Friday, December 15, 2017

The Women Who Knew Christ

My most recent writing project came in the form of this years Relief Society Christmas program. The theme was "The Women Who Knew Christ" and we visited with four women from the scriptures who had the opportunity to meet our Savior. Last year was our inaugural event and the Second Ward sisters left feeling closer to Jesus Christ by learning about His remarkable mother, Mary, and this year we wanted them to leave with similar feelings after learning about other women who knew and were devoted to Him. Although I knew creative license would be necessary for a program like this, I felt like the women we were learning from should be based in scripture so with a little help from some friends, we wrote an entirely new program for our event that introduced the sisters to Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary the Mother. It turned out to be a beautiful program which concluded with a talk on how we can be women that know Christ now, a message that really touched my heart and seemingly was meant just for me.

We continued our tradition of having the Relief Society Christmas program on a Sunday during the Relief Society and Sunday School hours, and we once again had a beautiful brunch prepared for the sisters to enjoy. The Primary arranged substitutes for all sisters serving in their organization and the Young Womens leaders and youth were also invited to attend so in essence, every sister in our ward was together for that two hour period. I can't explain clearly enough how much I love the sisters in our ward and how much joy it gives me to be in a room overflowing with them. I'm honored to be a member of the Relief Society.

I'm going to include the script we used at the bottom of this blog post. I'm not tech-savvy enough to know how to embed it, so I'll just include it in the body of the post. I wish you could have been in our Relief Society last week to see the women with gorgeous scarves covering their faves deliver lines in front of a room packed with over 100 women, but hopefully the words will touch you just the same as you read it at home. And if you want to use this script for your Relief Society or ward or church group in the future, be my guest (whether I know you or not!)

I'm so grateful for the knowledge that our Savior loves all of us perfectly, and putting myself in the shoes of these glorious scripture sisters and writing their stories was so moving. I love being a woman and a disciple.

The incredible sisters who brought life to words on a page. From left to right Lauren (Mary Magdalene), Fran (Elizabeth), Melissa (narrator), Kelsey (Mary the Mother of Jesus) and Deserae (Martha). Somehow Laura who gave the brilliant talk on being women who know Christ missed out on this picture, as did our musical friends Kaelyn and Rod. I love these people so much and feel so grateful that they gave this gift to our sisters.

The Relief Society Board, who worked their tales off to make this event possible. I'm especially grateful for Lexy who made all the food and did such an excellent job. A chef I am not, and the thought of feeding 100 people makes me shaky and yet she made it look like a piece of cake. I love her for so many reasons, but the food thing is high up there!




Forget the script, if I really wanted to provide a service I'd give you the recipe for these frittatas. Holy hannah they were good!


The Women Who Knew Christ

MUSICAL NUMBER (XYZ): Christmas in our hearts

NARRATOR (XYZ):

As Kaelyn so beautifully sang, “This season may we never forget the love we have for Jesus Christ,” our Savior who was born so long ago in Bethlehem and who we celebrate during this magical Christmas season. It is because of Him that we are meeting together today as sisters and it is because of Him that we will be tied together throughout the eternities. There are so many who adore our Savior and many scripture stories tell his tale, but today we will be privileged to be transported back in time and hear directly from a few of the wonderful women who knew Christ.

We’ll begin this morning in Hebron, the hill country of Judah by meeting Elizabeth, the mature cousin of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Although for many years her life had not gone as she planned, she later realized that the timing was exactly what Heavenly Father desired. For she would bear a son named John, who would go on to baptize Jesus Christ. And though there is no scriptural account of her ever meeting Jesus in the flesh, I’m going to let her share a special experience about the time she shared with Christ.

ELIZABETH (XYZ):

It is unexpected, unheard of even, that I, Elisabeth, a woman known to be barren into her later years have now conceived.  This takes away my reproach among men, and I hope will restore my husband Zacharias to his voice, but I must hide myself away for some months to stop the questions I cannot answer about this strange turn of events.

I cannot explain why my husband is mute or why I am now with child at my age. My husband is righteous before God, and we try to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.  He writes that an angel told him that we would conceive and Zacharias asked how this could come about, surprised and doubtful that it was possible at our mature age.  He was from that moment not able to speak.

We know only that the child I carry is to be called John and shall be great in the sight of the Lord; many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord, and he shall go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elias to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

But the story I want to share with you this morning is actually not as much about my miraculous pregnancy as it is about my cousin.

In my sixth month my cousin Mary made a long journey to visit me. I did not know at the time that she was with child, nor did I know that an angel had encouraged her to come to me, but as soon as she arrived and I heard her voice, the babe leaped in my womb and I was filled with the Holy Ghost. My first words to my young cousin were, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  Whence is this to be, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” For I knew without a doubt that the baby she was carrying was our Savior.

I’ve thought about this experience in the months since her visit and wondered what I was to learn from meeting Him in this way.  I may never see the Savior’s face on this earth, I will probably never hold Him in my arms or worship at His feet, but even from inside his mother’s womb I could feel the Holy Ghost testify to me that He is the Savior of the world. I know Him, I believe in Him and I trust that He will fulfill all that our Heavenly Father has asked of Him. And I know that though you may not meet Him on your earthly journey either, you also can know Him.

NARRATOR (XYZ):

We often hear the story of Mary and Martha, righteous sisters who had different ways of showing their love to the Savior while entertaining Him in their home—Mary, by listening and Martha, by serving. Both of them loved Jesus and Jesus loved both of them but on that evening Jesus lovingly told Martha that learning at His feet like Mary was actually more important than looking after their earthly needs.

Sister Bonnie D. Parkin has said, “Like Mary, I hunger to feast at the Savior’s feet, while, like Martha, I need to somehow find the laundry room floor, empty my in-box, and serve my husband something other than cold pizza. I don’t have lots of time. Like all of you, I have to choose. We all are trying to choose the good part which cannot be taken from us, to balance the spiritual and the temporal in our lives. Wouldn’t it be easy if we were choosing between visiting teaching or robbing a bank? Instead, our choices are often more subtle. We must choose between many worthy options. Mary and Martha are you and me; they are every sister in Relief Society. These two loved the Lord and wanted to show that love.

MARTHA (XYZ):

It is true, Jesus Christ was often a welcomed guest in my home in Bethany. My sister, Mary, and I would sit at His feet as He taught us about Heavenly Father and the divine plan for His children. And yes, the story you’ve heard so many times before is also true—I once got so caught up in preparing a beautiful moment for the Savior that I didn’t take the time to actually have a beautiful moment with the Savior. He loved me, of that I am sure, because His kind and gentle response to my sisterly complaint was, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful.” I immediately knew what that needful thing was—it was Him, it was His words, for Jesus Christ truly is the bread of life.

Because of that experience, I knew to always put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. When Lazarus was gravely ill I sent for my dear friend, knowing that He alone could bless and heal my brother.  But He was too late. My brother was dead and I was devastated. Amidst my weeping the words spoken by our Savior echoed back in my head, “Martha, thou are troubled about many things, but one thing is needful” and I remembered again that He was that needful thing. When I finally saw the Savior walking towards my brother’s tomb I knew that it was not too late, that my brother could still be saved and I told Jesus, “I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” And God did give us the miracle that we hoped for—my brother rose from the dead.

Life is an intricate patchwork of moments and experiences. Sometimes memories find us in our best light, while others are shadows of our best self. But my testimony today is that our Father doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He knows that we’re not, He just wants us to keep moving forward and remember the things we have learned.  Only one thing is needful, and that “thing” is our Savior, Jesus Christ, the only perfect person who has ever walked the earth.

MUSICAL NUMBER (Relief Society Sisters): Away in a Manger, Hymn 206

NARRATOR (XYZ):

She walked by his side as he taught of the Father, she stood under his cross and wept with His mother, she visited the tomb and found the stone missing and ultimately, was the first to see the resurrected Lord. She was with Jesus Christ during some of the most important moments of His life and was always a dear friend of the Savior. She is Mary Magdalene.

MARY MAGDALENE (XYZ):

The darkest day of my life was when they crucified Jesus Christ. I stood underneath His cross and couldn’t stop weeping. On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth. Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. How could they be so blind? How could they crucify our Lord and Savior? How could I ever live without Him?

But the truth is, we would never live without Him, and I was about to learn that in a real way.

It was Sunday morning and I was going to visit the gardens around Jesus’ sepulchre when I noticed that the stone was missing from the tomb. The apostles who I frantically called found nothing but burial clothes left inside, and after they left I continued my weeping in the gardens, sure that His body had been taken by those same evil men who crucified him. But then He appeared. I didn’t recognize Him at first but all of a sudden I knew; this was my Savior! He lived again! My river of tears became a sea of joy as I beheld the resurrected Lord before me. I was the first person to see Him again and I was given the joyous responsibility to testify of His resurrection to the disciples.

I will tell you the same thing that I told them—He lives, all glory to His name. He lives, my Savior still the same. Oh sweet, the joy this sentence gives. I know that my Redeemer lives!

NARRATOR (XYZ):

We will end our ancient visits today with one who knew Him first and loved Him not only for being her Savior, but also for being her son. As a young woman who was an espoused virgin, she was surely surprised to learn that she would soon carry a baby, and not just any baby, but Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, but she acted with faith, with joy, with gratitude and with love.

Sister Virginia Jensen from the Relief Society General Presidency said in the October 2000 General Conference, “As we think of women whose righteous influence ripples through eternity, let us consider Mary, the ‘precious and chosen vessel.’ Presented by an angel with an unprecedented, holy pronouncement, she graciously submitted to the will of the Lord: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ Her faith, obedience, and humility set a standard for all women.”
MUSICAL NUMBER (XYZ): Mary, did you know?

MARY THE MOTHER (XYZ):

I am Mary, the mother of Jesus. I have always tried to do right by the Lord in my life, but never could I have imagined that I would be chosen as the earthly mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I have grappled with the overwhelming responsibility and weight of this calling, but even as soon as He came into this world, I was struck by Jesus' character and his profound goodness. His light emanated always - his actions good, his words kind. For me, a young, new mother, Jesus not only represented heavenly powers, but also the miracle of mortality, in which we get to grow and learn together as families on Earth.

I know there have been many fulfilled prophecies about the birth of this baby in my arms, and I know there are many prophecies yet to come to pass. The prophets have said that He will preach good tidings, that He will care for His followers as a shepherd and that He will minister in power and glory performing miracles. And someday, they say, He will sacrifice Himself to save all of us. I can’t understand exactly what any of that will look like or how it will feel, but I know I will be there as any mother would; loving Him, supporting Him and trusting Him.

This little one will live a grand life, but for now He is just my baby and I am His mother.

TALK (XYZ): Becoming women who know Christ

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Snap-chattin'

Just in case you were wondering, "does Heather still take ridiculous pictures of herself on snapchat and send them to Ashleigh?" Thank you for wondering, and yes, yes I do. The pictures are one thing, but the videos are something else entirely and it's probably a good thing that they disappear into the internets. Technology is the most random thing sometimes, but also pretty fun.

And just as an FYI, I sat down fully intending to write something halfway decent tonight and this is the only thing singing in my soul. Sad, sad! And maybe happy, happy? Because I'm sure I'm going to look back on these pictures 10 years from now and get a good smile out of them!






Tuesday, December 12, 2017

L.A. Auto Show

I was already planning on surprising Talmage with a trip to the L.A. Auto Show on Thursday after school, but then school was cancelled due to bad air quality and so we made a full day of it. Never ones to miss a moment of fun, my little ducklings and I got there at 10 am when it opened and didn't leave until 3 in the afternoon. The true car enthusiast in the family could have gone even longer (because "look at those lambos!" and "there's a formula one!" and "i so wish i could take that dragster for a spin!") but his little sisters were a bucket full of tears after five hours and it was time to give them a break. I never thought I'd raise a car kid because I am not a car person in the slightest but look at me, raising a car kid like it's my job! In truth, the L.A. Auto Show was waaaay more fun than I thought it would be and they did such a good job making it family friendly. The kids left with all sorts of swag, racing posters, Hot Wheel cars and their name in a drawing for race car tickets and a new car (can you imagine how amazing that would be if we won a new car?!!!) It was such a good day and I'm so grateful to have had an easy way to show T that I love him and his world.

On Wednesday I was dropping the boys off at school and could see the smoke from the Skirball fire right behind the temple. It was SO crazy, and a little bit scary. The fire was only about four miles from our house, but luckily we were safe and it never got closer. My heart and prayers and thoughts were with all of the people who were evacuated or lost their home. It's been such a hard year in California with so many fires.

In the picture above the red area is the Skirball fire and our home is basically directly under that Westwood sign. It never got any closer than this, but school was cancelled on Thursday and Friday.


I don't know, cars are cars to me--but the two above are pretty great colors!




This looks like my future, and it's scary!


If you look closely there are a lot of filthy children in that Maserati!






Now that's my kind of mini (Minnie) van!


Quinn: Hey, Mr. Powice. Can you put your gwasses on and take a picture wif me?

Thanks T for leading us on such a fun adventure. I love your car-loving self!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Bookends

For the last week or so these two have not been able to get enough of each other. Talmage thinks Cora is the cutest person on the planet and Coco basically thinks T walks on water. He puts hats on her and builds her magnatile towers to crash and she begs him to carry her around and let her sit on his lap. They've been inseparable and it's been so much fun to see my bookends love on each other.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Or-derves Party!

Growing up my Noni and Grampa hosted all of their friends for hors d'oeuvres on Christmas Eve before our big family dinner of Nana's favorite prawns, Aunt Michelle's salad and my mom's perfect rolls. That tradition has morphed over the years to accommodate moves, additions to the family and changing needs, but it still holds such a dear place in my heart and this year I was determined to start that tradition in our home, for our kids, and to honor the great legacy my grandparents began. I love traditions and I'm incredible sappy/sentimental, so this event was bound to be a win-win.

If I lived in a mansion, every single person I knew would be invited to dine with us. As it was, we had nearly 30 people (over half of them under 8 years old) to our house on the first Sunday in December to eat appetizers and dessert and watch a Christmas devotional broadcasted by our church. James folded our cloth napkins into Christmas trees, I pulled out my new Christmas Spode for it's inaugural use and we cooked the afternoon away. I imagine my friends were doing the same thing, because you should have seen the delicious food that they brought into my home to share. It was a magical, delicious evening.  

The kids were desperate to help and T wanted to make a welcome sign for our front door. He was too impatient to wait for us to spell hors d'oeuvres for him so he took matters into his own hands. I love it! 

Before there was a party there were three little ones who got to go to primary together for their first time! Quinn is only visiting for a few more weeks, but despite her glare they were all thrilled to be in Junior Primary together. 

T was trying to put a smile on his grumpy sisters face, and it worked!

That same Sunday was also Coco's first day of nursery, which went super well--NOT!!! For weeks she has been begging to go to nursery and playing in there with James or I in the hallway but of course the day she's actually allowed to go (and I'm teaching so I need her to go) she screams and yells and ends up being brought to me in the middle of my lesson. Little stinker! I think it's because Quinn wasn't in there because of her primary visit, but regardless we've got to get this figured out, and fast!

The two little nursery cousins.


Everett didn't want to miss out on helping so he set up games for the kids in the backyard. He was a little disappointed that they wanted to be crazy-town instead of play his designated games, but I thought it was adorable nonetheless.






How many different angles of that delicious food can I possibly put on this blog? But I'm serious, each one is worth it! I love appetizers and dessert sooooo much!

I'm so mad at myself for not getting a picture of the whole group of kids before they started leaving, but here are some of them (including the dabbing silly-head) in front of our tree. I love these people!

Having family at this party was the best. I love little Hunter-boy and his parents.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A hug for Him


"She understood who she was and whose she was."
Elaine S. Dalton
Cora Nicole, December 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

merry merry

I was not in charge of the Christmas party this year and you didn't see me grumping about it AT ALL! Meghan and Chase took the lead with our good friend Lauren as wingman and they put on a beautiful evening with good food, beautiful decor and a great program. About an hour into the evening James showed up from work and we were all so grateful that he could join us. I was especially happy because after helping in the kitchen with a Coco on my hip it was nice to have free hands! I snapped two pictures just as the little ones were heading off to bed and I love both the one with me and my boys and the one with our whole family. What a fantastic way to start our Christmas season!