was closed off in both directions and only citizens escaping town were allowed to enter the ramp.  There was such an eeriness being alone on the road passing through the cloudy, white smoke.

The little voice from my son came timidly from the backseat requesting we listen to some music.  

"What song should we listen to, Trekker?"

"Wise man...  Wock."

Being the primary chorister for the little kids on Sunday means we usually have a CD of all the children's hymns in the car for practicing.  I skipped ahead on the music tracks to 'The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.'  I started bawling as I listened to the lyrics:

The rains came down and the floods came up, 
The rains came down and the floods came up, 
The rains came down and the floods came up, 
And the house on the rock stood still.

I was so happy that my life was built on a rock.  This challenge wasn't shaking me.  And I am grateful to have Christ as my foundation to help me through my trials.



*NUDGE 5: FORGIVE, JESS. FORGIVE.

There is a sacred beauty in the gorge that can't be comprehended unless you've experienced it.  These are not "just" a bunch of trees.  It's its own entity.  We are mourning the loss of a loved one in the hearts of all the locals.


And emotions tend to boil over when we realize it came from carelessness and human error.  

But I have to remind myself that we're all human.  We make mistakes.  We do wrong things.  Sometimes we don't even feel remorse for it.  But it's just not our place to judge.

If you're still with me and haven't quit reading this blog post yet...
My challenge to everyone is to forgive this teen who started the fire.  I can't even imagine the guilt that may be weighing down on his heart watching the spiraling consequences of his actions.  


I'm still not sure what will end up happening to our house.  I have no idea if and when we will come home to it.  Whatever the future holds, I am so grateful for the spiritual nudges that came from this experience that I will never forget.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Bucket List

It was a special summer since our toddler was finally old enough to really enjoy and experience the season.  As parents we have been living through him and I love it because it makes me feel like a kid again.


I am also a lover of checklists.  Call me Checklist Charlie.  I thought making a chalkboard bucket list would make things more fun which it did... But I forgot how I never actually complete my lists ever.  So next summer I need to jump in knowing the goal will defeat me and be totally okay with that possibility.

So here you have it.  My dream summer bucket list that will get approximately 50% crossed off every year from a realistic perspective.

I know there are some super moms looking at this list thinking, 
"Psh.  I could complete all this junk in 2.5 seconds."  That's so wonderful.  I can eat an entire bag of Salt and Vinegar potato chips in 2.5 seconds.  I love you for your strengths.  And I love me for mine.


1.  Have a classic picnic: The ones on the ground - with the food - with the ants - and the stereotypical checkered red blanket

2. Splash at the splash park


3. Fly a kite

4. Float the river


5. Lay in the grass stargazing

6. Berry picking:  After picking these blackberries I had a childhood movie come to mind about a bear cub that eats some wild mushrooms and starts getting crazy dizzy and sick.  I ate them nervously.  But I never died so I suppose they weren't poisonous.


7.  Feed the ducks at the park

8.  Build sand castles on the beach


9. Visit the Zoo

10.  Visit the temple grounds

11. Visit Enchanted Forest:  Everyone needs to go here.  It will be the most magical/creepy experience of your life.  Similar to the feelings you get watching 
The Labyrinth or anything claymation.  


12. Take a tandem bike ride

13.  Run through the sprinklers


14. Visit the library

15.  Have a bowling night

16.  Movies at the park : So, um, I messed up on this one...  We were all packed and prepared with blankets and snacks for the city movie night and I got the time totally wrong when the movie started.  So we came home and cuddled as a family on the bed and watched Netflix instead.


17. Walk a pup at the Humane Society

18. Take a camping trip

19. Visit the fish hatchery

20.  Take a boat ride


Oh gosh, I love this family.  I love soaking in every happy second I can from these sweet best friends.

"In family relationships LOVE is really spelled T-I-M-E."
-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf



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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Medicine For Anxiety

For this week's Testimony Tuesday video I decided to talk about my little struggle with anxiety.  I really am grateful for weaknesses and embrace that it's a part of me.  But I still wanted to share how Heavenly Father was loving enough to show me a tender mercy.  Here's a new tool I use to calm my crazies.  

One word.

Forgiveness.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Pioneer Day Music Program

This summer I was asked to put on the musical/spiritual program for our Pioneer Day ward activity.  Leading up to the program I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for help writing the script and I was hardly able to find anything.  For that reason, I wanted to post my script here to help anyone that might find themselves in a similar situation.  My disclaimer, a lot of the narration is word for word from lesson manuals, talks, and articles I came across on LDS.ORG.  I apologize for not being original and for not citing my sources.

SIDE NOTE: This little dude is a lake monster.  We had a really hard time getting him out of the water so we could start the program.  Having the ward party at a lake was A++ in this kid's book.


WARD PICNIC PROGRAM

Narrator: This weekend we are here to celebrate the church’s pioneer history, as July 24th, 1847 marks the day President Brigham Young identified the Salt Lake Valley as the long-forseen “right place” for the Nauvoo Saints.  Why, (170) years later, do we choose still to recognize this occasion?  President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:
“…We must never permit ourselves to lose sight of the great and singular achievements of those who first came to (Utah) in 1847. They came not for riches or gold, but rather to find a place where they could worship God... They were outcasts, driven and hounded, persecuted and peeled… We must never allow recognition of their trials, of their sacrifices, of their tenacity, of their faith and their prayers in establishing this great community to lapse or be forgotten.”
Today we can remember those sacrifices made by so many for this gospel of Jesus Christ.  It all began with a 14 year old boy in the spring of 1820.

MUSICAL NUMBER:
JOSEPH SMITH’S FIRST VISION

Narrator: Samuel Smith, one of Joseph’s younger brothers, was the first person to be baptized after Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and one of the six original members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Soon after the Church was organized, Samuel Smith became the first full-time traveling missionary. At twenty-two years old, he took several copies of the Book of Mormon and started out on foot to preach the gospel.
Prompted by the spirit, he gave one of the book to Rhoda Greene, the wife of John P. Greene who was the minister of another faith.  After being invited to read it, they were both converted, knowing the Book of Mormon was true.  Samuel also gave a copy to Mrs. Greene’s brother, Phineas Young.  His book later fell into the hands of his younger brother, Brigham Young.  This same copy was passed on and eventually reached Heber C. Kimball. Within two years these people and their families all became members of the Church, thanks to the Book of Mormon and the missionary efforts of Samuel Smith.

MUSICAL NUMBER (BY MISSIONARIES):
CALLED TO SERVE

Narrator: Under the inspired leadership of Brigham Young, the Saints finished building the Nauvoo Temple, where they made sacred covenants before they started their arduous journey to their new home in the Rocky Mountains.  Because of increasing persecution of the Saints and threats from the Church’s enemies, Church leaders announced on September 24, 1845, that the Saints would leave Nauvoo the following spring.

MUSICAL NUMBER (PRIMARY):
PIONEER CHILDREN SANG AS THEY WALKED

Narrator: The word pioneer can be defined as one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow, meaning that all of us can be pioneers in some ways.  Whether it’s a friendly smile or an invitation to church, we can all ponder ways to help others and prepare the way for them to enjoy the blessings of the gospel.

 MUSICAL NUMBER (PRIMARY):
TO BE A PIONEER

Narrator (With melodica or harmonica playing in background): The faith, courage, and determination of these Saints carried them through cold, hunger, and the deaths of loved ones. William Clayton was called to be in one of the first groups to leave Nauvoo and left his wife, Diantha, with her parents, only a month away from delivering her first child. Slogging through muddy roads and camping in cold tents wore his nerves thin as he worried about Diantha’s well-being. Two months later, he still did not know if she had delivered safely but finally received the joyful word that a “fine fat boy” had been born. Almost as soon as he heard the news, William sat down and wrote a song that not only had special meaning to him but would become an anthem of inspiration and gratitude to Church members for generations. The song was “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” and the famous lines expressed his faith and the faith of the thousands of Saints who sang in the midst of adversity: “All is well! All is well!”3 They, like the members who have followed them, found the joy and peace that are the rewards of sacrifice and obedience in the kingdom of God.

MUSICAL NUMBER:
COME, COME YE SAINTS

Closing remarks

MUSICAL NUMBER:
PUT YOUR SHOULDER TO THE WHEEL



- For the last song I had the lyrics printed and handed out to everyone so we could all sing Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel as a ward.

THE END

Grab your leftover potato salad and bribe those kiddies with ice-cream to get them out of that lake.  Because the party is over!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Swashbucklin' Singing Time

The Sunday has finally come to teach the kids the reverent version of
 The Wise Man and the Foolish Man.


 I love the Terri Hutchings arrangement because it gives the listeners the opportunity to focus on the message of the song and not get distracted by the hand motions.  Also, the composer is the coolest, most beautiful, most talented person in the world.  Also, she's my mother ; )


I decided to go with a pirate theme for Sunday because.... I mean... Do I really need a reason?  It's singing time.

“Welcome to me crew, ye scallywags!  Today we be huntin’ for treasure."

The chalkboard looked a little something like this...

I scattered on the floor a bunch of goofy things one might find at the bottom of the ocean like crabs, fish, scuba gear, and a missing shoe.  Then I covered them with a large blue fabric.  Every time the kids would sing I pulled back the sheet a little further and uncovered more items.

“Look at how high the tide is right now!  As we sing, the water will slowly creep back out the ocean and… Flibber the gibbets!  There be a message in a bottle."


These bottled messages were designed specifically to learn this song arrangement.  So the words and commands might need to be changed up a bit if you're teaching your primary something different. 

BOTTLE ONE:

DIRECTIONS: Hum the melody together
Have the piano play the melody line or you can whip out the melodica if your strange like me and happen to have one lying around.  It even has an accordion/pirate sound to it.  It was glorious.


When kids feel comfortable, try singing the first verse.
Luckily they all have the lyrics memorized already!

BOTTLE TWO

DIRECTIONS: Teach the "boys only" section of the chorus.
I also stuffed the bottle with fake mustaches to help them feel a bit more manly.
The boys in my primary are crazy outnumbered by the girls and usually sing softer.  I asked them if they've ever been in a storm that was so powerful it flooded.  Can you imagine how scary it would be?  I explained to them how they represented the terrifying storm with their voices and it seemed to help give them a little more confidence.

BOTTLE THREE:

DIRECTIONS: Learn the end of chorus where boys and girls sing separate octaves.

BOTTLE FOUR

DIRECTIONS: After reading the assigned scripture we had a quick discussion about how the wise man AND the foolish man were both rained on.  Even when we're choosing the right and doing what Heavenly Father wants us to do, we're still going to have to experience trials.

BOTTLE FIVE

DIRECTIONS:  Sing second verse and learn the end of second chorus.

BOTTLE SIX

DIRECTIONS: Depending on how much time you have still, let one or two kids pick their favorite primary songs to sing and change things up a bit.

BOTTLE SEVEN

DIRECTIONS:  Stand up and sing the entire song like you mean it.

Can I please tell you how much I enjoy speaking pirate?!  It's like my new passion.  I never participated in TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY in the past, but let me tell you, September 19th is marked, highlighted, and circled multiple times on my calendar for this year.

The last item uncovered under the blue fabric was a treasure chest.  I filled mine with candy, but the options are endless.  Have fun!

Best of luck to me fellow sailors!


To download free SHEET MUSIC to the Terri Hutchings Wise Man arrangement click HERE.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

If My Fingers Could Bear My Testimony...

When I was a little primary girl, I remember the singing time chorister spontaneously asking if anyone wanted to sing a solo.  I thought she was telling a joke and to be funny I raised my hand.  With a bright smile she called my name and motioned for me to come up to the front of the class.  Immediate regrets.

I somehow summoned the courage to approach the stand and was greeted by the words to I Know My Father Lives.  When the song ended the chorister rested her hand on my shoulder and warmly encouraged me, thanking me for participating.  A few weeks later I somehow found myself roped into singing this solo in front of the whole congregation for the primary program.

The experience was TERRIFYING, but because of that memory this tune quickly became one of my most favorite songs in the primary hymnbook.

A few nights ago I was singing lullabies to my toddler as he fell asleep and sang this familiar melody. I pondered the lyrics and realized if my testimony could be summed up in one primary song, this would be it!  


I know my Father lives and loves me too.
The spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true,
And tells me it is true.

My relationship with my Heavenly Father is magical.  Everything in this gospel I believe sparks from the knowledge that I know I have a Father in Heaven who loves me.  

As I grew older, layers of spiritual experiences wrapped around this little seed of faith from my childhood and made it stronger and unbreakable.  New hymns pierced my spirit and added to my list of favorite church songs.  Each one focused on that love I feel from God.


I finally sat down and attempted to translate this testimony into music.  You might notice I tried to make the introduction sound plain and simple, just like a little primary testimony.  For fun, see if you can catch all the hidden tunes in the medley and the underlining theme of our Heavenly Father.

If my fingers could bear my testimony, this is what they'd say...


You can download the sheet music HERE for free.

P.S. The rad painting I used in the video came from The Harris Artwork.  You MUST check out this website!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LEGOs for Days

We have some Lego Lovers in our primary.  And I also happen to be married to a Lego Lover.  Not "A" Lego Lover...
 "THE" Lego Lover.
One of the perks to being the wife of the "double L" is complete access to every mini-fig in any collectable mini series.
See...  I wasn't playing with you.  He's one of "those" guys.

But he's cute, so I'll keep him

Each picture will be a clue to a primary song that the kids will get to guess on Sunday.  Some are super easy and some are a bit of a stretch, so I'm also including little "hints" for each picture if they can't solve it.  

I LOVE TO SEE THE TEMPLE
"I'm going there someday"

WHEN GRANDPA COMES
 "He has a wrinkly, twinkly smile"

BOOK OF MORMON STORIES
"All about the Lamanites..."

ONCE THERE WAS A SNOWMAN
"In the sun he melted"

WE'LL BRING THE WORLD HIS TRUTH
"We are as the army of Helaman"

CHOOSE THE RIGHT
"Let wisdom mark the way before"

I AM LIKE A STAR
"...Like a star shining brightly"

NEPHI'S COURAGE
"Go and build a boat"

I FEEL MY SAVIOR'S LOVE
"In serving I am blessed"

DADDY'S HOMECOMING
"I'm so glad when Daddy comes home"

I OFTEN GO WALKING
"I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue"

TO BE A PIONEER
"Walk a thousand miles or more"

LIFT UP YOUR VOICE AND SING
"Start a glad song, let it float, let it ring"

POPCORN POPPING
"Such a nice SURPRISE!"

OUR PRIMARY COLORS
"Red, yellow, and blue"

SMILES
"No one likes a frowning face"

WHEN I AM BAPTIZED
"I like to look for rainbows"

I love my calling!  Feel free to snatch any of these pictures off the blog to print from home.

Also, HAPPY TESTIMONY TUESDAY

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