drafting skills

Dear friends

A few evenings ago, I helped Daur1 complete the first draft of her personal statement for medical school, reducing it from 6000+ characters to less than 4000 (the maximum allowable). At the end, at 2359h, she exclaimed to the rest of the awake household (Son1 and her father):

Mum has a superpower!! A gift!!

I know! replied her father, and they began discussing how I should do proofreading after retirement… in 20 years 🙂 I explained that it’s a bit too plain English for the academic environment!!

It took me a while to discover this skill and I do recognise it is a little unusual. It’s closely related to my other superpower, the ability to quickly assimilate large amounts of information and identify the salient points. I first realised I had these twin skills some years ago when I re-wrote and collated a submission for beacon council status following a rather inadequate draft from a private consultant which my boss was not too happy with. We were shortlisted and went on to win the status.

I’m actually quite a slow reader; with the statement last night (made worse because I was tired but then adrenaline kicked in…) it took me a good 15 mins to read the initial 6000+ words and understand what Daur1 was trying to write.

I’ve learnt that skills and abilities come in many, many ways, some hidden, some more obvious. I know all of us have a super power, probably several, something that makes you uniquely you and something that you can use to help others. Gifts, talents, skills, super powers, are not there for selfish reasons and I think rarely directly benefit the person who possesses them, except in a way that they can serve others. I’ll let scripture explain more eloquently what I’m trying to say, from Doctrine and Covenants section 46:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

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Primary role

Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19 verse 14

Dear friends

In recent weeks I have been called to serve in the Primary organisation of our church ward (local unit).  The Primary organisation is for the children, up to 12 years.  

It’s been about 10 years since I last served there – I recall because Son1 had not long been baptised (at age 8) when I was released. Daur1 and Daur2 were also there, but Daur2 was 3 years old so doesn’t remember.

You can imagine how excited Son2 has been since finding out that his Mum will be with him each Sunday:)!!  And I’ve been excited too.  I’ve already had a week in nursery (with children aged 18 months to 3 years) – I’d forgotten how delightfully stubborn a 2 year old can be! And this month I’ll be doing sharing time, with all the 3 to 11 year olds, about 12 of them so not too many.

Of course, I will miss the youth Sunday School class… not sure if the feeling is mutual 🙂 … and Daur1 did remind me they are little children!!  We had our first presidency meeting – I’m a counsellor -the secretary is the same, and filled us in on recent issues. With a couple of families moving out before summer we will lose several children in a short space of time. But things change quickly so we’re not relying on a small number of children to ease anything.  

This will take me out of my comfort zone, that’s always a good thing for me as it stops me becoming complacent. And I feel it’s so important to be able to share the gospel with children; the gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful (not my phrase… I think one of the modern day apostles) and so to be able to explain eternal concepts in a manner that a child can understand is important.  That’s the way the Saviour taught us 🙂

perilous times

Dear friends

Family is who you die for

That’s the strap line of a billboard advertising an adult rated game showing several people holding guns. I was going to post a picture but that advertises the game!  So here’s a family stock photo!  

It seems to me that the advertisers have replaced the kill for die and therefore make the whole game seem more… honourable.  Literally glorifying violence! 😦 

It’s an(other) example of how we, and our children, are being bombarded with slightly false messaging.  After all, most people love their families enough that if it were asked of them, they would risk their own lives. But this false messaging seems symptomatic of the last days, these perilous times that Paul described (2 Timothy 3 vv1-5), particularly having a form of godliness.  

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come….

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,…

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:

I did listen to this wonderful talk from one of the female LDS church leaders, which speaks of these perilous times and how we, as women, need to rise up in strength.  I encourage you to listen and be uplifted 🙂

 Bonnie L. Oscarson – September 2016

small things…

Dear friends

Sometimes the smallest of things can make the biggest difference in our lives.  This last week has been full of that for me and our family.

Before that, after one of the big winter storms in the last few years, we noticed a leak on our bedroom ceiling, right in the corner above the bay window.  It really didn’t disrupt our daily lives and it was several months before we got a roofer out.  However the following winter, another big storm, same leaking, another small damp patch appears closer in, remote from the first leak.  After several attempts with the insurance company, they finally agreed to mend and repair, but not replace the valley flashing gutter (above bay window). 

Then several weeks back a roofer came out – did something from a ladder and despite rain we’ve had no further leaks. Yeah! – you may think.  So then the company turn to our bedroom interior.  The artex ceiling is tested for asbestos. It’s a positive result so they arrange for a specialist contractor to remove the ceiling.  This was scheduled for Monday morning.

Before that, a couple of weeks back, a friend spotted a piano being offered for free.  Dear husband and Daur2 looked it over – needs tuning and a couple of hammers fixing but would be good for practice – and we paid a man with a van to help bring it to our house.  It’s been left in the dining room, having come in through the garden, until we clear the front room (another one of those ongoing tasks!)

So, last Monday morning I wake early to start my usual routine of preparing packed lunches for the family – six of us.  As I start with mini baguettes in the oven I see a mouse come out and head back behind the fridge/freezer.  I shriek fairly quietly and gingerly continue, my feet shuffling on the kitchen floor – my theory was to make enough noise so it didn’t come out again.  That didn’t work and so when I saw it again I let out a mighty shriek.  Son1 was the first to reach me and as I stammer there’s a mouse behind the fridge, he says I thought you were being attacked by someone! And promptly turns and heads back to bed.  Daur1 reaches me and stays with me while we finish the lunches but then time has gone and she’s in danger of missing her train.  She begs me to drop her at the station.  

However, before that, over the weekend, my car had been very rumbly.  I knew my dear husband had put oil in (I had moaned to him the Sunday evening since the oil was in his car, rather than in the porch so I couldn’t add some earlier), so despite the strange burning rubber smell, I thought maybe I could make it to the station and back.  

As we sat in the car – me in my pyjamas and fleece – I mentioned maybe I should give you bus fare to get the fast bus to the station and not risk it.  But Daur1 gave her pleading eyes, I gave in and we headed out.  We reached station safely and Daur1 skipped to platforms!  I headed out the station and immediately the clutch pedal stuck – I was crossing the carriageway so was waiting.  I managed to kick it up, back in gear when I saw the traffic clear then as it stuck again at my gear change, I pulled the car over onto the pavement, so as not to block traffic, and stopped.  With the hazard lights on, I call the RAC (car recovery) – we’ll try and get someone out to you in the hour.  An hour! It’s 0730h, I’m in my pyjamas and fleece.  I call my dear husband but no answer… he’s clearly having to pick things up where I left things off… 

Two hours later, somewhat chilled on my part, my dear husband and I arrive back home, children all at school & college and I think, great, I’ll quickly shower, dress and get bus to work.  Don’t forget the asbestos guys are here, they arrived at 8h, when you were out; they’ve started taping things up.  Eeeeekk…. I head to our room to find our wardrobes fully taped up and plastic sheeting across the bedroom door.  All that was missing were the guys in white suits – I knew that was coming, they were in their van on break.  So, all I could do was work from home; take calls, write emails, give a truncated version of the morning’s events explaining my absence – clutch, pyjamas and asbestos.  I did feel quite ridiculous and humbled – if I had listened to the small voice and not taken our daughter to the station, the day would have been largely uneventful, except the mouse and the asbestos removal team.

Ohhhh, and the mouse.  In the 12 years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen any mice – ants, mosquitoes and slugs but no mice (apart from a small family discovered in the lawn mower box in the garage one spring a long time ago).  So we were a little concerned – are there more?  Son1 admitted to seeing a ball of fluff scurry behind the piano late one night after it’s arrival but failed to mention it to anyone.  Dear husband bought fast action mouse killer traps – one went by the fridge and one in the kitchen.  We put a more traditional trap behind the piano, with peanut butter on cheese for bait!  We had no idea where mouse was.  We were on lockdown – all doors to be closed behind us on entering or exiting a room.  A few days later there was still no sign of mouse.  By now the family began teasing that maybe I imagined the whole thing!  But today, I entered the kitchen and there it was, lying, dead, between the washing machine and a cupboard.  All observed it – except Son1 who was out – before dear husband and Daur1 disposed of it.  Daur2 (& Daur1) seemed rather sad about the whole affair commenting it’s so small… It’s in heaven now… And similar as if I was being completely irrational about wanting to get rid of it!

Ohhhh and the leak. Once the ceiling came down, we spied up into the loft and the underside of the rafters and the water damage was apparent.  And above the valley rafter, in the flashing we could spy a pinpoint of daylight in the lead valley flashing gutter.  The insurance company weren’t interested – it looked to me as if a slate had punctured the lead.  So we’ll have to get some flexible roof sealant and apply from within the loft to make sure we don’t get a random drip onto the new ceiling, which is now in place.  

And the moral of this tale… deal immediately with a problem and listen to the small voice… or squeak…. or leak!

piano, mouse killer, my sock
Part stripped ceiling
Rafters in our loft, above the ceiling
The pinpoint of light!!

camping & the genders

Dear friends

On Monday we dropped off our three eldest children at the church youth camps for the week.  (It’s quiet at home!)

The difference in the camps for the young women (YW) and the young men (YM)! Wow!!  This shouldn’t surprise me but it is enlightening to compare!  

First stop at a little before 10h was YW camp, to the north of home.  A beautiful green, well kept field, with new shower facilities, much to the relief of Daur1 who had already warned her sister, Daur2, “don’t shower barefoot!!”. Everyone worked together to erect large 6-8 man tents which the girls will be sharing in their age groups. A large marquee was also erected as a food tent, and each girl had been asked to bring not only secret sister gifts to share but also a camp seat/ chair (so they don’t have to sit on the ground).  As we hugged farewell Daur2 noted there’s music for the devotionals – a portable organ.

The kit list for the Young Men was similar, minus gifts, camp seats, and including tents. My dear husband and I picked up Son1 (and Son2, too young for the camps, having ate first lunch prepared by Son1) around lunch time and headed south, into the forest.  Following the instructions we pulled into a discrete car park behind a golf course club house.  A gate in a hedge met us and beyond a grove opened up – the leader greeted us.  As we entered the shady grove, several tents had already been pitched around a central area with rubber mats and a rope with a large knot hanging from a tree.  I made no comment on what this scene could suggest… There were a few ‘seen better days’ huts and Son1 immediately began pitching his 4-man (all for me) tent at one end of the tent round, closest to the fire pit.  I noted plenty of logs that could double up for seats.  Others arrived, tents continued to go up, each team of young men working alone or with who they came.  Help was not requested and when offered it was rejected – we’re almost there. It was such a macho scene!!  Son1 looked embarrassed as I helped with the tent – but I didn’t care, I’m his mother!!  We left as more young men arrived and I really wonder if they will all fit – I think there will be some tent sharing for Son1. I’m concerned that he seems to feel he’ll cope without a sleeping mat… night temperatures have dropped… but that was his choice, he refused to get one.  His sisters took the air beds/ mattresses 🙂

We left Son1 deep in the forest and headed to my mother’s house for lunch – Son2’s second lunch!  

I am absolutely sure they will have fantastic camps. Men and women are different in so many great ways.  We have to learn from and be here for each other.

who we are…

Dear friends

I promised this post a couple of months ago.  Back in April, I was asked to give a talk with 6 days notice and no topic at the Saturday evening session of stake conference.  For those of you not familiar with latter day saints, a stake consists of several units of the church in a geographical area.  It was a sublime experience to be led by the Holy Spirit as to what to prepare to speak on and on the evening, being the penultimate speaker, it was humbling to note that my words summarised all those who had spoken before.  So, here’s the talk.

 

Good evening, Brothers and Sisters.  As I pondered this assignment, I felt impressed to speak on who we are and our relationship with God.

Some years ago, when I was a young girl, I looked in a mirror while getting ready for school, and into my eyes.  I didn’t see a gawky, shy but slightly mischievous 11 year old girl.  As I looked in my eyes, I saw something else, something far deeper, beyond my physical appearance, and I recognised that this part of me would still be alive after my physical body passed away.  I didn’t understand what this overwhelming feeling was; I burst into tears, was inconsolable for some time, and missed school!  Unable to really explain what I had felt, it was years later before I came to understand who I really am.

The knowledge that we are spirit children of God has been with humans since our first parents, Adam and Eve, walked the Earth, and permeates humanity.  That we are literally all spirit sisters and brothers within the human race follows, since we have the same heavenly parentage.  Some time ago, before the earth was formed, though it probably would not seem long ago if we could remember, as the children’s primary song (#4) states: we lived in Heaven:

Lived there and loved there with people I know. So did you.

Then Heav’nly Father presented a beautiful plan,

All about earth and eternal salvation for man.

 

We knew who we were then; we knew our identity and our relationship to God was clear – we knew that we are His children and we chose to follow, and defend, Father’s plan for us to become like Him.  We chose to honour our relationship with God.  And now we are here, on earth.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom at April 2016 General Conference explained:

“Here on earth, we identify ourselves in many different ways, including our place of birth, our nationality, and our language.  Some even identify themselves by their occupation or their hobby.  These earthly identities are not wrong unless they supersede or interfere with our eternal identity —that of being a son or a daughter of God.”

From the scriptures, two individuals who, I feel, did not let their earthly identity supersede their eternal identity, despite the difficult times they lived in, are Mormon and Abraham.

First, the mighty prophet historian and leader commander, Mormon.  He lived at one of the most trying times in history, one which would see the annihilation of his nation (the Nephites) and leave his surviving brethren nation (the Lamanites) in a depraved and lost state.  He knew it, he could clearly see the state of his nation people, that “they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits” (Mormon 2v14) and that they “did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them” (Mormon 5:2).  Mormon leads the Nephite armies from the age of 15 years and he is about 50 years old, when he ‘utterly’ refuses to be a commander and leader “because of their wickedness and abomination” (Mormon 3 v11).  Mormon states “I did even as the Lord had commanded me; and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard… Therefore I write…” (Mormon 3v16-17) and certainly Mormon wrote – we know that!  It appears to be more than 10 years later when he decides to lead the Nephites again, though it is “without hope,” for he knew “the judgements of the Lord which should come upon them” (Mormon 5 v2).  Mormon’s final words, before Moroni records his father’s death, reach out to all, inviting to believe in Christ and be baptized, with water and with fire, with the Holy Ghost (Mormon 7).  Throughout his life, Mormon did not lose sight of his eternal identity, nor that of his brothers and sisters, including us, for whom he wrote.  He did not forget his relationship with God.  Can you imagine if Mormon only identified himself as a Nephite commander or leader, totally fixed on destroying all Lamanites, rather than as a child of God with a unique task to fulfil?

Then Abraham and the particular choice he made early in his life, to not identify with his fathers and the people around him – “In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of [his] fathers, [he], Abraham saw that it was needful for [him] to obtain another place of residence… [His] fathers having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshipping of the gods of the heathen” (Abraham 1 v1-5).  They utterly refused to hearken to Abraham, who identifies himself as “a follower of righteousness” (v2) with desires to “receive instructions and to keep the commandments of God” but instead they tried to offer him up, as an offering to strange gods, idols, as they had done with men, women and children before him.  Abraham was saved by an angel, leaves the Chaldees and goes to the land of Canaan.  As we know, in that land, the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham, which Abraham keeps, and through Abraham’s seed “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessing of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abr 2 v11).  Today, we take part in that Abrahamic covenant, become Israel – the covenant people, as we are baptised and receive all the blessings of Heavenly Father through temple covenants.  Can you imagine if Abraham only identified himself as a Chaldean, willing to be sacrificed to the heathen Gods, rather than as a child of God with a unique task to fulfil?

We live in equally troubling and difficult times – the winding up scenes of history – but also the best of times since we have been given the opportunity to be baptised, by water and by fire, with the Holy Ghost.  We individually have the opportunity to make covenants with God, possibly as no other people in the history of the world, with the building of temples across the world.  Truly, we are ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.’ (1 Peter 2 v9).

But do we identify with this, first and foremost, or do we put our relationship with God second, preferring to be identified by our profession, by money or where we live, our nationality, or our race?  And do we identify others by their profession, nationality or race rather than seeing them as a child of God, as we all are?  What would be the difference in our lives if we identify ourselves as daughters and sons of God with his unique work to fulfil?  Remember:  “These earthly identities are not wrong unless they supersede or interfere with our eternal identity —that of being a son or a daughter of God.”  Elder Hallstrom

As I thought on this, I realised that God has told us, throughout scripture, what we can do to maintain and improve our relationship with him:

“Turn ye unto me,… and I will turn unto you.” Zechariah 1 v3

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”  D&C 88 v 63

“Return unto me, and I will return unto you,” Malachi 3 v7

“Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you,” James 4 v8

How do we draw near, turn to Him, return to Him?  It is simple, we repent.  Through Zechariah, the Lord told Israel to “Turn you now from your evil ways,” and through Malachi, Israel was told to bring “all the tithes into the storehouse.” James wrote “cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded;” and early in this dispensation, through Joseph Smith Jnr “sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him.”  And to us now, a couple weeks ago in General Conference, our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, told us:

“When we left our premortal existence and entered mortality, we brought with us the gift of agency…  Although it is imperative that we choose wisely, there are times when we will make foolish choices. The gift of repentance, provided by our Savior, enables us to correct our course settings, that we might return to the path which will lead us to that celestial glory we seek.” 

I have made mistakes and I have felt the Lord’s forgiveness as I have needed to use the gift of repentance to turn back to him.  I am very grateful for our Saviour, our eldest brother, and that because of Him, when I make a mistake or neglect to do something, I can change.  Because of Him, I can improve each day and I have pondered on where I need to improve and I hope I can remain true and faithful to my Father, and choose my relationship with Him.  I know the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, available only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true.  I know for myself that it provides all necessary covenants and knowledge of salvation, so we can honour our relationship with Father, while on earth and return safely to Him.  I know Joseph Smith Jr is a Prophet, that the priesthood of God was restored to earth through His angels – John the Baptist, Peter, James and John.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Thomas S Monson is a true prophet of God.  I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

My brothers and sisters, for that is what you truly are, we all have a special relationship with God; He is our Father and He loves us, you, very much.  We need to draw near to Him, keep our covenants, use repentance, feel the blessing of forgiveness, and honour that relationship with Him while here on earth. Then when we pass on, we will see Him clearly again, “face to face: now, we know in part, but then shall we know even as also we are known” (from 1 Corinthians 13 v12).

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

the burning hut

Dear friends
One of my cousins passed this story to us, so I’m passing on, hoping it will encourage someone else 🙂

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little
hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, and soon there was nothing left. The worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. “God, how could you do this to me?” He cried.

Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” The weary man asked his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

In life it’s easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, when things are not going our way, but we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain, and suffering.

Remember this the next time your “hut” seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God. Please consider passing this message on, because “You Never Know Who Feels Like Their
Hut Is On Fire Today”

spring is back!

Dear friends
This weekend is Easter #Hallelujah and the clocks spring forward so we are heading into long, long evenings.  We have virtually 7 months of British Summer Time… it’s almost ridiculous to me that Greenwich Meridian is based in the UK, given most of the year we spend in BST!  Anyway, spring it is – grog spawn has been seen in ponds, daffodils are blooming everywhere, pumps are replacing boots, and Son2 left (abandoned!) his jumper at school!  We’ve had the school Easter concert – a great, stirring rendition of Bring him home from Les Miserables by the school concert band (not featuring Daur1 on flute who has been committed to revision sessions) and the Glee (interesting!) version of Homeward bound by the student led A Capella choir, featuring Daur2 singing alto. 
And today is my last full day in the office until early April – I have to go in next week to get a new, long awaited, laptop, but that will be the morning only.  And I think tomorrow we have a cinema trip planned – Batman vs Superman and Kung Fu Panda 3!  And I really must do some Christmas preparations!!  🙂

slow down…

Dear friends
I’m trying to slow down.  But since this post has taken a week to write and publish, you can see I’m not succeeding!! 
A couple of incidents have made me realise that I should take more time to smell flowers, so to speak.

I went to the women’s conference last Saturday when in one workshop, on entering, we were invited to select a name after reading:

Jesus is coming to your home in one hour. Who are you?

With little hesitation I selected Martha, deep down I know I’m not really Mary and I figured, in a self righteous manner, “most people will choose Mary and I’m different.”  As the workshop continued, and two women portrayed Martha and Mary with reference to scriptures from the Bible, I felt myself drawn into those times, and I could relate to Martha perfectly. I knew I would want everything to be perfect for my Visitor.  I do the same now, if His representatives visit, His missionaries, our home teachers, my visiting teachers, so how much more would I do it if He visited. Even though I would stop when the door knocked, I imagine my first words might be, “I’m sorry everything isn’t ready.” Rather than, “Welcome, I’m ready!”
During the workshop there were discussions on multi tasking, using time wisely, preparing, and I went to other workshops where following the Holy Ghost was encouraged. The overwhelming sense I had was to slow down, that was my message.

I returned home. On seeing the school uniforms not washed and my dear family in a rather relaxed state (my dear husband had taken the children to a science fair), I poured the laundry into a bag and announced I was going to the launderette and would pick up Son1 from work on the way back.  Dear husband intercepted my path with some words on knowing your limits and that he’d already assigned the uniforms to the children to wash by hand – “it’ll do them good!”  So, after assessing the children’s nutritional needs – we’re not hungry (owing to a big, late, lunch of hot dogs and chips which I caught the end of), we don’t need any food before bed – I took myself to bed!

This slowing down is not consistent and is certainly difficult.  This last week, I forgot my lunch once having made sure everyone had theirs, went to London for training (traveling to and from London during rush hour is never ‘slow’) and barely crossed anything off my work to do list.  I am trying hard not to run faster than I have strength and there have been some relaxing moments – treating myself to some catch up episodes of The Good Wife but I did fall asleep during those!!
I don’t really have a game plan, except to try keep a balance…. that may need more naps – I fell asleep after church this past Sunday 🙂 … it may mean simpler meals… and it definitely means involving and trusting the Lord with my priorities!