Sunday, February 19, 2017

God knows you and loves you. He will answer your prayers.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to speak at our Stake Conference today, a large gathering of multiple local congregations. My assignment was to address and engage the children ages 3-11, although all ages would be present. This is an approximation of what I said this morning, expanded from the outline I used at the pulpit.

Primary children, where are you? If you can hear me, wiggle your fingers like this. If you can hear me, put your fingers on your mouth like this. If you are listening, put your hands in your lap and show me your smiling faces. I have an important message for you. Grown-ups, you can listen, too.

This is the message:
You are children of heavenly parents who love you. Your Heavenly Father hears your prayers and he will answer you. He is watching over you. Can you remember the words to “A Child’s Prayer”?

“Pray, He is there. Speak, He is listening. You are His child. His love now surrounds you. He hears your prayer. He loves the children.”  (from A Child’s Prayer)

How will you know when God is answering your prayers? The Bible teaches us that ” the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.. .” (Galatians 6:22)  That means that the Holy Ghost talks to us through good feelings. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus tells us, “... I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost...” (D&C 8:2)

When you receive answers to your prayers, when thoughts come to your mind, when you feel happy and calm, or when you feel like your heart will burst with love, this is the Holy Ghost. Write it down or ask your mom and dad to help you write it down. It will be a treasure to you, and one day, it will be a treasure to your children, and to your children's children.

I would like to share some of my treasures with you, true stories in which God answered prayers.

Have you ever been on a long car trip with your family? Did anyone get sick during the trip?

A Prayer of Faith - Emma
161 years ago, missionaries came to the town in England where my great-great-great- grandmother Emma lived. Back then, she wasn’t a grandma yet; she was a mom, just a little older than Sister Rahn and Sister Bateman, if you know them. Emma and her husband joined the church and decided to cross the ocean with their family to America to be where most of the church members were. They sailed from England with their 6 children on a boat called the Wellfleet. This trip was going to take about six weeks.

After the first week, Emma’s two year old son got very sick with whooping cough and throwing up. Today we get shots to protect against whooping cough, but back then, there were none, and it was very easy to spread the sickness from person to person. The whales in the ocean smelled the sickness and started to follow the ship. Because the ship was small, a whale could easily raise his huge tail and damage the ship or tip it over. One night, the captain came to tell Emma that they would have to throw her little boy overboard to save the ship. Emma begged the captain to give her one more day. Then Emma prayed most of that night to God that if He would save her little boy and heal him, she would be faithful in living the gospel. The next morning he was all better, and there were no whales following the ship. The rest of her life Emma was faithful to her promise to live the teachings of the gospel.

Have you ever been to a place where it snows in the winter? What did you wear to keep warm?

The Missing Boot - Susie
When Susie was maybe 5 or 6, she received a new pair of beautiful, warm snow boots. They were white with white fur on the inside and buckles on the outside with sparkles. Her mom warned her not to leave the boots on the front porch, but to always put them away in the closet by the front door. Susie knew that if she lost the boots, there was no money for another pair. One day, she left her boots on the porch in a rush to come inside. When she went back to put her boots on, one of them was gone. She looked everywhere - on the steps, in the yard, in the garage. Listen to Susie tell what happened:

I felt sick inside. I finally went to my mother and told her what had happened. All she said was, "There is only one person who knows where that boot is".  I went up to my bedroom and knelt down and told Heavenly Father what I had done. I told him that I did not want my feet to freeze and that if he would help me find my boot, I would try to be more obedient to my mom.  As I got up, a thought popped into my head. What if the dog next door had taken my boot? I put on my shoes and coat and ran to the yard next door. Their house had a front porch that their dog sometimes played under.  I crawled through the little opening under the steps and there it was. My boot had been chewed around the top and the silver buckle was gone. It was not beautiful anymore, but it was still wearable. My feet would not freeze that winter.

Susie grew up to be my mom. She taught me from a young age that God would listen to me and answer my prayers. Though I don't remember it, my baby book records that one night when I was about 3, I woke my parents up in the middle of the night, very upset. “Mommy! We forgot to say our prayers before bed!”

I have received many answers to prayers in my life from my days in Primary until now. God answered my prayer to find out if the Book of Mormon was true. He answered me when I prayed about going on a mission with a strong and clear answer that I should go. My husband and each of my children were answers to prayers. He has answered my prayers when I asked for forgiveness. I want to say that sometimes it felt like the answers were slow in coming. One in particular took 20 years before I got an answer.

He answered my prayers as I prepared this talk. I felt his love for me and for you so strongly as I prepared for today. I know that Heavenly Father loves you, that He will answer you, and if you write those special experiences down so that you can always remember them, they will be a guide and a treasure to you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thoughts on Faith

My Relief Society president (women's ministry chair) asked me to write down some thoughts on how my faith has grown this year. Here's what I wrote:

In the past few years, I have sometimes found my mind and heart churning over doctrinal questions or what I perceived as wrongs in church culture and practice. I started writing down questions one Sunday in March when I woke up. Before church began, I was set apart as a counselor in the Stake Primary, and I wrote: “God wants me to shepherd Primary children and Primary leaders to the temple. How do I reconcile my questions/concerns with that charge?” Ben Francisco was conducting Fast and Testimony Meeting that day. He talked about losing the study cards for his medical exams that he had been preparing for three years, doing everything he could to find them to no avail, and then getting the feeling that this was an opportunity to practice his faith. This was an answer to my question, that the right thing to do was not to quit going to the temple or studying scriptures, but to be faithful and consistent in doing those things.

In May, I began a monthly Saturday shift in the temple laundry. It has been like a soothing balm for my spirit and helps me feel happy in the temple. There are few people and few words in laundry. There are laundry baskets, piled heavy and high with dripping white jumpsuits, towels, socks and sports bras, while enormous whirring machines wash and dry. It’s a race, a game, to empty the baskets, fold everything, put it away. The physicality of the work is somehow liberating and rejuvenating. It clears my mind and settles my spirit. Thanks in part to my laundry shifts, the temple and I are on good terms.

I had a close friend and confidante leave the church in October. I missed her at church (I still miss her), cried for weeks, as much for me as for her. Such is the power of the Atonement that out of sadness blessings can come; her absence on Sundays has made it clear to me that I am in the right place, and I want to be there. I felt that strongly in a recent Fast and Testimony Meeting. I had been feeling tired that morning and wished I could stay in bed all day. When I arrived at church, President Packer was in our meeting to release Brother Francisco and call Brother Mati to the bishopric. My heart was full to overflowing with happiness to be there.

The moments described here have helped me feel more peaceful and confident in my faith. For now, I feel grounded in the personal knowledge that God is aware of me and that He loves me and He forgives me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

RSBC Finale

It wasn't a grand finale, but looking back over the month, the challenge definitely moved me in the right direction.

Run: 13.4 miles

Bike: 29.6 miles

Swim: 0 miles. 1 swimsuit acquired!

Cook: I discovered how easy and tasty (not to mention cost inexpensive) it is to make sauerkraut at home.

Thank you, Christy and Kara for hosting!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

RSBC week 3

It's been a slow week. My mileage is about the same as last week:

Swimming: 0 (I am determined to have swimwear by the end of the month!)

Biking: 29.6 miles

Running: 8.9 miles

On the positive side, my homemade sauerkraut was delicious! It's been on the counter all this time (9 days). I tried some 3 days in, and it was good, though very mild. I ate more yesterday and it had much more flavor. Such an easy thing to make and feel good about! I'm going to make another batch and try to always have some on hand.  $.42 for a head of cabbage and the  caraway seeds are already in my pantry.

I didn't make yogurt this week, but I have all that I need ready and am about to embark on my first yougurt-making. I'll report on that next week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

RSBC 2016: Week 2

My beautiful baby sauerkraut, only a few minutes old

Running total: 5.8 miles  (20.4 to go)

Bike total: 26.3 miles (85.7 to go)

Swim total: 0 miles. (2.4 to go) Not one of the swimsuits I ordered in the first batch fit, but another shipment of swim wear is coming in this week. My fingers are crossed.

For the sauerkraut, I followed the recipe here. I only started it today, so I can't comment yet on the flavor. I will say that the "raw" sauerkraut was delightful.

As we finish up week 2, I'm wishing there would be another challenge in March. I'm feeling motivated and having a great time. Who's with me?

What is RSBC?