Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Three Good Qualities

Gems of Reflection: Week 30
It's hard to believe that we are already on week 30 of our little Gems of Reflection project. This week was a tough one for me because I am often my own worst critic and sometimes find it difficult to overlook the qualities that I would like to improve about myself, focusing instead on the good qualities. In my heart though, I know that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, that I have divine potential, and that ultimately, he doesn't create any imperfect beings. So, I am determined to get over my inhibitions today and focus on my positive attributes. So, here goes nothing...

1. I am a good mother. Though I may not be perfect, and often have to repent for losing my temper, or handling a discipline situation in a less than perfect manner, I devote my heart and soul to my children and I honestly always have their best interest at heart. Everything I do, I do for them. I love them unconditionally and strive each day to express my love for them, and to instill in them correct morals and a sense of self worth. My children are the light of my life and I am truly a better person because I am their mother. They each have so much to teach me, and I thank Heavenly Father for them every day. I am thankful, too, that I have the guidance of the gospel to attend me in the learning process. I honestly don't know how I would do this parenting thing without it;

2. I am a good writer. I went to a writer's conference with The Purple Lady back in May of this year, and I left there feeling truly edified and educated, I also left there feeling severely inadequate; though, because being in a professional environment with so many successful authors made me realize how much further I have to go as a writer before I am even remotely ready to join that playing field. Still, for as long as I can remember, I have had a deep-seeded passion for writing. It seems to be in my blood - it's who I am - and though I have a long road ahead of me, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I look at stuff I have written, for I know that I pour my heart and soul into every written word. I know that this gift is a blessing from God, and I know that we must work to hon our talents if we wish to master them. I know, too, that one day I WILL accomplish my goals as a writer, and I look forward to the growth I will experience in the process;

3. I have a natural desire to forgive others. For most of my adult life, I have cherished a quote by Mark Twain in regards to forgiveness. He said:
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."  
I know that I have referenced this quote in previous posts, but it is especially fitting for today because it perfectly illustrates the beauty of forgiving others. Not only does allowing forgiveness release you from the burden of holding a grudge, but as a general rule, I try to see others as Christ sees them, to be accepting and tolerant of their faults, and to be forgiving of their mistakes. After all, I am human too, and I would hope that others would grant me the same courtesy. I am not always perfect on this score, and I do sometimes lose my patience with people, especially when someone I know continues to make the same mistakes on a continuous basis - but again, do the scriptures not tell us that we are required to forgive all men (D&C 64:10)? 

Sometimes, I know that I can be too forgiving, and it has gotten me into a bad spot a time or two. I have found myself wanting to forgive people that I probably shouldn't because of choices they have made in the past - things they have done to me that were completely hurtful and deliberate. I have come to learn, however, that there is a difference between forgiving someone and trusting them again. Matthew 18:21-22 is one of my favorite scriptures. It says:  
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 
I don't think the Lord was telling Peter to allow people to walk all over him and continuously take advantage of him in these scriptures. However, if we expect the Lord to forgive us for our own repeated transgressions (I know we all have them), then we must also be willing to forgive others continuously and repeatedly. I think too, though, that you can forgive someone and still choose not to associate with them; especially if they are potentially poisonous to your eternal progression and happiness. I just try to see the good in everyone; though, and take things on a case by case basis - relying on the spirit to guide me in the right direction. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day #6: One (1) copy of Stance for the Family; and one (1) Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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I can hardly believe it, but today is the sixth and final day of our week-long fiesta to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the blog, and boy - what a week it has been! Thanks to some amazing sponsors, we have conducted some pretty awesome giveaways so far this week, and today is no exception. First off, let me give a huge shout-out to The Purple Lady, who has so graciously offered to sponsor today's giveaway. If you have not already had the luxury of visiting her blog, take a minute to do so by clicking here - and then prepare to have your mind blown by experiencing her creative genius. But first, let me apprise you of today's giveaway.

So - today, we have a couple of special things in store for you. First, the winner of today's giveaway will have the option to choose one of two copies of Stance on The Family (a BYU journal). The first copy of the journal contains a poem about autism written by The Purple Lady, and the second contains an article on romance addiction, which she also wrote. When the winner is selected at the expiration of the giveaway, he/she will notify me as to which journal they would like to receive.

Now on to the second prize of today's giveaway: I mean, seriously - what would a fiesta be without cake? Right? And I just could not live with myself if I were to have hosted an incomplete blog-iversary fiesta. So, the second prize is a chocolate zucchini cake, made by yours truly. I know it doesn't sound very extravagant, but let me just tell you that upon discovering this cake recipe recently, my family and I have decided that we never have need for any other chocolate cake again. The cake itself is moist and decadent - chocolate cake with rich chocolate chips - and the frosting (which is actually a chocolate ganache) is to die for. Trust me when I say that you want to get your hands on this bad boy! ;)

Since I am posting this giveaway so late in the day, I am adding an extra day to its duration; and therefore, the giveaway will end at midnight on Friday, August 2, 2013.

Thank you again to The Purple Lady for making today's giveaway possible, and thank you to all of the sponsors of our other giveaways this week. I have had such an amazing time celebrating the one-year anniversary of the blog, and none of it would have been possible without you.

Related links:

Blog-versary Fiesta, Day 5: 5mL bottle of doTERRA DigestZen

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day 4: My Little Legs Giveaway, #2!

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day 3: 3-Month Dance Scholarship!

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day 2: My Little Legs Giveaway!

Childhood TV Shows, Blog-iversary Fiesta Kick-Off, and Music Lesson Giveaway!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day 4: My Little Legs Giveaway, #2!

Once again, it is Thankful Thursday, and with the celebration of the blog's one-year anniversary transpiring this week, I have so much to be thankful for. First off, I just want to express my gratitude for my amazingly supportive family and friends who are volunteering either their time, services, or products for the benefit of our little fiesta. I am thankful for all of you who have willingly shared my blog posts and supported our efforts to spread the word about the giveaways this week, and I am thankful for the enthusiasm in which you do so - especially since some of you aren't even eligible for the giveaways. I know that I am truly blessed to have such an incredible support system, and I could not do this without you. 

Now, with regards to the blog-iversary fiesta: Today is day 4 of our shenanigans, and thanks (once again) to our anonymous donor, we have another giveaway from My Little Legs. However, whereas Tuesday's giveaway was for some adorable leggings and matching hair bows for the little princesses in our lives (there is still time to earn entries for that giveaway, fyi), today's giveaway is for the boys. Today, we have two adorable hats from My Little Legs: a turquoise and brown owl hat, and a gray and red monkey hat.

My Little Legs giveaway, courtesy of our anonymous donor.
L has the owl hat (on the left), and let me tell you - it is absolutely ADORABLE! Both of these hats are a size small, and therefore should fit a child between the ages of 4 and 12 months; however, B has a pink owl hat, that I believe is also a small, and hers still fits perfectly at 14 months.

This giveaway is open to all U.S. residents, and will conclude at midnight on Tuesday, July 30th. Don't forget to come back to earn extra entries daily; too, and also to check out our other giveaways. 

Thank you again to our awesome donor for making this giveaway possible. Good luck to all entrants,  :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day 3: 3-Month Dance Scholarship!

Happy Blog-iversary to The Luckiest! ;)
Today is Day 3 of our week-long fiesta to celebrate the one-year Blog-iversary of The Luckiest - and we have another super giveaway to commemorate the occasion. The Las Vegas School of Dance and Music has offered a 3-month scholarship to one lucky winner! Ay, Caramba! ;) 

This scholarship is open to all residents of the Las Vegas valley, but it can only be used for a child between the ages of 2 and 17. This giveaway will be open for five days, and you can earn extra entries daily, so make sure to take advantage and check back often. Also, be sure to check their studio out online at Las Vegas School of Dance and Music.

A HUGE thank-you to Kara Austria-Faith and The Las Vegas School of Dance and Music for making this giveaway possible. And thanks to all of you for participating in our shenanigans this week. It would not be a fiesta without you. Now, if only we had some chips and guacamole - and maybe a piñata! ;)

Good luck to all! Vamos a bailar! :)

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blog-iversary Fiesta, Day 2: My Little Legs Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, today is Day 2 of our jolly, little week-long fiesta, and thanks to an amazing donor - who wishes to remain anonymous - we have an awesome giveaway today for some adorable leggings from My Little Legs. If you have not been hipped to these charming little accessories, you can check them out at My Little Legs, but here is a picture of the ones in the giveaway:

I am seriously wishing I could enter this giveaway, because B's chunky little legs look absolutely darling in these things. Haha.

Thank you to our donor for making this giveaway possible, and good luck to all entrants. Also, remember to check back daily for new giveaways this week, and to earn additional entries into previous giveaways.

Source: via The Purple on Pinterest

Monday, July 22, 2013

Childhood TV Shows, Blog-iversary Fiesta Kick-Off, and Music Lesson Giveaway!

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So, I know that it is Monday today, and we usually do our Gems of Reflection posts on Mondays, and I will get to that - I promise, but first things first. In case you haven't been following my posts on Facebook, this is not just any regular old Monday. Today is an extra special Monday, for we are officially kicking off our week-long fiesta in celebration of the blog's one-year anniversary (aka blog-iversary). I am super excited too, for I have some amazing friends who are offering their support for our little fiesta, so we have some pretty exciting things happening this week on the blog. 

Today is the first of many daily giveaways that will be transpiring here this week, and we were lucky enough to procure the support of the incredibly talented, and oh-so-handsome Principal Tuba for The Las Vegas Philharmonic. Okay, so he is also my husband, but he has lovingly donated his time and is offering one free month of lessons (4 weekly half-hour lessons) for any brass musician who should win this giveaway.

Good luck to all entrants. Now, let's get this party started! :)

Be sure to come back every day and check out the blog for a new daily giveaway. Each giveaway will run for a few days, and will allow for additional points to be earned daily. The more points you earn, the better chance you have of winning. Don't be afraid to spread the love, too, so that others can get in on the fun.

Now, on to this week's Gems of Reflection post:

GOR: Week 29

My favorite show growing up was Saved by The Bell. I used to have a huge crush on Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zach Morris), and I used to always wish that I was Kelly Kapowski. Haha. Oh, the problems of 12-year-old girl. 
“Zach Morris the cool trouble maker, A.C. Slater the kind hearted jock, Screech Powers the smart and funny nerd, Kelly Kapowski the teen dream who is Zach Morris’ obsession, Lisa Turtle the gossiping fashion lover, and Jessie Spano the feminist straight A student. They make up the six individual students and their misadventures at Bayside High School.” -IMDB
I don't know what it was about SBTB that captivated me so, but there is something particularly reminiscent of my childhood in the show - and I still find myself plastered to the tv whenever an old re-run airs. I even went on to watch The College Years, and I loved the Hawaiian Style movie that came out. The group of six friends just had some kind of charisma about them. I had to smile, too, when M discovered the show a while back, and I found her glued to the screen as well. Hehe.

Anyway, when SBTB: The New Class started airing a few years later, I just could not get into the show. It just was not the same as the original. I guess I am guilty of being a creature of habit, and accepting change is something that has not always come easily to me. I think it will make you all happy to know, however, that I don't still kiss my posters of Mark-Paul Gosselaar before going to bed. Hehe. 

Related link:

52 Gems of Reflection

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thankful for Blessings - and Homemade Bread

Today is Thankful Thursday, and I would feel extremely ungrateful if I did not thank my Heavenly Father for the many blessings I have received of late. For those of you who don't know, my husband lost his job at the beginning of June, so financially, things have been pretty stressful lately. It's funny, though, how when times are tough, the Lord always has a way of putting things into perspective, and I am truly grateful for the outpouring of love and providence that we have received from Him this past month and a half.

A few weeks ago before M went to Oklahoma for a five-week visit with her biological father, we decided to take her to Cici's pizza to enjoy one last little splurge with her before she left. We had a coupon for a free buffet, too, so we were able to feed our entire family for about $10. After engorging ourselves on yummy pizza, salads, and dessert, we packed up the kids and headed out to the car to continue on with the rest of our evening.

As we were buckling kids into seat belts, a woman walked up to the car and asked me if I had some spare change. She said that she had just lost her job and that she had no money to feed her three children, who were standing behind her (all of which looked to be about middle-school-aged). Initially, my reaction was to blow her off and apologize, saying I didn't have any cash on me. Honestly, I get so tired of being bombarded by people in parking lots for spare change. It seems like I can't even go to the grocery store anymore without someone stopping me and begging for money.

Anyway, the woman asked if I could go somewhere and buy them some food. Then, I proceeded to tell her that my husband too had just lost his job, and that we also have three children to feed. I asked her if she had tried applying for unemployment and welfare, and with tears in her eyes, she said that she had, but the applications had not been approved yet, and she wouldn't be receiving help from them for several days. We chit-chatted for a few more seconds and then said our goodbyes, but before she turned away, she said, "I hope your husband finds a job soon. God bless." I closed my door and to my everlasting shame, we drove away.

Almost immediately after pulling out of the Cici's parking lot, my conscience started eating away at me. Sure, we claimed to also be in a hardship, but we had just had the ability to feed ourselves (quite plentifully, I might add) and all three of our children. My mind kept flickering back to those kids in the parking lot, and I couldn't help but think of M and the two babies. How would I feel if I did not have the ability to feed them? What lengths would I go to in order to provide a meal for them if they were hungry? And then I thought about how fortunate we are that we have the Gospel in our lives. If we got to a point where we could not feed our children, I know that the Church would be able to provide us with immediate temporary assistance because of their inspired welfare program. But this woman didn't have that luxury.

It was then that the spirit testified to me so strongly that I needed to help her and her children. I shared my feelings with Zach and told him that we should pull into a McDonald's and at least get them a couple of McDoubles (thank you, dollar menu). I know it wasn't much, but we honestly did not have a lot of income at our disposal. We got them an extra one too, just in case. The whole way back to the Cici's parking lot, I kept kicking myself in the behind thinking, what if they were gone? What if I wouldn't be able to get that meal to them? I had so many mixed emotions and was feeling the spirit very strongly. It took every ounce of self control to keep the tears at bay.

We pulled up to the Cici's parking lot but we didn't see them, and my heart sank. We thought maybe they were walking somewhere nearby, so Z decided to drive around a bit to see if we could spot them in a nearby parking lot. Sure enough, there they were across the way in a parking lot kitty-corner from the Cici's. Z put the pedal to the medal and we raced over to them, hoping they wouldn't leave before we could get there. Finally, we got to the parking lot and pulled up next to the woman, handing her the bag of burgers out the window. She thanked us and we drove away.

My heart was so full and I felt so blessed. Not only because we were not in her position, despite our circumstances (I hope that doesn't sound awful), but also because we were able to serve her and her children, if even with something as simple as a couple of burgers. I felt like we were really doing the Lord's work, and the spirit was so strong that I almost couldn't hold the tears back any longer. I think everyone in the car felt it too. It was truly a humbling experience, and I couldn't help but thank Heavenly Father for my many blessings.

Anyway, I noticed last night that we were almost completely out of bread, so I got up this morning and started making bread for my family - you know, because nothing says, "Hot summer day in July" like sweating bullets over bread dough. Hehe. Seriously though, as I sit here typing this post, I can't help but thank my Heavenly Father for the ability that I have to provide this comfort for my family. We are truly blessed. :)

Related Link:

The Best White Bread Recipe Yet Written

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Conversion to the Gospel

Gems of Reflection : Week 28
As I am sure you are aware, I was supposed to post this Monday, but life got away with me. Oh well. ;)

So, I was born a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was baptized when I was 8 years old, but I don't think I was fully converted to the Gospel until I was an adult. I went through a period of inactivity from the time that I was about 17 years old, and for the next few years, I lived as though there was no accountability for my actions. I thought I was happy; too, until gradually, things started to unravel. 

I reached a point in my life where I knew something was missing. I tried dating different kinds of guys, thinking maybe that my biological clock was just telling me that it was time to settle down and start a family (or at least add to the one I had already started), but nothing seemed to fill that void. Looking back, I realize that there were many influences that tried to point me back to The Church, but I was too blind by my worldly desires to accept that option as the solution to my problems.

I was even engaged to another man at one point - a man I really didn't even love. I think I had decided that I was tired of being a single mom, and had truly conceded to the idea that because of choices I had made in my past, I was unworthy of happiness. But then, one day I heard a voice in my head as clear as if someone were standing next to me whispering the words into my ear. It said, "This is not the life I had in store for you."

I think that was a major turning point for me. I started to evaluate my life and think about what it was that I was truly missing - what was really important. I soon came to realize what I knew all along - that in my life, I was the happiest when I was living the commandments of God. 

Little by little, I started trying to make little changes that would allow me to find my path back to the Gospel - until one Sunday, I found myself sitting in the congregation of a ward where I had been a member for quite some time, yet had no acquaintance because of the life I had previously chosen to live - only, I wasn't a stranger there because I knew in my heart that I was a child of God. 

I sat there in sacrament meeting that day, holding the program - which displayed a picture of Christ on the cover - and wept uncontrollably as I stared at his loving, accepting face and knew that I was loved. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by the presence of the spirit, which testified to me that THIS is where I was supposed to be. 

Some time later, I read The Miracle of Forgiveness and came to understand how The Plan of Salvation applies to ME as an individual daughter of our Heavenly Father. I was reminded that Jesus died for my own personal sins, and my testimony was strengthened tremendously each day. I started going back to church regularly, and soon came to realize that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I AM able to be forgiven for the mistakes I made, and I AM worthy of happiness.

I started setting my sites on making myself worthy to attend the temple, and in the process, met my husband. He was truly an answer to my prayers, and I thank Heavenly Father for him daily. He was and continues to be a testament to me that Heavenly Father does hear and answer our prayers, and that we can be blessed with the innermost desires of our hearts if we choose to be faithful and remain worthy. We were married civilly and then were sealed in the temple one year later. 

The day we went through the temple was one of the most amazing days of my life. A few days prior, I stood at the distribution center with my mom as the attendant measured me for my temple clothing. As we sat and sobbed with joy over the amazing occasion for which we were there preparing, my mom turned to the attendant with tear-filled eyes and said, "She has waited for this day for so long." Thinking that we were there planning for my wedding day (and not a sealing, which was taking place one year after our temporal marriage), the attendant said, "Oh, you are getting married. Congratulations." My mom just looked at her with a proud smile and said, "No, she is being sealed to her family." Realizing the happiness we felt that day preparing for the temple, and knowing the struggles we must have had to overcome, the attendant also burst into tears. She ended up giving both my mom and me a hug. It was such a beautiful moment. I seriously cannot think of the joy we felt that day without tearing up. I am feeling overwhelmed with emotion as I type this now.

Though my return to the Church was gradual, I do have a strong testimony that this Gospel is true, that Jesus Christ is the son of a living God, and that we too can come to be like Him. My testimony is constantly being strengthened as I attend the temple and experience answers to prayers in my own life, and I am truly grateful for second chances, for our Heavenly Father's willingness to forgive, and for His love for His children - for me. And I thank Him for the blessings I receive each day through His love and mercy.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Called to Serve

Gems of Reflection:Week 26
I have only had two callings as an adult in the Church. After Z and I were sealed in the temple 5 years ago, we were called as a couple to teach the 16 - 17 year old's Sunday School class. We were in that calling for four years and I absolutely LOVED it. Not only did it allow me the opportunity to increase my love for and knowledge of the scriptures, but it strengthened my testimony of the faith that our youth possess as well.

Serving with the youth was such a joy to me. As you can imagine, in a four-year period we watched as many of the youth finished high school then left for college or prepared for missions, left for said missions, and then returned after serving faithfully - and being able to watch them grow and mature into sensible, faithful servants of the Lord was absolutely heart-warming.

So many of the youth in my ward have such sweet, spirits too - and such firm testimonies. They would often blow me away with how profound their comments were in class, and I truly grew to love each one of them. It was such a rewarding calling. There wasn't a week that went by that I didn't feel thoroughly edified, and I am grateful for the example that each of them was to me.

We were released from that calling just over a year ago, and I can honestly say that I was a little heartbroken. I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity to converse with the youth on a weekly basis like I had been, and I knew I would miss them. I understood then; though, that the Lord had other things in store for me, and I would soon learn just exactly what His plan was. ;)

A few weeks after my husband and I were released, I was called as a nursery worker, where I am currently still serving - and wow, what a roller coaster that has been. In the last year, we have gone through two incredible nursery leaders and are now on our third. So, things have changed a lot over the course of the year, but I am grateful for the opportunity that I was afforded to come to know each of these remarkable women on a deeper, more spiritual level. I have grown to love each of them for their strengths and for the example they are to me as well.

Working with the nursery-age children has been a little challenging for me, only because I have two of my own children in there with me, and because the number of children in the nursery has consistently grown. It comforts me; though, to know that I am doing the Lord's work, and I have a testimony that I am exactly where he needs me. We recently gained a third nursery worker too, so I am grateful for the tremendous difference that has made.

I know there is still so much that I stand to learn from this calling. Z teases me that the Lord is trying to prepare me for more children. Haha. I think maybe that the Lord just thought I needed to learn patience.  Hehe. Either way, I look forward to the journey ahead, and am grateful for the experiences I have had in my callings.

Related Link:

52 Gems of Reflection