Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Goodbye No. 20, Hello No. 2.

The Nicholsons are on the move and I am so beyond excited! This will be our third house as a family. Is that a lot? It's a lot isn't it? I feel like it's a lot for two and half years of marriage. But with a Tiny Terror and a Little Mark stepping on the scene, more space is definitely called for! Oh and did I mention my fabulous brother is also moving in?! That's right Logan J C Hunter is joining the Nicholson crew and we are so happy to have him. 

Not to mention that the clever cookie will be studying at none other than the very prestigious and shockingly gorgeous University of St Andrews! Congratulations Logan. Who knew they accepted Scottish students there??

So we are saying goodbye to our beautiful home up on the windy hill! We have adored living here and are sad to have to leave. Things we will miss about no. 20:
- The OUTSTANDING views that everyone comments on when they visit. The view of our town, the River Tay and both the city of Perth & Dundee can all be seen from our living room windows.
- The gigantic, beautiful built-in wardrobe in our bedroom that I love filling with clothes! 
- The Shetland ponies that were just a small fence away from us and would often come to visit on a sunny day.
- Our lovely little garden which we made use of on a handful of scorching days during the summer of 2015 and where we told everyone that we were expecting a little boy. 
- Our large attic that has served us well, holding all the sentimental things that we don't wish to throw away. 
- The little dining table where we have had countless dinners and made many memories with friends and family. 

Things we won't miss about no. 20:
- The wind! Living up on this hill means when it's windy it's freezing and the gales are really strong. We've had our dustbins fall over many times!
- Walking up the extremely steep hill with a pram to push. I'm sure many of our friends and family will be glad to see the back of that hill.
- Having too much stuff for the size of the house and struggling to find places to put them! 
- Not having a bath (don't worry there is a shower). 

I am so thrilled to have found our new home. If anything it's my dream home - a quaint little cottage complete with a big, beautiful kitchen, a giant field for a back garden where the children can run and play, a real fireplace we can cosy up to on winter nights and a brand new bathroom with both shower AND bath! Not to mention the fact that it's still in the gorgeous area we currently live in, a place I swore I'd never leave. We are feeling so incredibly blessed. We hope to live here a long time where I'm sure many wonderful memories will be made.  

Monday, 15 February 2016

Service Stripes

'Bare' with me while I do something brave. I'm not a bikini wearer and never have been but this is what I wear when I do my workout. When I get changed I look in the mirror and sometimes all I see is my stomach and my stretch marks. Stretch marks used to terrify me and as I reached the end of my first pregnancy I was so relieved to see I had made it without getting any - Ha how wrong I was. I think they appeared at around week 35! After having my second baby I've grown to feel proud of my stretch marks.

To me, they are war stripes and they represent the changing, growing, stretching, retching, accommodating, aching, bearing, carrying, sharing, feeling, enduring, waiting, throbbing, twinging, adapting, re-shaping, creating, blooming, nurturing, persevering and producing that my body experienced for nine months and for another nine months just eight months later! My stretch marks bear witness that I gave a part of myself in order to give life to another - and another! I wear my stripes proudly and with the thought in mind that for every stripe I may look at in disgust, there is a woman out there who wishes she had them.

"Jesus endured physical brutality as the Atonement continued. It is written that Jesus was scourged (see Matthew 27:26), which means He was whipped with a lash that likely left he stripes referenced in Isaiah 53:5 with the promise "with his stripes we are healed." Many women have "stripes" or stretch marks as a reminder of the stretching her body experienced while being with child. Dr. Robert Bradley said they "should be worn as 'service stripes' of motherhood." Christ's stripes can be a reminder of the sacrifice she made for her child. Her body has changed. It bears the signs of service given in behalf of another." 
The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth. 
By Felice Austin, CHt, Lani Axman, Heather Farrell, CD (DO√ĎA), Robyn Allgood, AAHCC, and Sheridan Tipley, HCHI. (Pg 347). 

Totally worth it!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

4 Steps to Setting Goals

The end of a year and start of a new has always seemed to be a time for renewal and self-improvement. The tradition of new year resolutions can be traced back to more than 4,000 years ago where the Babylonians celebrated a festival called Aitku which involved renewing their loyalty to their king and their covenants to the Gods. 

Centuries later, similar traditions were practiced by the Romans and although their new year once began in March, it soon shifted to January 1st where the day would be filled with oath-taking and temple sacrifices. These principles of renewal and re-affirmation continue to crop up everytime January 1st comes around. People all around the world set goals and commit themselves to be better or do better in some area of their lives. 

Popular new year resolutions include:
- To lose weight/get fit/eat healthier.
- Spend less/save money.
- Quit smoking.
- Travel to new places.
- Spend more time with family.
- Learn something new: an instrument, a language etc.

People tend to look at their bad habits and try (for the next 12 months) to get rid of them or improve themselves in some way. These days people must not be very good at keeping their commitments since people seem to associate new year resolutions with failure and giving in. The joke goes that people try to keep their resolutions for as long as January or February. They might even make it to March but somewhere along those string of months that make up the 365 day year, those optimistic goals seem to evaporate and are long forgotten by December. 

A recent study in the US showed that 45% of Americans usually make New Year Resolutions. 8% said they were successful in achieving them. The study also showed that people who explicitly make resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals than those people who do not explicitly make resolutions.

Goal-setting is something I have been taught from a young age. My parents always set family goals and as my siblings and I grew older they would encourage us to make our own personal goals. I also participated in the Personal Progress programme designed for 12-18 year old girls within the LDS church. This involved a lot of goal-setting and committing oneself to be better.

In my late teens I began to take my new year resolutions very seriously. I'd spend time in both December and January figuring out what I wanted to do in the next year and how I wanted to be a better person. I'd write my goals down and I'd commit myself to trying my absolute hardest to achieve them by the end of the year. There were many I did achieve and many I did not. But I know I'd have been a lot worse off if I hadn't written my goals down and shared them with those around me. 

Fast forward to present day and now I have a system that seems to work really well. But before I list the process I'm going to try and answer an often asked question: why is it so important to set goals? Well let me ask another question - how do you get anywhere without clearly expressing where you want to end up? Setting goals helps us focus and stay motivated. Research has shown that when it comes to business, improvement in performance is directly linked to goal setting. 

Here are the steps I take when deciding on my New Year Resolutions:

1. Finding the perfect diary. 
There is something really nice about a newly purchased notepad. I just love it when I get a brand new journal or notebook. The pages are blank, untouched and smooth. It's so refreshing in a therapeutic sort of way. What better way to make new year resolutions than with a new book to write them in?

I am an organised person. I like to have an organised diary where I can take note of all of our family's plans, tasks and activities for each new day. The benefit from keeping a strict diary is that it becomes an event journal. I can look back at the year and clearly see all the wonderful things I did. Often I will find and remember experiences that I had forgotten about. Reading my old diaries helps to envoke past memories.

 I tend to use the back of the diary to take note of my new year resolutions. That way I have them with me practically all of the time. Anytime I open my diary to make note of something I have a flick through my resolutions and think about how well or not so well I am doing. 
* Details of my 2016 diary and it's review can be found in a separate blog post: Family Life Book 2016 Review.

Picking a diary that you like is key. That way because it looks good or is organised well you will want to use it more. Last year I used a diary with one of my favourite childhood characters on the cover - Peter Rabbit. The year before, it was a blue floral pattern. This year I was very precise about what I wanted and I requested my husband get me it for Christmas. 

WHSmith have their own range of Laura Ashley stationary - Laura Ashley Grace. The notebooks and journals come in a beautiful black and gold floral print. Unfortunately the diary is no longer available so Mark bought me a notebook in that style instead. This year I have chosen to use that book for my new year resolutions and have a separate diary. 
*Laura Ashley Grace products can be found here:

2. Choosing my resolutions.
When deciding on goals for the new year I like to take a long think about what I want this year to be about. I always try to find an inspirational quote that I want to make the focus of my year. This year my theme is "We can't direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." I am trying hard to focus on my attitude and make a difference in my life based on the way I choose to see things and the way I respond to others. 

After deciding on my theme I categorise the areas in my life. This year I have three main categories: spiritual goals, personal goals and work goals. I look at what my resolutions were for the previous year and pick out the ones I didn't achieve or pay much attention to. I ask myself 'why didn't I make this improvement?' Sometimes I'll find that the goal wasn't as achievable as I thought. So I'll change it a little and add it to my new list of goals. 

I then think about the year I've had - things that I've said or done that I didn't like or things I liked that I didn't say or do enough. I focus on what I feel needs improvement in my life and I often share these with my husband. Here are some of my goals for 2016:
Spiritual: - Organised weekly Family Home Evening.
- Visit the temple at least three times.
Personal: - Spend more one-on-one time with my husband.
- Learn a new recipe per week.
- Recruit at least three more people.
- Prepare monthly training tips for my team.

3. Create steps for achieving goals.
For each goal I like to make little spider charts. I write the goal in the centre and then circle it. I then draw long spider legs all the way around it and attach steps and actions I need to take in order to achieve that goal. Here is an example below:

4. Share resolutions with others.
I think an important part of setting goals is making sure you express them. Writing them down is one way of doing it but telling someone close to you about your goals helps to make them official. I often feel like I work harder on goals when I know others are aware of my ideas and have that expectation. 

So there you have it - the process by which I choose my yearly resolutions. Throughout the year I always like to keep a short journal of ways I am achieving goals. This is a good way to force me to really think about my progress. Often I find that I am making those improvements without even realising it! 

Watch out for my next blog post all about my amazing diary for 2016! 

“First, think about your life and set your priorities. Find some quiet time regularly to think deeply about where you are going and what you will need to do to get there. Second, set short-term goals that you can reach. Set goals that are well balanced—not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. Write down your attainable goals and work on them according to their importance. Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting”- Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My Little Green Book

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Hymn book published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was something I was unaware of until I came across an article in the September 2015 edition of The Ensign.  It was a lovely tribute to the hymn book and so I decided to write my own little accolade to the signature green book found in our chapels across the world.  Having grown up singing many of the songs found within its pages, the LDS hymn book is one that I treasure.  Music is a powerful thing that can evoke and conjure up many feelings, emotions and memories.  Some of my fondest and most spiritual experiences have come through the influence of music.  *The Ensign article can be found here:

When I was a young girl my parents bought me my own pocket-sized edition of the hymn book.   I guess I must have been quite young as I can see it is my mother's handwriting when I read 'Hollie Hunter' inside the cover.  My little green book is well used with the binding out of place a little and some delightful yellow scribbles over hymn 340 'The Star-Spangled Banner' (sorry America).  Something that I started doing in my late teens involved circling the hymn number with a red pen if it suddenly became significant to me.  I would write a note at the bottom of the page reminding me why it was so important.  

 For example, I have hymn 185 (Reverently and Meekly Now) highlighted because I once asked my brother-in-law what his favourite hymn was and he picked out this one.  He explained to me that it was the only hymn that comes from the point of view of our Lord, whilst other hymns talk about and praise Him.  I read the words over and over.  How special a person the author of this hymn must have been!  I'd say you have to be very in tune with and moved by the spirit to write something as if coming from Jesus Christ Himself.
Another red circle can be found on hymn 301 (I am a Child of God) where I wrote "18/11/12: Moyra held baby Alistair during sacrament.  He looked straight at her and didn't take his eyes off as she sang the hymn."  I remember watching that Celestial moment take place and knowing with a certainty that that little baby knew exactly where he had come from, that he was a child of God and had been placed with parents both kind and dear.  I felt very blessed to have been present during such a sacred experience.

Growing up in the church I had the privilege to take part in Primary (an organized program of religious instruction and activity for children from eighteen months of age until their twelfth birthdays) and music was a huge part of that.  We would use The Children's Songbook which is a wonderful resource that I also treasure.  However, I remember when my mum was in charge of music we were preparing for our yearly primary presentation which we would perform in front of all of the congregation.  We were all extremely excited to be told that we would be learning a song from the Hymn book - No. 2 'The Spirit of God.' 

 This is a very popular LDS hymn so we had probably all heard it before but learning and performing it was a totally different thing.  I remember feeling so grown up and so privileged to be singing a song from the hymn book.  The chorus of the song is particularly special and includes the words "We'll sing and we'll shout" so you can imagine that we would do exactly that!  At the top of each hymn there is a word to describe how the hymn should be sung.  Above this hymn the word 'exultantly' is found.   I do believe the Airdrie ward primary children lived up to that word and sung this hymn with absolute joy and jubilation!

Once a child has reached the age of 12 they move from the primary programme to the youth programme: Young Men and Young Women.  The Young Women programme was the most wonderful time for me growing up.  I loved going to church on a Sunday and participating in activities during the week.  I had a great circle of friends and leaders around me from the ages of 12-18.  I cherish very fond memories and experiences that prepared me for adulthood.  I can recall many times that we made use of the hymn book in youth. Hymn 280 (Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning) is very special to me as it reminds me of my first Young Women's activity which was a welcome party in my honour.  

My parents were there, my sister, other leaders and young women plus one of my best friends who would be joining me in Young Women just months later.  I was very blessed that my grandmother was the Young Women's President at the time and boy was she good at what she did!  She took the tune of hymn 280 and changed the words to "Welcome, Welcome Hollie Hunter."  Very cool!  The chorus of the song went like this and was sung every time someone new joined Young Women:
Welcome Welcome Hollie Hunter
Time to move from Primary!
Time to join us in Young Women
Oh how happy we will be!
*There were verses and you can attempt to pick my grandmother's brain if you'd like to hear them!

Something I am sure many girls who attended Young Women will be able to relate to is the dreaded 'Learn to conduct' Tuesday night activity!  I remember when we were told we were going to learn how to conduct music I couldn't have been less enthused.  In my head it was going to be difficult and considerably boring!  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Now, I have a skill that I have been able to use many times.  I have conducted the music in many Sacrament meetings and at other events.  I have even been able to teach others how to '1, 2, 3, 4...' (hands flailing in the right directions).  Instructions on how to use the beat patterns can be found nearer the back of the hymn book if you fancy giving it a go!

Hymn number 209 (Hark! the Herald Angels Sing) is another that I've highlighted.  I wrote "30/12/12: My first Sunday in Bingham ward with Mark."  This was my first Sunday visiting the ward of the guy I was dating at the time.  Anyone that knows me knows how much I love Christmas and for many, many reasons.  However, the fact that Mark and I started dating around this time will always take its place high above the rest. 165 pages back the way at hymn 44 (Beautiful Zion, Built Above) you can read "29/08/13: Mark and I are married, and sealed the very next day for time and all Eternity."  Eight months before, when I sat next to him at church on a wintery December's final Sunday, I could never have imagined I would be marrying him that next Summer.

I remember reading the words of that Hymn:
Beautiful place of pearly white...
He who was slain on Calvary opens those pearly gates for me...
Beautiful angels clothed in white...
Beautiful crowns on evry brow...
Beautiful all who enter there...
There shall my rest be long and sweet.

These are just some of the words that truly touched my heart.  I chose this hymn for our wedding because it was a reminder of what we are trying to achieve, the place we are trying to get to.  I knew in my mind too that we would be at the temple the next day, clothed in white and surrounded by all things beautiful.  I know that the temple is the one place we can be closest to Heavenly Father and the Eternity in Zion that He promises us.  This song reminds me of the Celestial power used to seal our family together forever.  Its an absolute treasure of a hymn in my eyes.

My little green book has other red markings throughout: when close family friends gave a beautiful musical item in Sacrament and I felt the Spirit so strong (thank you Bleyl Family), when a dear friend had his last Sunday at church before leaving home to join the Army, when a visiting speaker at stake conference stopped halfway through his talk to ask the congregation to stand and sing 'Praise to the Man.'  The list goes on and on!  I urge all who have their own copy of the Hymn book to mark your favourites, take it out once in a while and read the words or get the family together and sing some praises to the Lord!

If you don't have a copy - get one!  Next time you're at church participate in the singing that takes place in most of our meetings.  Sing loud and clear and show your love for the Lord through music.  Play uplifting music at home too!  Positive, cheerful and wholesome music can really soothe the soul and bring out thoughts and feelings we didn't know were there!  As found in the First Presidency Preface of the LDS Hymn Book "Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.  They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace."

Happy birthday to my little green book!  *Please feel free to share with me your favourite and special hymns in the comments below.

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads" (D&C 25:12).

"The weekly meetings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple always begin with a hymn. Elder Russell M. Nelson plays the organ accompaniment. The First Presidency, who conduct these meetings, rotate the privilege of selecting the opening song. Most of us record the date each hymn is sung. According to my records, the opening song most frequently sung during the decade of my participation has been “I Need Thee Every Hour” (Hymns, 1985, no. 98). Picture the spiritual impact of a handful of the Lord’s servants singing that song before praying for his guidance in fulfilling their mighty responsibilities." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

"Brothers and sisters, let us use the hymns to invite the Spirit of the Lord into our congregations, our homes, and our personal lives.  Let us memorize and ponder them, recite and sing them, and partake of their spiritual nourishment.  Know that the song of the righteous is a prayer unto our Father in Heaven, "and it shall be answered with a blessing upon (your) heads."  - The First Presidency.

Translation Goes On

The Church’s 1985 hymnbook in English is 30 years old this month, but the work of producing hymnbooks for Saints who speak—and sing—in other languages goes on. Each language version of the hymnbook is carefully crafted, containing core hymns familiar to members worldwide as well as other hymns that are meaningful to those who speak that particular language. The selection and translation process can be long, but the aim is to ensure that every hymnbook in every language is the most beautiful, doctrinally sound, and unifying collection possible. (The Hymnbook Turns 30, September 2015 Ensign).

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Why I Let My One Year Old Take The Sacrament

My little girl is one year old and I let her take the Sacrament.  For a lot of Mormons this probably seems pretty normal and something that lots of parents do.  For others (Mormon or not) this may seem strange, unnecessary and (in their own opinion) wrong.  Growing up, getting married and when planning a family, allowing my children to take the Sacrament isn't really something I gave much thought and certainly not something I thought I would find myself writing about.

It happened in my own family and in the families round about me at church.  So why would I question it?  Well, a part of being married is that their are two people involved which means two minds, two opinions and too many differences!  I am however, very grateful for differences and how they make us consider other ideas and ways of doing things.

With that thought, I found myself rather surprised to hear my husband talk about how our children wouldn't be taking the Sacrament before they are baptised.  For some reason I felt myself getting really defensive about it.  It was a no-brainer to me that our children should be allowed to take the Sacrament and I had my list of reasons at the ready to fire at him! 

When asked what his big problem about it was he didn't really have much to say except that having passed the sacrament for many years he had witnessed parents almost forcing their little ones to take it and that didn't seem right to him.  After further clarification it became apparent that he didn't really have a problem and that he did see the importance of teaching children from a young age.

Our discussion did lead me to think on it more though.  In fact, I have pondered on it A LOT.  The pondering has been great and it has been nice to take in other views concerning the subject.  And I have actually found a few other reasons why people may think it is wrong to let children partake of the Sacrament.  However, I haven't changed my mind about the matter.

Here are some issues raised by others regarding the matter and here are my reasons why I believe it is not only okay to let children  partake of the Sacrament but that it is also a  huge part of their learning and growth in their youth.  *I might add - some may wonder why I would ponder so much on the subject or make an issue about something that doesn't need to be made.  It is my understanding that we have been given agency (the power to make our  own choices).  I believe we should be well informed about all our choices and I believe that the Sacrament is an extremely sacred ordinance to be taken seriously and thought about often.

I see three main points regarding the opinion that children should not be allowed to partake of the Sacrament:
1. Children are pure, innocent, unaccountable and therefore do not need to be baptised (until the age of eight).  This is the belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is found in scripture.  In Moroni 8:11 we read "And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism."  In verse 20 it says "And he that saith little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ."

Further to that the scriptures also say "And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know forever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old" (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 17:11).  Because the Sacrament is the ordinance by which we renew the covenants made at baptism, children therefore do not need to take the Sacrament.

2. Because Sacrament is the ordinance by which we renew baptisimal covenants, it would not be appropriate for anyone who has not been baptised to partake of the Sacrament.

3. No one should take the Sacrament until they have a proper understanding of its meaning and significance.

I would like to address the first two points by referring to 3 Nephi chapter 18 found in the Book of Mormon.  The first two points suggest some sort of restriction to taking the Sacrament that was never instituted by Jesus Christ or His Disciples.  In 3 Nephi 18:28-30 we read "And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood."

The only restriction the Lord placed upon this ordinance was that it not be partaken of unworthily.  Everybody sins and make mistakes for we are not perfect like God.  Therefore I would suggest that anyone who is actively trying to live by the Lords commandments and participating in the repentance process often and when needed, is worthy to partake of the Sacrament.

 Although baptism is necessary as a part of God's plan of Salvation it is not a necessary condition for repenting and trying to follow the Lord's commandments.  We want non-members who attend Sacrament meeting to feel welcome and comfortable.  They can take the Sacrament if they so choose to, however, it is our responsibility to help them understand what the Sacrament is and why we take it (March 2012 New Era). 

As the only restriction to partaking  the sacrament is if one takes it unworthily, it is therefore not a problem for children to partake because they are unaccountable and cannot be unworthy.  Elder Russel M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once said "Little children, as sinless beneficiaries of the Lord’s Atonement, may partake of the sacrament as they prepare for covenants that they will make later in life."
I would like to refer back to 3 Nephi 18 where an interesting suggestion may be made.  In this chapter Jesus Christ has appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection and is organising His Church.  He introduces the Sacrament to His Disciples and the multitudes of people also present. 

He explains the ordinance and what it means and commands that everyone partakes of the bread and wine.  However, it isn't until afterwards in chapter 19 that the Nephites are baptised.  This suggests that the Lord did not have a problem with people taking the Sacrament when they had not yet been baptised.
However, some may argue that  my above point doesn't really stand because these people were in fact already baptised.  President Joseph Fielding Smith said "When Christ appeared to the Nephites on this continent, he commanded them to be baptized,although they had been baptized previously for the remission of their sins. . . . The Savior commanded Nephi and the people to be baptized again, because he had organized anew the Church under the gospel.  Before that it had been organized under the law." 

So,it is true that many of the people may have been already baptised but I do not think we can say with a surety that every single one of them had been.  Either way - the Lord wanted them to be baptised again and seemed to introduce the Sacrament before this took place.

The third reason listed seems to miss the point of Sacrament altogether.  Children are not allowed to partake of the Sacrament until they are aged eight but this is not because when a child turns eight they are suddenly able to understand the Atonement and other associated concepts like reconciliation and the fall.  What is required is an understanding of right and wrong - something that most, if not all, eight year olds have.

The understanding of the Atonement comes with time and learning.  Even as adults we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement.  I believe that if I want my children to come to an understanding of the Sacrament, what it means and how important it is in our lives then I need to teach them about it from a young age.  This is how my testimony of the Gospel and my understanding of the Sacrament and the Lord's Atoning Sacrifice was developed - through the teachings of my parents from a young age.

Frequently letting my children take the Sacrament and teaching them about it will help them to nurture their testimonies and I also hope, help them to develop a lifetime of participation in the Sacrament and renewing the covenants made at baptism.  I will teach them that when we take the Sacrament we are showing Heavenly Father that we want to do our best and follow His commandments.

At one year old another significant reason for letting my little girl partake of the Sacrament is because ultimately, she wants to.  She watches what I do and she wants to do it too.  And for anyone that doesn't have a toddler, when you don't let them do or have what they want they aren't exactly quiet about it!  If it saves a tantrum meltdown in the middle of a reverent Sacrament meeting then she can have all the bread that she likes as far as I'm concerned! 

Pointing to the Priesthood holders passing the sacrament and focusing on whats happening in the room really helps my little one keep quiet and sit on my knee till it is finished.  Every week I am always really proud of us both for the reverence we just about manage to maintain and I am glad because I know she is learning to be reverent and so will hopefully continue to do so throughout her life.

A concluding thought - "Without baptism, partaking of the Sacrament has no effect on our covenants with the Lord. But partaking of the Sacrament without baptism is still a valid way to express one's desire to remain obedient to the Lord's commandments, and it is a gesture that is pleasing to the Lord regardless of baptismal status." - Anonymous.

President Brigham Young
"Children who are capable of repentance should be baptized when they reach the proper age, according to the revelations. Up to that age they are entitled to the sacrament."
(Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.2, p.289)

President Joseph Fielding Smith
"There is no reason why any member of the Church should be concerned over the fact that little children may partake of the sacrament. The most important thing is to be sure that we who are grown to full maturity keep ourselves worthy of this sacred ordinance.
(Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.2, p.90)

CHILDREN TO PARTAKE OF SACRAMENT. All little children virtually belong to the Church until they are eight years of age. Should they die before that age, they would enter the celestial kingdom. The Savior said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Then why should they be deprived of the sacrament?
(Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.350)

Friday, 18 September 2015

Why September is the Best Time to plan for Christmas

So the Summer is over and the children have (willingly?) returned to school.  Whilst some of us are picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off from the previous seven weeks of constant, fantastical'll find me nestled into our massive cuddle chair with pen and paper in hand and the inner list monster inside me just waiting to be unleashed!  This will be our third Christmas together as a family and if there is anything that the previous two have taught me is that you can never be too prepared.   In fact, starting at the beginning of the year is a great time to start (particularly if you'd like to put some money away) but September seems the perfect time to begin preparations.  Although you may shudder at the thought of gift shopping, decorating and planning family outings as early as September, it really does seem to make everything a lot easier and can make your Christmas experience a whole lot less stressful!  So to all you avid Christmas Eve shoppers please do AVERT your eyes!

Here are the tips that work for us:

The Power of Lists
Writing a list is one of the best ways to bring clarity to your mind.  You can write a list to remember things, prioritize items, become focused and identify your goals.  I find that when I write a to do list or a to get list I am far more organised than when I don't.  I remember all the things needing done, I feel less stressed, more focused and things just seem downright easier.  When preparing for Christmas I make several lists e.g:
- Gifts to buy
- Gifts to make
- Advent Activities
- Events during December
- Service Opportunities

Often I find myself making lists for or inside my main lists.  For example, the 'Gifts to buy' list would be separated and categorized into the different family members we would be giving gifts to e.g:
-Gifts to buy:
HUNTERS (my family)                               
- Benjamin: Package of goodies
- Amber: My Little Pony                              
- Dad: A telescope
NICHOLSONS (Marks family)
- Levi: Wooden horse
- Susan: Makeup set
- Kieron: Jumper & Book
Lillie: Baby & toy pram, train set etc.
- Mark: Lego Set 

There is a great blog post shown in the link below with Christmas list templates that you can purchase on Etsy for a small amount in order to keep your Christmas as organised as possible! Check Katie's blog below:

What is Important to you? 
I would say that getting your priorities straight from the beginning will save a lot of wasted time.  Ask yourself 'What is most important to me this Christmas?'  or 'Which aspect of Christmas do I want to spend most of my time preparing for?'  This will differ from person to person so its important to figure out what's at the top of the list for you.  Are you desperate to spend as little as you can this year but still manage to give the gifts you'd like and have the special meal you're dreaming of?  Maybe you'd like to create a masterpiece Christmas tree admired by all who set eyes upon it?  Or perhaps you want to bring the family together for a few moments every day of December to participate in a seasonal tradition?  Whatever it is put it to the top of your list and keep it there throughout all of your Christmas Prep.

Creating that Gift List
Start now and make a list of the people you would like to give a gift to this year.  Next to each person I always write how much I am willing to spend. This is just so there is a rough budget and I don't over-spend - I am very much a person who believes that it is the gift that counts and it doesn't matter to me much how little or big I spend.  Once I have thought of a specific gift I would like to buy or create for someone I make sure to have a browse online to check for the best prices and I am always careful to wait and watch for those sales that come in November! Sometimes we can get a bit stumped trying to pick out a gift for someone and that's okay! I usually try to make sure I have something picked for everyone by the end of October.

Start Buying Now
Once my list is pretty much complete I pick out a couple of things that I can afford to purchase now.  Spreading the costs over the next few months can really help instead of spending a huge amount of money in one go in December.  I try and focus the gift purchasing around our pay days, purchasing a few things at a time.  As there are so many people in our family I do find that when December comes I still have a few things on the list to get but we always manage to do it and I know we are so much better off because I begun the purchasing a few months before.

Find a Special Gift Place
I personally do not wrap presents until December.  In fact, I do a lot of my wrapping just a couple of days before!  This is mainly because I enjoy it and include it as a regular Christmas tradition.  But wrapping presents early can be confusing - one might forget what one bought for one's brother-in-law!  So I think it is good to find some space in your home and keep all the Christmas gifts together.  This also keeps things from being lost or forgotten about.  How many of you can admit to losing or forgetting about a gift or two over the years?  MUM?

 Create Several Calendar Templates for December
This is one of my top tips!  Create a few copies of the month of December (in calendar form) showing you each day of the week.  This will come in handy if December is a jam-packed, busy month for you as it is for many people.  I would use one to put together our family advent activities (1st: bake Christmas cookies, 2nd: Watch the Grinch, 3. Go carol singing etc.).  I'd use another to plan out any events we would be attending throughout December: 12th: Visit the Deer Centre, 17th: Ward Christmas activity, 24th: Christmas Eve Service.  You can even use the calendar to decide on days you will make purchases, decorate and participate in other seasonal activities.  Make them big and stick them up somewhere that you will look at them often.

Write your Christmas Cards now
What a great time saver for Christmas time! Lots of people do Christmas cards differently. Last year we took a family photo and made it into a fridge magnet for all our friends and family. This year we will probably put another family picture together. So why not take a picture now and get it printed? Or if you prefer to choose pretty cards to send out have a look online or in the stores. Lots of stores begin selling Christmas stock in September. Write them out and deal them. Start collecting stamps and set a date on your calendar in December to post them out.  

January Sales
I hate to slip this tip in here as it won't help those planning for this coming Christmas!  But I think it is a worthy tip that should be remembered for next year.  Wrapping paper, decorations and gifts that didn't sell will all be widely discounted in January.  Take advantage and stock up on the wrapping paper and ribbon!  This is something you can check off the list for next year and hide away in the attic till then.  If you love a decorated house at Christmas you can often find decorations you seen, loved but couldn't afford discounted at a much healthier price!  Some people even buy gifts for next Christmas in these sales (something I have not yet braved) but if you're feeling up for it - go for it and grab yourself a bargain!

Make Service a part of your Christmas
My final tip is to do something good for someone else this Christmas!  You can be as prepared as you like, spend as much time as you like decorating your tree or finding the perfect gifts but it is my belief that Christmas won't be at its greatest until we take the time to show some love and give some service.  This by no means needs to be a huge gesture.  There are so many things we can do to make someone else's Christmas as jolly as ours.  Here are some examples from my own past Christmases:
- Singing Christmas Carols for the Elderly in a Care home.
- Inviting the local Missionaries (young men & women spending two years of their lives and therefore 2 Christmases away from their families to spread the message of Christ) to come help decorate the Christmas tree.  Providing a special, early Christmas dinner for them!
- Baking cupcakes for the neighbours and visiting them on Christmas Eve.

Stay stress free this Christmas and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.  These tips allow me to do that: I don't have to worry about how we will have enough money to pay the bills AND pay for Christmas in December, I won't/don't have to drag my little children out to the shops desperately trying to find some gifts at the last minute and ultimately, I can focus on my family and have a wonderful month together.  I can centre our Christmas on its true meaning which (to me) is the celebration of Jesus Christ, His birth and His purpose on Earth.  Whatever Christmas means to you take the time to focus on it and treasure it by getting all the other stuff out of the way and start your planning in September.