My blogging percentage is wwwwwaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy down, just in case you hadn’t noticed!  But here is an up to date family photo!!

Crazy stuff happened in our family over the last few months.  Our missionary came home.  We dropped Sport and Speedy off at BYU Provo with Spanky and Scuff.  Slim got a job teaching sixth grade!!  We are all dying!  And we cannot wait until it has been a few weeks. He really is an amazing man and a great teacher!  But he has a lot of work to do in the patience department, but he is ready!

The biggest news since I last blogged is that they released Drew as the Bishop.  He served on the High Council for four months, specifically serving with the YSA in the area.  Two weeks ago, they called him to be our stake patriarch!!  He will do a great job, I am sure.  His first blessing is tonight.

I cannot believe we are growing up so fast!  Six of our ten children are out of the house and adults.  Five are returned missionaries—-five!  Speedy will turn in his papers at the end of this next school year.  Sun is 16!  Shorty isn’t ‘shorty’ anymore and is 14.  Even Smiley is taller than me!!  He is home schooling this year.  And Spike Spike is in the first grade, and now is so large that I cannot scoop him out of bed and carry him to the living room for family prayers in the morning.  I am not quite sure how I am going to make sure he gets there.  Maybe Shorty will have to do it.

If I could summarize the last year that I have not really been blogging, I guess I would have to tell you that I have completed A LOT of emotional work.  I have uncovered a lot of unresolved emotional issues, Drew and I have worked out a lot of communication issues (through a lot of miscommunication and then having to resolve it), and I have a more realistic picture of who others are and thus my expectations of them can be more in line with their abilities and my feelings are less hurt because I am not hoping for behavior from them that is unrealistic.  I am sorry you are not getting any detail for those things.  I am pretty sure that is why I wasn’t blogging.  I didn’t know how to ‘not say’ the details of my emotional journey.  The results, however, are wonderful!  I can cry when my feelings are hurt, usually in the moment, which is sometimes embarrassing…..but I am getting there.  I am not usually stuffing my feelings with food because I am not trying to hide from them.  As a consequence, I am eating differently and dropping weight without paying any attention to it.  I am now below 200, which is about 25 pounds that just went away.  I still have a lot of work to do.  I am no where near finished and I know I have some big emotional hurdles coming at me….like a freight train.  Those will not be fun.  But I feel more confident in myself and my emotions and less like I have ‘to be’ something for someone else.  I can just be me….drama and all.

I am still teaching seminary. Tomorrow is our first day!  Book of Mormon this year!  I am super excited because I feel like I know the Book of Mormon, where with the other books of scripture, I had to learn them.  I knew some of the stories, but not like I know the Book of Mormon.  The Spirit has been trying to take me out of my comfort zone to create a new comfort zone.  I have been so scared to teach outside of the manual that it has stifled my teaching.  Over the past few months, I have spoken in church twice (twenty minutes each), and at camp three nights (60 minutes each), and done so without notes.  I have a baptism coming up, where I am supposed to do that again.  It is a new experience trying to speak completely from the Spirit without prior notes or sources.  I am sure it has been practice for teaching this year as I choose to teach my students, using the material but not completely leaning on the material.  I know I can do it, I have just been afraid to do it on an every day basis.  So pray for me, this year as I teach 🙂

I have also learned that big boys still need their mom.  Slim calls me almost every day.  Spanky and Speedy call sometime during the week.  Scuff and Sport call maybe monthly.  I do love talking to them, and when we do talk, I am reminded of how much I love them and really like having adult children!!

I think I am going to start slowly–blogging, I mean.  I really don’t know how often I will write.  But I do know it is time to get back into the saddle, so here I am.  Have a great Sabbath Day!!

That Whole Agency Thing…..

copyright…Karen Larsen photography

I am not even sure where to start……

Blogging for me is therapeutic.  There is no other way to say it.  It is here that I process my feelings, as scary as that is.  Not that I need to write for the world to know the innermost thoughts of my heart, but writing allows me to access that part of myself.  For some reason, with the business of the world, I just never seem to get back to there.  But when I write, I reach down into my soul and pull the words out.  Gosh it feel so good!!!

Our life has been super challenging.  Over the holidays and right after, I think we were sick for about eight weeks straight!  I kept Spike Spike home from school for three weeks because we just could not get control of his asthma.  Then when I finally did send him back to school, he was there for four days and came home with pneumonia.  I was sick during that time too, and sleep deprived.  We have had car issues, and work drama, school drama, ward drama…….stuff everywhere!  I don’t know that I need to go into all of it, but how grateful I am for General Conference coming up this weekend!!

It is one of the two times during the year when I get to just sit at home and soak up the Spirit without any expectations for my behavior.  I tune the rest of the world out!  I am busy that weekend!  Sorry!  Deal with it!!!!  (Although to be honest, Sun does have a rehearsal on Saturday…..but she is only going to one hour in between sessions instead of the two hours they have scheduled.)  And this General Conference will be even more wonderful!!!  For the first time in 5 and 1/2 years, my husband won’t be the Bishop!!!

Drew was released last Sunday.

Happy, happy day!!  I do not mean to sound ungrateful.  Serving our ward has been a wonderful gift.  I know we have received blessings for his service.   But you know what?!  We have not received one phone call for the Bishop in almost a week.  No extra meetings.  No drop by’s.  No ‘please tell your husband’ texts.  We need some down time.  My husband does not exactly run fast, and I think he has been running faster than he likes to for about 5 1/2 years.

Over the last six months, I have been really struggling with some very deep seated sadness.  It isn’t anything recent, in fact it is really, really old.  I have recognized that I do not have expectations of others, because the person I do have them of and their importance to me is so completely disappointing that I have buried it way down deep, and I have been carrying it around for a long, long time.  Over the last year, the Spirit has helped me to see that is what I have been doing and over the last six months, He has been trying to convince me to let it go and turn it back over to Heavenly Father.  I have been holding on for about 40 years now thinking that if I just wait and hope and pray a little longer, things will change.  Finally, the Spirit has prevailed and helped me to see that the thing I desire most is completely out of my control and not even in my wheelhouse of stewardship.  In fact, it is completely the responsibility of someone else and I have to be OK if they choose to use their agency in such a way that my expectations are actually unrealistic.  That has been super painful to face.  I don’t think I have been able to write simply because it has been so very painful and how do I process all of that publicly anyway??  You don’t ….which is why I haven’t been writing.

I have written here and there in my journal, but it isn’t the same.  Most of my journalling (I am making that a verb, even if spell check doesn’t like it…..), is done in the morning while I am trying to plan my seminary lesson.  And I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get one lesson out of the way, I have to teach another one tomorrow, so it isn’t even like I have time to process.  Plus, the New Testament isn’t exactly my area of expertise.  It has been a long year.  I am really glad it is almost over.

I love teaching! Love it!  I love my kids!!!  I have SIX Seniors!!!  We have really had some amazing discussions and really had a lot of fun in our classroom.  I am really sad they are all going to be graduating.  I know that is what is best for them.  But next year I have zero Seniors….well, one inactive one.  And I am always disappointed that more of my class doesn’t come more often.  That is another place where I just have no control.  That whole agency thing again.

When I was a younger mother and we had first moved here, I visit taught an amazing woman who I loved and looked up to.  She had lots of teenagers and some grown kids too.  One day during our visit, she told me that she wasn’t sure she like this whole agency thing.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around why she felt that way.  I am starting to get it.

Watching people I love use their agency to make mistakes or unwise choices has been really hard for me.  I pray for peace.  I try not to pray for understanding.  I pray to see them as the Lord does.  I pray for love and the ability to be kind even when I do not agree.

Having studied enough development, I should be able to understand and reason that most people do not make decisions they disagree with.  If they are following a given course of behavior, it is usually because whatever they have reasoned out in their minds is what they think is best for them.  I can kind of get that.  But where I really struggle is when I know they have information that should lead them to want to follow God’s way, and yet, they just choose not to do that.  So far, that has not been my children.  But it is people very close to me.  People who I love.  People who I want to be with me in eternity.  But people who are making other choices and their mortal time of decision making is almost over.  I think as the time is drawing closer and closer for them to cross the veil, I am facing more and more grief every day.  I am recognizing that I have to turn it over to my Father in Heaven or it will eat me alive.

I am still functioning and taking care of my family and my class.  But there is a lot more crying—which I know is good.  It is not depression.  It is just a sign of how much grief and loss is in there.  I asked in my prayers the other day, why, why is it so difficult for me?  Why is there so much grief over this loss?  Why can’t I just say, well, that’s how it is and that’s their choice.  Oh well!  I should be happy with the response.  But it just makes me more sad.  The answer was because I love so deeply.  Well, if I didn’t, then it wouldn’t hurt so bad would it?  Sometimes I wish I could just function that way.  That’s not the right answer, by the way…..

See??!!  Look what I did?  A few paragraphs in and already down to the core.  That didn’t take too long.  Now the tears are coming.

I really just need to reframe the whole situation.  I REALLY need to give it back to my Father in Heaven.  He loves them more than I do.  He can help them more than I can.  It is not my job.  But I certainly wanted it to be my success.  Maybe that is part of the problem.  I really struggle with the results of things.  I measure how well I did my job by statistics and the success and choices of my people.  That is not a true measure.  And those things don’t belong to me.  That whole agency thing again……

Thanks for listening, Blogsphere……

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

It is obviously a work in progress and I am no where near finished.

Little people need you……

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

I had an experience this last week that I wanted to share.  Spike began attending kindergarten at the start of the school year.  I go and help in his class once a week, but only for about an hour.  The children know me, but I am not ever present so they do not have the same kinship with me as they do with their teacher—which is fine.

Over the last couple of weeks, as I have dropped Spike off for class, one of his classmates has been having a really difficult time with school.  Every morning she is crying because she doesn’t want to be there.  It is just heartbreaking to watch this totally sweet, innocent little brown eyed girl with flowing long brown hair, sobbing with her fingers in her mouth because she is sad about being at school.

On Tuesday, she was again having a hard time.  Grandma had dropped her off and she wouldn’t even come into the classroom.  We had arrived just as class was about to start, so I thought I would help out the teacher and see if she would talk to me so the teacher could manage the other 20 students in the classroom.

At first, she wasn’t very keen on speaking to me.  But I eventually won her heart and she opened up to me.  As we talked, she shared how much she really just wanted to give her grandma one more hug before she left.  And she shared how difficult it is to go to school every day without her sister there.  Her sister had been there last year as a 2nd grader while this little person was in transitional kindergarten.  I tried to help her see that kindergarten wouldn’t last that long and she would be picked up soon and that she had already done 49 days of kindergarten and she could do one more.  During our conversation, she let me know that she wouldn’t be picked up after kindergarten.  She had daycare until her mom or grandma got off of work.

At that point, I kind of stopped.  Wait a minute.  You mean you are five years old, and your day starts before 8 a.m. and you don’t get picked up until 6 p.m.—-Every DAY?!!  And you did this last year when you were four?  You are five, and you are putting in more than a forty-hour week?!!

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

Now, I am not trying to blame the parents.  I know some parents are in situations where that is the reality of their existence in order to take care of their family.  And maybe this is one such family.  However, the stress it is putting on this little person is obvious!  She is not getting her emotional needs met, at five, because she is being pushed to do more than realistically should be expected of a five year old.

Childhood is so very, very short!!  It just broke my heart that those circumstances are the reality of her day. It was so upsetting to me, that when Spike had a doctor’s appointment at 10 that morning, I didn’t bother to bring him back to school.  I decided that at least one little person in the world could just come home and play, and be five—the whole day.

When I returned to school that afternoon to pick up Spike’s back pack (because I had intended on taking him back to school after his appointment), the teacher thanked me for helping her little student that morning.  I didn’t feel like I had done much.  But then, I opened up my heart to her and just shared my feelings with her and why I hadn’t brought Spike back to school.  I didn’t think that was that big of a deal either.

But then a miracle happened.

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

The next day, Spike and I were late to class.  Spike’s teacher is excellent about starting class on time.  As we walked into class, the children were still playing, 10 minutes into class.  There was a happy buzz about the classroom.  Everyone was just doing their own thing with or without friends.  But the energy in the room was very happy and relaxed.  The teacher and I talked for a few minutes.  She shared with me that my comments the day before had prompted her to let the kids ‘just be kids’ and to enjoy their classroom and relax.  She said that when it was time for school to start, her little emotional person had just gotten settled with a group of girls and after thinking about how hard life it sometimes, she had decided that she just needed to let them play.

I don’t have any idea how long she let them go before she decided that she needed to ‘get them on task’.  I don’t even know if that conversation carried over for more than one day.  But for that day, it made a difference in the emotional development of at least four people, probably more.

We really don’t know how small and insignificant behaviors affect others.  I didn’t think my thoughts were very profound, and certainly I was not purporting an agenda or trying to sway the masses.  I just shared the innermost thoughts of my heart with another person–thoughts about how difficult life is for one little girl and how much she is struggling just maintain it from day to day.  I am not trying to blame others for her circumstances or theirs…….just making observations, and wishing life was just a little easier and a little less demanding.

Take time out!!  Especially for the little people.  They were not made to run as fast as we like to think we should.  In fact, maybe they are in our lives to make us stop and slow down.  If anything I have learned after having nine children, there is nothing more important than the emotional needs of our little people.  If we want them to become the kind of people who will change the world for the better, it is up to us to stop the world and validate that they matter!  What they think and what they want and what they need!  They are valuable!  They are important!  And it is out job to protect them and remind them of their importance and of our love!

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

Well, what can I say?  Finding my voice back in the blogsphere.

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

Today I just wanted to recount an experience I had lately (within the last two months) and recognize and celebrate my growth 🙂

A few months ago, I was pulling out of the parking lot of my local Costco.  The weather was great, I had the window down in the car and was driving my husband’s little Chevy Prism.  As I neared the stop sign, my husband’s brakes aren’t as tight as mine on the van, so it took me a little longer to stop and I coasted past the limit line, but stopped the car well before the intersection.  Another driver was turning left onto the street where I was stopping.  We passed each other rather tightly, as I under anticipated the time it would take my vehicle to stop and he cut the corner.

He took the occasion to stop his vehicle in the middle of traffic and started yelling at me for not stopping.  Now, remember, I did not hit his car, nor did he hit mine.  They didn’t even touch each other.  He berated me and swore at me for several minutes.  I was so dumbfounded by his behavior, I couldn’t do anything but laugh.  That was not the right answer by the way.  It made him angrier.  Then he was yelling at me for laughing.  Finally, he said, “I’ll bet you’re just one of those stupid women who is going to vote for Hillary!!  You stupid Hillary voter!!!……” and he drove off.  All I could say in response was, “I thought that’s who YOU were voting for!”  And I drove away laughing.

Sun was in the car with me.  She was hot!  I have never seen her so upset for such a random occurrence.  She was more upset that I was laughing at it and I wasn’t mad.

Now, you need to know, this is about the fourth time some random person has felt the need to publicly criticize me when I have not done anything wrong.  The first few times it happened, my feelings were really hurt.  I came home and questioned my behavior….did I do or say something that could have been interpreted offensively?  Was I mean in some way I didn’t recognize?  Did I cut him off on the road?  It didn’t take me days to get past it, but it did take hours.

This time, it was obvious to me that I hadn’t done anything wrong.  He was being ridiculous and he couldn’t have been feelings good.  Everything he did, even though it was directed at me wasn’t because of me and I didn’t have to take any responsibility for his attitude, emotion, or behavior.  It was so freeing!!  And it didn’t even bother me in the moment, let alone for the rest of the day.  In that moment, I recognized that I had grown.  I was no longer taking responsibility from other people that belonged to them.

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

It has been a huge jump in my emotional development!! Growing up in my home, I was taught and trained that I was responsible for other people’s emotions.  Guess what?!!  I’m not!  And neither are you.  The things they feel, or don’t feel…..they aren’t your job to create or fix.  Feelings belong to each of us.  Those things that happen in our hearts because of the things we think or the meanings that we attach to them, they belong to us and not to anyone else.  No one else is responsible for them, only us….and we are not responsible for theirs.

Now, I know some of you are saying, yes, but your behavior affects me.  And that is true.  It does.  But how I feel about it, or the meaning I attach to it, that is me, not you.

This entire line of reasoning started for me in the 9th grade.  We were required to read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s search for meaning.  His book is about his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. The basic premise is though all of these horrible things happened to people in the camp, those who were able to survive kept some part of their mind free.  They had a place in their psyche apart from their experience.  The guards of the camp could do whatever they wanted to their bodies, but they couldn’t control how the prisoners felt about it or reacted to it.  Those prisoner who could keep a sovereign place in their mind, apart from their experience, fared better than those who could not.  It was a fascinating read, even at 14.

Though I had the intellectual understanding that was possible, I really didn’t develop the emotional capacity to put it into practice until the last couple of years.  It has been a slow process, but I am finally able to have experiences where I can listen to some random stranger berate me for something that I didn’t do and not get angry or hurt by his behavior and can actually laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.  It is still more difficult for me to navigate in relationships that are close to me….mostly I believe because I still want to help others be happy and feel some shared responsibility for making that happen.  I know this is one of my weaknesses, that my Father in Heaven is trying to make one of my strengths.  And it is working.  S….L…..O…..W……L…….Y……. like a sloth over time.

But it was so refreshing to see my growth!  So I just had to share it with you!

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

Have a great weekend!!!  I cannot wait for General Conference!!!  Watch it here!!!

Ruminations and revelations……

I know, I know……where have I been?!!

Well, the truth be told, I have been managing some very deep and personal emotions over the last year or so and I have not been and am still not ready to process them in public.  Life of course, has carried on.  We have done many fun and important things….life is still good.

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

The processing however, has been super slow.  Its not a bad thing.  It just is what it is.  I can’t make it go any faster, even though I would like it to be done and over with.  It is a process and I am in the middle of it.

I have come to a few revelations recently…..now they are really not new, but my understanding of them and ability to apply them….that is new.  Here they are:

1.  I am not responsible for other’s feelings…..not their reactions…..or the meanings they attach to my behavior.  If they really want to know what is going on in my head and my heart, then they should probably just ask me and not make assumptions and allow those assumptions to hurt their feelings.  Their hurt feelings are not my fault, even if their hurt feelings are attached to my behavior.

2.  When I respond with Christ-like love, compassion, and kindness to their misunderstanding and hurt feelings, things work better and I am more in control of my emotions.  When I let my anger, hurt and frustration rule my response to their ridiculousness, we all lose and it gets ugly.  Kindness is the key.  My husband gave me a necklace for Christmas.  It is a simple silver key.  I wear it and remind myself that kindness is the key particularly when I am feeling vulnerable to respond in the ‘natural Carin’ way instead of the Christ-like way.

3.  Christ focuses on others, even when He himself is hurting.  Today in seminary we studied Matthew 14 where the Savior learns of John the Baptist’s beheading.  Did you know that was his emotional place when he performed the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes?  Did you know that there were five thousand MEN that he fed with those five loaves and two fishes—that there were women and children there too?  He probably fed over 10,000 people……when he himself, just wanted to be apart from everyone and mourn the loss of his beloved cousin and the forerunner of His ministry.  This particular story touched my heart more than I knew was possible.  So many times as a mother, I just want to run screaming from the room and say, “I am sorry you have all of these needs….I need a moment to attend to my own sorrow, or stress or whatever.”  Christ would not respond that way.  He looked on the multitude with compassion and when the disciples said, “It is late, let us send them away….” Christ said, no….and then took care of them, regardless of His personal pain.  I want to be able to respond like that.

4.  The Savior is patient with us.  He waits for us to figure it out and then gives us further insight or something else to think about.  I have come to a place recently where I, in a small measure, recognized emotionally what I gave up when I left my parents and siblings to go to BYU.  It is a normal thing for college aged kids to go off to college after graduation right?  Well, things were not normal at my house when I left.  My mother had just left our family and left all six of us kids with my dad.  My dad wanted me to stay home and take over for my mother and help the family in this time of crisis.  I knew however, that their ship was sinking and no amount of effort I could put in was going to save it or keep it afloat.  I knew that if I didn’t leave when I did, I would spiritually sink with the boat.  I left them, children and all, to save myself spiritually.  In order to do that, I had to distance myself so far emotionally just so I could survive in my new environment and not mourn the people and things I left behind.  I chose God, over my family.  Most of them have still not forgiven me for making that choice.  They likely never will.  I am finally looking back at what I left behind and mourning for those people and relationships.  Now, I am not reliving that, just recognizing the sacrifices that were made and mourning those losses, so I can allow my Savior to heal me, instead of having them buried underneath 30 years of life.  Functionally, I am cleaning out the closet and finding some nasty stuff in there.  As I came to that realization, the Spirit’s gentle whisperings were “I need you to see what you have done in the past and recognize the strength you have within….”  I have the feeling I am going to need that knowledge in the near future.  I am not excited…….

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

5.  The Savior asks us to do really hard things, but waits patiently until we are willing and able to do it.  I have been trying to drop 30 pounds for about 10 years……  I try and try and try but seem to have these emotional places that get in my way. (I think I have gained and lost the same 10 pounds 10 or 15 times.)  I have not been able to break through them to figure out the psychological reasons why I eat the way I do and cannot seem to maintain proper food intake to have the results I want.  Today during my scripture study, I had a major emotional breakthrough.  I think I understand why it has been so hard and I can see that without my new understanding of today, I have not yet been successful in years worth of effort.  I think I am ready and now I believe I am capable of actually dropping the weight and keeping it off.  Theory is always different than application and my new knowledge is theory.  There will still be some ‘falling off the wagon’ as I learn to apply the new knowledge.  I will struggle.  I will make mistakes.  I will have some failures.  But as I keep moving forward, I will also have more success than I have in the past.  I need to be patient with myself and not beat myself up because it is a process and it is hard and it is new.  I can do it, with His help.

6.  Each of us has to learn to rely on our Father in Heaven.  I recognized this morning that in all of my life, my Father in Heaven has put people in my life who have been able to provide me with the emotional support I need.  I have always had someone there who fed me emotionally…….until recently.  In the last few years, all of those people have moved away from me.  I have not really been able to talk with anyone regularly about the deep troubles in my heart.  I have had to learn to pour them out to my Father in prayer.  It is never usually one great big long prayer…..but lots of teeny prayers throughout the days.  It is hard sometimes when I do not feel supported or fed.  But He never leaves me hanging.  Like Peter when he was walking on the water, every time I get to the point where I just can’t do it by myself and I am starting to sink, I call, and He reaches out to me.  He pulls me close and lets me cry and gives me enough encouragement to dust myself off and try again.  Which leads me to my last point……

7.  I can trust Him.  I do not trust anyone.  I allow people to participate in my life to an extent.  But I have never trusted most of them with all of my heart.  I have been hurt emotionally too many times by people who are suppose to protect me and love me.  It is an every day work and effort for me.  Every Day!  He wants me to share my best self with people.  I don’t yet.  Because I know people are going to hurt me…..He is asking me to let others in.  I am afraid they will ruin the curtains and jump all over the furniture and graffiti on the walls of my soul.  I keep them at a distance, so they cannot do that to me.  He reminds me that even if they do those things to me, He will heal me.  He will always come.  He will never let me go.  Only I can let go of Him, but He will not let go of me……EVER!  He is God.  He cannot lie or He would not be God.  I can trust Him to take care of me, even when no one else will.  This has been the hardest doctrine of all to apply.  I forget it daily and need to be reminded.

I cannot believe I am writing.  I have not wanted to look that deeply into my soul but these things have been running around in there for quite a while.

I love teaching seminary!!  My class is GREAT this year!  We went from a class of six to a class of 16—pretty regularly!  We have 21 on the rolls and only one student has not shown up at least once.  I feel that is a huge success!  And we are at the point where the class talks together and communicates with one another.  We have seven sets of siblings, which provides its own unique challenges.  But we are working on it.

Now that I have ventured into my soul, maybe I will update you on real life in a few days…..maybe not.  I may still have more things to think about without putting it out on the blog.  But we will see.

Until then, just know that I know Jesus Christ heals.  He is real.  He knows you personally, all of you—heart, sorrow, sin, thoughts, beliefs……all of it.  You do not have to hide from Him.  He knows where you are anyway, so you might as well just face yourself in the mirror, acknowledge where you are, and decide to do what you need to to be who you want to be.

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

It is so freeing to be true to yourself, especially when that truth is in line with His Truth!  Have a great weekend!


copyright: Karen Larsen photography

I had the impression that I needed to call my mother today.  That is fine.  I haven’t spoken to her for a few months.  I made the call and we spoke.  We ended up speaking about things when I was a little girl.  I just rattled off some of the things I could remember:

  • Sitting in my mother’s bedroom on her bed while the hailstorm poured outside of our house.  Eventually, the hail destroyed our front room window.  There was glass and hailstones all over the front room.  We never felt scared though because we were safe with my mother.
  • My brother setting the field on fire during a very dry Texas summer.  He went to the fire station to be scolded on being more safe with fire.  Instead he got to turn on the fire truck lights and slide down the pole.  I was so jealous, I considered lighting the field on fire.
  • My other little brother got his heel caught in the spokes of one of my parent’s bicycles when they put him into the child seat and rode around.
  • My grandmother in Oregon made me a teddy bear for Christmas because I was living so far away from her.  I remember sticking my fingers through the wrapping paper and feeling his fur.
  • Throwing up outside of my mother’s bedroom door, in the middle of the night, because I was sick.
  • The scorpion falling off of the ceiling and into my bowl of cereal.
  • Hiding and crying in my bedroom closet because my mother lost a baby and it was a boy and I wanted a sister (I already had three brothers at the time) and didn’t think God loved me or was listening to the desires of my heart.
  • Jumping the fence on the side of the house and getting my shirt caught on the cap of my tooth.  When I jumped down, the cap came shooting off.  I searched in the grass for what seemed like a long, long time but couldn’t find it.  Late that night, my mother noticed, asked me about it, I feigned ignorance and she was sure that I had swallowed it without knowing and insisted that we go to the hospital and x-ray my stomach looking for it.  It was in the grass on the side of the house.  I never told my mother, until I was married with many, many children.
  • Catching lizards and climbing trees.  One day we even caught an armadillo!  That was a great day!
copyright: Karen Larsen photography
As we were talking, it came up that I had spoken with my father on Father’s Day.  We discussed my grandparents’ accident and how it has and did affect my father.  My father actually shared some of his feelings with me that Father’s Day.  My mother was surprised.  Then she told me some things about my grandparents and my father that I didn’t know.
  • My grandfather visited bars every night after work.  My grandmother would send my father to the bar to bring my grandfather home, almost every night.
  • My grandfather didn’t think that my father was capable of very much or that he had the skills necessary for helping him.  
  • My grandparents built a house.  My father was a plumber and had been taught to do that and some electrical work, and building skills by my uncle who was a contractor.  My father offered to help his parents with the work and save them some money.  Grandpa didn’t think Dad could do it and hired a contractor instead of accepting my father’s offer for assistance.
  • My father won’t accept responsibility for anything being his fault…..my brothers struggle with the same thing.  On the flip side, the women all accept more than their fare share of responsibility, even for things that are not their fault.
  • My mother tried to get my father to attend counselling for their marriage.  He wouldn’t go and said there wasn’t a problem.
  • My mother tried to get my dad to go on a second honeymoon.  My dad wouldn’t do that either.  Part of the reason was because the money came from my grandparents’ estate.
As we continued to talk about my dad and the things my mother knew that I had no clue about, my understanding and compassion toward my father grew.  I recognized how hard life must have been for him.  How unloved he must have felt and probably does feel.  His brother and sister rarely talk to him.  His parents are deceased.  My mother left him.  He feels like I abandoned him also, and many of my siblings can only handle so much of his toxicity before they have had enough and need some space.
copyright: Karen Larsen photography
Over the last year, I have learned a lot of things about my father that I didn’t know.  The information is helping to change my perspective of who he is and where he is and what are realistic expectations to have of him.  I am more capable of managing conversations with him, especially when he says something intended to hurt me.  I can let the comments roll off, and even better, I can place appropriate responsibility for behavior where it lies.  I can take what is mine, and I can give what is his back to him without accepting what isn’t mine and without being mean or hurtful.  Those skills have been invaluable in building something between us.  
The Lord has given me time and space to develop into a person who can manage some abuse and then appropriately place it back where it belongs without doing harm.  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the gospel, I am more capable of properly handling negative emotion and abuse, without it affecting me like it used to.  I am healing.  Hopefully, I will be able to share some of those things with my father, and he will be able to heal also.
The other miracle that happened in our conversation, was that for the first time, my mother admitted that she had made bad choices that hurt her family.  In all of our conversations in the past, she has not expressed what happened in those words, where she said, I did this, and I shouldn’t have.  That is healing to me as well.  I don’t need her to apologize.  I just have wanted her to recognize that her decisions affected the rest of us and she was in control. She could have made a different choice.  Now, she can completely repent, heal and let go.  
I am so grateful for the principles of the gospel!!  How amazing they are when we live them and allow them to penetrate our hearts and become a part of who we are.  I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and His example of how to treat people who do wrong to us, and shows us how to forgive and then gives us an opportunity to practice!


copyright: Karen Larsen photography

With all of the desperate needs in the world, I struggle to believe that I deserve to have certain blessings in life.  A few weeks ago, I read (on CNN because that is the only place I ever read the news) how Venezuela was having rolling black outs because their major source of electricity to power their state is a river and because of the drought, their river is all dried up.  For a while, it was just an hour or two a day, now it is days in a row.  Businesses are shutting down because they cannot keep running without electricity, so people are not working as much.  They showed a typical home, with all of the electronics we have….stereos, computers, stoves, air conditioning, television, lights…..all just sitting there because there was no electricity to power their appliances.  Can you imagine how uncomfortably hot and nasty it must be in a South American country without air conditioning?  I can’t even think about it.  I am completely spoiled here in Northern California when we all think we are dying of heat when it hits 75…….if ever.

A few days ago, I read about how Argentinians are missing work and school to stand in line to purchase food.  Adults are eating only one meal a day, or skipping a day of food so there is enough food for the children.  And the children aren’t getting enough food either.  The economy is collapsing in Argentina and the people are suffering, especially the children who do not have enough nutrition to be growing properly.

And then of course, there are the horrible atrocities happening across the globe with sex slavery, ISIS trying to establish a global Shariah law, famine in various lands, and the natural disasters that occur all over and kill people and make them homeless–even just those things in our own communities here in the United States.

I attended a city council meeting this week because Speedy needed to be there for a class.  Our gas taxes have been paying for the street sweeper.  Our city council has outsourced that to the garbage company here in the area.  Of course, that is going to make our garbage prices rise (I am not speculating…that was part of the discussion at the meeting…..).  And they approved doing a study to see how much our sewer and water prices should rise.  Of course, they are not going to return our gas taxes.  The city has other plans for that money.  So they plan on raising our rates for these services, and they have our police department clearing out the homeless population instead of being available for things like traffic accidents and burglaries.  We had a friend in an accident, who rolled his car and sat unconscious, upside down, for 15 minutes before the police arrived, in traffic.  But we are sending three to four patrols through the homeless population area each day.  What is wrong with us?  If you are going to raise my taxes and my rates, I don’t want to pay them to the garbage man and the sewer people.  I want that money to go to the police and the people who are actually helping our homeless population.  How about hiring some of those people to sweep the streets so they have a job and can house their families?  I need to write a letter to our city council…..I know, I know…..I will get to that.

But with all of these bigger problems (much bigger than the stresses that I have), I struggle to feel like I deserve to have a life with a lot of material blessings and plenty of monetary resources.  I want all people to have food, shelter, love.  I want that for every person across the globe.  And when so many have so little, I feel undeserving of asking or having more.

For the first time, in a long time, my husband took me out to dinner.  We just got Chinese take-out and went and ate it at the beach.  Why did we do it?  Because for the first time in our married lives we are finally out of credit card debt.  Now, just so you have some kind of a perspective, Drew and I have never purchased anything that cost more than $250, in all of our married lives. We have purchased one car that cost $2,000 for which we made $50 monthly payments….seriously.  That is the only car we have ever purchased.  We have never purchased a new TV, a bed, computer, or furniture that we have needed to pay more for than $250.  Isn’t that crazy?  So it is not like we have been spending our money for things of no worth.  We have used it to buy shoes, fix the car, or go to the dentist, or purchase necessary clothing—by that I mean a pair of pants here or there—not wardrobes or even seasons of clothing.

We are not out of debt.  We still have student loans we are working on.  And we do not have a mortgage.

The Lord has been trying to help me see that contrary to the way the world works, His desire is that all of His children have everything that He does.  He wants everyone to have enough clothing, shelter, food, and love too.  He does not want some to suffer and have nothing and starve or freeze, and others to have everything.  That is not His program……it is how unrighteous stewards have managed the resources that are available.  There is enough on the earth for all of us and more.  The Lord has provided that.  As an all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving Father, He does not want some of His children to have more than others.  He desires all of us to have everything we need and much of what we want.  How do I know?  Well, scriptures like this:

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

D&C 104:17
 17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, prepared all 
things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

Matthew 5:45
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh 
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 6:25-34

 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life,what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat,and the body than raiment?
 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
 29 And yet say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, ye of little faith?
 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousnessand all these things shall be added unto you.

 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
copyright: Karen Larsen photgraphy
And who could forget King Benjamin?  Mosiah 2: 10-26
10 have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear meor that ye should think that of myself am more than mortal man.
 11 But am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that should be ruler and king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.
 12 say unto you that as have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;
 13 Neither have suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—
 14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
 15 Yet, my brethren, have not done these things that might boastneither do tell these things that thereby might accuse you; but tell you these things that ye may know that can answer clear conscience before God this day.
 16 Behold, say unto you that because said unto you that had spent my days in your service, do not desire to boast, for have only been in the service of God.
 17 And behold, tell you these things that ye may learn wisdomthat ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
 18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?
 19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
 20 say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice,and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
 21 say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breaththat ye may live and move and do according to your own willand even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
 22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you.And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be,forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
 25 And now ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
 26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for am also of the dust. 
These scriptures help me to know that our Father in Heaven is a loving and gracious Father who desires His children, all of them, to have the things they need and to be treated kindly, justly, and with respect.  That is not the reality for most of us.  It is the ideal.  Why?  Why is life like this?
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
Elder Alexander B. Morrison asks the same question:
Troubles, great and small, seem to be the natural lot of mankind. In our darkest moments, we may agree with Macbeth’s declaration that life is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5.5.27–28). However, the scriptures and God’s prophets teach us the fallacy of Macbeth’s bleak philosophy and help us recognize that what we call life is gift of galactic dimensions, treasure beyond the counting, time to prepare for the next steps in our eternal journey.
In Alma 34:32–33  we read: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea,behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. … This day oflife is given us to prepare for eternity” (emphasis added). Helaman told his sons Nephi and Lehi, “And now my sons, … [my]desire is, that ye may … lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers” (Hel.5:8).
bear my witness that life is a gift, unfolding day by day, and, yes, it is sometimes full of sound and fury—but signifying everything. At this season of gift giving and gift receiving, this season of rejoicing in the great gifts that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have given us, it is most fitting to ponder their greatest gift of all—the gift of life.
What, then, is the meaning of life? What are its central purposes? Can they ever be identified and understood by mortals? These are questions which in one form or another have occupied the time and attention of thoughtful men and women throughout the ages. 
He suggests four reasons for life on earth:
1. To gain a body
2.  To be tried and tested
3.  To become like Jesus Christ
4. To establish our eternal families.
Regardless of our circumstances, these are central purposes to all of us who live or who have ever lived on Earth.  We all have the opportunity to forgive others, become the spiritual master of our temporal flesh, to learn to treat others kindly and justly even in the face of persecution and judgement.   And many of us, as we come to know who God is and what He expects of us, will have the opportunity to create eternal families as we become worthy to enter His holy temples and take our families there to be sealed eternally.  
The trick is to believe that these things are possible for us and then to act in faith on the hope that we will one day, regardless of our circumstances, achieve these blessings that He has promised to all those who will obey His voice and keep His commandments, which includes receiving all that the Father hath….
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
D&C 84:33-38
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
 34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abrahamand the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
 35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
 36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
 37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
Have a great Sabbath…and believe that the Lord loves you and desires you to have all He hath…if you are willing to do what He asks.

Summer Time…..

Here at the Lund house, my kiddos would really like to just sleep in every morning, stay up late every night, and just watch tv and play video games every day.  I think that would be their ideal summer. Unfortunately for them, I am not that mother.  I do not put too many expectations on them during school.  They each have their various activities and homework and if they are over 12, I expect them to manage their own laundry and do their nightly chore or responsibility in reference to dinner—which translates to, they either wash the dishes, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash and sweep the floor, or clear and wash the table and put away the food.  Yes, I have to spell it out that clearly, or it doesn’t get done.  And sometimes even when they are busy, they do not do their job and I end up doing it in the morning.  Ugh!

But!  During the summer, they are mine, Baby!!  I try to help them keep some kind of a schedule, just because this group of kids will do nothing if they can get away with it.  This is probably the most structured summer we have ever had!

I thought you might like a look into our schedule.  So here it goes.  I gave each of the kids a day to plan, prepare, cook, and clean up after dinner.  They voted to do the whole enchilada one day, instead of having little jobs each day.  That was fine with me, as long as they do the job!!  For dinner this week, this was the menu:

Monday (Sun’s Day):  Hawaiian Haystacks.  Rice, broiled chicken, homemade gravy, pineapple, olives, and peas.

Tuesday (Shorty’s Day):  Potato Pizza (ya…I thought this would not be so great….but it is actually pretty good…..as long as you provide some kind of vegetable…..I’ll throw out a recipe for this one in a few days).

Wednesday (Spike Spike’s Day):  Breakfast Souffle.  This is hysterical.  Spike has been planning on cooking since I told the kids they would be doing this.  Every day, he wants to know if it is his day.  This morning, when I went to wake him up for prayers before Drew left for work, he says, without moving any of his body and laying on his face, “What time is it?”  “7:30.”  Still not moving, “What day is it?”  “Wednesday”  “You mean my souffle day?”  “Yes!”  He whipped the covers off and jumped out of bed…….”I am the cook today!”  I died laughing!  Yes, your souffle day.  He doesn’t even like eggs.  He just asked for a cooking set for Christmas and this recipe was one in the kit.  So this morning, we put together the souffle.  It is sitting in the fridge, ready to be pulled out and cooked later tonight for dinner.  I’ll be totally shocked if he actually eats it!

Thursday (Speedy’s Day):  Chili Egg/Potato skillet.  I’m not terribly excited about this one either…but I’ll let you know later how it was.

Friday (Smiley’s Day): Campbell’s Bean Soup, fried bread, carrot sticks, and pickles.  I have been trying to encourage more use of vegetables and carrot sticks and pickles is the extent Smiley would compromise.  So be it for this week.

Saturday (Mom and Dad):  Tuna Sandwiches and Salad

Sunday (Mom and Dad):  Asian Salad and Rice

We ask them to get up at 7:30 a.m. so we can say prayers as a family before Drew leaves for work.  I have also been trying to get my teens to do their own scripture reading so they can develop those habits for themselves.  Shorty probably does the best at this.  He is the most organized and on top of managing himself and his stuff.  I never have to remind him to do his work, or wash his laundry, or shower, or anything!  Speedy is taking some summer classes, so he is still a little bogged down.  But he and Sun both are trying to finish their seminary reading of the Old Testament, before we start the New Testament in the fall.

I also gave each child a specific day of the week for their laundry.  Again, Sun and Speedy have trouble with it.

Sun also has a hike next week, so we are trying to walk some each day to help her prepare.  By next week, she needs to be able to do five miles.  We are still at one……working……bit by bit, right?

And so that we weren’t bored this summer, I decided that each day we would focus on a specific area that we could do together as a family.
Monday:  Bedroom day–each person spends some time in their bedrooms to organize, clean out, dust, etc…
Tuesday:  House day—clean out a major room in the house including deep cleaning–maybe by the end of the summer our house will show the work we put in???
Wednesday:  Brain day—today we are going to the library and doing logic problems  We also have to do some of our house cleaning since yesterday we planned and prepared for girls’ camp and worked on Sun’s quilt.
Thursday:  Yard day—-weeding and weeding and weeding……need I say more?
Friday:  Play day–this week Shorty is trying to complete some merit badge requirements for his Geo-cashing merit badge.  So we are going to do a few of those as a family.
Saturday;  Sun still has rehearsal for three hours and Drew is home (so the schedule fluctuates).
Sunday:  Reserved for observance of the Sabbath.

That is what we are doing this summer.  We don’t have any specific family plans.  Later in the summer the boys have scout camp and Sun and I have girls’ camp and a trip to Disneyland for her KidCo group.  When we get back, school starts!  Crazy!

And I am hoping I can convince my sweetheart to spend some money and let us all swim at the neighborhood pool for a month.  Everyone swims except Spike.  So if we could just go almost every day and play for a couple of hours, that would help him to begin developing some of the skills necessary.

Spike Spike is also working on his reading skills, as he will be entering kindergarten in the fall.  I know he doesn’t need to be reading for kindergarten, but the schedule and demands of conforming to someone’s schedule beside his own is going to be difficult enough for him.  If he doesn’t have to stress about the academics, it will be an easier transition for him.

What plans do you have for your people this summer?  Do you have specific goals, temporal or spiritual for each of those little ones who live with you?  Now is a great time to make up things, or prepare for what is coming….when we don’t have other matters pressing in upon us!  Make the most of your time with them, and have fun!!

Blessings of the Work!

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

Yesterday, Drew’s dad told us a fabulous story!  He is the High Priest’s instructor for his ward and yesterday he was responsible for teaching lesson 12 in the Howard W. Hunter manual.  As he presented and read these words:

While I was serving as a stake president in the Los Angeles area, my counselors and I asked our bishops to carefully select four or five couples who wanted to further their progress in the Church. Some were less active, others new converts—but they were motivated to spiritually progress. We got them together in a stake class and taught them the gospel. Rather than emphasizing the temple, we stressed a better relationship with our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our careful selection process assured success, and the majority of these couples did become active and go to the temple.

he realized that his family is a current example of these specific efforts of President Hunter.  My father-in-law grew up in the Los Angeles area.  He currently resides there.  President Hunter was his stake president when he was a boy.  When President Hunter became their stake president, my father-in-law’s father was completely inactive.  His mother was not a member.  He was 12.  They were asked to participate in these classes.  Eventually, over time, Drew’s grandfather became active.  His grandmother joined the church.  By the time my father-in-law was 16 and his sister (I think) was 7, his family was prepared to attend the temple and they were sealed as a family.  From this beginning, my father-in-law’s sister married in the temple, her three sons served missions, and three of her five children have intact temple marriages.  My father-in-law has three children who have each married in the temple,   Drew is serving as bishop, his sister’s husband is currently the bishop of their ward, and the other sister’s husband is serving in the bishopric.  Three of the grandsons have served missions and one is out.  President Hunter’s efforts and the efforts of his bishops, and home and visiting teachers have directly affected the lives of generations of our family!!  Can you imagine the feelings and emotions that must have washed over him as he read and taught those principles realizing the happiness of so many of his descendants are the beneficiaries of such time and love and effort?

Contrast that with my family.  My parents were sealed two months before I was born.  I am the oldest child.  By the time I was 18, both of my parents were excommunicated.  None of my siblings, or their families are active in the gospel.  Neither are my parents.  At this point in time, those generations are lost as to the blessings of the gospel. 

I have the gospel largely due to the efforts of my young women, girls’ camp, and seminary leaders.  Though they may not know the results of their efforts, those leaders kept working, and teaching, and serving, until I was receptive enough to take what they were offering and run with it.  They not only saved a girl, they have saved generations of people—-because my children have leaned and been taught the gospel, have served missions (teaching it to others) and will look for and find spouses who will be willing to teach these principles to my grandchildren, hopefully down on through the lines.

Isn’t that amazing???  We often think that our efforts don’t matter that much.  We never touch very many people—-that is just not true.

I also had another amazing experience this week.  A missionary who had served in our ward contacted me.  When he served in our ward, I could tell he was struggling.  I felt the need to write him a letter.  I will share it with you, because it is my letter.  But here is what I said to him:

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

February 4, 2009

Dear Elder,
            I’ve just had the feeling lately that I should sit down and write you a letter.  I want you to look up a scripture, Moroni 8:25-26.  (Now J)  Mormon is speaking to his son, Moroni.  Mormon has learned that the people where Moroni is are disputing over baptizing their little children.  This isn’t a discussion about that doctrine, but you need to understand the context in which the comments were made.  Back to the scripture.
            Mormon teaches Moroni that the first fruits of repentance is baptism.  Baptism happens because people are exercising their faith in the repentance process and they are fulfilling the commandments, which brings a remission of their sins.  Remission of sins, brings meekness and lowliness of heart, and because of meekness and lowliness of heart, cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love (charity), which love endureth by diligence unto prayer.  This is a process, a scriptural and spiritual process.  It is repeated over and over in the Book of Mormon.  Read passages about repentance, Alma the Younger, Enos, the people of Ammon, King Lamoni.  Wherever the repentance is true you can see the process.  People want to repent, they begin to repent, they begin to sincerely try to keep the commandments, and because of their repentant state, the Holy Ghost comes and fills them with hope and a desire to further keep more commandments and they have a desire for the welfare of their fellowmen.  The process is maintained only by diligence unto prayer.  Those who continue to sincerely pray, will maintain the process, while those who do not, will step out of the upward cycle.  This is one of the reasons prayer is so vital!!
            I’m not sure about the rest of your mission, but here in California, you have fallen on a hard lot.  The people, even those in the church, are unrepentant and disobedient in small and simple things like prayer.  If the people within the church are struggling in these areas, I imagine most of the people out of the church are also struggling.  Baptism is only a sign that someone is ready to begin the process.
            I, like you, like to have a measuring stick that says, “I’m making a difference.  My work and effort matter.”  I like to see the fruits of my labors.  The Lord has spent much time in my life tutoring me to help me see that the fruit I was laboring for, wasn’t necessarily what I thought I was there to harvest.
            The scriptures say, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”  D&C 18:15
            Who is that one soul, Elder?  Sometimes, that one soul may just be ourselves.  The work you are doing on your mission, though you are crying repentance and working and laboring all your days, though none of the people may listen, though you may not baptize one person….what has that work done for your own soul?  Sometimes the labors we are asked to perform are simply for the benefit of our own soul.  The fruit is in our lives and our testimony.  The work and effort you put in, changes you.
            Now, putting that aside for a moment.  The next scripture reads, “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
            Who might those souls be?  You may be tempted to say “those we baptize on our missions.”   Well, maybe yes.  But more importantly, how about the souls of your wife and your children?  How about the souls of your mother and brothers and sisters?  How about all of those around you who are better people because of the example you set and the way you treat them, because your light shows them how to behave during their times of darkness and distress?
            For many years I have been frustrated and felt like I have not actively participated in missionary work because though I fling gospel seeds everywhere, I never seem to be able to see the fruit of the things I have done or said, or shared.  The Spirit has let me know that there are many more souls to my credit than I have any idea.  He has told me that people are better people because of their interactions with me and because of the example I set, even if they never join the church.  Those thoughts bring me a measure of peace about the subject.
            But more than that, as I am watching my children grow and develop, I am witnessing the fruit mature before my eyes.  They are becoming incredible people, spiritual men and women of sound understanding and righteousness, with firm testimonies.  That brings me great joy.  Drew and I have been laboring with them for nineteen years, and we have many more to go.  But because of the example we set for them and because of the teachings and training they receive in our home, they will change the world.  They will be the ‘Keepers of the Savior’s light’ in an ever-darkening world.  They will teach those things to my grandchildren–who will hopefully teach them to their children.  With continued effort and prayer, we will hopefully bring all of these souls back into the kingdom when we come.
            Some may be lost.  Some may choose not to come.  But that is the price of agency, which we all fought for before we came here.  I will honor their agency, but I will continue to labor with my might that they may change their minds and come into the kingdom with us.  And so it is with your mission, now and in the future….
            “If you should labor all your days and bring save it be one soul…..”  If it is only you—it is OK, as long as you have labored all your days.  But if the truth were told, you will be there with your wife and your children, and hopefully the rest of the generations beyond that.
            Elder, you have no idea how much I like you.  You are an incredible young man!  You WILL make a fabulous father!  You have the heart and soul of a disciple of Christ and you will teach those things to your children.  Parenting is very soul stretching, but the great Father of us all is always there to help us and to guide us and to give us counsel on how to handle the most difficult of situations with His children.  Often my heart’s prayer is, “He has been your child much longer than he has mine.  What do we do now?  How can we help this child learn this principle?”
            Remember, your own spiritual cycle is maintained by diligence unto prayer.  A proud man is often not saying his prayers.  Keep the cycle maintained by obedience and diligence unto prayer.
Your sister in the work,

Carin Lund

This week, he let me know that he still has this letter and still pulls it out to share it periodically, when he feels its contents will help the person he is speaking with.  It really made my heart swell!!  I am so grateful for the words of Christ!  The doctrine really does change lives, not just one life, generations!!!  And not just down the line, but backward too, as we do those temple ordinance for our deceased ancestors!

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

I just want you to know that I know this work is true!  It is God’s work!  We are His children!  He desires all of us to come unto Him and to come into the fold.  He denies none to come unto Him.  Any that will pay the price are invited to attend and will receive the blessings that come with keeping His commandments!

Don’t quit working!  You are making a difference!!  You just may not know how much!  Have a great day!

Speedy Graduates!!!

Congratulations Speedy!!!  We are so very proud of you!!  Speedy is graduating an entire year early!  In January, we thought we were going to be moving this summer.  We spoke with the officials at his high school indicating that we didn’t want him to lose any ground if we actually made the move and needed to transfer to a regular high school.  It was early enough in the semester that they said, “If you change his classes like this, by Friday, he can graduate this semester!”  So we did it!  And then we didn’t move.  But we had already rearranged his classes.  So he did it!!

Speedy will stay home one more year and finish up his AA at our junior college, and finish his last year of seminary, and then next year, he will apply for college and a year after that put in his mission papers.

Grandma and Grandpa came up for the event!!  They only got lost twice!  But they made it in time for the ceremony!!  Afterward, we went out to eat at the Stuft Potato—amazing, authentic Austrian food!  Since Drew served his mission in Austria, it is his personal favorite.  And Speedy hadn’t ever been—so off we went.  I wish that I had taken photos of the entrees, but I only got dessert……checkout these beauties!!

For me, the best part was that Drew has been teaching me to golf!  Dad took us to the course and we rented carts and Dad and Drew played.  I rode along.  I wanted to play and they paid for me to play, but I was a chicken.  So…..next time.  I was worried I would hold everyone up.  But I can see why men really love the game—little cars to drive all over, hitting a ball and then hunting for it…..hours outside with an objective.  Even with the wind it was a ton of fun!

You would be proud of me….at the driving range I actually hit a couple!  It is really hard for me to figure it all out.  Even though I was really athletic in high school, golf uses totally different muscles!  I’m still trying to figure it out!

And you should know that graduation was three weeks ago.  It has just taken me that long to get things together and to blog.  But here we finally are!  We are so proud of you Speedy!!  Way to go!!
Congratulations!  Love Mom and Dad.