Tithing, Hard Work, and An American Girl Doll

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My daughter (age 7) has been begging me for an American Girl Doll for the last two years. The dolls, though beautifully made, are quite expensive. We tried buying the knockoff doll, but her hair got really messed up. So my daughter has been insisting on the American Girl Doll with great forcefulness (you know how girls can put on the pressure!)

About one month ago, we had another “discussion” about the doll and I put my foot down and explained again that we couldn’t afford it. She said, “well then, I’ll buy it myself!”

I told her that if she wanted to do that, then I would help her. We made a deal that if she got $100 and paid her tithing on the total that I would pay the taxes and shipping and handling.

Then I told some friends on Facebook and family members about her goal and she offered her services to them. For the last month she has done the following:
•pulled weeds
•cleaned and organized toy rooms
•entertained children so that moms could get a task done
•yard work
•housework
•taking in mail and putting out trash
•you name it, even memorizing the articles of faith (a very kind friend paid her a dollar per article.)

She thought she’d earn $100 in a day, I thought she might make it for Christmas. We were both wrong.

It took about a month and many wonderful and kind friends and family members hired her to do these odd jobs. It’s been amazing to see her learn about money and saving.

The miracle comes in the fact that my husband is out of work. I was worried about how to even pay for the shipping and handling. Then my bro-in-law called with a free shipping code. We were so blessed and ended up paying only about $10 for her doll.

Another sweet miracle was the day that it came in the mail. She had prayed in school that it would come that day. 🙂 It’s wonderful that the Lord cares about the little things as well as the big.

At one point, J. offered her money for us to use. I asked her how she would get her doll if she gave us the money and she said with a shrug that she’d earn more. I love that girl!

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Beneficial Fruit

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I was thinking today about the beginning of the Book of Mormon –  father and son prophets Lehi and Nephi travel to a land of promise with their large family.  The road is not easy.  Here are just some of the issues:

  • Return to Jerusalem twice (surely over a day’s journey) to get important things that they left behind
  • Robbed by Laman
  • Constant fighting and bickering
  • Broken bow in the wilderness (threat of starvation)
  • Camping in the wilderness.
  • Having children in the wilderness
  • Have to build a boat
  • Travel by boat to the new world
  • Build a home in a new, foreign land

Certainly they saw miracles (visions, revelations, angels, the liahona, women were able to have strength even while having babies in the wilderness) but it didn’t occur to me until today how much hard work and suffering they endured.  Surely a loving Heavenly Father could have had a boat waiting for them when they reached the land Bountiful!

But then we get down to the question of whether or not we want our children to walk or do we want to carry them in our arms for the rest of their lives?  When a toddler learns to walk, they will fall.  It will be a struggle.  When our children learn to tie their shoes, read, ice skate, bike, compete – whatever it may be, there will be difficultly.  Blood, sweat, tears, and more often than not,  pain (physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental).  However, if we don’t let them struggle through, how will they ever learn to do anything?

Which brings me to this absolutely amazing quote that I recently found –

Easy things never produce much beneficial fruit. Neither our Father in Heaven nor His Holy Son take delight in seeing you struggle to overcome obstacles, resolve questions, or find solutions to complex and challenging problems. However, they do rejoice when you willingly recognize that these steps are steps to growth which lead to action that molds your character.

Elder Richard G. Scott, To Learn and to teach More Effectively, 21 August 2007 during BYU Campus Education Week.  (See full transcript here.)

Beneficial fruit.

Read this next and see how it fits in –

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.   If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15: 4-8).

And look at the scripture just a few verses before this last (John 15:2) –

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

“Easy things never produce much beneficial fruit.”  We want our children to succeed,  to be better than we were.  In a modern-day and age, with so many conveniences, that’s hard to do!  So pressure of a different kind has to be placed upon us.  Disease, death, difficulty, unemployment, heartache, temptation, trial, sorrow – trials carefully calculated to help us turn to the true vine, and through Him, do amazing things with our personal pathway.

Just look at the fruit that the Book of Mormon is bringing forth.  I know it’s changed my life, and I’m grateful that though they went through difficult circumstances, they left fruit that refreshes the soul and brings one closer to the Savior.  What a precious gift to give another – the best of oneself.  And only God, with His infinite power, knowledge and love for us as individuals, can help us become the best of ourselves and then, through His power and miracle, let those gifts that we’ve brought forth go forward to bless others.

For Mother’s Day – Love your daughter’s Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just found a beautiful message for this holiday, based on a talk by Elaine Dalton.

Here is the transcript of the entire talk, and one of the quotes that I love the most –

You are your daughter’s guardian in more than the legal sense. Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends and, when the time comes, her boyfriends. Help her understand the importance of education. Help her understand that the principle of modesty is a protection. Help her choose music and media that invite the Spirit and are consistent with her divine identity. Be an active part of her life. And if in her teenage years she should not come home from a date on time, go get her. She will resist and tell you that you have ruined her social life, but she will inwardly know that you love her and that you care enough to be her guardian. (Love Her Mother, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, General Conference, October 2011)

Repentance and Forgiveness – A Fresh Start

I love watching my daughter grab new sheets of paper and draw and erase and re-draw.  Why? Because with every page, she is getting better at drawing.  She’s learned what she did wrong, and is trying it again.  With each new artwork, she learns new skill, gains experience and is on her way to becoming an artist.

What does this have to do with repentance and forgiveness? Everything.

When we look at earth life as a time to practice and learn, then we allow ourselves to be involved in the process of becoming a better human, and hopefully, a better man or woman of Christ.

My Dad coined a phrase that he used when I was young.  It was “fresh start.”  Let me give you an example of it in action –  “I know that you’ve just yelled at me because you were stressed out.  Shall we have a fresh start to the conversation?”

That simple idea, led to something amazing – a feeling of safety with my parents.  I knew that I could make mistakes, try again, and be better.  I knew that I could mess up and still be loved.  It gave me an extraordinary amount of self-confidence in my relationship with them.

Later, my Dad added to the idea by asking us (after an argument, etc.) if we were friends again, or friends still.  The intent of this question was to elicit the answer – friends still, because if we said that we were friends again, it implied that there was a time in which we weren’t friends.  He never wanted that.  Even in difficult moments, he strove for our relationship to be one of love and closeness, and though at times we would hurt or anger each other, there was an underlying thread of friendship and love that held us together.

Today, I listened to a program on the Church’s radio station about forgiveness, that got me thinking about fresh starts.  I wanted to paraphrase a section, but I recommend the entire episode to you.  You can listen to it by following this link.

There was a man sharing an experience about the time when he was the bishop of  a ward which had several priests (young men aged 16-18) in it.  One particular evening, a young man from his ward came to his door in the middle of the night.  This boy had committed a serious sin, and sought counsel and hep from the bishop.  The loving bishop spent the night talking with and helping the young man (who was very concerned about his own future and the consequences of the mistake that he had made).

The young man made the necessary changes to find and receive full forgiveness and the bishop went on to talk about all of the priests from the ward, five in all, who went on to serve missions and marry in the temple.  The bishop said that of all of the boys, he couldn’t remember which was the one who had committed the sin (the one who he had counseled with into the night).  Years later, the bishop was visiting the old neighborhood and tried again to remember which young man it was.  An impression came to his mind.  A voice said, “My son, I’ve forgotten it, why should you remember it?”

Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.  Doc. & Cov. 58:42

Is there anything better than that?

Here it is again –

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

Here’s the Savior, inviting us to have a “fresh start.”  Inviting us to be “friends still.”  Inviting us to have a loving relationship with Him.  To forge an underlying bond of friendship and love that will hold us together even in difficult times.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

If we can look at our mortality as a time to improve rather than a time for perfection, we can become perfect (Matthew 5:48) in time.

 So, become better.  Practice repentance.  Practice forgiveness.  Start fresh.  Learn to have confidence in your relationship for the Savior, for He careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Mormon Messages Channel

When I was young, my Dad had a projector that he would haul out for FHE (as I mentioned in the previous post).  We watched shows like;

  • Man’s Search for Happiness
  • Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts
  • One
  • Johnny Lingo
  • The First Vision
  • The Restoration

I loved them.  Each one had a profound effect on me.

For example, in Worthy Music Worthy Thoughts, then Elder Boyd K. Packer talked about our minds being a stage and that thoughts were players on that stage.  If we didn’t want certain thoughts to be on that stage, then all that we needed to do was to banish those players and put new, good thoughts on stage.  He stated that we are the ones in control of what is played out on the stage of our minds.  That idea was brilliant, and has helped me through out my life.

The problem is, there is no projector now that I am raising my own kids (plus, I’m sure that the films are quite out-dated).  How do I give them the rich, gospel, media experience that I treasured?

Enter, youtube – the LDS page with Mormon Messages.  I have an app on my phone for The Mormon Channel, and it comes with those Mormon Messages Videos available on the phone.

On Sunday, my daughter (age 6) found those videos, and was mesmerized.

The one that she loved the most was this –

She watched it repeatedly, and then wanted me to watch it with her.

I’m not sure whether she was fascinated by the gospel teachings, or the desire never to wear flip-flops again. 🙂  Either way, I really believe that media is a powerful tool that can be used to teach these children (that are in a media-saturated society) ideas and principles that can help guide them.

Now, if only I can find the movie – The Phone Call.

Jesus the Perfect Leader

A friend of mine sent a talk over for me to read.  It was entitled, Jesus the Perfect Leader by President Spencer W. Kimball to the Young Presidents organization, Sun Valley, Idaho, 15 January 1977.  It was so timely for me to read these very amazing thoughts.  I wanted to share a few here.  A full copy of the talk can be found here, the whole thing is worth a read.

President Kimball began by saying that if we wanted to be good leaders and examples we should follow that of the Savior, whose “attributes and skills he demonstrated so perfectly. These same skills and qualities are important for us all if we wish to succeed as leaders in any lasting way.”  By leaders, I think that roles as parents can be counted even as importantly as those leadership opportunities over vast congregations or employees.

He went on to say the following:

  • Jesus kept himself virtuous, and thus, when his closeness to the people permitted them to touch the hem of his garment, virtue could flow from him. (See Mark 5:24–34.)

I want to study the relationship between virtue and power.

The other day, I watched a show about people who hoard things, usually so much that it makes living in the home virtually impossible.   A woman on this particular episode had mountains of clothes and shoes in her home.  And I mean mountains – floor to ceiling with barely a hallway in-between to get to the next room of clothes.  She said that she was “high maintenance” and loved to have “lots of choices.”  The therapist on the show said something to the effect of, “haven’t you noticed that having too many choices, in reality, takes away all of your choices.”

It’s such an interesting (and seemingly opposite) idea that if you put limits on things, it actually gives you more power, more choices, more freedom.

So the connection between the Savior’s virtue and His ability to have that virtue flow out of Him that effectively heals others –  still working on that.  Any thoughts?  If that is true, then what conclusions can be drawn about a virtuous priesthood holder?

Another idea that I loved from the talk:

  • Jesus had perspective about problems and people. He was able to calculate carefully at long range the effect and impact of utterances, not only on those who were to hear them at the moment, but on those who would read them 2,000 years later. So often, secular leaders rush in to solve problems by seeking to stop the present pain, and thereby create even greater difficulty and pain later on.

I say way too much.  I need to calculate the impact of my utterances more – with my students, friends, family, spouse, and especially with my children.

There was a section on Responsibility, which I could spend hours on, but here’s the jist:

  • Jesus knew how to involve his disciples in the process of life. He gave them important and specific things to do for their development. Other leaders have sought to be so omnicompetent that they have tried to do everything themselves, which produces little growth in others. 
  • Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership. If we brush other people aside in order to see a task done more quickly and effectively, the task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important. Because Jesus knows that this life is purposeful and that we have been placed on this planet in order to perform and grow, growth then becomes one of the great ends of life as well as a means. We can give corrective feedback to others in a loving and helpful way when mistakes are made.
  • Jesus let people know that he believed in them and in their possibilities, and thus he was free to help them stretch their souls in fresh achievement.
  •  Jesus believed in his followers, not alone for what they were, but for what they had the possibilities to become. While others would have seen Peter as a fisherman, Jesus could see him as a powerful religious leader—courageous, strong—who would leave his mark upon much of mankind. In loving others, we can help them to grow by making reasonable but real demands of them.

I think that giving others responsibility is such a powerful idea, and can be life-changing – both mine and others.

Accountability was another section:

  •  A good leader will remember he is accountable to God as well as to those he leads. By demanding accountability of himself, he is in a better position, therefore, to see that others are accountable for their behavior and their performance. People tend to perform at a standard set by their leaders.

Taking honest responsibility for our actions, without blaming others or situations for our reactions is powerful.  Even better is training ourselves to react in more appropriate ways when life throws a curve ball.  For example, instead of swearing when your child knocks over a drink, perhaps comfort and a helping hand will go a long way to give the child a secure environment and a pattern to follow.

There is a section on the wise use of time, having time for leisure and structuring time without being “frantic or officious”:

  • Time cannot be recycled. When a moment has gone, it is really gone. The tyranny of trivia consists of its driving out the people and moments that really matter. Minutia holds momentous things hostage, and we let the tyranny continue all too often. Wise time management is really the wise management of ourselves.

I just keep reading and re-reading this last.  How can I train my children to understand this?  How can I teach myself to do this?

My final thought from this talk is so encouraging, it makes we want to be better, to do better:

  • One of the great teachings of the Man of Galilee, the Lord Jesus Christ, was that you and I carry within us immense possibilities. In urging us to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, Jesus was not taunting us or teasing us. He was telling us a powerful truth about our possibilities and about our potential. It is a truth almost too stunning to contemplate. Jesus, who could not lie, sought to beckon us to move further along the pathway to perfection.
That just gives me so much hope and courage about my life and abilities.  I’m going to go out and have a wonderful day – you?

Internet Safety For Our Youth

'J' getting her first taste of technology

My daughters are already learning their way around technology.  My five year old can connect to the internet and I have an account for her with some of her favorite little games (sesame street ABC’s, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) and my two year old is now trying to figure out how to send a text to her grandma.  🙂

So, in the midst of this unprecedented technological era, I’ve been worried about teaching, training and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting my babies.  I came across a fantastic article in BYU’s Alumni Magazine entitled, THE DANGEROUS DIGITAL VORTEX, with the byline; Savvy parents connect with their children to build powerful family firewalls.

The author interviewed BYU associate professor of computer science, Charles D. Knutson who stated; “Increasingly, technology is the air we breathe. … We have to acclimate our children and teach them and train them how to live in a world where that is their reality.”

The article pointed out that dangerous areas such as pornography and predators in chat rooms are not the only thing to worry about.  “Sexting”, cyber bullying, Facebook, video games, and even too much texting can be areas that, if left unchecked, can become major problems.  Prevention, and frank discussion is vital to training our children and youth.

Under a section entitled –  Internet Filters and Computers in the Kitchen Are Not Enough, the author stated;

Responsible parents know not to put a computer in a child’s bedroom, but Knutson has found that some don’t think twice about handing their son or daughter a cell phone with a browser, messaging, and a camera. “You give your kids iPhones and they have the entire world at their fingertips. They’re taking it to bed with them, and maybe they’re accessing porn or maybe they’re just up until 4 in the morning texting their friends.” Parents who do this “have an absolute disconnect” about what they’ve done.

The solution is for parents to keep up on the latest technologies. They must investigate thoroughly and put limits on any devices they buy. That means adding filters, disabling questionable features, and controlling access. Some parents keep custody of the devices; the children check them out when it’s agreed they’re needed and check them back in at specified times, such as during homework hours or bedtime.

I think that is SOOO important to remember.  Technology for teens is a privilege – NOT a right.  Just like driving the car.  We need to teach our children responsibility, and intelligence.

For example –

  • Texting language is not correct;  just because your friends type “thru” and “C U L8TR” doesn’t mean that it is accepted as proper English. (When one uses texting language in his/her college papers, it only makes that person look illiterate.  And, please don’t think it hasn’t happened, I have graded too many of these papers during my six years teaching on the college level.)
  • It’s important to have conversations.  The art of conversing will allow one to go far in life.  A lot further than those who only know how to text their thoughts and feelings.
  • There are many AMAZING activities in life that can be done without technology.  In order to learn those skills, one needs to unplug!

The author also states that not allowing any technology in the home is not a good idea.

Some parents are so terrified by the prospect of their children having access to the digital world that they “pull the plug”—they forbid any and all technology in their homes. “That solution creates a false sense of security,” says Knutson. “Your children still have access to computers at the library, at school, and at their friends’ houses. And they’re going to leave home. If they go to college, now they have a laptop for the very first time, and they’ve never had to contend with what that world looks like. It’s like tossing a kid into a swimming pool who’s never seen one before.”

Pulling the plug also denies children and families the positive connectivity of the digital world, which includes Church websites, General Conference, and valuable instruction of many kinds.

The most important thing to do is to make sure that families have good communication about the world in which they live.

Knutson says that when there’s emotional connection in the family, there’s a huge amount of protection. Add to that gospel teachings, and you have what amounts to a near firewall against harmful technology.

“I really believe that this is the fire this generation has to pass through,” says Knutson. “It’s the river of filthiness in Lehi’s dream. He said the iron rod was on the riverbank, so when you’re clinging to the rod, you’re very close to the river. It’s muddy, and you get splashed. But you can’t let go and move further from the filthiness. You’re where you’re supposed to be. It’s not your location that’s safe or unsafe—it’s how you behave despite your proximity to temptation. We cannot withdraw from the world but instead are called to be in it while we hold on to the scriptures, good parents, others who are godly, and, most of all, the Savior.”

You can read the entire article here.  Also, the BYU professor has a website dedicated to Internet Safety which can be found here.