Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dream Team.

Have you ever been thrown together with people you kind of know, but not too well, and then spent 14 hours a day with them for 5 days, cooking for 180+ girls and leaders, and at the end of the 5 days wish you could spend a little more time with them? 
Yup, that was Girls Camp this year for me.
Loved every moment.
5 days of joy, joy, joy.
Muchas, muchas, gracias Heavenly Father. :)


Eight years in a row, but who's counting?

 Apparently my ward is...

Friday, June 23, 2017

And Just Like That She is Back.

Really, it must be the 18 month thing because 
this girl's mission seemed to fly by. 
She might disagree, and so might her mother
 but I'm sticking with it.






There is almost nothing I love more
 than basking in that returned missionary glow.
It's lovely.
Well done, Meghan.
We sure love you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

For Me.

Somehow, amidst all of the crazy schedules of their lives, 
they managed to put together a photo shoot for my Mothers Day gift. 
I was super surprised and delighted.
Sure love these kids of mine.
Happy Mothers Day to me :)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Post About a Mom WAAAAY before Mothers Day.

Here's a post I wasn't sure I'd publish
but from somewhere deep inside it needs to be written.

When I was a young mom, I found a scripture smack dab in the middle of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. I read it often and told myself that it was probably the most important scripture I would ever read and understand. It pertained to Moroni's extensive fortification of cities, but to me, it was speaking of families and children. 

In Alma 59:9, Moroni says that "it was easier to keep a city from falling into the hands of the Lamanites than to retake it from them..." 
I always read it as: it is easier to keep your children from falling into the hands of the adversary than to retake them from him..."

I promised myself that I would never forget that lesson. 
And I haven't.
Now, I am kind of in the business of trying to take back cities. 

For a LONG time I beat myself up over that early warning scripture. 
I just wasn't diligent enough, good enough, 
righteous enough etc. etc.
I know better now. 
In the end, after all of Moroni's fortifications and seriously, notwithstanding the greatest example of a man of God to follow,  
the people still made their own choices.
Choices that were really hard on Moroni, and on moms.
But--agency is the plan. HIS plan. It's just how it works. 
It can be hard and painful but when you truly catch the vision, 
it is glorious beyond words.
So I have stopped beating myself up (most of the time).  
I'm still doing my best to fortify.
And I'm holding on to my faith with both hands.
Because really, it always goes back to Jesus.
Nothing in my life is a surprise to Him.
He knows my end from my beginning- which means He knows just how to ease my burdens, fill me with hope, and increase my joy.
All I have to do is partner with Him and keep my covenants.

 Kept covenants are truly the best fortifications.
Just ask Moroni. :)


 






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Couple of Thoughts About General Conference:




Number One:

One of the many things that my RT (religion teacher) has taught me by word and by example is: "Don't be a lazy spiritual learner." In fact he has said those exact words a few times :) This applies especially to the most current scripture we have: General Conference. He suggested that as we read and study the General Conference talks, we continually ask Heavenly Father, "Is this what you want me to learn from this talk?" When we finally feel that we received the intended messages for us personally, move on to the next one. It's been a game changer for me. Right after last October's General Conference, I listened to an old talk by Sheri Dew where she challenged herself to listen to at least one talk a day from the previous General Conference, until the next one.  Doing that means you really do listen to talks over and over and over. But doing that prayerfully, has made it impossible for me to not receive the spiritual help that the Spirit has personalized just for me.

Number Two:

I love the brethren. I love the sisters. As I watch, listen, read, and study their messages, I am overwhelmed that I get to be a part of them. I feel such a kinship. It's kind of like how I feel at the temple. As I take in all of the heavenly helpers and patrons, I sometimes think, "These are my people. This is who I am and I love it."  I just feel a huge envelopment of love and truth and holiness--a divine connection of Spirit to spirit.

All that to say that I hope I never take General Conference for granted. I'm holding fast to the messengers and messages from God in a world that is spinning further and further away from Him.

Can I get an amen?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February-The Month of LOVE.

Ah February, the month of love...it just cries out for a list 
and so here goes: 

I love this newly nineteen year-old boy.
YEP.

I definitely loved his birthday cake.
Remember the Chocolate Wasted Cake I made for Cameron?
This is an off-shoot using white chocolate and Cadbury Eggs.
And I also love that photo-bomber :)

 I love that I got to spend a HUGE chunk of time with these two.
I seriously went through withdrawals when they left...


 I love that Valentines Day is smack dab in the middle of the 
month as a helpful little push to get you through the rest of it.
I love that I have my very own awesome valentine. ;)


I love that these two just announced that they are 
expecting a little boy in August!!! 
Yay for more babies after a 13-year dry spell!!!


I love that God always sends me the right messages at the right time.



 I love that two nights a week I get to walk to my class and pass  pictures
 of the three heavenly months I spent in Jerusalem.


Literally.
We had good hair.

And about those religion classes-
I still LOVE them. 


And finally, February might be the very best month to see this love story...
Thank you Trilby- I LOVED it!!!

And so, though February wasn't perfect 
 #rain #grayfordays #snowformiles 

It was definitely LOVELY.



Friday, February 3, 2017

Joy.

Last Tuesday I worked my temple shift-
(and I hate saying "worked" and "shift" 
when I talk about the temple because it's sooo not work)-
however, I was there and it felt good to be back.
It's not shocking to know that I have been praying a lot 
about joy lately.
About finding it, and giving it.
I definitely had a week of joy in Texas with the little family.
And I don't mean just happiness, I mean joy.
The kind of joy that comes from wanting to do everything you can to help and love and create happiness.
 And it is always so hard to leave.
As I flew back, I felt the ever looming clouds of my own problems and concerns returning to my mind...I tried to banish them with positive thinking, Korean music (not joking), 
uplifting podcasts and talks. 
I fought them hard.
In Texas, after my scripture study,  
I read my patriarchal blessing every night.
I picked and pulled at it. I rewrote it. I categorized it. I did everything I could to try and comprehend it's overarching message that I was struggling to believe.
The message that told me that joy and happiness would reign supreme in my life. Supreme.
At this time in my life that almost seems laughable.
 But because I believe and trust God with my whole soul, 
I know that it is truth.
With that promise of joy he also gave me ways to feel it and share it.
So I am on a mission. 
A mission to find and feel and give joy.
And in the temple last Tuesday, as I was walking back from the bride's room after having dropped off an elated grandmother to be with her almost married grand-daughter, 
I had the biggest smile on my face and in my heart.
The spirit whispered "This is joy Brenda. True joy."
IT WAS.
God is good.




Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thank You January.

I make TOO big of a deal about my relationship with January.
I really know that.
This year I have been out of control.
Sorry about that.
So here's a post about January goodness.
It might be short...:)

We finally celebrated these girls December birthdays...
better late than never.
Thank you January.

After two straight weeks of gray and rain, the sun finally came out.
Thank you January!



I have a plane ticket to visit this sweet girl on Friday.
Thank you January.



I have the bestest friends who worry about my January intolerance.
Thank you  Trilby, I mean January :)



I have a pretty awesome sister who made headlines today.
Thank you January.



My Book of Mormon class is back in full swing.
Thank you January.

And just in case all that goodness doesn't quite do it...
I'm rereading Hank Smith's happiness list.

And reading, for the 20th or so time, Elder Nelson's talk.

And listening to my new favorite song, wierdly enough called, JOY.


January joy. Can you feel it?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Walls.

Last year this time I was painting walls.
And packing up bedrooms.
And kitchens.
And living rooms.
I spent 3 weeks in Florida helping my friend and her girls get a rental house ready to exit.
It was fun, hard, exhausting and satisfying as we plowed through job after job.

But those walls.
Life with four little girls and a dog had left it's mark. Everywhere.
We patched and sanded and painted, and patched and sanded and painted.
Sometimes just an area, and sometimes an entire room.
But one wall in particular was determined to break us.
It was THE main wall you saw as you walked into the home and it was at least 12 feet high.
It had the most work to be done and it had to be beautiful.
We tackled it last.
It would not cooperate.
The paint had faded and so our spare paint didn't match.
We chipped a piece off and took it to Home Depot and had them recreate it.
It didn't match.
It had to match perfectly because we just couldn't reach the entire 12 feet.
With each failure we would look at each other and try not to cry-ha!
Finally, someone told us to take it to a specialty store that matched paint as close to perfect as possible.
We were skeptical but we chipped off one more piece and took it in.
It was almost perfect. We painted as high as we could-- it looked amazing.
I think we might have really cried that time.
We were soooo happy.
From then on, no one was allowed to walk by that wall without saying some sort of "holy hallelujah" in praise of  its beauty--every single time and it never got old.
At the end of a really long 3 weeks, it was the pinnacle of our efforts.
It symbolized everything we had done.
It was a beautiful reminder that we could do hard things.
Yesterday, I had my friend send me a picture of that wall.
I just needed to see it.
I needed to remember that I can do hard things.
Oh yes, true beauty right there.
I did that.





Sunday, January 8, 2017

Distillation.



"It seems to me that the essence of our lives is distilled down to these two brief elements in these opening scenes of the Savior's mortal ministry. One element is the question, to every one of us, "What seek ye? What do you want?" The second is his answer as to how to get that. Whoever we are, and whatever our problems, his response is always the same, forever: "Come unto me." Come see what I do and how I spend my time. Learn of me, follow me, and in the process I will give you answers to your prayers and rest to your souls."  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland  Come Unto Me  2 March 1997

Friday, January 6, 2017

Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out...




Well hello there January--I've been expecting you.
And not in a good way-- but nevertheless you're here and 
I've done a little prep work to gear up for your awesomeness.

*I took a cue from the animal kingdom and added a little extra padding to keep me warm in the bitter month ahead.
Thank you Christmas treats. All. December. Long.

 *All signs of Christmas disappeared from my house on December 26th. Not sure how that works in my favor but somehow it seems that ripping the band-aid off, so to speak, adds the necessary grit to my determination to muscle through the worst month of the year.

 *New playlists have been added to my Spotify library. Playlists that include obscure Billy Joel and much less obscure One Direction. As a matter of fact, I tried to add my new January anthem, We Are Never, Ever, Ever, Getting Back Together, by the one and only Taylor Swift, but alas, no Spotify for her. 
But that truth still stands my dear January. Never.

 *And finally, I have planned a nice mid-January trip to a place where the temps rarely dip into the negatives and sunshine abounds in the form of four little girls, who aren't so little anymore-
If that doesn't make January a little bit more bearable, what will? 

February--I've got my eye on you. 
Let's do this.


 
 
 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What He Got For Christmas...

Despite a mild case of sweater shame-
he was elated to receive SIX of his favorite things in the whole world.

His cup runneth over.
 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Muchas Gracias...

Favorite gift this year? 


A Norman Rockwellesque portrait 
of my son working at the ice cream store.

Let's get a closeup of that puppy.

Awesome.



Pretty cool, I must say.
Thanks Grandpa and Grandma-- and thanks random photographer who thought it was a good shot, snapped it, shopped it up a bit, and then came back to Grandpa's to sell it.
 Thank you very much. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Grace Before Sleep.



I took my dog on a walk tonight.
We took the loooong way because Christmas has not been kind to my waistline.
As we passed home after home in my neighborhood, 
I thought of the stories of the families inside.
Too many of those stories this year have been of tragedy and heartbreak.
Stories of suicide, overdose, betrayal, divorce, loss of a parent, and more families than just mine with children who have stopped coming to church. 
My thoughts turned to sacrament meeting today, and to the wonderful talks we heard on the grace of Jesus Christ. 
I thought of how I have learned more about grace this year than all the years of my life combined. 
And I felt comforted.
I hoped that the families in those stories of sorrow and sadness know how much His grace can help them endure things that seem impossible to endure. 
And how it can help them find peace when peace seems hopelessly unattainable.
And that He doesn't want them to feel one more ounce of pain than they have to. 
His Grace can do that.
As I came to the end of my walk, I passed by my neighbor's home.
My neighbor who, out of the blue, wrote a beautiful card to my oldest son, sharing her testimony and her love for him. 
It was surprising to him and to me. 
And so appreciated by at least one of us :)
I want to be a neighbor like her this year.
I want to do more to share goodness amidst the sadness. 
Less pity parties, and more joy.
More reaching out and less turning inward.
More Jesus.
More recognition that I am not enough without Him.
A living testimony of His Grace.
I can do that this year. 
2017, I am ready for you.