Feb 26, 2014

Why run?

Ask any runner why they run and you'll receive answers ranging anywhere from "weight loss" to "for the medals" and "just because."  Well, here is a compilation of why I run.  Just looking at these images is making me crave a run right now

Running is whatever you want it to be!  You can get anything out of running.  It is for every skill level, every interest level, and is nondiscrimatory.  You get everything out of running that you put into it.

I'm always grateful when I can go out and run, especially when I have a sitter so I can run stroller-free.  Maybe not at the exact moment of running (sometimes), like right in the middle of hard intervals, but afterward.  It's such a pleasant feeling to know you completed something challenging and beneficial.  The endorphin rush is a nice bonus too.

I don't think I could ever compile a list of all the benefits I've experienced while running--or all the ways I've changed due this sport.  All I can really say in summary is that through running I've forged incredible friendships, realized my physical potential, demolished mental barriers, achieved feats of endurance and strength I never felt capable of, and discovered new found appreciation for my body and for life.

Running frees me.  It is a time where I can forget the little stresses of daily life.  A time where I can get to know myself better:  physically, and spiritually.  Physically, as I focus on breathing, posture, footfalls, and form.  And spiritually, as I contemplate the beauty of my surroundings, express gratitude for the many blessings bestowed upon me, and experience a serenity that can only come when mind and body are in sync.

Running is the time to rediscover myself--a time to mull over any random thought that comes to mind. A time to focus on what my real priorities, loves, interests, and goals are.

Running is a great stress reliever, a great way to stay fit, a great way to reconnect with yourself and nature, a great way to make new friends, a great way to strengthen current friendships, and a great way to just have fun.  Why do you run?

Feb 25, 2014

Latter-Day Prophets (FHE)

This Family Home Evening marked the final lesson in our Follow the Prophet series, #9/9: Latter-Day Prophets.  This one was a bit harder to plan since I had to figure out a lesson encompassing modern prophets as a whole and not specifically single out one of them.

Song:  Tonight's lesson was based on the ninth and final verse of song #110 from The Children's Songbook about latter-day prophets.  We marched around the house playing follow the leader while singing it.  This verse goes as follows:
Now we have a world where people are confused.
If you don't believe it, go and watch the news.
We can get direction all along our way,
If we heed the prophets-follow what they say.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet; don't go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,follow the prophet; he knows the way.

Scripture/Story: Since there are many modern day prophets and not one of them was singled out in this verse, I read to June from Preach my Gospel regarding prophets.  I also read her My First Book of the Latter-Day Prophets by Deanna Draper Buck.

Lesson: I wanted to teach June why prophets are so important and why we need to listen to them, so I placed a picture of Jesus Christ on the top of a small bookshelf, a picture of the current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, on the next shelf down, and finally a picture of our family.  I taught her that Father in Heaven has chosen certain men to speak for Him. These men are called prophets. They teach us what He wants us to know.  They, in essence, have a higher vantage point because they receive direct revelation from Heavenly Father for everyone on the earth!  They can warn us if we are starting to not do what Heavenly Father wants us to do.  They can give us further instruction from Heavenly Father to help us return to live with Him.  We then made the following wheel and talked about each of the modern day prophets along with their teachings.  I ended by summarizing President Monson's talk from the October 2013 conference, and ended by telling her that we have a living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. He is the President of the Church. He was chosen by God and called through proper priesthood authority. President Monson testifies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. All the prophets testify of Jesus Christ and teach us what He wants us to do.

Activity: We played a game of hide-and-seek.  Before FHE began, I hid June's favorite stuffed animal, Baby Hippo, on top of the fridge where she couldn't see it from her vantage point.  Then, we started looking all over for Baby Hippo.  When June finally said, "I can't find her!  I need help Mommy!"  I told her we should look from a higher place.  So, June climbed onto the table, and in short order found Baby Hippo!  Just like June could see more from a higher vantage point, so can the prophets.  They are here to use this further knowledge to guide us and help us stay on the straight and narrow path.

June loved trying to find Baby Hippo.  One of her favorite games is hide-and-seek so this game was right up her ally.  She wasn't too interested in the wheel.  Maybe that activity is a bit more suited to older children.  This lesson was a bit harder to teach without a specific story, but I think she understands that prophets are important.  We ended this Family Home Evening series by singing the entire song with June as the leader the whole time.  Below are the verses to Follow the Prophet:

Adam was a prophet, first one that we know.
In a place called Eden, he helped things to grow.
Adam served the Lord by following his ways.
We are his descendants in the latter days.
Enoch was a prophet; he taught what was good.
People in his city did just what they should.
When they were so righteous that there was no sin,
Heav'nly Father took them up to live with him.
Noah was a prophet called to preach the word,
Tried to cry repentance, but nobody heard.
They were busy sinning-Noah preached in vain.
They wished they had listened when they saw the rain.
Abraham the prophet prayed to have a son,
So the Lord sent Isaac as the chosen one.
Isaac begat Jacob, known as Israel;
Jacob's sons were twelve tribes, so the Bible tells.
Moses was a prophet sent to Israel.
He would lead them to the promised land to dwell.
They were slow to follow, or so it appears.
They were in the wilderness for forty years.
Samuel was a prophet chosen as a boy.
Hannah promised God her son would serve with joy.
In the tabernacle, Samuel heard his name;
He was called by God and answered, "Here I am!"
Jonah was a prophet, tried to run away,
But he later learned to listen and obey.
When we really try, the Lord won't let us fail:
That's what Jonah learned deep down inside the whale.
Daniel was a prophet. He refused to sin;
So the king threw Daniel in the lion's den.
Angels calmed the lions, and the king soon saw
Daniel's pow'r was great, for he obeyed God's law.
Now we have a world where people are confused.
If you don't believe it, go and watch the news.
We can get direction all along our way,
If we heed the prophets-follow what they say.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don't go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.

Feb 24, 2014

Faith + Friends + Fitness = Fun

Thursday night, I attended a Relief Society (women's organization) activity. I'd have to say, this one is most definitely in my tip five favorite church events for it was a perfect merger of my two great loves:  fitness and the gospel, and I got to participate with such amazing ladies. The theme of the activity seemed to be "building strength" in three important facets.
My workout partner, Kathryn and I showing off our guns after our sweat session.
#1) Nutrition
Some of us were asked to make our favorite smoothie recipe and fill little shot glasses with the healthful beverage so everyone could try them. This gave us an assortment of about ten types of smoothies ranging from green juices to tropical sorbets. All made with the freshest ingredients which could be found in Clovis. I tried them all! I figured ten smoothie shots would equal one full smoothie, so I wasn't actually over-indulging. What a wonderful idea for refreshments! Delicious and guilt-free.

Delicious and healthful smoothie shots!
#2) Physical Fitness
The body sculpt class instructor led all of us in a total body conditioning workout. Using workout bands and a partner, she led us through a vigorous routine consisting of multi-joint exercises like: squats with rows, squats with lat pulls, lunges with chest press, calf raises plus shin strengtheners, multi-directional hip moves, and an additional abdominal routine targeting all five areas of the core. It has been entirely too ling since I've been able to participate in a group fitness class and I forgot just how enjoyable they can be! My post-exercise euphoria was amplified due to the camaraderie I was able to develop with these ladies.  Sweating together in a group setting was an excellent way for us to bond as sisters in Zion.
We used these bands for the class.

#3)  Spiritual Strength
After we cooled down, stretched out, and hydrated, the Bishop came in and spoke to us about the importance of building our spiritual strength as we did our physical strength.  Just like the body needs consistent exercise and nutrition to optimally function, our spirit needs regular training and nourishment as well.  We need to feed our spirit with daily scripture study, heartfelt prayer, and weekly church attendance.  We need to exercise our spirits by choosing the right, practicing self-discipline, serving others, going visiting teaching (or home teaching), fasting, sharing the gospel, repenting, and trying to do better every day.  Trying to live a Christ-like life will give us the spiritual strength we need to get back to our Father in Heaven.

Each component of this activity provided us all with additional knowledge and skills we can apply in our daily lives to make our spirits and bodies healthier, stronger, and more resilient.  I cannot say it enough--wonderful activity.  I applaud the wonderful ladies who organized, planned, and executed this Relief Society bonding event.

Feb 23, 2014

Social Media: This is Sharing the Gospel. This is Hastening the Work. (Stake Conference talk)

Yesterday, I was blessed with the opportunity to speak in the Roswell Stake Conference.  (A stake is a regional group of congregations)  I was pretty nervous up to the moment I finished my talk.  However, after I sat down, it really hit me.  What an honor it was to be asked to speak to these wonderful people of Eastern New Mexico and share with them a message which hopefully brought the spirit with it and helped them in their quest to hasten the work.  I felt even more blessed to have my father along my friends Keri Estavillo and Susan Pierce accompany me all the way to Roswell to support me in this endeavor.

Keri, me, and Susan after an inspirational Stake Conference
As I spoke, I could see so many familiar faces from my very own Clovis Ward (A ward is a congregation) supporting me as well.  I also know many of my friends at home were watching via the broadcast.  I'm thankful to everyone who supported me as I prepared my talk and gave me the courage to speak in front of so many enlightening people.

My amazing visiting teacher, Cambria, drove out to see me speak!
Here is the transcript of my talk for any who missed me speak, or for any who want to read this message.  I hope that it will motivate and assist you in your missionary efforts.

My name on the program!
 Social Media:  This is Sharing the Gospel.  This is Hastening the Work.
Talk in Roswell Stake Conference, Saturday February 22, 2014, 6:30pm

Sharing the Gospel doesn’t have to be hard.  It doesn’t always have to be some grand gesture or huge step out of your comfort zone.  It can be as easy as tweaking something you are already doing.  This really hit home to me during conference when we were exhorted to share the gospel and help in the hastening of the work. The following quote by Elder Nielson was the push I needed to start doing my part in this critical work, “We each must develop and carry out our own personal game plan to serve with enthusiasm alongside the full-time missionaries.”

I like social media.  I’ve spent entirely too much time mastering Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter so, I thought why not use that seemingly frivolous skill to the Lord’s advantage as my own personal game plan in spreading His word. Using baby steps, I first decided to participate in November’s 30 days of gratitude on Facebook.  All this required was one post daily highlighting something I’m thankful for.   Many of my thanksgiving posts were specific about the people in my life, and many were dedicated to specific blessings I’ve received from having the gospel in my life.  They weren’t long posts, and they weren’t extravagant posts.  They were simple and meaningful, really just the basic “I’m thankful for my new calling to serve in the church.  I’m thankful for the temple covenants and ordinances that make us an eternal family.” This is sharing the gospel.  This is hastening the work.

Immediately after conference, online posters containing favorite quotes from conference sprung up all over the internet.  I pinned a few to a board on Pinterest and I shared many of them via Twitter and Facebook.  The next time I checked my social media outlets, I saw many “likes” “shares” “favorites” and “pins” of those very same quotes by both member and non-member friends alike.  I’ll bet some of those friends have no clue that the people saying those quotes are latter-day prophets of the Lord.  They probably think the quote is inspirational or looks neat.  No matter the reason, they are taking the gospel message, heeding it, and helping to spread the Lord’s words to their friends. How easy this was to just click a button and watch the work of salvation move forward.   This is sharing the gospel.  This is hastening the work.

The beginning of this year, I achieved my life-long goal of going through the temple to receive my own endowments.  This wasn’t without preparation.  With my heart full of excitement and anticipation for this day, I kept my Facebook friends apprised of my progress up to and through that glorious day.  Many of my friends and family members had questions for me regarding different aspects of this journey ranging  from “What is a temple?” to “What goes on inside the temple?” and “What did you have to do to go to the temple?”  With all these questions, many of them identical just from different people, I wanted to make sure I answered them appropriately in a way to help them understand the magnitude of this endeavor and its eternal repercussions.  I desired to give them a solid and accurate picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that led me to this point.  Instead of answering each question to each individual repeatedly, where I would risk rushed responses, I decided to start a blog I could direct them toward, which would answer these and many more questions.  Thus began my blog, therunningmormon.com.

Here I write mostly about my family home evening experiences, the gospel in my own life, and my interests—mainly running.  My blog is meant to be shared to help those who read it grow their own testimonies and educate them in what a real Mormon is.  Now, writing a blog takes a bit more time, effort, and planning than updating a Facebook post, but you can include so much more information in this journal-type setting.  Lds.org gives wonderful suggestions on sharing the gospel online.  The best advice it offers is just to: post about your day-to-day life and your interests, share experiences at church or family home evening, share inspiring words, and update often.  This is sharing the gospel.  This is hastening the work.
Each one of these outlets offers a no pressure environment, not only for you to share the gospel, but for readers to learn about the church.  Those who’ve maybe had long-time questions, but not felt comfortable talking to someone about them, now have a forum where they can have those questions answered in a fashion best suited to them.  Maybe this will lead them to talking to missionaries or coming to church in the future.  Maybe it won’t.  But either way, they will have benefited from the information they were able to glean from your efforts and hopefully their testimony of Jesus Christ will have grown.

Notwithstanding, the best action you can take to start sharing the gospel yourself is simply to pray.  As Elder Ballard said, “The key is that you be inspired of God, that you ask Him for direction and then go and do as the Spirit prompts you.”  It’s okay to come to our Father in Heaven in prayer to ask Him what He would have us share today, and to ask how He would have us share that message.  Before I write a post, I pray and ask for His guidance so I will write the words that will most benefit my readers.  As I look back over past blogs, I notice a distinct difference between posts from my own mind and posts inspired by the Holy Ghost.  Ask, and He will guide you.  Ask, and He will give you strength.

President Uchtdorf said, “Sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open [your] mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!  With the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.”

The current prophet, President Monson said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together [and] labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work”

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God to restore His true church upon the earth.  I know the Book of Mormon is the most true book on the earth today.  I know Jesus Christ is my Savior and the Savior of all mankind, that He loves us so much He suffered more than we could ever comprehend to give every single one of us the chance to reach exaltation and eternal life with Him.  I know that each of us here today can hasten the Lord’s work in our daily lives.  He will guide us and give us the strength to keep this commandment and all of His commandments.  All we have to do is ask in prayer and listen to the whisperings of the spirit.  They will come in the exact time and place they are needed. “For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea in the very moment, what ye shall say.”  (D&C 10:6)   

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Feb 20, 2014

Family History Detective

I have a new, extremely addictive hobby.  Family history research.  After my friend, Rachel Waddell, went over how to use a couple wonderfully helpful websites, ancestry.com and familysearch.org, I feel like I'm on a roll!  It, no kidding, is addictive.  I'd compare it to putting together a puzzle, but the pieces are hidden and you have to find them by solving clues.  I almost feel like a detective.  And, in a way, I am.

It's truly incredible to find a great-great-great-great grandparent and get a glimpse into their life and the world they lived in.   Once I find one person, I can't help but keep searching for more clues into their lives and more clues into ancestors even further back.  I discovered a heritage I never knew I had by finding a great times three grandmother who was from Quebec Canada.  I had no clue my family was part Canadian, even if it is a small part.

Furthermore, I found that a large part of my family immigrated to America from Czechoslovakia to escape the communist Soviet Union.  This truly fascinates me as I majored in Russian Area Studies.  I studied the history of that region for years and developed a strong interest in learning more about Eastern Europe only to find I have roots there.  Now, that desire to learn has intensified.

It's hard to find a stopping point while researching my family.  I want to keep going and hunt down every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, child, etc.  Every time I can find a historical document, record, or even better--journal, I feel like I understand myself and my family more completely.  Malachi was inspired, indeed, when he said, "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." (Malachi 4:6)  As I delve further into my genealogy research, I feel my heart turning toward my ancestors.  At times, it seems like those very same ancestors are helping me find those clues needed to find them so we can be linked and sealed together as an eternal family.

I felt the best way I could honor my mother's memory yesterday was to do family history research on her side.  Within three hours, I found 20 family members yet to be linked to us.  Additionally, each and every one of those ancestors are now, on my end, prepared and ready to go through the temple to have their saving ordinances performed vicariously for them.  My brother and his girlfriend are going to take those names through for baptisms tomorrow.  I really can't think of a better way to remember mom than by serving her ancestors in this fashion..

Familysearch.org is free to anyone.  Ancestry.com has a yearly fee.  Both are incredible websites that can get you started today on finding your own ancestors.  Family history research is a wonderful activity to do on your own or with your family.  It also make a wonderful Family Home Evening.  There is no better way to bring a family closer than by spending time together finding your lineage.

Feb 19, 2014

In Loving Memory of Pamela Taylor Part II: My Favorite Memories of Mom

The best way I can think of to honor my mother is to relive those special times I had with her.  She is such an amazing person and her influence continues to be felt in my life and in the lives of all her posterity.  I try to raise June in the very same way she raised me and my brothers, for I cannot think of any way I could improve on that.  My most prominent memories of her center around her spectacular holiday spirit, her love of the temple, and her excited anticipation of the birth of her first granddaughter.

Holiday Spirit
Every holiday in my home was always a special event.  As one would approach, Mother would pull out a big box from the garage and start unloading it’s bounty of decorations.  She had decorations for every holiday:  New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Not only would she decorate the house, but she would play holiday songs, put on holiday movies, read holiday books, and tell us holiday stories.  She’d even dress up in a costume or the colors of each holiday.
On the day of the holiday, we would have a get together of family and friends to celebrate that day.  As us kids got older, we’d even have huge parties with games, food, and fun.  Even now as holidays approach, I grow excited.  I want June to grow up looking forward to holidays just as I was as a child.  I now have all our family’s home movies to remind me of the fun times we’d have celebrating Halloween, or Christmas, or any other holiday.  To this day, holidays with Mom have a special place in my heart.

Friday Lubbock Dinners
My parents attended the Lubbock temple every Friday night.  Since I was attending school at Texas Tech during that time, we would have dinner together after their temple session.  Usually, we would meet at either Logan’s Steakhouse or Rosa’s Tortilla Factory.  They were Mom’s favorites.
These family dinners were a time full of good conversation with good people.  We would fill each other in on the events of our weeks, discuss issues I was having in school or with people, and talk about accomplishments and good times.

Mom set such a wonderful example for me, just by attending the temple regularly, even through all the family’s adversity.  They had a 2 hour drive just to get to the temple – a 4 hour round trip.  My dad was unemployed, so funds were low.  They saw the importance in temple worship and service, so it was one of their top priorities.  After tithing was paid, they would set aside gas money for the temple, and then bills were paid after that.  Family came first, both on this side of the veil and on the other.  Once her children were taken care of and becoming successful, then she would delve into researching genealogy in order to make her family on the other side of the veil successful.  I know she has, and I know she was welcomed with open arms when she passed away.  I know all the people she did temple work for were there to greet her and to thank her for her sacrifices and service for them.

Not only were these Friday night dinners for me, but they set a high standard for me to carry on for my children, of showing them the importance of temple attendance and being temple worthy.  I want to carry on the great work my mother started in family history research, and she has shown me the way.

June’s Baby Shower
Mom was so full anticipation for the birth of her first grandbaby.  She was ecstatic when I asked her to plan and host my baby shower for June.  She spent a lot of time designing the invitations with Danny to make them in such a way that they would be cute, beautiful, and Rachel-friendly.  She worked with her visiting teacher and my Aunt Sonja in finding decorations, prizes, and awards for the shower games.  Between her and my dad, they invented or discovered creative shower games.  Mom knew I wasn’t much of a game person, however she came up with the most wonderful baby games that even I enjoyed – along with all the men at my baby shower.
They used a baby olympics theme as well as a red and black color scheme – my alma mater colors.  They served delicious deli sandwiches and had picnic style sides.  The awards were plastic gold medals, candy, and water bottles.  She had a game where we all put paper plates on our heads and with a crayon, we had to draw a baby and I got to pick the winner.  The next game required listing as many baby names as you could think of in a minute that started with the letters R (for Rachel) and T (for Travis).  Then, there was a pretty hilarious game where we all had to chug apple juice out of baby bottles as fast as we could.  That was much harder than you'd think, and everyone looked goofy.  The last game was Dad’s creation.  He had a list of 20 songs that had the word “baby” in it where he would play a 10 second clip of each song, then everyone had to guess the title and artist.  What a wonderful and memorable baby shower.  I still look back in joy as I relive it.

Mom was so excited for June to be born.  She loves her so very much and I know she still watches over her.  I miss her so much it hurts deep into my heart.  I wish she was still physically here with us, to watch June and all her other grandchildren grow-up and become the people they are meant to be.

Polishing and Assembling the Chandeliers for the Lubbock Texas Temple
When I was a teenager, the Lubbock Texas Temple was announced and under construction.  Along with the constuction workers, a lot of volunteers help to assemple various items for the temple.  One of my most treasured memories is of the time myself amd my mother helped to assemble chandaliers for our new temple:  one of the sealing room and one for the celestial room.

It was tedious work as we had to shine and polish each piece of crystal before placing it onto the chandelier fixture, and we worked all through the day.  But nothing compares to the happiness I felt when I went through the temple my first time and saw that very same chandelier hanging in the Celestial room.  It brought back that memory in full force and I could feel my mother's love so strongly in that moment.  Every time I go back to the Lubbock Temple and complete a session, I see that chandelier and experience the same feelings.  I love the temple, just as Mom loved the temple.

Today is and always will be a hard day for me and my family because we so strongly feel her loss.  It was the worst day of my entire life.  I still feel the sting of her absence acutely.  Time has taken away the sharpness, but there will always be a place in my heart that will never be whole.  However, I'm thankful I have so many joy-filled memories of the wonderful times with my mom that I can bring to mind during those moments I miss her the most.  She helped shape the person I am today and she provided me the best example of what it means to fulfill my divine calling and be a mother in Zion.