Monday, December 30, 2013

An expression of our faith

Anticipation, & excitement always linger within me as I wake up knowing that we are going to start our day with a visit to a special place where we feel at home, and help our kindred dead. The excitement increases as we're driving toward Washington D.C. especially when we're crossing the last bridge paying the last toll all the while Noah & Chelsea keep saying, "where is it, where is it, I can't see it yet!" And then, there it stands...we see the tall golden spires that accentuates the beauty of this beautiful building from the freeway & like a small child I am squealing with delight!

We turn onto Beach drive passing by a walking trail alongside beautiful homes, but the one that stands out is The House of The Lord. We enter the gates toward this beautiful building & find a parking space. In my mind I'm quietly thanking God for arriving in safety. We get out of the car & take in the spirit that are on the temple grounds & with a thankful heart walk toward the temple. I read on the concrete walls of this magnificent building that says... "The House of The Lord." 

Jon & I are smiling as we see our four children excited to be here too. We say our goodbyes for two hours & see them walking toward the visitors center knowing that in their own way they will be spiritually uplifted. It is such a beautiful sight to see all of them getting along (especially Noah & Chelsea) holding hands smiling with glee. When I see that I know that they are already feeling that special presence that lingers all over the temple grounds, and that they are feeling the spirit in their own way. 
And no matter how much I feel like life is weighing me down I am grateful to have a safe haven of peace to come "home" to feel of God's love & peaceful spirit. Even if it's only for a few hours. I sit quietly inside the temple with my eternal companion & we are at peace. There is no noise, just stillness. There is no disagreeing, just agreeing, there is no contention, just love. There is no sadness, just happiness. And sometimes there are tears...the joyful kind. 

All the while as I'm sitting in the temple waiting for the session to begin my heart is filling up with gratitude. Thanking God that we made it yet again to His house. I can feel my heart palpitating. After 11 years it always seems as if I'm entering the temple for the first time. That's how different & special this building means to me. Even after exiting the building I know that everything I just experienced was true & done out of the goodness of my heart knowing that the blessings will come...according to my faithfulness. 

Entering the "House of The Lord" is just as it reads... It truly is the House of the Lord.

I am so grateful that we took the time during the holiday season to be here to receive these sacred blessings. Attending the temple plays a huge role in my life, one that I am passionate about. The Lord has given me so much in my life to live for, to learn, to grow, and by attending the temple I feel my faith increasing. Going to the temple is an expression of our faith. One that I will continue to do as long as I live. Jon and I couldn't have spent our last weekend of 2013 doing anything else, but expressing our love to the Lord, and those who have passed on by attending His Holy house in feeling all of the love that permeates throughout the walls of this building. 

As we were leaving I paused to read this quote, and it will be stuck with me every time we enter the temple. 

"Enter this door
As if the floor were gold
And every wall of jewels all of wealth untold 
As if a choir in robes of fire 
were singing here
Nor shout,
Nor rush,
but, hush...
For God is here."
~President Spencer W. Kimball
Washington Temple Dedication

I never want to rush out of this house. As a matter of fact, sometimes...I never want to leave. 

Have a wonderful week, and a blessed 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Northlandz

The day after Christmas we headed towards Northlandz in Flemington to take Noah & Chelsea to see the "world's largest miniature railroad" exhibit. One of my friends whose son is a train lover told me about this place a while back, and was kind enough to give us a coupon so that we could go! Oh my gosh...can I just tell you how perfect this place is. I was in awe with the design, and how they put this vast indoor train set filled with miniature trains of every kind together! Everything was made with paper mache, and it was very well built. From replicas of a golf course in Scotland to small coal mining towns. Exaggerated landscapes of a mountain top, bridges made of pieces of wood, buildings, and a ton of lichen trees made up this "view of the world" railroad track. I swear they thought up of every scenario in the book. It was whimsical, and sort of comical at the same time. It was definitely entertaining, and the eight miles of track is so worth going...especially if you have a toddler. 
Ever since Noah was a year old he has been fascinated with trains, and had such a blast here. The fact that we live in the east coast surrounded by train stations has increased his love for trains even more. The older he gets, the more obsessed he becomes. He was so eager to see everything in detail. There were moments where we had to pause every few seconds so that I can see what he is looking at. He would constantly tell me that he'd like a train set exactly like that. I responded with an answer which made him pout a bit. I told him we'd have to have a huge house to fit in such a huge railroad exhibit like this. I said to him that maybe next year Santa will give him a decent size electric train set for christmas! After completing 25% of the tour his resilience kicked in. He stopped pouting, & hounding me about getting him a train set like that! Phew! I'm telling you...he was so excited to just be here. Even Jon was mesmerized by the way it was set up. The mountains, bridges, and just seeing the trains pass us by was such a sight. I was very impressed.
^^ one of my favorite moments was a replica of the city! These amazing skyscrapers were amazing! ^^
Our day was complete by going on a train ride after the tour. These two were mesmerized by it. Noah was like a statue kneeling like this the whole ride through. I could tell from sitting behind him that he was taking in every moment of being on a train, and watching very carefully how it rides on a huge track. He was concentrating more on the tracks than the deer we passed by. 
If we could come here every week we could. Too bad they don't have membership. One thing for sure...we will return again in the new year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

^^ Cape Neddick, Maine-July 2013 ^^

"See the nearness and the clearness of the blessed Christmas star, leading, guiding, wise men riding through the desert dark and far. Lovely showing, shining growing, onward going, gleaming slowly, leading still, our Christmas star."

The year 2013 brought us many memories, and we want to remember only the ones that brought us LIGHT and joy. Memories such as seeing our firstborn Sierra graduate high school with honors, and entering a college of the arts. A new job for Jon. My calling as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, and my newest calling as secretary in the Young Women Stake Presidency, and seeing my first article published in the Deseret News. 

It's times like this where we want to hear from our loved ones near and far to hear about their accomplishments, and adventures. Some share their trials, and heartaches, and my prayers go out for those that do. Although 2013 brought us a few blips in our life we are grateful for them because those blips are what keeps us going. Our children bring us great joy, and I'll share just a little bit about them. The only major change that occurs with them each year is that they get older, and smarter! 

And we have been blessed by four awesome kids! 

Sierra (18) graduated with honors from high school, and after much praying, and pondering decided to attend the University of The Arts in Philadelphia. She completed her first semester, but is looking to transfer to another university next year. Without getting into major detail the curriculum at UARTS was not quite what she expected, but did learn a lot from her piano teacher, and from a few of her professors by advising her on goals for her future. She will miss living in the city, but is looking forward to attending another institution. Looks like she has more praying and pondering to do before winter break is over. She did receive a letter in the mail from Brigham University in Provo to apply for a scholarship. Apparently this scholarship is specifically for those students who were admitted to BYU but attended another institution. This scholarship will cover full-time tuition, books, on-campus housing, and a modest allowance for summer term at BYU. Who can pass that up! She has decided to apply for it, and is hoping to attend in the summer time. Who knows...maybe that will be her chosen school. All I know is that I pray she chooses the right school so I can stop stressing! It'll all work out I'm sure. 

Alexandra (13) is in the eighth grade & continues to excel academically in school, and is the most laser focused child I have ever had. She never brings anything home under a 98, and can read thick chapter books (sometimes three series at a time) within two days!! I kid you not. She is a voracious reader through and through, and books are literally her best friend. She continues to play the violin, and loves it. She is currently the Beehive President in the Young women for our church.  

Chelsea (8) is in the third grade, and is doing great in school, & like her sisters brings home A's, and loves to play the piano. We still plan on getting her into cello lessons, but just informed us that she would like to learn how to play the ukulele. She loves books, and watching Disney movies with her little brother. 

Noah (4) is my ray of sunshine. My only boy, and I love him so much! He is spoiled by us all, and when he isn't torturing Chelsea he loves anything star wars, loves to play with his legos, train track, and from time to time will give him technology time on PBS.kids. 

We have learned that no matter what trials come our way that hope is never lost. To know that there is a LIGHT that will lead and guide us in the right direction, so that we can always find our way home, and never lose sight of what's important. 

We are so grateful for the restored gospel and for the LIGHT of Christ which gives us hope to never give up...knowing that He will always be there to lead and guide us through every footstep. We love you and wish you a Happy Christmas that's merry and bright...and a blessed New Year too! 

With love, 

US

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

my thoughts on giving at christmas.

As I was watching the kids decorating our first real tree I couldn't help but to picture past Christmases when they were all toddlers. I was figuring out the needs, and wants that would benefit them in their life. Not that my kids are spoiled, but I know that all small children get excited for Christmas (even teenagers.) Heck I'm an adult, and I get excited for Christmas. Simply because of their example. My kids have taught me to remember what this season is about. Love, and family fun. I grew up with very few Christmases, and not with so much "family time". As my girls have gotten older I have learned that Christmas is not about the gifts, but the Savior. Especially Sierra, and Lexie who have been telling me that they don't need anything, and to focus on Chelsea & Noah. I always feel bad when they tell me that because I know that they LOVE Christmas, and that opening presents is fun. They have always sacrificed their needs, and wishful wants so that their younger sibs don't go without. Still...I don't want them to be deprived of the Christmas spirit when it comes to gifts. No one should be exempt. Whether it's a simple Christmas card sent in the mail, or a homemade gift. No one should be deprived of gifts. 

A hug, a smile, a kind word, acknowledgment, forgiveness, calling up a loved one, and giving a compliment to someone are the most simplest gifts that anyone can give. Performing small acts of service such as free babysitting, teaching someone to read, or helping our little old neighbor Janet hang her garland outside her house can be a good enough gift to anyone. 

I'm grateful to be raising my kids in a home that focuses on Christ. Knowing that Christmas is all about the Savior will help them realize that they don't need a bunch of "stuff". Spending time as a family by watching movies, playing outdoors, venturing out to places where it's family oriented, eating dinner together, going on drive bys to drop off simple gifts, thinking of others by teaching them to donate their outgrown clothes instead of selling them for money, giving food to the needy, going by the homeless shelter to donate simple items (blankets, socks) without judging them. You know...stuff like that. Those are the gifts that will keep a family in harmony & unified as one. 

I personally enjoy the gifts...not the material ones, but the physical ones. Such as seeing my kids getting along, and decorating the tree without any shenanigans. A hug from my fellow sisters at church, or just a simple smile. I love seeing my kids on Christmas morning with excitement knowing that there will be a few gifts under the tree. I know how it feels to have woken up to nothing. A sour Christmas. I grew up with so many of them, and each year became numb. That magic dissipated for a few years and later returned while in my teens. Now...that magic has been redeemed more than ever by my four children. The magic I once had at the age of six is here to stay for me, & I don't ever want that magic that I see in my children's eyes (no matter how old they get) become interrupted by deprivation, and sadness on Christmas morning. 
As long as we don't burn ourselves out stressing over who to get what, and fighting over parking spaces, and cash registers cursing at the next customer saying "I was here first", or procrastinating our Christmas until the last minute we can enjoy the spirt of giving during this season. Whether it's a gift of the world, a kind word, a book of mormon, or a gift made with love we can all remember the reason for the season.


"Christmas is not for counting the things that you don't have, but for counting the blessings you still have."



Monday, December 23, 2013

christmas in new york...in 70 degree weather!

I couldn't believe how bright the sun was shining this past weekend. Not to mention the warm weather spell we just had in New Jersey. In all our years of living here December has always been a cold month where temperatures are clear into the 20's and 30's. This weekend was the perfect time to venture out to New York City to see the tree at Rockefeller center & walk the streets of fifth avenue...without turning into icicles.

This weather has been a trip because last weekend when we came for our anniversary it was bitter cold with snow! I think it snowed more in New York than Jersey because when we came home there was nothing on the ground. It just rained. 

Since Sierra is home for winter break from college we decided to go to the city on a whim. One thing for sure is that I'm glad we went this past weekend. Who knew temps were going to feel like Texas winter weather. There were no ear muffs needed, mittens, or layered clothing for Noah, parka coats, beanie hats, or scarves. I'm telling you...this weather was marvelous!

Santa clause at The Plaza, introducing Chelsea to Eloise (hope that's wasnt a mistake), eating hot dogs (Noah ate three!!), the tree at rockefeller center, walking down fifth avenue to see all the Christmas decorations & a simple dinner from steve's pizza completed our annual Christmas trip to the city this year.  
^^ these two are never too old to visit Santa Clause ^^
And. It. Never. Gets. Old. 
Christmas in New York is always a magical moment for us, and love coming here when time (and money) permits. I'm actually grateful for the warmth that Mother Nature brought so that I could pause for more than ten seconds to enjoy the sights again...without freezing to death! 

Happy Monday y'all! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

"one heart, one mind"


I have been very impressed with one of the missionaries from our stake who has been faithfully sending weekly emails about how it's been like to be a missionary in a different country, how the food is, the lifestyle, culture, and how people are embracing the gospel as he and his companion go out tracking. I look forward to his emails every Monday because they uplift me in the best possible way. They motivate me in a sense that I could do better, and even though I feel like I share the gospel quite a bit, and talk about how happy it makes me there is always room for more. There is always room to not only share the gospel, but to put in action the result that comes from acting upon when we read the Book of Mormon

This past Sunday I taught the last lesson of the year in Gospel Doctrine. The lesson was "Zion-The Pure in Heart". I loved everything about this lesson, and all that was written in it. It was something that I not only needed to teach, but needed to hear for myself. It was a reminder to me of how I can make this challenging world we live in a beautiful one.

I am a first generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and although I have had my share of ups and downs with the religion, and the man above himself...I know that this church is true, and that God lives. This lesson entailed the act of becoming unified as a people. I love everyone. I don't care who you are, where you're from, what nationality you are, where you used to live, or whether you were raised in the church or not. We are all equal in Heavenly Fathers eyes, and He wants all of us to be of "one heart, and one mind." 

To be unified because when we all work together in the church, everything falls into place. When we strut around within our community and have that Christlike heart, those who have no idea what it feels like to be happy, or "know" The Lord will see our example of love... and they will want it too. 

To strengthen each other by serving, loving, and helping our full time missionaries bringing others into the fold, because I was one of those who was lost, but was found 21 years ago. I love helping others in any way that I can by being active and participating through performing acts of kindness. Something that is a necessity in today's society. To not be selfish, but selfless. To truly know the meaning of love, and understand what it means to be in unison so that we can enjoy the blessings that come from expressing it in every form. 

Snail mail, emails, social networking are many ways we can reach out to those who want to know where that happiness is. How will they find that happiness of eternal life if we don't share it with them? Some food for thought. 

This season in its purified, most perfect form gives us many opportunities to reach out. To share the light of Christ...even if it's just being a friend. Being of "one heart and one mind "we can all help one another in passing forward this marvelous work of The Lord. To visit those in need, and keep in contact with those who don't come to church. It shouldn't matter whether they have been inactive for decades, years, or a month. I don't ever want to grow weary in helping others. I don't ever want to let anyone damage my testimony, or allow anything to stand in the way of my eternal happiness. I don't want to let trials ruin the plan of happiness that Heavenly Father has in store for me or anyone that I share it with. Oh no...I won't let it. And in order for me to have that I know that I need to participate, and be as active in my heart as well as physically in serving the Savior, and his sheep. 

It has taken me many years to be who I am today. A fearless convert to a church that thrives on love, and strives on unity, and missionary work. A woman of courage who can, and will overcome any adversity that comes my way. 

I pray that we can all embrace the gospel, and in coming together as one. Let the season of Christmas be the beginning of striving to be of "one heart, and one mind". So that in the end our minds will be a clean conscious, and live happily knowing that we are doing our very best.

"I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world. If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel, we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way. WE will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.
~President Gordon B. Hinckley (15th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -Day Saints (1995-2008)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

a birthday wish for my ups man with a prayer.

I don't like airing too much of our dirty laundry online, but for those of you who read my blog, and I mean faithfully know that Jon lost his job this past summer. Plans of relocating to the New England area backfired due to the lay off. Luckily we paid way ahead on our rent, and other bills but life still happens in between those rays of sunshine. I'm grateful that he got a job working for UPS but the downfall is that it's seasonal. And his last day may very well be on New Years Eve. Worried. Yeah. Sad. Yeah. At best they will hire one, maybe two drivers out of the 30 plus people they hired. So on his birthday my wish for him today is the hope that they will retain him due to his fast paced, (delivers 200 plus packages a day) kind, & glowing personality. If not...well we may have to just rely on our faith, and God that he will land a permanent job somewhere. He is so resourceful, and a hard worker that I'm sure he can land any job. 

Although his expertise is sales, and loves it he has developed a crush for UPS, their benefits, pension plan, and everything that this awesome company has to offer. I am praying and hoping that they will choose him, and if they don't that he will have an opportunity to work for the company in another sector. UPS is all over the country, but we love the east coast and are praying that he gets hired somewhere in the tristate or New England area. We will have to see. 

And that is my wish for him, and I believe that it may be his wish also. He won't tell us because he doesn't want to jinx anything & not have it come true, but I know his heart. His heart is to be able to provide for us, and to know that we have everything we need to survive. 

So once again...if you're the praying kind I ask that you please pray for him. He's an absolutely great man who is one in a million. He deserves every happiness because he literally does no wrong to anyone. I pray that The Lord will guide him in a position that will be a perfect fit for him in a workplace that his suitable to him. As long as we are provided for, and that he is happy is all that matters to us.

Happy birthday babe...and may all your dreams and wishes come true. 

P.S. I love the dreams that you've been having as of late. Too bad we don't play the lottery so that they can come true! Haha!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Festival of lights on a Sunday night.

After teaching the last lesson in the Doctrine and Covenants for the year in Gospel Docrtine class this past Sunday we left and headed out toward Washington D.C. to see the Festival of Lights, and see Jenny Oaks Baker perform again. Earlier this summer we saw her perform songs from her "Wish Upon A Star" album, and each year she amazes us with her wonderful talent! She truly is an amazing violinist! 

Since Jon drives every day 8-7 for UPS it's kind of hard to go to the temple during the week to see the Christmas festivities that are happening right now. Especially when it's two hours away. We made an effort to go this past Sunday as a family to see the lights, and feel the spirit of The Lord that surrounds this wonderful building. 

For some reason going to see the lights this year, and watching performances from Jenny Oaks Baker, and Alexandria Sharpe was so special. I think it could just be me. The fact that I am getting older with growing kids, and reflecting of all that's important during the Christmas season gives me the burning desire to do so much more in giving The Lord equal time as well. Becoming more familiar with the scriptures is scary because let's face it...I wasn't a hardcore reader. Even though I have a new calling, and won't be teaching Sunday school anymore the desires of my heart to diligently read the scriptures has benefited me for the better. And at 42 years old y'all! It's never to late to take them seriously...I mean really seriously! A calling certainly can strengthen us if we allow it to take over our whole mind, body, and soul. 

The nativity scenes from around the world inside the visitors center were amazing, and each one was unique in it's own. I taped 14 seconds of a few of them, and you can see that here. They are all beautiful! 

I absolutely love this time of year. Going to the temple grounds and seeing it packed with LDS missionaries, and seeing them with their investigators was a sight for sore eyes. Totally reminded me of the time the sisters would invite me to certain activities so that I can become more familiar with the religion. Makes me extremely grateful that I did because when I see investigators stepping in the same shoes I did 21 years ago puts a huge smile on my face. And I pray that they accept. It's all about Christ, and the birth of our Savior. I pray that we can become of one heart, and one mind, and be kind, loving, unified, and deserving of all others. No matter how hard I have it, I know that there is someone else who has it worse. It is the strength of The Lord that I receive and feel in prayer that keeps me going. 

I can go on and on about how passionate I am for the word of God, & all the world to be in unison, and in loving one another. I pray that we can embrace this season with love, and to have that beacon of light shine within us so that others will want it too. 

This Sabbath day ruled, and what a beautiful evening it was to spend most of it at the temple.
 ^^ the talented Jenny Oaks Baker, and me ^^
And so I leave you with an amazing performance by Jenny Oaks Baker playing "Carol of the Bells" from her latest album "Noel". Her talented children also made an appearance & played a christmas medley of carols which you can view here on my you tube page. They most certainly rocked the house this night!


Monday, December 16, 2013

19 years and counting.

December has got to be one of the most exhausting months of the year (at least for us) for the mere fact of celebrating three very special occasions. 

Our anniversary, Jon's birthday, and Christmas. Especially with Jon driving for UPS five days a week, it seems that all he wants to do these days is take a long winters nap. But he doesn't. And no matter how many times I tell him to rest, he won't. Because he loves meeeee....We are sleep deprived, but after 19 years we keep smiling. We keep keep having trials, and disagreements, but at the end of the day we laugh, and keep it together. 

No matter where we have celebrated our anniversary dinner whether it be a simple meal at our daughters fundraiser, or a very nice restaurant every year has been precious. This year we celebrated our anniversary in NYC, and it was surreal. Surreal because this was the very first time that we have gone without the kids. Alone. Sans bambino baby. Surreal because we were celebrating a special occasion in one of the worlds most magical cities. 
We ate dinner at one of our "new" favorite restaurants, and we had so much fun. I think finding the photo booth downstairs (as i was heading toward the restroom) was the highlight of our evening. We felt like little kids again acting goofy, and laughing as each photo was being taken. I hope when our kids look at that photo that they will think of things like love, hope, and faith. Because those are the three things that have kept our marriage going. I am so happy that we have made it this far, and it's not going to stop there. 

Reflecting back on our wedding day brings a huge smile on my face knowing that I am still with the man of my dreams. Nineteen years...not quite a milestone, but it's still a pretty big deal to me. I'm sure when we hit the 20 year mark it will be huge!

Happy anniversary to us!!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Photos from our Snow day, Part II.

One thing about living in Jersey that tends to annoy me is the fact that school gets cancelled for a few inches of snow. Yes...anything less than 10" is a few to me. I really don't like negativity, but I guess that comes with social networking. You gotta have tough skin to have the guts to go online, and write a simple status about your feelings towards any subject that may be in your heart to share.

Fortunately I have thick skin with a side of kindness, and that those who choose to comment with attitude, and negativity is on their conscious...not mine.

While others criticize those of us who have lived in snowy conditions whether it's out west, the mid west, or Alaska or anywhere else where it snows a ton for complaining of school shutdowns because we are not used to it you have to understand that for those of us who are not "veterans" of the east coast or Jersey that we (at least me) am still adjusting to that.

Being raised in Texas, and growing up with average cold fronts & "freezes" is different than actually living in snowy weather. Freezing rain will shut down all roads & even freeways because it'll ice up, and that i understand. No one wants to be slipping and sliding into moving cars, and hitting power poles, lampposts, or heaven forbid a person.  I've seen that, and it's not a pretty sight.

Now...when it comes to snow I thank my lucky stars that I learned to drive in it while living in Utah. Yes, Utah. I lived there off & on for 10 years, and even when we had 5-10 inches of snow the kids still had school. I have never lived in a place where they canceled school until now.

But you have to remember that I've only been living in Jersey for five years, and out of those five years we've only had one or two snowstorms where school was cancelled. Jon and I were like what????  

I get the fact that school gets cancelled for the safety of our kids, and drivers on the road, but it doesn't make sense to me when a township that is 15 minutes away has a two hour delay and we have a total shutdown.

When you have an almost 14 year old who is a brainiac schooloholic you'd understand why I personally think it's ridiculous why school gets cancelled. And we would rather not have too many snow days and end the school year as early as possible because these days summers tend to get shorter!

I was simply stating on my status that we should save snow days for when we have an actual blizzard, or a super storm and not waste them on trivial days where the snow is going to recede at 12 noon while the sun is shining, and the streets are cleared of snow. I didn't mean for my status to cause a stir of echoes. However I am grateful for friends who have a positive attitude in understanding my side of a simple status, and I love you for that! 

But on the surface we all managed to have fun on our snow days, and that we took advantage of this glorious snowy weather again!

And here's more proof...


^^ shoveling ice out of the birdbath ^^
I'm excited to say that we are expecting more of this white powder this weekend so get used to it Jersey folk. I love it, and hope that school doesn't get cancelled on Monday (and if it does I'll suck it & soak in the rays of snow.) I LOVE my kids, and enjoy spending time with them. 
Have a wonderful weekend whether it's rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine! 



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