Written On My Heart

 

heart conditionI’ve had hearts on my mind (and all over my house).  I know this is partly because it’s February, but I’ve also been pondering my own “heart condition” and what the Lord sees when he looks on my heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7).  This train of thought began as I was folding laundry last week.  I often listen to a General Conference talk while standing by my bed, sorting and folding clothes and towels and sheets.  The particular talk which prompted my musings is “Yielding Our Hearts to God” by Sister Neill F. Marriott (if you have the time, listen to it instead of just reading it; she has a lovely Southern accent!). And here is the exact quote that touched my heart:

“True worship begins when our hearts are right before the Father and the Son. What is our heart condition today? Paradoxically, in order to have a healed and faithful heart, we must first allow it to break before the Lord. “Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit,”7 the Lord declares. The result of sacrificing our heart, or our will, to the Lord is that we receive the spiritual guidance we need.”

And so, I started to wonder, What does the Lord have to say about hearts?

It just so happens, He has quite a bit to say about this organ.  I did a search on my LDS Library app and came up with over 1,000 scriptures on the topic!  As I began incorporating these verses into my scripture study, I noticed some themes: pure in heart, an understanding heart, thinking with our hearts, a mighty change of heart, and more.

But what stood out most to me is repeated in various forms in many different places in the Bible from Jeremiah to Corinthians to Hebrews.  In Hebrews 8:10, it states, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts. . . .”

FullSizeRender

How could I have God’s laws written on my heart? And even more importantly, how could I do so to the extent that I become living scripture, my life a testament to my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ?

I don’t have the complete answer yet.  In fact, it will probably take me a lifetime of study because there are so many wonderful scriptures, hymns, and talks regarding our heart condition and having the law written on our hearts, but I have some ideas.

listen with my heartAs I sang a bedtime song to my youngest, I did receive a partial answer in the sweet words of a children’s song, “If I Listen With My Heart” by Sally DeFord.  Each verse taught me a new aspect of listening with and writing on my heart: I must “search the scriptures”, listen to “a living prophet speak the things that Christ would say”, and “feel the Holy Spirit as He teaches truth and right”.

I have a renewed desire to study the words of God each day.  I have those words written in my scriptures, and each day I am slowly writing them upon my heart, striving to make them a part of who I am, striving to keep my spiritual heart healthy and whole. In this way I know I will continually have a change of heart–constant heart surgery, if you will (see Ezekiel 11:19-20)–and be able to “sing the song of redeeming love“, because I will have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel burning forever in the pages of my heart.

 

5 Ways I Stay Organized

Yesterday I wrote about keeping my life centered on Jesus Christ, and how it helps me keep my time commitments aligned with my priorities.  I have been asked for more tips on how I stay organized with a large family, a part-time job,  and a husband who is gone a lot (either traveling for work or at church meetings and Boy Scout functions).

2c6706bd211955b97210a9a18ae7de9b

Here are five tools I use–in addition to being centered–that help me:

1. COMMUNICATE

With seven people living in our house, using calendars and chore charts and lots of verbal communication is super important.  This last year I ordered a lovely, custom, dry-erase,  weekly calendar that hangs on the wall by our dining table.  I update it every Sunday and we review it as a family that night.  However, don’t let this pretty calendar tempt you to fall into the trap of waiting until you have the “perfect” tool for scheduling with your family.

The calendars on our iPhones are still an awesome way for Jeff and I to relay information to each other (and to our high schooler!).  And the beat-up bulletin board hanging in our upstairs hallway is the simplest (which translates into “most effective”) way I have found yet for our family to make chore charts work.  I simply update the chore charts on the computer, occasionally rotating chores or adding new ones, print them on regular paper, and stick ’em on the board.  Ideally this is done weekly, and even more ideally, I would have a pretty board to hang them on that matches the decor of the house.  But I didn’t want to wait so long for “cute” that I missed the opportunity to teach my children how to work. This illustrates a wonderful truth set forth by author, Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Happiness Project:

94a76a934381cd2d371d6ae117fbfc84

2. JUST SAY NO

This applies to a myriad of things and changes depending on my children’s ages and my emotional state.  Much of being able to say “no” ties into suggestion #4 below.  I don’t sign my kids up for every possible thing they are offered, I don’t sign up to feed the missionaries if I know my week is going to be especially hectic, and I don’t let people put things on my calendar unless I feel they will be best for our family (even when those people are extended family or people I serve with in church callings).  If the event is important but the timing is bad then I have learned to offer a time that works for us.

busy

3.”BY THE INCH IT’S A CINCH”

Keeping up with the mundane tasks of everyday living is significantly easier for me when I break them down into smaller chunks. I make sure one or two loads of laundry get done every day. I unload the dishes in the morning, so the empty dishwasher can be filled all day long and started after dinner. The expectation is that most of the kids’ chores will be finished before school in the morning (this includes their daily  piano practice). Doing a little bit of cleaning daily is more my style than using up a whole Saturday on it. Big projects are usually tackled the same way.  And I pick a theme for my New Year, but I set monthly & weekly goals instead of year-long resolutions.

inchcinch

 

4.IGNORE OUTSIDE EXPECTATIONS

A vital part of staying organized and centered is to tune out everyone else.  Of course we want and need to connect with others, and relationships require effort and some sacrifice on our part.  However, any time we are feeling pressure from an outside source we need to step back and assess whether that pressure aligns with our values and priorities.  Not all stress is bad; it can be motivating and inspiring to be pushed to do more than we thought we could.  But we can’t do that in every area of our life, nor should we.

If we are feeling like we should be improving our prayers or finding more time to cuddle on the couch with our husband (because that is his love language), those are probably good outside expectations.  If we are feeling like we need to throw our children an elaborate, Pinterest-worthy birthday party when we don’t even enjoy parties and our children could care less, we should examine the motivation and decide if it is really a good use of our time.  Conversely, if we love to throw parties or be crafty or write blog posts or read or {insert one of your favorite hobbies here}, and people can’t understand why we spend so much time on it, ignore the people.  If our passion is not interfering with our most important relationships–with Heavenly Father and our close family–then we shouldn’t worry what other people think.

Sometimes if we are really struggling to listen to the right sources, we may need to take a break from social media, from magazines, and even from certain people until we feel strong enough in our own skin to stick to our personal values, priorities, and motivations.  All of these sources are tools that can be good or bad depending on our ability to use them wisely.  Be aware of outside expectations!

5. PEOPLE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

When life exceeds normal stress levels and throws something really crazy at me like back-to-back business trips for Jeff or multiple kids home sick at one time or a dear friend is in the middle of a crisis, those are the times to let everything slide (for a short period of time!).  The housework will always be there, the hobbies will always be there; people matter!

dinnereverynight

BONUS #6:  HUMOR HELPS!

 

 

 

The Myth of Balance

abstract-mobile-chartI adore art museums.  Last week as I wandered through the contemporary art section of the Phoenix Art Museum, I came across an installation which was essentially a 6-foot long mobile.  It made me think of the amazing works by Alexander Calder (see some Calder artwork here).  I marveled at its balance and contemplated the number of hours required to get each piece perfectly placed.

Like this mobile, many adults I know are working hard to achieve balance in their lives.  It seems like such a good goal, but I have found that searching for this elusive equilibrium is often frustrating and futile.  The myth of balance assumes that life is static, that if we can just find the precise percentages of time to spend in each category of our busy schedules, it will work in all situations and we will have finally arrived at our goal. If I spend x number of hours with each child this week, they will be fine, and I can check off the “Be a good mom” box.

Life does not work that way. The balanced mobile at the art museum would fall apart as soon as a strong wind blew its way.  And life is full of strong winds.

Often, relationships do OK with regular care; after all, most days our children really don’t need an in-depth therapy session with mom (I hope!).  Other days the high schooler may be stressed to the max, the tween may be struggling with friend issues, the middle child may have a cold that seems to have lingered since Thanksgiving, and the youngest two may be constantly fighting with each other…just one real-life example.  And just maybe the husband is gone that week.  And you just might have five major things on your to-do list for the next few days.

What do we do when the real world blows apart our carefully balanced schedule?! What do we do if we never had a carefully balanced schedule because life has barely given us a breather?!

Rather than striving for balance, I strive to stay centered.  It may seem like an insignificant difference (nuance), but for me it is a vital one.  To be centered requires constant minor adjustments and a prioritized focus on what really matters. I find true peace when my life is centered on Jesus Christ.

In the October 2015 General Conference, Elder Richard J. Maynes states, “Centering our lives in Jesus Christ and His gospel will bring stability and happiness to our lives. . . .” He gives the example of clay on a potter’s wheel needing to be perfectly centered, and then continues:meme-maynes-gospel-1578512-print

“If our lives are centered in Jesus Christ, He can successfully mold us into who we need to be in order to return to His and Heavenly Father’s presence in the celestial kingdom.  The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

 

 

When Jeff and I were engaged, someone gave us a wonderful gift (and, sadly, neither one of us can remember who gave it to us!).  The gift was a book — The Divine Center by Stephen R. Covey.  I had never read it or even heard of it before that time, but it has had a huge impact on my perspective and has greatly influenced our marriage.  The main theme of Covey’s writing that really sticks with me is the point that when we are trying to live like Jesus Christ and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we receive the help we need to prioritize each day.  In his words,

“The question, therefore, is never one of choosing between Church and family, or family and work.  It is not a matter of asking which comes first.  The Lord should always come first, and if we truly put him in that position he will tell us which comes “second.”  Sometimes it will be the Church, sometimes family, sometimes work.  This situation may not seem as cut and dried as some of us would like it, but the great advantage is the constant source of guidance on the matter and the peace and security and wisdom which come from following that guidance.”

Every time a new bishop or bishop’s counselor is called in our stake, Jeff and I give a training to the bishopric members and their wives.  It is one of my favorite things I do with Jeff, and it is modeled on the training given to us by our–at the time–Area Authority Seventy, Elder Pickerd, and his wife, Marion, when Jeff was called to be the stake president.  This discussion about how to spend our time is always a key part of the training. When anyone in a family has a time-intensive Church calling or job or health problem, the answer to all of our questions on how to spend our time is found as we rely on the Spirit of God.

Through our sixteen plus years of marriage, I have been grateful over and over again for this guidance.  I have made and continue to make mistakes in this area, but the more I learn what Heavenly Father’s guidance feels like in my life, the easier it is to know when I am truly centered.  This is how I am able to send my husband off to many meetings and be strengthened and enabled to do my part at home.  This is how I know when to ask Jeff to stay home from a meeting or cut a meeting short.  This is how he and I “balance” our time at church, at home, with our jobs and hobbies and relationships with others.

“We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all of the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time.” —Elder Richard G. Scott

meme-bible-matthew-seek-kingdom-1342052-print.jpgOne of my favorite scriptures is found in Philippians 4:13 (and I’ll probably quote it often here): “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  It is good to note that this verse does not say, “I can do all things all the time for everybody by myself.” We must develop a relationship with our Savior through scripture study and prayer and following the Holy Ghost, and we must rely on the enabling power of Christ’s atonement to help us through the trying times.

As we do so, everything else will fall into place.  We will have the strength and wisdom to make the choices which will be best for us and our family and friends. This will look and feel different for everybody, and it will even change for us individually as we learn and grow, line upon line.  But we can trust that our Heavenly Father will guide us to the best options when we are focused on Him and His Son.

In this way, we will be centered, and we can stay centered, no matter how strong the winds may be that blow our way.

“They Did Publish Good Tidings”

dec-2005It all started with a New Year’s Resolution.  I had set a goal for 2016 to “renew” myself: spiritually, mentally, physically.  This, of course, got me thinking and pondering. Then I received an email from an old mission companion of Jeff’s.  He had stumbled upon an article I had written over a year ago, “The Secret Life of a Bishop’s Wife”.  It wasn’t the first time I had received correspondence related to that post.  Again, I started thinking and pondering.  And last month while reading The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, I read this definition: “A calling–Something that we feel compelled to do regardless of fame or fortune; the work is the reward.” Now I was really thinking: “What is my calling?”

It took me half a day of pondering.  It took my husband, Jeff, approximately 2.5 seconds.  He walked into the house after a long day at work, and I started chatting with him, sharing my thoughts.

“Honey, I’ve been thinking about what my calling might be, and I think I finally figured it out.  What is the one thing I love to do even if no one pays me to do it?”

His immediate response: “Writing.”

And that’s how an idea was born.  I started praying about this blog and thinking about it constantly (so much thinking!). I was excited about the idea of having a new platform to reach out to people, but it wasn’t until last Tuesday that I knew this was my calling.  I was sitting in the Phoenix Temple, waiting and reading my scriptures.  It was a story I know well about Alma the Younger and his buddies, the sons of King Mosiah.  Nothing new or interesting was jumping out at me…until I reached the last few verses of Mosiah chapter 27.  As these young men were travelling and teaching church members the things they had learned, they were “publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them.

“And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.

“And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth.”

I don’t just love to write.  I love to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Through my trials and my joys, my blessings and my struggles, I have been lifted through the great enabling power of the Atonement of Christ.  I have found peace, joy, and direction.  And I want to share it with you.

I want to share the wonderful training and direction that Jeff and I receive as we work with the General Authorities of our church.

I want to share the simple joys I find in my regular routines of daily life.meme-ambrose-christ-1231779-gallery.jpg

I want to share the spiritual insights I find as I do small things like study my scriptures, attend the temple, and spend time in prayer.

I want to share the ups and downs of being a mom in today’s world and how I survive.

I want to share the heartaches and the successes.

And through it all I want to share the light of Christ, to illuminate your life and bring you hope as I “publish good tidings of good”.