Friday, May 31, 2013

New Motto

Our ward was recently blessed with the addition of two phenomenal sister missionaries, Sister Beazer and Sister McCracken! Last night Sister McCracken and I were talking and ended up sharing our favorite Elder Holland talks and quotes from a few of them. Today, she posted this on my wall on Facebook. Seriously, this is my new and favorite motto!!

You can listen to just a few of my favorite Elder Holland talks here, here, and here.

Before and After

I saw this idea on Pinterest (such dangerous words). I have a nightstand in my room that is beautiful and matches all of my other furniture, but I wanted a bit of a change. The idea is to add a pop of color to the inside of the drawers. It's kind of like I have a little secret in my room. So, I went to Lowe's bought a $3 sample jar of paint (Sonora Rose is my new favorite), $12 worth of new drawer pulls and now have a snazzy, updated nightstand.
Here is the before shot:
Here is the after shot:

(Please disregard the paint smudges you can see on the drawer front. Apparently I have a lot to learn about being careful when I'm painting.

Feelings of Worth and Blessings

I just have to say that I'm having some of the most incredible experiences of my life right now! This week I've learned some things that have hurt me, that have caused me in some ways to backtrack in some of the progress I have made. But at the same time, these same things are becoming building blocks for me. They are a normal part of life and progression. Also, I've been given some of the greatest gifts this week, and they have NOTHING to do with things.

I have found myself questioning my worth, why I don't feel good enough, why I let others make me feel less than what I am. That is a scary path for me. That is the type of path that sends me into depression. As these thoughts have entered my mind, I've really had to dig deep and find within myself these feelings of worth. I may not feel like I'm worth anything to anyone else, but I know I'm worth everything to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. As I contemplate that, I feel an abounding warmth and in my heart I feel that I AM good enough and that I should NEVER permit anyone to treat me less than what I am, the daughter of a king.

Along with these thoughts, I began to ponder where I would be if I hadn't made some of the critical decisions I have made within the last year or so. As I replay certain events or decisions, I have an idea of where I would have ended up. Every decision I have made has led me here, to this particular moment in my life. Some of the decisions I made were not good, some were painful, but most were right for me. But here I am, at this moment, and do you know what I've found? As much as I hurt sometimes, as much as I wonder what on earth I'm doing here, yesterday I realized that I'm beginning to see the woman I always hoped I'd be. My life isn't exactly where I had planned it to be. It has taken twists and turns that I never expected. But as I was sitting with friends last night discussing the gospel, I realized that I ended up exactly where I needed to be.

There truly are many roads that will lead us to where we need to be and will help us become the people we need to become. We all make our own choices, but if we do so utilizing the gift of the Holy Ghost, we will ALWAYS come to the place that our Heavenly Father wants us to be. He will not let us fail. Perhaps he will let us fall (but not without providing aid), but as we pick ourselves up, dust off the dirt and allow Him to help us, we CANNOT fail!!

The gifts I have been given are some INCREDIBLE friends and some amazing time with them!! Heavenly Father and I have been talking a lot, and I have been expressing some desire over the last several months to just get out! I didn't want to be in this place, I was feeling incredibly isolated and friendless (sometimes I'm a bit dramatic). But I just kept feeling this overwhelming feeling that I am in the right place, that I just need to sit tight. He knows what I'm going through and He knows what I need. He sent me friends to spend time with, to teach me, and to love me. He has given me opportunities to serve, to travel, to experience life to its fullest. As things unfold this summer, I am beginning to see that He does have a plan for me. And that plan may be as simple as helping me to find my own happiness. He does LOVE us all and is ALWAYS there for us. Sometimes its just hard for us to see that.

And because I just LOVE this quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, I'm going to share it (...again - I've talked about this before). "In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection." (For Times of Trouble, Mar 1980)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

St. Augustine

On Memorial Day, the sister missionaries (Sister McCracken and Sister Beazer) took off on a little adventure. We went to St. Augustine for the afternoon. I had a poor idea of what this place would be. I was expecting a really historical place (hello, it is the oldest established city) with a lot to see. Well, let's just say it isn't quite like that. We got to see the fort, and as far as the historical part of the trip goes, that was it! But we had a great time. We had pizza at this cute little shop, and somehow we have great skill and selected the ONLY establishment in the entire city that is cash only! Who does that? You would then say, well why didn't you use the ATM? I'll tell you was out of service!! Luckily Sister Beazer had some cash and saved our bacon. We walked around a few other shops, enjoyed the beautiful day, and then discovered the best fudge shop EVER. It is called Fudge Buckets. We will DEFINITELY be going back here. If you are in St. Augustine...look this place up!!!

Back to the "history"....

Here is a picture of the fort. I'm cheap and we didn't go inside.
But it's all good because they have some of the canons outside, and that's pretty cool.

When we got back to town, we picked the Elders up to go to my house for a bit. On the way to take all of them home, we witnessed this beautiful sunset. This doesn't do it justice (that's what I get for stopping in the middle of the road and trying to take a picture at warp speed).
It was such a lovely day! I can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Come Unto Me"

With all of my adventures lately I’ve gotten off track in highlighting a talk from the April General Conference. So, I’m going to highlight this one today and will be back on track on Sunday.

The talk given by President Henry B. Eyring entitled “Come Unto Me” is truly a message of peace. And that is what I needed today. I’m having a really hard time this morning and feel broken and undervalued. Logically I know neither is true, but I’m working through that this morning. I’m glad that I missed getting this up on Sunday because this is a message that I need right this very minute.

I don’t have my notes with me this morning, but that is also okay. I am pretty sure I highlighted something totally different, so I’m going with a few quotes that struck a chord with me this morning in my current state. Hopefully they will also uplift you and bring you the peace and comfort you may be seeking.

“We will be able to do it without fail only as we feel love for the Savior and His love for us. As we are faithful to the promises we have made, we will feel our love for Him. It will increase because we will feel His power and His drawing near to us in His service.

“President Thomas S. Monson has reminded us often of the promise of the Lord to His faithful disciples: “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

“You remember the Lord’s promise to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon when they were away from their families on His errands: “My friends Sidney and Joseph, your families are well; they are in mine hands, and I will do with them as seemeth me good; for in me there is all power.”

”Alma and the Saints of his day prayed for his son and the sons of King Mosiah. An angel came. Your prayers and the prayers of those who exercise their faith will bring the Lord’s servants to help your family members. They will help them choose the way home to God, even as they are attacked by Satan and his followers, whose purpose it is to destroy families in this life and in eternity.”

“My promise to you who pray and serve the Lord cannot be that you will have every blessing you may wish for yourself and your family. But I can promise you that the Savior will draw close to you and bless you and your family with what is best. You will have the comfort of His love and feel the answer of His drawing closer as you reach out your arms in giving service to others. As you bind up the wounds of those in need and offer the cleansing of His Atonement to those who sorrow in sin, the Lord’s power will sustain you. His arms are outstretched with yours to succor and bless the children of our Heavenly Father, including those in your family.”

This is the true Church of Jesus Christ. Only in the priesthood keys held by President Thomas S. Monson is the power for us to be sealed in families to live forever with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We will on the Day of Judgment stand before the Savior, face to face. It will be a time of joy for those who have drawn close to Him in His service in this life. It will be a joy to hear the words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”19 I so testify as a witness of the risen Savior and our Redeemer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Reading this talk this morning reminded me that I need to get to work and be of service to others, to lose myself in the service of God. As I do that and strive to be obedient and keep the covenants I have made, repenting where needed, and follow Him with all of my might and strength, I will be buoyed up. I just have to emphasize one line, one more time! “You will have the comfort of His love and feel the answer of His drawing closer as you reach out your arms in giving service to others.” Here we go…time to serve!
Please read or listen to the full message found here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Playing Mom - The End

I had to say good bye on Sunday morning to this wonderful family and my beautiful city!! I love this place SOOOO much and love the feelings I have when I'm here, especially the one that makes me feel truly empowered! I don't know what it is about this place, but it is the only place I've ever been that makes me feel that way!
I love the people here! I love the memories I have! I am so grateful for all of the lessons I've learned. I've only shared a small portion of all that I've learned, but they are the greatest of all and I'm so glad I had this opportunity.

Day 8

My last full day in Boston was less like playing mom, and more like being a tourist. It was really fun. I took myself to Panera which is probably not as cool as it sounds, but I used to go there a LOT and I haven't been to one in over three years. So, more than anything it was just a walk down memory lane (and I won't even mention that it was slightly disappointing - in the years since I've learned to make some really awesome sandwiches, but now I know).

I wanted to bring back a souvenir. They suggested that I collect sea glass along the beach...and that's exactly what I did. Look at my stash!! It was really interesting!

I learned another great lesson while I was on this search. You really do find what you are looking for. I had walked over that beach a few times while we lived there and I never noticed the sea glass. I was usually looking for shells (more like I was looking to avoid stepping on them), or taking in the scenery and I walked right over this stuff. In life, we do the same thing. If we look for the negative, we will find the negative. But if we look for the positive, we will find positive and goodness all around us. I've been working on this specifically as I have come home and have had to jump back into some situations that I would rather not have to be in. But they are a part of my life right now and I'm looking for the positive. It hasn't made anything go away, but I'm seeing the blessings and lessons now as a positive thing for me, rather than the negative of having to deal with it all.

Playing Mom - Day 7

He parents came home on Friday! He was so excited to show them the cake we made. They flew in from overseas and were exhausted from jet lag (and rightly so!!), so LM and I settled in for movie night so they could try to catch some shut eye before life jumped right back into the fast lane.
We watched a show called Mighty Machines. I learned a lot!! And what they didn't cover, LM made sure I knew. Have I mentioned that I just LOVE this child??

Playing Mom - Day 6

You just get photo overload on this one! After dropping LM off at school, I parked the car nearby, grabbed my phone so I had my walking music and took off. I had a list of things I wanted to do that day, so I only planned to walk a couple of miles so I could get home. I had my music, and the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and the sound of the ocean called me further and further until I had walked along the beach from Swampscott, through Lynn, and all the way out Nahunt...a round trip of six miles. But with views like this, who needs to do lists anyway?

A nice gentlemand noticed me taking pictures and offered to get one of me in it.

This is the little crab I saw. The waves would roll in and push him further up the beach. As the water went back out, he would pop out of his shell and dig as quickly as he could to get into the sand, only to have the waves hit him again. I told LM that story and he asked me why I didn't help him. I guess I was trying to let nature take its course, I'm not sure. So now I feel a little bad about that too!

He wanted to make a welcome home surprise for his parents. He settled on chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. He drew a heart, wrote the word "love" and decorated it with plenty of sprinkles (I forgot to get a pic of the finished project).
And, for the record, I accidentally overbaked the cake (different oven than I was used to), but I couldn't say a thing...this little boy was SOOO proud of it. LOVE HIM!
This picture is for my own amusement. I forgot that in New England you don't have shopping baskets, buggies, or carts. You have carriages.
This is how I look to an 8 year old (see the sun on my face??) Not a bad shot.
Yes, this is the SAME game of Life that we started the day I got there. These are now his vehicles! Somehow my family disappeared in the game. I'm telling you, you've got to watch this kid...he's good. :)

Playing Mom - Day 5

Wednesday was a travel day. I went to...
New Hampshire!
I went to see my friend Heather and her cute daughter (I was so bummed I missed her husband and son!). We had such a fun visit and enjoyed catching up.
I also just loved the drive! Look at this glorious greenery that isn't a pine tree.
I also got to go and visit with my friend Jenny and her cute daughter (I love having friends with cute kids!!) Unfortunately I have no actual proof of either visit, but it was such a fun time catching up.

The clouds started rolling in as I got back into town. It made the temperature drop like crazy!!
And it also made the waves pick up on the beach.
Little man had baseball that night. Here he is practicing!

I was FREEZING cold during this time. Notice the kids above in simple long sleeve shirts and even that one kid in shorts?? Even the other adults were wearing only a windbreaker at most. What was I wearing?
Try three layers of clothing and the ever fashionable double-folded quilt...and I was STILL cold. By the end of the game the blanket was also over my head. LM came over and asked if I was warm enough and was going to try to find me something else to keep warm if I needed it. I just love being taken care of.
This was one of the nights that I really learned what being a parent is. I was SOOO tired, but he was wound up from the game and at 9:30 (bedtime is 8) he is still awake and bouncing off the walls. For some ridiculous reason I was EXHAUSTED and just wanted to go to bed. I told him he could sit up and read for 10 more minutes while I tidied up the kitchen and then it would be lights out. When I came upstairs and turned off the lights, he was NOT happy. He was definitely still too hyper to sleep. But I asked him to lay down and turned the lights off. I went to my room and just had this nagging feeling from the Spirit that I hadn't handled that well at all. I got my PJ's on and went back downstairs. All I wanted was to climb into my bed and drift off to sleep, but I took that walk. I knocked on his door and went in and laid next to him. I apologized for turning the lights out when he was still so hyper. I asked if I could read him a story to help settle him down. He LOVED that idea. He picked a book and he snuggled right next to me as I read. When I finished, I told him I loved him, tucked him in, and he was asleep before I was out of the room.
I was so glad I had that prompting to go back and try again. It was in that moment that I learned first hand how it isn't about was about him! I am so glad for that experience!

Playing Mom - Day 4

Tuesday was one of my favorite days! I got LM ready for school and as we were walking out the door, he grabbed one of his public library books and asked if he could take it to school with him. I told him I'd prefer he didn't as it could get lost or stolen, or just mixed in with all of the school books. I told him he could take it in the car with him and then leave it there so it would be waiting when I picked him back up. He wasn't pleased with this arrangement, but he did agree to it.
As I drove down the hill again, I was expecting a repeat of hugs and kisses as he jumped out of the car. Instead, he held the book in his hand and looked at me and asked if I was sure he couldn't take the book with him to school. I told him he was correct and he laid the book down gently in the seat. He got out of the car, turned around, looked at me and said "I can see you just don't trust me", and calmly and quietly shut the car door and walked away. Talk about a guilt trip! I felt TERRIBLE!!
As I drove away from the school I kept thinking to myself that I was failing at this whole mom thing...then I remembered I was only the babysitter and it wasn't the end of the world. And it wasn't. He was happy to see me when I picked him up from school and there were no other issues.
After that little experience, I went to the Boston Temple and met my good friend, Terry. It was such a beautiful experience. Here are just a few pics from that trip!

I had been on the ground a full three days, headed into 4, and still had not had my beloved cannoli! I decided that would be the PERFECT way to end my temple trip.
Look at the beauty that is an Italian pastry shop! I want them to teach me their ways! Waycross needs this and I just may be the woman to bring it them...if D'Amici's will mentor me...or let me eat a lot of their goodies...either way.


Playing Mom - Day 3

Monday morning I woke up with the sun (believe it or not), and this was the view from my bedroom! Ah, tell me again why I choose to live in the swamp??
The most memorable story of this morning was taking Little Man to school. As we crossed the top of the hill and were approaching the school (don't worry, I was stopped before he did this), he got out of his seat, grabbed my face and gave me a kajillion kisses and squeezes before he jumped out of the car, told me he loved me, and ran down the hill to school. Ah, it was just one of those moments.
I was a little lame and made my first stop in town the mall. We just don't have that kind of shopping where I live and I was in need of a few things. And I LOVE the things I always find in Boston.
I forgot how much I live driving down this street in Peabody with the patriotic stripe.

Driving back by the beach!
Monument hill in Swampscott was beautiful!
I'll have to post the recipe for this another time, but the story is the most important thing here. I asked LM (I'm abbreciating now) what he wanted for dinner. I told him I could make chicken or something else (I don't remember the other option). He said he would like chicken, so silly me decided to try a new recipe. I used a pretzel crust that would bake crispy and also be a bit salty. I also made a honey mustard dipping sauce (delicious!!) to go with it. He took one bite, pulled that face that only kids can do, and said, and I quote "what are my other options?". I made him something else, and I had chicken fingers for lunch for the next three days.

Playing Mom - Day 2

Sunday morning (Mother's Day) I heard Murphy at my bedroom door. I let him come in and lay with me, just like our cat does. Only this cat, when you move and he's not ready to go, uses his jaws of steel and bites your neck under your chin. Try prying that one off of you without leaving too many marks.
It was so great to see everyone at church. And, for the first time in over a year I got to go to all of Sunday School AND Relief Society! It was a wonderful break and the discussion in both classes was so uplifting. Over the past few months I've really been struggling over the idea of marriage. I know it is important and is part of Heavenly Father's plan for his children, but after being an observer of some relationships recently and in part to some of my own experience, I just wasn't sure that it was something I wanted. Our Relief Society lesson "happened" to be on marriage and what a blessing it is and can be. Obviously, it takes a lot of work from both spouses to make it work, and both people have to want a good relationship. I could go on and on about what I learned and the affect that being there had on me, but I'll leave it at now, despite what I've seen and knowing full well of the many struggles and bad times, as well as the good times, I want to be married. I am committed to marriage and the sanctity of it, and I desire that for myself.
Okay, so that's neither here nor there...back to the trip!
We went home from church and jumped back into playing Life. According to little man's rules, we played long enough that I had to have two vehicles to cart my family around.
That afternoon we got the best gift of all...Mother's Day calls from Lori! She pulled faces at me most of the time she and I talked. I only posted the good ones (you can thank me later, Lori). I even saw the face that she pulls when she thinks I'm weird and she's trying to humor me. I can say I almost missed that face. 

That evening the grape monster struck our house. This kid LOVES grapes...I couldn't keep them in the fridge! See his little grape fangs?
And for the record, this was the day that I decided I REALLY also want to be a mom! Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE children, and have almost always wanted to be a mom. But again, over the last few months, I wasn't sure it was something I was cut out for (man, it sounds like I was having some sort of identity crisis or something), but after only a day I was HOOKED! There is NOTHING better! I'll share more about that later.

Playing Mom - Day 1

I didn't know what to call this series of posts. I guess I could have settled with my standard level of creativity and gone with something truly profound like "Boston - Day XX". But that isn't what I was feeling this time. Just before I left, someone asked me what I was going to Boston for. To everyone else I had answered that I was going to babysit. But what slipped out of my mouth that time was that I was going to "play mom". And really, that's basically what I did.
With that explanation out of the way, let me regale you with the tales of this experience.
Right off the bat I got to take a taxi...BUCKET LIST ITEM ACCOMPLISHED!!

For some silly reason it felt wrong to take a picture from the back seat looking forward. So I started clicking a kajillion pictures out my window of the ocean and scenery, turned forward and took this one, and went right back to my window. Sometimes I scare myself.

The little boy I was watching was still at the neighbors when I arrived, so this is the first face that greeted me...Murphy!

The first order of business was a baseball game. Little man came home, got dressed and I asked him to get his stuff. He grabbed his helmet and said he was ready. As we walked to the field after parking the car, he looked at me and told me he forgot his baseball glove. I asked if I needed to run home and get it, to which he responded that they would have one he could borrow.
We continue walking down the hill and he's swinging his helmet back and forth. It swung forward once and he looked hard at it, looked up at me and said "Oh man, this isn't my baseball helment...this is my ski helmet!". This was the moment I learned that I know NOTHING about sports!!
I asked him again if I should run home and grab the right gear. He turned to me and said, "No, it's okay, this is probably a lot safer". Needless to say I got a lot of strange looks from the coaches and other parents as he walked out onto the field.

Here we are playing life (day 1).

That night I dropped him off for a play group with some friends in the ward. When I came to pick him up, the kids were in the back yard and I quickly became the alligator in the water preparing to attack. :)
And can I mention how old being here made me feel? When I left Boston, these kids were all so small. That one with her head poking over the top was only about 9...and now she's 12!! When did this happen???