Tuesday, April 30, 2013

(Six) Habits To Happiness- Study

The habit to spend some time during the day reading and studying was cemented into my life ten years ago when I was called to teach Institute and then Seminary. I think of myself as a reader but really studying came by the trial of fire. There is nothing like standing in front of people who are ready to learn and knowing how little you know. It makes you become an obsessive learner. Very soon my need to study will end when I am released from my assignment, but, I intend to remain faithful to my early morning hour of study. It brings me satisfaction and happiness. I have already started a study project unrelated to Seminary. My goal is to study two General Conference talks a week and write my observations.

   Studying is to reading like wisdom is to knowledge. One is much deeper than the other. When I study I stop often to read between the lines. Questions form in my mind that cause me to listen to the Holy Ghost. What does the writer intend me to do after I read this section? What did she purposely leave out?
What applications does the message offer me? What further knowledge does the Holy Ghost offer concerning this reading block.

   A special place to record notes is ideal for me. The Red Headed Hostess made up a conference journal. All the talks are listed by title and there are small illustrations on each page to highlight aspects of each talk.

   I asked a friend to study with me and hopefully together we will find this project enriching and enlivening. Study is much easier for me now with all five children grown, If I could offer my young mother-self some advice I would tell her to keep trying. I did try to read alone and with my children but I often felt discouraged. I always needed ideas to think about and chew through. When I didn't purposefully feed myself good knowledge my mind just invented idol imaginations that caused me more grief than good. Study is an important part of my general happiness quotient.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

5 Habits To Happiness Revealed

    I have pondered, considered, studied, and meditated about the 5 Habits that bring me happiness. This  started when I was I was reading Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin. She said,"To be happier, I have to notice what I’m doing, and why, and how it makes me feel." I have tested her quotation and here are 5 Habits To Happiness, just for me.

Habit #1-Prayer and Meditation

      Now I must be truthful here and say that prayer is not a habit, yet, for me. I don't do it without thinking. It remains for me, in this stage of my life, a practice to be remembered every day. Luckily I have promptings from the Spirit to do so often and I have learned to obey. In other words when I feel moved to pray I do so no matter where I am, on my knees. The culmination of years of prayer when prompted, have brought much fruit. I remember some experiences vividly, with many sensory feelings attached. Like the morning I was preparing to teach an Institute lesson and my mind was reeling with facts and ideas. I was in my office and I knew I should pray, right then. I kneeled against my black, uneven office chair and poured out my heart. As I sat up to continue working my lesson sorted itself out in complete order. I wept for the beauty of the blessing.
   I can and have gone the whole day without prayer. But, I know for sure that a day without prayer does not make a happy day. Today I am fasting and praying for my little two-year old granddaughter who is having a procedure to check on a problem in her Urinary Tract. It needs to heal or she faces surgery in the next year. Each prayer has made me connect to her and our days together. I visualize her happy smile and see her hug her mommy so tight. She is precious to me and when I pray I know she is precious to my Heavenly Father. Prayer does that. It is like glue, a heavenly agent that connects us to God and He in turn blesses us with divine stickiness to connect us more tightly to our families and friends. As to fasting, I need to confess that it is way hard for me. Food and wellbeing go hand in hand in my life. To go 24 hours without food is challenging. I always wish the time would go faster so the end comes quickly, but that's the thing about fasting; you need to be conscious of your feelings to fully appreciate your offering. I am not fully developed in this area but continue to practice.
   So, my first Habit of Happiness is the contemplative act of prayer and meditation. It makes me happy, satisfied, and at peace. The fasting part is still under observation. Stay tuned for the other four habits to come.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hebrews- Our Great High Priest

The first time I read the Epistle to the Hebrews from cover to cover I was sitting in my car, waiting for my family to come back from a hike. I chose to read that day because I felt compelled to understand this  letter from Paul. I still get the same joy today as I teach it to my seminary students.
Jesus, Jehovah of the Old Testament, is the great High Priest of all time. He is higher than the angels who have come with messages from God, yet, he was made lower than the angels by taking a half mortal body and becoming one of us. He can go into the Holy Place and mediate for all mankind because he is perfect. No need to tie a robe around his waist to pull him out in case he is struck dead for being unclean on the Day of Atonement. All the other High Priests act in his behalf, pointing us to him.

     Hebrews7:26 "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself."
    To begin reading Hebrews it is wise to throw around some vocabulary words. Playing Seven Little Words always gets the conversation going.

7 Little Words about Hebrews

Hebrew - A people who come through the lineage of Abraham

Angels- spirits, translated beings, or resurrected beings who bring a message from God

Moses- a prophet who brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt

Abraham- a prophet of God who was the Father of the Hebrews

Sacrifice- an ordinance made by shedding the blood of an innocent animal

Melchizedek- a priesthood holder who was revered by the Hebrews  for his service and sacrifice

Levitical- the priesthood calling held by the those with a lineage through Levi, a son of Jacob


Later in the week it is a great idea to give this little questionnaire about the Priesthood. Just like the Hebrews in Jerusalem, we need reminding of the quality of Jesus as our High Priest in this new and everlasting covenant established by him and restored in our day.
Years ago I made two parallel posters showing a diagram of the tabernacle in wilderness. The purpose was to show how Jesus is the tabernacle, not made of man but made as a life lived to become a template for us to follow.

  Hebrews 9:11 "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;"
   Hebrews is exquisite and I am so uplifted by this inspired message to saints in all ages.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Philemon- An Entreaty To Allow At-One-Ment

Philemon was a friend whose slave had run away to join Paul. Onesimus, the slave, was converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul desired to unite slave and master on good terms, even as friends. His entreaty was to call upon Philemon's faith in all good things

Philemon 1:6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

 Paul loved this slave and saw him as a blessing, not a liability.

Philemon 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

Aware that his position might make Philemon feel he must take back his servant, he announced that he did not want Philemon to feel coerced.

Philemon 1:14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

I see Paul as taking the role of a type of Christ. The Savior would want us to be reconciled to any from whom we feel estranged. His atonement covers the sins of our brother, so in not forgiving we actually reject the Savior's sacrifice.

 Philemon1:15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

   The letter to Philemon reminds me of Abigail. who also became a type of Christ to David in 1 Samuel. Her husband Nabal had greatly offended David and his men. By law David could seek revenge. But Abigail intercepted David and begged him to allow her to carry her husbands sin.

1 Samuel 25:23 And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.

                                                             Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

  She took the burden of guilt upon herself and asked David to forgive her, and she also brought gifts, provisions which he needed. How could David resist this gesture of love and sacrifice?

1 Samuel 25:28 I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days.

    Understanding Paul and Abigail helps me see Jesus Christ in their actions. How can I resist their message?


Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Purl Of Great Price

I am the proud owner of a pair of hand knit socks. Made from a special blended wool, they feel smooth and light, and just warm enough. My daughter, The Knitting Queen, started these socks some time ago and finally finished them. My grandmother used to make me socks when I was a child but the wool was itchy and super thick.

There is something comforting in knowing that socks can be made right under your own roof.

She has been knitting for little Peter, her friend's new baby boy. He is sleeping in a soft saque decorated with little owls. Babies tend to be night owls, uncertain of when day ends and night begins.

             I love the look of handmade treasures and really appreciate the love and care in each gift.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Armor Up?

     This is my favorite part of the year to teach seminary to my Early Morning Guests. It is light when they arrive and my backpack gnome, Walter, waits for them to drop their load like a servant helping his master undo his armor.

   They leave the armor of school and walk in ready to armor up with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

   The lightness of the daylight makes me hope that they have received enough light and knowledge from the Holy Ghost to fortify them through to the next year. I won't be with them next year, it makes me sad. My eight years in seminary is coming to an end.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Building A Strong Family Narrative- the Twenty Questions

    In the New York Times, on March 15, an article was published which made me sit up and take notice. It was written by Bruce Feiler about families and what makes an effective family. He quotes the work of researchers Marshall Duke and his wife Sara, psychologists, with work with children with disabilities. Their research showed something which I have believed to be true.
    "After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative." Bruce Feiler
   “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said. Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions. Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?" Marshall Duke 

   "The main criterion, as mentioned above, is that the questions are about things that the children could not have learned on their own or experienced directly."
   I have a strong family narrative. The stories of the five women, pictured above, were passed on to me in one on one conversations. 
   On the far left, my paternal grandmother, Anna, heroically saved a child in a burning building which left her physically handicapped the rest of her life.
   Henriette, my maternal great-grandmother, had ten children and lived to be in her eighties, still working and living graciously.
   Anna, my maternal grandmother, came to America in her early seventies, by herself on a ship, to join her daughter.
  Johanna, my maternal aunt, joined a foreign church and changed my life forever.
  And on the far right, my mother, who lived through a war with her little boys while her husband fought. She later emigrated to America where she learned a new language and a new culture.
  How much do your children know and how strong is your family narrative?

  The Do You Know Scale
Please answer the following questions by circling "Y" for "yes" or "N" for "no." Even if you know the information we are asking about, you don't need to write it down. We just wish to know if you know the information. 

1. Do you know how your parents met?Y N
2. Do you know where your mother grew up?Y N
3. Do you know where your father grew up?Y N
4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?Y N
5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?Y N
6. Do you know where your parents were married?Y N
7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?Y N
8. Do you know the source of your name?Y N
9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?Y N
10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?Y N
11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?Y N
12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?Y N
13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?Y N
14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?Y N
15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?Y N
16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?Y N
17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?Y N
18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?Y N
19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?Y N
20. Do you know about a relative whose face "froze" in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?Y N
Score: Total number answered Y.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Comparing Paul to Mormon

While studying 2 Timothy 2, my Early Morning Guests compared the words of Paul, written to Timothy, and the words of Mormon, written to Moroni. The results were interesting and poignant.

2 Timothy 2- Moroni 9

Both men faced the end of their days.
Both men were physically and emotionally overwrought.
Both men were still serving God as a witness to Jesus Christ.
Both men feared for their fellow saints.
Both men were writing to their "sons".
Both men told their sons to stay true to Jesus Christ.
Both men gave wise advise to their "sons".
A widespread apostasy followed the lives of these men.

    Comparing the lives of scriptural men and women testifies of the continuous revelation given to all children of God who search after a testimony of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


After any health crisis I find I look back to habits I may have abandoned which brought long lasting benefits. One of those was juicing vegetables. I am back to gathering up my favorite bouquet and preparing the juicer.

I have more energy, over-all well being, and satisfaction when I juice. We are what we eat and I have learned that over the last year as I look back to the start of my weight-loss project one year ago.

                                                Why does juicing become burdensome?

 Rule number one: always wash the juicer parts immediately after juicing. While the juice nourishes the body, the clean juicer nourishes the mind. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Signing

Two weeks have past since surgery; recovery is officially over. It was time for an outing and I fulfilled a wish to drive north to see Jacqueline Winspear at Third Place Books. I was not disappointed. With charm and wit she talked about the spark that kindled the story for her latest "Leaving Everything Most Loved".

   She wondered her whole life why people left everything they loved to go to unknown places. Her aunt emigrated to Canada with young children and husband during the fifties when many left England, and other European countries to start over in a place of more opportunity. Asking her mother why they left, she was assured that it wasn't because they were unloved. She remembered receiving the airmail letters that sounded crinkly and thin. These would come from that far off place called Canada. At age four she started a fund to raise money to go visit. Eventually she went when she was nineteen. 
  I reflected on how my life was exactly the opposite. I was the little girl whose family left. We received the crinkly, thin airmail letters from grandparents and aunts. My dream was to go back to Silesia and see the homeland my father talked about.
    Another spark for her novel came from her childhood. There was an Indian woman who taught in her school who brought 30 saris and allowed each girl to wear one during class. Hers was peachy and the feeling of silk on her skin never left her memory.

   Someone asked her about her book cover illustrations. She is lucky to know the artist and collaborates with him on each book. When they both agree on the illustration, a woodcut is made and the prints come from his painted woodcut.
   The fact that Maisie is influenced by Eastern philosophy comes from the connection England has with India for the last hundred years. Yoga and meditation were not invented in California twenty years ago, according to Winspear.
  The mapping of each case came about because Jacqueline was recovering from a very dangerous fall off a horse during the writing of "Maisie Dobbs". She used over sized posted notes to map out her book and incorporated that concept.

 A phrase Winspear used to describe people who had time to come together to talk was the "chattering class". I looked around the bookstore and thought about the 200 plus people of the chattering class who were hanging out in a "third place" listening to an author. Some were playing chess on the floor, others eating in the food court. Most arriving by car and some by wheels, parking in the most ingenious bike rack.

  I am so glad  I went and am genuinely relieved to hear that number 10 is not her last "Maisie". She knows when they will end, but she is not telling. Next year she is releasing a book with a new subject, but the following year she will bring back the meditating, brave detective.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Picking Up Mail

   I do admire creative mailboxes along my rural road. Mine, however is plain green because I use it as a place to park my bike rather than a work of art.

Some mailboxes catch my eye because of the color, especial with surrounding flora and fauna.

                                                 Others are just darn cute and make me smile.

  Mailboxes can become the center of a larger work of art. I wish I could find a picture of my father's gnome sculpture which he placed on top of a stone pedestal. The gnome mailbox was part of a series of seven dwarfs he sculpted which he placed in different places in our yard. Can you believe that the gnome was stolen one night, pried off it's base. It must have weighed 100 pounds.

   I should ask my mailman if he enjoys delivering mail to the more creative folk in our neighborhood.

    I've started collecting some pictures of unique boxes to please my sense of the whimsical.

My brother was a mail carrier and I so enjoyed his stories about the people on his route. He knew a great deal about their lives from talking to them but also from the kinds of mail they received. There was a special bond he developed, often becoming the neighborhood watchman. 

    I still watch for my mail everyday and though 75% is junk I get excited for the occasional letter from family and friends. Maybe my blogger friend Diane is right. She invited us to try going back to the snail mail of yesteryear. Hmmm.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Textile Art

I live in a town of artists and musicians and our town does appreciate them. At The Hardware Store Restaurant Gallery there is a showing of textile artists.

The clothing highlights Nancy Sipple's beautiful needlework. I smocked the top of a girls dress once upon a time and I remember the painstaking time it took to finish the yoke.

These stuffed birds represent Henry the VIII and his wives. Each is wearing regal velvet and brocade.

This was my favorite. Embroidery on top of dyed background. In days past girls all learned these skills from their mothers We used our hands to darn socks and stockings, cherishing the careful, even stitch. The machine has replaced the work of our hands but it can never replace the beauty of the artist's touch.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Losing the State of Normal

  I am in recovery. I can't decide if it is a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength or the action of regaining somethings taken or stolen. Whichever definition is correct I am feeling both. This is week two of surgery recovery and I didn't anticipate that under anesthesia I would lose the ability to read my body.

    I am searching for the unencumbered, physical me behind the rubble of weakness and pain. I had signs of setback yesterday which prompted me to call my surgeon and wake her up to garner advice. She sleepily told me to go back to bed and wait for a few hours. Vulnerability is sitting in her office the next day waiting to be told I had messed up my progress. But, the truth turned out to be less dramatic. I was healing nicely. I just can't read my body through the medication.

  I have been between a rock and a hard place, a fragile spirit trying to buoy up a tired, harmed body. I have a history of exceeding my physical strength. Take the week after delivering my fourth child when I decided to go roller skating. That was me proving that I was invincible.  Now, almost sixty. I see that I am fallible and will need to be okay with that. I guess I always was fallible but just couldn't see what was true all along.

"Calm is a practice. Calm people are breathers. They ask questions like, do I have enough data to freak  out? And will freaking out be helpful?" Brene Brown

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Family Bakers

Baking is very popular in our family. To make a loaf of bread is a joy and an accomplishment.

                Gather up utensils and start the action. Easter braided bread was on the table Sunday.

     A cinnamon, lemon, sugar glaze was skillfully painted by the hand of the master baker.

                              And the finished product was light, yeasty, and perfect with the ham.

                                               Keep those fires burning and the buns rising, kids.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Today Is My Last Post

   I have finally seen the light and have come to the realization that writing a personal blog is a vain and self-centered time waster. Nothing good has come of this so without further adieu, I quit!