Dec 27, 2014

The Christmas Story (FHE)

Family Home Evening this week was pushed to Wednesday, Christmas Eve.  My Mother would always tell us the story of the Nativity on Christmas Eve before we went to bed.  We looked forward to setting up our Nativity set as she told us about Jesus' birth and why He is so important.  I carry on this tradition each year with June.  This year, we spent Christmas with my side of the family and my Dad has a video of my Mom telling us the Nativity story back when I was about eight!  So, June got to watch that special video and help Mommy and her uncles set up the Nativity pieces.  Following, I read her the Biblical account in Luke 2 and Matthew 2 before she went to bed.  We did all this by the light of the Christmas tree.  Each time we tell the Nativity story, the Holy Ghost comes in so strongly, filling our hearts with love, comfort, and peace--all feelings that come with the Christmas spirit.  I love that I can continue this tradition and enjoy the wonderful spirit that comes with it. 

Here is the Nativity story told in the New Testament, Luke Chapter 2:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
 21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Matthew Chapter 2:
 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,
 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
 11 ¶And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

The Family can be Eternal (FHE)

Last week for Family Home Evening, I taught June about how the family can be together forever.  I based my lesson on the Gospel Principles manual, chapter 36: the Family can be Eternal.

Song: We sang "Families can be Together Forever," song #188 from the Primary Children's Songbook.  This song is special to me as it was one of my Mother's favorite Primary songs.  She would sing it to us often, especially before bed.  Now that she has passed on, it is even more significant to me as I remember with each reiteration that our family will be together forever.  It goes as follows:

1. I have a fam'ly here on earth.
They are so good to me.

I want to share my life with them through all eternity.
2. While I am in my early years,

I'll prepare most carefully,

So I can marry in God's temple for eternity.
Chorus: Fam'lies can be together forever

Through Heav'nly Father's plan.

I always want to be with my own family,

And the Lord has shown me how I can.

The Lord has shown me how I can.

Lesson:  Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple. When people are married outside the temple, the marriage ends when one of the partners dies. When we are married in the temple by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are married for time and eternity. If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us.

Husbands and wives should be thoughtful and kind to each other. They should also try to do everything possible to make each other happy.  As family members we can help each other feel confident by giving encouragement and sincere praise. Each child should feel important. Parents need to show they are interested in what their children do and express love and concern for their children. Children should likewise show their love for their parents. They should be obedient and try to live the kind of life that will bring honor to their parents and to their family name.

President Harold B. Lee taught, “The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes."  All of us want to have happy, successful families. The following things will help us achieve this:

1. Have family prayer every night and morning (3 Nephi 18:21). Pray together as husband and wife.
2. Teach children the gospel every week in family home evening.
3. Study the scriptures regularly as a family.
4. Do things together as a family, such as work projects, outings, and decision making.
5. Learn to be kind, patient, long-suffering, and charitable (Moroni 7:45–48).
6. Attend Church meetings regularly (D&C 59:9–10).
7. Follow the counsel of the Lord in D&C 88:119: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”
8. Keep a family history, perform temple work together, and receive the sealing ordinances of the temple.

Our family can be sealed in the temple for time and eternity
Activity:  I had two envelopes.  One signified civil marriages and the other eternal marriages.  The eternal marriage envelope had a picture of June's favorite temple on it, the Oakland temple.  Then, I cut out pictures of each of our family members.  I asked June, "Do you like being with our family?"  She responded with an enthusiastic "Yes!"  I then took the family paper dolls and placed them into the civil marriage envelope.  I told her that while we're on this earth we are a family, but when we pass on (I tipped the envelope over and the dolls all came out) we are not bound to each other as a family anymore.  June didn't like that one bit.

June wants to have a forever family!
Then, I placed the family paper dolls into the temple envelope.  I explained that when we are married in the temple, we are sealed together for time and all eternity--and this means to our children as well and every generation that continues as long as they are sealed.  I licked the envelope and sealed it shut.  I told her that we are a family while on the earth, and after we pass on (I tipped the envelope over and shook it), we are still sealed together as a family forever!  That made June much happier.  I told her this is why temple marriage is so important, because we want to be with our loved ones forever.

Salt Lake City Temple

Dec 17, 2014

Race Reports: Oasis 5K and Cannon AFB Turkey Trot

Carol and I before the race
November was a month full of racing, and I decided to try two 5K's just about back to back.  Saturday, November 22nd I ran the Oasis State Park 5K, then three days later I ran the Cannon AFB Turkey Trot.  I know, it sounds crazy, but I really love running and I just can't pass up local races.
My friend Carol invited me to run the Oasis 5K with her.  Oasis State Park is a unique place to run out here on the high plains.  It has a cute little pond and sand dunes.  The course took us around both of these, which meant some trail running, and also through the camp sites.  I tried my best to keep up with Carol (she is pretty fast), but I only managed to do so the first half.  Still, although I was tired from holding such a fast pace, I finished this 5K with a new (as of then) PR of 26:58!  My turkey tutu has carried me to another personal best.  I also made some new friends in the process. 

Though this was a small race with a minimal registration fee, the swag we received was impressive!  We each got three shirts and a hat.  The actual race shirt is pretty cute too.  Post race refreshments were also surprising and consisted of Muscle Milk shakes, salad, cookies of all kinds (I'm partial to gingerbread), and coolers full of gaortade.  The best part of this race though, were the giant turkey legs served at the finish.  It was also nice to have a running tour of this local state park.

This turkey leg made all the running worth it even more!
 The entire day of the Cannon AFB Turkey Trot was windy.  And I mean windy!  We're talking 30mph sustained winds, not to even mention gusts.  I debated just skipping the run, but I was already in my running clothes.  I ran with Carol again.  She always motivates me to run at my absolute best just because I try so hard to keep up with her!

Although the going was tough on the way out with the wind trying its best to push me backward, the way back was like flying as the wind propelled me forward.  I finished this race earning a new 5K PR of 23:53--a feat I didn't think possible this year, especially since I just PR'd at Oasis!  The turkey tutu does it again!  It must be my fall good luck charm.  Carol scored first place and I took home second.  I also ran into two other friends at this one.  I should participate in the base runs more often.

Race Report: Toys for Tots Cross Country 4-miler

This last Saturday, December 13th, I yet again found myself in Lubbock.  True to running Mormon fashion, I found myself a race to run while I was there.  Sure, it meant adding another four hours to my trip, which also translates to losing 4 hours of sleep, but how could I pass up a chance to race in my Santa hat and skirt?

I found the Toys for Tots 4-miler--a cross country trail run put on by the West Texas Running Club.  Along with a minimal registration fee, they were asking for a Toys for Tots donation.  My daughter helped me pick out a toy for this.  Since this was a Toys for Tots run, there were some Marines there dressed in their blues.  They were awesome as they cheered on tired runners.

Trail Run!  This grassy field was the smoothest terrain we ran on.

The weather was ideal winter running weather, aside from the wind.  Overcast, 50's, and even a slight mist.  There were a couple hills though...steep hills.  How they found hills in West Texas blows my mind, but there they were.  I'm not accustomed to running hills as I live in the utter flattness of Eastern New Mexico, but at least they were good for blocking the wind.  Still, ouch!  I ran and I ran and I ran.  I was sporting my trail shoes, which are much heavier than my racing flats.  My hamstrings burned.  My glutes burned.  And my heart was light as I listened to Christmas music.  It felt great to open up and let loose on the trails!  I passed the finish line with a time of 37:48.  This was fast enough to earn Second Place in my age group!

This was a well-organized event.  The course was clearly marked and they had quite a few helpful, friendly, and motivated volunteers.  Really, there's nothing that I would change about this race.  Even though there were hills, they added the spirit of the Marine Corps to the race, as the corporal I was talking with says.

Obedience (FHE)

I'm back to my family home evening lessons using the Gospel Principles manual as my guide.  This week we studied chapter 35 on Obedience.

Song: We sang one of my favorite Primary songs from the Children's Songbook, Nephi's Courage song #120.  This is such a fun song to sing!  It goes as follows:

1. The Lord commanded Nephi to go and get the plates
From the wicked Laban inside the city gates.
Laman and Lemuel were both afraid to try.
Nephi was courageous. This was his reply:
Chorus:  "I  will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey."
2. The Lord commanded Nephi to go and build a boat.
Nephi's older brothers believed it would not float.
Laughing and mocking, they said he should not try.
Nephi was courageous. This was his reply:
3. The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I'm discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will reply:
Lesson: By keeping God’s commandments, we prepare for eternal life and exaltation. Sometimes we do not know the reason for a particular commandment. However, we show our faith and trust in God when we obey Him without knowing why.
God will provide a way for us to keep His commandments!  The Book of Mormon tells us that Nephi and his older brothers received a very difficult assignment from the Lord (see 1 Nephi 3:1–6). Nephi’s brothers complained, saying that the Lord required a hard thing of them. But Nephi said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). When we find it difficult to obey a commandment of the Lord, we should remember Nephi’s words.
Sometimes we may think a commandment is not very important. Sometimes we may think a commandment is too difficult for us to obey.  We should be willing to do anything God requires. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it." This can be our rule also. 
Jesus Christ was the sublime example of obedience to our Heavenly Father. He said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). His whole life was devoted to obeying His Father; yet it was not always easy for him. He was tempted in all ways as other mortals (see Hebrews 4:15). In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
Because Jesus obeyed the Father’s will in all things, He made salvation possible for all of us.

The kingdom of heaven is governed by law, and when we receive any blessing, it is by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is based (see D&C 130:20–21; 132:5). The Lord has told us that through our obedience and diligence we may gain knowledge and intelligence (see D&C 130:18–19). We may also grow spiritually (see Jeremiah 7:23–24). On the other hand, disobedience brings disappointment and results in a loss of blessings. “Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled” (D&C 58:31–33).
The Lord counsels us, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).

Activity: What better way to teach about obedience then to play "Simon Says."  I explained the rules to June, and we started playing.  At first, she just did every action I told her, even without the "Simon says" part.  After a bit, she picked up on it and was true to the game.  I told her that we should everything Heavenly Father tells us to do, just like we do everything Simon says to win.  I also told her that she should also be obedient to her parents because we want to help her do Heavenly Father's will.  However, we don't have to do everything other people tell us to do--especially when it's not what Heavenly Father wants.  Sometimes they are tricky, so we have to listen carefully to what is being said.

Once she got the hang of it, she loved playing this game!  I'm sure it would've been more fun with more kids, but still we made due with just the two of us.  I tried to keep the commands fun for her.

Dec 9, 2014

Running = Happy

I don't know what it is about running, but it is a guaranteed way to turn a bad day right around to a good one.  Today was a perfect example of this.  I woke up feeling lethargic and just plain mopey.  I read my scriptures and felt a bit better, but somewhere between dropping June off for school and getting back home put me right back in a mood.  Not even Christmas music could brighten my spirits.  I kept feeling like I should go run, especially since I was already dressed in workout clothes, but I talked myself out of it, deciding instead to just sit back in the recliner and watch some TV.  Which then led to eating all kinds of peppermint candy, which just worsened my already dismal mood.

I was feeling bad about myself, which was made worse by my not running when I had the chance--while June was at school.  Even after picking June up, I just couldn't muster up the motivation to get out the door.  Travis went into work taking my only semblance of a baby-sitter with him.  I plopped right back down into the recliner, clicked on the TV, and proceeded to eat junk food when Travis texted and offered to watch June at the gym so I could get in a couple miles.  I decided to take him up on the offer, even though I still just wasn't feeling it.

One Cellucor C4 pre-workout drink later, I was in the car with June and pulling into the base gym.  June ran up to Travis, who informed me I only had 20 minutes.  For a distance runner like myself, 20 minutes doesn't seem like enough time to get a real run in, but I figured that was better than nothing.  In went my earphones and out the door I ran, straight to the track.

Everything with this run seemed to go wrong.  First, my phone wouldn't pick up Pandora at all, and I was eagerly anticipating rocking out to a very specific station.  Then, my GPS watch died before I even hit the first mile.  To a tech-obsessed runner like myself, that is just about the kiss of death as I feel at times that a run not recorded didn't happen.

In spite of these two near-running-deal-breakers, I was elated!  It was amazing just to be outside cruising along, even with malfunctioning gear.  I felt re-engergized in both body and spirit.  I ran and ran, circling that track at who-knows-how-fast.  It didn't matter that I didn't have tunes, and it didn't matter that there was no device recording my progress.  I just enjoyed the run.  I ran until Travis came outside to meet me at the track with June since he had to go into work, and then I ran straight to them scooping June up in my arms for a sweaty post-workout cuddle.

This run helped me to remember why I run.  Forcibly having to go tech-free was a blessing in disguise.  I could feel the strength in my legs and core, the flow of my form, and the rhythm of my breath and foot falls.  The wind even felt amazing, offering resistance one direction to encourage even more strength building, and pushing me the other direction helping to build my speed and increase my stride.

The benefits didn't stop there.  From the second I got home, I was happy and productive.  My self-esteem was much better as was my attitude.  I'm so thankful that the Lord provided me a second opportunity to run today, and that He encouraged me to do so through the promptings of the Spirit.  I know that He loves me and wants me to be happy.  He blessed me with a passion for running so that I could use it as a way to lift my spirits, focus on the positive, and even motivate myself to serve and uplift others.  For me, running = happy.

Dec 7, 2014

Thanksgiving and Gratitude (FHE)

With Thanksgiving being this week, I decided to deviate from my Gospel Principles lesson series and instead taught a lesson on gratitude.  Since the theme of the talks and lessons at church yesterday were also on gratitude, this family home evening was set up perfectly.  I used the Family Home Evening resource guide in lesson prep.  We were also lucky enough to have the sister missionaries join us for FHE, and they were happy to share comments and help with the activity.  June loves having the missionaries over.

Song: We sang song #10, Thank Thee for Everything, from the Primary Children's Songbook.  It goes as follows
Father please hear us sing.
Praises to thee we bring.
Thank thee for ev'rything
In thy good world.
Skies may be gray or fair;
Trees may be green or bare.
Beauty is ev'rywhere
In thy good world,
In thy good world.

Lesson:  Gratitude is being aware of and appreciating blessings and kindnesses given to us. We can express it through sincere words of thanks and through actions that show our appreciation. An increased spirit of gratitude will bring increased joy into our lives.

I shared the following story:  Laura received many nice gifts for her birthday, but when she opened the package from her grandmother, a deep, warm feeling came over her. The gift was a beautiful handmade doll. As Laura touched the carefully braided hair, the embroidered face, and the lacy dress she thought of the time it must have taken for grandma to make this doll. Grandma’s eyesight was failing, and sewing by hand was becoming difficult for her. Laura ran to grandma and hugged her tightly. “Oh, thank you, grandma,” she whispered. Grandma hugged her back. She knew Laura loved the doll and that her many hours of work were appreciated. Best of all, she knew that Laura loved her.
We talked about how Laura showing her gratitude to her Grandmother helped her feel loved, and also helped Laura to appreciate the gift.  Both Laura and Grandma benefited from this display of gratitude, so we should also be grateful and show our gratitude often.  We should make being grateful a daily habit.  During a meal, invite family members to tell of something they have received from Heavenly Father, other members of the family, or others for which they feel grateful.  We can keep the list of blessings made during the home evening. Have each person place this list in a drawer or on a mirror where it will be seen often and add to it from time to time.  Also occasionally, let the family spend a home evening expressing their gratitude for blessings and kindnesses they have received, as individuals and as a family.   

Activity:  June got to express her gratitude by assembling a Thankful Turkey and a Cornucopia of Gratitude.  I couldn't decide on which one to do, so I decided to have her just complete both.  They also make cute Thanksgiving decorations.  I printed out each item, cut out the pieces, and laminated them.  Then, I gave each sister missionary some turkey tail feathers, cornucopia fruits, and a wipeable marker.  I showed June first the tailless turkey and I said, "This turkey isn't very thankful.  He is selfish, prideful, and unhappy.  Let's help him be happy by filling him with a tail full of things you are thankful for!"  She started telling each sister about the things she was thankful for, which they wrote on each tail feather.  Then I showed her the empty cornucopia and I said, "Cornucopias are supposed to be filled with blessings to remind us of what we are blessed with!  Let's fill this one with things you are grateful for."  She continued to list off things she was grateful for and the sisters again wrote those on the fruits.  As June listed things off, I had her tell me why she was grateful for each item.  Soon, she had a full cornucopia and a turkey tail full of feathers.  I told her "Look how much happier the turkey is with his full tail!  He is thankful now, and he is happy now.  And look how full our cornucopia is!  The Lord loves you so much to bless you with so many things!"

She enjoyed looking at the decorations as I put them on the wall.  Her favorite part was sticking the feathers on the turkey and the fruit in the cornucopia.  For a twist with older children, after each item is completed you can play a game with your family. Have everyone close their eyes while you take away one picture. Let your family guess which blessing is missing. Talk about what it would be like without that blessing. Keep playing until none are left.

The Thankful Turkey
The Cornucopia of Gratitude