Somebody Else's to them, whomever they may be.

Somebody Else's to them, whomever they may be.
How I feel after throwing a party...

Thanks for the visit!! :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Night = Family Night

Monday Night: Family Home Evening. In the Latter-day Saint culture, Monday nights are generally reserved for the family. It is a time when families come together to learn about the gospel and how to implement it in their lives. It is a time set aside for bonding together, for creating deeper friendships and understandings with one another. It is an opportunity for peace and laughter, and maybe some cookies or brownies shared together, in the home. Family Home Evening, also called Family Night is a time to be together. 

Growing up our family implemented this tradition of learning, sharing and growing. Through the years for Family Home Evening, which we had in spurts, but never as consistently as I think my mom would have liked (we are definitely not a perfect family, but more of a learning, let’s keep practicing family), we learned to read our scriptures, to discuss our thoughts and ideas, we sang hymns and children’s songs, learned how to conduct music and say prayers. During family prayer we would kneel together, head’s bowed, arms folded, in a circle as we supplicated the Lord. Prayer was ALWAYS followed by a giant family, swaying, laughing hug, (with sometimes tipping over and silliness )and then refreshments (popcorn, cookies, brownies, cake or some other delightful treat one of us had helped my mom to make.) Family Home Evening was almost always a happy time, though there was the occasional pouting that occurred that wore off as we went through our lesson and activity.

Some of the activities that stick out in my mind are:  
    • Our family name is Zalit. People often fear the “Z” and panic and don’t know how to say it or use it, it’s pretty much how it is spelled. We have had any number of pronunciations, but “Salad” was pretty common. One year, we worked on a family mission statement and my dad, who was a dramatic, dynamic, creative man who loved fanfare, decided that we should have a family banner. So, we made a family banner. Now as I mentioned, the whole Zalit/Salad thing—well in addition to the mispronunciation, most of us, LOVED salad, so as a celebration of who we are and were, our family flag had a giant bowl of crazy exploding salad on it. It was very colorful and cheerful and we loved it. 
    • My mom and dad took turns teaching us a gospel lesson, sometimes, as we got older, we helped to prepare and teach the lesson. On this one particular occasion, we talked about prayer and how it was like making a telephone call to Heavenly Father. My dad had cans with string attached and we took turns talking and listening. We had to listen really carefully for the answer because it wasn’t like talking to each other face to face or shouting, but rather was a feeling, or thoughts, or whisperings. He taught us that this is what it was like to talk to God and to be impressed upon by the Holy Ghost: you needed to focus, listen with your mind, your heart and your ears.
    • We learned about our pioneer heritage, both those who came across the plains of the great wild territories of the United States, as well as those who crossed land and sea to achieve freedom in other countries. We learned about the heritage of sacrifice, of hard work, of building things up, of faith in God, and of the pursuit of dreams and righteous desires. We learned about our family’s journey from Latvia to Brazil to the United States. We learned about our German, English, Swedish and Scottish heritage, including our tartan, and professional artists, musicians, teachers, farmers, ranchers, businessmen and entrepreneurs. We learned about success and failure, joy and sorrow, sickness and health. The stories of our people, of those who paved the way ahead of us have given me strength and comfort in my own life as I have braved new paths and journeys and as I strive to leave a positive and strong heritage to those who come behind me.
    • We learned about the prophets of the Bible and also modern day prophets. We loved the stories of Daniel in the Lions Den, of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace, and of the beauty of the words and writing in Psalms and Proverbs, and of the strength of Abraham and Isaac and Ruth and Esther. We learned about the birth, and life, and death of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ and that He is our example in all things and that through the Atonement that we can return to our Heavenly Father again some day. We learned about the stories in The Book of Mormon: about Nephi and Sam and Laman and Lemuel and how to be a good sibling vs. a bad sibling. We learned about conviction and the 2000 Stripling Warriors and how they were taught to be righteous by their mothers, and of course about Samuel the Lamanite who stood up on the wall and cried repentance to the people. We learned about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation, and of course Brigham Young, and all of the prophets that followed, as well as stories of courage and faith of the pioneers. 
    • With great fanfare, costuming, and creativity we enacted the nativity every year growing up, with the last one with everyone at home, being the Christmas before I got married wherein I was a heralding angel in a white graduation gown, a tiara, elbow length white gloves and every sparkling piece of jewelry I could find . . . because angels sparkle, (did you not know??), my mother and sister a shepherd herding the family pets, brothers who were kings and inn keepers scowling at my grandparents who were Mary and Joseph, and lastly my baby brother, who was 7, squashed into a blanket filled laundry basket…unimpressed.
These are my memories and nothing was perfect and often there was the usual family drama and comedy that occurs in every family. But Family Home Evening is a fond memory and was an integral part to my learning and growing up and developing my own testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Family Home Evening doesn’t need to be something that is tedious or a pain in the neck. It doesn’t even need to take up a ton of time. Monday nights can be an opportunity to gather together as a family, to talk about the ups and downs of the day, to prepare for things coming up in the new week, and to read some verses of scripture together, to talk about the love of God for His children, or of the example of Jesus Christ and how it applies to our day to day living. Family Home Evening can be about serving others, any others that may be important to you: help a neighbor, surprise a friend or show kindness to a stranger or some other person in need. Family Night can be when you learn how to do something together: bake cookies, play a new game, read a new book out loud, build a fence, play outside, make popcorn balls, decorate the Christmas tree, and any other thing you can imagine.

Family Home Evening can be something you do whether you are a young family or a more mature family, whether you have children or no children, whether you are a single parent or dual parent household, whether you are married, divorced, separated, or single. Family Home Evening is what you define it to be for the needs of you and your family, however that may be defined. 

Give Family Night a chance, make it what you need it to be, customize it to your needs and the needs of your family. And remember, it may be rough sometimes or all you can do to get through it, but keep at it, it is one of those things that is worth the effort and the hassle, it is worth the balking that teenagers may put up, it is worth the complaining because somebody doesn’t get to play a video game, or be online or watching a show. The family time that you spend learning about the gospel, each other, and compassion and love, and the life of Christ will be worth it in the long run long after shows and games have been forgotten. People will remember the laughter and the love and the joy of being a family who are friends.

Peace be with you. Do something new that will bring joy and light and love into your home. Happy experimenting!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rats and Rattlesnakes

Pioneer Women. I've been studying these women for years, and through their lives and example I have found places of strength within myself that I have been happy to reach to in times of need. The lives of these women: their trials, their cheer, their faith, all help me to be stronger in the face of my own adversity and trials.

A couple of months ago I went to a seminar on Eliza Partridge Lyman, a Mormon pioneer woman. She was a regular woman, and yet through her regularness of being, was incredible in the things she pushed through and in the way she persevered through her hardships. Our friend Eliza, is one of my favorite strong women who was just like me and you. She struggled, she had love, and joy, and tragedy, and heartbreak. Sometimes she didn't know how she was going to make it through, but she held on, stayed the course, and pushed through.

As you might imagine, travelling across the United States, and the wild territories that still existed at that time, in wagons and handcarts was not an easy means of travel in the mid 1800's. The day to day tasks, chores and responsibilities of men and women were mostly manual in nature. By the sweat of their brow they worked and ate and prospered, or sometimes didn't. Being pregnant, giving birth, dealing with sickness and injury and having babies, children and family die along the way, also not easy. Living in a home with a sod roof that leaked when it rained was no easy burden to bear, let alone the critters in and upon you, (so super not awesome), but despite it all she persevered mostly cheerfully, and continually checked herself to try harder, to do better, to strive to be more faithful.

She wrote regularly in her journal throughout her life and from these writings I learned that she had to deal with an overabundance of rats and rattlesnakes through the course of her life, homesteading, and travels. This made a pretty significant impression on me because those are two awful creatures to have to worry about. Because of this, in the moment that I heard about it, I realized the following "If I'm not up to my ankles in rats and rattlesnakes, I'm going to be o.k. I can push through . . . and if I ever find myself up to my ankles in rats and rattlesnakes, well I guess I'd better be in boots and solving my problem as quickly as possible."

The stories of my ancestors, of pioneers, of those who strove to persevere through the hard and heinous times help me to focus, to realign perspective, and to look on the sunny side. Sometimes when I get grumpy, or things seem a little overwhelming, I say to myself "Seriously Tracy, you're not up to your ankles...or your rats and rattlesnakes, you didn't bury a baby out on the plains knowing that the coyotes that are howling are going to be digging at that little grave before the day is through, and you didn't have to have someone chop your braids off because they were frozen to the ground where you were sleeping. You can do this. You can push through. You're going to be o.k." and it's true--I can push through and I am going to be o.k.

Eliza's life and example give me strength in my own. Someday, if I'm lucky in the hereafter, I hope I have a chance to meet her, hug her, and tell her "Thank you" for the example that she was to me. She pushed through, stayed the course, and did hard things, and so can I.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Status Chipper Quo: Serving in the Primary

I wrote this last week about my time thus far in serving in the Primary organization in my Ward. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we, through callings, or requests for leadership and assistance, help to run our local Sunday and weekday meetings and activities. 

I am in the Primary organization as the President which means that I work with all of the 18 month to 11 year old children in our Ward or parish/congregation. We are responsible for their "Sunday School" portion of learning, along with singing, classroom learning, playing, activities and Cub Scouts.

These are my thoughts.

Sunday, July 7, 2014

"Children are an heritage of the Lord." Psalms 127:3

The Primary children, the junior babies, the 3-6 year olds, delighted me yesterday during singing time.

Singing time always brings me joy. I want the children to learn to love to sing. I want them to be able to learn the gospel and the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for them through the happy, joyful and spiritual songs we teach them and that they learn to love to sing. Singing can open up the heart and teach us things, especially larger concepts, when we are too little to even say the words properly. Singing can help us to feel the Holy Spirit and the love that our Father in Heaven has for us. Singing can just be fun as we laugh, and smile, and play as we learn.

Yesterday, we started with a new chorister; this was her first Sunday teaching Singing Time. The children took straight to her as she has been a familiar face in Primary already as she was our Sunbeam (3 year olds) teacher this year. I know she was nervous and hasn’t ever done this before, but I also know that she was the right person for the job and that she would be marvelous at it. I was excited to see how she would do.

When they opened their little voices and hearts and sang the song “The Family is of God” I sat down from my other bustling and responsibilities and I just listened. This is the song:

Our Father has a family. It’s me! It’s you, all others too: we are His children. He sent each one of us to earth, through birth, to live and learn here in fam’lies. Chorus
A father’s place is to preside, provide, to love and teach the gospel to his children. A father leads in fam’ly prayer to share their love for Father in Heaven. Chorus
A mother’s purpose is to care, prepare, to nurture and to strengthen all her children. She teaches children to obey, to pray, to love and serve in the fam’ly. Chorus
I’ll love and serve my family and be a good example to each fam’ly member. And when I am a mom or dad, so glad, I’ll help my fam’ly remember:
Chorus: God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to bee—This is how He shares His love, for the fam’ly is of God.

As she led them and as the children vociferously sang their sweet little hearts out, particularly during the chorus, I was moved by the Spirit and my heart was so full it almost spilled out of my eyes. From one moment to the next I was overwhelmed by love: my love for the children, my love for their teachers, my friends, and my Heavenly Father’s love for me. What a Sunday blessing to receive and what a peaceful, loving way to begin the new week!

How blessed I have been to serve the children of our neighborhood and church through these almost-8 years. When I was first put into the Primary Presidency as the 2nd Counselor I was surprised. We had just moved into our home two weeks prior and we knew no one. We had been to church, maybe twice, when the Bishopric came to visit us in our home and extended the calling to me. I was not reluctant to accept it, just surprised, and so I went, feet first into the delightful, sunny pool of sunshine that the Primary is.

From the beginning I was responsible for the coordination of the monthly baptisms for our freshly minted 8-year olds. This is one of my very favorite responsibilities. I love working with the families as we prepare the program together, answer questions they may have, but especially in seeing the children take this big step in their spiritual progress as they decide to step forward to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized and in establishing a covenant relationship with their Heavenly Father through Baptism. It touches my heart as each of them enter the Baptismal Font in their white clothes reaching out their little hands in trust and love to their fathers and grandfathers, or perhaps to uncles and brothers or family friends, depending on the circumstance. The sacredness and joy in the event is always palpable and I am so proud and humbled all at the same time to be able to be a witness to this goodness and happiness at these events.

I also have the opportunity to speak to each of the children and their friends and families from the pulpit once they have been baptized, received the Holy Ghost and been confirmed our newest members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I often reflect on how much they have grown, observances about their character, and the delight we share in their personality and presence in Primary. I love the gift of being a part of this special event.

After serving as the counselor for four years I was asked to be the President and so I have been for the past four years. The responsibility for the coordination of the baptisms then fell to my second counselor. I still attended the baptisms and spoke with the children and their families which I continued to enjoy. Last year, my counselor asked if we could switch some responsibilities, due to her pregnancy, and if I would take on the baptisms again, I happily did, and so it has been that I continue to be fully linked in with the baptismal process and events. I’m happy to do it.

Now that I have been in the Primary for almost 8 years, I imagine that my responsibilities will be coming to an end sooner than later. I don’t know the time or the day, but it is likely that someone else will be given the opportunity to lead the Primary onward into the future.

I’m finding that I am relishing the small moments, the sparkly eyes as they tell me a new joke, the happy smiles as they come running into the Primary room after Sacrament Meeting, their little hugs and high fives and how their eager little hands are always willing and wanting to help me as I get the room set up to begin. I love how they are excited to get up in front of the other children to read the monthly theme, or the designated scriptures, or to give a talk, or a prayer. The children love to volunteer to help in every way. It delights me that they are patient, gentle and kind with the children who are struggling or who have special needs. There is no perfection here, occasionally we have frowny faces, some crying, hurt feelings and unkind words, and once a slight scuffle between 6-year old shepherds during our Christmas lesson, but these are little children still learning the ways of self-mastery and the world. They take corrections fairly easily and it’s back to status chipper quo.

Our Primary is a joyful place. Our Primary is a haven of love. Our teachers and activity leaders are kind and thoughtful and funny and loving and the children enjoy their lessons and activities. I have approximately 112 souls currently under my stewardship, 36 adults and 76 children, and at a greater extension, their families. Magnify that by the children and teachers that have come and gone over the course of my eight years in the Primary and you can see that the influence and responsibility extends even further and how great the accountability is to do my job correctly and well.

My goal is and always has been to serve them, support them, and love them. I cannot fail on my watch to teach them the things that they need to know, to provide them with the tools in understanding the gospel, recognizing the Spirit, and knowing in their hearts beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ is their brother, and is real and true, and that He loves every single one of them whether they choose the right or sometimes choose the wrong. I want them to understand the Atonement, and the powerful tool that it can be in our everyday lives. I want them all to know that their Heavenly Father knows them by name and loves them and that even when we trip up, that love does not change. I want them to know how easy it is to reach out and talk to their Father in Heaven through prayer and that you can pray wherever and whenever you please. I want them to know the repentance process and the freedom that forgiveness brings. I want them to know that families can be together forever, that when people die that we will have the joyous reunion of seeing them again someday. I want them to know these things and so much more.

Through my influence, and that of their teachers, I want to help prepare these lovely, delightful little children to head out into the world. I want them to be able to stand solid and true against the buffetings and whispers that would encourage them to make poor choices and lead them down a path of sadness, heartbreak and misery. I want them to know that they are strong, divine, beautiful creatures full of light and with a mission and a purpose. I want them to know that doing good for the sake of good, that loving for the sake of loving, that joy for the sake of joy, and sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice are all things to be humbled by and proud of.

Simply and ultimately I want them to know that they are a child of God. This is my stewardship, my accountability and my responsibility, and it is hard, happy work and I am privileged to do it for as long as it lasts.

And so I follow the words of Jesus Christ as I strive to be his disciple and follower, as I tend to these little ones, when He said "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Mark 10:14), and again in Matthew 18:6 "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Not looking for a millstone, not looking to nosedive into the depth of the sea, just looking to do my best while these little humans, and some big humans, are under my care. :)