Aug 27, 2014

Likening the Scriptures

Once in a while a scripture passage will really stand out, almost like it was written just for me to help me with a specific trial at that very time.  I read my name in those verses and I read my situation in those verses.  Lately, my heart and full attention hasn't been into scripture study.  This important task fell to the wayside as other tasks took president in my life.  The funny thing is, these other things really aren't all that important.  I just let myself become distracted.  And it showed in my attitude, in my thoughts, feelings, and words.  I was less productive and more lethargic.  I'm just glad I realized the cause for these more negative emotions so I could quickly shift my priorities back to where they should be--and that was at the temple.  What better place to clear one's mind and focus on truth and light than the temple?

I know I've said it before, but it still remains just as true.  The temple is such a wonderful place, full of light and knowledge and peace.  It is only there where the confusion and stress of the world is left behind and I can truly focus on matters as they are.

As I was waiting for the session to begin, I picked up a nearby Book of Mormon and started flipping through the pages until one passage jumped out at me.  It had been a passage I recently studied, although halfheartedly, just a few days prior.  This day though, my mind was opened and ready to receive further insight into this passage.  Insight that shed light on situations I'm currently dealing with.  It provided me with the peace, guidance, and direction I need to overcome this trial in the manner my Father in Heaven would have me.  That scripture was 2 Nephi 5:1-5, 11.

This specific passage takes place after the death of Lehi.  Laman, Lemuel, and those who followed them sought to destroy Nephi and those who followed him.  Nephi receives warning and guidance from the Lord:

 Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren.

 But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life.

 Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to rule over this people.

 Now I do not write upon these plates all the words which they murmured against me. But it sufficeth me to say, that they did seek to take away my life.

 And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.

Nephi wanted the best for his family--even his elder brothers.  He wanted them to repent and live the gospel, but they were too caught up in pride and sin. He prayed continually for them and tried to counsel them in the commandments of God.  Instead of heading his righteous counsel, they became angry with him and constantly murmered against him until they were so caught up in negativity and pride that they desired to kill him.  They justified it in their heads by blaming Nephi for all their ills and hardships, even though these were the natural consequence of sin.  They accused Nephi of being caught up in pride and wanting to rule over them.  They allowed Satan to grab ahold of their hearts and lead them down the path of damnation.

The Lord warned Nephi of their evil intent and prompted him to leave them and their homes with anyone who would follow him, and flee to the wilderness.  Many chose to follow the prophet Nephi and with faith, they left the comfort of their old lives behind.  They established a new home in a new land where they lived the gospel, kept the commandments, and were righteous to the point that the Lord was with them and they prospered exceedingly to the point where they reaped abundance in all things:  physically, spiritually, and mentally.

When I read this chapter at that exact moment in the temple, my mind filled with my own situations.  
There was a very difficult time in my life when it was my office in the Air Force that was seeking to destroy me spiritually.  Some of the culture of the military was trying to subdue me in the chains of vice to be forever under the bondage of sin. For a time it worked, until I headed the Lord's warning to "depart from them and flee into the wilderness" which for me was to separate from the military as a job and remove myself completely from the culture.  ***This is what I needed to do to escape this spiritual destruction--I'm not saying the military is evil or that everyone should separate from it, just that I needed to at that time because I was allowing it to control me in such a negative manner.***  Once I was away from those influences, I found my faith and the strength to live that faith.  I chose to follow the ways of the prophets, as did the followers of Nephi.  I "believed in the warnings, and the revelations of God; wherefore [I] did hearken unto [the prophets'] words."  And by so doing, I found that, like the people of Nephi, "the Lord was with [me]; and [I] did prosper exceedingly...and [I] did reap in abundance."  I received so many blessings!  I found real happiness and joy.

Now as I'm trying to live a righteous life and to follow the Lord's commandments to the best of my ability.  I try to pray intently daily and thoughtfully read my scriptures.  I fail and stumble at times, as was the case I mentioned prior, but I do try and I do have a desire to do better and live better.  I want what is best for my family, even if I too am faced with a member that is murmering against me and trying to bring me down. At times it seems like they are seeking my destruction.  As I read that scripture passage and realized the blessing that come with following the promptings from the Lord, I know that He will once again warn me if I need to "depart into the wilderness" if that time comes and that I will have the strength necessary to do so, as I did once before.

This was a very powerful experience for me, and I'm sharing it because I hope that by so doing, others could experience the power of likening the scriptures to their own lives.  The prophets have taught that likening the scriptures to our own situations is an incredibly effective way to learn Christ's doctrine, to feel the Holy Ghost, and to find direction and peace within those situations.  Nephi said, "I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our own profit and learning" (1 Nephi 19:23).

Aug 22, 2014

Sabbath Day (FHE)

This week, our Family Home Evening lesson was based on the Gospel Principles manual, chapter 24: The Sabbath Day.

Song: We sang song #155, Remember the Sabbath Day, from the Primary Children's Songbook.  It goes as follows:

Remember the Sabbath day,
To always keep it holy.

The Lord blessed and hallowed it,
That we might worship him

Lesson: We are commanded to “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8D&C 68:29).  Before the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Sabbath day commemorated God’s day of rest after He finished the Creation. It was a sign of the covenant between God and His people. The Sabbath day is every seventh day. It is a holy day ordained by God for us to rest from our daily labors and worship Him.

Jesus taught that the Sabbath day was made for our benefit (Mark 2:27). The purpose of the Sabbath is to give us a certain day of the week on which to direct our thoughts and actions toward God. It is not a day merely to rest from work. It is a sacred day to be spent in worship and reverence. As we rest from our usual daily activities, our minds are freed to ponder spiritual matters. On this day we should renew our covenants with the Lord and feed our souls on the things of the Spirit.

We should consider righteous things we can do on the Sabbath. For example, we can keep the Sabbath day holy by attending Church meetings; reading the scriptures and the words of our Church leaders; visiting the sick, the aged, and our loved ones; listening to uplifting music and singing hymns; praying to our Heavenly Father with praise and thanksgiving; performing Church service; preparing family history records and personal histories; telling faith-promoting stories and bearing our testimony to family members and sharing spiritual experiences with them; writing letters to missionaries and loved ones; fasting with a purpose; and sharing time with children and others in the home.  In deciding what other activities we could properly engage in on the Sabbath, we could ask ourselves: Will it uplift and inspire me? Does it show respect for the Lord? Does it direct my thoughts to Him?

If we honor the Sabbath day, we may receive great spiritual and temporal blessings. The Lord has said that if we keep the Sabbath day with thanksgiving and cheerful hearts, we will be full of joy.

Activity:  I placed 10 washcloths in a row leading to a big bowl of candy.  The candy is to represent the blessings we get when we keep the Sabbath Day holy by participating in activities that keep us uplifted and in a worshipful spirit.  At each washcloth, I asked June a question using the activities on homemade cards.  If it was a picture of the scriptures, I would ask, "Reading the scriptures and going to the bookstore are two good things.  Which one should we do on Sunday?"  If she answered with "scriptures", then she could progress to the next washcloth and she received the card.  If not, then she would have to go back a space. June was excited to reach the candy bowl and enjoy the blessings of keeping the Sabbath Day holy.

Game cards, front

Game cards, back
She also found that there was a puzzle on the back of her cards, that when put together was a picture of the Savior.  Our Sabbath activities should help us worship our Heavenly Father and Savior.  They should be uplifting and enlightening.  They should be done with a mind of worship and covenant keeping.  I want to emphasize that, although many activities are good things to do, not all are appropriate for Sunday.

I know I've done puzzles in the past, but June just loves completing them that it makes sense to utilize them during family night.  I try to add a different spin on the puzzles each time, like here in answering questions along a path to a prize.

For more Sabbath Day Activities, see this link.

Aug 18, 2014

10 Signs You're Crazy About Running

Each and every one of these applies to me.  I'm not sure if that makes me obsessed, or dedicated...let's just go with dedicated.

10 Signs You're Crazy About Running

#1. You have more sports bras than regular ones.

#2. You don't own a pair of nice pants, but you do have some dressy spandex options.

#3. You plan your vacations around a race.

#4. You have a drawer full of safety pins, race bibs, and medals...or they are prominently displayed.

#5. You've debated the merits of handheld water bottles versus fuelbelts (or vice versa) with a fellow runner.

#6. You see another person running and get jealous--even if you already ran that day.

#7. You spend more time and money selecting new running shoes than a car.

#8. You want to either cry or punch your doctor in the face if he tells you that you can't run for two weeks.

#9. Your runner friends are the only ones who understand your love of running and constant need to talk about it.

#10.  You make a photo album solely based on your running journey.
Regarding #10, I absolutely love my running yearbook!  It's my own running personal history.  Most of my best friends are featured throughout this album, as is my daughter.  Since running is one of my passions (only after family and the gospel), why not make a memory book dedicated to it?  If you're as run-crazed as I am, I recommend making your own.  I used Shutterfly and it turned out great.  I included pictures and journal entries of all my races as well as some fun moments I had while running.  I decided to theme each book, this first one being "Every race has a story."  2014's book will be "Celebrate every mile."  It's fun to look back and see how far I've come as a runner, and in general through this book.  And, I love finally showcasing my race bibs and race photos in an easy-to-view manner.

Aug 12, 2014

The Sacrament (FHE)

We were lucky to have a couple of our friends join us for Family Home Evening this week.  I based this lesson on the Gospel Principles manual, Chapter 23: The Sacrament.

Song: We sang song #71 from the primary Children's Songbook, To Think About Jesus.  It goes as follows:

1. It shouldn't be hard to sit very still
And think about Jesus, his cross on the hill,
And all that he suffered and did for me;
It shouldn't be hard to sit quietly.
2. I think of the miles he walked in the dust,
And children he helped to love and to trust;
It shouldn't be hard to sit tall in my seat,
To listen politely, to quiet my feet.
Chorus: It shouldn't be hard, even though I am small,
To think about Jesus, not hard at all.

Lesson:  Our Savior wants us to remember His great atoning sacrifice and keep His commandments. To help us do this, He initiated the sacrament.  He has commanded us to meet often and partake of the sacrament.  The sacrament is a holy priesthood ordinance that helps remind us of the Savior’s Atonement. During the sacrament, we partake of bread and water. We do this in remembrance of His flesh and His blood, which He gave as a sacrifice for us. As we partake of the sacrament, we renew sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father.

Jesus Christ taught the ordinance of the sacrament to the Jews before He was crucified.  After His resurrection, He taught the ordinance of the sacrament to the Nephites in the Americas (3 Nephi 18:1–11; 20:1–9).  When Joseph Smith restored the gospel, Jesus taught him the ordinance of the sacrament, and we continue to participate in this ordinance today each Sunday (D&C 20:75).

Each time we partake of the sacrament, we renew our covenants with the Lord. The covenants we make are clearly stated in the sacramental prayers. We take these obligations upon ourselves when we are baptized (D&C 20:37; Mosiah 18:6–10).  When we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenants we made when we were baptized. Jesus gave us the pattern for partaking of the sacrament (3 Nephi 18:1–12) and said that when we follow this pattern, repenting of our sins and believing on His name, we will gain a remission of our sins (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24).

Before partaking of the sacrament, we are to prepare ourselves spiritually. The Lord emphasizes that no one should partake of the sacrament unworthily. That means we must repent of our sins before taking the sacrament.  During the sacrament service we should feel prayerful and reverent. We should think of the Atonement of our Savior and be grateful for it. We should examine our lives and look for ways to improve. We should also renew our determination to keep the commandments.  We do not need to be perfect before partaking of the sacrament, but we must have the spirit of repentance in our hearts.

Activity:  This was a hard theme to come up with an activity for, so I decided to scour the internet for ideas.  I decided on an activity from A Year of FHE.  Initially, I would've liked to make a sacrament meeting quiet book, but that idea came to me much too late to plan out what it would entail.  Still, as I write this blog, I think I just may go out and make one with June later this week as an extension of our FHE activity.

We started off with a little dance and poem:

I’ll fold my arms (fold arms),
I’ll bow my head (bow head),
And quiet, quiet be (whisper this line).
As the sacrament is blessed,
I will remember Thee.

Then, I went over the Sacrament Rules poster and June wanted to tape it to her wall in her room, which we did.  Then June got to color a Sacrament coloring page which depicts scenes of the sacrament with the Jews, Nephites, early Saints, and Saints today.  This was just a very basic activity, but the girls still enjoyed it.

Aug 10, 2014

Rio Grande Half Marathon Weekend

This morning was the culmination of months of hard work and training.  During this period, I discovered strength and stamina of which I never through myself capable.  I found I can run farther than I ever thought, run faster than I ever thought, and push myself harder than I ever thought to achieve feats I previously considered out of my grasp.  My running improved and my confidence in my running abilities grew.
I found a third pocket in these awesome Athleta 2-in-1's that was perfect for stashing my Gu!

Heading toward the starting line.

From the moment I toed the starting line to the moment I crossed the finish line of the Rio Grande Half Marathon, I knew I could achieve my finishing goal of 2:29:29.  My previous half marathon PR (personal record) was from last summer's Utah Runner Girls Half Marathon, 2:45:23, so I felt that this goal was a bit ambitious.  My running this morning was light, easy, and graceful.  That coupled with all the confidence I gained training kept my mind free and able to enjoy the gorgeous views that surrounded me.  The brilliant full moon, the lights of Albuquerque shining below me like a clear starry night, the awesome Sandia Mountains, the Rio Grande River, the forested areas, the wildlife--there were even a half-dozen hot air balloons aloft! I was able to appreciate all of it.  Oh, how I miss mountains!
Gorgeous race course
Around mile 4, my right food started bothering me.  It felt as though a tendon was snapping across the top and it was causing me discomfort.  I was determined to finish this race running, no matter what, so I changed my gait by landing farther up on the balls of my feet, and that immediately changed the problem.  After about half a mile of running this way, the pain went away completely when I went back to my normal running gait.  No more problems after that.  I continued to enjoy my surroundings, the motivating signs and spectators, the gracious assistance from the volunteers, and most of all--the joy of the run.
Sporting my newest medal!  And working on my 3rd water bottle.

I started slowing from miles 9 through 11 with their accompanying incline and my inevitable fatigue, then picked up steam once the ground leveled and I saw I only had a mile left.  I rounded the last turn and had the finish line in my sights, so I broke into a sprint and miraculously held it until I crossed that glorious finish and received my medal.  Then I proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes catching my breath and taking the slowest cool down walk.

I took a nice, long shower at the hotel, then utilized all sorts of runner recovery products:  foam roller, intense stretching, BioFreeze (like icy hot, but better), calf compression sleeves, and a plantar fasciitis sock.  I felt like a royal running nerd with this stuff on, but it really helps with a fast recovery.

After checking out of my hotel, I made it a point to attend Sacrament meeting at the church.  I checked the site for a ward that was close to my route home which started at a convienent enough time so I could shower, pack, and eat before heading over.  Luckily, the Canyom Heights ward fit this description, and I got to enjoy further spiritual fulfillment as I partook of the sacrament and listened to the speakers.

Wear race shirt?  Check.  Sport race medal?  Check.
 After church, I quickly changed into my post-race usual of wearing the race t-shirt and the race medal.  I feel like I can't rightfully wear the race shirt until I've earned it by completing the race.  My post-race ritual was complete once I got home and took a much deserved nap.

The temple and all the scenery around it is absolutely gorgeous.

This was such a great weekend!  Not only did I achieve an incredible PR, but I also was able to attend the Albuquerque temple and participate in service.  Going to the temple the night before this race really kept my spirit and mind open to the influence of the Lord in my life.  I know that He has blessed me with my blossoming running talent.  He has helped me stick to a training plan and He increased my endurance and my strength to levels I should not be at right now.  My doctors are flabbergasted at these increases and are astounded that I'm achieving so much when not long ago, I was told I would never be able to run again.  I could feel the Lord's love for me during this race, as I prayed that the pain in my foot would cease and that it wouldn't result in injury.  I could feel His love as I appreciated all the beauty and camaraderie that surrounded me this run.  These are my favorite moments:  when religion and running collide to form a perfect moment of meditation, gratitude, and self-realization.

Heading in for temple service!  #ilovetoseethetemple

Aug 9, 2014

Gifts of the Spirit (FHE)

This week, I based our Family Home Evening on the Gospel Principles manual, chapter 22:  The Gifts of the Spirit.

Song: We sang song #126, the Seventh Article of Faith, from the Primary Children's Songbook.  It goes as follows:
We believe in the gift of tongues,
prophecy, revelation,
visions, healing, interpretation of tongues,
and so forth.

Lesson: Once we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can be blessed with certain spiritual powers called gifts of the spirit.  These gifts are given to those who are faithful to Christ.  "All these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God" (D&C 46:26).  Some of the spiritual gifts we can be blessed with include:
- Gift of Tongues (D&C 46:24): the ability to speak another language
- Gift of Interpretation of Tongues (D&C 46:25): the ability to understand another language
- Gift of Translation (D&C 5:4): translating from one language to another
- Gift of Wisdom (D&C 46:17): ability to understand people and the principles of the gospel as they apply to our lives.
- Gift of Knowledge (D&C 46:18): ability to learn of God, His laws, and all things (if we need to)
- Gift of Teaching Wisdom and Knowledge (Moroni 10:9-10):  ability to explain and testify o the truths of the gospel, and of any truth.
- Gift of Knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (D&C 46:13): ability to have a testimony through the whispering of the Holy Ghost of our Savior.
- Gift of Believing the Testimony of Others (D&C 46:14): ability to know the truth of all things through the Holy Ghost
- Gift of Prophecy (D&C 46:22): gift to receive true revelations about the past, present, or future of our own lives or in the capacity of our callings
- Gift of Healing (D&C 46:19-20): ability to exercise the faith to be healed when ill, or to heal others who are ill
- Gift of Working Miracles (D&C 46:21): asking in faith, in times we need help, the Lord will work miracles for us
- Gift of Faith (Moroni 10:11): increase in our ability to have faith, for through faith we can develop our spiritual gifts

We can develop our spiritual gifts.  In order to do so, we must find out which gifts we have.  We do this by praying, fasting, and reviewing our blessings.  Ofttimes our patriarchal blessings, baby blessings, and confirmation blessings contain some spiritual gifts we have received.  We must be obedient and faithful to be given our gifts, and we should use these gifts to do the work of the Lord.  "They are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do" (D&C 46:9).

Satan can imitate the gifts of tongues, prophecy, visions, healings, and other miracles.  Satan wants us to believe his false prophets.  We can know if they are from Satan by following the Holy Ghost.  We should avoid all associations with the powers of Satan.

We should thank Heavenly Father for the gifts He has blessed us with and hold them sacred.  They are for our profit and salvation, and not for the glory of the world (D&C 84:73).

 Activity:  As I taught the lesson, I used this activity to keep June engaged.  In preparation, I used one bead per letter and wrote "Spiritual Gifts" on them with a blank bead for the space.  I strung these onto string and had them loosely tied at the top to keep the beads from falling off.  I was anticipating having three kids over for FHE, so I prepped three necklaces.  With toddlers, I like the pony beads best as they are easy to string and are larger in size.  You can also find them in all sorts of shapes.  I just bought the miscellaneous beads package. 

 I wrapped fun shaped beads in colorful mini-envelopes and labeled each envelope with the name of a spiritual gift.  Now that I think about it, I could've put a picture that symbolized that gift on it instead so June could pick it out.  As I talked about each gift, June got to open the corresponding actual gift, and then string the bead onto her necklace.  At the end of the lesson I told her that these aren't all the spiritual gifts Heavenly Father gives us.  Sometimes, when we need extra help, we can ask Him in faith and He will bless us with whatever spiritual gifts we need.  So here, June got to string a bunch of extra beads onto her necklace.  After her necklace was complete, I told her that we should always be grateful to Heavenly Father for the spiritual gifts He has given us, just like we should be grateful whenever we receive a gift from anyone, so we need to thank Him for these gifts.  At this, June shouted, "Thank you Heavenly Father for all my pretty spiritual gifts beads!"

Modeling her completed necklace

Aug 6, 2014

Like daughter like mother

Nothing is more rewarding than having my daughter throw on her light-up princess sneakers and sprint around the house saying, "I'm running fast like Mommy!"  One of the main reasons I run is to instill in her the importance of being strong and healthy.  I don't want June to relate exercise to how she looks.  Instead, I want her to engage in physical activity because she likes how it feels, it makes her strong and healthy, and she really enjoys it!   So, each time I hear her ask if she can run a race with Mommy, it fills my heart with such joy.

She is such a great help and motivator to me!  She's been right there with me, smack dab in the middle of my training, ever since she was born.  I started pushing her in the jogging stroller as an infant, and continued until earlier this year when I worked out a brilliant sitter situation (best running friends have baby-sitting age children).  She's been my biggest fan at nearly all of my races.  Nothing gets me to the finish line faster than seeing my sweet baby girl waving her arms and shouting, "Run faster Mommy!"  When she wakes up in the morning, she asks me if I had a good run.  If I skipped it, her face will fall and she'll ask, "Does Mommy not like running anymore?"  She'll look so sad that I will have to find some way to still exercise that day.  She's only three and is a master at the guilt trip.  She helps me pick out new running gear and clothes--her favorite part is choosing the colors, which are usually in the pink/purple family.  She even likes to recommend songs for my running playlist, but I just don't think I could handle listening to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse soundtrack anymore than I already hear it.

Each night before I go to bed, I set out my running clothes for the next morning.  Now, June will join me and help me pick out which outfit I should run in.  She takes such pride in this as she meticulously considers each top and bottom, trying to find the perfect combination.  Even better, she has a natural talent for ensuring the outfits are cute and coordinated.  If you follow my blog, you'll know that wearing cute and coordinated running clothes is one of the biggest motivators that keeps me lacing up and running out the door regularly.  She definitely has a gift.

Telling me all about her favorite temple, the Oakland California Temple.
 But more than running, she keeps me on track with my spiritual exercise.  If we're about to go somewhere and I haven't said morning prayer with her, she'll shout from her car seat, "Mommy!  We can't go yet!  We need a prayer!"  Nightly she'll ask, "Is it family home evening today?"  And I'll have to tell her when we are having it or she'll get sad.  If I'm super tired and I put her to bed without reading scriptures or saying prayer, she will say, "No mommy, not bed time yet!  I want scriptures!  June's turn for prayer!"  I am amazed with her dedication to the gospel at this age already.  She continues to astound me every day.  She loves going to church with me, she loves hearing the scriptures, she insists she gets to say prayer every time we have prayer (I sometimes say one after her too).  She loves singing the Primary songs and hearing the hymns.  She loves looking at pictures of the temple and of Christ.  I couldn't have imagined a child as wonderful as June.  I'm truly blessed.

I love that June is wanting to share in one of my biggest passions.   But this is my dream, and if she doesn't share it, that's alright.  She can do whatever she has a passion for, and I'll always be there to support her and cheer her on.  Still, how awesome it would be to run with her, to train with her, and to race with her.  Even now, running a short distance race with her (or holding her through part of it) is one of my favorite ways to bond with her and to grow closer with her.  June is eagerly anticipating our next race as a family, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in September.  We are running to honor the memory of my mother, aunt, grandfather, and uncle.  I'll be competing in the 5K, then joining her on the mile fun run with my brothers and my dad.  She's been asking me daily, "Can we run the race today?"  Yeah, she's my favorite person. Running has helped me see how blessed I am, both on the road and in the home.