“Men Are That They Might Have Joy.”

Image                                                Yes, we’re here to learn. We’re here to learn to find JOY! (2 Nephi 2:25)

Since we talked about Affliction, the what’s and why’s, last week in Family Night, we decided to cover the topic of Joy and Gratitude this week.

Here is the puzzle I made for the kids, Thank you Heavenly Father Puzzle The puzzle pieces have scriptures that talk about Joy, both how we can obtain it and how we can have it even amidst trials. Then on the other side is a picture of a little girl praying, on which I wrote “Thank you Heavenly Father” on ours. We cut out the puzzle first, then found the scriptures and talked about joy. After that we put the puzzle together with the little girl showing and talked about one of the greatest ways to find joy is to look for and thank our Heavenly Father for all of our blessings.

It was really a simple lesson, but the kids liked the puzzle and I feel like they understood the point…which is always a good thing;)

What are ways you have used to teach about Affliction and Joy?

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It’s Your Call

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Walking through “Las Piedrotas” in Tapalpa, Mexico. Can you see the little munchkins waiting on me up there? 

Sometimes answers are like walking out of a cave into the bright sunlight. An instant warmth and sense of deep awareness.

Other times it’s more like waking when it’s still pitch black outside, an then watching as the shadows slowly disappear, and the sun takes its’ rightful place in the sky. Blackness fading away to grey and finally a bright yellow of newness and understanding.

Yep, sometimes the answers come very clearly, very forcefully, there is no doubt. But many times, or should I say, most of the time, my answers come with a little insight here and a little more there. Like a sculptor that methodically chisels away at a block of marble to release the masterpiece waiting beneath its’ surface.

I’m dealing with one of those right now. The second method. The slow elimination and determined chipping away. You see, I know there is a God. I know He is there. I know he listens when I pray. I know He answers. But just as any loving parent, I believe He knows that we cannot just be given the answers to all of our questions and problems. Sometimes He answers immediately and clearly. Sometimes he leads us and guides us almost just as clearly. And sometimes I think he says, “It’s your call”.

I detest this answer. I don’t want to make the call. I don’t know that I’m ready to make the call. All by myself? All on my own? But am I really on my own? No, not really. He’s my Father. He’ll tell me what He thinks, but not directly, not obviously. I must search. I must listen. I must quiet my soul in order to hear.

That is what I’m in the midst of right now. It’s actually a question I ask myself every year. Am I still sure that we should be homeschooling our children?

For the first few years, I really felt a calling. I KNEW it was what we needed to do. As our journey embarked I soon discovered that our first child would have significant struggles in any other school setting, which added confirmation to our decision.

Then a few more moves, a few more children, a few changes of employment and a plethora of changes to our homeschooling….I felt I was starting to “get it”. I felt like we could make this work. I felt a culture forming that I craved. I smiled. We can do this.

But as I just told a dear friend who is struggling with the same decision, for different reasons…Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t now, doesn’t mean you can’t later. There is a plan and a time for everything.

A couple years ago my husband started making the steps and changes necessary to be completely self-employed. At the beginning of this year we made the final and complete leap into the world of self-employment. This means he is working from home whenever he is not attending meetings, giving trainings and/or travelling. It has mostly been a gradual change and we thought that we were figuring it out. I have always tried my best to help with my husband’s work when he was an employee and now even more as we have a family business. But I admit, I am both hesitant and ignorant. Sometimes I just don’t know what in the world I am doing! I really don’t want to mess something up that is that important. Other times I feel like if I put too much into it than I’m neglecting my responsibilities as a mother and teacher. It’s always been a difficult balance, for me.

Over the past few months I have been reflecting a lot on my priorities in order to create a good balance and decide where I need to make improvements. It was amongst this journey that my husband asked one day, “Are you sure we are supposed to be homeschooling?”

At first I was a bit flabbergasted. Though not involved with the process much, he has always been very supportive of my endeavors.

Unfortunately, I continued to react with my natural responses to his critiques….defensive mode on….How dare he… After all we’ve been through? Does he not see I’m trying my best? Doesn’t he see that the kids learn better this way?

Wait….wait for it…ok, now reflection hits….but this is my husband. My eternal companion. My best friend. What if he’s right? What if I’m doing something wrong? What if I need to have my focus elsewhere?…..

Well, very long story short, by the end of the day I was an emotional mess. I have since been spending the majority of my thinking time grappling with this subject. I’ve searched, pondered and prayed….even fasted. I feel my answer is….It’s your call….not really what I was looking for….definitely not the easy route. I have already been guided. For the moment I’ve decided to finish the school year and come to a final decision by our summer break.  I know the answer will come. Hopefully it’s before I become a habitual insomniac 😉

To all of you who’ve struggled with this, or a similar decision….what helped you?

The Blessings of Disappointment

Image  We found out that we were expecting our second child while visiting my husband’s family in Africa. I fainted on the beach!  

 Have you ever heard that song, “Sometimes I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers?” by Garth Brooks? Are you like me and seem to have this little scenario of how things are SUPPOSED to go and what is SUPPOSED to happen in your life? Is it just me or does NOTHING EVER go the way you pictured and then you get peeved and moody and maybe even a little pouty? The last few years when I go through these moments I usually end up laughing at myself because I KNOW I AM NOT THE ONE IN CHARGE. Then I reflect and see how if it had gone my way I would have missed out on A LOT of personal growth.

When we first got married, Marvel and I had a five year plan that included building our own home in rural Idaho, both of us finishing our second degrees, him moving forward in his steady and stable job, me moving forward with my teaching in public schools, and various other goals that mostly involved our own personal growth.

Instead, we had our first child six days after our 1st anniversary, he finished his second degree while I BARELY finished my first, and then he got an opportunity to move his career into an international scene. It wasn’t OUR plan, but we felt almost as if we were being led by angels. Once we gave up OUR plans everything fell into place and we moved forward into an experience that continues to teach and stretch us beyond anything OUR plans had imagined.

Another example was when we set up our “family plan” of having our children with two years between each one. After Engineer was born, we used no forms of birth control. 2 ½ years later we looked at each other and our one child and thought, is this it? I became almost obsessed with the idea that I needed to be pregnant and felt like I had done something wrong.

When I finally poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father and felt his assurances that HIS plan would be best, I let go. Fiesta was born a little over a year later and looking back I can see how HIS plan was indeed the best and I was able to grow and help Engineer get a head-start on academic skills that he has to work harder on than most, to master. It was during this time that we decided to homeschool.

Then there are smaller examples. This past week we had a family vacation planned. It was highly anticipated because we have been saving up for it and waiting for my Mom and Step-Dad to come visit so we could all go together. We had the place, the dates, the activities and the excitement all ready to go.

Well, then our van broke down, we fixed it and decided on a shorter trip. The van broke down ¾ of the way there, at night. BUT, we broke down in a town (not in the middle of a Mexican highway where towns are scattered like those in Montana). We broke down RIGHT IN FRONT AND 10 MINUTES BEFORE CLOSING TIME of a mechanic’s shop. There was a nearby safe hotel and restaurant and a bus station to take us the rest of the way to the beach while the car was fixed. There were about a MILLION inconveniences and I still feel like I’m recuperating from our “vacation” but you know what? We were safe, the kids still had a great time (mom doesn’t let me jump on my bed but the hotel bed…hahaha), we still got to see the ocean, and both Marvel and I had plenty of time to catch up with my parents. PLUS, since we had to shorten the trip Marvel and I got back in time to fix some emergencies with his business and an ESL program we help with, that could have become disastrous in our absence. I don’t believe in coincidences.

All I’m saying is that God is OUR FATHER. He ALWAYS watches out for us and guides us. Is it easy? I know that my life, even with the change in plans is a walk in the park compared to many. I needed to write this to remind MYSELF that MY PLANS aren’t always what’s best for me and my family. So, maybe MY PLAN of by now already having been in the full throws of my “Life Cleanse” for 2014 isn’t the best for me….I’m guessing that because now my kids all came down with the stomach flu in the middle of the night….;)