Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rest and Work

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session from the October 1975 Conference.
This week I noticed several insights in the talks about work and sacrifice. In our stake conference recently, one of the speakers said something like, "What are the most satisfying days you've ever had? The type of days where you fall into bed full of happiness and contentment? They're NOT usually the days where nothing much was going on and you got to lie around a lot. They're the days that were packed full of hard things, which you DID, and THAT's what gives you that happy, satisfied feeling as you finally get to bed."

As I thought about this, I realized she was totally right. There is nothing like the feeling of having accomplished something hard and good! (I guess I talked about that here a bit too.)

And yet we do believe in "wholesome recreational activities," too, and I love that about the church. We are not joyless or overserious. We love to have fun. And I love that word "recreation" because it implies so much more than "fun"—but instead an actual re-creation, renewal, re-generation of energy and self. In fact, I love it when the work and the recreation overlap; when doing something hard is both energizing and renewing AND fun. The best church activities I've been to have had that balance. (It's hard to find it, though, I've found when planning activities! It takes a lot of thought and effort.) I'm thinking of service projects that had people working together happily, or times when Sam and I worked together on planning and carrying out some activity that other people enjoyed doing.

Elder Victor B. Brown talks about this very thing:
When an Aaronic Priesthood leader takes the work of the quorum seriously, he is not afraid to call upon quorum members to inconvenience themselves and sacrifice. When these members experience the sweetness and joy of self-sacrifice, which the world at best can only partially give, they begin to regard the priesthood with solemnity, appreciation, and respect. 
…Brethren, Aaronic Priesthood holders should not have to wait for the mission field before experiencing the joy of sacrifice associated with service to God and mankind. They should not have to wait until they reach the age of nineteen before having cause to love and even defend the priesthood. 
…I am not suggesting that we should have all service projects and no recreation. In the great tradition of the Church there must continue to be recreation and social and cultural enjoyment. What I am saying is that there can and should be a balance and a blending of service and recreation. Every activity—even an activity of games—can be planned to help build people, if only those participating. Every activity—even a project in which physical work is done—can be great fun. Spiritual experiences can be built into everything we do.
Then there's President Kimball, who says:
Sometimes we have thought of rest as being a place where we get on the chaise lounge, or in our sneakers, or we get outside and lie on the grass, something where we are at rest. That isn’t the kind of rest that the Lord is speaking about. It is he who is the most dynamic, the one who works the hardest, puts in the longest hours, and lives the closest to his Heavenly Father who is rested—rested from his labors, but not put away from his work.
These talks made me want to recommit to finding things our family can do together that are both satisfying and enjoyable. With so many ages, it's sometimes hard to think of what those things can be—but I know they're out there. This is one thing we've done a couple times that fits the bill. There must be others. And for just myself, too, it makes me want to not be afraid to tackle a hard goal or project that I know will bring me joy when I accomplish it. Because I think just like President Kimball says, "resting from our labors" doesn't necessarily mean "putting away our work." Somehow, if we want to be like Heavenly Father, we have to learn how to do both—to rest and re-create while still doing those hard things that will bring us joy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

We have only seen the beginning

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session from the October 1975 Conference.
I've been thinking about missions and missionaries lately. I don't know if it's my developing understanding of all the things missions are besides just teaching discussions and baptizing people—the frustrating down time, the wondering what to do next, the necessity of serving so many people who are weird and unlikeable and needy, the fundamental and discouraging disagreements with companions or leaders about how the work should proceed—because I've never been on a mission myself, I guess I'm only recently starting to think about those aspects. And maybe it's also because I'm starting to have friends with children on missions, and I'm beginning to see them from a parent's point of view. How much you want your children to hold to their faith, whatever happens, and not let discouragement overcome them—and at the same time realizing how little you can DO about it, because it's something they themselves must choose to do.

I've talked to a few missionaries lately who didn't participate in any baptisms at all on their missions. And I've realized it's not so unusual. These missionaries have talked about finding other joys and blessings on their missions, other ways to measure God's hand in their lives, and other pathways to maintain their optimism. And I thought about how much faith it sometimes takes to believe, as I've talked about before, not only that God will at some time in the future guide and bless us—but that he is doing so NOW despite the "local cloud cover" that blocks our vision of it.

In this same vein, Elder James E. Faust describes his own mission, one that must have been tremendously discouraging. He said,
As I stood last week on this site where this [new church building] will stand, I recalled how difficult and unpromising the future of the Church appeared in South America thirty-six years ago. In all of our mission we had only three baptisms in one year, despite the conscientious labors of over seventy missionaries. We did not have the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, or the Book of Mormon translated into Portuguese. We held our meetings in rooms that were small and unfit for the lofty message we were trying to teach. We often had to sweep out these rooms before meeting to remove the empty bottles and trash from the revelry of the night before. It was always difficult and often discouraging.
But then he describes the growing of the gospel in South America. The increase in members, leaders, buildings. And most amazing of all, the building of a temple—outside of North America! Elder Faust was not the only apostle to express amazement at this evidence of the miraculous blossoming of God's kingdom. Reading their words, I could just feel their immense surprise and joy that such a thing was even possible. And, of course, that was only a portion of the joy felt by the South American members themselves:
I remembered being told by one of our great South American stake presidents that when he comes to general conference in Salt Lake, he and his wife will have to decide which two of their five children they will bring to be sealed to them in the Salt Lake Temple. It takes forty-three soles to make one dollar. Now their plans have changed. They are planning to take all five children to the first temple in South America.
It adds another layer of meaning to all this, of course, reading about it forty years later. To us it seems almost old-fashioned, that delight in a temple outside North America—why, of course we have temples all over the world! I'm so used to that fact I forget to be amazed by it. But seeing how Elder Faust felt at the thought of even one other nation being blessed by a temple's presence reminds me that this is how our vision grows. We may feel overwhelmed by the odds against us. When things look bleak, we start to doubt first our own ability to follow God, and then perhaps even His presence there leading us. But all along, He is steadily doing His work, steadily sending His miracles, until those who have kept up hope—those who have kept trying to assist in God's work even though they couldn't see it making any difference—suddenly SEE what has been going on before their very eyes all along. And then they must exclaim, as Elder Faust does repeatedly:
Having seen it all from close range, I cannot doubt that this is the work of God…
How can anyone who has seen what I have deny that this is the work of God?…
Contemplating all of this I could not doubt that this is the work of God upon the earth…
Having seen what I have seen in South America, I cannot deny that this is the work of God.
And as this surety grows in us, instead of looking ahead and seeing storm clouds and bleakness and uncertainty, we can see what Elder Faust saw as he looked ahead:
In my mind’s eye I could see young couples clean and pure, hand in hand, and with smiles on their faces, many with brown skins handsomely contrasting their white clothing, who will come to this sacred spot to be married under the power of the holy priesthood of God for time and for all eternity. It was easy to imagine the great joy of whole families who will come to that spot to be sealed and bound together under the same authority into an eternal family association through their worthiness… 
Here will come the children, full of the mirth and excitement of youth, to perform the sacred ordinances of vicarious baptism for those who have not had that opportunity in their lifetime. It was easy to imagine the pleasure of those coming to be baptized and the great joy of those who have waited so long for this saving ordinance in their eternal journey… 
How does the work of God go there now? Problems—there are many; challenges—they are great, but the progress is almost unbelievable. What I have said about South America can be said of many other parts of the whole world. This is a great worldwide Church, and so far we have only seen the beginning.
I love that vision, and I hope it's what a discouraged missionary can learn, with the help of God's Spirit, to see. It's what I hope I can learn to see when things look bleak. The growth of God's kingdom. His goodness and love. Our joy in the souls, however, few, we manage to affect for good. And most of all, the triumphant rolling forth of the Father's plan, blessing and saving all His children, in every way they will accept, forever and ever. Because I'm pretty sure that even forty years after Elder Faust said these words—compared to the glory that is coming, so far we have only seen the beginning.


Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Let them hear something better occasionally

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session from the October 1975 Conference.
The other night Sam and I were at a concert listening to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. I love that piece so much, and I know every note of it. I've listened to it and played sections of it in orchestras and watched ballets set to it. It's such a powerful piece of music! And suddenly I discovered I was crying, off and on, thinking about how far off (in ability as well as time!) the days seemed when I thought I was going to do great, beautiful, important things with my music—or my writing—or surely something that would bring me into famous circles of people, gathering acclaim and impressing everyone I met. I was laughing at myself between the tears, because I'm SO happy. So happy and content with my life. And I know most of my grand visions for myself were products of a large dose of the (probably overblown) self-confidence my parents' love and my fortunate circumstances bequeathed to me! But sometimes I can't help just a bit of…surprise? bemusement? at the place I find myself, all these years and children later. Even though I'm so grateful to be here.

Anyway, it made me think about what surprises my life may still hold, and about my own children—what futures they are envisioning for themselves, and how those futures may diverge from their reality. It made me wonder what great things they'll do, and if those things will…seem great to them? Or only to me, as I watch and love them? It made me wonder if I'm giving them enough chances to excel in things they could be good at. Or if that even matters. There are always so many questions to ask yourself as a parent, aren't there?

Well…now to the talk. Throughout this General Conference Odyssey, I have loved reading talks from General Authorities I've never heard of. I'm glad I'm getting to know some new voices. But also…goodness, I love President Hinckley! Reading his talk in this session was like hearing from an old friend. The talk is called "Opposing Evil," and begins in his characteristic tone, weaving together signs of the times and calling on church members to have a "new beginning" in opposing evil. He talks about living a virtuous life and urges each Latter-day Saint to "control his words that he speak only that which is uplifting and leads to growth." (I love that reminder.)

Then he comes to another "point of beginning":
A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation. This places upon parents the responsibility to do a more effective work in the rearing of children.
I wrote in my notes by this passage, "Good intentions aren't enough." I think I was noticing that phrase "a more effective work," and thinking about how being effective at something requires more than just desire: it requires work and planning and strategy and practice. Being a good parent takes the same sort of effort that being a good…anything…takes, I suppose! Or more.

President Hinckley goes on a bit about this "training of a better generation," talking about how we should raise our children to read and have a taste for the great works of literature, good magazines, "a good family newspaper," good theater, good music, and so forth. It's all good advice and I was nodding along, but at the same time thinking about how few of the things my older children read and listen to would fall into the category of "great works." I don't think their choices of entertainment are AWFUL, and they are pretty conscientious about avoiding the really bad things but…great music and great literature? Hmm. I don't think the latest YA dystopian novel quite fits in that category.

And of course, I don't know that my OWN entertainment choices always fall into that category either, but I have at least had a taste for the "classics" cultivated in me by my own parents. And I'm not sure I'm doing as well with my own children. For example, during that same concert I realized, with a shock of regret, that I almost never play any of the classical music I love for the kids. There's always so much other noise and chatter around that I can't bear to add something else to it. They have their own piano practicing, and I guess they hear me practice for a musical number or something occasionally, but I don't know if great music surrounds them like it did me when I was young. And I don't know that great literature does either. (Not to mention the lack of a "good newspaper"—which is something I don't actually believe exists anymore; haha!) And it made me wonder if I'm doing enough to do that "more effective work" in the rearing of MY children!

But then, just as I was starting to wonder how I could possibly find the time and energy to do more "exposing" of my children to great literature and great music and great theater and all the rest, and wondering if they'd even LIKE it if I DID do that (because you know, they are becoming their own people so rapidly…with their own very definite tastes…), President Hinckley said (in his very President Hinckley-ish way):
Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music. Let them hear something better occasionally. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself. More of appreciation will come than you may think. It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass.
And suddenly I felt better. Because I do, and I will, expose my children to the things I love. Not as often as I'd like, maybe. And not so skillfully that they will always love those same things themselves, immediately. But it's not an act—my love of music, my love of good writing, my love of the scriptures—my love of the gospel most of all. Those things are deep, true parts of myself. And I know I need to consciously let them come out—to do an "effective work" of parenting as President Hinckley says—but I can also hope and trust that they are unconsciously coming out as well.

And hopefully, even though I pretty much always feel frantic and busy and like I must be forgetting something important, my children will catch those glimpses of "something better occasionally." With music. With books. With our imperfect efforts at meaningful family home evening and scripture reading and everything else. And most comforting of all, as we let our genuine likes and loves and talents seep out of us even in small ways, I think any parent can trust that President Hinckley's promise—the reassurance that "more of appreciation will come than you may think"—will be fulfilled in all those aspects of life where our children will benefit most.

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The great causative force

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Afternoon Session from the October 1975 Conference.

In his talk "A Prophet's Faith," Elder A. Theodore Tuttle made an intriguing classification of faith into two types:
I believe there are basically two kinds of faith. The kind of which I have spoken—faith that God lives and rules in the heavens—sustains us in life’s challenges. It enables us to endure without yielding, and bear the trials common to us all. This faith has characterized the lives of this people all through their history. It is a great legacy to inherit and to bequeath. 
There is another kind of faith: more powerful, less known, infrequently observed. This faith in God compounds our ability to accomplish our righteous desires. It is the creative, and generative kind of faith. This is the faith save for the exercise of which things would not happen. This is the great causative force in human lives. This is the faith that moves mountains.
I've read this over and over and I'm still not completely sure I understand the difference between these two types of faith he's talking about. I THINK maybe he means that the first kind of faith is a more internal faith; something we feel within ourselves that helps us endure trials and believe in God no matter what comes. (But isn't this faith, also, a "causative force" that causes us to remain faithful?)

And then maybe he is saying that the second type of faith reaches outside of ourselves to affect others as well. Again—I'm not sure I get his full meaning. But I always love to learn more about faith, and I think this is so interesting. I think he means that when we take the quiet, internal knowledge given us in the first type of faith—and act on it, speak of it, bring it into all aspects of our life—it then compounds and becomes even more powerful. He connects this second type to the working of miracles:
The scriptures teach that certain powers of heaven are governed by the faith of mortal men. The Lord’s ability to help us succeed is limited only by our faith in him. “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself [unto them] until after their faith.
“Neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.” (Ether 12:12, 18.)… 
We can cause righteous desires to come to pass, for in the words of our Master, “According to your faith be it unto you.” (Matt. 9:29.)  
Again, I'm a little confused, because to me it seems that the first type of faith causes miracles too—but maybe they are quieter, internal miracles—no less miraculous for being within us—but less obvious AS miracles, maybe? And less…spreadable?

To illustrate this second, "causative" faith, Elder Tuttle uses the example of when President Kimball called on the church for more missionaries:
In the last eighteen months, I’ve watched this kind of faith cause things to happen. It began with a prophet. He spoke. His words put spiritual forces into action that heretofore had been dormant. People acted. They repented. They changed. Events changed… 
A prophet not only prophesies of things that will happen. A prophet, by the exercise of faith, causes things to happen.
This made me think about how our faith can affect other people. It's a common question, I think—since agency is so important, and we know we can't "pray away" other people's right to choose how they will act, then how DO our prayers influence those we love and care about? And the example Elder Tuttle uses here almost makes me grasp something about that. Maybe it's that when our faith (the first type) grows to become so strong and clear that we speak of it naturally and openly and frequently—and others can SEE it working in our lives, shining out of us—then it becomes the second type of faith—which somehow causes those around us to feel hopeful enough or brave enough to gain a desire THEMSELVES—not a compulsion—but just a desire that truly comes from within their own spirits—to ALSO act and change?

Elder Tuttle continues:
Eighteen months ago one man expressed his faith that missionary work could be improved, become more efficient, and more productive. At that time it seemed impossible. Immediately, however, his counselors joined their faith with his faith and it was trebled. Then the Twelve joined with them and Church leaders and many members have compounded that faith again and again. Faith called forth faith and a mighty work moves forward.
Again, I'm trying to understand this how this might work. I can see how the strong faith of the prophet inspires and changes those around him. He's SO full of faith that others think, "Well, if HE thinks we can do it, surely we CAN!" which causes them to really believe it can—and the conviction spreads. (And, it occurs to me, part of the prophet's faith that things will all work out comes from his belief that the SAVIOR thinks so. So the faith has really been spread from Jesus Christ Himself.)

I don't know exactly how "moving mountains" or those bigger physical miracles fit in, but I tried to think of how this "causative force" might work in a family. If I let my quiet faith grow, and my children see how much I trust God and how firmly I believe that God will help them in their lives (even if they don't yet believe that for themselves)—perhaps in time my faith will actually become "causative" for them, in that they will think, "My mother seems sure of this. And she's been sure for so long…maybe she's right? Maybe God does love me and I can change?" It seems like even a child just having that thought might be enough to qualify as a "particle of faith"—and God will honor it—and it will lead to a swelling and growth of their own faith as well.

Or I could imagine this happening when hearing someone bear testimony. Sometimes I've heard people talk about how it makes them feel bad when they hear other people's testimonies as "too sure," because it makes them worry about weak their own faith is. "Oh, that person KNOWS WITHOUT A DOUBT that Joseph Smith was a prophet?" they think. "Well…I don't know that. What's wrong with me?" But again, I'm imagining that in the right circumstances, there could be a "causative" faith that happens there. As the listener thinks, "Wow, he sounds so sure…I wish I were that sure!"—isn't that feeling "a desire to believe"? And according to Alma, that's enough! That's enough to start the process of developing such faith for oneself.

I imagine that the circumstances must be right, of course. The person expressing conviction must be sincere and not manipulative. The initial "display of faith" must be a natural upwelling of that person's conviction, and not an attempt to show off. And I suppose that when the observer's heart isn't yet ready, he might misinterpret ANY overt display of faith as an attempt to show off. But I still think the spiritual power, the causative power, would be there, for anyone just ready enough to have a hopeful, wishful thought about their own faith.

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Women's work" and simplicity

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Morning Session from the October 1975 Conference.

As often happens when I read these Conference talks, this week there were two passages in two different talks that, along with some other things I'd been thinking about, combined to give me the message I needed this week. Here are the passages:

From Elder Robert L. Simpson's talk, "Do It":
Spiritual sensitivity is a gift, freely given, to all who are willing to do their best. It is for those who have a desire to serve and the fortitude to take the first step, even when it doesn’t seem personally convenient to do so. As we complicate our lives, we discourage the gifts of the Spirit.
And from President Spencer W. Kimball's talk, "The Time to Labor is Now". This was a quotation from a letter President Kimball got from a woman who had met his wife at an Area Conference in South America:
I walked with Sister Kimball. I told her I could hardly believe I was walking with her. Know what she said? Well, she told me she is no different than I am. That she washed clothes, washed the dishes, and cooks food, plants vegetables, and does all the same things that I do.
Here's what I've been thinking about: the work of women. My work. Of course I know circumstances vary; I know some people dislike even thinking in terms of "woman's work," preferring instead to focus on how people all have unique roles (and there's truth to that)—but I have come to value the simplicity, the continuity, that comes from placing myself into the lineup of generations that have held these duties and privileges: this work of women. Like this South American woman marveling at the similarities between herself and Sister Kimball, I find peace in thinking about how my life right now consists of, essentially, the same things that have occupied, and still occupy, women the world over: Clothing my family. Feeding my family. Keeping my home.

I guess I bring up that peace not because it comes automatically, but because it doesn't: either because of intrinsic selfishness or because of the culture I live in (or both), it's far too easy NOT to have peace in and satisfaction with those basic responsibilities. A Catholic writer I admire brought this up: 
As I lay on the sofa, lamenting telephonically to my friend about my seriously miserable condition and the mountains of duties beckoning to — no, hurling themselves at — me — especially the baby and my phenomenally, epically, heroically messy, dirty house, she told me this: basically your family needs food and clean laundry from you right now…

So, when you are making your resolutions, at the top of the list do you have these two items: feeding and clothing your particular horde?

Because if you do, things will go well for you this year. And this is why: no matter what other duties you have, the two biggest challenges you will face will be — ta da! — cooking — and laundry.

Conversely, if you have a handle on these two areas — if you have serenity when contemplating dinner or the washing machine — you will be rational in your approach to all other areas of your life: losing weight, saving money, cleaning up, using your time well, loving your family more, having reading time with your kids, teaching them Latin, you name it! It will all go better if you have order in these two fundamental duties. Or at least our inevitable failures in this area won’t upset the peace of our family as much!

And I call these duties for a reason. First, I like using old-fashioned words. Also, some mothers really look at dinner and clean clothes as chores assigned by a particularly demanding, even cruel, parent. But in their heart of hearts they consider them optional.
They actually whine! They complain! They live with a laundry room that has piles of dirty laundry, and a master bedroom that has baskets of unsorted clean laundry! They get annoyed because their kids are hungry! They hate cooking supper!

They think that someone else will come fix all this for them! Then they spend money — their husband’s hard-earned cash — on take-out dinners, or frozen dinners, or drive-through dinners, because they can’t figure out what to have for supper; and on new clothes, because the old ones are dirty!

No, Love, only YOU can solve this problem, the problem of your life; and this is the year to do it!…

Look at it this way: if you had the profession of managing, say, a hotel, you would be darn sure that first and foremost you had a plan, a system, and a clear idea of how you would provide food, clean sheets, and a warm atmosphere for your customers. You would not whine. You would pat yourself on the back for having such a great career! If you did not do this, you would be — fired!

…Now I know you are not like those babies I describe above, those terrible whiners. And you probably have a better work ethic than I do! But still, have you achieved clarity on these two important areas of your home keeping duties?
I had to laugh at that, because of course I HAVE been like those terrible whiners, thinking to myself in all seriousness and self-pity every few hours, "This again?? I can't believe I have to make ANOTHER meal to feed all these people!" And it's hard work; there's no denying that. But I love the perspective that THESE ARE MY DUTIES. This (for me, anyway) is simply what it means to be a woman caring for her family! This is what I do! Why fight it? Why resent it? Why not just…get better at it? Maybe even learn to enjoy it?
And that's where the first quote comes back in. I was struck by Elder Simpson's words: As we complicate our lives, we discourage the gifts of the Spirit. Sometimes I think my life IS complicated. And in some ways it is, or it feels like it. But in so many fundamental ways, it is simple, and it's because of these very duties I sometimes resent. It's simple because of these same basic rhythms that made up Camilla Kimball's life, as well as the life of the South American woman she met: teaching my children, feeding my family, clothing my family.

When I consider these basic, simple, things that fill my life, I can be grateful for them: because I know they truly ARE a gift. And, though they are tiring and repetitive and unending, they also allow me to find space and time (if I allow it) for those gifts of the spirit I so desire: for the spiritual sensitivity Elder Simpson talks about. I know many people, in more complicated circumstances, would happily trade their complications for that sort of simplicity.

Here's one more story I ran across this week that drove home the same point. It's from the book A Lion and a Lamb by Rand H. Packer. The book is the true story of a missionary couple who lived in Joseph Smith's farmhouse in Palmyra before the Church owned any other property there. The people in the area hated "the Mormons" and treated them horribly, but over their 24-year (!!) mission, this couple gradually made great friends for the Church. The wife, Rebecca Bean, was constantly housing and cooking for missionaries and others who wanted to visit the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove. There was simply nowhere else for these people to stay, and she graciously accepted them all, night after night (for 24 years!), never knowing who or how many would come, but always making delicious meals and creating a welcoming spot for them to rest. She had her own young family to care for, and a working farm to assist with, and one missionary asked her how she was able to be so cheerful and accepting of the constant extra work. This is the story she told him:
It was a hot summer day and we had a lot of visitors that day. It had been a hard day for me; I had a baby. He was just a year old and I had carried my baby around on my arm most of the day to get my work done. It was too warm and everything had gone against us and nighttime came and we had lunch for our visitors, and we had supper at night and I had put my children to bed… 
Dr. Talmage was there with some missionaries and we had really had a wonderful evening talking together. So, they all seemed tired and I took them upstairs and showed them where they could sleep. When I came down I thought, "Well, I will pick up a few things and make things easier for me in the morning." But I was so weary and so tired that I was crying as I went and straightened things around in my house. Everybody was in bed and asleep but me… 
I said my prayers and I got into bed. I was crying on my pillow, and then this dream or vision came to me. I thought it was another day…I had prepared breakfast for my visitors and my children were happily playing around and I had done my work and cared for the baby and he was contented and happy and then I prepared lunch and I called our visitors into lunch and we were all seated around the table, my little baby in his highchair and everything was just peaceful, wonderful and sweet.
There was a knock at the front door and I went in and opened it and there was a very handsome young man standing there and I just took it for granted that he was just another missionary that had come to see us. I said, "You're here just in time for lunch. Come with me."… 
[After lunch] I put my baby to bed and the little ones went out to play and then I was alone with the young man. He thanked me for having him to dinner and told me how much it meant for him to be there. He told me he thought that the children were so sweet and well-trained and I felt so happy about that. 
Then we walked in the hall together and he said, "I have far to go, so I must be on my way." 
I turned from him for just a minute…and when I turned back to him it was the Savior who stood before me. He was in His glory and I could not tell you the love and the sweetness that He had in His face and in his eyes. Lovingly He laid His hands on my shoulders, and He looked down into my face with the kindest face that I had ever seen. Then He said to me, "Sister Bean, this day hasn't been too hard for you has it?" 
I said, "Oh no, I have been so happy with my work and everything has gone on so well." 
He responded, "I promise you, if you will go about your work everyday as you have done it this day, you will be equal to it. Now remember these missionaries represent me on this earth and all that you give unto them you give unto me." 
I remember I was crying as we walked to the hall out onto the porch and He repeated the same thing. Then He started upward. The roof of the porch was no obstruction for Him to go through, nor for me to see through. He went upward and upward and upward…And then all at once He disappeared.
This story brought me to tears because I could so easily imagine myself in Rebecca's circumstances. Again, though our lives are so different (Rebecca Bean's much harder than mine!), they are also so similar! We care for our babies, we feed our families, we make our homes. And I cried because I had just a taste of a similar experience recently. Not such a vivid one—but as I was up at night, cleaning up my wet, cold two-year-old who had had another accident in his bed, and soothing him and whispering to him in the darkness so that he would stay calm and no one else would wake, I had the sudden thought that God was saying to me, "I am pleased with you for doing this work. It is just what I would have you do for My child; just what I would do if I were there." It was so small and so simple, this task I was doing, and yet I felt God's approval of it.

It reminds me, too, that much of the simplicity is in how I think of my work. When I get caught up in all the details of my calling, and the places I have to get my children to, and the things I've signed up to help with, and the things in the house that need fixing, and so forth, life doesn't seem simple at all. But even with all that, the underlying simplicity remains, if I will accept it. Serving God and His children. Caring for my family. Caring for my neighbors. It's all just…my work, and honestly, it's what I have chosen to do. And I would choose it again. It's what I WANT to do. It's what I'm BLESSED to do. Because in all its simplicity and repetition, the "work of women" does, truly, bless ME most of all.

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nothing good is ever lost

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session from the April 1975 Conference.
My favorite talk in this session of Conference was the one with the least interesting title: "An Appeal to Prospective Elders." It doesn't sound like it would have anything to say to ME, does it? But it was one of the most beautiful talks I've ever read—perhaps my favorite in this whole Odyssey so far. Elder Boyd K. Packer begins by telling the story of when he was in the Air Force, stationed in Japan just after World War II. In the course of working with the people there, and doing missionary work, he learned several words and phrases of Japanese. But when his time there ended and he returned home, he soon forgot everything, having no occasion to use the language then—or ever again, he thought.

Twenty-six years later, Elder Packer received a church assignment to go back to Tokyo. And as he heard Japanese spoken around him, he found himself unexpectedly remembering a few phrases. When speaking with some Japanese children, he even suddenly recalled an entire song in Japanese! He says:
I had known that song for 26 years, but I didn’t know that I knew it. I had never sung the song to my own children. I had never told them the story of it. It had been smothered under 26 years of attention to other things. 
I have thought that a most important experience and realized finally that nothing good is ever lost. Once I got back among the people who spoke the language, all that I possessed came back and it came back very quickly. And I found it easier then to add a few more words to my vocabulary. 
I, of course, do not suggest that this experience was the result of an alert mind or of a sharp memory. It was just a demonstration of a principle of life that applies to all of us. It applies to you, my brethren of the prospective elders, and to others in like situations. 
If you will return to the environment where spiritual truths are spoken, there will flood back into your minds the things that you thought were lost. Things smothered under many years of disuse and inactivity will emerge. Your ability to understand them will be quickened.
Elder Packer emphasizes the word "quickened," which is a common one in the scriptures, for its description of how these good things can come to life inside one who has once lost them, and do so quickly:
If you will make your pilgrimage back among the Saints, soon you will be understanding once again the language of inspiration. And more quickly than you know, it will seem that you have never been away. Oh, how important it is for you to realize that if you will return, it can be made as though you have never been away
This is one of the great miracles of this work. The Lord has a way of compensating and blessing. He is not confined to the tedious processes of communication and He is not limited to Japanese or English.
"As though you had never been away"! I love that heartfelt promise! Elder Packer, as his talk's title suggests, is speaking here to men, "prospective elders," who have left the church and have doubts about their ability to return. But I thought his words conveyed hope for many other situations, in multiple layers in the talk.

Elder Packer emphasized in his story that he had done nothing, really, to maintain his Japanese. And thus he had not really done much to "deserve" any of it coming back. I have sometimes stopped short of asking for similar miracles in my own life, thinking, "I haven't done enough work to deserve this. I'm like the man with one talent: I neglected to do what I could have done, so now I can't expect to have any blessing for it." Ah, but Elder Packer promises that "nothing good is ever lost." There IS hope for me when I neglect things or do them badly. There is hope that the small efforts I do manage to give will come back, magnified, each time I even make an attempt to return to them!

There is hope for me when I feel discouraged about the amount of time it takes to really learn and study…anything. So many things I want to understand, and don't. So much time I know I ought to spend in pondering and improving, but (through laziness or busy-ness or tiredness) don't. I want to grow closer to God. I try. I still stagnate. But nothing good is ever lost:
There is a sacred process by which pure intelligence may be conveyed into our minds and we can come to know instantly things that otherwise would take a long period of time to acquire. He can speak inspiration into our minds, especially when we are humble and seeking.
There is hope in the looking back on past mistakes, when I wish I could go back and re-live certain events, undoing those wrongs. And the discouragement when I think of all the mistakes yet to be made. But even the most sorrowful of time was not wasted time, for nothing good is ever lost:
Those years of the past, that we often think to be wasted, are often rich in many lessons, some of them very hard-earned lessons, which have meaning when the light of inspiration shines upon them.
I do not say that it is easy. I am not talking about appearing to change. I am talking about changing. I do not say it is easy. I say it is possible and quickly possible.
There is hope even in the midst of my certainty that I am surely teaching my children things I don't mean to teach them, by bad example. I know I miss chances to do good. I know I ignore or misinterpret promptings. I know I am blind to some of my faults. But there is hope for my family, for my children when they falter and go astray, and for ME, when I fear I have forgotten, or messed up beyond repair, some of the things I once promised God I would do. I know, before this life, I intended to come here and be a faithful, valiant follower of the Savior. And I have a great fear of disappointing Him with my actual performance. But nothing good is ever lost:
Just as those few words of Japanese could be recalled after 26 years, so the principles of righteousness that you learned as a child will be with you. 
And some you have learned in His presence will return as moments of whispered inspiration, when you will find, then feel, that you are learning familiar things.
This awkward newness of making such a change in your lives will soon fade, and soon you will feel complete and adequate in His church and in His kingdom. Then you will know how much you are needed here and how powerful your voice of experience can be in redeeming others.
I think of loss a great deal. (Too much, arguably.) I think of it as it occurs, and even preemptively, before it occurs. I think I have deep reservoirs of what Elder Maxwell called "our mortal homesickness." It seems to be the underlying theme of much of my writing and maybe even of this whole blog. So for Elder Packer to emphasize this point again and again gives balm to all sorts of places in my uncertain and fearful soul. Our good desires mean something. Those too-short moments of sweetness with our babies mean something. The happy days mean something. The times we resolve to do better, and then gradually fizzle out, mean something. Sorrow means something. Clumsy efforts at childhood and parenthood mean something. Even our failures mean something. And when we return to that place of goodness from which we all came, we will understand. For nothing good is ever lost.


Other posts in this series:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Snuggles

Theodore likes to ASK for snuggles, but then he usually gets up on your lap, turns every which way, bangs into your face a few times with his head, and then slides down again and runs off. When he was a little sick recently he was much more satisfyingly cuddly. Poor lamb.
I feel like I'm cold all the time recently, so I loved having his hot little beanbag body resting on me!
Starting to feel better.
And this is his VERY favorite person to snuggle with.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Picking up color

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session from the April 1975 Conference.
I think I've always been impressionable. I find myself inadvertently imitating the style and tone of whatever writer I'm reading at a given time, or humming whatever music I've been in the vicinity of. Worst of all, I mirror people's facial expressions. I had several teachers throughout school who would comment on it. Some of them said they were unnerved by it; they thought I was making fun of them before realizing it was entirely unconscious on my part. Others said they would glance at my expression to make sure they weren't looking too grumpy that day. The teachers that were smiley and happy seemed to always like having me near the front so they could gaze upon my smiley happy mirror-face. One teacher in junior high (she glared a lot) asked me one day why I was always glaring up at her during her lectures and I had to stammer out some apology and then be VERY CONSCIOUS of putting a pleasant look on my face thereafter. And there was a frowning tour guide in London who singled me out of our group to ask what I kept frowning about.

I think one of the most important things I learned (and have probably written about before) from my poetry teacher Lance Larsen at BYU was that ALL OF US are impressionable. People like to think they aren't. Sometimes aspiring poets would come to him proud of how original and "untainted" they were. "Who are you reading?" he'd ask them, and they'd reply, "I don't read other poetry because I want my own work to sound fresh!" He'd sigh and point out that, lacking the deliberate influence of someone competent, they were instead being influenced by all the drivel they WEREN'T seeking out: advertising jingles, 'poems' in sacrament meeting about footprints and the old violin, angsty pop music. And it showed in their work.

I had a composition teacher tell me much the same thing about music composition. "Students think a melodic idea is good just because it was the first one that came to them," he said. "The opposite is more likely to be true, and unless their musical influences are very deliberate, they're more likely to have bad instincts than good. The crafting of good music is usually more conscious than intuitive."

I was much struck by these comments, and I determined on the spot to make sure I was choosing my artistic influences actively instead of passively! I don't know if I do very well at it. But I do have much less patience for reading sloppy or incoherent prose these days! I used to finish a book just because I'd started it. No more! My free time is too rare to waste any of it reading garbage. But, of course, I know there are many other things influencing me without my even knowing it. It takes a lot of effort to seek out excellent movies to watch, and I'm often feeble and lazy about that. I frequently opt for silence rather than music, which means all I'm mostly hearing is my kids' piano practicing or whatever's playing at the grocery store (hardly a nourishing musical diet…luckily I'm not composing much these days either).

But Elder J. Thomas Fyans' talk in this week's General Conference session made me think again about what influences are coloring my worldview. I loved the metaphor he used, drawn from tributaries of the Amazon River:
One interesting feature about these rivers is their different colors. The Madeira, for example, is called a white river because its waters carry fine clay particles along its course. The black color of the Rio Negro comes from decaying organic materials picked up in the forests through which it passes. Still other rivers flow over white sands and often appear emerald green or turquoise blue. 
Just as these rivers are colored by the substances picked up as they flow along, so the streams of our thoughts are colored by the material through which they are channeled. The scriptures indicate that as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7.) The material we read has a great effect on the nature of our thoughts. We therefore need to be concerned not only with avoiding unwholesome literature, but we must fill our minds with pure knowledge, and we must see that our children do the same.
This made me think about how much I am influenced by living in the stream of modern culture. It's not just specific ideas I'm likely to be wrong about, but even the WAY I'm thinking: what I consider important in life, what I think I'm entitled to, what I see as admirable. When are my thoughts taking their color from the world's view of motherhood, or marriage, or what a happy life and home and family should look like—and when are they taking their color from God's view of those things? How often does my discontent or my impatience or my resistance to something come from an influence I never even knew I was choosing, but which is affecting me all the same? 

Elder Fyans then goes on to talk about how the scriptures and the words of modern prophets are some of the best words to deliberately color our minds with. He quotes President Kimball's statement that 
[When we get] casual in our relationships with [God] and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, [we are] far, far away. If [we will] immerse [ourselves] in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.
Then Elder Fyans continues:
Through our scripture study we will come to consider [the] great leaders of the scriptures as our personal friends, and their messages will take on new and added meaning. We will learn that people of days gone by were not so different from people we know today.
I've found this to be absolutely true in my own life. It is becoming more true even now as I read these old Conference talks and learn to know more of their voices! But there is even more reason to let our minds run over the words of God:
Now, if I may, I would like to return to the analogy of the rivers. Some rivers are sluggish and meander through low places. Their waters are dirty and full of debris. These do not furnish the electricity that brightens our cities and serves our many needs. 
Other rivers flow down from the high places, tributaries adding to their volume as they flow. Their current is strong, and as a result these furnish electricity for our needs and great ships sail upon them carrying the products of man’s labor.
This is what the words of God can do in our lives! Cleanse us, nourish us, even power us! I especially liked the idea that even if I don't do as well as I'd like at finding time to fill my mind with great ideas, with great music and poetry and literature…the scriptures contain all of those things! And they are all of those things to my mind, because they will bring the spirit into my life. Immersing myself in them, as often and as deeply as I can, will bring all the reward I could wish for.
Where do the streams of our thoughts flow? Are we reading the scriptures? Are we listening to the counsel of our present-day prophet? Are we catching the vision of really living the gospel? Are we feeling the sense of urgency—an urgency to repent, to share the gospel, to prepare for the second coming of the Savior, to obey all God’s commandments?
Being conscious about my influences is a goal I made in college, but it's one I could stand to revisit for more than academic reasons. I've always felt a bit sheepish about my facial-mirroring habit, and I've tried to dial it back a bit so I don't embarrass myself! But what's even more alarming is to think of all the times I'm mirroring the thoughts and priorities of people I don't even WANT to imitate. I would so much rather choose to be  colored and influenced by One who will always teach me goodness and truth: Jesus Christ! And I can do this by keeping His influences all about me. Elder Fyons' concluding question makes me resolve to do better: 
As we read the scriptures, our thoughts are lifted heavenward by the counsel of the prophets… 
Why not color your thoughts with eternal, prophetic utterances and truths this very day?


Other posts in this series:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

More…winter

I'm not sure what's happening here, but I don't think it's right.
A bunny for a bunny.
Date with Abe—Joseph Smith Building
Daisy dressed up like a duck. Those are my pot holders on her feet.
Seb made this light…gun? out of wire, electrical tape, a Christmas light, and a paper fastener.
Nutmeg investigates his new bed
Teddy was looking at this book with me and said "That's a rock, that's a rock, and that's Daddy."
All set to play outside!
Walking out of church
Frosty trees
I brought the tablecloths home from the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet to wash them. Then I saw this.
Peek!
Then, of course, this happened.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Never fail to respond

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood session from the April 1975 Conference.
I was touched by two experiences President Marion G. Romney shared in his talk, "We Need Men of Courage." They seemed more deeply personal than is usual in a conference talk, maybe because they both talked of opportunities missed and duties undone:
Not all acts of courage bring…spectacular rewards. But all of them do bring peace and contentment; just as cowardice, in the end, always brings regret and remorse. 
I know that from my own experience. I remember when I was a boy of 15 and we had been expelled from Mexico in the revolution. My folks went to Los Angeles from El Paso, Texas. I got a job there among a bunch of Mormon-haters, and I didn’t tell them that I was a Mormon. Sometime after that, President Joseph F. Smith came to Los Angeles and had dinner with my parents—a very humble dinner; I can remember that it was very scant. He put his hand on my head and said, “My boy, don’t ever be ashamed that you are a Mormon.”
You know, I have worried all my days that I didn’t have the courage to stand up to those ribald men.
I felt almost protective of him when I read this. He was only 15! He had just been driven out from his home! Of course he would be scared of these "Mormon-haters"! But he obviously felt deeply that he could have, should have, done more to stand up for his beliefs.

Then the next experience:
I remember another occasion when I was in Australia on a mission. I went up to visit the Jenolan Caves—very wonderful, spectacular caves. And as we walked through them, the guide said, “If some of you will get out and stand on that rock over there and sing a song, it will demonstrate the capacity of this cave.”

Well, the Spirit said to me, “Go over there and sing ‘O, My Father.’ I hesitated, and the crowd walked on. I lost the opportunity. I never felt good about that. The only thing that ever made me feel the Lord had forgiven me was when I heard President McKay say,“I was inspired one time to do a certain thing when I was in the mission field, and I didn’t do it.” He said, “I have always been sorry since.” He said, “Never fail to respond to the whisperings of the Spirit. Live so you can receive it, and then have the courage to do as it instructs.”
That's really two stories in one, because it talks about President McKay missing an opportunity, too! And President Romney's missed chance was such a strange thing—what good would singing "O, My Father" have done? I wouldn't have wanted to do that either! But what blessing (for himself or someone else) did he forfeit, not doing it? He knew there was something lost.

Still. I love the fact that these two men knew full well that they had fallen short in the past, but it didn't cripple them. They just told themselves, "I won't make that mistake again. Next time I'll listen. Next time I'll respond." And they advised us to make the same commitment!

I read something from a BYU devotional talk recently along those same lines: "Never suppress a generous thought." It's a good thing to ponder. Why spend so much time wondering and analyzing if the spirit is truly telling us to do something? If it's a good thing, just do it. If it might be a prompting, just follow it. "Never fail to respond." And thus God leads us along, and we prove to Him that we (clumsy followers though we may be) truly do desire more spirit, more revelation, more guidance from above.

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The greatest satisfaction

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday afternoon session from the April 1975 Conference.
I loved Elder Bruce R. McConkie's talk in this session of Conference. I'm always wanting to know more about temple covenants, and this treated some of them in great depth. The talk helped me understand the difference between the Law of Sacrifice and the Law of Consecration, which is something I've often wondered about. I knew they were connected, but Elder McConkie's explanation helped me sort it out:
Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church: such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth. 
The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.
Put even more simply, it seems like the Law of Sacrifice requires us to give up, where the Law of Consecration requires us to give. Sometimes they might overlap, like if we were asked to give up money so we could give it for the building up of temples. But other times they have different goals: we may give up a pet cause that is keeping our heart from God's work, for example, but in turn give our energy—that is, focus it, use it, stretch it—in the service of God. That way of thinking of things was clarifying to me.

Elder McConkie continues:
To gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do. 
How, for instance, can we establish our ability to live the full law of consecration if we do not in fact pay an honest tithing? Or how can we prove our willingness to sacrifice all things, if need be, if we do not make the small sacrifices of time and toil, or of money and means, that we are now asked to make?
And I love his conclusion:
Every member of his church has this promise: That if he remains true and faithful—obeying, serving, consecrating, sacrificing, as required by the gospel—he shall be repaid in eternity a thousandfold and shall have eternal life. What more can we ask?
Once I had sacrifice and consecration on my mind, I noticed these same principles coming up in several of the other talks as well. One of my favorite sections was in Elder Hartman Rector, Jr.'s talk called The Roots of Mormonism. Let me back up: I've been thinking a lot lately about the relief and satisfaction that comes with completing a task or an assignment. Even on a small scale—finishing up a few items on my to-do list for the day, or at the end of a Cub Scout activity I was in charge of—I love the feeling of knowing I actually DID something. That may be because there are so many things I don't get the satisfaction of "completing" (laundry…cooking…teaching the children) but even then, I love being able to sink into a chair and say to myself, "Ah…DONE for now." And I think everyone feels that. Even my little two-year-old can't get enough of saying "I did it!" when he finishes something hard. (This goes with what I was talking about with Elder Hales last week, too!)

Because I love these types of feelings so much, I have always been drawn to the scripture where Paul says "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." It just fascinates me. How could he be so sure he had fought a good fight and finished his course? How did it feel to be able to say that, even knowing of his mistakes and imperfections? What a glorious feeling it must have been for him to know he could finally rest and be assured that he had done a good job, that God was pleased with his offering. I saw something similar in my Dad's face as he passed away. He was free, he was happy. He knew he had done what he could, and it was enough. As I watched him, I wanted so much to have that knowledge and relief for myself someday!

So, I knew just what Elder Rector meant when he said:
The glory of work cannot be overemphasized. The satisfaction of a difficult task successfully completed or accomplished is one of the greatest satisfactions that we know in this life.
It's true. The difficulty of the task only makes the completion of it that much more satisfying. Then (and I loved this), Elder Rector says
It seems we are eternally having to do that which we may not particularly want to do to bring to pass the purposes of God among his children on earth.The real secret of the success of the Lord’s program here on earth, or anywhere else for that matter, is sacrifice.
I just love the way the two things tie together: the fact that doing something hard, something we don't particularly WANT to do, in no way diminishes the satisfaction of having done it! That is—I suppose doing something unpleasant just for the sake of being unpleasant wouldn't bring much fulfillment—but both giving up and giving (sacrifice and consecration) hard things for the Lord's sake—for the sake of our covenants—makes our feelings of satisfaction even more all-encompassing once the task is done!

The main point of Elder Rector's talk is that the programs of the church are only effective because of the deep commitment in the hearts of those who carry them out. The programs by themselves are hollow, but with a committed, covenant people filling them, they become living and powerful vehicles that carry us toward God.
It is not the program, but people with a certain knowledge of God and their relationship to him burning in their hearts that bring about success in the activities of the kingdom. This is the strength and vitality of Mormonism.
I loved connecting that principle to the covenants we make in the temple, and to Elder McConkie's talk. It is not simply the giving up of time and energy that brings us joy and satisfaction. It is not the draining, unending work of parenthood or the demands of a challenging calling alone that will lead us to that feeling of "I did it!" It's the doing of those acts, the giving of those gifts, as purposeful and willing fulfillment of the covenants we have made, that allows us to know for ourselves that we can be happy with our work. It is our covenant relationship with God which gives us a standard we can reach toward, and ultimately, reach—and which brings us those feelings of deepest joy when we complete the work we know He has set before us.

I've run marathons and felt amazing relief and joy upon their completion. I've come home after a Young Women's activity or a Relief Society dinner and collapsed with utter thankfulness that it was a success. And of course, like most mothers, after the birth of each of my children, I have felt an almost indescribable joy and satisfaction that we did it, this child and me. We made it through pregnancy and labor and we have truly been delivered into a brand new world full of light. And those feelings, magnified a hundredfold, are what I imagine as the greatest reward, someday, if I can say what Paul said at the end of his race. "I have obeyed, I have served, I have sacrificed, I have consecrated all that I had. I have kept the faith." I can only imagine the feelings that will overcome us when the Savior Himself approves our work, and honors those covenants we cherished, now fulfilled.

Other posts in this series:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happenings in January

The big girls (big? Can't believe I am saying that) moved downstairs after Christmas. Sebastian built their bunk beds and the new dresser for their doll clothes. I was kind of sad to have them moving so far away from Sam's and my room, but it is definitely nice for everyone to spread out a bit, since we had all four little kids in one bedroom before!
Marigold misses her sisters and likes to "sleep over" with them whenever she can! And even when it's just the two of them in their room, Daisy and Junie still usually end up in the same bed. They are just too used to sleeping together, I guess!
Junie Snuggled in with Violet
Junie and Lavender (that's what she named the doll she got for Christmas)
Daisy and Rosie. My mom made the cute doll nightgowns with the scraps I had leftover from the girl nightgowns.
Stripes of sunshine (a welcome sight on these grey days!)
Biggest holding littlest. Littlest doesn't look very little anymore, does he?
More people holding people.
Junie and Nutmeg going off to work with Sam (it was "Draw a bunny" day in his Gesture Drawing class)
Malachi is astounded at this tall magnatiles tower
Teddy and Sam making pasta