11.02.2010

Forever and Now

Forever is composed of nows.
-Emily Dickinson

10.05.2010

Sometimes The Simple Things Matter Most

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
-Leonardo DaVinci

8.16.2010

Banoffee Pie

Bananas. Toffee. Whipped Cream. Powdered Chocolate. Oh my.

8.15.2010

Today v. Tomorrow

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

8.06.2010

Beef & Guiness Casserole

The Irish casserole isn't like the American one. In the US, we think of casseroles essentially as an amalgamation of different ingredients baked in a dish. In Ireland, the casserole is a slow cooked stew-like concoction simmered in a large pot on the stovetop with the consistency somewhere between a stew and a saucy meat dish.

Fresh Irish beef and hearty Irish stout make a perfect pair, and in fact occur frequently in Irish cooking. If you're concerned about the alcohol in the Guiness, don't be. Alcohol evaporates during cooking and considering this casserole simmers for more than an hour, you're left with is the hearty full flavor of the Guiness without the alcohol. In fact, this richly flavoured popular dish is suitable for any occassion, including informal entertaining. Serve with creamy, well-buttered mashed potatoes.

Serves 4
2 lb stewing beef
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 c beef stock
2/3 c Guiness
1/4 c butter
3 oz streaky (fatty) bacon
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 oz shallots or small onions
1/4 c plain (all-purpose) flour
Salt and ground black pepper
Mashed potatoes, to serve

1. Cut the meat into thin slices. Heat the oil in the pan and brown the meat. Transfer to a casserole (large cook pot). Saute the vegetables for 5 minutes in the pan.


2. Add the vegetables to the meat in the casserole, then add the garlic. Pour in the stock and the Guiness. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

3. Cover the casserole and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, with the lid on, for about 1 1/2 hours.


4. Remove the meat from the casserole, strain the cooking liquid and reserve. Discard the vegetables (use these later pureed with a little water to make a delicious soup served with hearty bread and butter).

5. Trim and dice the bacon. Clean the casserole and saute the bacon, mushrooms and shallots or onions in the butter for 5-10 minutes (I didn't have shallots or small onions so I quartered 2 medium onions, which worked perfectly fine).

6. When the vegetables are tender, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, over a low heat 2-3 minutes (this makes a nice thick light-colored roux), then slowly blend in the reserved cooking liquid.

7. Return the meat to the casserole and reheat. Serve with mashed potatoes.

8.05.2010

Irish Sausage Sandwiches

These have become a staple in our house. Considering that the English Market (the daily open market downtown) has an endless variety of amazingly fresh and gourmet sausages available, we've taken the opportunity (and this recipe) to explore them all. With flavors like Apple & Sage, Sweet Italian, Pork & Fennel, Corcaigh Baigh (an aggressively-spiced local specialty), and Roasted Garlic, you really can't go wrong.

Also - these are super simple to make. Sausages can be tricky to cook well. You can either let them roast on a low-heat grill for-ever or speed things up the Irish way: boil them first.

Yield: 4-6 Sandwiches
4-6 (or more) Sausages
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 sweet pepper (yellow or red), thinly sliced
4-6 Buns/Half Baguettes/Rolls to serve

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the sausages and boil for 5-8 minutes. Remove them from the water and put them directly into a hot frying pan.

2. Add the onions and peppers and sautee, turning the sausages occassionally, 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the sausages are nicely browned.

3. Slice the baguettes, add a sausage and scoop of onions/peppers, a slab of mustard if you like and enjoy.

8.04.2010

Dingle Pies

These pies are traditional in Dingle for special occassions, but most notably Lammas Day, 1 August, which marked the first day of the harvest. Fittingly, we ate them the weekend before. Apparently there are many recipes for mutton pies in the area, with differing ratios of meat and vegetables depending on who 's cooking.

These came out really well and, considering the primitive conditions of our temporary kitchen, though it seemed time-intensive, it was well worth the effort. I'm sure I could shave off more than half the prep time in a well-equipped kitchen. (And by well-equipped I mean with basic utensils like a rolling pin, pastry blender and a knife any sharper than a butter knife).

And, like most Irish recipes we've tried so far, the ingredients are simple and results hearty and filling. These pies are also excellent the reheated the next day.

Yield: 6 small pies (This is not true. Oddly enough, it seems that most Irish 'yield' notations totally underestimate themselves. In the US, I never reach the appropriate recipe yields (Yield: 3 dozen cookies - I'm lucky to get 2 dozen), but here I always get much more than originally planned; with this recipe we ended up with 8 good sizes pies.)

1 lb boneless mutton or lamb
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 potato, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1 egg, beaten
Salt and ground black pepper

For the shortcrust pastry:
generous 1 c butter (or half butter, half shortening)
5 c plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 c very cold water

1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour with the fingertips or a pastry blender. (I think this is best done either with the pastry blender or 2 knives - rubbing with your fingertips makes it easier to get an even texture distribution, but it also warms the butter and makes the pastry harder to work with.) Add the chilled water. Mix with a knife or fork until the mixture clings together (just barely). Turn it on to a floured worktop and knead lightly until smooth (2-3 times should do it). Wrap in foil and leave in the refrigerator to relax for 20 minutes before using.

2. Trim any fat or gristle from the meast and cut it up into small pieces. Plase in a large bowl and sitr in the onion, carrots, potato, celery and seasoning.

3. Preheat the over to 350 F. Cut a third off the ball of pastry and reserve to make the lids of the pies. Roll out the rest and, using a small plate as a guide and re-rolling the pastry as necessary, cut out six circles (I had enough for 8). Divide the meat mixture between the circles, piling it in the middle of each.

4. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out six smaller circles, about 4 in across. Lay these on top. Dampen the edges of the pastry bases, bring the pastry up around the meat, pleat it to fit the lid and pinch the edges together.

5. Make a small hole in the top of each, brush them with beaten egg and slide on to baking sheets. Bake in the oven for an hour. Serve hot or cold.



7.31.2010

The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

7.28.2010

Mustard Baked Chicken

This recipe is super easy and quick to prepare - and comes out delicious. The wholegrain mustard is the key ingredient, so be sure you use one of high-quality, but feel free to experiment. So far we've tried the Irish version - whiskey mustard, a wholegrain honey mustard and wholegrain Dijon - though it's a bit more potent than the others we've tried.

Serves 4-6

8-12 chicken joints, or 1 med chicken about 2 1/2 lbs, jointed
juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 Tbsp whiskey mustard (or other wholegrain mustard)
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
to serve - boiled potatoes and peas

1. Preheat the over to 375 F.

2. Put the chicken joints into a large shallow baking dish in a single layer and sprinkle the lemon juice over the chicken to flavour the skin. (I prefer to remove the skin, but have tried it both ways. With skin is slightly juicier - which is no surprise)

3. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.

4. Spread the mustard over the chicken joints and sprinkle with the chopped taragon.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until thoroughly cooked through.

6. Serve immediately with boiled potatoes and peas.

7.27.2010

Ireland in Snapshots




Ahem. I guess what I should have said is 'Irish Food' is Snapshots. ha! Copley St. is where we have our apartment - just south of the city center and right off the River Lee. Lovely, really.

7.26.2010

Ireland: A Primer

Here we are in Ireland and doing well. Jordan is enjoying his Latin program - but it's hard work (more than I think he realized). We spent the first 6 weeks away from home in Paris and touring France a bit - which was absolutely lovely. So when we arrived in Ireland, it was nice just to settle in and call somewhere home for a little bit.

We haven't yet seen a whole lot of Ireland since Jordan has class 6 days a week, but we're getting to know Cork very well (grin)! I was just thinking yesterday that I think I'll finally start posting again, but it'll be all Irish recipes for now. When we got here we bought a 'Taste of Ireland' cookbook and it's been fabulous to make all these great Irish dishes. We've certainly learned that 1. the Irish are proud of their own (almost everything in the store and market is marked 'made in Ireland' or 'make sure it's Irish - we do'.) They have spectacular selections of meat - pork, chicken, turkey, rabbit, beef, lamb - you name it, they've got it. It's all very fresh and very very good. Of course, the potato features prominently in everything but I was surprised to know that the Irish have an abundance of produce as well - it's a fairly mild climate, not necessarily warm but mild nonetheless.

The weather, for me, has been fantastic. The most interesting are the days when the sun shines brightly and fiercely for 45 mins or so, then it clouds over and rains for 20 mins then the sun comes back out in vengeance for another hour and then it rains again. It's nice to have such variation! But, we can almost always count on it raining at least once a day! We've heard how hot it's been there in LA and I'm just glad it's so much more temperate here. The wind was a surprise though. I hadn't realized that it would be so windy, but it often is.

Reagan and I spend our mornings playing (while I try to do a little work for the business online) and going to the park. Jordan and Rachelle (a girl from Jordan's program in Claremont who is also doing the Latin course and staying in our apartment with us) come home around 1 and we eat lunch. Then we walk around Cork and often go to the English Market - a huge food market downtown where you can find everything from gooseberries (did you know they're green?! I had always pictured them as dark purple/blue) to roast duck. It's fascinatingly beautiful. We have a lovely dinner and read and play more while Jordan and Rachelle study and then off to bed. It doesn't get dark here until 11:30pm (just like home in Canada) so Reagan usually doesn't get to sleep until well after 9pm - and then only because we drop the blinds and try to convince him it's late enough. "Iss not late yet" he says. chuckle.

It's a good life and it's nice to enjoy the slower pace of Ireland. The Irish apparently believe in sleeping in - nothing opens before 10am. Even Jordan's class that starts at 9:30 is considered the early early class. And all the stores close by around 6 - which means you get your shopping done and then go home to the family. I think it's a spectacular routine. At home we seem to be so crazy busy rushing here and there and out doing errands until late at night (because everything is open late) that I think we miss out on a lot of that family time that just naturally happens here.

The branch is great; they've been very welcoming and have put us to work right away. I'm playing the organ in Sacrament meeting and both Jordan and I have already taught in Relief Society/Priesthood -ha! They have about 60 members in church every week, but it seems to change week by week. There are actually quite a few Americans here - either stationed here for work or here for studies or passing through on vacation. It's a very good little branch and the members and sweet and sincere; it's good to be here.

We'll be exploring Ireland a little more in the coming weeks - there's a long weekend ahead and the last two weeks of Jordan's program are only 5 days a week so we'll have Saturday to explore. Stay tuned!

4.20.2010


Amos 8:11-13: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst."

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: "I have wondered... if someone within the sound of my voice might feel he or she or those they love are too caught up in the 'thick of these thin things,' are hungering for something more substantial and asking with the otherwise successful young man of the scriptures, 'What lack I yet?' I have wondered if someone... might be wandering 'from sea to sea,' running 'to and fro' as the prophet Amos said, wearied by the pace of life in the fast lane or in trying to keep up with the Joneses before the Joneses refinance. I have wondered if any [are] hoping to find the answer to a deeply personal problem or to have some light cast on the most serious questions of their heart...

"Wherever you live, and at whatever point in age or experience you find yourself, I declare that God has through His Only Begotten Son lifted the famine of which Amos spoke. I testify that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life and a Well of Living Water springing up unto eternal life...

"Our fundamental requirement is to have faith in Him and follow Him—always. When He bids us to walk in His way and by His light, it is because He has walked this way before us, and He has made it safe for our own travel here. He knows where the sharp stones and stumbling blocks lie hidden and where thorns and thistles are the most severe. He knows where the path is perilous, and He knows which way to go when the road forks and nightfall comes. He knows all this, as Alma says in the Book of Mormon, because He has suffered 'pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind … , that he may know … how to succor his people according to their infirmities.' To succor means to 'run to.' I testify that in my fears and in my infirmities the Savior has surely run to me. I will never be able to thank Him enough for such personal kindness and such loving care."

*Ensign, November 1997

4.19.2010

Life Lessons Learned at Home

Some of the most important – and lasting – lessons of life are learned at home.

In this most recent General Conference, Elder Foster of the Seventy shared the following story. One night, a father was reading a book without words to his son, Eric. Eric kept correcting his father who, in frustration finally said: "How do you know that's what it is? There are no words in this book." "Mother told me," Eric responded. Then the father asked: “Eric, who do you think is the last word, the ultimate authority in this house?” This time Eric thought carefully before he answered, “You are, Dad.” The father beamed at his son. What an exceptional answer! “How did you know that?” Eric quickly responded, “Mother told me.”

My childhood – and I’m sure yours – was full of life experiences and lessons learned, big and small. Even the simplest things stick with us. One night my mother came to tuck me in. "Have you brushed your teeth?" she asked. I grumbled and mumbled and finally admitted that I hadn't. "Those sugarbugs are eating away at your teeth and they'll keep eating all night if you don't go brush your teeth right now." I was young enough to be very impressionable because I still think about the threat of sugarbugs!

In this last General Conference, Elder Perry shared a few of the lessons he learned from his mother. “While she was grateful to others who taught her children outside the home at either school or church, she recognized that parents are entrusted with the education of their children and, ultimately, parents must ensure that their children are being taught what their Heavenly Father would have them learn. My siblings and I were quizzed very carefully by our mother after we had been taught away from the home to be certain the correct lessons were reaching our ears and shaping our minds.

When we were young, we each had a desk in the kitchen where we could continue to be taught by her as she performed household duties and prepared supper. She was a natural teacher and far more demanding of us than our teachers at school and church.”

Have you noticed that people – and children – do what we expect them to do? One Sunday as my dad and three younger brothers (11, 13, 15 yrs old) were driving home from church, the boys mentioned that our family had been given the assignment to clean the building that week. "Guess it has to be to Mom's standard," they exclaimed. Whether they liked it or not – they knew there was a standard to live up to, a level of expectation, and that they would be required to meet it.

Elder Perry said: “Teaching in the home is becoming increasingly important in today’s world, where the influence of the adversary is so widespread and he is attacking, attempting to erode and destroy the very foundation of our society, even the family. Parents must resolve that teaching in the home is a most sacred and important responsibility. While other institutions, such as church and school, can assist parents to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go” (Proverbs 22:6), ultimately this responsibility rests with parents. According to the great plan of happiness, it is parents who are entrusted with the care and development of our Heavenly Father’s children. Our families are an integral part of His work and glory—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time. They know that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily parenting is among the most powerful and sustaining forces for good in the world. The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find common roots in the teaching of children in the home.”

When I was younger I had bright-eyed visions of my life as a mother. They included early-morning spelling bees while the kids ate their oatmeal and studying the scriptures at night so that the next day we could create elaborate re-enactments with bathrobe costumes and tinfoil armor and cardboard swords. As you can imagine – it’s not nearly as glamorous as I’d pictured it. Instead, it’s “one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time.”

This week at our Relief Society activity meeting, we had a excellent panel discussion about raising children in the gospel. One mother said: “Nearly all my parenting happens in 2 minute sound bites – right as the opportunity strikes.” And we never know when the opportunity will strike. How can we be prepared for these 2 minute sound bites?

In his talk, Elder Perry mentioned the careful and diligent and thorough preparation his mother put into teaching her Relief Society lessons. He remembered the dining room table covered with reference materials and notes. “There was so much material prepared that I’m sure only a small portion of it was ever used during the class, but I’m just as sure that none of her preparation was ever wasted. How can I be sure about this? As I flipped through the pages of her notebooks, it was as if I were hearing my mother teach me one more time. Again, there was too much in her notebooks on any single topic to ever share in a single class session, but what she didn’t use in her class she used to teach her children.”

He also said: “Throughout the Church there are dining room tables covered with reference materials and notebooks filled with ideas for lessons to be taught. There is no such thing as overpreparing to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, for gospel insights, whether or not they are used during class time, can always be taught in the home.” We become better parents as we strengthen our faith in and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We prepare as we learn it and as we live it.

Sister Julie B. Beck, also in this most recent conference said: “Insight found in scripture accumulates over time, so it is important to spend some time in the scriptures every day. Daily prayer is also essential to having the Lord’s Spirit with us. Those who earnestly seek help through prayer and scripture study often have a paper and pencil nearby to write questions and record impressions and ideas.” We prepare by being ready and worthy to receive and follow divine direction - to ‘let the Lord be the boss.’ We prepare by studying the scriptures and going to the Lord early and often in prayer.

Elder Perry emphasized that “On God’s eternal stage, it is usually intended that parents act as the central cast members in their children’s lives.” But he also mentions valuable understudies who step in at crucial moments to lend a hand.

In fact, Elder Eyring – also in this most recent conference – speaks specifically about this. He says: “Our most important and powerful assignments are in the family. They are important because the family has the opportunity at the start of a child’s life to put feet firmly on the path home. Parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles are made more powerful guides and rescuers by the bonds of love that are the very nature of a family.”

He also mentions Primary teachers and leaders: “Many bishops in the Church are inspired to call the strongest people in the ward to serve individual children in the Primary. They realize that if the children are strengthened with faith and testimony, they will be less likely to need rescue as teenagers. They realize that a strong spiritual foundation can make the difference for a lifetime.”

Brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles all help to create that strong spiritual foundation. My Aunt Renetta is the hardest worker I know – she built her house from the ground up, and taught her children to do it with her. My Aunt Lily taught me to make bread – it didn’t really take, but she did try. My Uncle Gerald works long hours and long days in the bush because I know he loves his family. My Aunt Janet loves literature and has guided me to good books my whole life. My Grandma Kochel taught me to value money; she taught me the 10-10-80 principle: 10% to savings, 10% to charity, 80% to expenses. And, even though she is not a member of the church, our mission funds all started in a Mason jar in her kitchen cupboard.
Elder Eyring repeats: “We all can help. Grandmothers, grandfathers, and every member who knows a child can help.”

And then he says: “The example they most need from us is to do what they must do. We need to pray for the gifts of the Spirit. We need to ponder in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets. We need to make plans which are not only wishes but covenants. And then we need to keep our promises to the Lord. And we need to lift others by sharing with them the blessings of the Atonement which have come in our lives. And we need to exemplify in our own lives the steady and prolonged faithfulness that the Lord expects of them.

Children really do emulate their parents. Just this week I found Reagan chattering on my phone. “What are you doing, Reagan?” “I make business call,” he said. Sometimes I catch him typing on the computer. “Reagan! What are you doing?” “I send a ee-mail.”

I hope that as I’m warming up to parenthood that I’m emulating some of the most honorable traits of my parents – their commitment to the Lord, their love for the Saints and for the gospel, their desire to serve and “the steady and prolonged faithfulness that the Lord expects” of all of us. And that in so doing my children will also learn the life lessons and faith lessons that will keep them firmly and faithfully on the path.

D&C 64:33 "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
Small things like one family prayer, one family night, one 2 minute parenting sound bite, and remembering that the Lord can’t be the boss unless we will listen – and then perhaps, as Sister Beck counseled, take notes.

Speaking tenderly and encouragingly to mothers, Elder Holland said: "Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.' You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even – no especially – when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with some hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And it will make your children whole as well."

4.17.2010

Every. Day.

Insight found in scripture accumulates over time, so it is important to spend some time in the scriptures every day.

Daily prayer is also essential to having the Lord’s Spirit with us. Those who earnestly seek help through prayer and scripture study often have a paper and pencil nearby to write questions and record impressions and ideas. *

*Julie B. Beck, General Conference, April 2010

3.21.2010

About Aging...

I love this little quip by Elder Russell M Nelson* about the purposes of mortality, healing and aging.

"The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death. And a loving Creator blessed them with healing power by which the life and function of precious physical bodies could be preserved. For example, bones, if broken, could become solid again. Lacerations of the flesh could heal themselves. And miraculously, leaks in the circulation could be sealed off by components activated from the very blood being lost...

"Even though our Creator endowed us with this incredible power, He consigned a counterbalancing gift to our bodies. It is the blessing of aging, with visible reminders that we are mortal beings destined one day to leave this “frail existence.” Our bodies change every day. As we grow older, our broad chests and narrow waists have a tendency to trade places. We get wrinkles, lose color in our hair—even the hair itself—to remind us that we are mortal children of God, with a “manufacturer’s guarantee” that we shall not be stranded upon the earth forever. Were it not for the Fall, our physicians, beauticians, and morticians would all be unemployed."

Really. Have you ever considered aging a gift? I love that Elder Nelson pairs healing with aging as counter-balancing opposites. I suppose Merlin was right: "to every sqaure there is a round, to every high there is a low, to every to there is a fro - that's what makes the world go round."** And, apparently, that's what makes the plan work.

*“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov 1996, 33
**"That's What Makes the World Go Round," from The Sword in the Stone, Disney 1963

3.14.2010

To Gladden the Heart and Enliven the Soul


"Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man." (Doctrine & Covenants 59:18-20)

**all photos from here

3.12.2010

Commemoration

"The Relief Society inspires and teaches women to help them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families, and seek out and help those in need."*

video

What does Relief Society to you?


*Silvia H. Allred, Ensign Nov 2009

3.07.2010

Conduit of Power

I've been ruminating on a few comments made from a talk given a few weeks ago in Sacrament meeting about covenants, particularly this:

"Covenants are a conduit by which we draw upon the powers of heaven."
A conduit is a passage (pipe, tube, duct) by which (generally) water or electricity flows from one place to another (an interesting lesson here - both electricity and water are sources of great power). So by establishing and making covenants with the Lord, we literally have access to His power. Of course, we need to remember that we never set the terms - we only agree to them. But by agreeing and following through, the Lord wants to and is thereby able to impart at least a degree of His power for our use - in faith - and we learn, bit by bit, to be like Him.

To access that power, the Lord requires both prerequisites (faith, repentance, conversion, worthiness) and in-the-moment must-haves (that we exercise faith, ask in His name and according to His purposes and will, and that we are still worthy - for example).

Maybe it's a little bit like driving a car. To earn a driver's license we have to take a written test, accumulate hours of practice, and prove our capability with a formal driving test. There - covenant made. But to access the power we've been granted access to, it's assumed that we will also adhere to several in-the-moment reqirements (unimpaired by drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, or correct and adequate vision - for example).

The point is - if we have a driver's license, we use it. And if we've made covenants, we should be using them. The Lord, by extending His covenants to us, has granted permission to His power to great purpose in our lives - to bless our families, to be better people, to be like Him, to serve others and generally to bring about great good in the world. Let's make it work.

2.23.2010

Be Light

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

-Marianne Williamson

2.10.2010

Do You?

"Do you want to feel the love of God more powerfully in your life? Do you want to feel more in tune with His Spirit? Do you want to have the heavens opened to you daily?"*

Um, yes. Absolutely yes.

"There is a way you can feel a daily renewal of God’s everlasting love and drink from “the fountain of living waters” (1 Nephi 11:25)... I speak of a morning devotional time spent in prayer, meditation, and scripture study. If you have a devotional every morning, even if only for a few minutes, you will be deeply blessed. I know this to be true."

I first read snatches of this article by Elder Kikuchi in the August 09 Ensign and I've been thinking of it over and over ever since. (Mostly when I'm so tired my eyes hurt and I can hardly summon the will to keep them open, let alone read a few verses. "Ah, if only I'd done it first thing this morning," I think. sigh)

But it's a powerful promise, no? I'm game to try to try (again). And see how he said that even only a few minutes would bring blessings? I believe it too - that just those few minutes will fill my cup.

*Yoshihiko Kikuchi, “Opening the Heavens,” Ensign, Aug 2009, 34–38

2.08.2010

A Little Pencil

"I am like a pencil in [God's] hand. That is all. He does the thinking. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used."

- Mother Theresa of Calcutta
* Time, December 4, 1989

2.07.2010

Refined Submission

I've been thinking about the principle of submission - offering to the Lord what Elder Maxwell calls the only true possession we have to give - our will*. Of the Savior's visit to the Nephites, Elder Holland says:

"I cannot think it either accident or mere whimsy that the Good Shepherd in his newly exalted state, appearing to a most significant segment of his flock, chooses to speak first of his obedience, his deference, his loyalty, and loving submission to his Father. In an initial and profound moment of spellbinding wonder, when surely he has the attention of every man, woman, and child as far as the eye can see, his submission to his Father is the first and most important thing he wishes us to know about himself.

"Frankly, I am a bit haunted by the thought that this is the first and most important thing he may want to know about us when we meet him one day in similar fashion. Did we obey, even if it was painful? Did we submit, even if the cup was bitter indeed?"**

I find it so interesting that Elder Holland uses the word haunted and I wonder myself - what kind of report would/could I give? I think I can do a little better at submitting my will to the Lord's, at seeking His guidance and the influence of the Spirit, at obeying the promptings I receive (however small and seeminly inconsequential they seem at the time), at working on the basics of growing a testimony - sincere prayer, diligent study, conscientious service.

And I/we have the Lord's promise - "Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened." (3 Ne. 27:29) And "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (D&C 88:63)

The next big question then is - "what is the Lord's will for me?"

Sister Anne Pingree gave an excellent talk about just this thing and shared her own experience.*** These particular ideas (probably because I love lists) stand out to me: a)"I pulled out my patriarchal blessing and read it again and again, searching for deeper understanding" b) "I redoubled my efforts to attend the temple" c) "I pondered the meaning of my covenants in a way I had never done before" d) "In my constant prayers I continued to ask, 'Father, how can I do what Thou hast called me to do?'" and e) "I sought solace in a quiet place."

And she sums it all up in these words: "My first lesson in the process of becoming an instrument in God’s hand had been to search the scriptures, fast, pray, attend the temple, and live faithful to the covenants I had made in the house of the Lord. My second lesson was that in order to 'boldly go forward,' I needed to rely completely on the Lord and seek earnestly for personal revelation. In order to receive that revelation, I would have to live worthily to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost with me.

"My last lesson was precisely what Elder Maxwell explained. In even the smallest details of each day, I submitted my will to the Lord’s, for I so needed His help, His guidance, and His protection. As I did, gradually my relationship with my Father in Heaven changed—in profound ways—that continue to bless me and my family."

And there is it: despite "the mistaken notion that somehow we are diminished by submission to God... the greater the submission, the greater the expansion!"**** And, by learning to rely completely on the Lord and earnestly seek personal guidance, our relationship with Him is refined in ways that will eternally bless ourselves and our families.


* “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give,’ … are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 24.
** On Earth As It Is in Heaven, 126
*** Knowing the Lord's Will For You, Ensign Nv 2005, 112.
**** Neal A. Maxwell, On Becoming a Disciple-Scholar, 22

2.05.2010

My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

Isaiah 54:10 "For the amountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."



Elder Holland's words at the end of this clip have the most impact: "Hold. on. thy. way." Sometimes I forget it, but I know and have seen that even in the midst of my most trying days, if I look up and look for it, I see that the Lord's kindness has not departed, that He is and will be with me/us forever and forever.

1.29.2010

Leave the Noise

Every man or woman who goes to the temple in a spirit of sincerity and faith leaves the house of the Lord a better man or woman. There is need for constant improvement in all of our lives. There is need occasionally to leave the noise and the tumult of the world and step within the walls of a sacred house of God, there to feel His spirit in an environment of holiness and peace.
- Gordon B. Hinckley