Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Whenever I Think About Pioneers arrangement with Violin and Viola

I was trying to think of a way to make that title a little shorter but I kept coming up empty.

I arranged this for our senior primary (and some of the junior kids) to sing for Pioneer Day in July. I know that is so far away, or at least it seems like it, right? Ha. Don't be so sure! If you are planning to sing something for Pioneer Day it is going to sneak up on you.

Well, here it is, I hope you like it. This file includes the violin and viola part and a score.

Please don't sell my work, but if you like it, share it!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Which Child Do You Love The Most?

I was looking through my memories on Facebook (I will honestly admit that the "On this day" feature is one of my favorite parts of Facebook) and I came across this comment I made on a friend's post about how first siblings are favored by parents. It was so good I decided that I needed to put it in a more permenant place.

My parents did a really great job of helping us feel loved and accepted in a lot of ways. They nurtured our individual talents and taught us each that we were special and had an important job to do as a member of our family and society. They expected great things of all of us. 

All of us have or are working on bachelors degrees, and have done well outside of school. 

I think the best thing that parents can do to help siblings bond is to help their children have common values and goals, and give their children shared experiences as a family. That means you all go camping together, or you go to a concert together, etc. 

We did EVERYTHING as a family, particularly when we were young. But even when we were older, my parents made sure that we supported our siblings together as a family. We all went to concerts of a sibling or sports games or awards nights, etc. One sibling's achievement has been a family achievement. 

I think having a strong sense of family rather than focusing too much on the individual children can prevent a lot of sibling rivalry. When the whole family celebrates each child for what they are good at, siblings learn that they are important to their family, and they learn that their siblings are important to them. 

My siblings have always been my very closest friends.

If you want to read more about happiness and unity in family life, check out this proclamation to the world from my Church about 15 years ago. 

How did you parents help create unity in your family? How are you creating unity in your own family?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

When to Give and When to Take

I had a conversation with my teenage daughter about the law of consecration and the United Order.

Before I describe the conversation to you I feel like you need a little bit of background on me.

I am something of a minimalist. I try to live by Sarah Lazarovi's "Buyerarchy of Needs" (a play off of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs).

This, along with the quote "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" from William Morris are the guided principles of my consumerism.

My daughter was not familiar with the United Order, so I described it to her, definitely oversimplifying things, with this statement, "Basically you gave everything you had to the church, and then they would give you back anything you needed." I followed up with, "That didn't mean no one had nice things - but for example, if you needed a ball gown for a fancy dance, you got one. If you didn't need it, someone else got it."

My daughter's response: "That sounds like something you would love."

You have no idea how much I would love it. So so much.

This essay is about sacrifice. I think minimalism and the law of consecration are very much tied to the law of sacrifice. But sacrifice is so tricky.

Young mothers tend to sacrifice so much that they don't get enough to eat, enough sleep, or enough mental health support. This leads to devastating outcomes like postpartum depression, and suicide.

Spouses of abusive partners tend to sacrifice so much that they stay in abusive relationships, which leads to depression, suicidal thoughts, and in some instances murder or suicide. When children are involved, the heartbreaking outcomes can be devastating for these kids.

Members of the church who make covenants to obey and live the laws of consecration and sacrifice often give so much of themselves that they become disillusioned with at least the church, and in extreme cases even deny the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The problem with sacrifice and the law of consecration is pride. Pride is a barrier.

Being a survivor of abuse I have found some bitterness in my heart toward the law of sacrifice. I sometimes find myself saying in my head "But I sacrificed everything, and it got me into an abusive relationship where I felt robbed of my very being, where my children's quality of life was diminished, where my safety and the safety of my children was not guaranteed. Why should I sacrifice? People will just take advantage of me." In my mind, living the laws of sacrifice and consecration were the gates to abuse. Indeed, very often they are. It is easy to be taken advantage of if you sacrifice and give. So how do we protect ourselves from abuse when we are living the law of sacrifice?

Here is the not-so-easy answer I have come up with: we don't.

Oh, I believe in boundaries, definitely. But we have to be careful that our boundaries come from a place of Doctrine & Covenants 121:43 - "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost" - rather than from a place of pride.

The past several years I have been recovering mentally and spiritually from an abusive relationship. I have learned a lot about boundaries, and at the same time I have developed a lot of pride.

Ironically, pondering the law of sacrifice as I have been doing the past several months seemed to increase my feelings of pride. The elusive balance between sacrifice and boundaries was something I couldn't quite grasp until a month or so ago when I had this inspired thought:

The Savior gave everything. Not just His time and His talents and His love. He gave His very life. His life. And who appreciated him? Very few people. What happened to him? He was abused. In fact, in the words of my beloved Isaiah, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

That thought was humbling, and I try to use it whenever I want to withhold something - time, money, love, compassion, my talents, whatever it is. I try to come back to that thought. He gave everything - He sacrificed everything and He didn't stop when people abused Him.

Now, am I saying that you should find ways to be abused and taken advantage of? No way. Remember that the Holy Ghost might prompt you not to give - but you have to be very very in tune with that and make sure it isn't pride motivating your stinginess.

I am saying that when you find yourself in a position to give of your time, talents, energy, compassion, love, etc and you want to withhold because you are worried about being taken advantage of, or you start feeling those begrudging feelings of "But who is going to take care of my needs?", remember the Savior and give anyway.

And then take.

Take the Savior's yoke. Take and take and take from the Savior. That is the place to take. No spouse, no friend, no child, no church leader, no human being will ever be able to give you everything you want and need (remember that thing about pride?). So you have to take it from the Person who is immune to Satan's tricks and lies. The only human who has no pride. Not one drop. The only person capable of giving you absolutely everything you need.

And sometimes the only thing you can get from Him is the assurance that some day you will be able to enter into His rest.
Surrender by Reflections of Christ

A friend of mine once said that she imagines our reunion with the Father will consist of us falling, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted into his arms, and He, with tears streaming down his face, will say, "That was hard, wasn't it? I am so glad you are safe at home with me now."

How do you find a balance between sacrifice and mental health? How do you keep pride out of the picture? Have you learned to rely on the power of the Savior?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What Did I do Wrong?

The question "Why is this happening to me?" can be a soul expanding question when we ask it in humility and learn what God wants us to learn, sometimes that question can become debilitating if we ask it in shame or embarrassment or anger.

It is easy to believe that your trials come because you were faithful enough. If only I had enough faith, if only I was more obedient, if only I had a stronger testimony.

Prior to a major trial, you may have felt confident in your faith and testimony. I know that prior to my divorce I felt like I had unshakeable faith and never ending courage. In spite of the difficulties of my marriage I felt like if I pressed forward with faith my marriage could be saved and we could be happy. When that didn't happen, you can see how my faith might have been shaken.

After my divorce I constantly questioned my testimony and my faith. In fact, three years later and I am still questioning my faith and testimony. Is it strong enough? Do I really believe what I say I believe? Do I have an unshakable testimony? Do I have enough faith?

Satan wants us to believe that our faith isn't strong enough. He wants us to think our testimony isn't good enough. But those are lies.

No matter the source of our trials, whether caused by our own sin and weaknesses, the sin and weaknesses of others, or simply this fallen world, the Savior's atonement can strengthen us.

Maybe my testimony wasn't as strong as I thought it was. Maybe I don't have as much faith as I thought I had. But if I turn to the Savior during my trials my testimony and faith will be strengthened. As the father in the New Testament pled with the Savior, "Lord, help thou mine unbelief" so, too, can the Savior help strengthen our faith and testimony.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wake Up! Don't You Know What We Have?

"Sometimes we sleepwalk on the path of discipleship." 
- Pres. Uchtdorf 
Saturday AM Session General Conference October 2016
One of those repetitive lessons that we hear over and over again is the plan of salvation. It seems like such a simple thing, such a plain truth, that it is easy to take for granted. In his Saturday morning address, President Uchtdorf explained that when people would ask about the Church he would usually start with something about the word of wisdom, or draw parallels between our beliefs and the beliefs of other religions. However, he mentioned, explaining the plan of salvation to people had the biggest impact. He said:
Some of my friends would say that this message felt familiar, even though such things were never taught in their religious upbringing. It was as if they had always known these things to be true, as if I was simply casting light on something that was always and deeply rooted in their hearts.
A few weeks ago, I came across this video - some missionaries in the Billings Montana mission rapping about the first lesson the missionaries usually teach - the lesson about the restoration and the plan of salvation. I enjoy rap in general (clean rap, which is hard to find!) but this song resonated with me in a way no other song outside of the hymnbook has ever been able to do.

John 20:24–29, Thomas sees the resurrected ChristI believe it is because the content is so powerful. The plan of salvation is such a powerful truth. I love President Uchtdorf's description of the plan of salvation in his talk. If you haven't read it I highly encourage you to read it. I may print it out and make a goal to read it at least once a week, even though it is so familiar to me. President Uchtdorf cautioned, "It seems to be human nature: as we become more familiar with something, even something miraculous and awe-inspiring, we lose our sense of awe and treat it as commonplace." I don't want to treat the glorious doctrine of restoration and the atonement and the gospel plan as commonplace! I want to adore it and appreciate it.

President Uchtdorf's sleepwalking comment hit me between the eyes. Do I sleepwalk on the path of discipleship? I think I have been sleeping walking for a while, and I want to wake up! Well, this is me waking up! What am I going to do to show that I am not sleepwalking? I am going to share the glorious message of the plan of salvation and the love of our Father in Heaven for us! I encourage you to do the same. Share the plan any time you can with whoever you can.

"What shall we give in return for the flood of light and truth God has poured out upon us?" (Pres. Uchtdorf)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Sometimes, when studying the gospel, I get bored of the topics I am studying. Particularly at church in Sunday School and sometimes in Relief Society. I crave something new, something deeper. I get bored with the same gospel topics every week, the same discussions, the same comments, everything the same. I have always understood the value of these repetitive lessons for those who haven't learned the lessons, those who are new to the church, and such. But only recently have I learned the true value of those lessons for me.

As I was completing a requirement for Personal Progress with my youth age daughter, I came across this scripture in 2 Peter 1

Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
John 13:1–35, Jesus blesses wine and passes it
Image Credit: LDS Media Library
What a humbling verse of scripture. Peter knew that the Saints already knew these gospel topics. He wasn't trying to teach them something new. He simply understood the principle of putting people "always in remembrance" of the things that are most important - the plain and precious, simple parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a math teacher and a musician you would think that I already clearly understood this idea.

In order to be a good mathematician, you need to be constantly reviewing the basics - if you aren't constantly using your times tables, you forget them. If you don't frequently solve equations, or factor polynomials, you won't be very good at it.

Professional musicians will agree that in order to be a good musician, you still need to practice the basics, your scales, etudes, and so on. When practicing even an advanced piece, you should stop and practice intonation, bowings, fingers and such.

This principle of remembering is so vital to everything we do in life - even walking or using a muscle. A broken arm will need to remember how the muscles move after being confined to a cast or sling for so long. It's amazing to me that I didn't full recognize the importance of this principle until much later.

It has changed my perspective of repetitive messages in Sunday School and Relief Society lessons, and even in General Conference talks. I now crave the repetition, I need it to keep me straight and keep me grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What things do you get bored of? Does the principle of remembering change your perspective?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Nearer, My God, to Thee

Christ standing outside and embracing Mary and Martha, with others watching in the background.
Image Credit: LDS Media Library

General Conference this weekend was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband's talk really penetrated my heart. His reminder to never forget the spiritual experiences we have had struck me. When I was regularly studying the gospel, I had many spiritual experiences that I, thankfully, recorded in my journal. Lately I have been lacking in my study of the gospel, mostly because I went to grad school and spent all of my time on graduate studies. I tried to at least keep up on reading the Book of Mormon, although I didn't have much time to devote to the study of it. I just kept reading. I believe that helped me through what was a very stressful time in my life.

When I mentioned to my husband that I needed to find a time to study the gospel, he mentioned to me that I should spend my lunch period at work studying the gospel and writing in my blog. I have to pump on my lunch period because I am breastfeeding, so I am tied to my desk in my classroom. I have been having a little bit of a pity party about it the past few weeks because I like spending time in the faculty room with my colleagues, and I liked being able to take a break from work. But lately I have been working through my lunch since I am attached to my desk anyway. It is hard to stop and do something else. But this! This, studying the gospel. I can take a break from work for that!

So if you need a little lunch time pick-me-up, feel free to check out my blog around lunch time during the work week. I will likely post something every day. If it doesn't help you, at least it will be helping me!

What messages hit you the hardest during General Conference? What changes are you planning to make in your life because of what you heard? Did you notice any themes?
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