Music I Love

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Striving

On Sunday morning, I read an email with a link to a song attached.  

Here's the link...
http://web.archive.org/web/20120507062538oe_/http:/owlcityblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/In-Christ-Alone.mp3

And here are the lyrics...

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Do you know what stood out to me in those lyrics...?  That line in the first verse that says, "when strivings cease."  There was something about that word "strivings" that I heard louder than all the other words.  That one little word has led to quite the investigation this week, as well as a lot of spiritual/personal evaluation.  

Here's what the scriptures say:
Psalm 46:10 "Cease striving and know that I am God" (NASB)
Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God" (KJV)

cease striving = be still?

And from a Focus on the Family blog post...
"In the original Hebrew language, the phrase 'cease striving' indicates giving up by letting our hands down.  Interesting huh?  This means that you can't hold the steering wheel and let God drive at the same time if you want to experience the peace that comes from trust.  Nope, you've got to 'let your hands down.'  Let go of the wheel, friend."

I managed to sneak that little word "strivings" into a few prayers this week looking for some enlightenment.  And, as is always the case with me, whenever there is a question, there is an opportunity for practical application.

I am totally a "striver."  When challenges arise in my life, great or small, the "striving" instinct kicks in and I immediately start thinking, stewing, worrying, contriving, and calculating until I can see a viable solution.  

My in-laws flew in from SLC last night and will be spending the week with us.  As Tuesday approached, I felt more and more uneasy about...well, everything...the house, my hair, the kids, dinner plans, hidden dust bunnies that might be lurking, the unusually frantic pace that we will be keeping this week, Savannah's orange hair, Megan's recently acquired distaste for shoes, Emma's un-sunny demeanor in the mornings, and the state of McKay's bedroom where the Grs will be sleeping for the next 6 nights.  The lists were long.  And the "strivings" began sometime around the middle of last week.  I tried to anticipate every opportunity for criticism that my in-laws might find and intercept them all.  Because that's what perfectionism is, you know?  Eliminating all the flaws and therefore eliminating all the judgment.  It is a tiresome and hopelessly futile practice.  

By Tuesday morning, I was mentally and physically exhausted, and so was everyone around me.  I looked at the remaining items on my list and realized that there was no humanly possible way to accomplish all of those things, so I started praying...and then I started eliminating.  Things weren't done.  Craig was about to leave for the airport.  I had no choice but to let God take over.  I knew that we had invited Craig's parents out here with good intentions.  I knew that I had done my best to make their surroundings comfortable.  And I knew that what I most wanted was for them to be happy while they were here.  So, I told all those things to Heavenly Father, and hoped he would send heavenly housekeepers to scrub my baseboards and get all the stains out of the carpet.  But he didn't.  Instead, he took away all the worry and dread and replaced it with contentment.  And then as I sat on the couch in a little, resigned heap, my dear, sweet, patient, understanding husband said, "Do you know when people love you the most?  When you are relaxed and happy and confident and funny.  They don't find fault when you're all of those things, because you're too warm and inviting to find fault with.  So stop trying to be perfect, and just be yourself." 

There are things in the very near and the very distant future that I know are coming.  I also know I that have no control over when they get here or what state of preparedness I will be in when they arrive.  But according to that sweet song, and according to the scriptures, I need to "cease striving" and "be still."  

The Savior came and His Atonement happened so that ALL of our "fears are stilled" and our "strivings cease."  All of that worry, doubt, contriving and calculating does nothing to help us with our challenges.  It only brings more worry and doubt, and often, less time to see any joy at all.  The Savior of the World sacrificed His life so that He would have ALL the answers to ALL of our problems.  He didn't just experience some of what we struggle with in life.  He experienced all of it.  

Alma 7:12  "And He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

We need not worry that our challenges are too insignificant for Him to be bothered with, or  too horrendous and shocking to dare ask for help with.  No matter the challenge, no matter whether you found it or it found you, the Savior wants them all.  He wants us to "let go of them," and allow His atonement to turn them into strengths.  If we could just work really hard and "strive" constantly to be better all by ourselves, then what need was there for an atonement in the first place?  Only He has suffered everything, and only He can give us the uniquely personal comfort and help that we desperately need.  He is equipped to handle every trial, every decision, every mistake, every sorrow, and every injustice that is heaped upon us.  So why waste time Googling and polling an audience of less experienced friends and relatives?  Why run around frantically trying to find answers?  Why waste the time and energy on endless lists to achieve an impossible goal of perfection?  

When I "let go" this week and gave up "striving," I found so much more joy in the remainder of the day and in the people around me.  We had a plain old ordinary dinner, but I wasn't scurrying around the kitchen trying to look impressive, and therefore heard an inspiring story from my mother-in-law that I would have been sad to have missed. After dinner, the dishwasher was full, and the overflow lingered in the sink instead of being hand washed and put away, but that allowed us to linger in the living room and catch up on each other's lives.  People are more important than things.  Connecting is more important than looking perfect.  And "when strivings cease" is when life becomes joyous and fulfilling, the way Heavenly Father intended it to be.  

I'm embarrassed and overwhelmed that one little word, in one obscure song, tucked away in a casual email, had such a huge impact on my life, but it did.  I'm grateful for the seemingly insignificant things that cross our paths that can become meaningful lessons.  And I'm grateful for the knowledge and comfort of a very real Heavenly Father who provided a way for fears to be stilled and strivings to cease.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Prom

Savannah went to Mormon Prom over the weekend with a cute boy that she asked last week.  Remember this...?


Her date's name is Koa Taggart and his family moved into our ward a few months ago.  Isn't he just the cutest thing?  He's so smart and funny.  He's Hawaiian.  And he happens to have a full ride academic scholarship to OU (yeah, his school choice is unfortunate) where he will be playing Rugby next year.  

Koa picked Savannah up from our house...

And then they met the rest of their group at Watters Creek to take pictures...  


We were so lucky to have one of the boys' moms take all of these amazing group shots.  She is a fantastic photographer.  

After pictures, another one of the boys' parents hosted a fancy dinner at their home, and then all eight kids were off to prom in Frisco.  I can't even say often enough how much I love these kids. This is just a handful of the 20 that Craig and I get to teach every week in Sunday School and they are all just amazing.  I'm so grateful that Savannah has these awesome people to associate with.  She had such a great time and I heard nothing but happy things about the whole prom experience.  Since her plan is to graduate in December, this is potentially the first and last prom she will get to attend, so we were extra grateful that it was a perfect night for her.  


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Catching Up



Oh hi there!...have you been wondering where I've been?  I know, it's been far too long since I've posted anything, but that's because life has been happening around here, and that's a good thing, right?  

So...here's the scoop on the past 10 days that I've been away...

General Conference...
I always LOVE Conference weekend and this one was no exception.  I loved every word of every talk and I have a notebook full of thoughts and inspiration to prove it.  I promise to devote more time to some of those talks in the coming weeks, but for now, I'll have to just say that it was a rejuvenating, uplifting, spirit-filled weekend.


bird rehabilitation...
Last Saturday, the kids found a little cardinal in the front yard whose wing was broken.  He was limping around, so they picked him up and hand fed him blueberries and corn and a few sunflower seeds, and then tucked him safely under a bush near the house.  That night, there was a torrential rain storm and the kids all woke up worried sick about that little bird.  McKay rushed outside to see if there were any signs of his little friend, and lo and behold, a little red bird limped out from behind that bush!  Since rain was predicted through the evening, the kids insisted on bringing the bird into the garage for shelter.  And then they talked Craig into wrapping his wing.  And then there were morning walks in the backyard, and a 5lb bag of birdseed was purchased, and his name became Carlos.  He lived with us for the whole week, until Friday morning when he made a miraculous recovery and escaped both the bandages and the backyard.  Hopefully that will be the end of our bird rescuing. 

death of a microwave...
Apparently the lifespan of a microwave is about 13 years.  It's shocking how much you rely on one little appliance.  It's been five whole days and the leftovers are piling up in the fridge because how can anyone eat those things without a microwave! 

a new couch...
I have a great friend who likes to offload her furniture into our house whenever she gets new stuff.  When her family moved into a new house last year, they gave us their dining room set.  And last week, when they got a new sectional, she texted and asked if we still needed a couch upstairs in our playroom...um, as a matter of fact, we did!  I love it.  The kids love it. And I think the space is going to be used a whole lot more now that there's a couch in it.  I think everyone should have a friend like Amy.  

Sofia...
You know our friends, the Rodriguez's (the ones we went on the cruise with?)  Well, their oldest son, Jacob and his wife Natasha have been expecting a baby for awhile...and for about two weeks Natasha was stuck in the hospital on mega bed rest.  Which was horrible for her, but pretty awesome for me because I got to watch their little Sofia for a whole day!!  

We played at the park...
...ate goldfish...
 ...watched Sofia the First...because it's about Sofia!...
 ...and then she snuggled up and took a nap on my shoulder...sigh...I just love her!
BEST. DAY. EVER. 
oh, and Tasha had this beautiful, perfect little baby, Penelope, on Tuesday morning.  

and then there was strep...
Four kids.  All home sick with varying degrees of viruses and strep throat.  Craig out on a camp out for the entire weekend.  Round the clock antibiotics.  That's it.  


PROM...
On Sunday, with less than a week until Mormon Prom (our church's modest version of real Prom) Savannah decided she wasn't going to wait around one minute longer for a boy to ask her.  So she picked the one she wanted, called some friends to help her, and did something bold and courageous.  

And he said YES!  Yay Savannah!


missionary farewells...
Elder Christensen has been in our ward for 9 whole months!  That's forever long for a missionary to serve in one ward, so we knew our transfers with him were numbered.  On Tuesday, Craig drove him to the missionary exchange site.  Who knew they all met in one place?  It was like a giant reunion.  Craig saw all of our previous missionaries and had to get them together for a picture.  Super fun opportunity for Craig to get to say goodbye to one missionary and get to know our new missionary on the way back home.  
Elders Payne, Maldonado, Wilbur, Saenger, and Christensen (Saenger is going home; hence, the cowboy hat.)

It's been an eventful week and a half, and this wasn't even supposed to be my busy week.  Mega-rehearsal coming up tomorrow night for DMCO.  The concert is on the 26th...more on that tomorrow, hopefully.  Friday is Mormon Prom.  Saturday is EFY Express for the two older girls in Weatherford, TX (wherever that is.)  Sunday is EASTER!  And next Tuesday, my in-laws fly in for a week.  phew...

If, for some reason (like all those up there,) I'm not very prompt with the blog updates, thanks in advance for understanding.  :) 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sisterhood

Last Saturday, the girls and I attended the General Women's Broadcast at our church building.  We could have watched this on TV in our living room, but we decided to go to our chapel instead, and I'm so glad we did.  In past years, there have been annual separate broadcasts for the Relief Society and the Young Women, one in March and one in September.  But as of this year, the church has combined those broadcasts into semi-annual Women's Broadcasts to include all women and girls ages 8 and up.  

I can't even tell you how much I love this idea, and how amazing this broadcast was.  

The entire week leading up to the cruise, I felt like I was running around frantically trying to pack the most perfect clothes, get the most beautiful pedicure, and have the most stylish hair cut/color so that I would look as pretty as all those other women on the ship...whoever they were.  That is a frustrating and unachievable goal...to try to be as beautiful as the most beautiful person your head can conjure up.  And let me tell you, the most stylish haircut doesn't matter one bit when you're traveling in Central American weather.  
After comparing myself to all 2000 people on that ship for an entire week, my self-confidence was pretty minimal.  It took awhile after returning home for me to get back into normal life and remember my priorities.  My head was still replaying events and thinking that I could have looked better or worn something more appropriate than whatever I had picked. Isn't that crazy?  I completely lost my mind for a short time.  

And then, on Saturday night, walking into that chapel with my daughters and sitting next to my friends, I was reminded of the things that are really important.  
Deseret News
Shortly after the conference began, a choir made up of women ages 8 to 80 from the Salt Lake area sang the open hymn.  It was beautiful and they were beautiful!  And guess what...not once during that song did I wonder about the way I look in a swimsuit.  Not once did I worry that my hair wasn't entirely curled or straightened or whatever I was trying to do to it that day.  Do you know what I thought about?  I thought about how beautiful that collective group of women were in that choir, and what an amazing experience to be able to sing in the Conference Center with your daughters!  I thought about all the women assembled in my chapel and chapels just like it all over the world.  I thought about my two friends sitting on the row next to me who have daughters serving missions right now, and how just for an hour or so, this meeting helped lessen the distance between them.  And I thought about how different these meetings will look for our family in a few years when my own daughters are away at college, or serving missions, or married with their own daughters.   

The theme of the meeting was keeping covenants and being united in worldwide sisterhood as daughters of God.  I love that the little girls as well as the young women were able to hear those messages.  What an empowering feeling to hear several times that night that we, as daughters of God, have been given divine gifts and that we have a unique purpose on this earth.  

I loved this talk the most by Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President:
What a great privilege it is to be here on this historic occasion and address all the women of the Church, ages eight and above.  There is tremendous strength in our unity this evening.  Tonight we rejoice in our many different roles as women in the Church.  Though in many ways we are different and unique, we also acknowledge that we are all daughters of the same Heavenly Father, which makes us sisters. To be sisters implies that there is an unbreakable bond between us.  Sisters take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin.  The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another.  He wants us to concentrate on our differences and compare ourselves to one another.  We as women can be particularly hard on ourselves.  When we compare ourselves to one another, we will always feel inadequate or resentful of others.  Sister Patricia T. Holland once said, 'The point is, we simply cannot call ourselves Christian and continue to judge one another - or ourselves - so harshly.'
What a different week it would have been if I had thought of all those women on that ship with me as daughters of God instead of as my competition.  As I looked around that chapel, and then went out for ice cream with all of those women on Saturday night, I hoped to be able to keep that feeling of sisterhood, not only with the ones in the room, but with all of the women I come into contact with.  More love and less comparing.  More uplifting and less competition.  More thinking about them instead of thinking about myself.  More wondering what I can give instead of what I will get.  

I'm so grateful for this women's meeting, for gentle reminders to do better, and for the changes that have been made to allow so many of us to attend together and regularly.  I'm grateful for the upcoming Conference broadcasts this weekend and for the opportunity to hear from church leaders.  

You can go here to listen to Conference at your house this weekend.  


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Space




We bought this house in June 2011, after living across the street in a rental home for a year.  We knew we wanted to stay in this area.  And we really wanted to stay on this particular street.  We had made great friends.  We loved the schools and the church congregation we belonged to.  And we loved our neighbors.  So as we set out with our realtor, we warned her that we had a very long list of criteria and a very narrow radius for her to search in.  

We looked at a few homes but we didn't love any of them.  None of them felt like our home.  Until we walked into this one.  Craig was cautious about it, because it was slightly out of our price range, and he didn't want me to be influenced solely by the street that it was on.  So, I tried to be impartial.  But I loved everything about this house.  I loved the landscaping and the way it looked from the street.  I loved that it had mature trees.  And I really LOVED that our beloved friends would still be close by.  

And then we walked in and I saw this...
It's difficult to tell from this picture, but this is just half of the room.  This space is where our piano and Gladys, the bass, currently live.  The other side of the room is where the dining room and the buffet live.  As soon as I saw this giant open space, I immediately envisioned filling it with youth.  Really, I actually SAW them.  Do you have visions like that?  I have them all the time.  Just little fleeting pictures or glimpses or feelings sometimes of things coming up.  They're not like premonitions.  Just little comforting visions of future possibilities.  As soon as I had this vision, I also had immediate confirmation that this was the right home for us.  In fact, I was content to stop house hunting at that point and just make an offer.  Craig wanted to continue looking.  But after some relentless pestering over the next 24 hours, he finally gave in and we bought this house.

We have used this space well over the past three years.  We have had my family and Craig's stay for extended visits.  We have had missionary discussions, family home evenings, home teacher visits, and presidency meetings here.  The youth have come in smaller groups for game nights, wii tournaments, pie making demonstrations, and pre-dance parties.  And we've had many, many dinners, parties, and celebrations with people we love.  I am happiest when this space is filled with people.  

But last night, we did what I had seen in that "vision" three years ago...



Last week, Craig realized that the planned combined activity for the first Wednesday in April had been cancelled and that his little group of very YOUNG Deacons were in charge of coming up with a new one.  He was at a convention in Las Vegas, with less than a week to plan, and would not have access to the church gym because of another scheduled activity there. Eek!  Between meetings in Las Vegas, Craig texted me various ideas for a group activity.  Finally, he found one that would work, with few logistical requirements.  We just needed a space to do it.  

So I begged him to let us to do it at our house.  I knew it was possible because I had seen it, hadn't I?  With a little bit of redecorating and some creative seating, I was sure we could fit them all into our house.  He was hesitant at first, but I think with no other viable option in mind, he had no choice but to give in.  

We moved everything but the dining room table and the piano out of the room.  We put the dining room chairs up against the back wall, moved a leafless dining room table into the front corner (where Gladys normally lives) and used it as a TV stand. And then, with an iPad and and Apple TV, played a rousing game of General Conference Scene It.  So fun!

There were 10 youth leaders, 2 missionaries, 1 Bishop, and approximately 40 kids in our house last night.  They ate 6 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 2 pans of brownies, and 2 dozen sugar cookies, and they drank 10 quarts of lemonade.  And I loved it!  I loved that they didn't mind snuggling up close together.  I loved that they were so competitive and excited about this game.  I loved that their energy could be felt in every part of the house.  I loved that when they got bored, a few of them wandered into the kitchen to talk to me.   I loved that the older boys helped Craig reset the room afterward.  And I loved that every single one of them said, "Thank you," as they walked out my front door.  

But mostly, I was just grateful all day long that we have the space to even think about doing something like this.  I am grateful for a husband who doesn't mind my visions, who hears me when I am insistent, and who can execute all my crazy ideas.  And I'm grateful for the opportunity that we have to be in the presence of these awesome kids on a regular basis.  

I loved everything about last night and look forward to lots more youth activities at our house.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Costa Maya

Our last port was Costa Maya, and it was, by far, my favorite stop of the entire week.  It was beautiful, for sure, but no more than Cozumel or Roatan.  I think my attitude was just better.  By Day 6 of the cruise, I had finally figured out what I was doing, how to communicate via sticky notes with all of our traveling companions, and that it's ok to sleep past 7:00am.  If I ever have the chance to cruise again, I will be so much better at it.  

Sorry for the picture overload, but there are too many great ones to narrow it down any further.



Look at that water!  It really is that perfectly turquoise turquesa!  And those little black stripes are fish.
Just a couple of miles from the terminal, there was a beautiful beach area called Mahahual.  We loved that place so much.  Perfect white, sandy beaches on one side of the road, and tons of little restaurants and shops on the other side.  We had a taxi driver drop us off at the far end of Mahahual and then we spent the afternoon meandering back to the terminal.  

Because really, can you think of a better way to spend your day?  Massages, guacamole and nachos.  


Oh, I loved this little girl.  Her name is Genesis and she's two.
We saw all these women and little girls walking up and down the street with their handmade bracelets everywhere in Mahahual.  We couldn't resist all the bright colors, so the girls and I came home with about 7 bracelets each.











Costa Maya was the perfect end to a once in a lifetime adventure.