Friday, August 4, 2017

Fully Engaged in Life vs Watching From the Sidelines (And Updpates with Lots of Summer Pictures)

I have seen two impactful war movies recently. I saw the first one about a week and a half ago. It made me feel as if I were  in the middle of a war and I was able to catch a glimpse of the fear, waste and ugliness of it. But I also saw mankind at his best as he sacrifices all - including his own life - to save the lives of others.

The movie inspired me to listen to a musical the next day called “The Price of Freedom" by Rob Gardner. The following song captures the message I got from the movie (song starts at 4:10)

“We have travelled through the valley of the shadow
Walked it’s pathway side by side.
I watched my friends and brothers fall before my eyes
And heard their final cries
All the talk of flags and freedom and the glory and the pride
They go fading into black
When the fear swells up inside your swollen heart
With the weight of heros on your back.

Then you realize why you’re standing
In the battles rising tide
The only reason you’re not running from it all
Is to fight to save your brother by your side

We have marched on through the valley of the shadow of the night
Here I watched my best friend fall
He fought to save my life and lost his in return
I’m left to make sense of it all
Oh we talk of freedom ringing
And we raise our first held high
But when you’re staring down the barrel
At the flash before your eyes

Well, then suddenly you realize why you’re waiting
In the battle’s rising tide
The only reason you’re not running from it all
Is to fight to save your brother by your side”

I walked out of the theater thinking how much I did not enjoy the movie, but being glad I had seen it because of the appreciation it gave me for the sacrifice of those who have fought to preserve that infinitely costly privilege we call freedom.

And then, as I reached the theater doors, the thought came to me that I am at also at war. It says in -Ephesians 6:12 right before it tells us to out on the armor of God: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”   The war we are fighting is not as visible or physical, but it is just as real. And our brothers and sisters are often struggling silently around us. I asked myself, am I doing all I can to stay focused and alert for them? Or do I often find ways to ignore it or escape? And how do I stay awake and alert when I am so scattered and easily distracted?

Well, it turns out the scriptures are pretty clear about how. Moroni in the Book of Mormon was well acquainted with war. He'd read and studied how different civilizations had prospered and fallen. He had watched his entire people get completely destroyed as he fought alongside them. As he closes the Book of Mormon for the last time, he leaves us with these parting words of advice for winning this war we are in, not by our own merits, but by the power of God:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

It is through His incredible power that we conquer all. But the world hates those kind of phrases doesn't it? “Deny yourself of all ungodliness” “We shouldn”t have to deny ourselves of anything,” says the world, “We deserve everything we are willing to work for and much more. Denying oneself means sacrifice… another religious and limiting term. We should be free to do what we want in order to be happy.”

But these words are so hollow after watching a movie where so many soldiers gave their all for others.

I walked to the car from the theater thinking to myself, “so many have sacrificed so much for love and freedom. My Heavenly Father sacrificed His only Begotten Son. Christ came and showed us by words and example how we ought to live in order to win this war and gain our freedom, and then gave His life so we could. What am I willing to sacrifice?

Our family has been in transition for a while. We sold our house back in October thinking we could be in our new home by last Christmas. Well, it’s been a tough year for builders and our house seems to be perpetually 2 weeks away from getting finished. It’s been a little challenging as we’ve lived out of bins and stayed with wonderful people who let us park our RV in their driveway and welcome us into their home.

While the experience has been a blessing in many, many ways, one of the challenges has been to keep some sort of routine. The important habits that keel us close to the Lord have been more of a challenge and media with hand-held devices had sneaked in more than I’d like at times. When we were asked to speak on this topic [this blog post comes from a sacrament meeting talk I have last Sunday], our family was in the midst of trying to figure out some music and media standards that allowed for choice within safe boundaries.

As we talked about certain songs or media usage a phrase that kept coming up was, “but It isn’t bad.” And it was true, none of us were choosing explicit songs or using the internet for evil. But things still felt off.  I was up in the middle of the night one night praying about what to do and what my role was in all of this. I was blessed to see more clearly how some of these “not bad” things were hurting my kids and why it was so important to ask ourselves not “Is this bad?” But instead, “Is this good?” As I prayed harder to know my role, I was inspired with some standards for our family that had this question, “Is it good?” as the guiding principle. I just hoped that they would understand and that it wouldn’t hurt our relationship.

We had stayed in Clinton that night and the next day was Sunday, so we had a long drive to church that day. As we drove, this ongoing media conversation came up again and I mentioned some of the things that had come into my mind the night before. No one likes to feel like they are being limited in their choices and freedom so there was a little push back from some kids, but there was also a desire to understand, so there were a lot of questions. That day at church, we were asked to speak about this topic [Being Fully Engaged in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Rev 3:15-16 about being lukewarm] today. It opened up some dialogue about how “It isn’t bad” is a “lukewarm” reason for doing something.

The next day, we had a family home evening lesson to talk about the principles behind these standards in hopes to getting hearts to understand. To our surprise, everyone in the family readily agreed to the standards. Those who had pushed back a little the day before said that as they thought more about it, they knew it would be good for them and felt prompted to do it. They almost seemed excited for the change because they knew that in reality it would give them more freedom.  I was so grateful that the Spirit had worked in their hearts and conveyed understanding. True principles have the tendency to do that in good hearts.

“But why?” the world asks, “Why do we have to be so proactive about this stuff? There are so many worse things that we could be doing.  Aren’t we here to have joy?  Doesn’t that mean having as much fun as we can while staying out of trouble?” But that is exactly the logic of a “lukewarm” mindset. It comes from not realizing what true joy is. From forgetting we are at war. Real joy comes from helping our brothers and sisters. It comes from being instruments in the hands of God in bringing His children to Christ so He can get them back to Father.

Of course the enemy hopes He can distract us with worldly music, social media, mindless entertainment and other detours. He knows if we are distracted enough, we will not hear the promptings that would lead us to another struggling warrior who needs our help.

I watched another war movie yesterday and a quote that struck me was, “What one does when faced with the truth is more difficult than you’d think.” We need to be truthful with ourselves about the desires of our hearts even though it may be difficult.

Last year, I took some youth on a hike to discuss a book we had all read called “An Old Fashioned Girl” by Louisa May Alcott. It sounds kind of girly, but even the boys enjoyed it because it’s about standards and being different from the world which is something we could all relate to. As we hiked we came to a river. I said to them, “Let’s pretend this river represents the guidelines found in the Strength of Youth pamphlet. On this side we are keeping the rules and staying within the Lord’s boundaries, and on the other side we are breaking them and going outside His boundaries. What does it say about the state of my heart if I keep trying to see how close to the edge by the river I can get?” A wise 16 year old girl responded, “Your heart is already on the other side.” I thought her answer was profound.

Our heart is what God asks of us - why would we try to keep it as far from Him as possible by getting as close to the edge as we can? In Luke we read, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

No wonder God hates lukewarmness. Our hearts are already on the other side.  It’s hypocritical. We think we are on His side while the battle rages and we watch from the sidelines, eating popcorn and looking for the next fun thing. Another of my favorite quotes from the movie yesterday was, “If you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something. And I already tried nothing.”

This movie reminded me how incredibly undeserving we are of Christ’s sacrifice. We have all at times tried nothing - numbing ourselves with entertainment or other things in order to escape the hard things in life. We certainly do not deserve Him or His unrelenting love. But He believes in our goodness, despite our weakness, and He sacrificed Himself for it. And now we have the opportunity to practice that goodness in the midst of this war. How often do we practice?

As I have studied this, I have come to understand that practice means sacrifice. That is what stirs us in the war movies isn’t it? That sacrifice for something higher than oneself? That is what goodness is. I realize that in my daily life, I must be willing to sacrifice. It may be certain music, it may be time spent on devices, it may be my comfort level in a social situation, it may be my late night hours so I can wake up early and read my scriptures. God inspires me with what I need to do, line upon line. Small step to the next small step.

It’s in those daily sacrifices that I show my love to God and it’s with His love that I can be an instrument in saving His children. And it's in that work that I find pure, satisfying, real joy. Sure, I will often fail and get distracted - but because of God’s great sacrifice, I can get back up as often as I need and try again. And His strength and joy will grow in me each time I rise and turn to Him.

Dallin H. Oaks stated:
“The incomprehensible suffering of Jesus Christ ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood, but it did not end the importance of sacrifice in the gospel plan. Our Savior requires us to continue to offer sacrifices, but the sacrifices He now commands are that we “offer for a sacrifice unto [Him] a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20). He also commands each of us to love and serve one another—in effect, to offer a small imitation of His own sacrifice by making sacrifices of our own time and selfish priorities. In an inspired hymn, we sing, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”3

Our sacrifice does bring forth the blessings of Heaven. Not just for ourselves, but for our brothers and sisters fighting by our side. So I will conclude by just saying thank-you for the example many of you have been to me and my family of selfless sacrifice as you have welcomed Bill, I and our kids, helped us feel accepted, prepared beautiful lessons and talks, planned and carried out  activities, said hi in the halls, and many other kind acts. I also want to thank my family for the opportunities they give me each day to sacrifice and love and for the sacrifices they make for me. And of course, I want to thank my Savior for His infinite sacrifice, His eternal love, His selfless character and perfect example. I know He lives and I know this is his restored church on earth. I know He is patient with our weakness and will never tire of forgiving us as often as we ask for it. I love Him dearly and I hope to continue to learn to love Him more each day. And I leave these thoughts with you in His name. Amen.

[The above taken and slightly adapted for this blog from a Sacrament Meeting Talk I have last Sunday]

It's been a crazy summer and I haven't blogged much at all. Some of it is explained in the talk above. We have had some great experiences together though, and I got pictures of some of the to remember our adventurous summer:


We stayed with my mom from March-June... we took many walks around her neighborhood

And plenty of hikes too

And visited near by parks

Cassia graduated from seminary

We went on lots of picnics

Ice cream at Macey's

Jess and Dallin perform in Little Princess

More parks

Thanksgiving Point

More hikes


June: My parents sold their house this month so we packed up and moved to Spanish Fork with my super patient and amazing mother-in-law

Sleeping Beauty

Love that smile

Love these kids

We came across my wedding veil as we packed up my parents' house

Heart Rocks

This kid is a great rock "skipper"

Father's Day... slack line at the park

We discovered a Splash Pad in Spanish Fork

Helping Grandma decorate ;)

Spanish Fork has some pretty hikes

James getting sung to at Texas Roadhouse on his birthday

We love it when friends drive all the way down to visit!!

Chuck E Cheese for James' birthday

We've done a few camping trips this summer

The kids made a Hammock Hotel. We loved Maple Canyon and we loved having friends visit while we were there


Flag Ceremony in Grove Creek Canyon

 We enjoyed the Colonial Festival, Night Games and Fireworks with the Packs

Fun with glow sticks after setting off fireworks at grandma's in Spanish Fork

Huge blessing of getting to live with Grandma and Grandpa Worwood for the last 2 months...lots of love 

We still visit the Packs a lot. We stayed for a week this month because our RV broke down.
This is a family home evening with them. 

This is the only picture I got from when our friend, Isaiah, got his Eagle

Frontrunner fun!

Our kids have learned to work well on chores with the Packs

Some friends helped us discover a fun little beach in PG

Dinner after Isaiah's big temple day. I sure love these people.

We attempted a trip to Bear Lake but we only made it to Logan before breaking down, 
so we stopped for some Aggies ice cream instead.

24th of July breakfast with the Packs

Pioneer Day hike to Ensign Peak

Hike before a swim

Park at Spanish Fork
We were supposed to be in Spanish Fork for about 3 weeks while our house got finished. We've been here for just under 2 months. It's a good thing my in-laws are so kind and patient. It's been good for us in a lot of ways, this home is so wholesome and full of love. I have 10 weeks left of this pregnancy and I am SO TIRED all of the time. I find myself looking for a nice place to lay down pretty much everywhere I go.  I'm even worn out in the morning when I usually had lots of energy. I can tell I'm older this pregnancy ;-) But the kids are so helpful. And so is my mom-in-law. And my mom when we go up to visit. Other updates... Joshua just came down with the chicken pox so we had to postpone his baptism to next month. We are starting a Vanguard group in Lehi with some friends so we've been preparing for that. Our friend Isaiah left on a mission on Wednesday so we've had a somber week - he will be missed. And they tell us our house should be finished within a couple of weeks. We'll see!

I don't have pictures of a lot of the fun adventures we have had... but Cassia has been putting a lot on her Vlog and Instagram so between the two of us, maybe we'll have a more complete view of our summer adventures.