Sunday, July 7, 2013

A perfect Book of Mormon challenge

I have the best bishop on earth. No, seriously I do. He is so down-to-earth and easy to talk to. He is approachable and funny. Most of all he is loving, and spiritual, and a great leader. He has been so great with the youth of our ward. He has taken to texting, and keeping in touch with the youth this way. In addition to the youth in our ward, he has also been a great strength to me, my family, and to my kids who are not active, even the ones that don't live in the ward. He loves them and they know it. They come to him for advice, and they actually listen to him.

Now that I've established how great my bishop is, I am going to tell you about a challenge that he made to our ward last Sunday. As most LDS people know, when there is a 5th Sunday in a month, the Relief Society (women) and the Priesthood (men) meet together on the 3rd hour of the meeting block for instruction from the ward leaders. Last Sunday our bishop took up most of the time talking about missionary work in our ward. He spoke about how many members and non-members we have right in our own neighborhoods, and about how we should be inviting them to come unto Christ. We've all heard this type of talk before, I'm sure, but this one really touched me. As I was listening, I kept thinking about my own children who are not active, and hoping that someone in their wards or neighborhoods were hearing a talk like this one and that they would feel prompted to go out and fellowship and invite my children to come to Christ. Then it hit me. I felt the spirit telling me something something that I'd never thought of in this way. The spirit reminded me that my own neighbors and friends are SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILDREN. That someone, somewhere, is praying that someone like me will reach out to their children and help them to come back into the fold. Someone needs me to help THEIR child. I had never thought of it that way. I guess I was only thinking selfishly. I realized that I needed to do my part to be an influence in the lives of my neighbors and friends. I feel that if I do this,  my children will be blessed to receive the messages that someone, someday will feel prompted to give them. It was a wonderful revelation.

But I haven't even gotten to the challenge yet. After his inspiring talk on missionary work, he gave us a challenge. He told us that he had personally decided to read the entire Book of Mormon in the month of July. He then asked that we join him in reading the Book of Mormon every day, and  if we wanted to join him, read the Book of Mormon all the way through in the month of July. In addition to our daily reading of the Book of Mormon, he asked us to pray daily for inspiration on how to help those around us to want to join with us. He told us that if we do those things that the spirit will help us to know who to talk to and invite, and what to say to them.

Because I have more spare time for the next couple of months, I decided to take on the challenge and read the Book of Mormon his month. I have never read it that fast. I was worried that I might not get as much out of it if I did, but I decided to do it. So last week I have started reading. In order to finish in 30 days, you need to read about 20 pages a day. I found a 30-day reading schedule that I will post at the end of this post. I have been loosely following it to keep me on track.

So far the experience has been wonderful. I have felt the spirit so strongly! Last night I read more than 20 pages because I was trying to catch up a little on my schedule. I try to think about what I'm reading, even though I'm reading more, and a little faster. Today I really noticed a increase of the spirit.  My church meetings were so much more meaningful because I was so close to the spirit. One thing I am enjoying about reading so much of the Book of Mormon at a time, is that I am understanding more. It's making more sense because I can see the big picture more (if that makes sense) like who's who, and all that. I am so happy that I am taking on this challenge.

I would like to challenge anyone reading this, to read the Book of Mormon in the next 30 days. It will bring the spirit to your daily life. It will give more strength to do the things you need to do, and to cope with or overcome your trials in your life. It will help you to reach out to those around you who need to be fellowshipped, and help you to know what to say and do. You will feel your Heavenly Father's love for you and for your family.

Here is the 30-day schedule that I have been following:

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Confessions of a not-so-perfect homemaker

Being a Mormon mom, I am expected to have certain skills in the homemaking department. At least that is what I have always believed (maybe those beliefs are from my own head). But I have had a lot of guilt as a wife and mother because I don't possess very many of those skills.

Somehow, I didn't inherit the homemaking gene, other than cooking. I am actually a pretty decent cook, when I want to be. When my kids were little, I used to cook meals from scratch every day, mostly because we didn't have a lot of money and I couldn't afford processed foods or fast food. Now that I work full-time, my idea of a homemade meal is a box of macaroni and cheese. It's very sad. But at least I know that I CAN cook if I need to.

Here are some things I definitely DON'T do well:

Sewing: I learned a little about sewing as a teenager (in school, and a little of what my mom taught me), but when I sewed, I spent most of my time un-picking all my stitches and doing it over again so many times, that I decided sewing just wasn't for me. I decided I'd be buying my clothes, and my family's clothes, off the rack.

Knitting/Crocheting: My mom used to knit and crochet things for our family all the time. I don't know why I didn't ever ask her to teach me, and she never offered. I guess I wasn't too interested, until I grew up and wished I could make things for my own family like she did. My oldest daughter actually DID ask her grandma to teach her to crochet, and now she does possess that talent. She crocheted a beautiful baby afghan for her sister when she had her baby. It made me cry. I was touched, and kinda jealous.

Crafts: I actually like to do crafts, but I am such a perfectionist that I don't let myself feel good about what I make. It's never good enough. That takes all the joy out of it, so I don't do it much unless it's something I sign up to do at Relief Society Super Saturday.

Baking: Above I mentioned that I'm a decent cook, but one thing I don't do much of is bake. The only time I bake a dessert is when I make a cake for my kid's birthday using a cake mix (although I used to bake cakes from scratch when we were too poor to buy a mix). I was never the mom who would bake cookies with her kids. I don't know if I've ever done that. My niece, who is a wonderful cook and baker, used to tell me she was going to come over and show me how to turn on my oven. Rude.

Ironing: When I was first married, my husband told me how he loved his dress shirts all crisp and ironed. I immediately knew I was in trouble. I remember once, when we were first married, trying to iron his shirt the way he wanted it. I really tried my best! He never asked me to do it again, and he gave up on the crisply ironed shirt idea (unless he did it himself).

My idea of ironing has always been spraying the shirt or other clothing item with water, then throwing it in the dryer for 10 minutes. Works pretty good! If I ever accidentally bought something that I later learned needed to be ironed (usually after I washed it once and it came out of the dryer all crinkled up) it would end up in the give-away bag, or thrown away. I remember pulling my ironing board out of the dark recess of my closet once, and all my kids standing around it and saying, "Mommy, what is that thing?"

Decorating: I love to look at decorating blogs and magazines and dream of doing some of those things in my house, but none of it ever happens. I have lived in my current house for 13 years, and have never painted a single wall here. The walls are the same white color that was here when we moved in (plus a lot of nicks and chips). I have only bought a piece of furniture once, in the 28 years I've been married, and it was a cheap dining table and chairs. Everything else in my house (couches, beds, dressers, etc.) are used or a hand-me-down from a family member. I basically have the same decorations and pictures on my walls that I had at my previous house (and those things are not very cute). I don't know if I lack confidence or if I just can't decide what I want to do.

Housecleaning: This is the area in which I have carried the most shame. If I am missing any gene in the homemaking department, it has to be the cleaning gene. I have never been good at keeping my home clean or organized. I have always been reluctant to ask people over to my house for dinner or for any other reason. For many years I didn't ask anyone over, EVER. When my visiting teachers would come unannounced, I would often talk to them on the porch or sit outside in a lawn chair because I was too embarrassed to let them in my dirty house. Now, I know some of you are thinking that maybe I had a few toys laying around, or someone left their shoes on the floor, but it was much more than that. My house was always a MESS. A dirty mess. A cluttered, dirty mess. If you've ever watched an episode of Hoarders, take it down a notch or two, and you'd have my house back then. I don't know if it was my tendency to procrastinate, or even my perfectionism that caused this, but it has been a trial in my life, and my family's lives as well. I know my kids were always embarrassed to bring friends home. It makes me sad to think about.

My hubby actually found a way to get the house cleaner though. He would invite people over without asking me first. He'd come home from work and casually tell me that So and So was coming over for dinner tomorrow. I'd flip out. I'd cry. I'd yell. I'd beg him to cancel. When he wouldn't, I'd go on a cleaning frenzy trying to make the house half-way presentable for company (which it really never was). My husband knew that this was the best way to get the house cleaner, so that's why he did it. It didn't make me very happy though.

My house is a little better now that it used to be. I've learned to keep my living room somewhat clean in case I have company. I can even let my visiting teachers come in and sit down. I can get my house company-ready a lot more quickly now, because I don't let things get so bad, but they are still somewhat bad in many ways. I still struggle. One day I hope to conquer my dirty house once and for all, and keep it clean every day. I'm getting there. I'm sure I will feel more at peace once I get there.

Even though I know I'm not very adept in the homemaking department, there ARE things I do well. I know I have hidden talents (sometimes they seem hidden from even me) but as I get older and wiser, I am discovering them, and learning not to beat myself up for the things I don't do as well. I know my Heavenly Father loves me, exactly as I am, and I am grateful for the gifts and talents that he has given me, even if they aren't in homemaking.  I am learning that I don't have to be perfect at it. I just need to keep on doing a little better. :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Not-so-perfect way to become a grandma

I wish I could remember the exact date. It was sometime in early June of 2009. It was just an ordinary night, with my husband and I watching t.v. in bed before going to sleep. My 19 year daughter (the neglected middle child, as she calls herself), who was living at home at the time, showed up in our bedroom looking nervous. Her older sister, who didn't live with us anymore, was with her. I thought that was weird. I didn't expect my oldest daughter to stop by that night. I later learned that she was there for moral support. My daughter sat down in our bedroom and told us she needed to talk to us. By the way she was talking and acting I knew it was a serious matter. I didn't know that the words I was about to hear would change our family's life forever.

She rambled on for a little bit. I can't really remember what words came before, because the words "I'm pregnant" are all I really remember. My husband claims I gave an audible gasp. We both sat in silence for a moment, taking it in. I wanted to think I'd heard her wrong, but I knew I hadn't. I guess I shouldn't have been too shocked. I had been very worried about her and the way she was living her life for a long time. She was acting out, in the opposite way of how she had been taught and raised. She seemed to be taking risks and associating herself with questionable people. But even so, I was surprised. I guess I really never expected it to happen to her or to our family.

I could see how scared and worried she was. The next thing she told us was that she was going to place the baby for adoption. She said she'd already decided. I was actually proud of her at that moment, realizing that even though she had made mistakes, she was trying to be mature and responsible. The LDS church encourages young girls to choose adoption if marriage to the father is not an option, so of course I was supportive of that idea. My husband and I immediately told her we loved her, and that we would support her. There was no anger or yelling (as I think she expected). There was no reason to yell or punish. We knew that what she was going through would probably be the hardest trial of her life. I couldn't sleep that night thinking of everything my daughter was going to have to face now. I knew her life was never going to be the same. I was so scared for her.

For several days, maybe even weeks, I was feeling the affects of my daughter's announcement. I remember feeling like my whole body was heavy. I felt unfocused. I guess I was kind of in shock for a while. We started managing the "stuff" that needed to be done, not letting ourselves think too much about the adoption yet. We did things like making the OB appointment. She met with our bishop, who encouraged her to contact LDS Family Services. LDSFS is a church-run adoption agency and counceling center that matches birth moms with pre-screened, worthy Mormon families. LDSFS gave her and our family so much support during the pregancy. They offered counseling to my daughter, and assistance in finding an adoptive family. As the grandparent I was invited to attend group counseling as well. The advice of caring caseworkers, and the support other grandparents who were going through the same experiences, helped me cope better with any feelings of fear and doubt.

It turned out that my daughter was actually 4 months pregnant that night she told us. She had known for over 3 months and didn't dare tell us. She was so scared, and lost, and basically alone all that time. That makes my heart ache. But now that I knew, I wanted to make this tough thing as easy as possible for her.

From that moment on I was by her side every step of the way. Even though I seemed strong on the outside, I was very torn up on the inside. This was my very first grandchild. I had so looked forward to being a grandma. Now, my grandchild was going to be given to another family? In my heart I knew it was the right thing for both my daughter and for the baby, but I still struggled with my feelings. However, I never told these feelings to my daughter. I didn't want to influence her one way or the other. I knew it had to be her decision. My daughter was much stronger than me. She never doubted or wavered. She was so courageous. I did a lot of praying, and having faith in the Lord and his plan for this little girl. I felt his spirit comforting me, and helping me through my doubts and fears.

LDS Family Services was so supportive of my daughter and our family as she went through the process of finding a couple to adopt the baby. Months went by, and my daughter still had not been able to find a couple she felt good about. She had looked at hundreds of couples on the online profiles, but none of them seemed to “feel” right. As we were looking together one day, I saw again a couple that we had previously looked at. I was drawn to many things about them. I suggested that she email them. That email turned in to many emails back and forth, and finally a face-to-face meeting.

The couple flew to our state and met with my daughter, my husband, and me. We ended up spending a lot time with them that weekend. By the end of the weekend, after receiving one of many blessings given to her by her father, my daughter had a calm and happy feeling, and knew they were the couple that was supposed to raise her daughter. I knew that it was the spirit manifesting this knowledge to her. They will hereafter be known as "The Awesomes".

That night she told them that she wanted them to adopt her little girl. My whole family, including my husband and my other 4 children were there. The spirit was so strong, and there was not a dry eye in the room. All my fear, doubt and dread left me, and I had no doubt that our Heavenly Father had lead my daughter to this couple. I had no doubt that my granddaughter was supposed to be raised by this beautiful, wonderful couple.

In December 2009, my daughter gave birth to a perfect baby girl, whom I will call Angel. Forty-eight hours later, after spending every possible second in the hospital with her sweet baby, she signed the adoption papers and handed her into the loving arms of her new parents. My family and I shed many tears, but we never doubted that this was what Heavenly Father wanted for this baby.

Six months after placement, the court finalized the adoption and it was time to seal it all with our Heavenly Father. In the LDS church, we believe that families are sealed together for eternity in our temples. The Awesomes came with Angel to our state to attend the temple, and have her sealed to their family. We were so glad that they came here to do it! My husband and I were able to attend the temple sealing, and Mrs. Awesome gave me the privilege of taking a small part in it. It was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful, spiritual day, confirming to me that this was where my granddaughter was always supposed to go, and this was the family who was supposed to raise her. You might think that it would have been a sad day for our family, losing our little one, but we didn't feel as if we were losing her. We knew she was where she should be, so finalizing it was actually a relief. Even though Angel is with another family, I know that our family will be blessed by our Heavenly Father because of the sacrifices and the decisions we made. I truly believe that Angel will always be a part of our family's life, here, and in the hereafter. Afterward, my whole family gathered outside the temple to take pictures together. One of those pictures now hangs in my living room, with the words "Families are Forever" above it.

Besides being the hardest thing I have ever gone through, this experience was also the most spiritual one of my life. I saw and felt the Lord's hand in the entire adoption process.

We are fortunate to have an wonderful, successful, open adoption. Since the adoption 3 1/2 years ago, we continue to stay close to the adoptive couple and to our granddaughter. We are one family. She even calls us Grandma and Grandpa. I mail her packages, and Skype with her. We visit them, and they come to our state to visit us.

I am so very proud of my daughter's courageous decision to give her daughter more than she could give her herself. She wanted her to have a mom AND a dad in a loving, stable home. She definitely has those things with The Awesomes. I feel so blessed to have gone through this difficult, but wonderful experience. I grew so much closer to my Heavenly Father, and learned to trust in his plan for my family.

I blog more about my experiences as a birth grandma in a separate blog. If you want to read more, here is the link:
The Birth Grandma Chronicles

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A beautiful, joyful, perfect wedding

My oldest daughter got married in May of 2010.  She was such a beautiful bride, and it was a wonderful day for our family. If I could of picked her husband for her (which she never in a million years would have allowed) I would surely have picked SIL. He is the most gentle, kind, patient and caring person I have ever met, but most of all, he loves my daughter (thank goodness) in spite of her flaws and her difficult personality. But he is not a member of the Mormon church. Because I always dreamed of, and expected, my daughter to marry a good Mormon boy in the temple (more about that later), I was a little bit sad that her choices had led her away from her faith.

When SIL decided he wanted to ask my daughter to marry him, he nervously came to our house to ask my husband for our daughter's hand. It was a sweet, old-fashioned gesture that my husband really appreciated, because he still believes in such things. My daughter knew this, and told her soon-to-be hubby that he needed to do it. I think SIL would have done it anyway without a push, because he is just that kind of a guy.

So, he shows up at our house. He was a bundle of nerves. For some reason, all of my kid's friends and the people they date are afraid of my hubby. He's a big guy, and he doesn't smile a lot, even though he has a wicked sense of humor. He can be a little intimidating. Above all, he is very protective of his daughters. VERY protective. He often mentions to their dates that he has a shotgun and a shovel, and I don't always think it's a joke. He loves to grill the guys who come to our house to take his daughters out. He loves to watch them squirm. SIL knew him well already, and knew he might be in for an uncomfortable discussion.

When he sat down to talk to my hubby, and asked him if he could marry our daughter, he was surprised to receive such a favorable response. My hubby already knew he was the only guy on earth who could love her and put up with her. He also knew he would treat her like the princess she had always thought she was, for the rest of her life.

After they were done with their man talk, I was invited to come out. I had a few things to say to future SIL. I asked him: "Are you sure? Do you know how difficult she is? Are you sure you know her well enough? Do you realize what you're getting yourself into?" He answered all the questions with the right answers. Later when I told my daughter that I practically tried to talk him out of it, she said, "I knew you would, mom." She knows me, and she knows her difficult self.

After she was engaged, it was almost a year before they actually got married. Because she wasn't (and still isn't) active in the church, she chose to live with SIL for about 2 years. She had lived with a previous boyfriend as well (thank goodness that one didn't work out). It hurt me to watch her make these choices. I knew she knew better. But, she always knew I loved her, even if I didn't love her choices. Sometimes we had words about it, but mostly I didn't talk about it much with her because I knew it wouldn't help, and would only hurt our relationship. My relationship with my kids is everything. I can't ever help them to come back to what they know is right, if I don't have a good relationship with them.

When the wedding day finally arrived, I was determined not to dwell on any negative thoughts. I didn't let myself think about the fact that SIL was not a member of the church. I didn't think about the dreams I had always had of seeing her married in the temple (we believe that in the temple, couples can be sealed together for Time and all Eternity). I wanted to be happy on my daughter's wedding day.

Once, years before, I went to my nephew's wedding. He was a return missionary, but he was marrying a girl who was not an active member. They were getting married in a little white, non-denominational,  chapel. Before the ceremony started, I went to the basement of the chapel to go to the bathroom, and found my sister-in-law, my nephew's mom, crying. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, through her tears, "It isn't supposed to be like this". I knew she was talking about her son marrying outside the temple, to a girl who wasn't a strong member of the church. On that day, I made a decision that I would never do that. I would be happy on my child's wedding day no matter what. I was determined not to cry in a basement.

My daughter's wedding was beautiful. She had it in a park that had a big gazebo. She chose 3 bright colors for her theme. We decorated the gazebo with lights and brightly colored scarves and colored tulle. She had bright bows on all the chairs, and bright, colorful tablecloths. I thought it was breathtaking. It made me so happy to look at it all when we finished decorating. The bishop married them right in front of the gazebo steps. I cried, but they were tears of joy.

Even though she had once stated that she didn't want her ceremony to be religious, or mention God (this was annoying to me) she finally decided to have our bishop perform the ceremony. A bishop is the leader of a congregation, but he is not paid to do his job. He is called for a few years (through inspiration from the spirit) to lead the congregation, then released and another bishop is called. She really liked our bishop, and I think she realized she'd rather have him do it than some strange justice of the peace or somebody like that. He made it clear that God would definitely be mentioned, and he would be saying lots of religious stuff, but she still decided to have him do it. He did a beautiful job in my opinion. God was definitely mentioned, and the words were inspiring and beautiful. I loved it.

It was a wonderful day, even though I doubt I've ever been that exhausted. I was exhausted, but happy. They have been married 3 years now, and SIL still treats her like she's made of gold, and they are so very happy and devoted to each other. I am glad I made the choice to enjoy the day, and be happy for my daughter and for our family, even though it wasn't all "perfect", it was beautiful and perfect for them, and for me.

Not-so-perfect choices

I'm going to go back a few years, almost 27 years, to when I was a new wife and new mom. I married my husband, the man I loved, and always will love, in the LDS temple. I knew we were supposed to be together forever way before he did, but it took some convincing to get him to see it (he's a little slow on things like this). Hubby was a returned missionary. This means that he served as a missionary for our church for 2 years of his life. This is the formula that every good Mormon girl is supposed follow: Find a Return Missionary, then marry him in the Temple (where couples are sealed together for Time and All Eternity). I was sure that by following this pattern, everything else would fall into place. My family would be exactly like the ones you see in church with the perfect children, all lined up on the bench sitting perfectly with bows in the girls hair, and white shirts and ties on the boys.

What I am about to admit is hard for me. I want to look like a perfect Mormon mom. I don't talk about my failures with very many people. I kid myself and think that other people look at me and think I fit the perfect Mormon mold, but I don't. My family doesn't. I know there are many families that don't. Maybe there isn't really a mold, but just people, doing their best.

I had always wanted to raise my kids with the values that I had been raised with, and all the beliefs I had, and still have. I know that in his heart, my husband also wanted these things. He decided just a few months into our marriage that he wasn't going to go to church anymore, until he felt like he was doing it for himself, and not anyone else. Not even me. He believed in the doctrines, but he had some resentment from his childhood and the way he was pushed to go to church, that caused him to dislike going to his meetings. Needless to say this upset me greatly. I wanted us to be united in our spiritual life, and now we weren't. My deep love and commitment to my husband has never wavered, but I felt a little cheated, like there had been some false advertising.

We had our first child, our oldest daughter, when we had been married a little over a year. We were both ecstatic to be parents. My hubby didn't have any sisters, so he really wanted a girl first, and so did I. I loved being a mom from the first moment I became one. Less than two years later, our son came along, then 18 months later, our second daughter (who likes to call herself the neglected middle child). We were very poor. My husband was in and out of work. I was a stay-at-home mom who tried to make a little money on the side by doing daycare in my home, selling tupperware, and I even had my own preschool in my home for a while.

I was taking my kids to church without their dad most of the time, and I have to admit I felt quite a lot of anger and resentment. I really wanted him to be the strong priesthood leader of our family. Besides going to church with his family, I wanted him to lead our family spiritually by calling us all together for family prayers, scripture study and Family Home Evening (FHE). These are the things that our church leaders tell us to do in raising our families. FHE is when Mormon families gather together, usually on Monday nights, to learn the gospel, play games, eat treats or go out to do wholesome family activities. When Hubby didn't take the lead on these things, I was stubborn and determined to wait for him to do it. After all, it was his job, right? I also didn't do it myself because I could rationalize that those things weren't all that important, because my own parents didn't do those things regularly when I was growing up, and we all turned out to be strong members of the church in our adulthood. I realize now that I didn't have a testimony of how important those things were in raising strong, spiritual children.  But, every time I heard my leaders talk about it, I knew that since he wasn't doing it, and I knew that I should. When I got to feeling guilty I tried for a while, got discouraged when it was difficult, then gave up. I was weak and I let Satan win. To make myself feel better, I told myself that taking my kids to church on Sunday and to other church activities was going to be enough. They were going to be fine. That's how I was raised, and look how great I turned out. 

Two more daughters came along. Our household was filled with noise and laughter and fun. It's always been that way. Our kids are anything but quiet, calm and boring. Hubby attended church meetings with us sometimes. I did a lot of begging and trying to guilt him into changing his attitude about going to church, but I know it just pushed him farther from it. Even though I thought I was superior spiritually, I know now that I really wasn't. I was going to church more, but I wasn't living my life as close to my Heavenly Father as I should have been. I wasn't praying regularly, or having personal scripture study, or attending the temple. I was kidding myself into thinking I was doing fine. I see now that I wasn't a good example to my kids and didn't teach them the gospel at home, and I didn't give them opportunities to feel the spirit in our home. I wanted to blame my husband for not doing enough, but it wasn't all his fault. It was mine, too. He had his choices, but I had my choices too, and I made the choice to take the easier road, to not have to do things that were out of my comfort zone like trying to come up with FHE lessons every week, and trying to get my kids to participate in family prayer and scripture study. 

Fast forward to now. But, before I even start to talk about now, I have to say one thing. I realize that even if I would have done a perfect job in raising my kids strongly in the gospel, they still have their free agency. They can choose. Many families who are a lot better at the things I lacked, have children who choose different paths than what they are taught. I know that. But that knowledge didn't help much with the guilt I felt as I watched my 3 oldest children leave the church and make choices I hoped they never would. It hurt me so much. They are all 3 such wonderful people, with big hearts, and lots of talents and abilities, and really good character. I am so proud of them in so many countless ways. I love them with all my heart and soul, and because of that I so wanted for them to go on missions, to be married in the temple, to choose the life I always hoped they would. For the longest time guilt and pain almost consumed me. At times I could hardly function in my life.

Then one day, I finally decided to start living my own life the way I always should have, instead of just going through the motions. I started by going to the temple every week. Mormon temples are meeting houses that are more sacred than our church buildings. Mormons go there to be instructed, make promises or covenants, and feel closer to our Heavenly Father. I feel and felt so much love from my Heavenly Father there. I cried many tears as I asked him to forgive me for being so weak. I started praying daily, and then many times a day. I felt even closer to him. I read the Book of Mormon for only the second time in my life (the first time was only a few years prior). I felt his spirit and his love in those pages and in my heart. I finally started to do better at having scripture study, family prayer and FHE with my last 2 children. Slowly, I began to feel forgiven. He probably forgave me long before I ever started to forgive myself, but finally I felt it. I felt at peace. I feel that peace every day now. I can't go back in time and change anything, (I often wish I had a time machine for just that purpose) but I know that my Heavenly Father will make up for what I didn't do. He has already done it by sending his son to pay for my sins. For all of our sins. My Savior died to make up the difference that I can't make up. I know that somehow, everything is going to be okay, if I continue to keep my covenants and his commandments.

I love my family with all my heart. They are my favorite people to be around. I love when we're all together eating, and laughing, and talking too loudly. If you ever came to a family dinner at my house, you'll probably go away thinking we're the most obnoxious people ever. We probably are (and my people before you have thought so) . We don't care what anyone else thinks (except DD4 who is still a teenager hasn't outgrown her embarrassment that she even HAS a family). I love my husband and appreciate him for the good man, husband, and father that he is. He still makes me laugh after all these years. He still gives me advice that I don't want to admit is right, but later know that it is. He loves me and he loves our family. He has a testimony of the gospel that I have heard him express many times. I am so grateful and I feel so very blessed to have the wonderful life that I have, even if it's not always perfect.