Christmas Stories Books

As the Christmas season rolled around last year I found myself trying to think of something that I could make or get for friends and family that would be both meaningful and relatively inexpensive.  I decided I didn’t want to stress over making a treat as I lack culinary genius.  As I thought through some Christmas-y things I remembered a Christmas tradition my family had for years.  Many years ago my Grandma Shana made a book with a different Christmas story for each of the days in December leading up to Christmas and gave it to our family.  Every night from December 1 through Christmas Eve we would gather around the Christmas tree in our pajamas and listen to one of these stories and get in the Christmas spirit.  It’s one of my very favorite Christmas traditions and one that I was excited to share with my family.

I decided to find a similar Christmas book and get it printed.  I figured with the internet it would be really easy to find something like what my grandma had made for us and be done with the project with relatively little effort.  I was right, except I forgot to factor in one small detail – I’m a picky person with gifts I give.  I had a few requirements that none of the books I found could match.  I wanted to avoid copyrighted material as much as possible and focused on Christ and the spirit of giving and family more than presents and Santa Claus.  I was also pretty picky about having a book where all of the fonts/capitalization etc were in the same style and free of spelling errors.  Almost every book I found had at least one story that was photocopied from a newspaper clipping or a magazine, or had stories in completely different fonts, or weird page breaks, or poor spelling.  My last qualification was the one that was completely impossible to meet.  A few years ago Elder Eyring gave a Christmas Devotional talk where he related the story of their nativity play which included Samuel the Lamanite and the events in the Americas.  I really liked the idea of including these events in the nativity play I did with my family and wanted to find a copy of the Christmas story that combined both the events in the New Testament and those in the Book of Mormon.  I found a few renditions that were put into colloquial speech and made into a play script, but I really just wanted to have the scriptures from both stories combined into an easy to read, single story with minimal extra narration.

So, after failing to find what I was looking for I finally decided to just build it myself.  As Sam would only nap on my lap at the time I moved my rocking chair in front of the TV and hooked my laptop up to the huge monitor and used our wireless keyboard and mouse to work the book while Sam would sleep on my lap.  I don’t remember exactly when I started, but I think it was pretty close to the beginning of December.  It took me right up until Christmas Eve to finish off putting the books together exactly how I wanted them.  But in the end I was very pleased with the results.

So, since I put so much time and effort into these books I figured I ought to share them with everyone.  I’ve attached the files for both Microsoft Publisher and Adobe PDF for those of you who might not have Publisher.  Feel free to make changes to fit your needs, but please give credit back to me and include the URL to my site somewhere in the book. If you to change the stories that are in your personal collection please note that the table of contents and page numbers are not automatically generated, so you will need to go back and manually update the page numbers at the bottom of the pages as well as the titles and page numbers in the table of contents.  All of the graphics in this book come from Precious Moments’ free clip art collection.  The stories all come from different sources but I tried to list those sources and give credit as much as I could find them.

You are free to print these and distribute them to your friends as Christmas presents or just print one for your own use.  I printed mine and just put them in 3 ring binders like these ones.  Although if you’re going to do a lot it might be more economical to invest in a comb binding machine and buying a bunch of comb binders and bind them up that way.  I was surprised at how quickly the cost of binders added up!

I have really put a lot of time and effort into getting this collection to be as close to perfect as I could.  If you notice any errors or have any suggestions for improvements *please* post them in the comments below.

Christmas Stories – Adobe PDF Format
Christmas Stories – Microsoft Publisher Format

Technology and Gospel Study

I’m giving a presentation tonight in Relief Society about how we can use technology to enhance our studies of the scriptures.  While preparing for this I came across a TON of awesome resources that I think could benefit anyone trying to get more out of their scripture study, or even just finding time to do it!  So I decided rather than printing off a pretty handout that most people would lose or forget or just throw away I’d post the things I’d found on my blog where not only the sisters in our ward could see them but also anyone else who could use this information.

Many people say that technology shouldn’t change the way we study the scriptures and that these new things will never replace a good old pen and paper and a hard copy of the scriptures.  They may be right, but in my personal opinion, the way we use the scriptures will be, and ought to be, changed because of the technology we’ve been blessed with.  The church has provided us with countless incredible resources that allow us to make better use of the scriptures than ever before.  Even if you don’t ever intend to abandon your hard copies of the scriptures, you should be aware of the ways you can be using the electronic resources to help you in your scripture study.

What things can I use to help me with my study of the scriptures?

The technology that can help us with our scripture study is everywhere and on so many different platforms.  Your computer, cell phone, mp3 players, iPad, Kindle and many many other devices can all help make your scripture study more convenient and meaningful.

But all of this technology is too expensive!

It’s true that there are many technologies that are still cost prohibitive.  Kindles, iPads and other eBook readers are still emerging technologies and it will be a few years before they are at a price point that most people can afford.  Similarly while smart phones are becoming more affordable it will still be awhile before they are everywhere.  However, mp3 players can now be found for less than $20!  Most people already have a computer in their homes anyways.  If you have a computer you can make use of most of the resources out there.  Plus, with the exception of one program on this list every single one of the services I list below is absolutely free.  So don’t let perceived price restrictions keep you from making the best use of the resources available!

What’s a podcast and how do I use it?

Podcasts are like a radio programs that you can download and listen at any time.  They are updated on a regular basis with new content.  The advantage of a podcast is that you can set up a program like iTunes or Juice to automatically download new episodes when they become available.  You can then listen to the programs on your computer or load them onto an mp3 player so you can listen to them on the go.

What’s an RSS feed and how do I use it?

RSS feeds are similar to magazine articles, except in electronic format.  Instead of receiving a physical paper magazine however you will have to use what’s called a “feed reader” to receive the new articles.  My favorite feed reader is Google Reader because it seamlessly integrates with a lot of other services that I use.  To use Google Reader simply create an account with Google and then go to the Google Reader page.  You can then subscribe to feeds you wish to follow by clicking the “Subscribe” button and entering in the URL of the feed you wish to follow.  If you use Firefox you can also click the “add to google reader” button when you are at a feed you wish to follow.  Once you’ve done that you can read any updates to the sites you wish to follow by visiting Google Reader and all of the new articles will be there ready for you to read!

How do I create my own blog?

Depending on your level of comfort with computers I would recommend either Blogger or WordPress.  Blogger is extremely simple to use but has limited functionality, whereas WordPress is what this site is built on.  It is extraordinarily powerful and still very simple to use.  All you need to do is go to either one of those sites, create an account, and start writing!  You can then share the link to your new blog with friends, family or whoever you would like.  You can also mark your blog as private so that only you can view the things you write.  It’s totally up to you!

Study Resources

These are resources that will help you to study the gospel.  They range from the simple to the complex and everywhere in between.

  • Scriptures online: All of the standard works are available online.  From here you can search the scriptures, read specific chapters, even use it to listen to chapters online!  – http://scriptures.lds.org/ (if you want to see the newer version of the online scriptures you can also see that here – https://beta.lds.org/scriptures?lang=eng)
  • Scripture study helps – http://scriptures.lds.org/en/helps/contents
  • General Conference: All of the general conference talks are available online, now within 4 hours of being broadcast!  You can get the text, audio or video from this website – https://beta.lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng
  • Institute manuals: The Church has provided the manuals for the Institute classes online for you to read.  These are very helpful if you want to gain a deeper understanding of different gospel topics – http://institute.lds.org/courses/
  • BYU Free Independent Study courses: BYU has provided a number of free online classes that you can take, and many of them are scripturally based.  While these won’t get you any credit towards a degree they can help you to have a more structured and deeper study of the scriptures. – http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/personalenrichment.cfm
  • Seminary website: This website contains many great resources for seminary students and their parents, including manuals, study guides, reading charts and even tools to help you learn the scripture masteries! (my mom has been a seminary teacher for the past several years and she is a huge proponent for the method that they use to help learn scripture masteries) – http://seminary.lds.org/
  • Mobile Applications: If you have a mobile phone, iPad, Kindle etc this site will help you find the church created tools to put these technologies to use helping you study your scriptures.  – https://beta.lds.org/tools/mobile-apps?lang=eng
  • Subscriptions: The church puts out many podcasts, RSS feeds and email newsletters that are uplifting and informative.  You can find a full list of them here  – http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&vgnextoid=cdd1f9bd8b7d4110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD

Sharing and Note taking Resources

The best part about reading your scriptures is the cool insights you gain into the gospel.  But once you have those insights what do you do with them?  I personally don’t like marking scriptures with colors because I find it gives me a bias when I’m reading through the next time and I’m more likely to just remember old insights rather than gain new ones.  But everyone has their own style.  Here are some ways you can record and share the insights you gain with different tools.

  • Online markable scriptures: I haven’t used this personally but if you are looking for a way to have an electronic, markable set of scriptures I have seen this site come highly recommended – http://www.dearscriptures.com/
  • Google Documents: One of my friends noted that she uses Google Documents to share thoughts on scriptural topics with her husband.  It helps them have a place to record their thoughts when they have scripture study so they have them for later without making their scriptures messy, and it lets them collaborate on their topics – http://docs.google.com
  • Microsoft OneNote: If you want a great program to help you organize your notes I highly recommend OneNote.  It allows you to create different notebooks with sections for taking notes.  For example you could create a notebook that was called “Doctrine and Covenants” and then inside that notebook have a section for thoughts on Joseph Smith, and another section that had places the pioneers went.  Whatever helps you to keep things organized so you can find them later – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/
  • Blogging: My preferred method for taking notes on my scripture study is to post about them in my blog.  It makes it so that I can search for my thoughts later, and share them with other people.  It’s a great missionary tool and it can help other friends have things to ponder on.  My mom and I have had many many conversations about things I have posted in my blog that have helped her with seminary lessons or other things she’s dealing with.  Plus, I get feedback from her, and anyone else who chooses to comment on the things that I write. – http://blogger.com or http://wordpress.com or http://LDSJournal.com
  • Facebook: Similar to writing a blog you could also post your thoughts as a note on Facebook.  Although, my preferred method is to write my thoughts in a blog and then import those blog posts as notes on facebook.  It just gives you another way to share with other people and get their input and insights as well – http://facebook.com
  • Twitter: For those of you who are unfamiliar with twitter it is a relatively stupid service that allows you to post 140 character posts to your friends and the world on whatever topic you choose.  However, as stupid as it is, I really have fun using it.  One of the best uses I have found for twitter is to help me take notes during General Conference.  I like posting the quotes that I found and like with the tag #ldsconf and then follow the #ldsconf tag.  Anyone on twitter who is watching conference and wants to participate in the conversation can follow that tag and add their own input.  One of the really cool things during this last conference was that the #ldsconf tag was trending (meaning it was one of the top 10 topics on twitter at the time) which meant that there  were hundreds of people sharing their thoughts on conference with the world, and members and non-members alike had a chance to see what was being taught by our leaders. – http://twitter.com
  • ScriptureLog for WordPress: This is a plugin that I found for WordPress that allows users to basically install the scriptures on their blog and then make notes as comments that they can share with others.  I really like the concept but it’s not quite what I’d like.  I’m hoping that a future modification will allow for me to make a separate blog post and then just associate that post with the scriptures that I choose.  Someday when I have more time (which is probably not for about 20 years or so) I’d really like to make that modification so that I could use this plugin myself.  It’s really well thought out and very cool. – http://scripturelog.com/download/

Multimedia Resources

These are all resources that you can either listen to or watch to help you with your gospel study.  The best part about listening to scriptures and scripture discussions is that you can do it while you do the dishes 🙂

  • Audio scriptures, church magazines etc: The church has a HUGE number of audio programs that are available from their website.  This includes the full version of the scriptures, General Conference, the church magazines, Jesus the Christ, and some church music. – http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html
  • The Mormon Channel: There are other uplifting programs that the church produces that are available to stream, download or subscribe to that are played on the Mormon Channel.  – http://radio.lds.org/eng/
  • Scriptures as a Podcast: This is another service I have yet to use myself, but basically you can create your own customizable podcast that will send you the audio version of the scriptures you’d like to study each day so that you can listen to them without having to look them up or find what you’re looking for.  Very cool. – http://www.scripturespodcast.org/Main.asp
  • BYU Broadcasting: Everything that is broadcast on any of the BYU TV or radio channels  is available on their website.  You can download a lot of the programs or watch them online – http://www.byub.org/
  • Mormon Messages: Each week the church creates and posts an inspiring video on YouTube.  I have to be careful when I watch them because I always feel the Spirit and end up crying.  They are incredibly well done and very inspiring.  You can subscribe to their feed in a feed reader so that you see the updates automatically – http://www.youtube.com/user/MormonMessages

Lesson Preparation Helps

I’m not going to write something about each of these since they are all pretty similar in what they provide.  There are a lot of lesson ideas, crafts, handouts, art, reading charts, relief society activities, coloring pages, scripture games, fhe lessons… you name it on these websites.  They are incredible resources to have whether you’re a mom or a teacher or just a member of the church 🙂  A word of caution with them though, while they have fantastic lesson plans already put together they should be always used as supplements to your preparation with prayer and study, not as a replacement for the spiritual preparation.

If you have any other resources that you think I should add to these lists or other information that you think would be helpful for people seeking to use technology to enhance their scripture study please leave me comments below!

Mononucleosis

So I was thinking the other day about an experience in my life that I haven’t ever journaled about or really written about at all… because I was too tired at the time to do so.  That experience was having mono.  Even though it was a couple years ago I still feel like I ought to get it down in writing.  So if you only want to know current stories about me and my family feel free to skip this post 🙂

So we need to jump back to the beginning of January 2007 – it was the beginning of a new semester, and (more importantly) just a few weeks after Eric and I had gotten engaged.  We were enjoying spending time together and getting to know each other even better every day.  We had decided to take one of our General Education classes together – MCOM 320: Written Business Communication.  I remember the first day we went to that class I was pretty excited because our teacher was Sue Boothe.  Sue was the wife of Randy Boothe – the director of the Young Ambassadors – and since I’d been on the YA tech crew for 3 1/2 years at that point I’d traveled all over the world with Sue and spent many evenings at her house for firesides.

Anyways, because Eric and I had dated for… less than an exceptionally long time… Sue hadn’t yet met Eric and I was really excited to introduce her to the wonderful man I had chosen to marry.  Unfortunately, that first day of class Eric was sick.  He had a sore throat and a headache, and wasn’t exactly his most cheerful and charming self.  Not to say that he wasn’t pleasant, just tired, sick and not really wanting to be in class that night.  So, it wasn’t quite the first impression I was hoping for, but there are worse things than that.  Of course, since I was around Eric every so often (read: every possible second we could manage) I came down with the same thing in very little time.  It didn’t bother me too much since my main symptom was a sore throat and I get sore throats fairly frequently as a result of allergies.  So, it wasn’t pleasant, but nothing that I couldn’t handle.

Of course, the end of that week also happened to be when we had scheduled to do our engagement pictures with Rhett Olson (Eric’s brother-in law), and we were both sick.  It also happened to be THE coldest day ever… and we were taking our pictures outside.  But since we knew that the semester was only going to get busier, and we didn’t want to reschedule, we decided to do it that Saturday anyways.  So, if you’ve ever thought that we looked less than entirely our best in those pictures, that’s why.  It was freezing cold, and we were both pretty sick.  I think though that Rhett did an awesome job with the subjects we gave him 🙂

A couple weeks went by and Eric was doing well, but I still hadn’t been able to kick this sickness.  In fact, I’d gotten worse and the glands under my neck were pretty swollen.  So I finally decided it was time to head to the Student Health Center and get myself checked out.  I went in on a Tuesday morning without making an appointment, which was probably a mistake.  I think I waited for at least a couple hours.    Finally the doctor called me in and checked me out.  After listening to my descriptions and feeling my glands and generally checking things out, she decided that she wanted me to go get tested for mono and gave me the paperwork to take to the lab.  This meant that I had to walk out of the clinic, down the hall to the lab and voluntarily get stuck with a needle.  Oh. Yeah. Right.  If you aren’t already aware I have a severe phobia of needles, so I don’t exactly have the capacity to walk myself into a lab to get blood work done.  I tried to be obedient and walked right down to the lab…. and past it, out the door and back to my car.

From there I called my mom and explained to her my situation.  She’d been through this many times with me and understood exactly how severe the problem was.  I really wanted to call Eric up to come with me, but I felt like a complete wuss to make him come watch me have a tiny prick.  It took me swallowing a bit of pride before I actually called him and explained what was going on and asked him to come help me.  Of course, being the awesome guy he is, Eric came up to go with me, even though he was in the middle of a busy day.  Unfortunately, by the time he came up, the Health Center was closed for devotional.  Dang it!  And Eric had class immediately after devotional.  However, he decided that we could go back to his place, watch devotional, and then he’d take me up to the clinic and be late to his next class.  Any wonder I decided once again that he was a keeper?

So, that’s what we did.  Luckily having Eric there gave me the courage I needed to actually walk into the lab this time, and between him holding my hand and the nurse being super awesome at trying to distract me from the needle I was able to narrowly avoid passing out!  We got me back to full consciousness (I did say narrowly avoid passing out, I still came pretty close which takes a little bit of recovery) and Eric went on his way to his class and I went back to the doctor’s office for the follow up with the test results.

When the doctor called me back in she said they’d wondered what had happened to me since the test was supposed to be super quick, and I didn’t come back.  I felt bad about leaving, but I hadn’t had the guts to tell them what was going on at the time because… well I’m a big fat chicken and I didn’t want to do it.  If I’d told her she’d have probably just had some one march me into the lab and get the work done, which would have been effective, but not something I was going to make happen.

Anyways, the test results had come back negative for mono.  So I was expecting the doctor to say that she suspected it was something else, but basically she just said that she thought the test was a false negative and that she thought I had mono anyways.  She instructed me to take lots of ibuprofen and get as much sleep as possible.  I left the health center a bit dumbfounded at the whole experience.  So… the test said I don’t have mono, but we’re going to pretend that I do anyways?  Why did I even have to go through that whole ordeal of being stuck with a needle if we were going to ignore the test results anyways?!  * grumble *

I decided the doctor was basically a hack.  But, since she hadn’t found anything really wrong with me I didn’t pursue it any further and took her advice of taking ibuprofen and getting more sleep.  After a week or so the swelling in my glands had gone down and my other symptoms had pretty well subsided so I figured it was just a cold that took me awhile to kick.

However as the semester continued I kept feeling really tired all the time.  I wasn’t taking a very intensive class load – 12 credit hours, only 3 of which were taking me much effort. I’d attempted 21 credits in a previous semester, so 12 was nothing.  Furthermore, it wasn’t that I was feeling really tired after long weeks where we’d had YA shows or midterms or anything intensive – I felt tired after getting 10 hours of sleep at night consistently.  It was really weird.

So I brought it up to my mom and she said that I was probably just under emotional stress from being engaged.  That this was a pretty huge transition and that because it was emotionally stressful it transferred to the physical side of me as well making me super tired.  That made sense, except that I wasn’t feeling emotionally stressed at all.  In fact, I knew without a doubt that marrying Eric was the right decision and I only wished that it was June so that we could be married already.  I didn’t *feel* emotionally stressed, but decided maybe it was a more subconscious thing, and it was the best explanation I had at my disposal so I decided to go with it.

So I spent that semester trying to allow myself to get as much rest as I needed and kept things low-stress.  Most weeks this meant (unfortunately for Eric) that at the end of the week when we were ready to watch a movie I didn’t have the brain power to really watch anything other than chick flicks or other low-brain power movies.  Luckily Eric was awesome and agreed to watch these inane movies with me to keep me happy.  Since we got married I think he’s been pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoy shows like Firefly, or movies like Sherlock Holmes.  When I’m not too tired I can really get into a good action film or a show with a mind bending plot line.  I remember feeling so bad at the time that I was making Eric acquiesce to my movie choices each week, but I really just felt so drained that I just thinking about watching an intensive movie at the time made me tired.

So, that’s how the semester continued, low stress, lots of sleep, taking the best care of myself I could manage.  Finally the end of the semester came and it was time for me to head on tour with the Young Ambassadors to China!  I wasn’t thrilled to be leaving Eric but I was really excited for tour.  I’d worked hard for 3 years to become the YAs Stage Manager and I was really looking forward to giving that role my all while we were in China and really proving that I could handle it.

Unfortunately… I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked to.  As the tour went on I really was trying to push myself and give it 100% but I felt like I was in a fog.  I was super tired (not unexpected on tour, but in retrospect, I was probably more tired than I should have been) and just not able to get through things real clearly.  I don’t think I caused any catastrophes, but I just wasn’t completely there, and Matt Schetselaar (our former stage manager and a technical advisor/resident Chinese translator for the tech crew on this tour) definitely had to pick up a lot of my slack.  I thought that it was probably because I was missing Eric and kept trying to tell myself to pull it together and make the most of the experience.  The worst moment was when everything wasn’t going really well and I finally snapped at our costumer after she’d been late getting back to the bus.  I don’t even remember what I said now, but I just remember that I was pretty nasty in what I said.  I still feel really bad to this day that I snapped at her.  I don’t think it was entirely her fault, but I think I was feeling like I was doing a lousy job and I took it out on her that day.  Becca, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure I apologized before, but I’m really sorry I lost my cool with you.  It’s one of the moments that I truly regret.

Finally towards the last week of tour I noticed that the glands on my neck were getting swollen again.  As the end of tour grew closer they were getting bigger and bigger.  It was weird, but since it had happened earlier in the semester I wasn’t too worried and I was pretty sure it wasn’t mono.  It was just something that my body apparently did to fight off infection.

Well, the end of tour came and my mom picked me up at the airport in Los Angeles.  We gave each other hugs and packed my suitcase in the car and started back home.  While we were driving I mentioned my swollen glands again and my mom reached over to feel them.  Her response was something to the effect of “holy cow!”  She was a little bit stunned that I’d been writing them off as no big deal since they were about the size of golf balls and hard as could be.  She made an appointment for me to go in to the doctor’s the next day.  Of course, the only doctor I had back home was the pediatrician that I’d had since I was 10, but they agreed to see me anyways.

The doctor ordered me to go get tested for mono again.  Ick.  But, I’d made it through that ok before and so off I went with my mom to the lab to get tested.  I didn’t really like the lab much to begin with, and I can’t really say exactly why.  The nurse there didn’t exactly make me feel comfortable either, but I really was trying to tell myself it would be no big deal and that I’d be out of there in no time.  It was finally my turn and the nurse got one of those big rubber band things to tie on my arm to help her find my veins.  I don’t know why but those things really creep me out big time.  I think I made it through her cleaning my arm and probably pulling out the needle… and then I was gone.  Like, really gone.  I passed out worse than I had ever passed out before or than I have ever passed out since.  I really wasn’t sure if I was dead, it was not a good experience at all.

When I came back to (after several smelling salts) I thought that at least it was all over and I didn’t have to do that again.  Then they revealed to me that they hadn’t taken my blood yet because I passed out before the needle had really gone in and I was shaking so bad while I was passed out that they couldn’t get a needle in me while I was out.  When I heard that I lost it.  I just broke down crying because that passing out experience had been so awful… and it had been for nothing.  They still had to do it again.  My mom took me back out to the waiting room to get a grip on myself.  I just sobbed uncontrollably for awhile before she decided that we’d just go home and try again some other time.  Apparently she could tell from how I looked while I was passed out that it had been a particularly bad episode and she wasn’t keen on going through that again either.

The next day we pulled out all the stops.  My doctor prescribed some Xanax for me, we made sure that when I went into the lab there was no waiting time for me to psych myself out and Eric was on the phone with me the whole time.  Finally I was able to make it through the whole process without passing out.

When the doctor called me with the results I was actually surprised to find that they had come back positive for mono.  So that hack doctor at the Student Health Center had been right all along!  She wasn’t a hack, the test really did come back as a false negative, but she’d known better than to make me go through being tested again.  Since I had pretty well followed her prescription of resting all semester the sickness hadn’t really reared its ugly head again until I didn’t have time to take care of myself on tour.  Who’d have thought?

Sidenote: In case you were wondering, I figured out a year or so later why my passing out episode was so bad that time.  Because the mono had taken over my system pretty well at that point I wasn’t getting as much oxygen to my system as I needed.  This made it so I was much more susceptible to passing out in the first place, and didn’t help me recover quickly either.  It’s good that I figured that out because the experience tripped me out pretty bad and made it exceptionally difficult for me to go in and get any bloodwork done the next time it was necessary

So the next couple weeks leading up to the wedding I spent mostly sleeping.  This really bugged me at the time.  I’d never wanted to be the kind of bride that left everyone else to do everything and just showed up at the last minute expecting it to be perfect.  But I didn’t have much choice.  My mom was so awesome to plan most of the wedding since we were getting married in California and I was in Utah or China up until just the two weeks before the wedding.  Then when I finally was physically there to help, I slept while people ran circles around me downstairs.  I cried over my lack of participation more than once, but in the end I mostly just felt super loved.  It was amazing to me to see all the friends and family that I had that were willing to put their time and energy into my wedding, while I just laid around and slept.  Like when I’d come down because I wanted to help chop vegetables instead of nap, Sister Smith would shoo me right back upstairs to get more sleep.  There were countless people there that I could name who pitched in to make that day wonderful for me, while I slept that whole week away.  I can’t even describe how grateful I feel for the selflessness and caring of all those wonderful people I have in my life.

So the wedding day came and it really was a beautiful and perfect day, I couldn’t possibly have asked for anything more.  My glands were swollen up ginormously, but we never did get a picture of just how bad they were.  Rhett once again did an incredible job of taking pictures that didn’t make me look like Frankenstein.  I’m not sure if it was just the positioning he had us in or if he did some magic with Photoshop but you really can’t tell.  I should have taken a picture though for posterity, oh well 😛

So, from there on out I at least knew what was going on with me.  Eric and I had a wonderfully relaxing honeymoon.  He unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) got sick right after our wedding as well so we spent the first week just hanging out at the hotel and being bums.  We watched movies and just laid around all day, which was pretty wonderful to just be able to spend time together with nothing pressing to do and a good excuse to stay put.  From there we went to a Hansen Family reunion, which was really fun.  We were able to still take it pretty easy and get plenty of sleep and I finally got a chance to really know all the wonderful people in Eric’s family.

After the reunion we completed our honeymoon in Paris.  After taking 5 years of French going to France was definitely a dream of mine and I was super excited to go.  I don’t know that we really took the best advantage of our time there however.  We never even truly changed to their timezone since I was still so dependant on my sleep.  We would sleep in until the afternoon and then go out and see some of the city and then come back to our hotel and stay up until late at night.  But I thought it was awesome.  It was so freeing to be that far away from everything with my husband and just have that time together.  We were able to see all the things that we really wanted to, and we had some really cool experiences that I’ll never forget.

Then it was home and back to real life.  After about a couple weeks of being home I was feeling pretty good, but probably not up for what I had in store next.  I’d been casually searching for jobs, knowing that I was going to be a counselor for YASE for two weeks out of July and didn’t really want to be working two jobs that week.  However, on the first day of YASE I had an interview at Axis41 and they wanted me to start immediately.  So I spent two weeks of waking up in the morning, getting my girls up and ready for breakfast, sending them to their activities for the day, racing home to Eric to quickly shower and dressing in more professional attire, driving to Salt Lake City, working at Axis41 until 3:30pm, hopping back in the car, driving home again, changing back into camp counselor-ing attire, going to all of the evening activities with my girls, and then staying up all night doing camp stuff (and by camp stuff I think I mean talking to Lexie).  Yeah, with mono.  It was an insane couple of weeks.  But somehow at the end of it I wasn’t dead and I had even secured the position at Axis41, where I still work to this day.

After that, life was more manageable.  I kept myself on as low key of a schedule as I could to avoid any flare ups of mono.  I’m not entirely sure when I really “got better” from having mono.  I was taking a birth control at the time that also made me tired, and when I finally got off that I started to feel better.  But of course, then I got pregnant and now I don’t know that I will ever not feel tired until we’re done having kids, and those kids are out of the house.  Maybe having mono was just supposed to get me in the practice of simplifying my life, taking care of myself, and just being tired 😛

Visiting Teaching Message – The Sacrament

With all the craziness of traveling and being sick this month I once again missed the chance to go see my visiting teachers.  Oops.  Luckily, the end of the month isn’t until tomorrow so I have one last shot to get in touch with my sisters before it’s July.  So, since this coincides with a plethora of brown bananas in my freezer I’ve made those bananas into banana chocolate chip bread (seriously, that’s the best recipe I’ve found for banana bread, you should try it) which is currently in the oven and now I’m working on putting together my thoughts for my sisters right now.  I figured as long as I was doing it I might as well make a blog post out of it so that I can have it later too.

This month’s message is about the sacrament.  I love this topic because it’s something we do every single week, but sometimes we might miss the importance of what we’re doing.  The most pointed part of the message to me was the scripture in 3 Nephi 18:10, the beginning of the chapter talks about the institution of the sacrament among the Nephites.  After they’ve taken the sacrament for the first time Jesus explains to them what they’ve done –

And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. (emphasis added)

I really liked that it says that by taking the sacrament we show that we are willing to keep the commandments.  It doesn’t mean that we will perfectly keep them 100% of the time; in fact that’s the whole point of taking the sacrament every single week.  We won’t be perfect from week to week, but each week we have the chance to sit down and say “I know I’m not perfect, but I want to be and I’m going to work my hardest and try my best to be like Christ in all that I do and say.”  By partaking of the sacrament and accepting the Atonement our shortcomings are made up for.  What a great blessing!

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the sacrament as being for things that have already passed.  Like in the Catholic Church where they talk about requiring their “last sacrament” to wipe away any sins that they might have committed since the last time they’d been in church.  I don’t think that’s the way God works.  I can’t imagine that if you were to die suddenly on a Saturday night you’re so much worse off than if you’d died on Sunday right after church – that doesn’t seem like the loving and just Heavenly Father that we have.  Instead I like to think of the sacrament as being a forward facing event.  Repentance and the atonement makes up for our past transgressions, the sacrament is for us to recommit ourselves to doing better in the time we have ahead of us.

I look at the time while the sacrament is being passed as a chance to re-commit myself to doing everything in my power to be serving the Lord.  My favorite thing to do is to think through the week ahead and find ways that I can be doing the best things.  Whether it’s being more diligent in my scripture study or attending the temple, I try to look through my calendar and task list and find specific ways I can make improvements. Perhaps I should just be sitting and pondering the Atonement, but for me I’ve found it most effective if I can actually find concrete ways to make myself a better person.

I am so grateful for the Atonement in my life and the way that it makes up for all of my many shortcomings.  I’m grateful for the sacrament and the opportunity it gives me each week to improve myself and to put the Atonement into effect in my life.  I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.

07 June 2010

Low: Sam was super sick today. He’s had a runny nose and a cough recently that we had determined were allergy related (we deduced this scientifically – he went outside and it immediately got worse). Then last night his voice started getting hoarse like he had a sore throat which we also decided was probably allergy related. He didn’t sleep well last night after that. He didn’t actually wake up much but he was especially squirmy and rolled around the bed a lot like he couldn’t get comfortable.Then this morning he threw up. Not a ton, and I thought it could just be a result of all the mucus he had built up. But I also realized that Sam hadn’t really eaten much for his last several meals and had opted to play with his food instead. While this isn’t atypical behavior for Sam it was for that length of time. So I knew he definitely wasn’t feeling well, and just snuggled him and let him sleep on my lap. After a few more hours he woke up and suddenly puked the entire contents of his stomach onto me and my rocking chair. I had no idea that tiny body could contain that much volume! I quickly mopped off the chair and got Sam in the tub before realizing that I was also covered in puke and should probably remedy that. That was the only major puking incidence of the day but Sam was pretty miserable for the rest of the day as well and now has a fever! Poor little bean 🙁

High: My ward is awesome! After posting on facebook that Sam was sick I got two offers from people to pick stuff up for me at the grocery store and another offer to bring me some diapers in Sam’s size (especially helpful since Sam was also spewing out the other end). I was so touched by these wonderful examples of Christlike service. I’m really going to be sad to leave this ward.