Sunday, December 26, 2010

Becoming "Un-Dragoned"

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt." From The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

My heart and head have been so full these last couple of months. As I alluded to in a recent post, things have been rough this year. Here at home, money has been tight, and clients for Russell have been sporadic, but we're getting more and more used to living on faith alone. This fall, we found out a former neighbor and ward member was killed by his struggling son. And very recently, a hero of our family was arrested and his weaknesses laid out for the world, his family and all his friends to see. So many marriages of those we love have ended or are in major trouble. Dear friends have moved away as our homeschool community has dissolved and scattered to the wind.

Broken hearts seem to be everywhere around us.

Because of all this heartache, my family and I have been clinging to one another even more fiercely and reexamining where our priorities lie. We are rejecting the fruits the world has to offer, because we now see them for what they truly are: flimsy trappings that distract us from the true treasures Heavenly Father offers to all of us.

I love how C.S. Lewis put this in his wonderful work, "The Weight of Glory":
"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Surprisingly, we've found that these things have also brought us to the feet of our Savior. We have seen far too many we care about fall over the edge, and we are moving as far away from it as we can get!

Around the same time that this devastation has been happening, we saw the need to abandon a family tradition that Satan had found a way to poison for us. I know this may seem like "no big deal" and "just a little thing" to many, but to us, it was a HUGE test.

Ever since the first Harry Potter movie came out in 2001, we have gone as a family to the first showing. This was usually the ONLY movie we ever spent money on to see with the whole family. (Movie ticket prices add up, even on matinees, when one has a family of thirteen!) We had read the series out loud in our family circle, waiting with baited breath until the next book came out. And we were experiencing the same thrill as each movie came out in theaters. We'd count down the days, and giggle as we headed out the door to stand in line to get a seat in the theater. (Again, finding thirteen seats all together was a job!)

And then, the news came out that the latest, longed-for, LAST movie had nudity in it.


We were aghast. No, it couldn't be true. We researched it thoroughly. We found out EXACTLY what the scene was, and what was going on in it. Russell and I decided that we would not, COULD not, support the movie. The production team had gone too far, and we could not condone their actions.

We didn't know how on earth we were going to explain this to our children. I held my breath, thinking, "Please, Lord. I pray we have taught them well enough that they will understand."

And I also prayed that Russell and I would stand strong, and not make excuses that would expose our family to something we would never allow in any other movie they might view. We had to put principles ABOVE tradition.

To my great pleasure and relief, when we told our kids the new movie had nudity in it, their faces fell, and they declared that we could not go see it. There was no arguing, no pleading, no whining. The answer was clear.

So, you can see why we felt like we had passed a test. We had been confronted with a choice. Would we choose our family's chosen "idol"-- or the commandments of the Lord?

And after we made this choice, truth seemed to flow into our hearts and home. We have found things to read and ponder on that continue to bring us closer to Christ. We have rejected more of the world than we ever have before. Our "summer cottage in Babylon" is now a pile of glowing coals. Until we stepped out of the shadow of the idols we had set on a pedestal, we couldn't see the rewards and gifts God had waiting for us in the sun.

As a result of this journey to completely leave Babylon, I have been working every day to have the Spirit with me always, and to invite its presence in our home. I've been battling my weaknesses, and the easy path of the "natural man". I must have been really entrenched in Babylonian culture, because all this living close to the Spirit has been hard work-- definitely not for the faint of heart! I must admit, I feel a little like Eustace in the quote above. But as Eustace further explains:
"The only thing that made me bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off... It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."

The other night, Russell and I went with some friends to see the latest Narnia movie, based on "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", in the theater. I still want to weep when I think about it. And now I wish we had the money to take all of our children to see it. THAT is the kind of movie that I want to support. And I am so very happy that the production team chose to quote so much of the book EXACTLY. Even the part where Aslan tells Lucy she can't come back to Narnia. When she replies that she won't meet him again, he says :
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
"Are-- are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."
 One of the sources of our discussions and ponderings these past few weeks, has been a talk that was given long ago by President Spencer W. Kimball. Below is the link, and a couple of excerpts from it. But PLEASE, read the entire article. It has changed my life for the better, and I know it can help others, too!
The False Gods We Worship
"Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry."
"As the Lord himself said in our day, 'They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.' (D&C 1:16)
"What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies."
"We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, 'I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.' (D&C 64:24.)
His message closes with this electric statement:
"We believe that the way for each person and each family to prepare as the Lord has directed is to begin to exercise greater faith, to repent, and to enter into the work of his kingdom on earth, which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It may seem a little difficult at first, but when a person begins to catch a vision of the true work, when he begins to see something of eternity in its true perspective, the blessings begin to far outweigh the cost of leaving 'the world' behind."
"Herein lies the only true happiness, and therefore we invite and welcome all men, everywhere, to join in this work. For those who are determined to serve the Lord at all costs, this is the way to eternal life. All else is but a means to that end."
NOTHING is more important than returning with our spouses and children back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and our Savior.


Not movies, parties, friends, television shows, clothes, money, ambition, hobbies, Facebook, blogging, Shakespeare, drama, music, sports, lessons, convenience, independence, prosperity, and on and on and on.


As the New Year swiftly approaches, I am examining the things that I am still clinging to in my life that are taking me away from Jesus Christ and my eternal goals.

And it hurts a little. But just like childbirth, the effort will be totally worth it.

Another quote from C.S. Lewis says it perfectly:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?"
"The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

To finish, I want to quote a man who came to know, while he was battling cancer, what it means to submit to God's plans for our lives. The late Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:
"The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give' ... are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us." 
 The sacrifices we make will be worth it. I testify this is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2010


 I love the British sentiment! It's sorta funny that we in the U.S. use the phrase "Merry Christmas", while "over the pond", they say "Happy Christmas."


At our house today, we are cleaning, baking, wrapping, planning, giggling, and rushing to finish the last of the homemade gifts.

It has been such a peaceful, serene Christmas season for us this year. Russell and I sat down at the end of November to make our plans. We have done our best to keep our focus on the Savior. As we tell our kids, "It's Jesus' birthday, not yours!"

We made the decision to get each child just one heartfelt, inexpensive gift. We eliminated sending Christmas cards and newsletters. We found our budget couldn't handle our extended families' gift exchanges, so we opted out of them, as well. We planned the activities we wanted to keep, and abandoned the activities that were not as important. I gave myself permission to not feel guilty over the things that I can't do, and have thoroughly enjoyed the things that we have done.

The kids also drew each others' names for our family gift exchange. It's been so heart-warming to see them plan and work on gifts for one another! I think they are finally catching the spirit of giving each other more than just presents they've bought from the store with Dad's money. They are not just giving a gift, they are also giving their hearts and time to one another. It's been so delightful to be part of it! :-)

I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. And I also know that without Him, none of the wonderful things in our lives would ever happen.

Because of Him, and the gift of the Atonement He gave to us, we have the potential to be together as families FOREVER-- not just for the here and now.

I am so grateful for His birth, His life, His example, and His sacrifice for each one of us.

May His love fill our hearts and lives this joyous time of year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, one and all!!!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finding Peace

"Be Not Afraid" by Greg Olsen

This has been a rough year. 

Not that things have been distressing in our home, or in our immediate family circle (That's actually been very good), but there has been loads of turmoil and despair in our extended families and among our friends and community.

I have no doubt that the Last Days are these days in which we are living!

In times such as these, I am finding less and less comfort in "the world" and have begun turning to the Savior more and more. These last few months, I have realized that HE is the only source of real HOPE left to us in these trying times. And if we don't look to HIM for help, comfort, and strength, we will never find it elsewhere.

Of course, I've heard statements like this all my life. And while I believed it was true, it's been in the midst of the pain all around me that I have finally seen the reality of the hope and help that comes in mighty power from the Savior Jesus Christ.

I testify that if we look to Him for peace and hope, we will find it!

I am continually praying for peace for our family and friends. I am doing all I can to help, but I feel so helpless! What can I actually do??? Then I remember that the true healer is Christ alone. And so, I also pray that our distressed loved-ones find HIM and the peace and love He offers so freely.

May the Lord bless all those we love so very much!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Tribute to My Husband

Russell and I ~ May 2010

A little over eighteen years ago, I met a very handsome young man, fresh off of his mission. He was serious and quiet, and I took it as a personal challenge for giggly, silly me to befriend this mysterious RM...

What a gorgeous guy...

To this day, neither he nor I can figure out exactly when (or why! LOL!) he decided he liked me in all my quirkiness. How ever it happened, he fell for me, and asked me to be his forever!

Just Married for Time and All Eternity!

Today is my Russell's 40th Birthday, and I am so blessed by Heavenly Father to be married to such a gentle, loving man!!! He puts me on a pedestal, and though I don't always deserve to be there (okay, I rarely deserve to be there...), he tells me every day how grateful he is for me.

There are a million reasons why he makes my heart go "pitter-pat", but I want to share a few of those reasons here on his special day:
  1. He is so patient with me! Even though I am scattered, hyper, silly, occasionally have a vicious temper, and am sometimes neglectful of the things I should be doing, he never fails to give me a hug and tell me he loves me.
  2. He makes me feel beautiful every day! I can't count how many times a day he tells me I'm "cute". He still finds me attractive, even after giving birth to eleven children, and gaining X amount of pounds. He has NEVER said anything negative about my appearance, or about becoming more and more plump over the years. "His love makes me beautiful!" ;-)  (Name that movie!)
  3. He has a real talent for cooking, and is willing to prepare a nice meal quite often. Because of his adventurous culinary tastes, I have experienced foods I might never have tried otherwise. (Many of which are now my favorites! INDIAN and sushi, for example! *yum*) And since I was such a young bride, he has taught me so much about cooking that I had not learned before. He has often rescued our family from going hungry, when I've been busy teaching or directing Shakespeare, distracted, or recovering from childbirth. Because of his careful teaching and excellent example, I have come to enjoy cooking and find delight in feeding large groups of people! (It's a good thing, huh?)
  4. After all these years, Russell is still wooing me! He makes our weekly Date Night one of his top priorities. And if I'm down, or frustrated, or sad, he whisks me off somewhere-- even for just a few minutes-- so I can calm down and be comforted. He often tells me how much he likes to spend time with me, and then he shows me by just sitting and talking, going out for a formal date, or even just going to the grocery store with me. We are each others' first confidant and one-an-others' best friend. I especially love having him working from home now, because we can share all the little moments and epiphanies we have throughout the day.
  5. He works hard to help the Lord provide for our family's needs. He takes his duties to provide and protect us very seriously, and has the self-discipline to work to help his clients have the things they need for their businesses. But he never puts business before family needs.
  6. He is a worthy, righteous Priesthood holder who presides over our family in love. He sets a wonderful example for our boys to emulate, and he daily shows our girls what a good husband should be. He fulfills his callings and duties at church faithfully, and he lovingly leads our family in scripture study and family prayers. He studies the Gospel, attends the temple, and even takes the toddler out in the foyer during church when she gets fussy! Which leads me to...
  7. He is a hands-on dad who shows his love for me by loving our babies. Russell can chase littles, change diapers, and comfort crying babies with the best of the dads! He frequently gets up in the night with our children, and he is always my tag-team partner when wrestling fit-throwing toddlers. I have had MANY people-- friends and strangers, alike-- remark on what a gentle hands-on father he is to his babies. I think because he is the eldest of eleven children himself, he has always been more than comfortable with having a large family. He is as ready and willing to welcome more babies into our family as I have been, and he always leaves the "Should we have another baby?" question entirely up to me.                 

I could go on and on about my wonderful Russell, but I don't want to embarrass him! (much further, anyway... *wink*)

Today, I am rejoicing that he was born, that he loves me, and that I get to be the wife of such an amazing man. Thank you, dearest Russell, for being my "One and Only"!!! It's going to be so wonderful to spend all Eternity with you!

Your Hobbit Wife

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Absolutely Adorable!

In my searching online for handmade Christmas gifts, I came across the work of an amazingly talented doll maker!

Could you just die?!?!

Little Jenny Wren Dolls

As we browsed through the pictures of her beautiful work, my girls and I gasped at the computer screen in wonder and delight!

Oh, the "Ooo"s and "Aahhh"s that flowed forth!

And KEEP flowing forth!

My Grayse Dawn has informed me that she will "play with that one, and with that one, and with that one, Mom!"

And because we were so inspired by all of this preciousness...

... the person who has Grayse's name for Christmas, will attempt to create something that we hope she'll love as much as these wonderful Jenny Wren creations!

How to Make a Sock-Doll

Now, if we could just figure out how the extremely talented Jenny Marshall attaches the yarn hair on her dolls...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Homemade Christmas

Dear Friends and Family,

In an attempt to simplify and bring more meaning to Christmas this year, our kids have drawn names for gift giving. The gifts must be homemade, inexpensive, and useful. (Meaning, we're hoping to get beyond Dollar Store junk, paper dolls and unidentified whatsits...)

I will be personally helping each of my kids create their gifts.

I have a few suggestions for my kids, which I can't share here, of course, (My big kids can see these posts on Facebook, after all.) BUT I'd love to gather some more ideas I can share with them. Have any of my readers seen any cute craft, sewing, or woodworking projects that kids would like? Or do you know of any websites that have some great ideas? Please share!  I'd love to hear all about them!!! :-)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Two Years

Oh, my...

 Oh, HELP!

 I'm in trouble.

How could this have happened?

I don't know how we'll all survive this.

The world is suddenly a frightening place.

My sweet Baby Avalon...

has become... 

A Two-Year-Old.

Please send a LARGE emergency supply of patience immediately. (Or a new camera, since ours has now literally "bitten the dust", thanks to said Two-Year-Old.)

Thank you.

Friday, December 03, 2010

THREE Birthday Girls!!!

Oh, wow! Our family has been really busy with the birthdays again this month...

Miss MacKenna

Our Miss MacKenna turned FIVE at the beginning of November.


Our lovely and mild Dierdre turned NINE at the end of November.

Little Miss Ava
And our happy, mischievous Avalon will turn TWO this weekend! 


I can't believe how much each of these adorable girls have grown this last year! We love them all soooo much!!! Happy birthday, girls!