Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Sacrament Meeting Talk

Today I am speaking about the sacrament and sacrament meeting. I have come up with 3 topics relating to this subject. They will be easy to remember because the acronym for them is PMS. P is for preparation. Preparing beforehand for the sacrament and sacrament meeting. M is for Meaning. Finding meaning in the sacrament. S is for sanctuary. Making sacrament meeting a sanctuary for all who attend.

 P. Preparation. When does preparation for sacrament meeting begin? How do we prepare? Well, the answers to those questions are going to be different for each of us and for each of our families depending on our circumstances.

 I’ll share a couple personal experiences of how my preparation has changed over the years. Our children are 19 months apart. When they were about 2 and 3 years old, it was quite a struggle to wrangle them during sacrament meeting. They would climb all around the benches, and want a snack, or need a toy. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. I found that trying to focus on Christ and the meaning of the sacrament in the midst of their chaos was pretty much futile. But I was determined to find a way to make the sacrament meaningful to me. The answer for me was that the day before, on Saturday, I would find a moment to ponder. I would review my week, how I had seen Christ in my life that week, meditate on what I wanted to improve in myself, and look forward to taking the sacrament the next day to renew my covenants. Then, during the sacrament the next day, I didn’t have to come up with something to ponder while wrangling our children. Physically, my attention was on wrangling our children, but mentally, my mind and thoughts were calm and focused on my previous days’ ponderings and meditations. Anticipating that moment ahead of time proved invaluable to my spiritual health.

 Now that our children are 10 and 12, I don’t have to wrangle them. Much. But a year or so ago, it became apparent that Sunday mornings were not working for our family. All four of us needed to take a shower at the same time, children couldn’t find their socks, or their shoes, or both. We didn’t have the proper clean clothes, we were out of milk, scriptures were missing, and church starts in 10 minutes. It was complete pandemonium, and it did NOT help us get to church in a good spirit. So, we instituted a Saturday evening routine to help us be organized and prepared for the sacrament the next day. We have a checklist and make sure arrangements are made for everything we need. We are still not perfect. But we make an effort. And that’s what matters.

Spending time preparing for the sacrament in advance brings new observations and understanding. We all have the opportunity to discover a way to prepare to make the sacrament more meaningful for us in our current life journey. This brings me to my next topic.

M. Meaning. Discovering personal meaning in the ordinance of the sacrament. Each of us will have a different, personal meaning of the significance of the sacrament. And that’s exactly how it should be. The gospel and the sacrament are personal. When I want to get at the heart of the sacrament, I turn to the scriptures to see what Christ personally said about it. In Matthew 26 Jesus says it is as simple as reminding us of him. Christ is our bread of life. He is our living water. Christ is as essential to life as the sustenance of bread and water are to life. Or maybe it is better expressed that bread and water are as essential to life as Christ is.

 As Mormons, we occasionally snicker at the Catholic communion and transubstantiation. The notion that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Jesus. And yet, what if we believed that each week at church we would literally be partaking of a part of Christ. That we would literally be taking a piece of our personal Savior into ourselves. Might that affect how we act? How we react? How we prepare for the sacrament?

 In the October General Conference Sister Cheryl Esplin, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency said: “When I partake of the sacrament, I sometimes picture in my mind a painting that depicts the resurrected Savior with His arms outstretched, as if He is ready to receive us into His loving embrace. I love this painting. When I think about it during the administration of the sacrament, my soul is lifted as I can almost hear the Savior’s words: “Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.”

The practice and ordinance of the sacrament has helped me learn to rely on my Lord Jesus Christ. I have had lots of opportunities to rely on my Savior. It is pretty easy for me to envision him experiencing my feelings. But at one point I had doubts. I have wondered if Christ could possibly know how I, a woman, feel in certain situations. How can he possibly understand my heart, my experiences, my feelings as a woman and a mother? He is not a woman! This seems to be a contradiction. And yet, it isn’t. Although a mortal man and son of God, he has felt what every woman and man on earth has felt.
 As Jesus was carrying his cross to Golgotha, Luke 23 tells us that many women followed him and bewailed and lamented after him. On seeing their grief Christ turned to them and said “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”

 Christ had just performed the atonement and had felt the full weight of all the wickedness, sorrow, and pain that the daughters of the world would face. He knew that women would suffer and that their incredible ability to create new life would be abused and unappreciated. Knowing this, He told the women that they shouldn’t weep for Him but instead for what they and their children would face. He was saying to them, “if they can do this to me, the son of God, what will they do to you?”

 Sometimes I think about all the things that women and children suffer on this earth and my heart gets unbearably heavy. We live in a world where terrorists attack a school and gun down 132 children. A world where a 15 year old girl is shot in the head for advocating for girls’ education. A world where babies grow up in destitute orphanages. A world where female genital mutilation occurs. A world where people become the property of other people. It is overwhelming. It is so much, that I do not have the words to share my pain. And I believe in a God who understands all this. Yes, he understands. And he comforts.

But that is only half of the equation. I also believe in the divinity of a Messiah who gave himself up as a sacrifice to overcome all things. All things. Every terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing that has ever happened. Moroni says “May not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” I have faith in a God who is bigger and greater than any earthly pain. A God that sent His only begotten son so that every injustice will absolutely be taken care of by the atonement. That is a really, really big God. That is the God I worship during the sacrament.

 And that is the God I pray that every person who desires, has the opportunity to worship. Which brings me to my last topic. S. Sanctuary. In her book “Sanctuary,” Sister Chieko Okazaki writes, “A sanctuary is not a fortress that bars people from entering. It is not a mausoleum where everything is hushed and still. It’s a place of holiness, a place of happiness, and a place of love.” We can build a sanctuary in our hearts where the spirit is welcome to dwell. And we can also work together as ward members to make our sacrament meeting a sanctuary for all who wish to attend. As the true church of Christ, shouldn’t our people be the most welcoming? Shouldn’t our ward buildings and our sacrament meeting be the place where people feel the most accepted, the most appreciated, the most wanted?

Our Savior knows the value of not only a physical sanctuary, but also a sanctuary of the heart. Luke recounts in chapter 4 that Jesus returned to Nazareth where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath he went to synagogue and claimed that he was the prophesied Messiah. The scripture says that everyone there wondered at the words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said “Is not this Joseph’s son?” They were all filled with wrath and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

 So here is Jesus, after having relative success with his ministry in Galilee, comes back to his own people, a place that should be a sanctuary for him. And he is not only rejected. He is physically threatened. They wanted to push him off a cliff! He is able to miraculously escape, but what a betrayal.

Surely some of us have experienced this type of rejection from people we trust. People in our communities, in our families, in our ward, in our Young Women’s class, in our quorum, in our Relief Society. People that we should be able to rely on can let us down, people that should be the most Christ-like can occasionally exclude, can form a circle that keeps us out. Christ has been there. He knows what it is like. And yet, instead of keeping that distance and honoring the circle called exclusion, Christ carried on with his mission, pushing against the boundaries that excluded and creating new circles of inclusion, new circles of sanctuary. Several months ago Eva, and Wesley, and I memorized this poem by Edward Markham that I think illustrates this point:

He drew a circle that shut me out;
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that took him in

It is not easy to consistently create sanctuaries. Someone that personifies this ideal is my friend Sherri Park. She is LDS and she has also been involved with the LGBTQ community for quite a while. She discovered that there are many LDS members who also identify as LGBT who have the desire to attend church. To be filled with the hope of Christ. To find sanctuary. But they are hesitant to do so. They may have preconceived ideas about how they will be welcomed. They may feel awkward showing up after many months or years of non attendance. They may not want to sit alone.

 As a response to this, Sherri has organized what she calls “Sit With Me Sunday.” This is a way for LGBT LDS members to find a friendly face to sit with at church. Sit With Me Sunday is held twice a year, on the Sundays on or right before Easter and Christmas. Sherri invites faithful LDS members from all around the world to consider being willing to be a friendly face for these precious souls. She has set up a database of members, along with the time their ward begins so that LGBT members can search out a welcoming ward near them. I love how Sherri has seen a need, and took it upon herself to organize a circle of inclusion. And I love and honor those members who have taken it upon themselves to set aside their differences in order to provide a sanctuary for ALL of God’s children.

 Because creating sanctuaries is not just our leaders’ job. Or the teachers’ job. Or the home and visiting teacher’s job. It is your job. It is my job! I invite each of you to consider how you can set aside differences and create sanctuaries and circles of inclusion in your life.

 I will close with Psalm 63 as I feel it perfectly describes my prayers and my testimony.

1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
 2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.
 3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

 In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good times

The Halletts have been busy with various projects and celebrations. I share some photos of our recent happenings:

Wesley decided he really did want his two front teeth for Christmas!

Eva finally earned enough money to buy her American Girl Kit doll. No small task - that doll cost $119!! Here she is just after opening the box.

We have our first successful Arizona garden! The secret was a fall garden, not a spring one. I should say it's EVA'S garden because she badgered me until I caved and we planted. We have already harvested and shared radishes.

Alice has been busy with Pinterest projects. After Thanksgiving I decided I needed to pretty up the hallway. I also needed a spot for the children to show off their artwork and projects. Hmm. Here's the outcome. The end of the hallway has shelves for origami and other creations plus the frame with artwork:

The side of the hallway has a frame and hangers for artwork. I love the color we chose. It makes me smile.

(Sorry for all the amateur photos. Iphone pics + bad lighting + amateur photographer do not mix) The frames and hangers are all the same color even though it doesn't look like it. I used clearance frames, wooden hangers that were given to us a while back, and .77 craft paint. This was also my first foray into vinyl lettering and I am thrilled with the outcome. Our house is slowly becoming a home we love.

After that we had to think about Christmas. I loved this scrabble ornament I found on pinterest. But I thought they were a little plain and I knew we could make some cuter ones.

So we came up with these:

Adorable if I do say so myself. Originally we cut the tile holders to size, stained them, and super glued them on. But we ran out of the tile holders pretty fast so we painted some of Wesley's City Blocks pieces and I think they turned out great too. And please try to be surprised if you end up with some of these creations this season :).

We are so blessed. The Lord is so good and merciful. Through all these fun times and fun projects, I think of how the Lord has truly blessed us. And most of all he has blessed us with the gospel, a nearby temple, and his Son Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I've always loved the arts. Performing theater in high school, attending live symphony concerts, and basking in the art exhibits at BYU when I have the opportunity are some of my favorite memories. Thus it's no surprise one of my favorite times of the week is Picture Study time. I gather 6-8 works by a particular artist and we study one a week. I think we will study James Tissot next.

I first learned about Tissot at Education Week in 2010 when BYU had an exhibit of his religious works. Here is an extract from my journal about what I learned from that time:
"Tissot is an 19th century artist who never achieved great status, especially among the art movement. He grew up well off and was a very worldy, materialistic person. He had a relationship with a young woman who eventually died of consumption. In his grief he went to a a church. While there, he saw in his mind a vision of a grief-stricken couple who is surrounded by rubble. They are clearly not alright and in need of support. The Savior comes and sits by them and comforts them. After that epiphany, Tissot painted only to glorify God and he turned his life around. He painted scenes from Christ's life and printed the Tissot Bible that contained prints of his works...Most of all, I love his passion and testimony."

Clearly, I love this conversion story. But I also love the beautiful watercolors that have come from it. Sometimes I can tell a Tissot just from the clothing in his works. The beautiful fabrics and patterns he paints are a relic from his earlier, worldlier days. He visited the Holy Land twice in order to portray the scenes accurately.

Healing of the Lepers at Capernaum

Jesus Sits by the Seashore and preaches

What Our Lord Saw From the Cross

Christ on the Mountain

One of the works at the Life of Christ exhibit at BYU was "Massacre of the Innocents." It depicts Herod's soldiers killing the young baby boys in order to kill the next king, Jesus. It is a truly gory work that depicts bloody babies being hurled out a window, landing in a tree, and dozens of bloody children in a heap on the ground. It was shocking. I was truly overwhelmed with disgust of the subject matter and of how it was portrayed. Truthfully, I was disturbed. While the rest of the exhibit was testimony building and lovely, I couldn't get this one work out of my mind. Here it is. And keep in mind a copy on the internet does not do it justice (you may want to search "James Tissot Massacre of the Innocent"s on Google Images to see a larger picture).

This painting churned in my mind and I couldn't stop mulling over how depicting this scene could in any way point someone towards knowing Christ, except I suppose for showing a scene from his life. Then slowly, slowly, the pieces came together. The tree. The blood. The atrocities committed. Oh how could I not have seen? The precious babies spilling blood for Jesus, who will one day sacrifice his blood for them. The bloody children in the tree, foreshadowing the Savior's future atonement on his own tree. All that gore, just as Christ's blood will atone for the acts committed against the innocent. And the blood that must stand as a witness against Herod.

Now I can see this work, and I still wince. But I wince knowing that Christ has overcome all, even my own sins, the sins committed against me, and for the world.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pinterest and Halloween

With Cody and Eva off at a daddy/daughter campout, Wesley decided it was time to do some crafts. I thought this would be a good idea as he wouldn't have the opportunity to turn into Mr. Destructo if we spent the day crafting. And as I had just registered with Pinterest the day before, I knew that was the place to get some crafty ideas. However, seeing as how we do not keep an abundance of craft supplies on hand, our only car was camping somewhere in the woods, and I don't have the patience for fru fru crafts anyway, our choices were limited to something that could be done with what we had on hand. Our first project was toilet paper pumpkins.
We placed the toilet paper roll on a sheet of fabric approximately 18 in. square (this is where saving fabric scraps, old clothes, sheets, and cloth napkins comes in handy). Wrap it up and stuff the excess down the top. Roll up a paper lunch bag, glue the end, and put it in the top of the pumpkin. Then I wrapped green fabric around some cardstock and glued it all together for some leaves. Felt would be easier and look good but I didn't have any. At first I tried to cut out a real pumpkin leaf shape but that was too difficult. The apple looking leaves are still cute and much easier to make. Next, Wesley wanted to do something with frankenstein. We had some green fabric so I suggested we do a toilet paper frankenstein.
We rolled the toilet paper in some green fabric and hot glued the back seam. Then tuck the extra into the holes. I couldn't find any black fabric or felt so I used an old black sock (really dear, you hardly wore that pair anyway!) and just pulled it over the top for his hair. I think it looks great. Tuck the extra in the top and then use an ultra fine sharpie to create the face. I think this guy is my favorite of the day. Ghosts were next on the list.
Canning jars and milk jugs rounded out our ghost families. We used glue dots to make construction paper faces on the jars and Wesley experimented with sharpies and paint on the milk jugs. He's so proud of his creations.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Picture Study/Art Appreciation

I found this at the library and I've been devouring it this week. It is a reference book so I haven't read the whole thing, but this book has really helped me understand the works of art we study in homeschool. It is fun to read a few pages at a time or you can just look up a subject. It is arranged alphabetically. Sometimes I wish it would go a little deeper into explanations but it is definitely a good starting point. I just love learning little tidbits such as that a pomegranate represents the Resurrection and that a Griffin can represent the dual nature of Christ - His divinity (bird) and humanity (lion).

I really could have used this book last spring when we studied Raphael. I would've known that "The Knight's Dream" shows Scipio's dream in which his grandfather appears and describes "the heavenly abode to which the great and honourable on earth are admitted." The sword and book respectively represent the active and contemplative virtues needed for a full life. The sprig of myrtle (symbol of Venus) offered from the more alluring virgin represents sensual pleasure, also a necessity for a full, harmonious life.

I also would have known that unicorns represent purity or chastity.

And I would have known the story of Galatea who loved the youth Acis, yet who was loved by Polyphemus, a cyclops. I would have known that Raphael depicted the scene of Galatea standing in her cockle-shell chariot on the sea, fleeing Polyphemus.

But now I know and I can use my newfound knowledge as we study Durer, Caravaggio, and Eugene Delacroix this year. I have a feeling I'll be checking this one out from the library quite a lot from now on.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Can I just say that I enjoy saying the word twaddle? It is a fun word! I always thought that Charlotte Mason invented the word twaddle, which she defined as dumbed-down, foolish literature. But I just googled it and apparently it is a word that originated in the 1780s and is defined as trivial, insignificant speech or writing. Lately I've been shopping thrift stores for quality books to send to my niece. Of course I know that many books sold today aren't worth looking at, but as I went through three bookcases of children's books, I found maybe 10-15 books that I thought worth purchasing. It was depressing to think that the majority of children are reading drivel.

Which books are twaddly?

To me, twaddle is one of those things that "you'll know it when you see it." I recognize twaddle when it is dumbed-down and/or talks down to children. Most baby and preschool board books are twaddle. Anything "abridged" should be avoided. But the most prevalent, and also the most distressing, twaddle items for children are ones that try to teach a moral lesson and also religious books. Many well-intentioned writers and also the consumer parents assume that if a book teaches a moral or is religious, it must be worthwhile. In my opinion, that is not so! Ms. Mason tells us that children should learn to hear the words of the scriptures from a young age and that their first exposure to scripture stories should be straight from the scriptures themselves. Some secondary sources may certainly be used, but I would look to see that they incorporate phrases and words from the scriptures and do not try to simplify concepts for "little minds." In our home we use only the scripture stories from the LDS online store in addition to scripture.

Which books are not twaddly?

Good, quality literature will challenge minds with beautiful, elevated language. It will espouse Ms. Mason's living ideas of "the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to 'cause' and country and kind, to the past and the present."

Do not overlook the illustrations. I personally think there is such a thing as "picture twaddle." Look for well-illustrated books whose pictures are refined, and that develop an affinity and attraction for beauty.

Since I've lately been searching for books for Kindergarten and younger, here are some of my favorite Non-Twaddle Authors and Books for that age:

A. A. Milne (his books are a good example of literature that talk to children, not down to children)
Margaret Wise Brown
Barbara Cooney
A nice Mother Goose collection
Aesop's Fables
A Child's Garden of Verses
George and Martha books
Beatrix Potter
well-written and well-illustrated fairy and folk tales

A Twaddle-Free Home Library?

While there are certainly some books that are unquestionably good literature, I also think that each families' ideals will be slightly different. I come from a family with a great sense of humor and a love of fantasy and monsters (don't ask), so our list of favorite books that would probably not be included in Ms. Mason's canon includes the Sesame Street book "There's a Monster at the End of This Book" and Dr. Seuss classics like "There's a Wocket in my Pocket."

I've also found that children invariably receive twaddly books as gifts. I never disparage the gift but I've noticed that my children do not ask to read those books as often and when we do decide to thin our collection, those books are quietly disposed of.

When picking out books at the library, I usually allow my children to pick two or three books of their own choosing, whether they fit my standards or not. I then check out many other quality books and I think that over time children will become accustomed to good literature and will be able to discern what is twaddle.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things That Work

I've been thinking of things that don't work at our house. (And I don't mean appliances that are broken.) Reason being to figure out how to make them work. That got depressing. So, to lift my spirits, I decided to make a list of things that DO work around here. Here we go:

Going at our own pace with homeschooling.
Beginning of summer I thought Wesley would never read. Now that he's had a few months to mature, he's reading words with short vowels and I'm ecstatic!

Memorizing scriptures and hymns. As part of our morning meetings, we work on memorizing a scripture or hymn each week. This helped enormously when the children needed to memorize their parts for the Primary Program. They had them memorized within a day and I think were the only ones that had them memorized at the first practice.

Having a set day each week to get certain household chores done.
A flylady idea that helps me keep up with clean sheets, towels, paperwork, coupons, errands, and shopping.

Reading scriptures before starting my day. If I don't do it first thing, it doesn't get done and I know it.

Spending the time to bargain shop. I've been yard saleing all summer and keeping an eye out for good deals and now I have almost all my Christmas shopping done. That will be a great load of stress I don't have to deal with come December. Not to mention the cost of Christmas is spread out over half a year so there is no extra expense during the holidays.

Love notes by text message. Now that we have unlimited texting, it's been fun to send (and receive!) love notes to the handsome hubby at random times during the day.

Now I'm gonna rip up the list of things that don't work, because having a list like that around just doesn't work for me.