Sunday, January 22, 2012

He Loves Me

Today I went to church.  And I almost missed it.  I almost slept in.  But I didn't.  I was tempted to find a kid that could pass as sick so I could stay home.  But I didn't.  I was tempted to take my time getting ready and skip Sacrament Meeting, going just for the last two hours of church.  But I didn't.

I am so glad I went.  I needed the spiritual food that was served there today.  It was custom made for me.  It was as if my Heavenly Father was there with His arms around me, telling me that He loved me....that I wasn't alone.  As I've been struggling with the desire to attend and engage in church, this was a reminder to me of why it is so important for me to be there, whether I feel like it or not.  My Heavenly Father knows what I am in need of regardless if I know that myself or not.

A sister gave a talk today.  She is not one that I know very well.  She walked up to the podium for her talk with nothing in her hands.  She proceded to share three amazing experiences which brought the Spirit to the meeting.  I won't do the stories justice, but I want to at least have something down to jog my memory when I forget.  ;)

The first was when she was serving a mission.  She and her companion were out walking and got lost.  They decided to tract (going door-to-door knocking) to pass the time.  They came upon a house that appeared to be abandoned.  They skipped the house and went on to another one.  The Spirit told both of them to go back to that abandoned house.  They did and found a little lady there, very excited to see them.  She greeted them in Spanish, to which they kept telling her, "No habla Espanol".  She invited them to eat lunch and as they sat there, they realized she could speak English and told them how she was a member of the Church and how she had not been able to get to church and needed a ride.  This sister from my ward told her that they would coordinate with the ward she was in and get her to church.  They finished lunch and left.  Her companion was quite upset with her.  She asked her why and was told, "I didn't know you spoke Spanish!"

"No, I don't speak Spanish."

"What are you talking about??  You were just speaking perfect Spanish to that sister."

"No I wasn't.  We were speaking English."

"No you were not.  You were speaking Spanish."

Through the power of God, the sister from my ward was able to communicate and answer the prayer of this sweet lady that needed help.

She then proceded to tell a second story.  She was now married and expecting a child.  Things were very difficult for her at that time.  Her husband was always working and there were other issues she didn't go into.  She felt very alone and abandoned.  She screamed out with a Bible in her hand, angry with God for not listening to her.  She slammed the book down on the table, sat down, and began to sob.  The room started growing brighter and brighter.  There then appeared a personage who told her, "We are listening."

She asked, "When is it going to get easier?"

He said, "It's not going to get any easier for a long time.  But we are here and we are listening."  He put his arms around her in an embrace.

He then disappeared.  She said that he was right.  Things didn't get easier.  But she never felt alone again.

The third story began several years down the road.  She was a single mom with three small children.  She had just gotten divorced and had no one and nothing.  She was about to get evicted from her apartment with no idea how she would pay the rent.  The only thing she did have was old car.  Someone wanted to buy her car.  She had been promised by God that He would give her a car, so she sold it.  With that $500, she was able to pay her rent for the month.  Coincidentally, she had a meeting with the bishop that night.  He scolded her for selling the car.  But she told him of the promise from God that He would give her a car.  He said that she had made a mistake.  She went home, and instead of being offended, just went to bed.  The next evening, the Bishop called and he had a car for her.  A colleague had bought a car for his child & spouse, but they had bought a car for themselves the same day.  He knew his friend was a bishop of a congregation and would know someone that could use it.  He handed him the keys and the title.  And that is how she received the promised car.

With the testimony of these amazing stories, the Spirit was so strong.  I felt the love of God all around me.  I felt the Spirit testify to me that although I haven't had such miraculous spiritual experiences, I have had spiritual experiences and that I am never alone.  He testified to me that I am loved by my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

During Sacrament Meeting, there was also a musical number.  Two sisters sang "O My Father" to the tune of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing".  These are two very important and spiritually moving songs for me.  It was absolutely beautiful and really touched my heart.

I went on to Sunday School and Relief Society.  Someone in Sunday School shared something his father would say...."It's harder to run away when you are on your knees."  Since I am so good at running away from things, I know I need to remember this.

Our lesson in Relief Society was on Elder Uchtdorf's talk "Forget Me Not".  I had heard this talk before, but it really hit home today.  As usual, I commented more than the teacher spoke, but I felt His love for me again, so strongly as the words I felt flowed from my mouth.  I knew that He was mindful of me.  I knew that He was aware and cared about my struggles.  I knew that I needed to rely on Him more.  I need to get down on my knees more and pour out my soul to my Lord and Savior.

This post is a little jumbled and random, but I needed to record what and how I felt and what prompted those feelings.

I know that Jesus is my Savior.  I know I am a child of a loving Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me.  I know that we can have the Spirit testify to us of truth.  I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know that Christ prepared a way that we can return to live with Him and the Father one day.  I know that we all have worth.  We all have value and that we must treat everyone with love and respect, as we are all children of our Heavenly Father.

I leave this testimony with whomever may read this, in the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grandparent Gifts

This year for Christmas gifts for the grandparents, I was stumped.  I texted them all for ideas, and everyone wanted updated pics of the kids.  Dang it!  All I have is my
camera phone, but thankfully, I have an awesome friend who just happens to be a FABULOUS photographer.  She was kind enough to have a mini-session for us to get some pics.

I wanted to do something cute with the pics, so we decided to make magnets with them.  Simple enough, right???  WRONG!!!!  I was trying to be crafty and do the clear stone picture magnets like this:

But with the kids' pictures of course.  It was an epic fail.  In the 2 pound bag of "clear" stones I bought, about 10 stones were clear enough to actually see the picture underneath.  I used homemade Mod Podge to put the picture on the stones.  The ink on the pictures bled.  :/  I reprinted the pics on card stock and that helped stop the ink bleeding from the Mod Podge.  I went to attach magnets with E6000 glue.  The glue bled through the card stock and you saw a big gray blob on the picture.  What was to be a quick, relatively easy project turned into a HUGE frustration.

I gave up with the idea of using the stones and decided to just laminate the pictures and slap a magnet on the back of them.  WAY easier and faster.  I went to my local copy/print shop to use their laminator. Make sure to have all the pictures cut up first.  It will save a TON of time of having to do it at the shop. Then you place them about an inch or so apart in the laminating sheet.  Laminate and then cut them out.  You don't want to trim too close to the edge of the picture or you'll break the laminated seal.

Then with the E6000 craft glue (super strong), I glued the magnets on the back.  I used round magnets with a strong magnetivity.  (Is that a word?????)  That way they would actually work for holding stuff on the fridge and/or other metal surface of the grandparents' choosing.  I placed them on wire cookie racks to help the glue form a tight bond....the pull of the magnet to the metal rack did all the work for me.  We did a normal face and a silly face for each of the kids.  Here's how they turned out:

We also made aprons for the grandmas.  You can buy blank aprons at any craft store.  I let each kid pick out a color of acrylic paint.  It was easiest to lay them all out and do all of one hand of one kid on every apron and then all of the other hand.  We went from youngest to oldest.

I then stenciled (which I would NOT do again), "We (heart) Nana" or whatever that grandma is called at the top.  I used slick fabric paint to label each set of prints with their current age, and then added a "Christmas 2011" very small on the side edge of the apron.  They were a hit!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

This evening, as I promised my kids I'd make them chocolate chip cookies, I went to look for the recipe and almost didn't find it.  SCARY!!!!  So I'm posting on my blog so I know I can always find it.  I'm a mess....if I can't find it digitally, it's a goner for sure.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened **If you only have salted butter, just omit the salt below**
1 c granulated sugar
3 c brown sugar
2 large eggs + 2 large egg whites
5 tsp vanilla extract
5 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

1.  Cream together softened butter (DO NOT MELT!!!), sugars, eggs, egg whites & vanilla.
2.  In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients (minus the chocolate chips) with a whisk.
3.  Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.  Use a mixer if you have it.  This is a VERY thick and dry mix.  It will give your arm a fabulous workout if you are mixing my hand.
4.  Once wet & dry ingredients are combined well, mix in the chocolate chips.  You can use any type you prefer.  You can also mix in nuts if you like them.  Almonds are super yummy in this recipe.
5.  Make 1/2"-1" diameter balls of dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Gently flatten the cookie dough balls with the base of a cup or your hand.  Don't over squish....just enough to spread them out a little.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Just until you see a little bit of golden on the cookies.
7.  Remove from oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes.  Then remove to a cookie rack to cool.

***If you are at high altitude, you will need to make adjustments.  I tried making these at my mother's house in Utah, and it was an epic fail.  Here are some suggestions I found online:

Add an extra 1.5--2 rounded tablespoons of flour per cup; if above 10,000 feet add 2--2.5 tablespoons of flour per cup.

Since I'm almost at sea level, I can't test this.  If you are at high altitude and test it out, I'd love to hear what you found.***

These cookies freeze amazingly well.  I think they actually taste better after they've been cooked, frozen and then thawed.  They are a yummy chewy cookie with a slightly crisp outside.  If you have trouble when you bake cookies check out this site.  AWESOME tips and tricks to figure out where you are going wrong.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Starting New Habits....the Good Kind

I am super behind on blogging.  I have several in the wings waiting, but for now, I'll get this one out there since it takes the least prep work (aka getting pics organized & edited).  So stay tuned for more.  Maybe today, maybe tomorrow.  ;)

Let's start with a few confessions.  I am a slob.  I am not neat.  I don't pick up after myself.  My house is usually in a state of chaos and clutter.  This is not from lack of training.  My mother taught me how to clean.  Maybe too well, as I use the excuse "If I can't do a deep, thorough clean, I won't do it at all."  Maybe I'm just really good at excuses.

I am very ADD and really struggle with where to begin in all the chaos.  It paralyzes me.  I've gotten better over the years.  Friends have taught me to find a starting spot, my go-to place when I have no idea where or how to start.  But I struggle with distractions.  I'll get lost in a box or closet for hours.  Or I'll do just a little bit everywhere, just small enough to not be noticeable.  Then frustration sets in.  I don't see results of my hard work.  I don't see the clean room that was my initial goal.  Duh Nicole!  If I could actually STAY in that room, I'd probably see the desired result.

For the most part of my "adult" life (I put that in quotations because I still don't feel like an adult), I've been okay with my disorganization.  I've excused it out the wahzoo.  I've ignored it.  I've justified it.  But I'm over that.  I'm done being slobby.  I'm tired of feeling overwhelmed and messy.  I'm ready to feel different.

After talking with my friend, Melissa (whose house is always visitor ready), and doing some research online, I think I have a plan that will work.  First off, I knew if anything was going to work, I had to make it a habit.  How long does it take to develop a good habit?  The old saying is 21-28 days of consecutively doing something.  I found an article that has found that that day count is closer to 66 days.  I'd love to believe the lower number, but let's face it....the 66 number is probably more realistic.  So that is my goal.  66 days of clean.

Now, I'm a very optimistic person, but I'm also a realist.  If I set my goal for a clean house for 66 days straight, I'm setting myself up for failure.  With the advice of Melissa, my goal is a clean kitchen for 66 days.  That is doable.  I started on December 30th.  It's been clean since then.  Four days down.  And it is spilling over into the other areas of the house.  The cleanliness, not the mess.  I've even found a list with quick checklists for each room.  I've made little cards for each room and posted them by the light switches in every room.

This way, if anyone else in the household is inspired by my cleaning, they can pitch in too!  (Yeah right!!!!)  You can find the lists here.  They are concise.  They are impactful.  I will notice a difference in a room if I do those short 3-5 things in each room.  They can be my go-to.   I can do this.  I WILL do this!