Ronda Hinrichsen
Author

Recent Entries

  1. Hidden Heart by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
    Friday, March 28, 2014
  2. To Sleep No More by Kathleen Marks/ Ronda Hinrichsen
    Thursday, March 13, 2014
  3. My New Novella Series and Pen Name by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
    Tuesday, March 04, 2014
  4. Upcoming Conferences
    Monday, February 17, 2014
  5. I Know that My Redeemer Lives by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
    Monday, February 10, 2014
  6. Connecting My Sites
    Thursday, January 30, 2014
  7. Lucky Friday the 13th Book Sale!
    Friday, December 13, 2013
  8. PERFECT PIE CRUST HINT--by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
    Wednesday, November 27, 2013
  9. Heroes of the Highest Order 3 Day Sale
    Monday, November 11, 2013
  10. Pictures from Krakow, Poland
    Sunday, October 06, 2013
My Favorite Things

Hidden Heart by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Julia Barrett, a young woman involved in the Underground Railroad, hides a child who’s running from the ruthless gang who killed her family and faces betrayal and self-sacrifice at the brink of the Niagara Falls. —Hidden Heart by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen


Yesterday, my publisher informed me they've changed the title of my next novel, due to be published in June 2014, from Betrayed to Hidden Heart. My first title referred to the mystery/suspense elements as well as some of the character's situations, but my new title, Hidden Heart, suggests those things as well as the romantic elements. I really like that. I'll post the cover as soon as I get it.  
  
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To Sleep No More by Kathleen Marks/ Ronda Hinrichsen

To Sleep No More, my preternatural mystery novella, is now available on Kindle. I have written it under the pen name, Kathleen Marks, so readers can more easily discern between my realistic and not-so-realistic fiction.

From the back of the book:
She's broken-hearted. He's the man who loves her.

Preternatural scientist, Alexandra Dalton, and her estranged husband, Richard Dalton, a treasure hunter, join forces to unravel a mysterious "Night Hag" murder at Watson Manor.

Click here to read Chapter 1.
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My New Novella Series and Pen Name by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Hi, everyone,
Though I will continue to write contemporary and historical suspense novels under my pen name, Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, I will also be writing and self-publishing speculative novellas, under the pen name Kathleen Marks, for ebook and print on demand. My first novella is the beginning "episode" in a romantic suspense series titled: To Sleep No More, a Dalton & Dalton Preternatural Mystery and will be released later this month.Here is the cover and a quick blurb:


Preternatural scientist Alexandra Dalton and her estranged husband Richard Dalton, a treasure hunter join forces to unravel a mysterious "Night Hag" murder.
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Upcoming Conferences

There are two great writing conferences coming up in the next few months. If you're a writer, you really ought to check them out!


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I Know that My Redeemer Lives by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

(This article was originally published on Gospel Ideals).

“I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job said it. Other prophets and apostles of both the Bible and Book of Mormon have said it, and each first Sunday of every month, numerous members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including me, testify of it in their Fast and Testimony meetings. However, even with so many testators, millions of people ask how they can personally attain a sure knowledge that Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, does in fact live.

The answer is quite simple: Heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will reveal it to our hearts and minds when we sincerely obey and pray to Him (Moroni 10:4-5).

This truth—this promise from God—is a process that applies to all people and in all ages of their lives. For example, a friend of mine recently asked her six-year-old niece how she knew Heavenly Father loved her. She replied that she knew Heavenly Father loved her because when she kept the commandments, He helped her. She had not only obeyed Him, but she had also recognized His hand in her life.

My first steps toward my testimony of Jesus Christ began in a similar fashion when I was a child. I no longer remember all the details surrounding such events, or even all the prayers I offered, but I do remember that every time I prayed to Him about things that were important to me at the time but now seem a bit frivolous, I recognized that He had answered me anyway. I prayed to Him for things like help in finding lost items, in providing ways to stay modest when my clothes were malfunctioning, and in achieving goals I’d spent many hours working on. In every instance, God answered those prayers in the affirmative, and each time He did, I not only knew that He had done so, but my trust and belief in Him also grew. I began to know that my redeemer lives.

But affirmative answers to my prayers are not the only reason I know God lives. I, like every person on this earth, have trials that test me almost more than I think I can bear. Many of them are ongoing, and though I have prayed for relief from them, they continue. Along that path, however, God has blessed me with tender, comforting mercies that provide a touch of balm to my soul and give me the strength to carry on.

One of those loving mercies came while I was working with young women in a spiritual activity at a church girls’ camp. All the participants were blind-folded, given an animal sound, and told we needed to find the rest of our “family” by making the assigned sound. When we found our family members, we were to hold them close to us and ultimately complete a specific task which brought us “Home.”

As luck would have it, shortly after I found my family, I lost them again, and at the end of activity, I was a lone person in the field. At that point, someone noticed I was “lost” and sent my family to retrieve me. They did so, and finally, tearfully, I returned to home base. But I wasn’t tearful because I was embarrassed I was the last one on the field (though I slightly was); I was crying because one of Christ’s parables had suddenly become alive in me; Alone in that field, I had received an answer of comfort to one of my never-ending prayers.

The parable is found in Matthew 20:1-16. It describes how a householder hired laborers for his vineyard at varying times of the day, and at the end of the day, paid all workers the same reward. Before that activity, when I’d read that parable, I’d thought as many of the earlier-hired workers in the story had, that it wasn’t fair for those who’d worked all day to receive the same wage as those who’d worked an hour. However, as I stood alone, after all I could do on my own, and was finally rescued, I realized that parable witnesses of Christ’s mercy. I learned that it doesn't matter to Him whether we make it to God’s Kingdom first or last. What matters is that we get there. And when we get there, we’ll each receive the same reward: Eternal Life.

That answered prayer, along with many others, comforted my heart and strengthened my hope in Jesus Christ. That is how I know that my redeemer lives.

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Connecting My Sites

This site may occasionally be under construction because I am working to connect it with my website. Please bear with my mess.  

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Lucky Friday the 13th Book Sale!

It's Friday the 13th! Normally we think of Friday the 13th as unlucky—but today is your lucky day! It's a one day sale on over thirty books. Stock up for yourself, grab great deals on Christmas gifts, and find something for everyone!

Original photo by lightlady via Flickr/CC

Scroll through the titles below and click on the purchase links to pick up anything and everything that looks interesting—or give as Christmas gifts! There's something on this list for everyone to enjoy! *Be sure to check the price of the book before you download so you know you're getting the sale price.*

ROMANCE  SUSPENSE ADVENTURE PARANORMAL YOUNG ADULT CHILDREN CHRISTMAS!

The Book Blogger's Cookbook (2011) by Christy DorrityPromotion Price: 99¢  Click here to purchase! Great books, bloggers, and recipes meet in this fresh and unique cookbook that helps you experience books, not just read them. Books were selected from the author’s book review blog and paired with delectable recipes like “Fairy Touched Calico Brownies” from the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, “7-Day Layer Dip” from Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, and “I Hate Chocolate Cake” from Amanda Hocking’s Switched. Whether you're a food lover, an avid reader or a book blogger, there’s something for you in The 2011 Book Blogger’s Cookbook.

Clean romance (including romantic comedy & historical romance)

Working It Out by Rachael Anderson Regular price $3.99 Promotion Price: $1.99 Click here to purchaseA chance encounter . . .  Grace Warren's life is safe and predictable—exactly the way she likes it. But when she gets roped into going to an auction to help out a friend, everything changes. She meets Seth Tuttle—a guy who unexpectedly kisses her then disappears, leaving her flustered and upset. If she never sees him again, it will be too soon.A chance for love . . .  Weeks later, when Seth limps into Grace's rehab clinic post surgery, he's every bit as frustrating and annoying as she remembered. Yet there's something about him that makes her second-guess her carefully placed boundaries even though he's everything she's sure she doesn't want in a man. But maybe Seth is exactly what Grace has needed all along—assuming she's willing to risk safe and predictable for a chance at love.

Prank Wars

by Stephanie Fowers

Promotion Price: $2.99 Click here to purchase! In this fun-filled novel, it’s girls vs. boys in a hilarious prank war that pits the college students against their nemeses. When some of the pranks start getting dangerous, can the two enemies join forces to capture the culprit?

Third Time's the Charm by Heather B. Moore Sale price for promotion: 99¢.Click here to purchase! Liz Carlson will settle for a normal man. A normal man with a job, that is. Married twice, then divorced twice, Liz had her rose-colored glasses fall off and shatter on the ground a long time ago. Her main focus now is raising her six-year-old daughter and surviving long days at work on her feet as a hairdresser. When Sloane Branden answers her call for help, quite literally, Liz doesn’t even give him a second glance. She has sworn off dating for as many years as it takes, and it seems that Sloane has done the same after his own tumultuous marriage. But when Liz realizes that Sloane defies every stereotypical deadbeat she has dated, she might just find room in her heart and discover the third time’s the charm.

Loyalty's Web by Joyce DiPastena Sale price for promotion: 99¢. Click here to purchase from Amazon and Smashwords! Heléne de Laurant has not forgotten how the Earl of Gunthar destroyed her father’s castle during Henry II’s war with his sons. Apparently neither have her family and friends, for when someone tries to murder Gunthar, every sign points in their direction. Heléne realizes the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. As Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor, fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction. Heléne must race against time, and dark secrets of the past, to unmask the would-be killer before the kingdom plunges back into war and takes the life of the man she has unexpectedly learned to love.

Clean romantic suspense & adventure romance

I, Spy (Spy Another Day #1)

by Jordan McCollum

Regular price: $3.99 Promotion Price: 99¢ Click here to purchase on AmazonKoboBarnes and NobleSmashwords, or author's websiteCanada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. But even idyllic Ottawa has its deadly secrets—and so does CIA operative Talia Reynolds. She can climb through ventilation shafts, blend in at the occasional diplomatic function, even scale buildings (small ones). But there’s one thing she can’t do: tell her aerospace engineer boyfriend Danny about her Top Secret occupation. It worked for a year, keeping Danny in the dark, keeping him away from danger, keeping her secrets. And then Talia finally catches a hot case: Fyodor Timofeyev. Russian. Aerospace executive. Possible spy? She can make this work, too—until Danny needs her at the same time her country does. And when Fyodor targets Danny? Suddenly her schedule isn’t the only thing suffering. Now to save her secrets and her country, Talia must sacrifice the man she loves.

Poison Me

by Cami Checketts

Promotion Price: FREE Click here to purchase!

Can they catch a killer that no one believes is real?

Jake Merrill was raised by his grandmother, Ruby, and her hilarious friends. After a suspicious death at the retirement home where Ruby lives, she enlists Jake and Chanel, the beautiful activities director, to help her find the killer.

Secrets Ruby has kept for decades threaten her family and the man she's always loved, but could never have. Chanel's unstable ex-boyfriend, a presumably dead relative, and vicious criminals add to the confusion. Time is running out as Jake, Chanel, and Ruby desperately search for clues to solve the murders and fight to save those they love. "Poison Me made me laugh out loud and thoroughly enjoy myself. I wish I had a friend like Ruby! Snappy dialogue, romance, and a strong sense of family made this book well worth reading."  Rachel Ann Nunes, bestselling author of Line of Fire and Before I Say Goodbye

The Colony by Cami Checketts Sale price for promotion: 99¢.Click here to purchase! To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property. Lance, Brinlee’s attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion.  While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger. "Cami Checketts is a genius! She writes about topics that aren't widely discussed, in and out of books, and she does such a brilliant job of crafting these things into wonderful stories that touch your heart and remain with you for days afterwards." Myra, Reviewer, Pieces of Whimsy

A Change of Plans (Safe Harbors #1) by Donna K. Weaver Sale price for promotion: $2.99. Click here to purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble! When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive. However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic. Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.Also available as an audio book from Audible!

Paranormal romance & Fantasy (adult)

The Change (Unbounded #1)

by Teyla Branton

Promotion Price: 99¢ Click here to purchase at AmazoniBookstore, and Barnes & Noble 

No Second Chances. Death, Life, or Love—Unbounded Always Play for Keeps.

There are only two ways to kill Unbounded, and fire isn’t one of them—as law school dropout Erin Radkey learns the hard way. By fluke of a recessive gene, she has become Unbounded, a nearly immortal being with paranormal abilities.

Erin’s Change separates her from her loved ones and alters everything she believes to be true. A week earlier she was considering a marriage proposal; now she contemplates the best way to stay alive. Caught in a battle between two Unbounded groups, the Emporium and the Renegades, she is also hunted by a secret mortal society sworn to eradicate the Unbounded gene.

As Erin plunges into this dangerous new life, she must carve out her own place in the madness, protect her mortal family, and decide which group she should join. Her unique ability is vital to both groups in the race to secure an identification software that spells death for all Unbounded—or enslavement for the entire mortal world. Some will stop at nothing to use Erin as one more pawn in a battle that has spanned centuries. Erin’s undeniable attraction to Ritter Langton, whose family was massacred by opposing Unbounded two hundred and forty years ago, complicates her choices. There are no second chances. Death, life, or love—Unbounded always play for keeps.

Non-stop action, terrifying consequences, and powerful romance make The Change an exciting addition to the world of romantic urban fantasy.

Sevenfold

by Ilyan Kei Lavanway

Promotion Price: $2.99   Click here to purchase on Amazon and Smashwords

Young wife Gracie yearns for renewed innocence. Abiathar wants to secure it for her. Their trek has been anything but blissful. Stomach their journey, and let your faith be strengthened through their experience. Glimpse tribulations and miracles future pioneers may expect as you live vicariously through the life of this young family.

Out of the Picture and Into the Picture

by Victor G. La Van Way and Ilyan Kei Levanway

Promotion Price: 99¢  Click here to purchase on Amazon and Smashwords!

Out of the Picture and Into the Picture by Victor G. La Van Way and Ilyan Kei Lavanway is a fantasy adventure book containing two short stories about a pilot who is miraculously reunited with his father in a strange storm. Experience superimposed worlds and altered realities. Relive the thrill of flight as you follow this pilot's mysterious journey. Find a renewed hope and youthful determination.

Young Adult

The Big Debate (Literary Loom Book One) by Carolyn Twede Frank Promotion Price: 99¢  Click here to purchase! A bizarre corpse . . . A strange girl . . . A creepy teacher . . . A cool invention . . . Combine these with an old school and a new student anxious to fit in, and the adventure begins. Fifteen-year-old Josh’s big mouth gets him in trouble at first.

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PERFECT PIE CRUST HINT--by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Though I've made homemade pie for years, making perfect pie crusts seemed like a goal I could never reach. I'd tried many recipes and followed several bits of' advice, but in every case, I could never move my rolled crust to the pie pan without tearing it—usually in multiple places.

Eventually, I chose a recipe I now always use, because, in part, it promised perfect pie crusts, and one day, even though I continued to do the same things over and over again, I was going to get different results. Or so I told myself.

Finally, I had a pie-making break through: roll the dough on a piece of wax paper and move the paper to the pie pan! Ta da! It finally slipped easily into the pan, and I had a perfect pie crust! 
 
I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who say "Of course!" to that idea. Some of you probably even have pastry sheets. But for me, a person who didn't want to purchase a pastry sheet simply for those days I made pies, it was an answer to a life-long problem. And maybe, just maybe, it'll help someone out there. Someone like me.
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Heroes of the Highest Order 3 Day Sale

Cover for 'Heroes of the Highest Order Chapter Book Bundle 1-3'

In celebration of Young Reader's Day, Books 1, 2 and 3 of my Heroes of the Highest Order chapter book series will be on sale for the amazingly low price of $7.99. The sale will run from November 12 through November 14, 2013. For more information about this series, check out this blog. You can also purchase the ebook bundle at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or in other epub formats at Smashwords with this coupon code: ZS26N.

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Pictures from Krakow, Poland

While traveling, I always meet good and interesting people and learn fascinating facts. For instance, I hadn't known dragons were not only popular there, but also legendary.My third chapter book, The Mouth of the Dragon, takes place in Krakow, Poland during WWII and refers both to a legendary dragon and to a brave man who did what he could to protect the Jews during the holocaust. Here are a few pictures from that area.


Street performer in the main square.

Inside one of the churches.

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Alcazar in Seville, Spain

I recently visited Seville, Spain. Here are a few of my favorite photos.


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With Wondering Awe


Covenant Communications has just released With Wondering Awe, a book of true Christmas stories that will warm your heart. My story, "The Christmas Coat," is included. Purchase it on Amazon here: 
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Recent Headlines

In recent days, over 43 LDS authors signed a letter titled "Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work Not Content of Biography." I was one of those authors, for I do not believe that anyone, no matter their beliefs, should be mistreated. However, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I affirm that I do not support the gay lifestyle. My feelings are the same as those published by the Church at this link.

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My Next Novel

Betrayed, my third novel, is scheduled to be published through Covenant Communications in June 2014. This one is a historical, romantic suspense that takes place in Niagara Falls, New York during 1850. I'll report more as I learn more. << MORE >>

New Zealand Pictures

It's been a while since I posted pictures from one of our trips, so I thought I'd show you a little of New Zealand. We were there in the spring of 2012.

The Redwood forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. I loved this place! It's also one of the settings in the novel I'm currently writing.

This is the volcano that was used as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings. It's in New Zealand on the North Island. My husband and I hiked a little bit of it.
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The Mouth of the Dragon Now Available


While my husband and I were in Krakow, Poland, we learned about an amazing man, a Pole, who saved many Jews from the Nazi's during World War II. His name is Tadeusz Pankiewicz, and he is the real-life hero in my third chapter book of my Heroes of the Highest Order series, titled The Mouth of the Dragon. It is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Createspace (print copy.) You can read the first chapter here.
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The Prisoner of the Shadows--Now Available!

The Prisoner of the Shadows, #2 in my Heroes of the Highest Order Chapter Book series, is now available as an ebook for $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. I'm still putting the print version together, but it'll be out soon.



Here's a quick peek at Chapter 1:

1

THE TREASURE CHEST

Dan opened his eyes. The tent roof spread darkly overhead, just as it had before he’d fallen asleep. But when he rolled over, he saw a bright light glowing through the tent wall. It was from the dining room of the house.

Page moaned. “What’s wrong?”

“Looks like Mom and Dad are awake,” Dan said. “They must still be worried about us. Didn’t they ever sleep in their backyards when they were kids?”

Page shifted inside her sleeping bag. “What do Mom and Dad have to do with—er . . .” Page sat up. “What are you talking about?”

“The same thing you’re talking about. The light. It woke you up, didn’t it?”

“No,” Page said. “I woke up because my feet are tingling.”

“So?” Dan crinkled his toes. They were a little sore from running in the town race that day, but they weren’t tingling. “You probably just slept funny.”

Page reached beside her and grabbed her Sabatons of Peace. They were the foot armor she’d earned in the Hidden Kingdom yesterday before they’d whooshed back home to Utah. “My feet are tingling the same way they did when Mom showed us how our sabatons worked. She said if it happened again, I was supposed to tell her about it.”

Dan scrambled out of his sleeping bag. “Why didn’t you tell me they tingled then?”

“I just thought my feet weren’t used to wearing the sabatons.” Page put them on her feet and crawled to the tent door. She unzipped it. She poked her head through the opening.

“Hey! Look.”

Page turned back to him. “What?”

He pointed at her feet. “Your sabatons are glowing.”

Page scooted back inside the tent. She stretched her feet in front of her. “Wow! They’ve never done that before.”

“Maybe mine will glow too.” Dan shoved his feet into his own sabatons. He stared at them and waited.

Nothing happened.

Why didn’t his feet tingle? Why didn’t his sabatons glow? Mom had told him there wasn’t anything wrong with him. She said there were other kids who didn’t go to the Hidden Kingdom until they were nine years old either. Was she wrong?

“Let’s go,” Page said.

They climbed out of the tent and ran to the back door. Dan opened it.

“Mom?” Dan called.

When no one answered, Dan switched on the kitchen light. He waved for Page to follow him.

They walked to the dining room door.  Dan pushed it open.

The first thing Dan saw was a black box that looked like a treasure chest. It lay in the middle of the table. Mom and Dad sat in the chairs on either side of the table.

 

“Dad?” Dan said.

Dad stood. “What are you two doing in here? Is something wrong?”

“The dining room light woke me up,” Dan said. “And then Page’s sabatons—look at them!”

Dan moved from in front of Page.

“I feel like something bad is going to happen,” Page said.

Dad’s eyes rounded wide. “Quick! Close the door!”

A shiver shot through Dan’s chest. Why did Dad look so scared?

Mom rushed over to Page and knelt next to her. “Are your toes tingling again?”

“Yes,” Page said.

Mom looked at Dad.

Dad placed his clenched fist on top of the treasure chest. “We better leave,” he said.

Suddenly, Dan’s feet began to tingle, and his sabatons glowed. But he didn’t feel danger coming. Instead, he pictured Cameron, the boy who’d taught them how to use their bows and arrows while they were in the Hidden Kingdom.

“They’ll warn you of danger,” Cameron’s voice said inside Dan’s mind.

Dan scrunched his eyebrows together. He stared down at his metal-plated foot armor, especially at the arrows along the upper rims. Had Cameron been talking to Page and not to him?

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Pictures from Spain

My husband and I went on an extended trip through Europe last year. Here is a picture from our 2011 trip to Seville, Spain.


Alcazar in Seville






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The Hidden Kingdom now Available

"The Hidden Kingdom," Book 1 of my chapter book series "Heroes of the Highest Order," is now available as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

A paperback edition will soon be available.
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Free Sample: The Hidden Kingdom Chapters 1 and 2

 

THE MAGIC PLAYGROUND

Speedy Dan glared out the car window. The playground Mom had parked next to was nothing like the one he used to play in before his family moved. This one had only two tree swings, one merry-go-round, and a slide with four steps.


 

Worse than that? It was way too small. Dan would never be able to run faster than the wind, faster than lightning, even faster than a superhero before he reached the back fence.

Mom took her hands off the steering wheel and looked over her shoulder at Dan. “Your sister’s almost at the slide. Don’t you want to go with her?”

Dan squirmed within his seat belt. “Not really.”

“Are you sure? Your dad and I used to love to play here when we were kids,” Mom said.

Dan slipped his hand into his pants pocket and squeezed the hard, gold medal.   “Fastest Boy in Mrs. Peabody’s Class,” it said. He’d won it last month before school ended.

“I’m sure,” he said.

Mom sighed, opened her car door, and stepped outside.

Dan watched her through the window. Any minute now, she would call Page back, and the three of them would return to the house where Grandpa lived before he disappeared. It was the same house he and his family now lived in.

Mom glanced down at Dan. “You’ll like it here,” she said.

“No I won’t,” Dan said.

Mom cocked her head to one side. She smiled the way she did when she hid a Christmas or birthday present behind her back. “Try the swings first, Page,” she called to Dan’s sister. “They’re amazing.”

Page turned and waved.

Dan undid his seatbelt. He opened his door. “What’s so amazing about the swings?”

Mom smiled her secret smile again. “You’ll have to find that out for yourself.”

“Oh, all right.” Dan climbed out of the car.

“Race ya, Dan!” Page called. She started running.

Dan ran too. Within seconds, he zipped past Page and jumped onto the first tree swing.

“Take care of your little sister,” Mom called.

Why? They weren’t going anywhere. “All right,” Dan called back. He then pushed his air-light sneakers into the sky.

Page jumped onto the tree swing next to his. She kicked off her sandals.

“Look! I’m higher than the other trees!” Dan said.

“So am I,” Page said.

“Now I’m higher than the Rocky Mountains.” Dan pumped his swing higher, but when it also went faster, he gritted his teeth. He clenched the swing chains.

“What’s happening?” Page yelled.

“We’ve got to jump off these swings!” Dan said. Then he jumped.

Clouds whisked past him. Wind whooshed like the inside of a hollow tunnel. The playground . . . then Mom . . .   disappeared.

 

 

THE HIDDEN KINGDOM

Dan landed on his stomach with his face pressed flat against the ground.

“Are you all right?” Page whispered.

Dan moaned. He wanted to say, “I don’t know. Are you?” But his mouth was full of dirt.

“I think so,” Page said. “Nothing hurts.”

That’s weird! Dan thought.

“What is?”

Dan spit out the dirt. “Page?” he thought again. “Are you moving your mouth when you talk?”

“No,” Page answered. “Are you?”

“No. All I do is think the words and you hear them.”

“Same with me. Cool, huh?”

“Cool. And strange. Have you opened your eyes yet?”

“Nope. I’m afraid to look. When we jumped, I couldn’t see the playground anymore.”

“Me neither,” Dan said. “Let’s both open our eyes at the same time. Okay?”

“Okay. On the count of three. One . . .”

“Two. . .”

“Three,” they said together. Both opened their eyes.

“Where are we?” Page said.

Right in front of them, Dan saw a tall, rocky mountain. It went straight toward the sky.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Mom said we would be surprised. Do you think this is what she was talking about?”

“Maybe.” Page frowned.

“Your voice is wobbling,” Dan said. “Are you all right?”

“I feel like I did the first day I went to Kindergarten.”

That’s how Dan felt too—all scared inside—but he didn’t want his sister to know. He wanted her to think he was brave. So he looked over his shoulder away from her.

“AAAAAAAH!” Page screamed. “We’re on the edge of a mountain!”

“Don’t look down!” Dan grabbed her hand. “We’ll be all right. Let’s climb away from here.”

Inch after inch, Dan and Page climbed up the face of the rocky mountain until it flattened into a large, green field. The grass was sprinkled with tiny gold and purple flowers.

They crawled a few more feet into the field then stood. Safe again.

Page squeezed Dan’s hand tighter. “Are we still in the Rocky Mountains?”

Dan looked around him. He saw a circle of sharp, jagged mountains with a valley in the middle. The mountains were covered in thick, moss-like grass and lots of tall, bushy trees.

Some of the trees were dark green. Some were deep red. And some were bright gold. A shimmering castle stood on top of the tallest mountain on the other side of the valley.

“I don’t know where we are,” Dan said.

“You are in the Hidden Kingdom,” said a gravelly voice.

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The Hidden Kingdom (A Chapter Book)

Along with my suspense novels, I've decided to enter the e-publishing world with my Chapter Book series for ages 5-8. The series is titled Heroes of the Highest Order, and Book 1 is The Hidden Kingdom. It will be born this month under the name R.K. Hinrichsen. For more information, check out my new websites: Heroes of the Highest Order and R.K. Hinrichsen. << MORE >>

Becoming His

A number of years ago, my husband and I had a difficult time getting along with one of our neighbors. Not even quick fixes, like cookies at the door, seemed to solve our grievances (although the cookies didn’t hurt J). To make matters more difficult, we were in the same ward, and the wife and I were serving in the same organization. Needless to say, we frequently felt offended and angry with one another.

Eventually, our bishop called my husband and me in to talk with him about the situation. After listening to our side of the story, we discussed possible solutions, including “cookies-at-the-door,” but ultimately, he said something like, “Read the scriptures, and when you find your answer, tell me about it.”

Several weeks later, I found my answer in Doctrine and Covenants 38:27, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”

Prior to this, I knew I needed to turn the other cheek and love my “enemies”—Isn’t that what the cookies were all about?—but when I read that scripture I realized I had to do more than try to show love; I had to become united with my neighbors or I wouldn’t belong to Christ. That knowledge stung. Worse, how could I accomplish it?

Although I’m still working on becoming “one” with others, over the ensuing years, I’ve come to know that being offended has nothing to do with the offense or the person who committed that offense. Instead, it has everything to do with ourselves and how we handle the situation. I’ve also learned there are four truths—albeit personal assessments—I’ve had to make on my continuing journey to become one with Christ.

1)    1) Am I choosing to not be offended?In a recent conference address, Elder Bednar stated: “To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

"In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13-14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. . . To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.”

 2)      Is my testimony based on Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and His church—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—or on some other thing or person?If it is, then I must keep these truths from 3 Nephi in mind: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

3)      Am I striving to become like Christ?Again, from Elder Bednar: “The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.

And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

 

4)   4)  Do I fully trust Christ? While sometimes I might forget I know I can trust Christ, the truth is, I do know that I can. A few years after the event I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my family and I faced another, even more difficult challenge which involved lawsuits, large monetary loss, and great fear and distrust. After several years of trying to resolve the issue, I felt very angry and bitter. I knew these feelings were wrong, and yet no matter how hard I tried to get over them, I couldn’t do it.

One day, as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmingly upset, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me! I can’t do this on my own.” Suddenly, just as the people of Alma had their burdens lightened so they could not feel them (Mosiah 24:14), I, literally, could no longer feel the burden of my anger and bitterness. I then knew the Lord was carrying that burden for me while I worked through my feelings. Christ does visit us in our afflictions.

A final note. I believe life is a laboratory, where each person has the opportunity to become more like Christ. Because of, or perhaps in spite of, that fact, we often find our own wills and weaknesses at odds with the wills and weaknesses of others. While such experiences may hurt us, they also provide the challenging friction that adds to our refiner’s fire and offers the double-edged opportunity to be saviors ourselves. I mean, through what other experiences can we better develop love and forgiveness for “enemies” who are, in fact, our beloved brothers and sisters—people we once, desperately, wanted to bring back home?

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Attention Library Lovers!

February is Library Lovers Month, and I'm celebrating. If you purchase a copy of one of my novels, MISSING or TRAPPED, during the month of February, send a copy of your receipt to my email address at rondagibbhinrichsen@gmail.com, and I'll enter you in a drawing to have a free copy of TRAPPED sent to the library of your choice. << MORE >>

TEMPLE ATTENDANCE: A SACRED AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Like the paying of tithes and offerings, temple attendance is a deeply sacred and personal action which brings divine blessings to us and our families. As such, our leaders have counseled us to go to the temple as often as our circumstances allow. However, because we don’t always recognize when we’ve received these blessings, being more like the righteous Lamanites who were “baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost and they knew it not (3 Nephi 9:20),” we might wonder if we are attending often enough to secure them. Each of us must answer that question for ourselves, taking into consideration our available time, abilities and family situations, but I have learned there are some common “signs” (the fruits of the devoted temple attendee’s labors) or blessings—we can use as a gauge:<< MORE >>

My Peace Give I Unto You

When I was a child, Christmas Eve was a magical night of lying in bed and rapidly kicking my legs and feet between my sheets because I couldn’t contain my excitement; morning held the promise of long awaited dreams coming true. One particular year, I imagined the large box under the tree, addressed only to me, would be something expensive and wondrous, something like an elaborate dollhouse.

But as sometimes happens on Christmas morning, when I opened the box, instead of a dollhouse, I found a children’s novel buried under wadded newspaper. Although disappointed, I accepted the gift and read the book. It wasn’t until years later that I, with older and somewhat wiser eyes, realized the book was actually the better gift. As a child, had I played with dolls? Not much. Did I read books? Yes. The novel, though not what I’d thought I’d wanted, turned out to be the better gift.

Now, Christmas means so much more to me than temporal gifts. Besides being a time of giving, it’s also a time of gratitude for answered prayers and a time of rejoicing in God’s never-ending love and involvement in our lives. Actually, Christmas is becoming more like Thanksgiving to me, in that I enjoy the traditions that go along with the holiday, but like giving thanks for blessings, the deep and lasting, Eternal impressions that fill my heart and lift my sights closer to heaven are gifts that are always with me. I believe cherishing these spiritual witnesses is the real secret to keeping Christmas in my heart all year long.

However, just as that long ago holiday brought me disappointment, Heavenly Father’s gift of life to us also brings tribulations and heartache. Years ago, my husband and I faced an enemy—a hardship—from which we couldn’t walk away nor eliminate. We dealt with it as best we could, relying on the Lord for help, but we still couldn’t find relief. Eventually, I felt very bitter against “the enemy,” and though I knew I had to forgive, I couldn’t seem to find a way out of that bitterness. Finally, one day as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmed by my emotions, I prayed, “Please help me, Heavenly Father. I can’t do this on my own.” Instantly, my burden was gone. Literally. I knew the bitterness and the associated problems were still there somewhere, but I couldn’t feel them, and I knew then as I do now that the Lord had taken my burden for me and carried it as I struggled through the situation. This experience happened to me during the summer, but my joy and amazement felt like Christmas.

That is why this Christmas I’ve chosen to share with you a few gifts of comfort that only Christ can give during some of this life’s greatest trials. I don’t know whether or not I’ve chosen the right quotes that will lift you in your circumstances, but if I haven’t, please know the answers—the peace—you seek is out there and can be found through the mouths of our prophets and the whisperings of His Spirit to your soul. I know this to be true. Merry Christmas.

Suicide:

“I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control?

“Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.” (Russell M. Ballard ) 

And . . .

“we have our ‘second estate,’ which is the mortality we are now experiencing and our sojourn in the spirit world following death (italics added,Pres. Marion G. Romney )

Victims of Abuse:

If you struggle with abuse, you may want to read this article in its entirety.  Here’s a snippet:

“Satan uses your abuse to undermine your self-confidence, destroy trust in authority, create fear, and generate feelings of despair. Abuse can damage your ability to form healthy human relationships. You must have faith that all of these negative consequences can be resolved; otherwise they will keep you from full recovery. While these outcomes have powerful influence in your life, they do not define the real you. ” (Richard G. Scott)

To Those With Heavy Burdens:

You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37), know that He is your Father. You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak in the sacred name of God (see D&C 1:20). It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath (see 1 Sam. 17). . . “For with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27)— Russell M. Nelson

“These are the reasons for the continual trials with which we are all faced. We need these experiences so that we might draw closer to the Lord and learn to depend on him for everything.” –Bishop H. Burke Peterson   

“The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ brings great comfort in stressing times of mortality. It brings light where there is darkness and a calming influence where there is turmoil. It gives eternal hope where there is mortal despair. It is more than just beautiful doctrine. It is a reality in our lives that if we can be obedient and obtain the eternal rewards that God grants us, if we will draw nigh unto Him and embrace the eternal doctrine, we will be blessed.” Robert D. Hales  

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12 Days of Gratitude AND Thanksgiving

In preparation for this year’s holiday season, I experimented with what I called “The 12 days of Thanksgiving.” For twelve consecutive days (I actually went 15), I kept track of any “extra” blessings that came that day or “things” for which I felt especially or unusually grateful. The results amazed me. Every single day, I received answers to prayers, or "saw" amazing-to-me blessings.And you know what? As soon as I recognized them, I felt gratitude.

After this experiment, I began to ponder on and study the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude.” I went to LDS.org first, and to my surprise, while the word “thanksgiving” is frequently found in the scriptures, the word “gratitude” is not there at all. Neither is “grateful.” How could this be? Haven’t our leaders frequently taught us gratitude is a commandment from the Lord? That it’s a means to humility, the “mark of a noble soul and a refined character, and “the foundation upon which repentance is built ”?


While these statements about gratitude are correct, through further study, I’ve come to see that not only is there a slight difference between the meanings of “Thanksgiving” and “gratitude,” but there is also an increased power that comes from combining the two.

The dictionary defines gratitude as a “feeling” of thanks and thanksgiving as an “act” of thanks, such as through prayer, acknowledgement, or praise. A feeling versus an action. Hmmm. To me, that sounds very much like sorrow for sins versus confessing and forsaking those sins, or even more profoundly, Nephi’s faithful “I know” compared with “I will go and do." Each, like the joining of gratitude and thanksgiving, are spiritual laws where obeying the individual commandments increases righteousness, but obeying its companion at the same time opens the windows of heaven.

One of the greatest scriptural examples of this principal is contained in the book of Luke:

 “And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
"
And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks and he was a Samaritan.

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

 


In this Biblical account, ten deathly ill men obeyed the Lord and were healed from their disease. It is reasonable to me that each must have felt some measure of happiness, wonder, and perhaps even gratitude for the relieving of their suffering, but only one—the one who returned and physically thanked the Lord for His merciful gift—received the greater blessing.

 


Elder Merrill J. Bateman  said, “
As part of the great miracle of the Atonement and the Savior’s power to mend broken hearts, to heal from within, the parable of the ten lepers takes on new meaning. Luke describes Jesus meeting ten lepers. Upon seeing the Savior, they cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus responded, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” As they went their way, they were cleansed. One returned, fell on his face at the Master’s feet, and gave thanks. Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” And then the Lord said to the one who returned, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (see Luke 17:12–19). In becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside. That day nine lepers were healed skin deep, but only one had the faith to be made whole. The tenth leper was changed eternally by his faith in the Savior and the healing power of His Atonement.”

Modern scripture also reiterates this truth: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more (D&C 78:19).”

 


After studying this principal, I began to wonder. During my 12 Days of Thanksgiving, did I allow heaven’s greater blessings to come into my life as well as perhaps bless the lives of others by immediately expressing thanks when I recognized them? In some instances, I’m sure I did, but in all cases? I don’t know. I simply can’t remember. But what I do know is now—right now—I have some thanking, some praising, and definitely some praying to do. For I am grateful.

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The Parable of the Strawberry

 

My family lives on a small farm. We raise hay, cows and goats, but we also try to raise a garden. I say try because over the years I’ve learned that animals and gardens don’t necessarily mix. Take my strawberry “patch” for instance. Strawberries are among my favorite fruits, so every year I try to grow them. Before we became farmers, I was successful at growing them, but when adversity—i.e., goats—entered my life, I discovered that they, too, like to eat strawberries. Not a good thing.

 

Because goats are so prone to finding ways out of their pens and then making a beeline for the garden, every year for the past several years, I’ve tried to outsmart them by planting new strawberry plants in hidden or remote areas of our yard. But without fail, and no matter how hard we try to maintain their pens, the animals manage to break out, find my strawberries, and eat them either before or just after the plants have begun to bear fruit. Two years ago I finally, dejectedly, gave up my quest to grow strawberries.  

 

And then a new spring arrived. While I was weeding the flower garden and preparing it for a new year, I found a single strawberry plant growing amid the other perennials. I was SOOO excited. It had survived not only the goats but also my neglect because I hadn’t known it was there.

 

At first, I considered digging it up and moving it, yet again, to a new location, but I eventually decided to leave it where it was. I also told my husband about it, and he, knowing the struggles I’d had, directly put up a metal panel fence around the flower bed. I wasn’t sure it would be enough protection, but I hoped, and nourished, watched. After a few months, it began to bear a few berries. I thought they were among the most delicious berries I’d tasted, but before the season had ended . . , yup! You guessed it. The goats escaped, went straight for the flower garden, and ripped the top right off the strawberry plant.

 

Again summer, fall, and winter passed into a new spring—this spring—and I began to prepare the flower garden for the coming season. To my delight, I found not only one living strawberry plant, but FIVE! Strawberries are prolific, and such growth is not uncommon, but after all the adversity I’d had with them, I felt they were the most wonderful plants in the world.

 

One righteous person has the same thriving, fruit-bearing power. Over the course of time, the world has faced innumerable hardships and conflicts, but in spite of them, righteous men and women have stepped forward and changed the course of man’s downward spiral. While the scriptures overflow with powerful examples of such people, like David fighting Goliath, Esther saving the Jews, and Captain Moroni raising his coat of freedom and leading others against a wicked king, these righteous people are not the only ones who’ve stood—or now stand—for righteousness and make a difference in this struggling world.

 

In fact, if we are watching, we’ll see that in spite of the world’s growing degradation and perniciousness, modern LDS youth and adults have increased their devotion to temple attendance, scripture study, and kindness. In the July, 1985 Ensign, Gail Argetsinger, costume director for the Manti pageant, saw the results of a good man living his religion:

 

When I decided to make the armor for the pageant’s “Moroni and the Title of Liberty” scene out of leather, I visited several dealers in New York City. One place, in a rough section of Manhattan, had exactly what I was looking for.

 

The store was run by a blunt but friendly man who introduced himself as “Sam.” My husband, Jerry, and I explained what we were looking for and that we represented the Hill Cumorah Pageant, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sam lit up like a candle. “The Mormons! Well, come right in, make yourselves at home.”

 

Jerry and I looked at each other. Usually our introduction drew no response except, “So? You got cash?” This leather dealer was actually glad to see us!

 

He gave us advice on selecting hides and how to cut them to best advantage. Then, as we worked, Sam began to talk about his experience with Latter-day Saints.

 

When he had joined the United States Air Force at the outbreak of World War II, his basic training had been at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. It was his first time out of New York City. Like many good Jewish boys, he had been raised in fear of the gentiles. He had never seen a Latter-day Saint. But as he got to know the many LDS airmen in his group, he learned to love them. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been treated better by anyone,” he said. “But the reason I’ll always love the Mormons is for something that happened later in the war.”

 

In 1942 Sam was flying bombing missions over North Africa. His commanding officer, Major Hawkins, was a Latter-day Saint from Salt Lake City.

 

As Passover approached, Sam and the other Jews in camp discussed how they would celebrate it under combat conditions. To start with, there was no unleavened bread. They thought they would have to use soda crackers.

 

On the night before the Passover celebration, when Major Hawkins returned from a combat mission about midnight, he went to Sam’s tent and awakened him. “Sam,” he whispered, “I just heard you boys have no unleavened bread for Passover.”

 

“That’s right,” Sam told him.

 

“Well, come on,” said the major, pulling Sam to his feet. “There’s still time. I’ll fly you to Tel Aviv to get some.” So Sam and the major squeezed piggyback into the cockpit of a small plane and flew all the way to Palestine.

 

“I still can’t believe it,” Sam told us. “I asked myself what kind of a man would understand the importance of our sacred rituals. This was the middle of a war, and we didn’t exactly own the skies at that point. He risked his life to get us that unleavened bread. The Mormons are something special, all right!”

 

Sam gave us a good price break on the leather. And it was all because forty years before a righteous man had lived the teachings of the gospel.

 

When we went back to his store the next year, Sam was unable to give us the same price break on his leather. I told him it was quite all right. We greatly appreciated his generosity the first time, but to expect such a deal the second time would be taking advantage of him. We expected to pay a fair price.

 

He smiled. “A Mormon would understand that.” Then he told us the whole story of his war experience again. “The Latter-day Saints are something special,” he kept repeating. “I really love them.”

 

Thank you, Major Hawkins, wherever you are!

 

I agree. Thank you to Major Hawkins and to everyone else who lives the principles of the gospel. Like a strawberry plant, righteousness has the power to spread and grow good fruit that leads ourselves, our families, and our nations back to Christ. I mean, remember Joseph from the Old Testament? After being sold into slavery, taken far from his family, and imprisoned through false accusations, his faithful obedience eventually spread so far and bore enough good fruit that he saved himself, his family, and his people from starvation. Not only that, but he also restored peace and goodness to his family. Isn’t that what we all want?

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Celebrating Faith Through Music

 

The October General Conference marks the beginning of a beloved time of year. With Thanksgiving reunions just around the corner, Christmas surprises close on its heels, and inspired words from our prophet ringing through our hearts, we can’t help but rejoice. And that rejoicing is only increased when we add music to our celebrations.

 

Consider the Christmas season. Each year, we observe through sacred words, nativities, and gift-giving the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, some of my most memorable celebrations have come through my participation in music. For example, each year when I hear “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve or sing the words “yet in my flesh shall I see God” from Handel’s “Messiah,” I inwardly rejoice.

 

Special commemorations are not the only ways we can celebrate our faith. According to the dictionary, to celebrate also means to proclaim widely and favorably, so when we bear our testimonies in Sacrament Meetings or express our gratitude to God around our Thanksgiving tables, we are, in fact, celebrating our faith. But if we combine those proclamations with music, our rejoicing becomes even more profound. For example, if it wasn’t for the musical celebrations performed each Sunday morning by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my husband’s father would not have found the church. According to him, years ago neither he nor his family belonged to a church, but they did regularly listen to the Tabernacle Choir’s Sunday radio broadcast. One day, the missionaries came to the door and asked him if he’d like to learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He refused. The missionaries then asked him what church he did belong to, and he, not knowing what else to say, said, “The Church of Richard L. Evans.” The two missionaries looked at each other and then said, “That’s us!” Needless to say, my father-in-law let the missionaries in, and his family later joined the church.

 

This leads me to another way we celebrate our faith. It is not defined in the dictionary, nevertheless, it is very real and comes nearest, I believe, to true heavenly rejoicing. It is the method born of Spirit speaking to spirit and is one of the tender mercies given to us from the Lord. The only feeling I can think of that comes closest to it is like what we feel those first moments after the birth of a baby. But more frequently, that spiritual celebration comes through our hymns.

 

Elder Merrill J. Bateman told the following story :

 


“Heather . . . suffered from a rare disease called glutaric acidemia. . . (It) results in acid forming in the muscles similar to that which occurs following a period of intense physical activity . . . (and) As she grew, she was confined to a wheelchair, was unable to speak, and could send messages only with her eyes. A direct gaze and a smile meant yes. A blink meant no. Despite the handicaps, one could feel her vibrant spirit.

 

 

“. . . When she was old enough, the parents enrolled Heather in a special school . . .One morning as Heather and the teacher visited about the prior weekend, the teacher learned that Heather had attended Primary. The teacher then sang for Heather “When He Comes Again.”

 

“The expression on Heather’s face revealed the delight within her. When the teacher asked Heather if she had a favorite song, the young girl’s wide eyes and engaging smile left little doubt. But what was the song? Through a series of questions, the teacher learned that Heather’s song was one she had heard in Primary . . . (and after three days of painstaking work) the teacher (finally) began to sing, “There is sunshine in my soul today.” Heather’s body jumped, and a big smile crossed her face. Her eyes gazed directly into the teacher’s, indicating success . . . Both teacher and student rejoiced.

 

“. . . After finishing the first verse and chorus, the teacher asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses, and Heather’s eyes opened wide with a firm yes. The teacher began to sing:

 

There is music in my soul today,

A carol to my King,

And Jesus listening can hear

The songs I cannot sing.

 

“Heather’s reaction to these lines was so strong that the teacher stopped. As the reality and significance of the words pressed on the teacher’s mind, she asked: “Heather, is that what you like about the song? . . . Does Jesus . . . hear the songs you cannot sing?”

 

“The direct, penetrating gaze indicated yes.

 

“Feeling guided by the Spirit, the teacher asked, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?”

 

“Again, the child’s look was penetrating.

 

“. . . Does Jesus say, ‘Heather, I love you’?”

 

“Heather’s radiant eyes widened, and she smiled.

 

“After a pause, the teacher asked next, “Does He say, ‘Heather, you’re special’?”

 

“The answer again was yes.

 

“Finally the teacher asked, “Does He say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”

 

“Heather summoned all her strength, and her head became erect and her eyes penetrated the teacher’s soul. She knew she was
loved, she was special, and she needed only to be patient.

 

“Two years later, Heather died . . .Her younger brother Mark also suffers from the disease but not to the extent of his older sisters. . . As the parents discussed Heather’s passing and the funeral that would take place, Mark exclaimed, “No go Heather’s funeral!” . . . For two days he could not be persuaded.

“On the morning of the funeral, the father went to Mark’s room to get him up. As he entered the room, Mark was sitting up in bed with a big smile on his face. His first words were, “Dad, go Heather’s funeral!”

 

“The father responded, “Mark, what has changed your mind?”

 

“. . . Dad, dreamed about Heather.”

 

“Mark, what was Heather doing?”

 

“Oh, Dad, Heather running and jumping and singing, ‘There is sunshine in my soul today.’ Dad, go Heather’s funeral.”

 

It’s no secret that I love music, especially the hymns of the church. Perhaps that’s because music is one of my talents, or maybe it’s because I grow closer to God through the hymns, but whatever the truth, I am grateful I can celebrate my faith in Jesus Christ through music.

“Because I have loved so deeply,

Because I have loved so long,

God in His great compassion

Gave me the gift of song.” (Paul Laurence Dunbar)

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TRAPPED Chapter 1

"Secrets thrive in my family.” I wasn’t sure if I’d said the words or dreamed them, but when I heard a drawer slide open in the empty bedroom next to my own, my heartbeat jumped into overdrive, and I pulled the comforter up to my neck. “Sylvie? Is that you, kitty?” Suddenly, a beam of light flashed across the hall wall just opposite my open doorway, pausing momentarily on my mother’s favorite Mansfield painting, and I no longer doubted what the noise was.
    Barely breathing, I stared wide-eyed at the now-dark hallway, my ears tuning out the sounds of rain and thunder to focus on the groan of the floorboards as the intruder crossed my mother’s room just through the wall. Then I heard a soft, metallic thwack. A click. A jingle of music. My mother’s jewelry box!

I clamped my lips over my mouth, silencing a gasp.

The intruder padded quickly across my mother’s bedroom carpet and into the hall, where his footsteps were still soft on the hardwood floor. He moved toward my bedroom door and stopped.

If only I could cry for help without him hearing me! But my mother’s neighbor, Oliver, was the only one close enough to hear me, and the intruder would certainly get to me before Oliver, pounding on the door with his cane, could fumble his key into my mother’s front-door lock. Besides, what could he do besides get himself hurt?

Silently, I reached to the nightstand and felt across the top of it. My cell phone was gone.

An ominous shiver trickled across my skin. I tried to remember the last time I’d had my cell phone. Oh, yes. When I’d arrived earlier that evening, I’d slipped it inside the pocket of my leather jacket just before unlocking the front door and then . . . My breathing quickened. The jacket was in the entryway closet.

White lightning flashed. Thunder cracked and rain pelted the window glass like heavy, driving sand, filling the room with so much clatter I had to strain even harder to hear the thief’s movements.

Finally, I heard him again, creeping away from my door toward my mother’s office. Another metallic scrape and then joggling. Her locked desk drawer.

For a crazy, hair-raising moment, I thought of charging after the thief, but as I held myself there in the bed, clenching and unclenching my fists beneath the sheet, I knew I had only one real alternative: to get out of the house without him seeing me.

I scanned the room. The closest window was only a few feet from my bed, but to get to it, I’d have to clamber over the dresser, slide open the window glass, then force out the screen. I could do it, but if the heavy rain and howling wind blasted through the window, blew paper across the room, or—heaven forbid—slammed my door shut, the thief would be in my room before I could get outside.

The other windows in the house were even more insurmountable, and the back door had two noisy locks and a hard-to-open knob. That left the front door.

Quick, dull thuds sounded in my ears. The thief was still trying to break into that drawer, which meant he was probably standing in front of the desk with his back to the doorway. This is my chance!

Quietly slipping from beneath the covers, I placed my bare feet on the floor and stepped gingerly onto the carpet. Blessedly, the floorboards didn’t creak. The thuds from the office continued.

I crept into the hall and inched my hand toward Oliver’s condo key on the wall hook. I grasped it.

The jimmying stopped. Warily, I leaned forward and glanced into the room. The thief was looking the other way, so I gathered the skirt of my blue silk nightgown with one hand and, still clutching Oliver’s house key with the other, dashed past the doorway. I crouched behind the brown leather armchair closest to the front door. I waited, listening, barely daring to breathe.

The rustling stopped. A lean, broad-shouldered shadow stepped into the hall and paused. He looked toward the bedroom where I’d been sleeping and then swiftly moved to it.

Guessing I had only a few seconds before the man returned to my mother’s office, I raced to the front door—it was unlocked!—and leapt down the two porch steps and around the dividing wall to Oliver’s side of the double condo. By then my heart beat so fast and my fingers trembled so violently I could barely shove the key into the lock.

Hearing my mother’s front door bang open from next door, I hurtled into Oliver’s dark entryway and bolted his door behind me. “Oliver!”

“Emi?” Oliver’s tired voice, followed by a harsh cough, came from the living room.

“I need your phone!” I rushed to him through the dark and swept my hand across the nearby end table where he usually kept it. “There’s a man in Mama’s house! He’s stealing her stuff.”

“What?” Oliver groggily pushed up from the couch, his white hair gleaming through the dark like a slow-rising moon. “Are you hurt?”

I brushed the rain from my face. “I’m fine, but I’ve got to call the police.” My teeth chattered as I groped for the lamp switch, but by the time I found it and clicked on the light, Oliver had swiped his newspaper off the coffee table and grabbed the telephone that lay beneath it.

He pulled the russet afghan from his lap. “Here, Emi. Put this around your shoulders. Let me call them.” He patted the couch cushion next to him.

Still trembling in fear over who might be outside, I gratefully lowered myself onto the couch. “Thank you, Oliver. You’re a lifesaver.”

He nodded slightly and punched in 9-1-1.

The dispatcher kept Oliver on the telephone until the Tampa police arrived about ten minutes later. After verifying that the thief was gone and that we were all right, two officers searched my mother’s condo, while another questioned me about where I was during the crime, what I had witnessed, and who else had access to my mother’s home.

“Oliver’s the only other person who has a key,” I told him.

As proof, Oliver held it out to him.

Detective Cole, a tall, black man, looked only at me. “So you don’t live here, Miss Warrin?”

“I have my own apartment.”

“And you were here tonight because . . .?”

“I’m cat- and house-sitting for my mother. She’s on a cruise in Greece doing research for her next novel. She writes romantic suspense. Joanna Michaels?”

He lifted his eyebrows.

Okay, so he didn’t recognize the name.

“Anyway, I’d told her Oliver would be happy to take care of things for her, but she insisted it had to be me. Mama just can’t get used to the idea of me living alone—uh, sorry. Too much information, huh?”

“That’s perfectly fine. You’ve had a rough night.” Detective Cole took several seconds to write something in his notebook. “Did the man threaten you in any way?”

I hugged the afghan even tighter around my shoulders. “I don’t think he even knew I was there.”

“So he was noisy?”
    
“No. Well, sometimes, but mostly he was so quiet I could hardly hear him. It was like he was trying not to wake—” I caught my breath. Had the thief known I was in the house the whole time? No. That couldn’t be.

The officer looked at me for a moment before moving on. “How tall would you say he was?”

“I’m not sure. The best view I had of him was during the few seconds I hid behind the chair. Several inches taller than me, maybe.”

As the detective continued writing, Oliver placed his hand on my shoulder. “You’re doing fine, Emi.”

“Thanks.”

The interrogation ended about ten minutes later when another officer tapped on Oliver’s door. Oliver opened it, and Sylvie raced inside.
    
When did she get out of the house? I wondered.

“Miss Warrin,” the second officer said, “we need you to return to your mother’s condo and give us a detailed report of everything that’s been stolen. We’ll need serial numbers and identifying characteristics.” He scrutinized my face with wide, rounded eyes. “And any other facts you can give us about you—or, I mean, your family—will be extremely helpful.”

I wish I knew more about my family, I thought, barely refraining from rolling my eyes. I scooped Sylvie into my arms before moving to the doorway. “Hmm. I’m not familiar with where my mother keeps that sort of information,” I said aloud. “I’m pretty sure her file cabinets are filled with her writing research and book contracts, but I’ll see what I can find.” I scratched between Sylvie’s ears, and instead of cuddling against me the way she usually did, she yowled and leapt from my arms. “Sylvie! What’s the matter with you?”

“Would you like me to go through the house with you?” Oliver asked.

I watched as Sylvie ran down the hallway and disappeared. Then I looked into Oliver’s thin, pallid face, noticing the concern etched into the wrinkles around his blue eyes.

“No, thanks, Oliver,” I said, motioning to the policemen. “I’ll be fine. Besides, I’d hate myself if you—”

He coughed.

“—caught pneumonia or something from going out in that rain.” I squeezed his hand with both of mine, stilling my trembling fingers in the process.

“Why don’t you call your mother and ask her?” Oliver said.

I groaned.

Detective Cole paused inside the doorway. “Is that a problem?”
    
“No, it’s not that. It’s just she won’t . . . uh . . . she worries so much, I know she’ll blow this all out of proportion and make me—”

Detective Cole lifted his eyebrows again.

“How about I call her?” Oliver asked, releasing my hand. “Maybe I can smooth things over for you.”

“Could you?”

“Of course.” He took his long, wool overcoat from the coat rack. “I’ll do my best. But here, trade me. This will protect you better.”

I slipped the damp afghan off my shoulders and handed it to him in exchange for the coat. As I shrugged into it, I noticed it smelled of coffee and peppermint—and a bit like Oliver’s favorite steak.

“Ready?” Detective Cole asked me.

“Yes.”

Just before I followed the officer outside, Oliver held up his cell phone to let me know he was about to try to reach my mother.

A few moments later, Detective Cole held his large hand firmly on the front doorknob of my mother’s condo. “Before we go in, I want to prepare you for what you’re about to see. I’m guessing things are . . . not as you left them.”

Overturned drawers, missing electronics, that sort of thing, I supposed. “I understand,” I said.

He nodded and we entered the condo.

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THE LORD'S YARDSTICK

Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I were as meek as he is?”  Or, “That gal gives up so much of her time and money. I’m going to do everything I can to give just as much as she does?”

I know I never have. In fact, rather than reaching upward to attain similar spiritual gifts, I too often compare myself to others in more physical ways—their homes, their bodies, their accomplishments—believing if I only had what they had or looked like they looked, I would be happy and successful. But the truth is real success has nothing to do with material wealth, honor or appearance.

In Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith states, “The great truth enunciated by the Savior seems very generally to be lost sight of in this generation, that it will profit a man nothing though he should gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul.

"The standard of success as declared by the word of God, is the salvation of the soul. The greatest gift of God is eternal life. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pg. 125).”

Such a standard is not easy—it requires constant vigilance—but that truth is the reality we should concentrate on, not on having a nice car or selling a lot of books (I’m an author, after all J).  

The Heart of the Matter 

Marvin J. Ashton wrote: “When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others.  

“Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup (Ensign, November 1988 ).” 

In other words, the Lord will judge us by our characters. “Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have met your mortal probation,” Elder Richard G. Scott affirms. “Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and, when acted upon, will be confirmed as true. . . . . Satan and his troops have defined their character by resolute opposition to the will of our Father and consistent violation of His commandments. You solidify your character by consistent correct choices (Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign, January 2007 ).”

Choice

Since correct choices are so vital to the development of our characters and thus our pathways to Eternal Life, perhaps that is the reason the Lord chose this message—the command to choose perfectly, to be perfect as He is—when he presented the Beatitudes to the Nephites shortly after His death and resurrection. Here are just a few of the character traits we must work for in our quest for Eternal Life:

      “And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

      “And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

      “And blessed are the merciful . . .

      “And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (3 Nephi 12: 5-8).

      This character list of Christ-like perfection goes on and on, yet so do the Eternal blessings. Notice, not one of them pertains to nicer homes, expensive clothing, or worldly prestige.

Overcoming

When I began this article by mentioning that too often I compare myself to other’s achievements, I meant that literally. Especially in relation to writing success. For years, I felt jealousy when the fictitious Anne of Green Gables received her contract to have her book published. The same goes for Jo March in Little Women. I’ve had to fight jealous demons in relation to live people, too, but all the while I’ve known such feelings were wrong and I had to find a way to overcome them.

In time and after much study, I learned that at the root of jealousy is natural-man selfishness. Go figure. But I also discovered that three interconnected ways we can overcome that tendency is to develop patience, love and humility. In a talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, he said:
 
"The patient person assumes that what others have to say is worth listening to. A patient person is not so chronically eager to put forth his own ideas. In true humility, we do some waiting upon others. We value them for what they say and what they have to contribute. Patience and humility are special friends.

 

Since our competition in life . . . is solely with our old self, we ought to be free of the jealousies and anxieties of the world which go with interpersonal competition. Very importantly, it is patience, combined with love, which permits us “in process of time” to detoxify our disappointments. Patience and love take the radioactivity out of our resentments. These are neither small nor occasional needs in most of our lives!"



Once I heard that statement, I began to remind myself—whenever I felt jealousy rising within me—that any real competition I have is with me and my own progress. Conversely, everyone else also faces the same challenge and thereby deserves my encouragements and praises when they step closer toward their divine potential. We’re all on this pathway to perfection together, after all.

Final Testimony

Sometimes, in all this self-competing, we begin to see ourselves as less than we really are. We may even doubt our abilities to succeed, or worse, feel our quest for Eternal Life is a hopeless endeavor. This is wrong. Nephi said it perfectly: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” The Lord has commanded us to be meek, merciful, even perfect, so that means He will—and has—provided a way for us to accomplish them. Countless scriptures speak of His outstretched arms, His unending patience, His Eternal love and interest in our lives. He has not left us alone. He will guide us, perhaps even carry us, to the top of His yardstick.

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GREAT PUMPKIN RECIPE--PUMPKIN BAO

When my husband and I were in Shanghai, China,my pallet fell in love with what I called a "pumpkin roll," because I had no idea what its real Chinese name was. I loved it so much that even now, a couple of years later, I searched the internet for a recipe that looked like it so I could take it to a New Year's Eve party. Lo and behold, I found it! I also discovered that it is actually considered a dessert. I hadn't known that at the time, because in China, desserts are really different from the super sweet dishes I'm familiar with. It's real name is "Pumpkin Bao."  I didn't have all of the ingredients for the real recipe, so I substituted with similar, common ingredients. Below is the copied/adjusted recipe I actually used. Also, to save time, I dumped all the "Bao" ingredients into my bread maker and set it on the dough setting.My Pumpkin Bao's turned out REALLY good. Everyone at the party raved over them. One even tried to barter with me for more.
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BECOMING ONE WITH GOD--RECONCILIATION & THE PURE LOVE OF CHRIST

Family Home Evening Lesson #3 based on the LDS Church's Addiction Recovery Program

Purpose: Help family members understand that full repentance helps us overcome our weaknesses and develop charity, the pure love of Christ.

Preparation:
Provide each family member with a pencil and a small notebook they can use as a journal.

Scripture
:
"I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors" (Alma 34:31–32).

Song: “Come Unto Jesus” (Hymn #117)

Story:
In his 1998 April conference talk, Elder Robert D. Hales recounted the story of a 1968 marathon runner named John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania.  “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line (in an international competition), John Stephen Akhwari … approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage. ’ For some, the only reward is a personal one. [There are no medals, only] the knowledge that they finished what they set out to do” (The Last African Runner, Olympiad Series, written, directed, and produced by Bud Greenspan, Cappy Productions, 1976, videocassette). When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, ‘My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race.’ . . . Our mission in life is much the same. We were not sent by Father in Heaven just to be born. We were sent to endure and return to Him with honor.”

Discussion Questions:

  • In the past two lessons, we’ve worked to repent from our weaknesses by recognizing, confessing, and abstaining from them, but though we may now feel more comfortable with ourselves, there is still more we must do in our quest to become one with God. Stopping now would be like an athlete participating in a marathon but quitting the moment the finish line came into view. Because full repentance is vital to this process, what other step must we now take? (Make restitution.) What does it mean to make restitution? 

Quote:
"You must restore as far as possible all that which is stolen, damaged, or defiled. Willing restitution is concrete evidence to the Lord that you are committed to do all you can to repent” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 102; or Ensign, May 1995, 76).

  • The Lord has perfect love for you and for the person from whom you seek forgiveness. How can your trust in the Lord’s perfect love strengthen your resolve to make restitution wherever possible?

Role Play or Discussion:
Ask volunteers to suggest situations for which they feel family members may need to make amends. Then ask them to act out or discuss how they can make full restitution in those situations. The following information from the Addiction Recovery Program manual will help you teach correct principals:

It is very important that you are not impulsive or careless as you attempt to make amends. It is equally important that you do not procrastinate making amends. Pray for the Lord’s guidance and consult with a trusted adviser for help to avoid these pitfalls.

If those you seek to make amends with give you the chance to apologize, be brief and specific about the situation you remember. Details are not necessary. The purpose is not to explain or describe your side of things. The purpose is to admit those wrongs you have committed, offer an apology, and make restitution wherever possible. Do not argue with people or criticize them, even if their response is not favorable or accepting. Approach each person in a spirit of humility, offering reconciliation, never justification.

In other cases, you may have no way of making amends directly. The person may be dead, or you may not be able to discover where he or she lives. In such cases, you can still make amends indirectly. You can write the person a letter expressing your regret and desire for reconciliation, even if the letter cannot be delivered. You can give a gift to the person’s favorite charity. You can find someone who reminds you of that person and do something to help him or her. Or you may be able to do something to help a member of the family anonymously.

(Reconciliation) must never lead to the further harm of others. Also, at times you may have caused harm that is beyond human ability to repair. Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of this reality: “Sometimes . . . restitution is not possible in real terms, such as when one contributed to another’s loss of faith or virtue. Instead, a subsequent example of righteousness provides a compensatory form of restitution” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 31). From the moment you decide to adopt these true principles as your new way of life, you begin to make amends.

You may still have one or two people you feel like you cannot face. Do not despair. . . We recommend you take your feelings to the Lord in honest prayer. If you still have great fear or anger toward an individual, you probably should postpone meeting with him or her. To overcome negative feelings, you could pray for charity and to see the person as the Lord sees him or her. You could look for positive reasons why restitution and reconciliation will help. If you do these things and are patient, the Lord can and will—in His own way and in His own time—give you the ability and the miraculous opportunities to be reconciled to everyone on your list.

Developing Charity

Scripture:
Mosiah 4:11-12, 26

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

26
 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

Chalkboard discussion:
Now that we have made restitution and done all we can to put ourselves in harmony with the commandments of the Lord, we have at least partially entered into His rest; remaining there is now our greatest desire. What can we do to ensure we keep ourselves in harmony with God and continue on His path to further righteousness?

List family member’s ideas on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or a large piece of paper. Include the following ideas in your discussion.
You may wish to refer to the following scriptures: D&C 88:63; 1 Thessalonians 5:17–19; 2 Nephi 32:3; Luke 22:32; D&C 64:33; D&C 31:11–13.

  • Regular self-evaluation (see Alma 5:14–30 and Mosiah 4:30).
  • When you make mistakes, repent quickly
  • Regular church and temple attendance
  • Keep the commandments
  • Work to keep the Holy Ghost with us through prayer and scripture study
  • Selfless service
  • Gratitude

Quote:
It is part of the gift of charity to be able to recognize the Lord’s hand and feel His love in all that surrounds us. At times it will not be easy to discover the Lord’s love for us in all that we experience, because He is a perfect, anonymous giver. You will search all your life to uncover His hand and the gifts He has bestowed upon you because of His intimate, modest, humble way of granting such wonderful gifts. . . Brothers and sisters, as an especial witness of Christ, I bear testimony to you again of the overwhelming love of God for each of us personally. Magnifying that gift from God will bring a new heart, a pure heart, and ever-increasing love and peace. As we increasingly think and act like Him, the attributes of the natural man will slip away to be replaced by the heart and the mind of Christ. We will become like Him and then truly receive Him” (Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy).

Conclusion:
Bear your testimony of how full repentance of sin and weakness will cause us to change our ways, correct our course in life, and draw closer to God.

Quote:
“Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change.Conversion implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel—a faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Guatemala Area Conference 1977, 8).

Journal Entry:
Write your testimony of how your efforts to overcome your weaknesses have converted your heart more fully to God. Record any spiritual feelings and experiences you have had through this process. Express your gratitude for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in your writing.

End

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Becoming One With God--Repentance

REPENTANCE
Lesson 2
A series of Family Home Evening lessons based on the LDS Church's Addiction Recovery Program.

Purpose:
Help family members understand when we truly repent and partake of the gift of the Atonement, we grow closer to God.

Preparation:

Obtain a heavy object, such as a tire chain, to use as a “burden.”
Provide each family member with a pencil and a small notebook they can use as a journal.

Scripture
:  “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Song:
“How Great Thou Art,” all versus (Hymn # 86)

Object Lesson
:

Ask a volunteer to walk back and forth across the room. Ask: Was it difficult for you to accomplish this task?

Now have the same volunteer hold the chain or other heavy object you’ve provided and again walk back and forth across the room. Ask: Was it any more difficult to accomplish this task?

In the story, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, Scrooge’s deceased friend, Jacob Marley, appears to Scrooge as a ghost carrying a long and heavy chain which represents the injustices and sins he committed in his life.

How are our sins and weaknesses like carrying a heavy chain through life?

At the conclusion of Lesson 1, we completed an assignment which helped us recognize our weaknesses, chose one to overcome, and considered our actions related to that weakness. Very likely, those actions have hurt others. What must we now do to be cleansed of those transgressions or sins? (Repent)

Confession

In order to fully repent, we must first confess our sins and weaknesses.

Quote
:

Spencer W. Kimball said: “Repentance can never come until one has bared his soul and admitted his actions without excuses or rationalizations. . . . Those persons who choose to meet the issue and transform their lives may find repentance the harder road at first, but they will find it the infinitely more desirable path as they taste of its fruits” (“The Gospel of Repentance,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, 4).

Discussion Questions:

Who must we confess our sins to? 

Note: If the sin is serious, we must confess them to the proper priesthood authorities. Otherwise, this quote by President Brigham Young may be helpful in your discussion.

“When we ask the brethren, as we frequently do, to speak in sacrament meetings, we wish them, if they have injured their neighbors, to confess their wrongs; but do not tell about your nonsensical conduct that nobody knows of but yourselves. Tell to the public that which belongs to the public. If you have sinned against the people, confess to them. If you have sinned against a family or a neighborhood, go to them and confess. If you have sinned against your Ward, confess to your Ward. If you have sinned against one individual, take that person by yourselves and make your confession to him. And if you have sinned against your God, or against yourselves, confess to God, and keep the matter to yourselves, for I do not want to know anything about it” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 158).

How can confessing your sins to God give you courage and strength to confess to another person?

How would your behavior change if you were only concerned about looking good to God?


Journal Entry
:
Consider how holding back part of your confession undermines the sincerity of your efforts. What part of your inventory, if any, are you tempted to hide?

Forsaking Sin Leads to a Change in Heart

After the rigorous emotional and spiritual cleansing of recognizing and confessing our sins and weaknesses, we may be amazed at the transformation in ourselves as we begin to abstain from our weaknesses. We likely pray and study our scriptures more diligently and keep other commandments more readily. As time passes, however, we may notice that avoiding our weaknesses and sins is not enough. We want to lose even the desire for that sin.

Scripture
:

“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).

Question
:
What can we do to rid ourselves of our desires return to our weaknesses and sins? (See Alma 22: 15, 17-18 and Ether 12:27)

Quote
:
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. . . May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5–6; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6–7).

Journal Entry:
What obstacles—including attitudes and feelings—keep you from giving away “all [your] sins” and more fully receiving the Spirit of the Lord?

List your chosen character weakness and next to it write the strength it may become as you come unto Christ.

Quote:
"No matter what the source of difficulty and no matter how you begin to obtain relief . . .The final healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and obedience to His commandments” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 9; or Ensign, May 1994, 9).

Question
:
What have you learned about the Savior that has helped or influenced your desire or ability to change your behavior?

Press Forward

Just as the people of Alma submitted cheerfully and with patience when the Lord lightened their burdens but did not remove them (Mosiah 24:15), our path to a changed heart will require work, patience, and trust in Christ’s Atonement.

What can we do to make the atonement more meaningful in our lives? (Ponder the words of the sacrament prayer, pray for God to help us do what we can not do for ourselves, keep the commandments and thereby show our love for God.)


Scripture
:
Mosiah 4:9–12

Quote
:
"When the Atonement and our repentance satisfy the laws of justice and mercy, we are, in effect, free from sin. But just as the sinless Christ was “made perfect” through interaction with his Father’s grace, so his atoning grace can move us beyond the remission of sins to the perfection of a divine nature. Those who inherit the celestial kingdom are “just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood” (D&C 76:69; emphasis added). As Moroni put it, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him. … by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ” (Moro. 10:32–33). . . (Bruce C. Hafen, “Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, Apr 1997, 39).

Scripture
:
“Whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ” (Mosiah 5:9).

Most of us think of taking Christ’s name upon us in context of baptism and the sacrament, and rightly so. What might it mean to be called by the name of Christ and to have His reputation as your own?

Journal Entry
:
Write about the feelings you experience when you think of His willingness to give you His name or reputation in exchange for all your shortcomings.

Assignment:
Ask family members to apply the principles you’ve discussed in this lesson by confessing their sin/weakness to the proper persons, avoiding the weakness, and seeking help from Christ to overcome the desire to participate in that weakness or sin.

Conclusion:
Bear your testimony of your love for and trust in our Savior.

Scripture:
“Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God … giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. … They that wait upon the Lord shall … mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa 40:28-31).

End

 

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BECOMING ONE WITH GOD

I have developed three Family Home Evening Lessons based on the Addiction Recovery Program manual because the truths taught in it can aid all church members in their personal struggles to overcome their individual weaknesses of the flesh.<< MORE >>

ODE TO FRIENDS

This isn't really an ode, and I shouldn't even be writing on this blog right now. I should be working on my opening night book signing party preparations for October 22nd, but I'm too filled with thoughts not to write. Too filled with gratitude for friends.

There have been times in my life, especially when I was younger, when I felt like friends were few and far between. I've ached for someone I could talk to, someone  who would understand me.In time, as I'm sure many of you have also  experienced, friends began to appear. Not because they hadn't been there before, but because they either reached their arms further toward me, or because I eventually saw friendship in "small" acts. 

Today is one of those friendship awareness days. It began with a greater understanding of the expanded kindness Josi Kilpack has recently shown me. As I was working on mundane, household chores, I thought about the fact that I had confided in her about my feelings of nervousness for the release of my book. With a quick response that is so characteristic of her, she showed me, both in word and deed, online and personal support of me and my writing. She is a friend, and I am very blessed.

A short time later, I read an e-mail from a fellow member of Author's Incognito. She had amazing news she wanted to share with us, because, even though the information wasn't related to writing, she said that some of her greatest, personal supporters are in our group. Knowing you can share honest feelings with someone, no matter when or where you are, is a true blessing. Like my fellow AI-er, I'm grateful I'm part of such a group.

Finally, a few minutes ago, I saw an episode of "Leave It to Beaver." Some of you know I enjoy old shows. One reason for that is because they are often poignant without apology. Goodness is expected and endorsed. I love that. Anyway, in this episode, Beaver was sick with the chicken pox. He asked his brother Wally to take care of his pigeons while he was sick. After a series of misfortunes, and no matter how careful Wally was, the pigeons died. They were killed by a cat. The part that touched my heart, however, was when two of Beaver's friends came over to the house with a shovel and a box. They said they were there to give the pigeons a funeral. They would bury them in the backyard where Beaver could see them from his bedroom. As they asked Beaver's parents permission to hold the funeral, one of the friends said, "We know Beaver would do that for us."

That's what friendship is, and that's what my life is filled with. People who reach out and lift others. People who listen with interest no matter where we are. People who show compassion and love because they have experienced the same pain and know how to succor it.I hope I, in my turn, will be the same kind of friend.

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Technical Difficulties Again

I'm updating my blog. Please bear with me.<< MORE >>

MISSING EXCERPT

MISSING, as I've hoped from its inception, will be released this month just in time for Christmas. MISSING is about a college student who's on a Christmas choir tour in British Columbia when she sees a Missing Child from her own home town. Suspenseful, yes, but like the Christmas season, MISSING is also heartwarming. Here's an excerpt:


Missing

PROLOGUE

Thirteen-year-old Stacie Cox walked down the heavily wooded path to the A-frame home where she and her aunt and uncle lived during the summer months. She pulled her bandana from her pocket and wiped the sweat from her neck and forehead before opening the screen door and stepping into the dimly lit living room.

“I won’t ask about the hike,” Aunt Kathy called from the kitchen, “because I already know you enjoyed it. But what about the Smythes?”

Stacie sank onto the couch. “Mrs. Smythe said the mountains looked the same from there as they do from her store window in Rexburg.”

Aunt Kathy laughed. “Some people don’t get nature.”

“Then why do they go camping?” Stacie loosened the laces on her hiking boots.

“Same reason you like to hike so much. It’s a chance to get away from it all and just think.” Aunt Kathy, came out of the kitchen, her graying, light brown hair pulled tight in a ponytail, She placed a ham sandwich, baby carrots, and a glass of milk on the table. “Besides, it’s cheaper.”

Stacie slipped on her flip-flops. “Sorry, I’ll have to eat later. Mrs. Smythe asked me to watch her kids at the pool for a few minutes.”

“Don’t let them take advantage of you, dear. You work for the campground, not for her.”
“I’ll try not to. She said I’d only be watching the boys for a few minutes while she and Jessica changed into their swimsuits.”

“Okay. But they better not expect you to babysit for free the entire time they’re here.”
“If it takes too long, I’ll tell them you have something you need me to do.”

“Like eat your lunch!”

Stacie grinned, stepped out the door, and headed to the pool.

Mrs. Smythe and her children were waiting for her next to the Swim at Your Own Risk sign. She gave Stacie a cool once-over. “I thought you were changing into your suit. You took long enough.”

“I—I was going to, but my aunt needs me back soon.”

Mrs. Smythe frowned. “The boys are over there. Jessica and I will be back in a few minutes.”

Stacie opened the gate to the fence that surrounded the pool and walked to where the boys were swimming. More accurately, they were fighting.

“Let go of Harold’s ear!” Stacie yelled to Sam.

“He won’t let me have the ball!”

“I had it first!”

Stacie stood to her fullest height. “Let me have the ball. It’s mine.”

“No it’s not. It’s the campground’s!” Sam had let go of Harold’s ear, but now his fingers were entwined in his hair.

“I own the campground!”

“Nuh-uh! On the hike you said your aunt and uncle own it!”

“Yeah, well, I live with them. They’re my family, so it’s like I own it too.”

Harold screamed and threw the ball to the other side of the pool just as someone tugged at Stacie’s shirt. She turned to see Jessica. The young girl’s bright, brown eyes shined with excitement.

“Where’s your mom?”

“She’s in the camper,” Jessica said, holding out two pairs of goggles. “These are for the boys.”

“Thanks, Jessica. I’ll get them in a minute. Right now I’ve got to get that ball. Wait right there.”

Within moments, Stacie had it.

“Hey!” Harold cried.

“If you can figure out how to play without fighting, you can have it back,” Stacie said, remembering the babysitting tip her mother had shared with her a few months before she died.

“Tell Harold to let me have it, and we’ll stop fighting.”

“No, tell Sam to let me have it.”

Stacie pushed the long strand of dark brown hair that had fallen from her ponytail back behind her ear. “Uh, who had it first?”

“Me!”

Sam pushed Harold. “You did not. I picked it up as soon as I walked through the gate.”

“I had it before you even got there.”

“That’s enough, boys.” Mrs. Smythe had come up behind them, her arms full of towels. “And no more fighting about anything else, either, or it’s back inside for a nap.”

“A nap?”

Mrs. Smythe smiled briefly, and Stacie.

“Now, where’s Jessica?”

Stacie turned. “She’s over—”

The goggles were on the side of the pool.

The hint of a grin left Mrs. Smythe’s face. “Over where?”

Stacie ran. “Jessica!”  She picked up the goggles. “Jessica!”

Mrs. Smythe caught up to her. The boys were close behind. “Weren’t you watching her?”

“I was trying to stop the boys from fighting.” Stacie scanned the poolside. “She was right here.”
And then she paled.

Mrs. Smythe looked at the pool too. “Jessica!” she screamed, lunging forward.

Stacie dove in, vaguely aware of Mrs. Smythe’s cries for help.

Stroke. Stroke. Reach. Got her!

Stacie lifted Jessica’s face out of the water, but the girl didn’t sputter. She didn’t move at all.
Mrs. Smythe screamed.

Don’t listen. Just get her out of the pool.

From the corner of her eye, Stacie saw Aunt Kathy and Uncle Frank rush through the pool gate.

“What’s going on?” Uncle Frank rushed to the poolside, took Jessica from Stacie’s arms, and laid her on the concrete. He tilted the little girl’s head back and began breathing into her mouth.

Please, Heavenly Father, help her breathe!

Stacie climbed out of the pool, her limbs shaking even though it was a hot July day. She saw Aunt Kathy put her arm around Mrs. Smythe, who was now crying hysterically.

“Frank used to be an EMT,” Aunt Kathy soothed, trying to lead the woman away from the pool.

“Stacie, get the cell phone from the pickup and call 911.”

Stacie raced to the gate, but as she pulled it open, Mrs. Smythe began to scream. “Someone do something! She’s not responding!”

Tears poured down Stacie’s cheeks. Where is the pickup?

“Stacie, you were here!” Mrs. Smythe’s voice grew venomously shrill. “You were supposed to be watching her!”

Finally, Stacie found the pickup and called 911. Then she waited for the paramedics to arrive, led them to the pool, and watched their futile efforts to revive Jessica. But it wasn’t until they loaded the child’s lifeless body into the ambulance that Stacie ran.

She ran and ran and ran.

CHAPTER ONE

EIGHT YEARS LATER

August 12

Adrienne brushed the traitorous tears from her face, wiping away in one quick movement the emptiness that had filled her since the accident. It was as if sudden energy—life—had returned to her veins, telling her she didn’t have to feel this way anymore. The agony was over, and that child—soon to be her child, the one she’d watched for nearly an hour now—was right there, running toward her.

Adrienne stepped out from the cover of the pine trees. “Can I help you?” she asked.

The girl stopped running, wiped the tears from her cheeks, and shrugged. Her broken expression reminded Adrienne of when she used to cry herself, especially when her mother left her alone with her first stepfather. It was the greatest of betrayals, but his neglect had given her strength she could share with this child. Her child. Beauty and strength all the world would know she had because she’d raised this Riana. Her new Riana. Her daughter.

“Are you hiding from someone?” she asked soothingly.

Another shrug.

Adrienne glanced through the trees toward the secluded clearing of the playground. She had seen that other mother arguing with Riana, and Riana had run off in a tantrum, but now the mother had her back to them and was standing at the base of the slide, watching, waiting for another child, a boy, to whisk down to her.

“I bet no one will find you in my car,” Adrienne said.

Riana peered at the mother through the trees, and her brow furrowed.

“Did someone make you feel bad?” Adrienne nudged the child toward the road.
Riana nodded.

“Then let’s hide, okay?”

The girl didn’t answer, but Adrienne took her hand and led her away.

December 15

They say trouble comes in threes, and if this was only number 2, Stacie hated to think what number 3 would be. She closed her cell phone.

“What’s wrong?” Janice whispered.

The tour bus turned onto Fort Street.

“Nothing,” Stacie replied.

Janice’s dark eyes settled on her with that innate, reassuring power Stacie had always believed came from her Sioux ancestry. “Then why are your hands shaking?”

“Read this.” Stacie handed her friend her phone and the two of them read the text together.

Didn’t want you to hear from someone else. The Smythes have sued the campground again.

<span style="font-family: arial;">Claim we’re financially responsible for their daughter’s death. Everything under control. Good luck on your solo.</span>

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Janice said. “I thought that was settled.”

“Nothing’s ever settled with that woman.” Stacie swallowed the bile that always surfaced with thoughts of Mrs. Smythe.

Keep me posted.

She pressed send, tucked her phone in the bag she kept in the overhead compartment, and peered out the bus window. The trees and houses flickered by like a slide show on fast-forward, and for a moment Stacie wished the posh Victorian buildings weren’t in the middle of a bustling city of almost-green lawns and manicured bushes, but were instead draped with blankets of snow and icicles. That way, it would feel more like Christmas.

Stacie sighed. The choir’s Christmas tour was in full swing, and Stacie’s accompanist for her solo was ill and unable to play for her. That was trouble number 1. She’d be singing with a substitute accompanist, and the idea made her nervous.

The driver turned into Craigdarroch Castle’s driveway, and once the bus came to a stop, Stacie and the other choir members filed off quickly.

“Don’t worry,” Brother Fillmore, the choir director, said when Stacie stepped onto the wet pavement. “You and Matt will do just fine.”

“Did you see where he went? I’d like to at least talk through the solo before we perform it.”

“Up near the front. He was one of the first off the bus.”

Stacie scanned the crowd ahead of her, trying to ignore her growing anxiety. Then she saw him. He stood at the base of the stone steps beneath the castle’s arched entry, and almost as if she’d called his name, he suddenly turned his gaze to hers, held it briefly, then nodded before continuing up to the doorway. Confidence, she suspected, was what he meant to convey, but it didn’t comfort her. Sure, Matt was a good pianist, but she and Lara were such a perfect team, always anticipating the other’s movements. Stacie had learned to rely on her.

A brisk breeze caught a thick strand of Stacie’s hair and plastered it across her eyes, but by the time she’d pushed it away, Matt had stepped inside the castle.

She gathered the skirt of her sapphire formal in both hands and rushed up the steps and through the door. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light, but when they did, she saw that she was standing at the front of an open hall. The floors and walls were paneled with a warm white oak and lined with historical displays of Christmas ornaments and children’s toys. Ivy adorned the banister of a box-shaped, winding grand staircase, and light filtering through the stained-glass windows added a multicolored luster to the early-twentieth-century Christmas tree display. Across the hall were two widely separated doorways that opened into a large, chandeliered room. And humming through the air were the blended voices of dozens of tourists.

“Are you looking for me?”

Stacie turned and saw Matt standing uncomfortably close to her.

“Yes,” she said aloud. “I thought, well, since we haven’t practiced together yet, we ought to talk through my solo and—”

He shrugged slightly and looked passed her, or rather he gazed over her head and across the room. “We can if you want, but I’ve heard it many times.” His bass voice was so soft she had to strain to hear him over the crowd’s drone. “You sing ‘Silent Night’ simply enough, Stacie. I shouldn’t have any trouble following you.”

Stacie tried not to grimace. Simply enough? Did he mean that as a compliment or an insult? “This is important to me, Matt. I know the city dignitaries won’t be here today, but this is pretty much our dress rehearsal.”

He shook his head. “It’s too late to do anything about it now. Maybe later we can change things. But I really think we’ll be fine.”

Stacie suddenly felt nauseous. “What do you mean? Change what?”

Before Matt could answer her, Brother Fillmore, who stood in front of the fireplace between the two doorways, motioned them to the portable risers, and Matt started forward. If Stacie didn’t speak now, she’d lose her chance.

“I can change something if I need to,” she blurted. “What’s wrong with the song?”

Matt stopped, turned, and looked at her beneath lowered eyelids. “The ending’s not right. Slow down the last note. Let it float for a second longer, then I’ll play the final chord.”

Stacie stared at him. Even after all her practicing, she knew he was right about the ending. But before she had a chance to tell him so, he nodded and said, “Like I told you, it’s too late now. It’s your decision.”

“Wait a second. I didn’t give you my answer.”

Light flashed through his dark brown eyes. “Well?”

Stacie licked her lips, preparing to graciously tell him they’d perform it as he’d suggested, but when a hint of smugness suddenly shaded his expression, she stopped. Was he teasing her or telling her the truth?

Matt shrugged, then headed to the risers where the rest of the choir was waiting. Confused and a bit embarrassed, Stacie followed him.

As soon as they stepped into their positions, Brother Fillmore cleared his throat. “Mr. Underwood, head of the Craigdarroch Historical Society, has asked us to sing our numbers in this hall. However, Stacie and Matt will perform ‘Silent Night,’” he motioned to one of the two doors, “at the piano in the drawing room. Stacie, I’d like you to stand on the middle row today, between Tom and Matt, to minimize the distraction.”

Stacie dutifully moved to the middle row.

“Have you made up your mind?” Matt whispered as soon as she settled in next to him.<< MORE >>

The Worth of a Soul

Years ago, I had the impression I should write a song, but I had no idea how I could accomplish such a task. Yes, I’d had musical training in voice and piano, but very little theory training, and even less in musical composition. Worse, I’d only been married for a few years and didn't own a piano. I simply couldn't do it, and even if I could, why would God want me to do it?

I pondered that problem for some time and finally confessed my struggles to my husband. He said, “If the Lord told you to do something, He’ll help you find a way.”  His convictions gave me the courage to move forward, but still I wondered “why.”

Finally, after months of personal study, struggle, and prayer, I completed it. After that, still trying to find the answer to “why,” I performed the song in church and family settings, but I still didn't’t receive a confirmation of its purpose. I was beginning to wonder if the only reason I’d been “assigned” to write it was so I could learn more about music. One day, the answer came: I needed to give the song to a relative I barely knew. It was meant for her. Again, “why?”

Like I said, I barely knew the girl, so I still don't know why I needed to write and give it to her, but I did feel like my gift touched her heart, at least a little, and reminded her that Heavenly Father was aware of her.

I learned a profound principle through that experience: the worth of the soul is great in the sight of God. Think of it. Writing that song was not easy for me. I had to struggle and study. I had to invent ways to compensate for my lack of resources. I had to pray. And when I completed the “assignment,” I learned its “only” purpose was to touch, perhaps, the heart of one soul. Needless to say, that witness humbled me.

I have since gathered a few “Worth of Soul” quotes I’d like to share here. Most, if not all, you may have heard before, but like the simple testimony of the song, “I am a Child of God,” their repetition and simplicity do not negate their power.  

1) Jesus Christ:

"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

"
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

“And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4–7.)

 2) President Thomas S. Monson:

“In March of 1967, early in my service as a member of the Council of the Twelve, I was attending a conference of the Monument Park West Stake in Salt Lake City. My companion for the conference was a member of the General Church Welfare Committee, Paul C. Child. President Child was a student of the scriptures. He had been my stake president during my Aaronic Priesthood years. Now we were together as conference visitors.

“When it was his opportunity to participate, President Child took in hand the Doctrine and Covenants and left the pulpit to stand among the priesthood brethren to whom he was directing his message. He turned to section 18 and began to read:

“’Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.

“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!’”

“President Child then raised his eyes from the scriptures and asked the brethren: ‘What is the worth of a human soul?’ He avoided calling on a bishop, a stake president, or a high councilor for a response. Instead, he selected the president of an elders quorum—a brother who had been a bit drowsy and had missed the significance of the question.

"
The startled man responded, ‘Brother Child, could you please repeat the question?’

"The question was repeated: ‘What is the worth of a human soul?’

“I knew President Child’s style. I prayed fervently for that quorum president. He remained silent for what seemed like an eternity and then declared, ‘Brother Child, the worth of a human soul is its capacity to become as God.’

“All present pondered that reply. Brother Child returned to the stand, leaned over to me, and said, ‘A profound reply; a profound reply!’

3) Elder Boyd K. Packer:
“no greater ideal has been revealed than the supernal truth that we are the children of God, and we differ, by virtue of our creation, from all other living things” (Ensign, May 1992, p. 67).

4) Elaine L. Jack:
“Over and over again, the Lord assures us of our worth and value to him. In
D&C 18:10–11, he admonishes us to ‘remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

“’For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.’

“Our eternal worth is given to us by God; it cannot be manipulated or decreased by anyone. Of course, if we are not living the commandments, we may lose sight of our divine worth and potential. Nevertheless, each soul’s inherent worth is always great in the sight of our loving Heavenly Father. I think that is imperative to know! Worthlessness is not an option for anyone.”

5) Marvin J. Ashton:

“A wise teacher and stake Relief Society president … flashed a large picture on a screen. It showed a bright-eyed boy with unkempt hair and folded arms, deep in thought. The caption read, ‘I know I’m somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk.’ Please let me repeat, ‘I know I’m somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk.’"


"Junk" has been defined as discarded, useless, meaningless matter, and yet too many times we compare ourselves to it. Even when I'd received the impression to write the song, I doubted both my ability and my worth to do it. I was a mere "nobody," right? Wrong. My testimony, added to those I've listed above, is I, like you, am a Child of God. We are matter organized for specific, eternal purposes. We, collectively and individually, are those Jesus Christ sacrificed His life and blood for. In truth, it isn't self-deprecation we should feel. It's eternal amazement.

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My Favorite Homemade Pizza

I frequently make homemade pizza for my family, however, depending on the preparation time I have, I use various crusts. The quickest is a loaf of French bread, cut in half. Next quickest is prepared bread dough, like Rhodes Dough, but the recipes I use most frequently are the regular, white bread dough I make in my bread maker or this one, which I also make in my bread maker.

Pizza Dough—adapted for use in a bread maker
1 cup + 5 T. water
3 T + 1 tsp. shortening
1/3 c. + 1 T. powdered milk
1 1/8 tsp salt
3 1/2 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast

Roll out on greased pizza (or cookie) pan and bake entire pizza at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown on the bottom.

Serves approximately 2 large pizzas.


I believe the biggest secret behind a good pizza recipe is the sauce. My family likes this one so well, I use it for all pizza-like recipes.

Sauce
15 oz. can tomato sauce
6 oz. can, Italian seasoned tomato paste
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Stir together until smooth. Spread over pizza dough, add your favorite toppings, and bake.

Note: A regular bread dough recipe or French bread crust will require a lower baking temperature. I usually use 425 degrees. << MORE >>

On Being Happy

Please bear with me today. My heart is full. Actually, if I hadn't already used the title, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," in my last post, I'd have used it today.
 
A little over an hour ago, I returned home from the funeral of a dear, dear friend, Anne Creager. She has been in my writing critique group for the past several years, and after regularly meeting with her (sometimes monthly, often weekly), we (Josi Kilpack, Jody Durfee, Becki Clayson, and I) got to know Anne in a way we will always cherish. True, we aren't members of her family or even her closest inner circle—perhaps—but I feel we got to know her on a deeper level than most people get to because we frequently read each other's work and unselfishly helped each other progress through the various feedback and experience we shared. There is something innately personal about putting words on paper. It is, in many ways, a reflection of who we are inside; it is the fruits of our thoughts. Because of this connection, we all knew Anne was beautiful both inside and out. I always marveled at her ability to describe settings in a way I not only saw but also felt it's beauty.Kind of like when I stand above a lush, mountain canyon turned red and gold from fall. The coolness in the air and the glories of nature seem to breathe beauty through me. That's how good Anne's writing was. That's how good Anne is.

Anne is also strong. At her funeral, someone mentioned her determination to do the right thing—to be good. We, too, saw that in her. After Anne learned she had melanoma and would leave her young family far too soon, she began to try attain dreams she'd always wanted. Most of them surrounded what she wanted to do and say and be for her family, but part of her still yearned to write. So, she combined those dreams and worked to use her talents to bless her family. She maintained a blog in which she shared her struggles with cancer, expressed her joy in being a wife and mother, and testified of her love for God and His gospel.She wrote numerous letters to her daughters to be given to them on their birthdays over the ensuing years. She wrote articles for the church magazines. She wrote a picture book which described her experience with losing her hair through her cancer treatments. She began to write a book for girls, one that could help her daughters and others find peace and understanding as they matured. BUT even though these pursuits took part of her precious time, she rigorously kept them within the bounds of what was most important. One specific event stands out in my mind.

Last April, she took the time away from her family to attend the LDS Storymaker's conference with Josi, Becki, and I. We "girls" really enjoyed our time together and loved getting to know each other better. Anne was also blessed with the opportunity (due to the charitable acts of other authors) to "pitch" her books to an agent and an editor.

However, during one class near the end of the conference, the presenter put a time line on the board, helping us see how long the publishing process generally takes. The majority of time was expressed in years. When Anne saw that, she paled, looked down at the table in front of her, and said, "I don't feel very well."

"Is it because of the time?" I whispered.

She nodded, gulped, gathered her things, and shortly thereafter, returned home. I teared up. Anne did what was most important.

Now, after all that, why would I title this post "Don't Worry, Be Happy?" Because Anne succeeded.Living in this world, especially at times like this, it's difficult to keep an eternal perspective; but the truth is, Anne endured to the end—happily and beautifully. She fulfilled her purpose on this earth with dignity and virtue. She has returned home to God as a faithful, pure, and righteous woman. What more could any of us, in the eternal scheme of things, want? << MORE >>

Don't Worry . . . Be Happy

I just thought I'd let you know my technical difficulties have been resolved. Thank you for your patience. << MORE >>

Technical Difficulties

Please stand by . . .

As you can see, I'm changing the look of my blog. "Things" are not going as I'd like, so I appreciate your patience as I iron out the kinks. THANKS!<< MORE >>

Quick Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sweetened raspberries
2 cups whipping cream (I also use half and half with good but softer results)
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Mix the above ingredients in a blender.

2. Pour into an icecream freezer and process until frozen. I use this model because it's always ready, and I don't have to deal with ice and salt. I love it!

Note: If you do use an ice cream model similar to mine, do not add the chocolate chips until the last ten minutes of freezing time.

Enjoy! << MORE >>

Many are Called

The fourteen through eighteen-year-olds in our stake recently attended a pioneer trek youth conference. They, like our ancestors, faced torrential rain, lack of food and sleep, difficult terrain, and frequently altered courses due to the weather; but also like our forebears, they learned a vital, eternal lesson: we, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all in “this”—life, the church, and furthering God’s work—together.

There are many steps to achieving this accord, such as unified prayer, repenting of our sins, and forgiving others; but another important but often overlooked requirement is receiving, accepting, and fulfilling callings from our Priesthood leadership. In truth, how we respond to our callings holds at least three eternal consequences.

1) Consider the scriptural account of Christ gathering his disciples. While walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus Christ called to Simon called Peter and Andrew and told them to follow Him, and “they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-22). Then in Luke 6:13, we read, “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (bold added).

In the preceding texts, I bolded the words “follow,” “called,” and “chose,” because they indicate that before Christ can “choose” his elect, he will first “call” them: “There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy. And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified” (D&C 105:35-36). Thus, if we do not initially accept the call to follow Him, how can we hope to be sanctified among His elect at the last day? The parable of the ten virgins in which half were excluded from the bridegroom’s feast reveals similar repercussions (Matt. 25:1-13).

2)
 Christ said, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Thus, any calling we receive through Priesthood authority is an invitation from Christ to follow Him, to become like Him, to learn to know Him. President Howard W. Hunter described it this way:

"The Lord’s invitation to follow him is individual and personal, and it is compelling. We cannot stand forever between two opinions. Each of us must at some time face the crucial question: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matt. 16:15) Our personal salvation depends on our answer to that question and our commitment to that answer. . . To follow an individual means to watch him or listen to him closely; to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him; to support and advocate his ideas; and to take him as a model.”



3) As the parable of the talents implies, we each have gifts and abilities only we can magnify to lift others and further the Lord’s Kingdom. In fact, those are the purposes for those gifts:

"And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.
Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand? Also the body hath need of every member that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect" (D&C 84:109-110).

True, callings in the church frequently come at inconvenient or uncomfortable times; and often, they seem beyond our abilities to accomplish them, but are those satisfactory reasons not to accept them? Each of us, just like our forefathers, must answer that question for him or herself; but I hope, before we do, we will ponder this statement by President James E. Faust: 

"
To stay on the right track, we must honor and sustain those who hold the presiding priesthood keys. We are reminded that many are “called, but few are chosen.” When are we chosen? We are chosen by the Lord only when we have done our best to move this holy work forward through our consecrated efforts and talents."

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Back from Girl's Camp

Well, I'm back from Girl's camp, and I thought I'd share a few thoughts here about the event. First, it turned out really great, and we even had a few girls attend who we never see at other activities or meetings. The girls also had a good time, learned a few skills, and some of them, I believe, gained a greater recognition of their testimonies. These were results the camp directors and I had worked for, but there was one good by-product we hadn't expected due to the fact we stayed in a lodge rather than in tents. When I was a teen, there were times our ward had the opportunity to stay in a cabin together, but this experience was our girls' first time. In fact, some of them complained, at first, because it was too easy and not really camping. However, because we stayed together, sleeping on the same floor, the girls grew closer as a group and developed stronger associations with girls they'd previously had little interaction with. A happy surprise.
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Good News--A New Book

Nichole Giles and Cindy Beck have a new book coming out this December, titled, "Mormon Mishaps and Mischief." It's a compilation of humorous, LDS related anecdotes, and I AM ONE OF THE CONTRIBUTORS.Keep an eye out for it, will ya?

And if you want to submit your own stories for future compilations, check the guidelines here.

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A Nation Under God

With a struggling economy, unresolved war, and upturned morality seeking justification in our court systems, there’s no question our nation is in turmoil. However, rather than a time to fear, this is a time to stand for righteousness and reclaim America’s divinely mandated role for these final days before the Savior’s Second Coming. What is that role? President John Taylor described America’s destiny this way: “When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth, and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men, and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations.” L. Tom Perry further explained: “The land must continue to remain strong and great and good. It is destined to be the major supplier of human and financial resources, to build the kingdom of God here in the whole world, and to prepare the world for the return of the Lord and Savior. The adversary knows all too well that a weak America will literally stop this building process and thwart the work of God.”

These two quotes, along with many not mentioned here, indicate that we, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along with our God fearing friends of other denominations, must work to preserve our nation. To this end, President Ezra Taft Benson offered five vital standards we must live by. In brief, they are:

1. “Keep your families strong.”

2. “Live by the fundamental principles of work, thrift, and self-reliance and teach your children (to live by these principles) by your example.” (Italics added)

3. “Learn about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and other basic documents of our great country so that you can sustain it and the free institutions set up under it.”

4. “Seek out good, wise, and honest men for public office, and then support them with your vote.”

5. “Heed strictly the commandments of God, particularly the Ten Commandments.”

In conclusion, some final words from Elder Perry:

“Fifty-six men represented 2.5 million in 1776 to bring about a new nation that has literally blessed the whole world. That was one man to every 45,000. Today I’m calling on each of you to exert an influence over about 220 million people in this land. The odds are even better for you; the advantage is on your side. This is the time for you to be bold enough to stand up for what you believe, to let the world know that God still blesses this great land of America—if we will live righteously, according to that which he has commanded.”

Bibliography
Ezra Taft Benson, “America at the Crossroads,” New Era, Jul 1978, 36
L. Tom Perry, “God’s Hand in the Founding of America,” New Era, Jul 1976, 45 << MORE >>

An Interview with Josi Kilpack about THE Teen Writer's Conference

RONDA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

JOSI: I’m a mother of four, ages 15-7, and an author of 9 novels, with a tenth coming out in August. I have been a member of multiple writing groups, large and small, and a committee member and former conference chair for numerous writer’s conferences. In addition, I’m a frequent presenter to schools and groups, a fabulous cook (if I do say so myself) and amateur chicken farmer.

RONDA: You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.

JOSI: Several of the committee members and myself have been involved with putting together writing conferences for several years. We started small and have grown until our most recent conference had well over 250 attendants. Over the years, we have had some teenagers attend our conference, and while they have enjoyed the experience, it seems to also be a bit overwhelming to walk into a two day, morning to night information-fest. So, we began discussing the idea of having a conference where the format, classes, and overall environment is created specifically to give youth, ages 13-19, the best overall introduction to writing conferences as well as instruction that will be most helpful to where they are now on their journey of being a writer. From there we started throwing out ideas and it really just rolled all together until we have this; THE Teen Writer’s Conference.

RONDA: What is your purpose for the conference? What do you hope the teens who come discover?

JOSI: Our hope is that the attendees will discover a lot of things: 1) They are not the only kids that write, 2) Whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach, and 3) It takes knowledge and time and concerted effort to accomplish those goals. Those of us on the committee, all of us being writers ourselves, have spent years honing our craft and are excited to help set these kids on that same path—perhaps earlier than we ever started.

RONDA: What kind of classes will you be offering?

JOSI: We will have classes that focus on actual elements of writing, as well as classes on book markets, the publishing process, and what attendees can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes which will appeal to both new and experienced writers.

RONDA: What if a teen would like to come, but is really shy? Will there be anything that will put him or her at unease?

JOSI: Our entire focus and reason for putting this conference together is to create a comfortable place for young writers to come, learn, and flourish. We have been and will continue to put their comfort as our first priority, because we know if they are intimidated and anxious, they will not benefit from this experience. However, we also expect them to be ready for this experience. Each youth, along with their parents, will need to determine if they are ready to be a part of this. Not all teen writers will be, and that’s okay. We hope to make this an annual event, so if this year won’t work, then perhaps by next year they will be ready.

RONDA: What is your overall goal for every youth that attends the Teen Writers' Conference?

JOSI: That they leave encouraged and inspired to do their best, to hone their craft, and to truly reach for the stars in regard to their writing and their life. We also hope they will make friends with one another and feel a sense of community among other writers their own age.

RONDA: How were you able to get such excellent editors and famous writers to attend?JOSI: Well, in all humility I have to admit that they are my friends—my very good friends. We are like-minded people that saw a common goal and made it happen. I admire each and every person on this committee, and understand the sacrifice they each make to be a part of this. We are joined in this purpose as well as in our passion for great writing. I am blessed to rub shoulders with some of the best writer’s out there and the attendees get to benefit from that gift in my life.

RONDA: When is it and how do teens register?

JOSI: Registration is open for another 4 weeks. To register, attendees need to go to the website http://www.teenwritersconference.com/ and print off the registration form. Those attendees under the age of 17 will need parental permission to attend; then they will mail the completed registration, along with payment, to the address printed on the page. They and their parent will receive a welcome e-mail upon receipt of their registration as well as updates as the conference gets closer. Updates will also be posted on the website.

RONDA: Finally, this conference is for 13 to 19 year olds. Why that age group?

JOSI: We discussed this issue at length, and then simply decided since it was a TEEN conference, we would make it open to TEENS only. We feel that having them among their peers will help them relax and yet be willing to ask questions, meet other kids, and focus on the instruction we’re providing. For the older attendees, this will likely be a kind of introduction to adult-focused writer’s conferences, showing them what to expect and how the typical conference is organized. For the younger attendees, we hope they will come back year after year and continue learning about what they can do in the future.

RONDA: Any other information you'd like to share?

JOSI: We’ve had some parents express concern in regard to leaving their children at the conference without them. Again, this conference isn’t right for all teens, or all parents, but we do ask that parents consider the value of letting their children experience the independent nature of this conference. As a committee, we are dedicated to their safety and comfort; they will come to no harm while attending. And while we ask that parents stay clear of the conference rooms, there are many places on campus that are great for reading or getting some other work done if they worry about going too far away. We will also allow attendees to keep cell-phones on silent throughout the conference so that parents are only a phone call. For those attendees without cell-phones, they are welcome to use a committee members phone at any time.

RONDA: Where can people go to find more information, and especially to learn about the writing contest made available just for those who attend?

JOSI: http://www.teenwritersconference.com/ has all the details of the conference, contest, venue, etc. If something is not answered, there are e-mail links that will send you to us so we can give you the details you are looking for.

RONDA: Thank you very much, Josi. This sounds like an event teen writers won't want to miss. << MORE >>

Though Wayward--Still Hope

They’re everywhere: faithful yet heart-broken Latter-day Saints sitting alone in Sacrament Meeting because their family members have chosen “other paths.” I know because I’ve not only seen them, I’m one of them.

Not in the usual sense, for I’m not the parent of a wayward child, but I do have other family members who’ve either become apathetic toward church attendance or who’ve lost their testimonies through sin or miss-choice. And it grieves me. Grieves me to the point that many Sundays are tearful days of mourning, days that remind me my family’s opportunities for God’s blessings, including Eternal Life together, are at stake.

And yet, though this Sunday “cry session” has gone on for more years than I’d like to count, I have learned to hope.

One learning experience came while I, as a Young Women’s leader, was attending a Stake Young Women’s girl’s camp. I was participating in a familiar, spiritual activity in which all the participants were blind-folded, given a “name” (actually, I think it was something like an animal sound), told we needed to find the rest of our “family,” and then while holding them close to us, complete a specific task which brought us “Home.” As luck would have it, shortly after I found my family I lost them again. For the rest of the activity, I was a lone person in the field.

Until the end. That was when, after all other groups had succeeded with their tasks, someone noticed I was lost and sent my “family” to retrieve me. Finally, tearfully, I returned “Home.” But I wasn’t tearful because I was embarrassed that I was the last one on the field (though I slightly was); it was because one of Christ’s parables had suddenly become alive in me:

Matthew 20:1-16

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 
7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.


In other words, it doesn't matter whether my family and I make it to God’s Kingdom first or last. What matters is that we get there. And when we get there, we’ll each receive the same reward: Eternal Life.

A second lesson came while I was praying for a specific loved one, pouring out my sorrow and hopelessness. I felt alone and at the end of my “How do I hang on?” rope. But then, very distinctly, I heard the voice of another loved one who’d passed beyond the veil in recent years say to me, “Don’t give up on . . . .”

Yes, her voice taught me I was not alone in this trial, that our deceased loved ones are working, perhaps mourning for our “lost” family members, too; but mostly, it filled me with hope. I still carry her words and that hope inside me.

Finally, I’ve learned to hope because the Lord has heard my prayers. I know He has. I’ve seen His answers. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in large, but one answer I’ll share here because I believe it can help others.

Some time ago, I was searching LDS.org for an article to supplement a Sunday lesson I had to give as part of the calling I had at that time. I don’t remember the subject I was researching, but I do remember one article that appeared on the computer screen. It had NOTHING to do with my subject but everything to do with the specific, “wayward child” trial I then faced. It was a talk given by a general authority which told me exactly what I needed to do in this situation (I’ve included it in the following list). I immediately read it, recognized it for the Heavenly Answer it was, printed it, and now keep it in my journal where I’ve read and re-read it almost as much as I read my patriarchal blessing. It’s another one of my life-lines from God, something that guides me as I struggle, worry, and work to help Heavenly Father bring my family—and His—back Home.

 Keeping the Door Open and the Stew Hot: Loving and Helping a Wayward Child

When Our Children Go Astray

Loving My Wayward Child

Begin Where You Are—At Home

“You Have Nothing to Fear from the Journey”

Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations

Your Personal Influence

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Encouraging General Conference--A Family Tradition

I love General Conference. Always have. Even when I was a kid. Because of that, I wanted my children to learn to love conference, too, in spite of the other, conflicting influences that surrounded them. So this is what I did. And it worked!

Ever since my children have been old enough to read and write, we have made one conference day a "candy day;" meaning, while we listen to both sessions, we take notes. All of us. I take my notes, however, in the form of questions.

When each session is over, I then ask my questions and they take turns answering them. I ask many simple ones, like what was the opening song? Who spoke first? And, "so and so said we should do what if we need help?" (Pray).  But I also occasionally ask more complicated ones of the older children, related to specific stories and scriptures. When they answer correctly, I give them a piece of candy (fun sized candy bars, usually). They love it!

And so do I. Not because of the sugary treats (which I also enjoy!), but because I not only have the opportunity to go over—and sometimes reteach—every talk from that session, but I see that my children now have fond, family memories of conference as they've learned to feast on the real "treats" of the gospel.  

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YM/YW MISSIONARY PROGRESSIVE DINNER

This activity was amazing! One of the young women's mother told me her daughter, who's usually not very vocal about our activities, couldn't stop talking about it when she returned home that night. To me, that's success!

What we did:
1. They (the Young Men's organization was in charge) gathered random information (description, likes, where serving, etc.) about the current and recently returned missionaries in our ward.
2. They had men from the ward who went to those missions or parents of the missionaries prepare and bring a food item to share with the youth.
3. They had each "mission" set up in a different room throughout the building, and had the youth rotate between the rooms to not only learn a little about that country and eat their food but also guess which ward missionary was currently serving in that country.
4. The Young Men began the evening by quoting Section 4 from the Doctrine and Covenants.

If you try this activity, let me know how it went. I'd love to hear about it.

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YW Activity--Bowling

Although this wasn't an "original" idea, going bowling has been one of our most successful yw/ym combined activities. Even the expense was little compared with the success of the event, for we had youth attend who have never attended a mutual activity before. We even had a non-member relative join us.
Another great thing about this activity was it gave the youth and the leaders a chance to "let their hair down." Sure, the boys were competitive (they still had fun), but the girls just enjoyed their time together by visiting, trying goofy ways to bowl, and laughing. LOTS OF SMILES that night. It was amazing. 

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My Romantic Suspense Novel to be Published This Year!

It's happened! Last week I received a "we want to publish your book" message from Linda Prince at Leatherwood Press. I can't tell you the title yet because it is going through reformation, but for your information, it is the book I've previously won awards for and referred to as "Flip-Flop" and/or "Distraction."

I also don't yet know an exact date for its publication , but Linda initially told me she wanted to publish it this spring or early summer. I am so excited! I've been working on my craft in one form or another since I was twelve years old, and finally, FINALLY, I'm starting to see the light. Yeah!

Be sure to check back soon for more updates! << MORE >>

Scripture Symbolism

One of the "first keys" to understanding scriptural symbolism, our teacher, Brother Michael Weir Allred, said, was to look for obvious and simple meanings for those images. He then, as an example, gave us a brief list of some common symbols and what they can mean.<< MORE >>

Free David Bowman Prints

This is a great deal to all of you bloggers out there. But more than that, it's an opportunity to get to know the work of a great, up-and-coming artist. I loved these pictures!

I wanted to share these beautiful pictures and what the artist has to say about each one of them! You can ALL win a FREE signed 8x10 print of your choice (out of the three prints), by copying and posting to your blog or website this whole post! After you post then send an e-mail to David (contact@bowman-art.com) with your website or blog address telling him you posted it and that you read about this offer on my blog. Also send him your name and mailing address and he will send your signed 8x10 print of your choice

David Bowman: has had a passion for art ever since he could pick up a pencil. He loves creating images of the Savior that inspire and uplift. Along with his Christian fine art, David has also written and illustrated a series of scripture storybooks for children titled "Who's Your Hero". Check out his website at www.bowman-art.com to see more of his precious art.



"Innocence"
The Savior tells us we need to become as little children to inherit the kingdom of God. I've often wondered what it is about little children Jesus loves most, and I think its their innocence. They are clean slates, seeing the world and others through untarnished eyes. Their hearts are pure, without the baggage of cynicism and self-doubt. In this piece, I've tried to imagine how a child would act upon meeting the Master for the first time. Without reservation or inhibition, I think he would simply want to play with Him. He would be at complete ease, allowing his pure little heart to soak in the love and laughter of His pure, infinite heart. Its no wonder Christ delights in these little ones and sets them up to be our examples.


"Security"
One of the greatest human needs is a sense of security. In all aspects of life, we naturally gravitate towards anything that makes us feel safe. In this piece, I wanted to convey a sense of complete peace and calm like only the Savior can provide. It's a security that allows us to rest assured, without fear or worry, when we put ourselves trustingly in His arms. Little children have that inherent kind of trust in their parents, so it's fitting that the man and girl who modeled for "Security" are actually father and daughter. They generated
the exact feel I was looking for.



"My Child"
This piece conveys an intimate, up-close-and-personal feeling of the Savior's love. Notice how all the lines draw your attention and point towards Jesus' face in the center. I chose the name "My Child" because the only thing that could compare (even remotely) to Christ's compassion for us is the love of a parent for his/her child. This image is also intended to put things in perspective. Above all, we are God's children first. He allows us the privelege of experiencing parenthood for ourselves and we are entrusted to be the mothers and fathers of His children here on earth. << MORE >>

Today's Christmas Miracle

Today has been the most "obstacled" Christmas I remember ever having, and yet through it all, a Christmas miracle.

Our obstacles began three days ago when our laptop suddenly caught the virus, Spywareguard. It took over our entire computer, but though that was extremely aggravating, what we most hated was we had important pictures stored on it. and nowhere else, stuff like children's graduation, trips, and special events. Ugh!

Two days ago,
my husband "ran into" a friend of ours, a computer guy, who out of the kindness of his heart, worked on our computer for several hours that night and then a bit (we don't know how long) throughout
yesterday, Christmas Eve, and eventually returned it to us around 9:30 p.m. Christmas Eve night because he believed we needed it the next day in order to talk to our son who's on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (We use Skype). We felt very grateful for him, felt bad he'd spent his Christmas Eve working on it, and learned there was still work to be done on it, but it worked right now.At the time, while we wanted the laptop in order to test our system, making sure everything was okay so we could call our son (we didn't think we wouldn't be able to talk to him without it), our biggest concern was those pictures. So my husband stayed up most of the night copying all our pictures, just in case.

This morning
, Christmas morning, the rest of us woke up to blizzard conditions and no power. We were supposed to call our son through Skype at 11 a.m., but as the hour grew closer and the power stayed off, we began looking for other options. Because he's on a foreign mission, using the cell phone would have been too expensive for much more than a "hi—good-bye" conversation—not something we wanted after not talking to him since Mother's Day. Also, our main line is a dsl, so it was affected by the power (our battery kept it going for a little while, but even so, when we eventually tried calling him on it, the "phone powers-that-be" wouldn't connect us.

To make a long story short, we considered many options to get power or internet, but eventually decided we would drive a block, park at the bottom of "the hill "(the drive was impassable), and hike in the blizzard with our laptop up to one of our neighbors who still had power to use their internet. By then, it was 11 a.m.

Well, we didn't even make it out of our driveway before our 4-wheel drive van high centered. My husband then got the dump truck (with a snow plow on front) and tried to pull it out, but it, too, got stuck. Finally, we hand dug the van out, somehow made it out of the driveway, then started up the street when about four houses later we ran into a downed and broken power line. Two houses later, we hit another one. Before we reached the end of the block, we decided to park our van at the nearest house (a ward member) and walk from there. But first, we stopped to tell that ward member what we were doing. There, we found out they had power and high speed internet and said we could use theirs. Yeah! Our entire family piled into their house and started pulling off our snow clothes when their power suddenly went out. By now, it was 11:30.

We then called the original neighbor who we'd planned to hike to, and learned their power was now down, too, so we started calling businesses that had wi-fi and found no one with power. Meanwhile, the "original neighbor" made a few phone calls of her own and learned what part of town had power.Fortunately, one of our friends, another computer guy, lived in that area. We called him, and at 12 p.m. we made it to his house, hooked our laptop to his computer system, and called our son. Fortunately, our son was still there and was still able to talk for a while. In fact, we got to visit with him for over 2 hours. It was my best Christmas present.But that was not the miracle. At least, we didn't know it was.

At about 5:30 p.m., our power finally came back on. We relaxed for a while, and then at about 9 p.m. my husband turned the laptop back on to play solitare or something, but it locked up. Nothing worked. The virus had returned. That was when we realized our prayers had been answered even more profoundly than we'd realized; the laptop had "lived" only long enough for us to retrieve our pictures and to talk to our son. It was a miracle.
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Christmas Music with Narration Program

For the past three years, a good friend of mine—a violin teacher (and and her students)—and I (with my piano students) have presented a Christmas program of music and narration for a local nursing home. Since it is a generalized program that can incorporate different music titles each year, I thought I'd share it with you, my readers, in case you're searching for something similar.


CHRISTMAS PROGRAM

SONG:             JOY TO THE WORLD

NARRATION:    
Christmas is a sacred season. It’s a time when love increases, friendships deepen, and hearts join together to celebrate the birth of Christ. Tonight, several young music students will celebrate these feelings and their love of Christ through their music. The first numbers are traditional and folk carols; but just as all things that are filled with the Christmas spirit, their ultimate messages reflect unity, joy, and peace in Christ.

SONGS:          GOOD KING WENCESLAS
                       GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMAN
                       I SAW THREE SHIPS

NARRATION:
Favorite Christmas symbols also reflect the Savior, such as candy canes for shepherd’s crooks, candles for lights that can not be hid, and wreaths as the promise of Eternal Life. But what about the snow? Could it be that it represents all that is white, and good, and pure? Or, perhaps it is because, that while we know Christ was born in the spring, we continue to celebrate it in the winter because it represents the hope Christ brought to our dark and dying world.

SONGS:         IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER
                     JOLLY OLD ST. NICHOLAS
 
                     SLEIGHRIDE
 
                     O CHRISTMAS TREE

NARRATION:
“And (Mary) brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

SONG:         AWAY IN A MANGER

NARRATION:
This is what we think of when we picture Christ’s birth. But what were the first sounds the holy child heard? Was it the gentle lullaby of His mother? The calming low of cattle? Or was it the peaceful jingling of bells—bells worn by lambs?

SONGS:        CAROL OF THE BELLS
                     JINGLE BELLS
                     SILVER BELLS

 NARRATION:
“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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David as Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

SONGS:        OH COME ALL YE FAITHFUL
                     HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
NARRATION:
Christmas is a sacred season. It’s a time when love increases, friendships deepen, and hearts join together to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is also a time to remember one of Christ’s greatest promises: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

SONGS:        SILENT NIGHT
                     WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS

End

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Personal Progress Pageant

For Young Women's in Excellence, we had a Personal Progress Pageant.
1.  The girls dressed up in prom dresses, either their own or some we borrowed—This gave us the opportunity to "enforce" and talk about modesty, too—and we made banners out of three inch, white ribbon with the name of their value written (sewn) on it. 
2. We set up an archway similar to those put together for wedding receptions, placed a red "rug" (I used three, brick red bath towels lined side by side to form a platform), and then outlined a runway with crepe paper.
3. One of the fathers was our MC. He called each girl out, one at a time, from the curtain behind the archway (the cultural hall room dividers), asked her to tell about what she'd been doing in Personal Progress this past year, and then asked her a random, "silly" question from a box which another advisor had prepared earlier. 
4. The girls stood on the platform, received a rose and a crown-shaped handout which referenced the D&C scripture about inheriting principalities, etc, answered their questions, then walked the runway.  During and after, another father took their pictures. The girls really liked this event—they planned it, actually—we had a good turn out, and it's my hope that they not only felt like Young Women in Excellence, but that their feelings about Personal Progress improved.

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Three Other Principles

When it comes to debt reduction and money (self) management, there are no secrets. In fact, the Lord has already revealed through His prophets sound guidelines on these matters. The only trouble is it’s up to us to follow them. << MORE >>

Personal Progress and Parent-Daughter Volleyball

Here's another one of our more successful activities. The title basically says it all, but . . .
We invited the girls to bring their parents (at least one of them) and while the leaders interviewed the girls and parents about their Personal Progress, we had an informal volleyball game going on in the gymnasium for those who were "waiting" for their turns. It was a fun and effective way to strengthen family ties and encourage parents to work with their daughters on Personal Progress. << MORE >>

Standards Event

I am currently the Young Women's President in my ward, and since I'm always looking for good or new activity ideas, I thought it might be helpful for others in a similar situation if I post some of my more effective ideas here. Also, I always love comments, so even if you have "nothing" to say, but you do have an idea you'd like to share, please add it in a comment. Someone out there, besides me, will truly appreciate it.

STANDARD'S DAY
On a weekday morning, shortly after school dismissed for the year, my counselors and I took our young women to our local temple to do baptisms for the dead. After that, we assembled them in the temple waiting room and presented a short (about ten or fifteen minutes) narration/talk about the importance of the temple, the strength and blessings that come from making covenants there, and retold a few stories about how much the early pioneers sacrificed "just" for the temple. The temple meant everything to them and was worth all they could give and do and sacrifice to get there.

Next, we took them out for ice cream. Youth always like to go out for ice cream, so that was not only a plus in and of itself, but it also gave them another "good" memory related to temple attendance. Also, before we left the waiting room, I said, "When you're eating your ice cream, think, 'ummm, this is good, but the temple is better.'" Whether they did it or not, I don't know, but at least the words went through their minds.

After that, we retreated to my counselor's home where we changed clothes, played games, and prepared for a wiener roast (we were combining camp certification requirements at this time, too). After the wiener roast, we had a special speaker, a woman, come, gather us around the living room, and candidly discuss with them the importance of keeping our standards, especially modesty, and not letting ourselves lose sight of our greatest "marriage" goal: being sealed in the temple.

It was a long day, but turned out really well. << MORE >>

Dear Void

One of my favorite movies is "You've Got Mail." In it, Meg Ryan's character "throws" her thoughts into the "void," hungering for an answer from someone (in her case, Tom Hanks' character), yet not really knowing how to voice the question. That's how I feel right now, like I want to throw my thoughts into the great void and see what comes back to me. So this is it:
Several months ago, I walked into our local Middle School where I work. The lunch bell had just rung and the halls were crowded with students heading to the cafeteria. Most times when this happens, my only thoughts are based on how to avoid head-on collisions with them as I make my way to the office. But that day was different. That day I saw an army of righteous youth. Some of them I recognized or had church related relationships with, but most I didn't know. And yet, I saw their "cleanness." Their "goodness." And the thoughts that coursed through me were, "Do they have any concept of how much righteous power they have and can influence on this world? Do they recognize their value?"
I don't know. I hope so. And I hope the desire to "save" this world fills "every fiber of their beings." (JK!) But I do hope it touches every breath, every pore, every blood cell.
But if it doesn't, how can we, as their parents and leaders help them to "see?"
That's my question, Dear Void.
Is anyone out there?<< MORE >>

Hinrichsen's Spaghetti Sauce

My husband has developed this family favorite to perfection. So much so, that to us "spaghetti" without this sauce isn't spaghetti!

Hinrichsen's Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb. hamburger
½ lb ground sausage (optional)
1 or 2 green onions, chopped
1 small can mushrooms
(5) 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
(1) 6 oz. can tomato paste
3-4 garlic cloves (pressed) or ¼ - ½ tsp. garlic powder
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1½ tsp. smoke sauce
¼ tsp. red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1. 
Brown hamburger, onion and pressed garlic.
2.  Pour into crock pot then add remaining ingredients. Mix well.
3.  Slow cook for 2 or 3 hours.

Note: all seasonings can be adjusted to taste. In fact, the above measurements are only approximate because we make this sauce so frequently we simply "eyeball" the amounts. Good luck and happy eating!
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Great Thoughts

This quote went so well with the theme of my blog, "Your value is in your individuality," I decided to share it with you here, rather than on my "how-to-writeblog."

"Originality is not seen in single words or even sentences. Originality is the sum total of a man's thinking
or his writing.
  ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
(1904-1991)
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YOU'RE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE

Over the years, I’ve gradually come to know this crucial truth: each of us is better—kinder, more talented, more capable of good and noble actions—than we think we are.


My first memory of this developing understanding came when I was a young woman attending girls camp. I had decided I’d watch for the good in the other girls. I then reported to them during testimony meeting that I had found something good in each of them and they could ask me what I’d learned if they liked. After that meeting, a new Beehive asked me to tell her what was good about her. I answered her, and though I didn’t know how my words had affected her, I felt grateful—grateful I’d looked for the good in others and hopeful that I’d lifted her self-esteem.


I’ve had other similar experiences, such as the time I gave a Christmas gift to a girl who not only thought she’d been forgotten, but was perhaps the least accepted, most friendless young woman in the school. I wish I could describe to you how she beamed when I gave her that gift. I hoped—still hope—it made her feel some measure of worth.  


And yet, though I hope those things, and though I know, really know, that each of us is of more eternal worth that we believe we are, I’m still subject to thoughts of inadequacy, self-debasing depression, and hopelessness.


Why is that? I believe the answer can be summed up with these three words: Satan the Deceiver. In an article titled “Overcoming Feelings of Inadequacy,” from the August 2007 Ensign, David S. Baxter, said:


The Savior invites improvement to encourage us in reaching our potential (emphasis added). The adversary deploys derision to discourage us with feelings of worthlessness. Satan “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). He uses the circumstances of life to drag us down so that we think less of ourselves than we should. He would have us look at how far we have yet to travel and the challenges en route, in the desire that we might give up in a state of discouragement and hopelessness.



           
Please do not misunderstand me. I fully realize there are biological, emotional, and psychological reasons people become depressed and require medical attention; however, for the majority of us, I believe the fallen Son of the Morning is the main perpetrator. In fact, I recently attended a young women’s camp where we had a special speaker, a Seminary teacher, who taught us about Satan’s tempting devices. One of his statements, which I’ll paraphrase here, made a lasting impression on me. “Think about it. Satan resentfully attacks us through our bodies. He does this because he is forever banned from having such a precious gift.”


Isn’t that exactly what Satan’s doing when he whispers demeaning nothings in our ears? Words that lead us to believe ill of ourselves or slip into depression and/or laziness? I believe it is, but I also believe we do not have to be deceived. We can recognize and overpower Satan’s treachery. Consider Moroni’s counsel: “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil . . . I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do (and believe) good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do (and believe) evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil (parenthesis added)” (Moroni 7:12-17).


            With that introduction, let’s look at a few of Satan’s lies and their corresponding, eternal truths. That way, we can judge for ourselves.


First, lets look at a few attacks against the body:




Satan’s Lie: You can’t because . . .


                      A. You’re incapable.

Christ’s Truth:
Matthew 19:26  “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”


President Harold B. Lee: “Whom the Lord calls He qualifies.”

                     B.  You’re too weak.


Christ’s Truth:


1 Cor 1:27  “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty . . ."


D&C 1:19  “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh . . . ”


Ether 12:27  “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”


 


                     C.  You’re too out of shape.


Christ’s Truth:


D&C 89:3  The Word of Wisdom was “Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”
1 Cor 9:25, 27  “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. . . But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”



Satan’s Lie: You have no worth to anyone.

Christ's Truth:


D&C 18:10  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. . .”


PS 8:5  “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour”.


PS 82:6  “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”


My Thought: An old adage of home organization is “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Since God’s house is a house of order, doesn’t that imply there’s “A place for everyone and everyone is in his or her place?”


Satan’s Lie: Women have less value than men.

Christ's Truth:  President Howard W. Hunter, the 14th President of the Church, counseled: “A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. … By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priest-hood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independently of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 68; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50–51).



My Thoughts: I recently attended a class titled “Enmity and the Mission of Mother Eve” by Cherie Burton at BYU-Idaho’s Education Week. There, she defined “helpmeet” from its Hebrew root word “ezer conegno” to mean in paraphrase, “one who has the power to give help—often someone in a superior position.” She further explained, as far as I understood it, that man and woman were equal in strength and “saving” power; they, together, through their differing roles and unique abilities, had the power to complete God’s purpose of bringing to pass the immortality of man. Some other notes I found both interesting and empowering: Adam’s abilities, as man, had obedience, a sense of divine duty, and a willingness (oath bound) to serve God. Eve, as woman, had wisdom, intuition into the mind and will of God, and the ability to see the “whole picture.”


Satan’s Lie: You’re unworthy, too imperfect, and unable to ever be good enough or “perfect.”



Christ’s Truth
: Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”



My thought:
This is an obvious example of truth shrouded by evil. YES, we are unworthy, imperfect, and unable to reach perfection ALONE. We cannot cleanse ourselves of sin. We cannot do everything. Nor can we run faster than we are able. Each of these can only be tempered and accomplished through Christ and His Atonement. He’s our Savior. Remember that. He’s blessed us with the supreme gift of repentance. I hope we accept and use it. Remember, too, that Christ didn’t even refer to himself as perfect until after He’d completed His work on earth, been resurrected, and returned to The Father. All things were done in order for Christ just as they will be for us if we are obedient and rely on Him.



        I realize these are not all of Satan’s lies nor are they all of Christ’s truths related to those lies. It may also be that other scriptures will more powerfully help you combat Satan, but what I truly hope you’ll take away from this article is you can ignore Satan’s buffetings. Heavenly Father has blessed us with that ability. And even if we don’t yet know what Christ’s truth is connected with the lie Satan is currently hitting us with, we can and must do what Christ did when Satan tempted Him. He said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” And obey. And believe.

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Beiging, China Pictures

With the summer olympics taking place in Beiging right now, I thought I'd share a few more China pictures with you. These pictures were taken in Beiging in the spring of 2007. Some depict the new, glitzy part of China, and others show a bit of how most of China really is. One thing that was amazing to me when I visited Beiging and Shanghaii was how closely the glitz and the—well, you decide what to call it—stand together. You can literally take one step away from the glamour and be in the . . . And these pictures are only a taste.











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SACRAMENT MEETING REVERENCE

            I have a question. In the October, 1976, issue of the Ensign, President Marion G. Romneysaid, “Reverence is the soul of true religion. Its seedbed is sincerity. Its quality is determined by the esteem in which one holds the object of his reverence as evidenced by his behavior toward that object. When that object is God, the genuinely reverent person has a worshipful adoration coupled with a respectful behavior toward Him and all that pertains to Him. . . Judged by their superior knowledge of God, Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in the world (italics added) . . .” If his last statement is true, then why is it that more often than not, when I first enter an LDS chapel in preparation for Sacrament meeting, what I see—and hear—reminds me more of a subdued ward party than a worshipful service?

Some may respond by saying reverence is a private feeling or something we can feel no matter what events are taking place around us. Besides, members of Christ’s church are friendly, aren’t they? They work together, too, and they try to accomplish much in a short time.


While I believe such characteristics are good and represent our love for each other and our dedication to God’s service, and while I also believe we can feel our love for Him even as we are chatting or “catching that person we just have to talk to before we leave the room,” I can’t help wondering. . .


Last summer, I toured a Buddhist temple in Shanghai, China. Due to my background, I assumed the building would be a no-longer-used, cultural landmark, similar to a historical site in the United States; but I was wrong. It was a “working” temple, where believers worshipped, monks studied, and tourists, like me, paid to enter, then paid again to enter the “holiest” room, walking throughout the building, examining and visiting at our leisure. However, I also noticed that even though all was in commotion around them, the few worshippers in attendance appeared riveted to their rites. How could this be, I wondered?


I had these same feelings a year earlier when I entered the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Italy. That revered room, one of Catholicism’s most holy places on earth, housed wondrous, awe-inspiring paintings by history’s esteemed artists. Yet I, along with many other paying tourists, found myself bustling among committed, reverent worshippers. Their tear-filled eyes were focused upward, and their mouths were silent. I did not doubt their devotion. But, while I marveled at them, as I later did the Buddhist worshippers, my wonderings eventually turned more thought provoking: Since reverence was so obviously an inward feeling, when it came right down to it, was there really that much of a difference between those places of worship and our own Sacrament Meetings? 
            Another thought. The same year I toured Vatican City, I also visited several Austrian cathedrals. These, too, were open to the public, but I remember one edifice in particular which exhibited a major difference from its counterparts: there was a glass-walled entryway where tourists or other non-worshippers could watch the ceremonies without disturbing the sanctity of the meeting. I appreciated that. And even though I didn’t stay long—I felt uncomfortable gaping at the local Austrians like they were performers—it reminded me of the truths taught in our simple Primary song, “The Chapel Doors.
                              


The chapel doors seem to say to me, “Sh, be still.”


For this is a reverent place to be, “Sh, be still.”


We gather here on the Sabbath day,


To learn of Jesus, to sing and pray. 
            So when we come through the chapel doors, “Sh, be still.”

Similarly, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the September, 1976 Friend, described reverence in this way:

“Reverence during meetings is a very important part of the responsibility we have as members of His true church. We are all impressed with the reverence shown by children in Primary who enter the chapel quietly with arms folded. Their reverence is an example that all members of the Church should appreciate and remember when attending any meetings in the chapel.


“However, reverence is not shown only in the chapel. Boys and girls who have learned how to be reverent do not run up and down the halls or yell and talk loudly inside the church. Reverent people also do not offend or hurt people’s feelings or make fun of others’ clothing or appearance. They try to be kind to everyone they meet.


“At Sunday School and sacrament meeting we have an opportunity to show our Savior how much we love Him by being reverent. It is not reverent to walk in and out of a sacrament meeting while it is in progress. We should get a drink of water and go to the rest room before the meeting begins. It is very disturbing to a speaker when someone leaves. The attention of other members in the congregation is also distracted.


“Those who speak and provide music have prayed and often fasted for help with their assignment. The reverent person listens carefully and receives the message from the speaker.


“Determine to be reverent in sacrament meeting by never speaking out loud. Speak in a whisper and then only when it is absolutely necessary. Sing the hymns with your parents. Children have beautiful voices and it adds much to the meeting when they sing. It is appropriate to take the sacrament with your right hand. And during the administration and passing of the sacrament, we should try to think of the Savior.
“Boys and girls who have smaller brothers and sisters should not tease them. They should not keep asking their mothers or fathers to let them take these little ones out. Your brothers and sisters and often older people can learn how to be reverent by watching your behavior.”

    I welcome Elder Featherstone’s depiction of reverence. It’s not only simple, but it also teaches us exactly how we should behave without ignoring the fact that reverence is a feeling. However, what I appreciate most about it is it gives me hope that we Latter-day Saints can follow the Austrians’ example and leave our outside cares in the entry way before we walk through those sacred doors. That way, we, too, can see and hear and feel reverence; we can more fully worship the True and Living God.

Another Helpful Article:

“How We Improved Reverence”

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Driving through Austria's Alps

Bavaria and Alps pictures<< MORE >>

My Top Ten Wedding Gifts

I recently attended a bridal shower. The bride bubbled with radiance, beauty, and optimism. Her mother looked on with gratitude and hope. Her friends hugged and congratulated her. It was a moment not to be forgotten. But as I watched her, I couldn’t help but think back on my own bridal shower—how I’d felt and what I’d imagined for my future life with my husband—and at the same time, I also saw bits of my twenty-two years of marriage—the trials, the heart ache, the times of true joy—and thought, “Knowing all this, can’t I offer a wedding gift that represents more than this moment? Something that can help them reach their ultimate goal of oneness with each other and with God?” Yes. Which is why I have created this “Top Ten” list of practical, yet meaningful, wedding gifts: << MORE >>

Broccoli with Garlic, a GREAT Recipe

As I've said before, my husband and I went to China last summer. While there, our eyes, noses, and taste buds were awakened to many new senses. Sometimes we liked what we saw, smelled, or tasted, and sometimes we didn't, but there was one dish my husband tried (I wasn't there at the time) at one of his favorite restaurants in Shanghai which he loved so much that when he got home, he searched the internet until he found a recipe that seemed to contain all the flavors he remembered. Then, he went directly to the store, bought the ingredients, and soon after cooked it up. His first try wasn't quite right, he said, so he experimented with the cooking time and the amount of garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper until he finally found his—now our—favorite combination. My family LOVES this dish. Including the kids. We've even had a few family, late night snacks of just this broccoli, so I thought I'd share it with you. I've copied this recipe directly from sneakykitchen.com. I hope you enjoy it. Actually, I bet you will!
Broccoli with Garlic
1 1bunch of broccoli, OR 1 lb. frozen chopped broccoli (we only use fresh broccoli)
6 garlic cloves
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional—we use it!)

1. Wash broccoli and cut into small florets. (We do not use the stems.) 

2.Steam in a microwave steamer or over boiling water until barely tender and still bright green (about 3-1/2 to 5 minutes in a microwave, depending on the volume of broccoli and water).Don't overcook: with all cruciferae, this is a very important guideline!


3. Place olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Chop or mince the garlic. When the oil is hot, add the salt then the garlic.Sauté, stirring frequently, just until the garlic starts to soften.Quickly add the water, and the cayenne pepper if desired.Turn heat low and simmer for a couple of minutes. Place the broccoli in a large glass or crockery serving bowl.Pour the garlic mixture over it, mixing gently to coat. << MORE >>

Learning from our Heritage

In the April 2008 issue of the Ensign, our newly sustained prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, provided three guides to eternal happiness. Speaking of the first guide—"Learn from the Past"—he said it was our privilege and responsibility to build on the "firm and stable" examples of, as well as the faithful lessons learned by, our stalwart forebears. As I read that story, I pondered on the faith and sacrifices of my own forebears, a few of whose stories I have had published in the Friend, and I wondered, what more can I do to remember my past? Or, more importantly, what more can I do to help my children remember and learn from their heritage? Three ideas came to mind: << MORE >>

Discipline--When It's Not Your Child

Consider these two events:
1)-A child and her sister were noisily sitting in Sacrament meeting at the far end of a long row, and their parents were near the middle row, a few siblings away.

Soon, an elderly gentleman calmly moved from his bench, which was several seats ahead and across the aisle from the two girls, and sat next to them. Then, with very few words, he removed a piece of paper and a pencil from his suit pocket and showed them how to play a silent game on the paper. The girls remained quiet for the rest of the meeting and forever after thought of that man as their friend.

2)-In the days when Sunday School was the only meeting held on Sunday morning, a twelve-year-old girl walked into Sunday School opening exercises and made her way to the front of the chapel to sit with her class. There was little room next to the other students, but since the meeting was about to start and another girl had her leg turned up onto the bench, the first girl sat down on the edge of the bench, thinking the other girl would move her leg. But the second girl didn't, even after the first girl asked her to. The first girl sat through the entire opening exercises squished on the edge of the bench.

Later, when the students went to their classroom, the Sunday School teacher (He'd been sitting on the also-crowded bench directly behind where the two girls had sat.) immediately ripped into the first girl for rudely trying to force her way onto the obviously full bench. And his yelling continued until the girl, between sobs, was allowed to explain about the second girl's leg. The teacher said nothing, or at least nothing comforting, after that, and when Sunday School was over, the girl went home and spent the rest of the day in her bedroom, crying. Needless to say, she never trusted that teacher again.

Both these events happened to me, and while I hadn't realized it at the time, now that I'm an adult, I see these incidents are similar because both represent times when an adult "disciplined" another person's child.

The word "discipline," according to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, is defined as "training (teaching) that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." This training, according to some, can be accomplished through punishments or enforced rules. However, I believe one of the most important criteria of effective discipline is the love found within the heart of the trainer. In the LDS manual, "Teaching, No Greater Call," it states:

"The Lord taught that those who have desires to assist in His work must "be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity (D&C 12:8). Only those who are motivated by love will have a positive, powerful influence on those they teach. Pray to be filled with Christ-like love toward every person you teach, especially those who sometimes behave inappropriately (italics added)."

So what does this mean? Or rather, how can we apply this counsel to those times when we believe we should discipline someone else's child? A few possible techniques for situations in and outside your home are listed here and here, but unfortunately, in none of these examples was love or kindness shown. Self-controlled, level-headed responses, yes, but not kindness. And yet, I can't help thinking that if we really wanted to correct—train—a child's behavior, not just put a temporary band-aid on it, we would do better to follow the example of the scriptural man who saw a need and helped with love: the Good Samaritan.

In Christ's parable, the Samaritan didn't chastise or berate the wounded man for his unwise actions—hadn't he known it wasn't safe to travel that road alone? Instead, he cleansed his wounds. Similarly, he didn't leave the man on the side of the road, wallowing in his misery; he lifted then carried the man to the arms of another caretaker. Isn't this how we should respond to children who misbehave? Shouldn't we show caring, guidance, and kindness as the man in my first story did?

A couple of years ago, I was on a long-term, substitute teaching assignment at our local middle school. One lunchtime, as I walked down the hall, I saw a crowd of students ahead of me. In the middle of them, two young men were fist-fighting. My first response was to scan the hall, looking for another adult, but the closer I moved to the fight, the more I realized I was the only adult around. I had to do something.

Fortunately, I knew one of the students and believed I had an "okay" rapport with him, so he was the one I approached.

First (this all happened within a few seconds), I calmly but firmly told him to stop fighting. That didn't work, so I took hold of his upper shoulder and pushed myself between the two boys, trying to separate them while continually telling them (without yelling) to stop. Finally, they moved apart enough that I could begin pulling the first boy down the hall and toward the office. While they continued to yell at each other (another teacher had arrived and taken control of the other boy), they didn't fight us, and we were eventually able to turn them over to the principal and police officer.

True, part of the reason I wasn't hurt in this altercation may be because the boys were fighting over one's treatment of a girl, however, I fully believe if I hadn't really cared about that young man, or if I had yelled, been harsh, or spoken disrespectfully to those boys, the fight would not have ended; it would have escalated. (Note: In telling this story, I'm not, in any way, advocating that we put ourselves in danger. Rather, we must first assess the situation with wisdom and then try to act with love.)

A final story:

"A young mother on an overnight flight with a two-year-old daughter was stranded by bad weather in (the) Chicago airport without food or clean clothing for the child and without money. She was two months pregnant and threatened with miscarriage, so she was under doctor's instructions not to carry the child unless it was essential. Hour after hour she stood in one line after another, trying to get a flight to Michigan. The terminal was noisy, full of tired, frustrated, grumpy passengers, and she heard critical references to her crying child and to her sliding her child along the floor with her foot as the line moved forward. No one offered to help with the soaked, hungry, exhausted child. Then, the woman later reported, 'Someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, "Is there something I could do to help you?" With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer. He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back. He asked if she could chew a piece of gum. When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of me, about how I needed their help. They seemed to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter (at the front of the line) and made arrangements with the clerk for me to be put on a flight leaving shortly. He walked with us to a bench, where we chatted a moment, until he was assured that I would be fine. He went on his way. About a week later I saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport'" (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (1977), 334).

I've often heard this story repeated as an example of President Kimball's act of service to the mother in the story. But what about the child? Wasn't she crying? Weren't her wails adding to the frustration of those around her? Hadn't her mother probably asked her to "hush," but she, perhaps confused and uncaring, disobediently continued to howl? Yes. And President Kimball comforted, guided, and disciplined her responses. With love. << MORE >>

A Heritage of Peace

(A Reader's Theater for Children)

Note: See Genesis 25-47

Characters
1st Narrator
2nd Narrator
Jacob
Esau
Joseph
Brother
Judah


1st Narrator:         Joseph's father, Jacob, taught his family to live in peace. He taught them through his example.

2nd Narrator:        When Joseph was a young boy, God told Jacob to move his family and animals to the promised 
                              land.

1st Narrator:         The promised land was in Canaan.

2nd Narrator:        On the way, they approached the place where Esau lived. Esau was Jacob's twin brother.

1st Narrator:         Jacob had left home twenty years earlier, because Esau had hated Jacob and wanted
                              to destroy him.

2nd Narrator:        Jacob knew he must find a way to live in peace with Esau, so he sent messengers to him.

Jacob:                    Go to Esau and say: I am coming with animals and servants, and I have sent to tell my Lord
                              that I may find grace in thy sight.

1st Narrator:         When the messengers returned, they told Jacob that Esau was coming with an army.

2nd Narrator:        Jacob was frightened. He prayed to Heavenly Father to help him and his family.

1st Narrator:         Then Jacob divided over 550 of his animals into several groups. He put his servants in charge of 
                              them.

Jacob:                    Take these animals ahead of me to meet Esau, and put a space between each group. Then, 
                              when Esau asks you who you are, where you are going, and whose animals these are, tell him 
                              they are a gift to him from me. 

2nd Narrator:        The servants presented the animals to Esau one group at a time.

1st Narrator:         But Esau and his army continued on toward Jacob.

2nd Narrator:        When Jacob saw him coming, he still wanted peace with his brother, so he respectfully bowed 
                              down to him.
 
1st Narrator:         Esau ran to Jacob. He hugged and kissed him.

2nd Narrator:        Jacob and Esau wept. They had missed each other. They had forgiven one another.

Esau:                    Who are these women and children?

Jacob:                   They are my family.

1st Narrator:         Jacob's family came forward. They respectfully bowed down to Esau, too.

Esau:                    Why did you give me all those animals? I have enough, my brother. Keep your animals unto
                             yourself.

Jacob:                   No, please, if I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my gift at my hand.

2nd Narrator:        Esau accepted Jacob's gifts. This was a sign that they were friends again. Now they would live in
                             peace.

1st Narrator:         Joseph saw how hard his father had worked to live in peace with his brother. And when Joseph
                             grew up, he followed his father's example. But it was very hard.

2nd Narrator:        Joseph was seventeen years old when his ten older brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt.

1st Narrator:         Joseph suffered many things because of his brothers' actions, but he remained faithful to the 
                              Lord. 

2nd Narrator:        The Lord blessed Joseph to become a ruler over the people.

1st Narrator:         One day, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to buy food because there was a terrible famine in 
                              the land.

2nd Narrator:        Joseph was in charge of selling food to the people.

1st Narrator:         Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.

Joseph:                 Where have you come from?

Brother:                From the land of Canaan. We're here to buy food.

Joseph:                 You are spies!

Brother:                No. We are twelve brothers. The youngest is with our father, and one is gone.

Joseph:                 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of 
                             your houses: But bring your youngest brother unto me.

2nd Narrator:       The brothers were frightened. They spoke among themselves.

Brother:                We are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he pled with 
                             us, and we wouldn't listen. It's our fault this has happened.

2nd Narrator:        Joseph knew his brothers were talking about him. He turned away from them so they wouldn't 
                             see him weep.

1st Narrator:         Joseph's brother, Simeon, stayed behind. The other nine brothers returned home.

2nd Narrator:        When Jacob found out what had happened, he was sad and worried. He still believed Joseph 
                              was dead, and now he had lost another son, Simeon. He did not want to lose any more sons.
                              He would not let Joseph's youngest brother, Benjamin, go to Egypt.

1st Narrator:         But after many days, Jacob's family again ran out of food.

Jacob:                   Go again, buy us a little food.

Judah:                  We can not go without Benjamin. I promise I will take care of him. If I bring him not back unto 
                             thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame forever.

Jacob:                   If it must be so, then also take these gifts to the Egyptian ruler. And God give you mercy before
                             the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin.

2nd Narrator:       When the brothers returned to Egypt, Joseph invited them to a feast.

1st Narrator:        The brothers gave Joseph the gifts.

Joseph:                 Are you well? Is your father well?

Brother:                Thy servant our father is in good health.

Joseph:                 Is this your younger brother?

Brother:                Yes.

2nd Narrator:        Joseph was happy to see Benjamin again. He loved him very much.

1st Narrator:         But Joseph still did not know if his brothers had changed. Had they learned to love and be kind 
                              to his younger brother? Had they repented of what they'd done to him? Could they live with
                              him, in peace, again?

2nd Narrator:        Joseph tested his brothers a second time. He saw they did love his younger brother. He 
                              knew they had repented, so he told them who he was.

Joseph:                 I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Do not be angry with yourselves anymore.
                             God has brought me here that I might preserve your lives.

1st Narrator:         Joseph and his brothers hugged and kissed each other. Then Joseph asked them to bring his
                             father to Egypt, too.

2nd Narrator:        Finally, Jacob, Joseph, and their entire family were together again.

1st Narrator:         They had suffered many wrongs, but they had forgiven each other. Now they could live together 
                              happily.

Both Narrators:      They had built peace.


                                                                                      The End

<< MORE >>

Do I Have a Testimony

   As a mother, I have struggled to find a simple, effective method to help my children understand and gain personal testimonies. I have found one such method.

   Several years ago, Utah’s 19—Mother of the Year, Joan Erickson, received a direct, personal revelation which helped her teach her own children about testimonies. She had recently given a Relief Society Spiritual Living lesson on testimonies and decided to share that lesson with her family in Family Home Evening. At one point in the evening, she quoted President Heber C. Kimball: “To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves . . . the time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?”

   As the quote ended, her young son’s face clouded with worry. “Mama, do you think I have a testimony?”

   Sister Erickson knew that her son was a spiritually sensitive young man who said his prayers, attended church, and tried to do the things that would please our Heavenly Father; so instinctively she wanted to respond, “Of course you do,” but she felt restrained. She looked steadily at her son, silently praying to know what to say.

   Suddenly, the light of knowledge filled her mind. She picked up a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a circle. She then divided the circle in half and asked, “Son, do you believe that Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits, that he loves each of us very much, and that he hears and answers our prayers?”

   Her son answered, “Yes,” and Sister Erickson wrote the words “Heavenly Father” in the top half of the circle.

   Next, she said, “Kevin, do you believe Jesus Christ lives and that he died for us that we might live with him again?”

   Again her son answered, “Yes.”

   Sister Erickson wrote “Jesus Christ” in the bottom half of the circle and then formed a ball with her hands. “You see,” she continued, “this is the core of a testimony. No matter what else you believe, if the core is not there to sustain it, it will fail.”

   After this explanation she asked, “Do you believe in the Holy Ghost and know that He will protect, prompt, and comfort us?”

   He nodded, and his mother drew a line straight up from the top of the circle. She then asked several other, gospel-related questions, including:

   “Do you believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet?”

   “Do you believe the Book of Mormon is true?”

   “Do you believe the present day prophet is called of God?”

   To each, he answered, “Yes,” and she added another ray to the circle’s perimeter.

   When she finished, she referred to her drawing and asked, “What have I drawn?”

   “A sun,” he answered.

   “It looks like a sun,” she replied, “but what I’ve really drawn is a picture of your testimony. And yes, your testimony is like a sun. Just as the sun gives life, light, healing, and warmth to your soul. As you continue to grow in the gospel, the rays will become thicker and brighter.” She put down her pencil. “Now, do you have a testimony?”

   Her son’s eyes opened wide, and with obvious relief, he said, “I do!”

   Sister Erickson now witnesses that Heavenly Father knew her son needed to know for himself that he had a testimony. I am very grateful she has shared this experience, but I am even more grateful to Heavenly Father for revealing it to her. Now I know I can not only measure the strength of my own testimony, but I can also teach my children; I will simply start with the Son’s core and work outward.

<< MORE >>

As I Reflect

With President Hinckley's death, I can't help thinking about all those who've paved the path of righteousness ahead of me, serving as my righteous examples, loving me as only they could. And with those thoughts have come memories of a poem I completed several years ago in response to a neighbor's grief after the untimely death of her daughter. It brought my neighbor comfort. Perhaps it will comfort others, too.

                                                     As I Reflect
       
                                    By Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

As I reflect my mother's hands,
Nails cut short,
Callouses made soft by her caress,
I see sacrifice
Grow
Like a candle quickened on a hill.

As I reflect my father's hands,
Palms worn rough,
Fingers clenched tight in healing prayer,
I see Life's Staff
Stand
Tall in the winds of the harvest rain.

As I reflect my home, my hands,
Fingers washed white,
Palms pressed close against my heart,
I smile as winter
Melts
Spring into the Western Sunrise. << MORE >>

Small and Simple Goals

President David O. McKay, and later, other general authorities, including President Hinckley, have reiterated this important truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ can “make bad men good and good men better.” Similarly, in her October 2007 conference address, titled “Mothers Who Know,” Sister Julie B. Beck challenged the women of the church to stand firmer, to step higher, to even “raise the bar,” so to speak, as they work to strengthen their families and homes. Convictions such as these are partially why, I believe, we optimistically try, time after time, even in the face of failure, to improve. But that doesn’t suggest we must over-extend our abilities. High jumpers, after all, don’t raise their bars to record breaking heights in one giant leap; they consistently work and persistently reach upward until the goal is obtained. That’s how we should approach our pursuits of excellence, too—with tiny, upward steps. << MORE >>

One Day

One Day
I'll tell you
how much
your kindness
meant
to me.

Life
hurt,
hardened,
hindered
until I saw
you.

White.
Washed
for me.

You didn't even
know me—
My Name—
but you
Knew
His.

And that
made all
the difference.<< MORE >>

We Believe in Christ

            (A sacred, musical Christmas program for FHE, Ward Choir programs, or other inspirational services.)

Author’s Note: This program includes a list of hymns which may be sung by choirs, congregations, or family members throughout the course of the performance; however, these hymns are suggestions only and may be substituted by hymn arrangements or other appropriate music.



Performance Time: Approximately 40 minutes.

Speakers Needed: 
Narrator 1
Narrator 2


Suggested Hymns:

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Hymns #208)—sung twice

The Lord is My Light (Hymns #89)

Once in Royal David’s City (Hymns #205)

While Shepherd’s Watched their Flocks (Hymns #211)

Who Is the Child? (CSB, pg. 46)

With Wondering Awe (Hymns #210)

Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus (CSB, pg. 36)

I Believe in Christ (Hymns #134)

NARRATOR 1:           Since the beginning of time, prophets have testified that Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, would come to the earth. Moses said the Only Begotten Son would come in the meridian of time (Moses 5:57-59).

NARRATOR 2:           Isaiah declared: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).” And Micah prophesied that the promised Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).


SONG:                        O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM (Hymns #208)

NARRATOR 1:           Mary, Jesus’ mother, also testified of Christ’s coming birth. Soon after the angel Gabriel told her she would conceive and bear the Son of God, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. There, she rejoiced, saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord,

“And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

“For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

“For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

“And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

“He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

“He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.      

“He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

                                    “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

“As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever (Luke 1:46-55).”


SONG:
                        THE LORD IS MY LIGHT (Hymns #89)


NARRATOR 2:           Several months later, God fulfilled His promise to the world by sending the Messiah. The apostle, Luke records:

“And it came to pass, in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed...

                                    “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 Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem...

                                    “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 first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:1, 3-7).


SONG:
                        ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY (Hymns #205)

NARRATOR 1:           “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

NARRATOR 2:           “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.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:8-11).”

SONG:                        WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS (Hymns #211)

NARRATOR 1:           Some who saw the Holy Child may have asked: “Is this the One? Is this truly the Creator of the World?” But others knew the truth.

NARRATOR 2:           “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.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child (Luke 2:15-17).”

NARRATOR 1:           Because these humble men obeyed the Lord, they were privileged to not only see the Christ, but to also testify of his divinity. They knew that Jesus truly was the One.

SONG:                        WHO IS THE CHILD? (CSB, pg. 46)

NARRATOR 1:           The heavens also declared Christ’s divinity. In Matthew, chapter 2, it states:

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea 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 . . .  


                                   “and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where
 
                                   the young child was (Matthew 2:1-2, 9).”

SONG:                        WITH WONDERING AWE (Hymns #210)

NARRATOR 2:          Those who lived on the American continent saw the star, too, but shortly before it appeared in the sky, Jesus Christ, Himself, testified that He, the Son of God, would soon be born on the earth. In the Book of Mormon we read:

“And it came to pass that... the prophesies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.

“But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite . . .

NARRATOR 1:          “Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except     the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

NARRATOR 2:          “Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.

                                   “And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily
                                   to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their
                                   faith in the tradition of their fathers.


                                    “And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the 
                                   Lord came unto him, saying:

NARRATOR 1:           “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

“Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given (III Nephi 1:4-5, 9-14).”

SONG:                        SAMUEL TELLS OF THE BABY JESUS (CSB, pg. 36)

NARRATOR 2:           Christ’s personal testimony, followed by the promised signs, not only saved His people, but also 
                                    brought peace and truth to all. This is what Christ always does for us. He teaches us. He
                                    strengthens us. He comforts us in our times of need. But most of all, He redeems us.

NARRATOR 1:
          That is why we believe in Christ.

SONG:                        I BELIEVE IN CHRIST (Hymns #134)



SONG:                        O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM (Hymns #208)


                                                                                End << MORE >>

A Family from Bethlehem

(A Read-together Story for you and your child.)

Note: See Ruth 1-4

PARENT:    More than a thousand years before Christ was born, a good family lived in Bethlehem.
CHILD:       Naomi was the mother of that family. She had a husband and two sons.


PARENT:  They lived happily in Bethlehem, near their relatives and friends, until one season when a famine came to the
                  land.


CHILD:     A famine means that the people began to run out of food.


PARENT:  Naomi’s family decided to move to a place that had food.


CHILD:     That place was called Moab.


PARENT:  While living there, Naomi’s husband died, and her sons married.


CHILD:     The girls they married were from Moab. Their names were Orpah and Ruth.


PARENT:  Orpah and Ruth were good and kind, but their families had not taught them to believe in the Lord.


CHILD:     They worshipped many other gods.


PARENT:  But after Orpah and Ruth married Naomi’s sons, they began to learn about God.


CHILD:     And for a time, they were happy.


PARENT:  Then a very sad thing happened: both Naomi’s sons died.


CHILD:     Now, Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were widows. They had to decide what to do and where to go.


PARENT:  Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem. She had heard that God had ended the famine there.


CHILD:     Orpah and Ruth wanted to go with her.


PARENT:  Naomi loved Orpah and Ruth. She knew she would miss them, but she wanted them to be blessed with their 
                  own families. She said, “Go, return . . . to (your) mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye 
                  have dealt with (my sons) and with me.”


CHILD:     Orpah kissed Naomi good-bye. She went back to her first family.


PARENT:  But Ruth clung to Naomi. She did not want to go back to worshipping idols. She did not want to leave
                  her mother-in-law.


BOTH:       Ruth said: “Intreat me not to leave thee . . . for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will 
                  lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy god, my God.”


CHILD:     Naomi knew Ruth loved her. She also knew Ruth loved the Lord. She let Ruth move to Bethlehem with her. 

<< MORE >>

In His Hands

I don't know who wrote the following message, but I recently received it from my Relief Society President and I thought I'd share it here because I've been thinking about this truth a bit lately: no matter what is going on in the world, we—the entire world—is in God's hands. HE is in control. He has not forgotten us.

"A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.  A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million.

"A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal. A rod in Moses' hands will part the mighty sea. It depends whose hands it's in.

"A sling shot in my hands is a kid's toy. A sling shot in David's hand is a mighty weapon. It depends on whose hands it's in.

"Two fish and five loaves of bread in my hands are a couple of fish sandwiches. Two fish and five loaves of bread in God's hands will feed thousands. It depends whose hands it's in.

"Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse. Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the entire world. It depends whose hands it's in.

"As you see now, it depends on whose hands it's in. So put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families, and your relationships in God's hands because—It depends on whose hands it's in."
<< MORE >>

Grateful for "Surrogates"

    It was a crisp, stormy afternoon, when I gathered two flakes of alfalfa hay to give to our milk goat, Mitsy. Feeding her was one of my nightly chores, and while I usually completed this task with the dulled-over awareness that frequently accompanies mundane activities, that evening was different. That evening, beneath a brilliant, red-orange sunset, I thought of this animal’s role in my family’s life—providing milk for a few of our calves—and I thought of how all beings, even those of us who, like this creature, sometimes act like rebellious goats on the left hand of God, can still reach beyond our natures and do for others what they can not do for themselves. We can become Christ-like “surrogates.”

   One such surrogate was made famous by Paul Harvey during his “Rest of the Story,” radio broadcast back in 1977. The harrowing account was titled “The Old Man and the Gull.”*

    Before his death in 1973, an elderly, white-haired man, named Eddie Rickenbacker, spent every Friday evening, at sunset, walking along the eastern Florida seacoast, carrying a large bucket of shrimp which he fed to the gulls. It was a moment of thanksgiving, a small token of gratitude for what a lonely gull had done for him many years before.

    In the fall of 1942, Captain Rickenbacker, his crew, and their B-17, the “Flying Fortress,” were traveling somewhere over the South Pacific, on their way to deliver an important message to General MacArthur, when they discovered they were lost, beyond the reach of radio, and dangerously low on fuel. Realizing they had no other way to save their lives, the crew ditched their plane in the ocean and spent the next month in rafts, fighting the elements—the water, the weather, the scorching sun—and sharks twice the size of their largest raft. But their greatest enemy was starvation.

    Eight days into their ordeal, their rations gone or destroyed by salt water, the crew prayed to God for deliverance and followed that prayer with a hymn of praise.

    “There was some talk (after that),” Rickenbacker said, “but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off." 

    Shortly thereafter, however, their deliverance came in the form of a seagull; it landed on Captain Rickenbacker’s head.

    “The rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say, was the captain caught the gull, they ate its flesh, and then the crew used its entrails as bait to catch fish and sustain their lives until they were rescued weeks later. Thus, that bird, unnaturally far from land, gave itself as a Christ-like sacrifice, like manna from heaven, that those men might eat and live. And Captain Rickenbacker was grateful.

    This story of God-led creatures—surrogates—reminded me of two miraculous events from our LDS heritage. First, there were the quails that flung themselves into the wagons of persecuted and destitute pioneers who tarried along the riverbank above Montrose, Iowa. The birds had either stunned or killed themselves, and the saints were then able to gather them up and have the food they needed for the coming days (Discourses of Brigham Young, 474). There was also the well-known story of the seagulls that saved the early Utah settlers crops by eating the devastating swarm of crickets. In both cases, the pioneers were grateful.

    But animals are not the only surrogates who perform miracles. In fact, I believe most miracles are accomplished quietly, by ordinary people like you and me. Consider, for instance, one of my past home teachers. One evening, after making an appointment to visit with my family, he asked, “Is there anything you’d specifically like me to teach a lesson on?”

    I said, “No, whatever is fine,” but in my heart I knew what lesson I needed, but because of existing circumstances, I could not tell him. I did, however, pray to Heavenly Father and ask Him to tell my home teacher what I needed to hear.

    As expected, Heavenly Father heard and answered my prayer, and our Home Teacher taught the subject I yearned for. But while I couldn’t adequately thank that man—again, because of my circumstances—I was able to thank God for sending this surrogate, this man who did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

    There have been other surrogates in my life, too. Like the youth leaders who guided and “nudged” my children toward righteous activities—even ward choir practice!—when my persuasion wasn’t enough, or the man who sacrificed so much of his time to help my husband roof our house because I was so debilitatingly terrified of heights. Other leaders have also been surrogates to my children, even those who disliked their callings but fulfilled them anyway, because they not only touched my children’s hearts in ways I couldn’t, but they also changed mine by showing me what it meant to subject their natures to God. And I was—am—grateful.

     Following the ongoing precedence set by his forerunners, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a Federal holiday, a “prayerful day of Thanksgiving,” in which the citizens of the United States could thank God for their abundant blessings. Often, in keeping with this tradition, my thanksgiving prayers have included my family, my friends, my life’s sustenance, and my nation. But this year, and perhaps even beneath a brilliant, red-orange sunset, I’ll find a quiet moment and gratefully thank Him for surrogates, too.

__________________
 
* Paul Aurandt, "The Old Man and the Gulls", Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.
http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/t/thanksgiving.htm
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the red-orange sunset

Photo by Rolin Hinrichsen
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Armenian Meat Pies

When I was young, my grandfather, an Armenian, used to bring "meat pies" to our family whenever he came to visit. It was a dish we all loved, and a tradition my mother has continued, now that she's the grandma. So, a week ago when she came to visit, she brought us a freezer bag of Armenian Meat Pies. In fact, I just finished eating a couple of them. Here's the recipe, in case you'd like to give them a try; and if you do, I'd love to hear how you liked them.

Meat Pies—Makes 18 to 20 individual "pies"

Ingredients:
Bread or Roll dough—I use Rhodes dough balls to make it easier.

Meat Filling:
1/2 lb. hamburger (raw)
1/2 lb. patty sausage (raw)
1 green pepper, chopped
16 oz. can of blended tomatoes or juice
1 clove garlic or 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1 bunch parsley, chopped

Directions:

1.   Combine meat filling ingredients (like when making meatloaf).
2.   Roll out the 2 to 3 inch balls of dough, flat, like small pizzas and place on a greased cookie or pizza pan.
3.   Spread 1/4 cup of the meat filling on each rolled out dough ball.
4.   Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and the dough is lightly browned.

ENJOY!

If you'd like to read my published story, titled "Joseph's Baptism," which is about some of my Armenian ancestors, click here.
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Romney for President

Anne Bradshaw has a great blog I think everyone should read.Click here to check it out.
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Bats, Snakes, and Music Lessons

Several years ago, I heard a true story of two sister missionaries in Louisiana. One day while they were tracting, they saw something fall from a tree approximately two residences away from them.

            “It’s a bat,” one said.

            To which her companion replied, “No, it’s not. It’s a snake.”

            Back and forth the Sisters quarreled until they finally decided to discontinue the fight, step away from their current positions, and approach the place where it had fallen so they could get another, better view. Only then did they learn who was right.

As both a piano teacher and a mother of a sometimes reluctant piano student, these same three principles have helped me encourage both my students and my child to practice when we have bumped into periods of practice resistance. And each time I have utilized them, I’ve kept two of my most important, musical teaching/parental goals: one, my student (or child) and I have retained open levels of communication, and two, they have eventually regained their own desires to practice.

Principle one, discontinue the fight. Just as the Sisters had to stop bickering before they could effectively progress, so, too, must parents and children avoid contention so that the child’s learning can move forward. Music has the innate ability to lift hearts and soothe emotions; it can—and should—feed the soul. That means parents will be most effective if they first refuse to turn a child’s practice sessions into a battleground. The best way to do this is to establish practice guidelines before the student begins lessons so that practice becomes non-negotiable. However, if practicing disputes do arise; further student rebellion can be avoided by simply asking your student why he doesn’t want to practice. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t like the piece his teacher has assigned him. Maybe he feels the piece is too difficult. Maybe he has a personality conflict with his teacher. Or maybe he just had a bad day or is too tired. Only after you discover his reason can you then find a suitable solution.

Second, step away. One of the benefits the two missionaries received from following this principal was they physically removed themselves from their embattled positions. It can provide the same benefit to your music student. Learning an instrument demands hard work and dedication, and just like any other “work,” can be refreshed and even improved by getting away from it; i.e., taking a short, “break.” One effective break is to divide practice time into two or three smaller sessions, such as practicing half the required pieces or minutes before school and the other half after school. Another is to occasionally turn your student’s practicing time into “game” or “variation” time. Consider these ideas:

·        Have a family practice/talent show or play “American Idol,” with every family member taking turns practicing her instrument while the others “judge.”

·        Adapt board games by turning the instructions on squares to challenging musical tasks. Or play television games like “Hollywood Squares” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” with musical questions and terms. There are also several musical games you can purchase in music stores or over the internet.

·        Make or purchase flashcards. They can be a fun way to review notes and musical terms; and if you “double” them, you can turn them into a matching game.

·        Put each of your student’s practicing assignments on individual pieces of paper and have her “fish” her next task from a “hat.” This option is even more effective if the parent takes a practice turn, too.

·        Let your child roll dice or pull a number from a bowl to see how many times she will practice her next piece.

·        Offer rewards. Perhaps a candy corn, an M&M, or an apple slice after correctly playing one song. Or keep a weekly tally and exchange, say 20 marks, into a larger reward. Favorite activities are also great motivators.

Principle three, assess the situation from another viewpoint. The way the missionaries did this was to walk to where they’d seen the creature fall from the tree. Sometimes this is what students need to do, too; they need to see their “creature”—their practicing—from an altered perspective. I’ve listed some applicable, view-changing techniques below.

·        Make up words or stories to music they believe is “boring.”

·        Provide opportunities for your student to perform, other than at recitals. Students tend to rise to the challenge when they know they have an upcoming performance.

·        Tape record your student’s pieces so they can not only share them with others but also be the audience of their own work.

·        With the help of your student’s teacher, purchase or provide level appropriate “fun” music—pieces they want to play but aren’t required to practice—and allow them a special session of playing only what they want to play.

·        Occasionally suggest they “modify” their pieces by playing the legato sections staccato, increasing or decreasing the tempo, and/or tweaking the dynamic markings.

·        Let your student be the teacher. Allow him to teach you principles such as how to find “C” on the piano or how to tell the difference between forte and moderato. More advanced students can show you how to distinguish between the major and minor scales or what an inversion is.  

·        Have your student keep a list of new skills he’s acquired or of all the pieces he’s learned (include the title and the composer). This will not only provide him with a sense of accomplishment but also encourage him to add to that list by practicing.

Last but not definitely not least, allow yourself time to notice the truth—the beauty—of what your student has accomplished. When my friend and her companion finally discovered what had truly fallen from the tree, they marveled. Why? Because it was a snake with a bat in its mouth. Both Sisters had been correct, and both suddenly realized they needed each other’s perspective in order to see the whole picture.

So it is with our children. They need our viewpoints and our guidance to encourage, challenge, and praise them as they struggle to learn a musical instrument, but most of all, they need us to help them cherish the unique beauty and inspiration they are learning to create through their instrument.

And when they find that joy, we, their parents, have all we need.

Check below for further practice tips.

Family Education

Piano Education

Piano Instruction

 

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Pictures from Bavaria

One of my favorite European areas is Bavaria. It is well-named "The Romantic Road" because the scenery is GORGEOUS! It is definitely one setting I'd be hard pressed to find an equal to, much less a superior. Take a look and see if you agree.








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Cucumber/Zucchini Bread Recipe

You asked for it, you got it! Here's my mother's zucchini bread recipe in which, as I said in my last post, the zucchini can be replaced with cucumber.

ZUCCHINI BREAD

3 c. cooked & mashed zucchini—this is what the recipe says, but I just grate it (or cucumbers) fresh—about 5 c. fresh, grated "squash"

3 beaten eggs
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 c. flour
(1) 6 oz. pkg. chocolate chips (It calls for semi-sweet. I use milk chocolate.)

1)- Mix together "squash," eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil.

2)- Add salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour. Mix well & add chocolate chips.

3)- Pour batter into greased bread pans (2 or 3 regular sized pans).

4)- Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. I check for "doneness" with a butterknife at about 30 minutes and determine the remaining time by that.

5)- Remove bread from oven and let cool for approximately 15 minutes before removing from pans.
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Cucumber Bread

You know how necessity is the mother of invention? Well, here's one of my crazier inventions that worked!

Each year, my son plans, plants, cares for, and harvests our garden—I know, I'm soooo lucky! Anyway, in that garden, he plants zucchini with the express demand that I make zucchini bread with every zucchini he gets.My children love my zucchini bread (it was my mother's recipe) and eat it almost as fast as their Halloween candy.

But I digress . . . His zucchini is usually very prolific, and as requested, I spend much of my summer making and freezing zucchini bread. But this year, if you can believe it, the zucchini DID NOT grow, and my kids were not happy. Not the quiet kind of unhappy. The moaning and groaning kind.

My son did, however, grow way more cucumbers than any one family can possibly eat, especially one whose members don't like relish, so I thought—now picture the light bulb here—zucchini are long and green, and  cucumbers are long and green. Hmmm. I wonder if I could replace the zucchini with—you guessed it—cucumbers!

And you know what? It worked! My kids ate the cucumber bread as voraciously as they ate the zucchini bread. At first, seeing their nervous-turned-to-delighted faces, I felt like a genius. And even now, I still feel pretty clever; but the truth is, I wonder if it truly is the cucumbers that did the trick. Do you think—perish the thought—it could be the chocolate chips I put in it? You know, kind of like "smothered in ketchup" is the only way to eat venison?

I actually don't think so. But then, I'm partial to zucchini/cucumber bread, too.

  
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I'm Done With My Book!

My romantic suspense novel, tentatively titled, "Distraction," is FINALLY finished. I'm currently having a few "readers" look at it, so I may still be making a few changes, but still, it's soooo nice to be on this end of such a long journey. I've been working on this book for about three years now, learning the ropes as I go; and I feel that my writing, as well as my understanding of novel writing versus magazine writing, has improved dramatically. I'm so excited; and in many ways, finally at peace.

Usually, when I'm in the writing "frenzy;" i.e., trying to turn what's in my head into the masterpiece I imagine, I feel totally distracted (like the name of my book!). All I seem to be able to think about are my characters, plot, and the words I want to use to help convey my themes. But when I eventually get to the point I am now, when all the elements I've worked so hard to merge together find that perfect fit, I feel as if I can rest, for now my writing work is finally finished.

Not all my writing work, of course, for I'm currently formulating my next novel, but that story I've felt so compelled to create for so long has, for better or worse, been born into the world. And I rejoice.

Rejoice with me, won't you? 
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Stephenie Meyer--A Hero?

When I was in highschool, we had a "dress up as your hero" day. At that time, I couldn't think of anyone I considered my hero—anyone I'd wanted to portray at school, anyway; and since the idea was that our "heroes" would represent who we wanted to be like someday, I decided, in all my "strange," teen-age wisdom, to dress up as my future self. So, I put on my nicest formal and attached signs to it which listed my main goals. The biggest one was—"A Writer."

I've known since I was twelve I wanted to be a writer. It was almost all I thought about (besides music—especially singing), preparing for motherhood,  and, of course, boys. And it's almost all I think about now. But during that time, while I learned from other authors, I never found one about whom I wanted to say: "I want to be like her/him." Until now.

Almost.

Who is it, and why almost? By the title, I'm sure you can guess the "who." It's Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twighlight series. Which, in and of itself, is strange because the hero of her romantic suspense novels is a vampire, and I'm not too keen on vampires. But I have learned to admire Stephenie because, as an LDS novelist, she was able to find a way to morally convey a sensual story about resisting temptation that appeals to the national market. It is so hard to find good books on the national market that don't offend me with their explicit sex scenes. And yet, Stephenie did it. Hurrah for her!

And hurrah for me, because now I have someone to learn from, someone's style I can really study and try to incorporate into my own writing. And as I've studied, I've learned I love the way she uses words—how she picks the perfect verbs to convey emotion, and how she uses pacing to increase the suspense. I want to be able to do that. And I'm trying.

However . . .

While I still enjoy reading her series, she isn't writing exactly what I want to write, and as a person, though she's very admirable, she isn't exactly what I want to be. That's why "almost." You see, I still, like in highschool, just want to be myself. My best self, even my "Best Selling" self. But still myself.

And so should all of us, as writers, because, as my blog theme statement indicates, our value—our power as writers—lies in our individualities. It lies in who we are and who we're becoming.

BTW, are you a Stephenie Meyer fan? If so, what have you learned from her?
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More China Pictures

I felt like after all those tags it was time to add some pictures—more pictures of my recent trip to China, that is. Enjoy.

A Noodle Maker in Shanghai


 YuWuan Gardens, Shanghai


Old Town—newly built. Shanghai


Tiannamon Square


Within the Forbidden City in Beijing


A concubine's bed—Forbidden City, Beijing





Two of my favorite signs in Tiger Hill, Souzhou—the "Backyard Garden" of Shanghai.
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The China Experiment

Pictures from Beijing, China PLUS a challenge. How would you describe them?<< MORE >>

People are the Same

As a writer, I people watch. Here are some of the "people" truths I learned on my last trip to Europe.<< MORE >>

Lake Bled, Slovenia

My family loves to travel. These are pictures we took while at Lake Bled, Slovenia in October, 2006.<< MORE >>

Your Power is in your Individuality

We are more intriguing than we think we are.<< MORE >>

A New Blog

Announcing my new blog: "The Write Blocks."<< MORE >>

The Christmas Lady

Christmas, in its pure, undefiled state, represents all that is good. It is happy children with wide-eyed wonder, cherished memories of sacrifice and love, and an ongoing reminder that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, DID come into the world. That is why I love Christmas. And that is why I once dreamed of being the Christmas Lady.

The Christmas Lady, in my long-ago, newly-wed mind, was the woman with the Christmas-lit house on the hill—the house everyone could see from a distance, and the one passersby naturally flocked to. She was the woman who made Christmas cookies, decadent fudge, and yes, fruitcake—the good kind—and delivered it to all the neighbors. She was the lady who wrote the Christmas stories no one could resist and sang the songs everyone loved.

But children, jobs, and years of LIFE later, the Christmas Lady is still reaching for the dream. She does live in a house on the hill that everyone can see, but she owns only one outdoor Christmas ornament: a large star of David which blinks above the garage nearly thirty feet from the ground.

She does make Christmas treats—the fast kind, including decadent fudge and chocolate chip cookies with festive mint chips or M&M's—but only a few of them make it to the neighbors; the Christmas Gentleman and Kids get them first.

She does write irresistable Christmas stories (see "My Christmas Articles"), and she does sing Christmas songs.

So, what's left? THE BIG STUFF. The lights that put Tim Allen's house to shame. The treats, like home-made doughnuts and German delicacies that no one seems to have time to learn how to make anymore. And the best-selling Christmas novel (stay tuned for more informationon on that one).

But you know what? The BIG STUFF are only the spices to the home-kneaded goodness that is Life. And it is that spice, this Christmas Lady dream of mine, that makes my place on the web another reason I love Christmas.

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