30 September 2009

Conference Week: This Is Your Phone Call

The week before conference is my favorite time of year. To get in the conference spirit, I shall highlight one talk from the April 2009 conference each day this week. Ooh, I can't wait for Saturday.

This Is Your Phone Call
by Bishop Richard Edgley

It usually just takes a few phone calls from presiding authorities to local leaders to mobilize hundreds and sometimes thousands of individuals to go to the rescue of their fellow brothers and sisters in distress....this is your phone call. Read This Is Your Phone Call in its entirety here.

In October 1856, during a general conference, President Young learned that two handcart companies, the Martin company and the Willie company, were traveling late in the season and would face harsh winter weather on the plains of the western United States. He stood at the pulpit as a prophet of God and declared:

"Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts,... and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them.... This community is to send for them and bring them in....

"That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess, it is to save the people....

"I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains."

We live with an elderly woman who is deaf and has dementia. I am always grateful to anyone who talks to her, interprets for her, smiles at her, or takes notes for her.
For a number of reasons, she is easy to overlook, but her needs are not any less real. There is most certainly a communication barrier, though that is remedied with faith and a small effort, as many sweet sisters have learned. To save souls is our charge and I am so appreciative of those who don't forget hers.

Today is no different than October 1856. There is always someone on the plains with temporal and spiritual needs; this is our phone call.

29 September 2009

Conference Week: Learning the Lessons of the Past

The week before conference is my favorite time of year. To get in the conference spirit, I shall highlight one talk from the April 2009 conference each day this week. Ooh, I can't wait for Saturday.

Learning the Lessons of the Past
by Elder M. Russell Ballard

With all my heart I hope and pray that you will be wise enough to learn the lessons of the past. You don't have to spend time as a Laman or a Lemuel in order to know that it's much better to be a Nephi or a Jacob. You don't have to follow the path of Cain or Gadianton in order to realize that "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). And you don't have to allow your community to become like Sodom or Gomorrah in order to understand that it isn't a good place to raise a family. Read Learning the Lessons from the Past in ite entirety here.

 For many people, there are certain apostles that just seem to reach you every single time they talk. Elder Ballard is that apostle for me. With perhaps the exception of Elder Bednar, something about his word choice and delivery motivates me to evaluate my life in a much more pressing manner than other apostles. This talk is no different. I've always loved the story he shares about the Edsel dealership and wish I would have learned that lesson from the past before making a similar (expensive!) mistake in my own life. I guess I just needed to hear this talk three years ago ;)

When I read the following quote, i was immediately reminded of an interview President Hinckley gave with Mike Wallace. Mr. Wallace was commenting on how the Church is run by a bunch of old men and questioning the relevance. President Hinckley's remarks were witty as usual, but the concept is the same as Elder Ballard's point:
It is my message and testimony to you today, my young friends, that for the most important questions of your eternal lives, there are answers in the scriptures and in the words and testimonies of apostles and prophets. The fact that these words come largely from older men, past and present, doesn't make them any less relevant. In fact, it makes their words even more valuable to you because they come from those who have learned much through years of devout living.
It's true. The longer I live, the more I recognize this. When we rely on more than just our own limited experience, we are capable of greater understanding, and thus can make better choices.

Finally, this is my favorite part of the entire talk. It reveals why trusting in the lessons of the past is not outdated. Yes, the world is changing. Jonas will never sift through index cards to find a book at the library nor will he listen to cassette tapes. Those are things from my childhood that will not be valuable for him to learn. However, the way we gain a testimony is valuable to each person and can be taught in all generations, by all generations:
You gain a vibrant, life-changing testimony the same way it has always been done. The process hasn't been changed. It comes through desire, study, prayer, obedience, and service. That is why the teachings of prophets and apostles, past and present, are as relevant to your life today as they ever have been.

28 September 2009

Conference Week: Unselfish Service

The week before conference is my favorite time of year. To get in the conference spirit, I shall highlight one talk from the April 2009 conference each day this week. Ooh, I can't wait for Saturday.

Unselfish Service
by Dallin H. Oaks

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24-25, see also Matthew 10:39).

There were so many powerful points in this talk: the story of President Hinckley as a young missionary and his father's advice to forget himself and get to work; the amount of service given by members of the church; caring for children, aged parents, and disabled family members; entitlement and the gospel law of the harvest; Mother Teresa's opinion that "we can do no great things, only small things with great love." Read Unselfish Service in its entirety here.

The main idea for me was this simple statement: It is not easy to give up our personal priorities and desires.

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of gal. I put everything I have into my work, whether it is as a mother, employee, student, chef, blogger--whatever. And since I have a lot of interests, aligning my priorities with my actions poses an enormous conflict of will. Now that Patrick is home during the day, the possibility to forgo some of my more undesirable motherhood tasks is ubiquitous and affords me more opportunity to pursue my personal priorities and desires. But for our family, this is a bad choice. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely for us. In general, when I give up a little bit of my mothering responsibilities, I want to abandon even more responsibilities. Give an inch, take a mile. And contrary to logic, when I stop unselfishly serving my child (preparing food for him, changing diapers, getting him dressed), I find less joy in motherhood than if I just completed these undesirable tasks.

Mothers suffer pain and loss of personal priorities and comforts to bear and rear each child. It's true. We do. But when we give those up willingly rather than begrudgingly, our love for our family and for the Savior grows. We know we are doing His work. When my heart is in the right place, I find I don't want those personal priorities and comforts enough to give up serving my child. If anyone would have told me this before I had a child, I would have laughed in their face (thank goodness no one did or Lucy wouldn't be the only one with some 'splainin to do). Praise be to God who helps us grow and who opens our hearts through such unexpected ways.

And finally, some food for thought. I won't elaborate on this quote, but in light of my calling, it strikes a heavy chord.
Each of us should apply that principle to our attitude in attending church. Some say, "I didn't learn anything today" or "No one was friendly to me" or "I was offended" or "The Church is not filling my needs." All those answers are self-centered, and all retard spiritual growth.

In contrast, a wise friend wrote:

"Years ago, I changed my attitude about going to church. No longer do I go to church for my sake, but to think of others. I make a point of saying hello to people who sit alone, to welcome visitors,... to volunteer for an assignment....

"In short, I go to church each week with the intent of being active, not pasive, and making a positive difference in people's lives. Consequently, my attendance at Church meetings is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling."

All of this illustrates the eternal principle that we are happier and more fulfilled when we act and more serve for what we give, not for what we get.

27 September 2009

24 hour Art-a-Thon

Miggy, you may have heard of her because she is the raddest, is hosting a 24-hour Art-a-Thon and yours truly is not only participating, but inviting you to do the same thing if you feel so inclined.

You can read about her inspiration (Beck's 24-hour album*) and choose a few projects of your own to work on. Migs is a phenomenal artiste and has a goal to complete a minimum of 3 paintings in that timespan. Don't let that discourage you if you were not bestowed with the same gifts. My "art" will likely include writing a few short stories, completing a song on the guitar, possibly learning a new dance, and definitely pasting a few pictures in Baby's First Scrapbook (a friend created all the pages for me otherwise there would be no scrapbook to speak of). I will have measurable goals by the time the Art-a-Thon commences (which will be a different day for me since I will be recovering from mild jetlag that evening).

Happy Art Making.

* article definitely worth reading: how weekend projects can free your inner rock star

25 September 2009

Dallas Con't

I am too lazy to post any semblance of cleverness. Just a plain ol' travelogue, folks.

After many-a-road trip and 58 billboards, we finally stopped at Buc-ees during our Labor Day Weekend excursion. Meh. But as promised, their bathrooms are luxurious.

We found Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana where they sell amazing pralines and lemon sugar cookies. Must stop.

Opening up his presents from Gma and Gpa

Like any good baby, he prefers the packaging.

Patrick's dad works for BYU, so he flew down for the game. The day before, we were lucky enough to tour the stadium facilities, focusing on the concessions portion. Jonas could not get enough of Vaquero's Cantina.

Below you will see the infamous $40 million big screen. The entire (former) Dallas stadium cost $37 million total.

How many parents can boast they have taken their 15-month-old baby into the largest beer warehouse of any stadium in the world? Is that you calling, Parents of the Year award?

No summer day would be complete without swimming and the Hilton did not disappoint.

His swim suit (size 3-6 months) is finally getting too small. I love that belly (so much, in fact, that I decided to get one for myself too).

At the hotel, Jonas frequently stuck his head under the curtain so he could enjoy the air conditioner blowing through his hair.

Boston's Gourmet Pizza: Tuscan. Mmmm.

A riveting game of Checkers. Almost as exciting as The Game.

No Grandpa, you may not leave.
The End.

24 September 2009

A round of applause

Sometimes I hear about all the brave women that birth 9-pound babies and I don't know whether to cringe or congratulate them.

But when I hear about birthing a 19.2 pound baby, I want to give the mother a standing ovation.

19.2 pounds. That's 3.5 Jonases when he was born. Shoot, that's more than Jonas weighs right now at nearly 16 months.

Do you think Indonesia will require a rear-facing car seat?

11 September 2009

Training with Patrick

My weight loss plan has not turned out quite as I've expected. I've worked out nearly every day for a year and changed my eating habits dramatically. I gave up chocolate for an entire year and I've lost 1 pound in 13 months (I had a 1-week bout of excessive sadness and self-medicated with rice pudding and peanut butter/banana shakes where I gained 5 pounds. So technically I lost -4 pounds, but that makes me want to self-medicate again, so I'm sticking with the 1-pound loss).

I can't really expect to get any better results if I keep doing the same thing, so Patrick has graciously offered to train Elizabeth and I. This was our workout today:

Sumo deadlifts: 10 reps
Lawnmowers: 20 reps each arm
Push-ups: 15 reps
Squats: 40 reps

4 rounds, as fast as you can.

I'm dying. Do you think it was because of the whole Matt Payne thing?

06 September 2009

Big win (and little loss)

My freshman year of college involved hearing about LaVell Edwards (who?) and Cougar Stadium (what's that?) in passing. My All-Sports pass cost pennies and I only used it to watch gymnastics and volleyball. I didn't know any better. Before coming out to BYU, I didn't even know it was a considered a good school (another story for another day). How could I have been expected to appreciate the football legacy that was built around the unsmiling LaVell? Fortunately, as Cougar Stadium was transformed into LaVell Edwards Stadium, my slumbering mind was awakened forever to BYU football.

So the next season I went to every football game. New coach, high expectations, LaVell's guys. Calls of Luuuuuuuuuuuke! filled the stadium, which I mistook for boos from the fans (for the first half of the season, no less). It was a great year of Luke Staley and Brandon Doman. We (roommates and I) knew a few football players. We beat U of U. We ran out on the field and were crushed by a celebratory crowd. Some ROTC guy bodyslammed a girl trying to get on the field at that same game, which created months of controversial material for the Soap Box. We threw tortillas. I learned every word to that too-high-to-sing beautifully, too-low-to-sing womanly, please-change-the-stinkin'-key-so-we-can-get-through-this-18-minute-long-musical-celebration BYU fight song. Touchdown after touchdown, I would rise and shout and raise my colors high in the blue. I was riding a BYU football high that still grips me every September as the leaves change and the crisp autumn air forces my bare hands into my coat pockets.

And then the Crowton pains set in. The big wins for every other team in the conference. The loss of Ben Olson to UCLA. The scandals. The honor code breaking. The dejection. The only light in this four-season black hole of BYU football was Matt Payne. The tackles, the touchdowns, our best QB (though I suppose he was technically a kicker/punter). Oh Matt Payne, how I could write volumes about you...but I won't for fear that my marriage may dissolve.
You see how it says Love, Matt Payne ? I know, right!

I left Provo after Bronco's first year. Patrick worked in the football weight room, so he was my source of insider info that the players liked him and he would do good things for the team. I didn't want to leave what looked to be a promising era.

Nevertheless, I moved on and so did BYU. Only accustomed to losing seasons, I didn't know what it looked like to actually be ranked! ESPN introduced me to a BYU football team I never knew and I was thrilled to see this new team when they came out to TCU last year. Oh the disappointment! I daresay that game was the most boring I'd ever seen. We were clobbered, and even the TCU fans were yawning. It was Jonas' first introduction to BYU football and I was ashamed. How could I pass on my love of this team to my son? Surely I couldn't brainwash him through T-shirts and caps, could I? Would he ever know of their greatness?

Naturally, if you have ever heard of BYU, you know where this post is going. My heart is still pounding from the excitement of the OU-BYU upset and that durn BYU fight song is running through my head (except for the first two lines--I only know the words and don't know if I've ever actually heard the melody before "We will fight day and night rain or snow")

What a renewal of faith! I jumped in my seat, screamed, laughed, cried, gasped, cheered, tore my hair out, beat my fists in the air, popped my knuckles, bit my fingernails, peed my pants a little. And this was just on the shuttle taking us to the game (where we were the only Cougars).

Upon entering the stadium, I had a little laugh. A friend commented how a reporter mentioned that half the stadium would be bringing coolers full of beer (OU) and the other half would be bringing coolers full of orange juice (BYU). As we walked up to the gate, I saw a small group of guys chugging Sunny D. And wouldn't you know, they were my old college friends Nick and Alex and Reza! I love this small world of ours.

The Sooners were in full force. I imagine this is sort of what a bull feels like when facing a Toreador--everyone rooting against you, yet still feeling like you have a fighting chance.

OU fans are the best. They are gracious and energetic and love their team. Even the day after the loss, there were OU shirts and hats EVERYWHERE. I almost wanted them to win because of their good sportsmanship (almost).

The following photos are pretty representative of how it felt in the stadium. Of the 75,000 in attendance, there were probably right around 70,000 OU fans.

Lonely, lonely Cougars.

The game itself was a battle of defensive lines. Even during the pre-game handshake, neither team was going to let the other cross the line of scrimmage.

During the first half, it just made no sense why we weren't winning. Yes we had a lot of penalties, but the stats were speaking in our favor.

Jonas laid across Patrick's lap and gorged himself on grapes the entire first half. He casually held his hand in the bowl, gut sticking out, until he decided to indulge. The only things missing were the palm fronds.

We ran into Robby and Amber at the game. A very pleasant surprise, indeed!

Patrick always agrees to the obligatory family photo.

This man's shirt was the best halftime show discovery. The band played well (Viva La Vida, even), but who can deny this man his rightful place on my blog? I regret I do not have a better photo. With a body like this, looking good is easy. Amen, brother.

While BYU's defense was holding OU at the 1-yard line, Jonas was snoozing. It took all the strength in my body not to jump up with the rest of the Cougs when they were reduced to a mere field goal.

Wait for it. Wait...

I can't! The electricity in the air is too much!

And there you have it, folks. A big Cougar W! And a single-digit ranking to boot (9th)!

Celebrate good times, c'mon!
(does anyone else hear this old Kool and the Gang classic playing on the bagpipes when it runs through your mind? Ten points if you know the reference)

The Y kept flexing his pecs for the camera. Thanks for the show.

I wonder how many blogs will post this same picture with a different couple smiling broadly. Big thanks to these beautiful strangers posing for what may have been the 190th photo op in front of our seats. I look forward to running across your blog eventually.

The Haka

If you've never seen it, it looks a little something like this:

On the trolley ride home, Jonas passed the time eating. Again. We need to get this kid a hobby.

(And for the little loss...)
My chronic disease was not severe enough to be crowned Ms. Chronic Disease of America (can that really be considered a loss?). Congrats to Ms. Psoriatic Arthritis, though. The steak knife routine made you a shoo-in!

I did receive a consolation prize, however. Heather informed me that my year was the very last to elect a Brotherhood Queen, so I am still reigning. I suppose I just did such a good job, they couldn't part with me. Can't say that I blame them. You may now all resume calling me Queen Jennifer.