Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reflections on a Daughter of God

Today’s blog is one of reflection. Have you ever heard the quote, “If you want to hear the Lord laugh, tell Him what your plans are?” My daughter is getting married next week, and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect during my four months worth of late night sewing sessions. 21 years ago on May 28th we received a phone call telling us there was a blonde, blue-eyed, baby girl available for adoption in Romania.  They asked how soon we could get there. We were on a plane the next day at noon for one of the two weekly flights into Romania.  Our paperwork had to be submitted to the Romanian courts by June 1st as adoptions were shutting down permanently after that.

I had discovered two weeks before, that I was miraculously pregnant. We had been working for the previous nine months on our paperwork to adopt two children from Romania. Our oldest daughter was five at the time, and we had been trying to have more children with no hope of success. Interesting how so often when you focus on something else and choose to adopt, suddenly you discover you are pregnant! The next three weeks were full of miracle after miracle as we worked our way through and around the corrupt Romanian government adoption rules and regulations. I understand more fully why people kiss the ground of American soil when they return from foreign countries.  I knew what I was doing would be dangerous, but really had no idea how much danger it would truly be.  This was a time where the only thing I had to rely on was my Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his will for me, my unborn child, my new adopted child and my entire family.  I literally placed my life in His hands and prayed that I would be able to return home to be with my husband and daughter again in this life.  We were welcomed by a tank with the gun pointed at our plane and escorted off the plane by Romanian soldiers with machine guns in our backs.  That was just the beginning of a very interesting three week adventure, I am grateful to know I will never have to do again.  Each day we ran into major glitches that if not solved, would prevent the adoption.  As I think back, I believe there were legions of very busy angels softening hearts, and preparing the way for this tiny little strong spirited girl to have a chance to live.

We were there for a week before I was able to see her.  She was six weeks old and was the tiniest baby I’d held since being a candy stripe at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Jr. High.  I remember the skin just hanging off her bottom, as there was no fat on her little body at all.  She had the biggest blue eyes, with the longest dark eyelashes I’ve ever seen.  We call them “cow eyelashes” – that’s how long and beautiful they are.  When we got her home, the Dr.’s figured that she only weighed about two pounds at birth.  The past 21 years have been filled with the hardest challenges, as well as some of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced.

In the past seven years it seems that life has turned into hyper-speed! Trials, tribulations and struggles seem to be coming faster than we can handle at times. No one is immune.  I read an article the other day on how some people view Mormon moms.  It stereotyped us as “Happy women, with handsome husbands, kids that look like they came from GAP commercials; women who are stay-at-home moms to cook, clean, scrapbook, blog and appear to have the perfect life.”  Isn’t it funny how things appear on the surface, and people as a group are perceived?  Little do they know we struggle with everyday life just like everyone else.  Our marriages aren’t perfect, but we work on them daily and make it work.  It is sometimes difficult to LIKE the person that we LOVE, and vice versa.  Our kids don’t always grow up to fit the typical LDS mold of serving a full-time mission or even marrying in the temple.  Sometimes our stay-at-home world is rocked by an unstable economy and in order to keep things afloat, we have no choice but to go back to work in order to assist our husband in keeping a roof over the heads of our children. Just when you think you can’t do one more thing, you find out you have skin cancer . . . again (darn those baby oil, sizzling in the sun like bacon days of the 70’s), or need surgery to fix a medical issue you’ve been mysteriously plagued with for the past 19 years.  The medical bills have been part of the family budget for the past 21 years.  Your parents are getting older and you worry that you will be able to be there for them when the time comes.  You yearn to do all the things your heart desires.  Serve others daily, lighten someone’s heavy load, work and serve in the temple, do genealogy work, teach and enjoy your grand children, care and serve the ladies you Visit Teach, do the best job you can in your church calling, learn to do something new, finish old projects, go back to school and get your masters degree, the list goes on and on . . .

Mormon women are so hard on themselves. The quest to be perfect can be crippling at times. A wise friend once told me, “You can’t do all those things at the same time, it’s just not possible. You will have different seasons in your life to accomplish all that the Lord has in mind for you.  Just do the best you can with what you have today and the rest will all work out.”  The wonderful thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that you are NEVER alone.  He is with you ALWAYS.  Each trial that comes along has a way of refining us and making us stronger, if we are willing to accept the gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ to get us through these hard times.  When we come to the realization that WE are not the ones in charge of our lives, that our loving Father in Heaven is carefully guiding us along the narrow pathway back to Him, because he loves us and wants us to live with Him once again as we did before we came to this earth to be tried and tested.  When we accept and act upon these things, those lights at the end of the tunnel that turn out to be just another train are easier to handle. He knows we are not perfect and are not capable of achieving perfection on our own.  Through the sacrifice and atonement of our elder brother Jesus Christ, He made it possible for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father again someday.

As members of the Church, we have high expectations of ourselves. It is important to realize that we can only do so much, and as long as we’re doing the best we can do, the atonement will make up the difference in the end. By putting on the Armor of God every day we will be armed and ready for the hidden battles that will come our way each and every day.

Until next time,


Monday, May 21, 2012

Missionary Treats

Do you ever see the missionaries walking along the street or buying macaroni and cheese at the grocery store? Each time I see them I wonder about their mother’s, and how they are doing with their sons or daughters so far away from home with only weekly letters, if they’re lucky. A few years ago I wanted to teach my children to serve others, and so each time we saw the missionaries, I would pull over and have my kids give them each a $5 bill to buy a little treat. If we were at the store, sometimes I would buy their groceries if they were in line behind me, or just give them a little cash to buy a treat. I always hoped that some day when my own son was serving a mission that someone would do the same for him. 

LDS Mission Coins
Since I started working here at Symbols of Zion, I’ve started carrying some coins in my purse to hand out to any missionaries I see, especially since cash is not something that I carry a lot of anymore.  I love giving the missionaries one of our Armor of God coins, a Captain Moroni – Title of Liberty coin, or the missionary specific “Called to Serve” coin.  I encourage them to carry it with them, and that each time they look at it to be encouraged in the work they are doing and to remember to LDS Mission Gifts write home weekly.  I talk to so many wonderful Christian people on the phone each week as they order Armor of God coins, sometimes by the 100’s!  I have come to the realization that there are some incredibly amazing people in this world, and they are all out there doing good things to lift and brighten someone’s day.  So take the challenge each day to do something nice for someone – and if it happens to be a missionary, tell them to write home and thank their family for all the love and support they are giving them!

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stop It!

Out of all the talks from General Conference, President Uchtdorf’s definitely stands out as one of my favorites.  I know that as he asked the questions in his talk, I found myself guilty of at least a couple of them.  As a daily reminder for us to just be nice, be sure to get one of our new “STOP IT” key chains.  The quote from the bumper sticker is a classic, “Don’t judge me because I sin different than you.” 

About a year ago, we had a high councilor speak in Sacrament Meeting.  I know what you’re thinking . . . boring!  Actually it was one of the best talks I’ve ever heard.  He’s since been called as a Bishop.  He talked about how he had given himself a challenge to go one week without saying anything negative about anyone.  He said it had taken him six months to accomplish his goal.  Each time he caught himself being negative in any way, he told himself he would just “start over” and try again, until he actually accomplished his goal.  This included self-criticizing as well . . . wow, that’s a hard one! 

So here’s today’s challenge - just “STOP IT”!  Feel free to start over as many times as needed.  See if you can do this for a week.  I’d love to hear back from you on how you did.  I’m still starting over . . . maybe before six months is up I’ll be able to accomplish my goal too.

Take the challenge today and just “STOP IT”. 

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trek Preparation

Trek Keepsakes are an important part of trek. And it’s not too late to order yours today! Whether it’s a key chain, scripture pull, dog tag, pendant or coin, trek participants will treasure and cherish it each time they look at it and “Remember” the life changing experiences they felt on trek. I traveled with the Mormon Trail Wagon Train as a licensed vendor back in 1997. At a planning meeting, I remember President Hinckley talking to the licensed vendors regarding things for participants and visitors to purchase. He said, “Let them buy a little trinket to remind them of the things they experienced. It will be something they will always cherish.”

Symbols of Zion is the LDS retail division of SymbolArts. We have produced many things for Church Distribution for years. Symbols of Zion can help you with custom made keepsakes, or you can receive quantity discounts on stock items. We can help you design a logo that can be used on your custom trek keepsake as well as all your trek handouts, flags, posters, etc. Give me a call and I’d be happy to meet with you if you’d like to talk about custom or stock keepsakes, they are more affordable than you think.

Make sure you’re walking every day, getting plenty of rest, and are beginning to increase your daily intake of water!

Good luck with your trek preparations!

Until next time,
Les J

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Gratitude

This is so true . . . I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my mom.  She wasn’t perfect, but no one is, we are all human.  As my mother, I know she did the best job she could.  I know she has done, and would do anything within her power to help me be the best person I can be.  She loved me, believed in me, supported me, and taught me so many things!  She taught me how to sew, how to cook (wish I would have paid more attention to that one), how to clean (you could eat off her toilet seat at any given time), I owe her so much.  She was my biggest cheerleader!  I will never be able to repay her, but I will always honor her and be grateful for the many sacrifices she made in my behalf.  I hope to live my life so that when she is gone, I won’t have any regrets.

Thanks mom, I love you,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Blessings

I read an article in Meridian Magazine today and it said, “The kitchen table in our home is a special place. Although the table is but a physical object, it is the Spirit in my mother's heart that makes it sacred.”  This article reminded me of the kitchen tables in my own life. 

Our first kitchen table was given to us as a gift from my husband’s parents.  It was sturdy and withstood the daily pounding of three children and their friends for nearly 25 years.  That was the time when honey colored oak was the preferable wood in home décor, along with country blue, mauve, ducks on your wallpaper and matching ceramic kitchen canisters – yes it was the height of home décor in the 80’s.  I crawled under it one day, just before we moved, to discover the entire bottom of it was covered with children’s artwork . . . all done in permanent magic marker!  The kids held their breath and thought they were going to be in trouble, but I loved what I saw.  The names of their cousins and signatures were there as well. We still have that first table, and it will soon be covered with a beautiful pink woven ribbon tablecloth, to hold our last daughter’s wedding cake at her reception.  I will never be able to part with it or the memories it holds.   

When we moved to our new home 5 years ago, our family had grown and we needed more space so that everyone could sit at the same table.  It became my quest to find the perfect square table for the kitchen nook.  None of the new tables had the feeling and spirit I was looking for.  One day I drove past an antique store in Salt Lake City and it seemed my car just turned into the small parking lot on its own.  I wasn’t even shopping for a table that day.  I walked into a very large warehouse filled to the brim with the most amazing antiques I had ever seen.  There were so many rooms and floors I worried I might get lost!  As I walked into a new room, there it was, the table of my dreams – and yes it was oak.  Not the oak of the 80’s, but rather quarter-sawn oak from the old country that had the patina to show its beauty and age.  I asked the price and swallowed my tongue, but there was so question, I HAD to have that table. 

I put it on layaway, and made monthly payments on it for a year, thank goodness the economy hadn’t quite hit us yet.  I made the last payment just about the time the bottom fell out of the economy and my husband’s commission checks stopped abruptly.  When I confessed that I had been paying on a table for over a year, he was a little upset with me, however, when the table was delivered, all was forgiven.  Even through the hard times of the past four years, he has said to me many times, “I Love That Table!  I’m so glad you got it!”  It truly is the heart of our home.   It’s as if it were built specifically for the place where it sits. 

We have enjoyed many meals with family and friends at this table.  The thick turned legs are strong and sturdy, the top is magic as it folds out at both ends to accommodate all of our family members, and then folds back to the perfect size for daily use.  My husband sits there each morning for his daily scripture study; we play games there together – sometimes just the two of us.  I can’t help but wonder the stories that old table could tell if it could talk.  I have even imagined that quite possibly, the owners could have been some of our ancestors from England who sold it to make their way here to the Salt Lake Valley.  I imagine a faithful wife and mother wiping it down for the last time as it was taken away, the broom set in the corner, and she walks with her family boarding the ship “Horizon” to make the long voyage, and begin a new life here in America.

I have learned through the years that temporal things can also be spiritual things, and I believe that kitchen tables fit this category.  With Mother’s Day on Sunday, my hope and wish is that you take the time to sit at your mother’s kitchen table, or your own kitchen table, and reflect on the blessings of mothers, family, friends and a place to renew lifelong relationships – the kitchen table.

Until next time,
~ Les

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Daily Devotional

In January, my Relief Society President announced that she would be coming to visit each woman in the ward with a short message, and asked that we sign up for a day and time in the Relief Society Binder that is passed around each week.

When she came to my home, she expressed her love for me, and I could tell she really meant it.  She then proceeded to tell me that she had been praying to find a way to help the sisters in the ward on a daily basis.  She then presented me with a laminated card to post somewhere in my home, and encouraged me to read it every day.  As Relief Society sisters, we receive handouts and cute little crafty things quite often.  This particular handout was very plain and simple – the beauty came with what was written on it.  On the front it read:


 Go to a quiet place in your home.

 Kneel & call upon Heavenly Father.  Talk with Him in prayer.

 Wait for His inspiration while pondering the scriptures or a recent conference address & thinking about problems you face.

On the back it read:


To feel the love of God more powerfully in your life.

To feel more in tune with His Spirit.

To have the heavens open to you daily.

I keep this in my bathroom and read it each morning as I get ready for work.  I use the half hour drive each morning to pray to my Heavenly Father.  I know I’m not able to kneel, however I had a Stake President who once told us that’s what he did each morning on his way to work.  I began doing the same thing when I started working as I found it was the only time I had totally to myself each day.  I turn the radio off and have my morning conversation with the Lord.  I find when I do this, my day goes much better.  When I don’t there is a stark difference.  He knows who we are, He knows us by name, we are His children, He loves us and wants us to be happy.

Try it, and see if it makes a difference in your life.

Take care,