Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!   

I hope your Christmas season is filled with love, joy, and a remembrance of what the Christmas season is all about.    This year we are celebrating Spencer being in remission from leukemia (AML) for 3-1/2 years, Cami being home from her first semester at BYU, but mostly we're just happy to be all together this Christmastime!  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How can I find solutions to my challenges and problems?

I created this lesson and worksheet for a YW lesson, but easily adapted it to a Family Home Evening lesson for my family as well. It ended up being a very meaningful lesson for both groups.    

How can I find solutions to my challenges and problems?  
( from the Come, Follow Me YW curriculum)

Purpose: to teach us to turn to God when we face challenges and problems in our lives

*read through 1 Nephi 16 (the story of Nephi and the broken bow) and refamiliarize yourself with the details
*prayerfully study one or all of the following talks: Like a Broken Vessel (Elder Holland), Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority (Elder Scott), We Never Walk Alone (Pres. Monson), Of Things That Matters Most (Pres. Uchtdorf)
*make copies of one or more of those talks
*think of a story from your own life when you faced a problem. Be prepared to tell about the problem and some of the process you went through to resolve it. (Remember that you're looking to engage the student and help them to see themselves in that situation, so take care not to make the story too long or or too grandiose. I recommend about 3-5 minutes for this.)

Opening Song: "I Need Thee Every Hour," Hymns, page 98

Opening Prayer:  

Share a personal story about when you faced a difficult challenge and what you did to overcome it. I shared about when I was so poor as a college student I didn't know if I could continue going to school.

Ask the students (or your family) to each think of difficulty or challenge they've faced in their life and write it down on the worksheet.

Tell them that you're going to look at the story of Nephi and the broken bow in a minute, but ask them if they can think of any other examples from the scriptures where someone was faced with a difficulty. Take a few minutes and discuss their answers, which may include Joseph in Egypt, Moses, Nephi and his brothers going back for the brass plates, Abinadi, Joseph Smith, Samuel the Lamanite, Moroni, etc. In the discussion, focus on the process they went through to solve their problem. For example, if they say Abinadi as their answer. Ask what was the problem he faced? What did he do to solve it? (he went to the Lord and fulfilled what he was asked to do, then knew that beyond that it didn't matter what became of him)  

Review the story of Nephi and the broken bow (or have a student retell it), then have them list and share with the class first the things they can learn NOT to do when facing difficulties, then have them list the things the story teaches them they should do. Expound on answers as you feel inspired.  

1. Ask for help from trusted sources--like Nephi went to his father for guidance, sometimes we need to turn to trusted people in our lives to help us
2. Pray for answers 
3.  Be prepared to ACT on those answers 
4. Do something  productive (facing difficulties requires action) 
5. Be faithful

1. Let discouragement overwhelm you into not doing anything
2. Complain
3. Blame others
4. Harden your heart and get angry at God and others
5. Give up or run away from the problem

Have someone read QUOTE #4
  “Being self-reliant does not mean that I am alone as I try to finish and endure. It means that I have studied, prayed, and pondered as I work to gain confidence in my ability to gain wisdom (both spiritual and temporal) and that I use that wisdom to know when to rely on my own strength and testimony and when I turn to resources outside of myself to continue to grow and progress"

Share this story from Pres. Uchtdorf about ballpoint pens not working without gravity:  

"For example, it wasn’t long after astronauts and cosmonauts orbited the earth that they realized ballpoint pens would not work in space. And so some very smart people went to work solving the problem. It took thousands of hours and millions of dollars, but in the end, they developed a pen that could write anywhere, in any temperature, and on nearly any surface. But how did the astronauts and cosmonauts get along until the problem was solved? They simply used a pencil." (Pres. Uchtdorf)

Ask: Do we look too hard for complicated solutions or getting paralyzed by things that don’t matter? 

Have someone read QUOTE #3: “Solutions often come at us sideways. We don't often find solutions. They find us while we are doing some other task. If we are living the Sunday school answers, scripture study, prayer, service... (and allowing others to serve us) change happens. Your burdens can become manageable, as long as you don't wallow in a pity party. When in doubt serve others.” paraphrased from Jeffrey R. Holland
If you have time, pass out copies of some of the talks you read in preparation to teach this lesson.  
Have them briefly skim the talks for answers of what our church leaders teach us about facing our problems--prayer, scripture study, attend the temple, have FHE, go to church, etc. (have them write the answers on the worksheet)
(NOTE: If you don't have time to complete this exercise, summarize it for them. Tell them how all those talks, from all those church leaders essentially had the same simple guidance for us.)

Conclude: (DON'T SKIP) Just as a newborn baby recognizes the sound of its mother’s voice, because of its proximity to her while in the womb, we should be living our lives in such a way that God's voice is familiar to us. We gain this familiarity when we live those simple "PENCIL answers" we've known our whole lives. We don't need expensive, fancy answers, we simply need to draw near to God and listen.

Friday, November 6, 2015

8th Grade Homeschool Reading List

I'm recording the books Emma read for her homeschool English class last year partly as a way to just have it recorded somewhere safe, and partly as inspiration for someone else who may be looking for a good mix of books to read for a homeschooled teen.   An asterisk indicates a favorite of hers.

*1. “To Kill a Mockingbird ” by Harper Lee; 384 pages
*2.  “The Book Thief ” by Markus Zusak ; 576 pages
3.  “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ” by Douglas Adams; 224 pages
4.  “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate ” by Jacqueline Kelly; 352 pages
5. “The City of Ember ” by Jeanne DuPrau; 270 pages

1. “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl ” by Anne Frank; 304 pages
2. "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban ” by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb; 352 pages
3. “Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science ” by Marc Aronson; 176 pages
4. "The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe" by Loree Griffin Burns;80 pages

*“A Midsummer Night's Dream  ” by William Shakespeare; 80 pages

Other books she read:
"On Two Feet and Wings " by Abbas Kazerooni (Autobiography)
"The Maze Runner (Book 1) ", "The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, Book 2) ", "The Death Cure (Maze Runner, Book Three) " by James Dashner (Fiction)
*"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption " by Laura Hillenbrand (nonfiction)
"The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles)" by Mary Eve Pearson (Fiction)
"Kisses in the Rain " by Krista Lynne Jensen (Fluffy fiction)
*"The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics" by Daniel James Brown (Nonfiction)
"My Story " by Elizabeth Smart (Nonfiction)

*indicates her favorite books

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Super Short General Conference Summaries

I published these General Conference summaries on my family blog, but then thought it might be something you'd all be interested in here too!  I challenged myself to not only take notes on all the talks, but to make a title or headline for each one too.  My titles are in all-caps and I was pleasantly surprised to see that a couple of my titles match up exactly with the actual title and another couple are close!          

Saturday Morning:

Dieter F. Uchtdorf: It Works Wonderfully!
Exaltation is our goal, discipleship is our journey!  
Don't make your discipleship too complicated.  
Start where you are and move forward.  

M. Russell Ballard: God Is at the Helm
Old Ship Zion's destination is exaltation!
Jesus Christ is at the helm of the Old Ship Zion.
We need to stay on the ship to stay safe in the waves of the world.

Like a potter needs to keep the clay exactly centered on the potter's wheel, 
we need to keep our lives centered on Christ.  

Neill Marriott:  Yielding Our Hearts to God
  When we keep an eternal perspective and trust in God, 
it will all work out.  
It doesn't mean that it will be easy or the way we want it, 
but God is in the details and it will work out.  

Larry Lawrence:  What Lack I Yet?
He will give us personal guidance, meant just for us.  
Be persistent in seeking guidance and always seek for spiritual improvement. 
Our direction is more important than our speed.  

Francisco Vinas: The Pleasing Word of God
The word of God fills us with hope.  
Do not delay the day of our repentance.  
Repentance is a process that requires consistency, but will ultimately bring us peace. 

Self control is like a muscle--the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. 
Happiness in this life and the life to come is connected by the thread of righteousness. 
Life will hit hard times (like in the Bristol Channel) and we may feel washed up and knocked on our sides, but when we are spiritually prepared we will be buoyed up.  

Saturday afternoon:   

Three new apostles called: 
Ronald Rasband
Gary Stevenson
Dale Renlund

If you want the Lord's counsel, be prepared to take it.  
You don't marry for perfection; you marry potential. 
You are rich when you can happily live within your means.   

Jeffrey R. Holland: Behold Thy Mother
"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has  for her child."
Bear, borne, carry, deliver...these similar words are used to describe what the Savior  does for us as well as a mother.   

We must engage in intentional parenting.  
Children are the largest group of investigators in the church and they should be taught well. 
There's a difference between just hearing the gospel and truly understanding the gospel.  

Go the second mile, Smile.
Express feelings of compassion to others. 
Meditate on the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Vern Stanfill:  Choose the Light
Don't be embarrassed to ask for help or look to other's light when you are in darkness.
Trust in the Lord.   
Do not look to those who have no light to give. 

keep seeking for answers; they will come. 

He knows our struggles, heartaches, and temptations and will succor us. 
"I can do all things in Christ that strengtheneth me"
Savior can help us overcome any kind of mortal pain--those which come through no fault of our own and those caused by our own choices.  
God is mindful of ALL people.  

Sunday Morning:  

Thomas S. Monson (a living prophet on the earth today): Be an Example and a Light
Watch the words we use and extend charity to others.
Exercise our faith by reading and pondering the scriptures. 
Gratitude, forgiveness, and goodwill will help our lights to shine. 

Ronald A. Rasband:  I Stand All Amazed
I STAND ALL AMAZED (I got one exactly right!) 
God's love is real and is for all of us--no matter where you are in your life.  
Reach out in love to others.  

Gary Stevenson:  Plain and Precious Truths
Anchor our faith in Jesus Christ. 
Focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you can't do.  

Dale G. Renlund:  Through God’s Eyes
 You are called not for what you've done, but for what the Lord needs you to accomplish. 
Remember that everyone is a beloved son or daughter of Jesus Christ. 

Russell M. Nelson:  A Plea to My Sisters
The virtue, light, love, character, faith, and virtue of righteous women of today are a fulfillment of prophecy and making a huge difference in the world.  
Women are full partners with men in families, communities, and in church councils.  

Gregory A. Schwitzer:  Let the Clarion Trumpet Sound
True disciples represent the Lord even when it is not convenient. 
Have courage and be bold when testifying of truth. 
Voices try to drown out the simple message of the Gospel that God loves us.

Claudio R.M. Costa:  That They Do Always Remember Him
Tell the stories of Christ's life to our children.   
"I have no greater joy to hear that my children walk in truth."
Teach them the truth.   

The more we obey the spirit, the more impressions we will receive, and the more we will be blessed. 
Through the Holy Ghost we can see people as Heavenly Father sees them. 
Truths are verified by the Holy Ghost. 

Sunday Afternoon:   

D. Todd Christofferson:  Why the Church
The church is a necessary part of Christ's work on earth, and without it great things could not be accomplished.  
More important than knowing doctrine is learning how to apply it.   

Ponderize = 80% pondering + 20% memorizing
Like saving a little money each week for a rainy day, ponderizing the scriptures weekly helps us to elevate our thoughts and bring us closer to Christ. 
Discipline yourself, exercise your faith, and do it! 

Like a barrier in the bay to protect surfers from sharks, the commandments are safety and protection to us from spiritual dangers.   
God wants us to have joy, peace, success, and safety, which is why we have commandments.  

IF YOU LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS (I got another one exactly right!)
Commandments = Love
We show love by keeping commandments. 
He gives us commandments, because he loves us. 

Through Christ we can be forgiven of our sins and be made clean again.  
Savior's atonement leaves no traces or just heals.  
God will never reject us.  

Stand for truth with courage and seek for eyes to see and ears to hear the will of the Lord. 
Strive to live plain and simple truths of the gospel.   
We still live in a time of miracles.  

Koichi Aoyagi:  Hold on Thy Way
Purpose of life is not to merely to overcome trials, but to learn to rely on the Lord and to increase your faith.  
All things are for your experience and good.  

There is great wisdom in having older, experienced men lead the church of God. 
Their physical limitations are actually an asset to them, in that it helps them to focus their efforts on what is most important.   
They are not spared affliction, but are blessed and strengthened (and increase in understanding) as they face the afflictions with faith.  


Friday, October 23, 2015

Sacrament Meeting Topics

As part of the ward council, I've been requested to play a greater role in discussing and determining what topics are covered in sacrament meeting talks.  I started researching and probably got a little carried away in the exercise, but this blogpost is the outline that I came up with.  It's based on having set themes each month, with topics to go along with that theme.

Set Themes Each Month
Week 1:  Fast and Testimony meeting
Week 2: Developing Christlike Attributes
Week 3:  Doctrine Unique to the Gospel
Week 4: Discipleship/Gospel Living
Week 5: Current Topic of Choice

Developing Christlike Attributes:  
 I love the "Developing Christlike Attributes" element of the Come, Follow Me curriculum we use in the youth program and feel like it is a meaningful way to teach about Christ and about ways that we can improve ourselves.   

1.  Peacemaker/Seeking Peace--
Pres. Russell M. Nelson, "Blessed Are the Peacemakers"
Elder Paul V. Johnson, "Where Can I Turn for Peace?
Matthew 25:40, Matthew 5:9

1. How Christ is the perfect example of being a peacemaker. 
2. How can I find peace in a world filled with turmoil?  
3. How can I overcome the natural man to become a peacemaker? 

2.  Humility
Elder Marlin K. Jensen, "To Walk Humbly with Thy God"
Elder Michael T. Ringwood, "Truly Good and Without Guile"
Matthew 18:4

1. How Christ lived a life of humility. 
2. What does it mean to humble myself as a little child? 
3. How can I overcome the natural man and live a life of humility? 

3.  Christlike service
Linda K. Burton, "First Observe, Then Serve"
Pres. Thomas S. Monson, "We Never Walk Alone"
Mosiah 2:17, John 13:34-35

1. How Christ is the perfect example of giving service.  
2.  How can I strive to serve others selflessly?  
3. How Christlike service has blessed my life.   

4.  Patience
Alma 26:27
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Continue in Patience" 

1. Patience in waiting for answers to prayers. 
2. Patience by seeking to do God's will and accepting his timing.   
3. How Christ was an example of true patience. 

5.  Gratitude 
Alma 37:37 
Pres. Thomas S. Monson, "The Divine Gift of Gratitude"
Elder David A. Bednar, "The Tender Mercies of the Lord"

1. How can I  find gratitude even in the difficult times of my life? 
2. How can I learn to recognize the influence and blessings of the Lord in my daily life (tender mercies)?  

6.  Charity 
Moroni 7:45-48
Bonnie D. Parkin, "Choosing Charity:  That Good Part"
Pres. Thomas S. Monson, "Charity Never Faileth"

1.  How Christlike charity has blessed your life? 
2.  How can you seek to develop Christlike charity?   
3.  What is true Christlike charity? 

7.  Forgiveness
Pres. James E. Faust, "The Healing Power of Forgiveness"

1. What examples can we find in the scriptures of forgiveness?  How Christ was the perfect example of forgiveness.   
2. How can I overcome resentment and truly forgive when someone has deliberately hurt me? 
3. How has forgiveness blessed my life?  

8.  Obedience
D&C 82:10, 1 Nephi 8
Pres. James E. Faust, "Obedience:  The Path to Freedom"

1. What does it mean to be obedient?  
2. How does obedience increase our freedom? 
3. What lessons does the story of Lehi's dream, and Nephi's dream that parallels it, teach us about obedience and faithfulness?   

9.  Becoming Perfect Through Grace
Moroni 10:32
Brad Wilcox, "His Grace is Sufficient"

1. Grace vs. Works
2. How can grace transform us?
3. What does the admonition, "be ye therefore perfect" mean to me?  Recognizing that I will not reach that goal in this life, how do I interpret that directive?  How do I use it? 

10.  Not My Will, But Thine 
Neill Marriott, "Yielding Our Hearts to God"
Proverbs 3:5-6

1.  How can we learn to trust in the Lord in good times and in bad?  
2. How can we look to the life of Christ and apply it to our life in times of tragedy (loss of loved ones, loss of job, divorce, etc)?

11.  Prayerfulness
Alma 37:37, 2 Nephi 32:9

1. What do we learn about prayer from the experiences of the Brother of Jared and Enos?
2.  What role does prayer play in my life to bring me closer to Christ?
3. How can we follow the admonition to "pray always" and "counsel with the Lord in all thy doings"?  What does that mean in practice?  

12.  Mercy
Moroni 10:3
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy"

1.   Why is it important to remember God's mercy?  What role does remembering play in the process of God's communicating with us?
2.   How can we follow Christ's example and be more merciful to those around us--in our families and in our communities?   

Doctrine Unique to the Gospel
Our bishopric specifically felt that we needed to cover more doctrine unique to the gospel in our sacrament meeting talks, which is why I chose this as one of the themes.   

1.  Temple Work

1.  How does/can my experience in the temple improve my access to the atonement?  
2.  What do I really learn in the temple?  How can I learn more?

2.  Family/Marriage is Ordained of God

1.   How can we stand up for marriage and families in a world that continues to devalue them?
2.  What role does my marriage play in making me a better person?
3. How is my behavior in my marriage bringing me closer to discipleship?

3.   Family History

1. What blessings are obtained in my life and in those of others by my activity in family history?
2.  How can I stop making excuses and actually start doing family history regularly?  
3.   How has family history changed over the last several years?  How has that made FH more approachable for the average busy youth or adult?  

4.  Apostasy

Amos 8:11-12

1.  What was the apostasy?    Relate some of the history of it  (John Wycliffe,  Martin Luther, Roger Williams, etc)
2.  How can we avoid apostasy in our our own lives?  

5.  Living Prophets

1.    What are the blessings of a having a living prophet on the earth today?    
2.How do I sustain imperfect leaders?  How should I respond to the imperfections I see in my church leaders present and past / local and general?

6.  Restoration

1.  What is the restoration and why was it necessary?
2.  What things  had to occur to pave the way for the restoration?  

7.  Joseph Smith

1.  What was Joseph Smith's role in the restoration and why does it matter?  
2.  What are specific life lessons we can learn from Joseph Smith and the First Vision?

8.  The Book of Mormon

1.  What blessings have been promised to those who read the Book of Mormon?
2.  What do I get from the Book of Mormon that means something to me right now, in whatever stage of life I am in?  

9.  The Godhead

1.  What is the Nicene Creed and how did it determine the world's view of the Godhead?  
2.  What is the LDS view of the Godhead and why does it matter?  

10.  The Priesthood
Elder Oaks, "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood"

1. How are the blessings of the priesthood for ALL people?
2. What is the authority of the priesthood and what does it mean for each of us?

11.  Tithing

1. Why is it important to pay an honest tithe?   What blessings have you received from paying your tithing?
2.   How tithing blesses the church and the world at large?  

Discipleship/Gospel Living /Teachings of Christ
I felt that discipleship was a recurring theme of General Conference this year and I thought that including it as a theme in our sacrament meeting talks would be a powerful way to reinforce that.  

1. Overcoming weaknesses to become more Christlike
Ether 12:27
Wendy Ulrich, "It Isn't a Sin to Be Weak"

1. What are some examples from the scriptures about people who overcame weaknesses?   
2. What can I do to overcome weaknesses?  
3.  Weakness vs. Sin (using the listed talk)

2. Discipleship
Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "It Works Wonderfully"

1. How can I make my discipleship less complicated, more focused on Christ?
2.  What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ in today's world?   
3.  What does my behavior, my treatment of others at the grocery store, on the metro, or elsewhere, signal about my discipleship?  What principles of the gospel can I apply more effectively in those situations?    

3. Deliberate Living
Elder Wilford Andersen, "Music of the Gospel"
Elder David A. Bednar, "More Diligent and Concerned at Home"

1. How can we get past the busyness of our lives and be more deliberate in our parenting/living?
2. What does it mean to be more "diligent and concerned at home"?

4. Having a Perfect Brightness of Hope (mutual theme for 2016)
2 Nephi 31:20

1.  How have you found hope in the atonement of Christ?
2.  How can you keep from losing hope in the midst of trials?
3.  What does it mean to have a perfect brightness of hope and why does hope matter?

5. Worth of Souls
Rosemary Wixom, "Discovering the Divinity Within"
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy"

1.  How can we recognize our true worth?
2.    What does it really mean to judge another?  How can recognizing the true worth of souls help us eliminate judgement  and help to improve my discipleship?    

6. Anchor in Christ
Helaman 5:12

1.  In a busy, active lifestyle, what does it mean to have our lives truly anchored in Christ?
2.  What are the blessings from having a life anchored in Christ?  

7. Developing Faith
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "Building Faith in Christ"

1. What is the role of reason in living a Christlike life?    If there is a conflict between reason and faith, how is it resolved?  
2. How can we continue to increase our faith in Christ throughout our lives?  

8.  Parables of Christ--what can we learn from specific parables for our lives today

1. Parable of Mustard Seed
2. Parable of the Sower
3.  Parable of the Prodigal Son

9.   Sermon on the Mount

1. What lessons can you learn from Christ's teachings on the Sermon on the Mount?

10. Revelation

1.  What is the role of revelation in my life?  How does it lead me to greater discipleship?
2. What is the role of revelation in the church, what role has it played throughout the history of the world?  how does the lord use revelation to bless the lives of his children in all times?

11.  Repentance

1. What real role does repentance play in my life as an adult when most of my life is in keeping with the gospel?   
2. What is the role of the atonement in helping me repent and  improve, making progress toward discipleship? 

12.  Overcoming Doubt
Pres. Dieter Uchtdorf, "Come, Join With Us"
Elder M. Russell Ballard, "Stay in the Boat and Hold On!"

1. What are the blessings that come from our membership in the church?  
2. What can I do when I have unanswered questions that are starting to affect my testimony?