Monday, October 21, 2013

Fun in the Snow

52 Gems of Reflection: #39
I know that I already posted a Gems of Reflection post today, but I am still so far behind (I haven't even started October's posts yet), and I am determined to get caught up. 

So, it didn't snow here in Vegas very often when I was a child, but I remember waking up a few times to a thin blanket of white outside - and naturally, it was like a holiday with the amount of exuberance we all expressed - especially considering the early hour.

I remember one time when I was a kid (we were living in Henderson at the time) and the snow stuck well enough for us to actually make a snowman (though the snow was pretty muddy. hehe). I remember another time making snow cones out of snow. That was pretty awesome. 

Though it didn't snow right here in the Las Vegas valley very often, it did always snow up at Mt. Charleston, which is just about a 45 minute drive from where I grew up (on the northwest side town, where we moved when I was 10). I remember going up to Mt. Charleston quite often as a youth, and it was always such an exciting adventure. We'd pack hot chocolate and a picnic lunch, wrap our socks in plastic bags (why we didn't just invest in a good pair of snow boots is beyond me. lol), and we'd pick a spot where we could go sledding down the hill on plastic trash can lids or cheap, plastic sleds. Haha. Talk about a good time. Those were the days.

One year, shortly after Zach and I were married, we went up with M (who was only about seven at the time), and we found this really cool spot where the hills were slick with slippery snow - perfect for sledding. I was sitting with Zach about half-way down the hill (facing downhill), and M was up the hill about 15 feet behind us with my younger brother and his (then) girlfriend (who is now his wife). At one point, M turned around to face them, turning her back on the downward slope, and I guess she lost her footing. She slipped and fell on her behind, sliding full speed down the hill - backwards. All I know is I suddenly heard this blood-curdling scream, and though I didn't really have time to react, something inside me did. I instinctively stuck out my right arm just as she was flying past me and grabbed hold of her jacket, stopping her from sliding the rest of the way downhill. She looked at me with this look of desperate relief on her face as she let out a huge breath - half sobbing, half rejoicing. "Wow," she said. "You are Supermom." To this day, she talks about that experience and says she is still convinced that I have super powers. Hehe. 

We probably won't make it up to the mountain this winter since I am pregnant (I wouldn't want to fall and injure myself), but this post is definitely making me jones for some fun in the snow - especially since we haven't been up since the babies were born.

Anyway, I have to say that I have always been jealous of people who get to experience a white Christmas, but in reality, I am not really sure I'd want to live somewhere where I have to shovel snow. Then again, I have been saying that I want to move to northern Utah (Salt Lake area). I guess that's what is so great about having a husband and children - delegation. Hehe. 

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Eat Dessert First

Gems of Reflection, #38
I don't really think there is a secret to good health. It all boils down to eating right and getting a consistent amount of exercise. That being said, I have always been one to allow myself to indulge in the sweet pleasures of life (if you haven't figured it out by now, I LOVE food). My motto: Eat dessert first. Hehe.

Okay, Okay - I know that that isn't the best advice. Our health should be a top priority, especially when it is such a huge factor in our quality of life. I will say this though: if we practice moderation in all things, the occasional sweet indulgence would not have such a huge impact on our overall health. Not only that, but regular exercise can do so many great things for our body's physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Knowing that doesn't make the "doing it" part any easier all the time, but I know that I am really going to make getting healthy a priority in this coming year.

My health hasn't been so great over the last year, and I wonder how much of that has to do with environment vs. diet/exercise. I will say this though: being pregnant with my 4th child (at age 31) has made me realize that this body needs to get healthy and stay healthy. So, here's to a year of focusing on our health and well-being. Now, if only I could get my lung capacity back up to par so that regular exercise was not so taxing. ::sigh::

Anyway, on to the second part of this question: What is it like to live with me? Well, I would like to say that life is all puppy dogs and rainbows here in the Jackson household (haha), but I am sure that there are days when my kids (and maybe even my husband) want to disown me. I'll just chalk that up to pregnancy hormones though. As for the rest, it's nothing that can't be made right with some good old homemade chicken soup and homemade bread...or cookies...or cupcakes. ;)

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52 Gems of Reflection

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creating Memories in the Kitchen

Gems of Reflection #37
Handed down talents - Hmm. I would have to say that the main handed-down talent that I possess is my love for cooking and baking. I believe it originated when I was younger and would spend a lot of time with my Grandma Ruby. I would sit and watch as she made homemade biscuits and potato soup - two of my all-time favorite comfort foods. 

As I got a little older, I started helping her add the ingredients and would always delight at the finished result, knowing that I had had a hand in bringing to pass those delectable, little creations. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, a sense that I was a big and important.

I also have fond memories of making sugar cookies with my mom. We usually did this around Christmas time and Easter, and it was always so much fun to help her cut the shapes out of the dough, carefully placing them on the cookie sheet and popping them into the oven. The house would quickly be filled with the sweet aroma of yummy goodness, which always preceded my favorite part - the frosting and sprinkles. I am not sure if as much frosting made it onto the cookies as did in my tummy (hehe), but it made for some fun, quality time with my mom that I will never forget. 

I also remember making divinity with my mom, and chocolate candy with candy molds. We also did rice crispy treats (with peanut butter, yum!) and chocolate chip cookies. Spending time in the kitchen with her is one of my favorite memories, and as I became an adult and started having children of my own, I started feeling that desire to continue the tradition with my own kids.

Somewhere along the way, I developed a passion for cooking and baking. It began to become a source of stress relief for me - a way to feel in control and rejuvenated. It's also an added bonus that bringing yummy treats into fruition brings joy and pleasure to my family and friends - which ultimately brings me an even greater amount of happiness. 

It makes me happy, too, that my own children find as much joy in helping me in the kitchen now. L-Bear, My 3-year-old son, always asks to help whenever I am baking cookies, or making yummy muffins. Even when it's something as simple as french toast, he is eager to offer a hand to help, and I am thankful for these precious moments that I get to spend with him, hopefully creating some fun, lasting memories for him to cherish one day too. :)

Making cookies with Mommy. :)

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52 Gems of Reflection

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Is Monogamy Ridiculous?

I happened upon a video on the internet recently where a male sex columnist (who is particularly chauvinistic and cynical, in my opinion) goes on a several-minute rant about how monogamy is ridiculous. I sometimes wonder if people don't post these types of videos merely to rile viewers up and create buzz. His video response seriously reeks of a man who is either bitter because he has had his own heart broken by a woman who was - shall we say, less than monogamous - or he is just really THAT chauvinistic, and has no respect for the sanctity of marriage. 

Either way, I was so livid with his bold declarations after only a few seconds of hearing his ridiculous tirade that I felt inclined to just shut off the video and go about my day, trying to shake off the feeling of disdain that had suddenly consumed me. But then I felt an overwhelming desire to speak out and share my opinion on the situation. 

Originally, when I felt inspired to write this post, I had no intention of sharing the video. I found it to be outrageous and borderline blasphemous, and I did not want to draw any extra attention to its heinous message. But then I considered (for a whole second, maybe) posting it to this blog for the mere purpose of giving my readers a point of reference for this blog post. After going back and watching the video several times, however, I have decided NOT to post it, simply for the fact that Mr. Sex Columnist uses vulgar and offensive language - and I decided it's not worth exposing you all to that filth. Instead, I will reference excerpts from his video, and hope that that will satisfy your curiosity.

First off, Mr. Sex Columnist boldly declares that "60 years ago is when we decided that men had to be monogamous too." Really? Who is this "we" that he is so brazenly referring to? And where is he getting his facts? It is true that throughout the history of man, there are innumerable accounts of men of power having concubines and such - and for a great part of world history, it was acceptable in society for a man to be promiscuous, while women were held to a much higher standard. However, does that mean that this view is correct? Or that the expectation that men and women be equally monogamous only originated 60 years ago when "marriage became less of a property transaction, and became a union of two equals"? I mean, seriously...since when was society's definition of "acceptable" ever a reliable definition of what was right or wrong according to the laws of God?

He went on to say that "monogamy is ridiculous, and people aren't any good at it. We're not wired for it. We didn't evolve to be - it's not natural." From the time that Adam and Eve walked the earth, men and women have equally been held to the expectation that monogamy is the standard in marriage, unless the Lord declares otherwise. Anything less is in direct defiance of God's law - no matter what society deems acceptable or "natural". Jacob 2:27 (which took place about 544-421 B.C.) says:

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

In a talk titled "Reverence and Morality," which President Gordan B. Hinckley gave in April 1987, when he was First Counselor of the First Presidency, he stated:
"Prophets of God have repeatedly taught through the ages that practices of homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins. Sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage are forbidden by the Lord. We reaffirm those teachings. Mankind has been given agency to choose between right and wrong. 
Said the prophet Lehi to Jacob:“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27). 
 I absolutely love that passage. It reminds me of the scripture found in Mosiah 3:19, which reads:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

So, referencing back to the video, Mr. Sex Columnist went on to say "it puts a strain on our marriages and our long-term commitments to expect them to be effortlessly monogamous." No one is saying that monogamy is effortless. No one is saying that marriages don't have other challenges either. But to say that not expecting monogamy in marriage will cause less strain on the relationship is completely ridiculous. I am sorry, but when two people are in a long-term relationship and are committed to one another, there is no saying there won't be temptation. The sin is not in the temptation; however, it is in one's choice to give in to that temptation. And giving into that temptation is what puts strain on marriages. 

In President Hinckley's talk mentioned above, he continued by saying:

"I repeat, each of us has a choice between right and wrong. But with that choice there inevitably will follow consequences. Those who choose to violate the commandments of God put themselves at great spiritual and physical jeopardy. The Apostle Paul said, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). 
Jacob taught, “Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Ne. 9:39). 
Jesus gave a commandment to control our thoughts as well as our deeds. He said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28)."  

 Finally, the sex columnist in the video says that "if you were with someone for 40 or 50 years and they only cheated on you a few times, they were GOOD at being monogamous." GOOD at being monogamous? Really? I am sorry, but "good at being monogamous" means you are, in fact, monogamous.  If you cheat on your spouse - even one time - then you are no longer in the running for "good at being monogamous." 

As someone who has witnessed numerous marriages fall apart from infidelity, ultimately ending in nothing but pain and the bitter sting of the consequences that follow (often manifesting continuously for several years), I can honestly say that to expect anything less than 100% monogamy in marriage is to be setting yourself up for failure. 

I am not saying that there is no room for forgiveness in these circumstances. I know we are all human, and people do make mistakes. And though I believe that pure monogamy is essential to a healthy, lasting relationship, I also believe in the power of the Atonement, and I know that if a person is truly sorrowful for the choices they have made, and they repent for what they have done, through the Atonement (and through extensive counseling) they may be able to work through that particular trial in their marriage. But there are no guarantees, so why take the risk?  

I have also personally witnessed many couples who have gone through this type of trial and were able to work together to come through it, salvaging their relationship through the power of the atonement and through counseling, as mentioned above. I am glad they were able to do so, but infidelity is something that definitely leaves its mark on a marriage, as it often takes years to overcome. I honestly think it is best to avoid infidelity at all cost.

This is where communication comes in. I think it is extremely important to have open communication in a marriage - or any relationship for that matter. One point that Mr. Sex Columnist touched on was that individuals' needs are often not being met in marriage, and therefore their only option is to seek outside their marriage for answers to these deficiencies. I am sorry, but this is when communication is most important in a marriage. If there is a need that is not being met (whether it be emotional or physical - as men and women often have different motives for cheating), one need turn inward to his/her marriage to discuss the issue with their partner, and to find a solution to the problem together. This approach would more likely have a positive, productive outcome, and can often result in the couple experiencing a strengthening in their relationship, bringing them even closer together.

I don't know - maybe that sounds naive, but I can honestly say that I have grown to love my husband more deeply and completely because of the trials we have overcome through communicating openly with each other, through overcoming the temptation to give in to the ways of the world, and through keeping our marriage covenants sacred. And maybe Mr. Sex Columnist would say, "Of course you would be that naive, you are a woman," but I know plenty of men (my husband included) who share my values regarding the sanctity of marriage, who also have a desire to love and respect their spouses through complete and utter fidelity. 

I believe that as children of our Heavenly father, striving to emulate the example of the Savior, we should endeavor to overcome the adversary and keep our marriage covenants sacred - and by doing so, we will be blessed to have the strength to overcome temptation, resulting in lasting, meaningful relationships for all eternity. 

In closing, I just want to express my eternal gratitude for my loving husband. He isn't perfect (nor am I), but he has integrity. He is honest and desires to be faithful, honoring his marriage covenants to me and to the Lord. I am thankful for our relationship and for the trials we have overcome together, and I look forward to an eternity with him - and only him. Now, as far as I am concerned, THAT - my friends - is "good at being monogamous!"  

April 28, 2007

Monday, October 7, 2013

Finding Joy in Charity

Gems of Reflection #36
One personality trait that I have always admired in others is charity. I try to be Christ-like and see others as He sees them (though sometimes this proves to be extremely difficult), for I know that each of us is a child of God, but one thing in which I think I lack - which I know is an extremely vital aspect of charity - is taking time to serve others. It's not that I don't love the people in my life. I serve my husband and children daily, but I often find myself realizing that I should take the time to reach out to those in my neighborhood and ward, searching for ways to serve them better.

In his April, 2011 General Conference talk, titled Finding Joy Through Loving Service, Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
"It is only when we love God and Christ with all of our hearts, souls, and minds that we are able to share this love with our neighbors through acts of kindness and service—the way that the Savior would love and serve all of us if He were among us today. 
When this pure love of Christ—or charity—envelops us, we think, feel, and act more like Heavenly Father and Jesus would think, feel, and act. Our motivation and heartfelt desire are like unto that of the Savior. He shared this desire with His Apostles on the eve of His Crucifixion. He said: 
'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you. …
'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' (John 13:34-35)
The love the Savior described is an active love. It is not manifested through large and heroic deeds but rather through simple acts of kindness and service."

Simply stated, we can show our love for our Heavenly Father and for others is by serving them. While writing this post today, I was reminded of a poem that I heard long ago, which demonstrates this principle perfectly. It's called, "Which Loved Her Best?" by Anonymous:

"I love you, Mother," said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on.
And he was off to the garden swing,
And left her the water and wood to bring.

"I love you, Mother," said little Nell;
"I love you better than tongue can tell."
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.

"I love you, Mother," said little Fan;
"Today I’ll help you all I can;
How glad I am school doesn't keep!"
So she rocked the baby till it fell asleep.

Then, stepping softly, she took the broom,
And swept the floor and tidied the room.
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as child could be.

"I love you, Mother," again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that Mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

So how can we develop a sense of charity in our lives? How can we become more Christ-like and learn to find joy in serving others? Elder Ballard ended his talk by saying:

"Brothers and sisters, may I re-emphasize that the most important attribute of Heavenly Father and of His Beloved Son that we should desire and seek to possess within our lives is the gift of charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). From this gift springs our capacity to love and to serve others as the Savior did. 
The prophet Mormon taught us the supreme importance of this gift and told us how we can receive it: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48).  
Great things are wrought through simple and small things. Like the small flecks of gold that accumulate over time into a large treasure, our small and simple acts of kindness and service will accumulate into a life filled with love for Heavenly Father, devotion to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a sense of peace and joy each time we reach out to one another."
I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows us and loves us each individually, and I am grateful for this opportunity to be reminded of the importance of charity in my life.