Wednesday, November 16, 2016

WIP: Two New Books Coming in 2017

stacked
Stacked by Christa Lohman


I've been pretty silent on here about the writing projects I've got going on. I wasn't sure how things would work out, but I'm excited to announce that I've got two projects in the works that will be coming out in 2017 (unless something unexpected happens.)

First of all, I've been asked to write another Young Women book. This is will a improvement book for Young Women with 52 weeks of different motivational and goal setting ideas based on the theme of "You are Worth it."  This will be coming out sometime around April.

The second project that I've got in the works is called Break. (For readers of Run, this is a stand alone novel that features characters from that book.) Told from the view point of seventeen-year-old Preston, this book follows his journey as he deals with the death of his friend and his mother's remarriage. 

This book is in the editing stage. (Which is great since it takes me forever to write first drafts. I'm so glad that part is over.) If all goes according to plan, it will be coming out before the end of 2017, hopefully in the fall. I'm especially excited about some projects I hope to do in connection with Break. I'll keep posting as things move forward. 

In other news, I'm working on updating my blog. Things maybe a little weird with it for a while as I'm teaching myself how to use HTML coding to get the layout I want. It's a big learning curve, and I have to do it in stages. So if the blog is different every time you come by that's why. Lots of fun. I'm looking forward to some of the stuff that should be on the blog soon, including resources for BOOK CLUBS! (Until I get this page put together, you can contact me using my email brown.jolyn@yahoo.com if you are interested in knowing more about what I can do for your book club, including special discount prices, book club discussion questions, or author visits.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Values-Centered Activities for Young Women


This helpful book features forty-eight activities centered on the eight values: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue. Along with the main activities, the book provides alternate ideas, additional resources, charts, cutouts, recipes, and a short play for a group to perform. From easy, last-minute planning, to coordinating bigger projects, each value section contains ideas to fit a variety of needs. Leaders can use this book to connect the values to activity nights in purposeful, fun, and engaging ways.


Purchase Links:

Pinterest Board for Activity Tutorials:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Finding My Religious Heritage


I went to BYU's education week on Tuesday this year. Only a week or so after my miscarriage, I was looking for new direction and peace in my life. Almost at once, I recognized a theme. Press Forward. I felt it sinking into my heart, but my mind still questioned how. How could I press forward? What was it that God wanted me to do with my time, with my life, with this unexpected change in my plan? My second class was with Scott Anderson, one of my favorite speakers. The part of his message that stuck with me was a promise that I would learn what I needed to do at the devotional address by Elder Holland.

I sought out a seat as close to Elder Holland as I could get. It was directly behind him, and I was only ten rows or so back. This was close! I could see the hairs on the back of his head! Hope burned inside me. Here. Here I would find my answer to how I was to press on and press forward.

His talk, Bound by Loving Ties, was about religious ties and their threads through our lives and our history. It was a powerful talk. But what did religious freedom have to do with losing a baby? The one section that stuck out to me most was a list of books he'd read while at BYU. Some I had read, but most I had not. I made a mental note that I should one day read those books.

And then it was over. I left the Marriott Center and made my way back to campus. I attended other classes, met other people, learned other things. I wrote notes down, came home, and left them on my nightstand.

In the last weeks, I've felt an almost Divine pull to learn more about social media, how to post powerful, sincere, and spiritual insights, and how to become part of putting a little good back into the world. One particularly frustrating day, I pulled out that notebook and reread over some of my notes. There, standing out on the page, was Scott Anderson's promise.

What was it that I was supposed to do? I'd missed it in Elder Holland's talk, hadn't I? I pulled up the talk to reread it. When I got to the part that had touch my mind before, the list of books he'd read, I realized what God wanted me to do.

He wanted me to undertake a journey, my own path of discovery and awakening. He wanted me to find my religious heritage, the heritage that Elder Holland spoke of with so much love. And He wanted me to share my journey on social media.

So many of the great writers of the world were deeply spiritual men and women. We, in our supposedly "enlightened" times, often diminish their religious faith as a product of their culture and an attempt to explain the stuff science had not yet discovered; a weakness in their otherwise intelligent minds and lives.

But what if their faith wasn't just a product of cultural norms and superstitions? What if it was the very thing that made them great? What if I read those books with the intention of finding the religious heritage they left in them? Could faith like their's change me for better somehow?

I'm a fraction of the way through the first book on Elder Holland's list, Pilgrim's Progress. Written in the 1600's, this book has some how lasted through centuries of changing ideals, governments, and social structures. Maybe there is something in there I should know, something bigger, more profound, or truer than anything I can find on my Facebook feed, than any scientist can prove, than all the voices around me can shout.

What will I find on my search for my religious heritage?

Answers, it seems. For in the beginning of Pilgrim's Progress, I found the quote I posted above. My road as I press forward may be hard, but, oh, how worth it to ascend the difficult way to find it was God's way, God's will, and God's plan for me.


Friday, September 30, 2016

I Made a Motivational Quote Poster!


So, I've been reintroducing myself to Photoshop Elements and after a beautiful walk this morning with my son and daughter, I came across this quote while reading a talk by President Hinckley. How perfect! With General Conference coming this weekend, it seemed fitting that my first attempt at making one of these should be with a quote from a prophet.

Click here for links to the talk this quote is from and to find a link for General Conference:
Stay on the High Road
General Conference

Monday, August 29, 2016

Opposites


To feel the stretch of opposites,
the bitterness of death,
and the joy of life,
I came here.

But in this place
I make mistakes.
I don't write for three weeks straight,
lock myself out of things
and forget appointments.

My body,
the very thing I wanted more than anything,
sometimes cannot carry a baby past five weeks.

My soul touches things so bitter,
cold and lonely
It cannot help but bare a scar.

Depression is my shadowed companion,
Anxiety, my inner mind.
I've descended from a place on high,
and lost myself here in the dark.

So when I think of that,
how unsave-able, unfix-able my weaknesses are,
I finally start to understand in part,
how utterly unmatch-able His rescue is.

He, unlost, unfallen, Divine,
comes through filth, crosses chasms,
descends into this dark
baring scars upon His palms.

To find me.

So I can have this.
The hurt, the pain, the sorrow.
But also that.
Saving, light, redemption.

The sound of songs, and voice, and rushing water.
The touch of child fingers in my own.
The smell of strawberry jam simmering on the stove.
A paint brush on a canvas.
My fingers on the keyboard.

The warm encircling embrace
of my forever
reflected in my husband's arms.

And the pains of life turn into victories
every loss is treasure to my soul.

This I take for that.
Ever and ever chosen again.
Death and sorrow for life and joy.
Opposites as teacher.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Politics of Fear and a Culture of Heroes


Imagine my hesitation when I realized I was gearing up to write a political post. Me. A thirty-year-old woman in a tiny rental house with no credentials to my name. My job is stay-at-home-mom. I write books as a hobby. I teach 3 and 4-year-old kids every other Sunday and walk the same trail most mornings in a never ending loop.
I've never traveled outside of the US.
I've only been on a plane once.
I haven't even got a degree yet. There's no reason to listen to me.
But.
None of that invalidates me. I may be small in the way of worldly sizing, but maybe, just maybe, that's what this post is going to be about. Size. Perhaps this little blog is where it needs to be said.

The heroes in our culture all started out small.
Luke Skywalker pit himself against the entire Empire with nothing on his side but a few rebels, an old spaceship, a smuggler, and a wookie.
Frodo set out to save Middle Earth with a group of nine that slowly dwindled down to two.
Harry Potter ultimately walked out to meet Lord Voldemort all alone.

We revere the courage of our heroes, admire their faith in the idea that good will prevail, and cheer them when they get back up after falling and keep going.
Is this only a thing of stories?

Maybe.

But the founding fathers were small in numbers when they wrote The Declaration of Independence.
Rosa Parks was just one woman on a bus.
And Miep Gies along with a few others who hid Anne Franks and her family weren't safe from the German government when they decided to do it anyway.

Every time I look, in stories everywhere, God is saving people, healing nations and making change in small ways with small numbers and small people. What a wonderful thing to be small!

When Israel was freed from Egypt, God sent one man with a staff.
When Haman conspired to have all the Jews killed, God sent a single woman before the king.
When our Heavenly Father wanted to save all His children, He sent a baby in a manger.

Do you believe in God's power? Do you believe in good? Do you really, really believe?
Do I?

One thing our heroes often have in common is courage in the face of fear. They do the right thing despite being afraid. If this is the common thread among our heroes, isn't it strange that I'm seeing the opposite preached in so many places?  There are voices telling me that being small and out numbered are a good enough reasons to abandon truth, honesty, kindness, humanity, and my own integrity.

Since when did the founding fathers add to the constitution "The President of the United States is first and foremost to serve their party and all who vote are really voting for a party not the man or woman?" My loyalty isn't to the party. Why can't my loyalty be to America? And the principles of compromise, logical discussion, and courage that our forefathers exemplified?

Our heroes often faced great evils but they didn't become heroes by becoming like their enemies, refusing to talk or understand each other, or by never compromising. We need to start listening to each other. We need to stop being afraid of each other.

I grew up on heroes.
My teachers, my parents, my friends, maybe even you, fed me stories of one hero pitted against thousands.
But when the time comes to stand up.
When it's time to be that hero.
I'm told by some to fall in line.
Comply with the best chance numbers.
Act on fear.

No.
I won't do it.
I don't care if who I do vote for ends up losing. I don't care if the dreaded "other" party takes over as a result. I'm not going to fail prey to fear.

Why?

Because I want to look in my children's eyes and tell them I didn't back down when things got murky, confusing and hard. I want them to know I stood for kindness, compassion, honesty, and accountability and I did my best to find someone like that to vote for, even if it meant learning to compromise in healthy ways or understand another's view point.

I never want them ask me why I voted for someone I didn't believe in or feel good about and have to say it was because I was afraid, outnumbered, or that I simply gave up and joined the crowd.

I'm raising my children on heroes.
And I'm not going to be the person that lets them down. I won't be the hero that gave up, walked out or cowered in fear.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Do you remember singing this song?

"We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few 
when compared with the opposite host in view; 
But an unseen pow'r will aid me and you 
in the glorious cause of truth. 
Fear not though the enemy deride; 
courage, for the Lord is on our side. 
We will heed not what the wicked may say, 
but the Lord alone we will obey." 
(Let Us All Press On, Hymns, 243)

Do you believe that? I do!

No matter who you or I vote for, I hope you don't pick out of fear. Pick because you felt in your heart that it was the best choice. Do it with hope in a better tomorrow. Do it with gratitude for the founding fathers and for America.

And then. No matter who wins, no matter how dark things get, keep being the sort of hero that you want your children to admire. Still be kind. Still seek for truth before believing a rumor. Think and wait before passing judgment. Still stand for love, kindness, and humanity.

Think of this as our time to rise, our time to be heroes, to face our own incredible odds. Think of God and refuse to be guided by fear. To Him, numbers don't matter. Ever. Ask any bible hero; Daniel, Deborah, David. Ask the Nephites form the Book of Mormon. Ask Alma, Ammon, and Moroni.

And then go and be the your own sort of Luke, Frodo, or Harry. Because it's the right thing to do. Not because you'll always win, but because you are the sort of hero that believes in good and reaching for something better. Do it because you know that God will prevail in the end and that is the side you must know in your heart that you are on. Always.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My Life: Couponing Gone Wrong

Image from page 534 of "Baltimore and Ohio employees magazine" (1912)
I thought this old coupon photo was funny, considering my own coupon problems.
One of the things I find most frustrating about myself is my good intentions that don't work out. For what ever reason, stuff is always forgotten, left behind, unplanned, or just late. I don't want to be that person. But my brain doesn't always process as fast as life demands.

This probably why I've got such a love hate relationship with coupons. I feel good about myself when I save money and get a good deal. But coupons also add stress and pile up in annoying places. I always seem to end up at the store intending to use them only to discover they aren't in my purse, but are still in that pile on the counter. Or I discover they expired or aren't good until the next day.

Couponing is the tired mom-brain's worst enemy. I swear.

I got a coupon to Target at the first of the month. It was one of those kinds that you have to spend a certain amount to get the discount. In this case, I'd save fifteen whole dollars. Target is close and I shop there pretty often so I kept the coupon. Yesterday, I decided to use it. I have some other reward program things going with Target. I do the red card stuff (getting five percent off every purchase) and cartwheel (their coupon app that eliminates that piling up paper problem I mentioned.) I decided to think of things we might need in the next few weeks and see if I could pair them up with my cartwheel offers. Then I'd be getting the best discounts on products I would have to buy in the future anyway. I'd spend a little more today, but would save money in the long run.

I had to take my children. Which isn't so bad, I only have two, but they were bored and my son was crawling on the bottom of the basket area when he wasn't begging to push the cart. He also wanted to scan all the prices on our items on the price checker he found. My daughter announced she had to go to the bathroom and we had to race across the store, my son pushing the cart and my daughter yelling, "Go faster, she's catching up!" Meaning me. Catching up to my children.

Lovely.

At the checkout line, I remembered I needed batteries. The battery station is right by the checkout so I slipped over and tried to make a quick decision. I don't do well with quick decisions. The batteries had coupons on them.  Yeah. I didn't know what to do. Get one package of batteries and ignore the coupon that said I had to purchase two packs to use it? AHHHH!

Meantime it's our turn in the line and my son has loaded everything on the belt while my daughter yells that she wants to help. I picked a package that had no coupons on it and raced over to the checkout. The cashier had already rung up most my items. It was more than I expected. Frazzled, I dug out my wallet, and my phone with the cartwheel app. I remembered I had a gift card for 5 dollars from the last time I was at Target. I pulled it out too.

I handed her the gift card and she scanned it in. When I offered my phone to be scanned to use cartwheel, she informed me it was too late and I couldn't use cartwheel since we'd already progressed to the payment stage, meaning, I'd used that gift card at the wrong part of the checkout process.

I don't usually loose it with cashiers, but as she casually told me "Sorry, maybe next time," my heart dropped to that place were you fill a little sick.

My voice held a borderline panicked tone. "What? No. I'm not buying these things, then. I only got them because there were coupons on cartwheel for them." I really was ready to put everything back but the stuff I needed for that day.

She decided to help me out. She back tracked and scanned cartwheel.

I knew it was all my fault. I'd handed her that gift card too soon. I felt bad for making more work for her and bad for nearly losing my temper. Now anxious, frazzled, and guilty, I apologized too many times and then put in the wrong pin number on my debit card.  When I finally loaded my purchases and headed out, something was nagging at me. I looked over the receipt. Two of my items hadn't rung up their discounts, although the other identical items had rung up as expected. It totaled about a dollar, and I didn't care at that point to go stand in a customer service line for a buck, so I headed out.

At least I got to use cartwheel and the cashier had figured out how to make my gift card work.

I got home, carried my tired two-year-old inside, and started unpacking.

At that point I realized I had never used the original coupon. The one that came in the mail that required a certain amount spent to get fifteen dollars off. The one that was the reason I even went to Target today.

Cue Mommy Overload reaction.

I threatened to return everything to Target, curse their coupon system, and walk out with my money back. Let them keep their stupid items and the stupid coupon. I'd planned this all out! It was supposed to be a feat of superpower-like awesomeness when I couponed like a pro.

I spent ten minutes wondering if there was anything I could do or even if there was, if it was worth it.

I finally came to my senses and realized I'd better not do anything until I ate some lunch. I'm a grumpy sort of person when I haven't eaten and I clearly was not thinking straight. I found my son in his room, apologized for upsetting him (he didn't want me to take everything back) and made everyone peanut-butter and honey sandwiches for lunch. By the time I finished eating, I realized I didn't care about the coupon enough to drag everyone back to the store. All I wanted was to tell someone else about how incredibly frustrated I was with myself and the stupid, complicated system called couponing.

So I wrote a Facebook post in my head were I ranted about it all. Then I realized my rant was turning into book. So I put my daughter to bed and blogged about it.

Seeing my plans come from my head into real life in such a completely scattered, forgetful way is so painful sometimes. Now I feel a little like laughing at myself. Life's okay. I'm going to throw that coupon away and add this experience to my file of couponing disasters. It's a story at least.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Enter Harry Potter


I met Harry Potter in my impressionable early teen years and, like many of you, grew up with him. I read the last book in the series right after the birth of my first child, a son. I remember this clearly for one reason. I had my son in a bassinet right next to me. He was doing nothing but sleeping or breast feeding, but I still felt guilty for not giving that poor sleepy baby my undivided attention. Sorry, baby H. Mommy has got a previous engagement with a wizard named Harry. You will have to eat without me staring at you the whole time. 

I don't do books, any books, in small chunks. I'm a read it to the end sort of person.

But somehow, my son survived me reading Harry Potter in the first few weeks of his innocent life.

And I had never been more satisfied, more thrilled, with the ending of any book or series. It was brilliant.

From that moment on, I became somewhat of a crazy person, trying to create the perfect set of circumstances and timing for my son's eventual introduction to Harry Potter.

When he was three and four, his daddy was telling him the condensed, mostly child-appropriate versions of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

Sorry Luke my kid already knew Darth Vader was your father BEFORE he saw the movie.

I looked at Harry Potter, set it aside and pulled out The Mouse and The Motorcycle, Ramona, and Charlotte's Web.

He loved them. But he played Star Wars and talked about hobbits.

My mom got a Harry Potter Lego game on her phone. I told her and him it was too hard for him to play and did that until he didn't beg to play it whenever we were with her.

But he's played Lego Star Wars a million times.

I didn't let him watch the movies. I kept the exploding cultural movement, including amusement parks and fan art, away from him.

But he had Star Wars action figures.

He did watch Harry Potter Puppet Pals. (I'm Harry Potter, Harry, Harry Potter.) I relented. But, hey, no spoilers! And I think he was under three at the time.

Then something happened. It's called Third Grade. And my little boy started swallowing books whole. We read all five Fable Haven books together, but meanwhile he read the Percy Jackson series by himself. And the Hobbit. We read at least four Redwall books, and still ended up scouring the book shelves. He brought home dragon books, monster books, wizard books, and books about mythical creatures.

In December, I knew it was time.

I'd planned this with precision, but I still hesitated. I wanted the perfect time, and I knew the last books would have more moments of the dark, sad, and deep. I wanted to make sure he was ready to face that. I put it off until spring. But I knew if I didn't open that door with him soon, he'd open it on his own. I was literally telling him to wait.

Wait and read it with me.

Because I'm crazy like that. I wanted to be there when he first heard the story, when he first discovered Harry was a wizard, that owls can bring letters, that wands pick the wizard and flying on brooms can be a sport. I wanted to gift wrap all that wonder, give it to him as undiluted and unsoiled as it came to me, and I wanted to be there for the opening.

And so it began. After years of training him not to ask for more chapters when our bedtime reading was done, I read late, pass bedtimes, and often in the middle of the day to him. The kid is smarter than me. He picks out parts of the book and predicts endings I never saw coming. But I guess he's had training in the form of Tolkien and Brandon Mull, among others.

We finished the first book in record time. And I wanted to savor things. I'd waited years for this. We could read a different book between one and two, couldn't we?

Sure.

Unless he finds book two in the school library and sneaks it out and starts reading it on his own.

Yes. He did that.

And yes, I made him stop and reread the part he already read with me. Remember that I'm crazy?

We are now almost through book two of Harry Potter and our wizard friend has come to stay. BOOM. Like that.

Yesterday, he repeated wingardium leviosa so many times it got stuck in my head. Then he started singing it. I had to tell him to stop. He found another spell to sing about.

Enter Harry Potter.
.
No closing that door again. And my two year old daughter will never get the pure, unspoiled version.

Because he's already taught her to ride brooms in the backyard.

They say you're less crazy with the second child.

Maybe that's because we don't get a choice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

WIP: Values-Centered Activities for Young Women

I've been working on a new non-fiction book the last six months, Values-Based Activities for Young Women. Ask for it in LDS bookstores at the end of May/beginning of June.


This helpful book features forty-eight activities centered on the eight values: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue. Along with the main activities, the book provides alternate ideas, additional resources, charts, cutouts, recipes, and a short play for a group to perform. From easy, last-minute planning, to coordinating bigger projects, each value section contains ideas to fit a variety of needs. Leaders can use this book to connect the values to activity nights in purposeful, fun, and engaging ways.


As part of this project, I've set up a Pinterest page with links to tutorials that might be helpful for some of the activity ideas. I'll be adding to it as I find things that would be helpful. Follow it at www.pinterest.com/jolyndbrown/yw-value-based-activity-tutorials/

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Reading Corner: Finding Sleeping Beauty

If you like modern spins on fairy tales, check out this book by Tarrah Motgomery. When Princess Danielle learns the true nature of the curse she's had since she was a child, everything changes. Literally. With a walk through a strange door in an old house, she finds herself in none other than Shelby, Idaho. 

But Shelby has plenty of adventure of it's own. From high school to cute farm boys to spud festivals, Danielle is in for a slew of unexpected changes, all while struggling to avoid the curse that has somehow followed her to Idaho. 

With plenty of fairy tale references and twists, readers will enjoy trying to figure out which character is from which well-known story. I'd recommend this book to preteen girls and any one who wants a fun,  romantic, slightly cowboy flavored twist on a fairy tale. This is a clean read and the second book in The Princess Chronicles. 



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Love One Another Days 4-8


I knew posting everyday wasn't going to last. Oh well, that's life. Here are a few thoughts from the last few days:

Resist the impulse to categorize others.
I do this so much more than I realized.
See a situation through the other person's eyes.
Does it count that I spent this day rewriting a scene in another character's perspective?
Forgive somebody who has wronged you.
Went to the temple. Put a specific name on the prayer roll. I think that helps.
Don't criticize actions or circumstances.
Spent the day trying to apply this to my sunbeam class. They are lots of fun.
Show mercy to someone.
Tried not to get too worked up when my daughter got bbq sauce on the carpet.

I've been thinking about love. Not just regular love, but the divine kind of love. Charity. I read with my family from Moroni 7. Verse 48 reads:

 "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love . . ."

And it hit me, that kind of love, the best kind of love, is a gift Heavenly Father gives to us. To see others as He does, to start to understand how important every person is, how incredibly valuable, we have to ask for His help. We can't just get there on our own. I sure have been trying, but most of these things have only reminded me how short I fall, how far I have to go still. Each day, each step is leading me there, but I can't do it without Him.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love One Another: Day 3

Little Heart Shaped Tums

Look beyond looks.

I put my phone away at my son's basketball practice.
And talked to the woman next to me.
She had five kids with her.
And seemed really tired.
I didn't know if she'd want to talk.
But she did.
I learned a lot.
She adopted two of her kids.
So three of her kids are almost the same age.
I've done a little something like that before.
I was nanny to three boys, two of which where nearly same age as my son.
I get that stress.
She is busy, just like me.
She drives from one place to another.
She worries about dinner.
And homework.
And having too many extracurricular activities
or not enough.
She thinks about where she'll get the money to pay for the activities.
And she forgets things.
Like that it's going to be basketball practice tonight,
and she actually did need her husband to come home early from work.
Even thought she told him she didn't.
And now she's trying to keep all the kids off the court
and entertained and safe
All before she runs to scouts.
I forget things too. All the time.
And I know a bit about scouts.

It was nice to talk.
It was nice to find someone I had more in common with than I knew.
Sitting right by me.
I only had to look.

Reading Corner: Mosaic by Susan Bohnet


Mo Matheson’s biggest worry is perfecting her layup and beating Joe Parker on the basketball court. Then a tragedy shatters everything, including her relationship with him. Struggling to make sense of life and support her family, Mo learns to rely on her faith. If she lets go of bitterness, she might even allow Joe back into her life . . . and her heart.

Mosaic is a story about dealing with tragedy and how time allows you to grow and change. Set in the late 1990's, Mo Matheson seemed at times to be living my own teenage years. From death, to friend and family struggles, to her time on the basketball court, I found I could both relate to and hurt for her. I found myself crying along with her and smiling when she took the next step forward. A story of forgiveness and faith, Mosaic captures life's turns in a realistic and heartfelt way.

Mosaic is a new release and is now available online and in Deseret Book

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Love One Another: Day Two

Valentine Hearts
Yesterday, I took this as my motto:
Overlook someone's shortcomings.
I told myself:
Overlook the miss-placed math sheets,
homework scattered on the floor.
Overlook the eight-year old boy stuff
that makes you want to pull your hair out.

But twenty after, I'm still digging ice off my car.
And my son is late to school.
Again.
But it's my fault.
I should have given myself more time.
And it doesn't stop there.
I get home in time to see the recycling truck drive by.
Without my recycling.
Yes, it was our week.
I second guessed myself and didn't leave it on the curve.
I planned to write more,
clean faster,
make so much more of the day.
Two o'clock rolls around, and I want to crawl into bed.

But there is this whisper, a voice,
relaying to me my motto:
Overlook someone's shortcomings.
Overlook yours.

So I tried.
And found the stuff I did right.
The errands done.
The walk I took; exercise checked off.
I think about how we had dinner,
and even though it was late, we didn't eat out.
And though I was running from one thing to the next,
My little sunbeam was so happy to get
a birthday gift.
I almost didn't take her.
Because of all that other stuff I thought I needed to do.

The laundry sat all day in the washer,
and it might stink now.
But I went to Relief Society
and danced like a crazy momma
in a Zumba daze.
And I felt like I owned the world
When my babies hugged me goodnight.

So day two over, I learned more about love.
How its something you have to give yourself too.
Because sometimes the person you are the hardest on,
is the one that needs Christ-like love the most.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Love One Another: Day One

valentine
I happened upon this link on Sunday on lds.org for the Love One Another 14 Day Challenge. I decided to try it out and see what happened. Here is what I learned yesterday.

I've been struggling with being patient with my two-year-old daughter. The first challenge was to show patience with someone. I knew right away who I needed to focus on.

I spent a lot of time with my daughter yesterday. I tried to listen to her and think before telling her no. When she wanted to do things that would take extra effort on my part, like wash dishes, get out certain toys that are really messy, or play a game, I tried to ask myself if doing what she asked for would really be that bad. Most of the time, I was surprised to find it didn't change anything, take a lot more time, or hurt me at all. Wow.

I was so focused on being patient with my daughter, I almost missed my impatience with other people. But all that practice with her gave me a sudden realization. I was being impatient with my husband. I realized how often I let little seemingly time-consuming or plan-altering things that others do get me upset. And I do it with more than just my daughter. When I reminded myself to be patient, I found that with no yelling, fighting, or irritation on my part, everything got done, I got where I needed to be on time, and I didn't loose anything I thought I would. In fact, I gained a lot of really good things instead.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Family History: Finding Lulu

During the period of time I was nursing my daughter, I got a little sick of surfing Facebook. I found myself craving something more meaningful to spend what amounted to a significant number of hours of my life each day. Eventually, I pulled up the LDS Church's Family Search website on my smart tablet, and started doing family history while my baby ate.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that our ancestors who have died will have the opportunity to chose to accept work we do for them in holy temples. Among that work is baptism, and the sealing of families for eternities, allowing them to remain a family unit even after death.

I'd never taken the name of someone I'd found to the temple before and I wanted to do it. But as I looked, I couldn't find anyone that still needed work. My direct lines seemed filled in, linked generation to generation by temple work done by someone else.

I was okay with just attaching sources for a while, reading the stories, and getting to know my ancestors better. But one day I decided to pray for help. I asked Heavenly Father to help me find the name of someone who needed their work done, someone who wanted their work done.

Not long after, I learned to use the descendants view, which allowed me to research my cousin's lines. I found a unique situation. It appeared that the sister of one of my great, great-something grandfathers had married a widower, John, had one child with him, and then divorced and remarried within less than five years. Her temple work and most of his had been done, but as I looked through the census records, I found a thirteen-year-old girl listed as living with them during the one census record year they were married.

Lulu.

She was recorded as John's daughter and none of her work had been done. Later years of census records listed her living with her aging father, as though she was caring for him. I found her death records, but no spouse or children were listed anywhere. She had never married.

Soon after, I went to the temple to do her baptism. The temple was packed. The wait was long. But as I sat there, I became aware of how long Lulu had been waiting already. I felt as though she was content to wait a few more hours.

I can't explain it, but I knew Lulu was happy. I felt her joy in the very soul of my being.

Baptism was only the first step, and as I went back to do the next part, I continued to feel Lulu's presence. As I sat in the temple listening to the blessings being pronounced on me in behalf of Lulu, I had the impression that something had been unlocked.

Compelled by a strong urgency, I came home and pulled back up Lulu's name. I'd always wondered what happened to her mother and if Lulu had any siblings, but I hadn't been able to find anything concrete, and sort of decided I'd done all I could. That day, I knew finding Lulu wasn't enough. She wanted me to find her family, too.

In one afternoon, I was led from piece to piece, until I found Lulu's mom, Lulu's school teacher sister, Gracie, and her four other siblings, all who died less than a year into their lives. Gracie never married either. There were no descendants, no children who might one day think, I wonder about great grandma so and so. I wonder what happened to her brothers and sisters. My heart went out to each of them, as if they were my own family; as if Lulu, Gracie, and their mother, Emma, were my own grandmothers somehow.

In the time since then, all the temple work for Lulu's immediate family has been done and they've been sealed for time and all eternity. I've found other names that I've taken to the temple, but she and her family have special meaning. Lulu is forever connected to me in my heart and mind.

From Lulu, I learned that everything happens for a reason. Maybe, as thirteen-year-old girl, her father remarrying was hard. When the marriage ended so soon, maybe she wondered why she had to go through it at all. But there, on that one census record was her name, over a hundred years later, leading me to her.

I learned from Lulu and her family that God cares about each of his children. Each. One. He knows them. He remembers them. And he has a plan to reach them all. Not one is lost to him.

"Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful
The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. 
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
-Psalms 116:5-8,15

If Lulu is not lost, if her mother can be found, if God can lead me to Gracie, who was living with an aunt with a totally different last name in a different state the year John and Lulu were living with his new wife, then God can find me.

God knows me, no matter where I am. God knows you, no matter where you are.

And finding Lulu taught me that.


If you are interested in learning more about family history or temple work, check out these links: