Sunday, May 1, 2016

Amazing Grace

Weather has been crazy here.  Taken during a hail storm this week from inside the car.  Esther is joyous regardless.
According to my unofficial (and possibly unwitting!) blog advisor, the talented Brittany Watson Jepsen of The House that Lars Built, I'm not suppose to write more than one faith-related post a month.

I might just have to lay aside that advice for just this post, as my last post was also on faith. My mind and heart (and therefore creative energies that would otherwise allow me to write something else in my once-a-week-alottment) have been spinning on a concept shared in my faiths' General Conference: that small acts of grace spark tender feelings of charity.  It was a passing comment in this talk, but it is fathoms deep.

Grace to me means receiving something I don't deserve - something more than I have earned.  In an eternal calculus, I can never truly earn blessings or salvation because I am frail and fail daily, hourly, and even minute-ly.  (As a missionary, I taught that one needs to repent every time they fall short of the example Christ set...that bar is pretty high, so it necessitates ever-constant repentance, doubly meaning that I never deserve anything, really.)  Thus, though blessings are predicated on obedience, each and every blessing inheres grace because I have *not* earned it.  Obedience is part of the equation, but it certainly doesn't entitle me to the blessing.  It is necessary, but not sufficient.  Thus grace.

To undergird the point, I believe the equation for blessings is roughly equivalent to the equation for salvation: "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." We've got to do all within our power, but that power will never get us close to the finish line.  It is grace that saves, every time.  And, similarly, it is grace that blesses, every time.

But grace saves even when we haven't done all in our power.  When I sin, I can be forgiven through the Lord's grace.  The Lord grants me grace, another word for mercy here, in such an instance.  I am made clean and whole and restored the companionship of the Holy Ghost not because I deserve it, but because He does.

As I thought about the General Conference quote on grace above within this doctrinal context, it resonated - when I am forgiven or receive a blessing I don't deserve (by definition), love for God and his Son is sparked within my soul.  It comes sua sponte, of its own accord.  I have not created it, but it is a natural offspring of the grace that he proffers me.

But the General Conference speaker (Elder Uchtdorf, to be precise) was talking about our interpersonal and family relationships.  Offering grace to each other - or granting favors and acceptance and mercy beyond that which we deserve - also sparks charity for one another.  Seeds of love are born when we encounter a human who treats us not with justice, but with mercy.  They are kind when we are not, offers that other cheek, and blesses us when they ought to curse us.  In this way, I think what Elder Uchtdorf was saying in that 10 second sound bite, is that love begets love.  More, he promises that charity (or grace) will not fail us, ever.

How wonderful.  Perhaps this is the delightful doctrine behind being merciful to receive mercy, but applied laterally rather than vertically - our grace-filled actions towards our loved ones (or not-so-loved-ones in that moment!) means that God can spark the heart and fill it with love.

So many in my life have overlooked my selfish disposition and treated me with grace I didn't deserve, sparking love for them and others in my heart.  Perhaps I can now start practicing such grace.  So much to learn!

Small Wonders

* At night, Esther has learned how to say "I love you": she'll say "I" and I'll saw "love", than she responds with "ewe."  Gets me every time.
* Esther has become verbal all of a sudden.  She verbalizes one-word (sometimes two!) thoughts and requests often.  Unfortunately, some of it is "MINE!," "No no no" and "uh-oh."  Other times, it's clear "thank yous," "night-night," and the like.
*I've finally gotten Esther to fold her arms for .1 seconds maybe two or three times.  Prayer - sitting still, saying anything - is another matter.  She'll usually say "amen" before I can get anything in, and squirm to get down.  Tonight, however, she even came up with something she was thankful for on her own - gratifyingly, it was "mamma." Let's not start talking about reverence in church...
* G has gotten into the adorable habit of cocking his head to one side and asking, "Should we [suggestion of whatever he wants to do - read a book, go outside, play with toys, watch a show]"?  Hard to refuse.  This morning it was "So...Daddy, should we go on a walk or something?"
* G can now recognize the Spirit on his own.  I'm thrilled.  If I am prompted to ask him if he feels anything while we are talking about the scriptures, in church or while watching General Conference, he'll respond "I feel the Spirit." I'll sometimes press him to make sure he is not just saying that, and he certainly does.  I'm so thrilled he's gotten to this crucial milestone.  Now it's on to helping him think through an appropriate prayer to verbalize on his own.  We are starting with identifying, before we start the prayer, 3 things he is grateful for from the day and 2 things he would like (coached to help him recognize the things Heavenly Father can certainly grant/say "yes" to).  Hope this prayer project works.  Now that he can recognize the Spirit, he needs the tools to build his faith on his own.
* G has started shrugging his shoulders, mostly at appropriate times.  Usually when he doesn't know something, but often for emphasis.  Kills me.

Esther loves to get up in this chair by herself and "read"

Bedtime shenanigans.  She put this on her head and walked around, sometimes into walls, as she couldn't see anything but her feet. Ignore the bedtime mess!

Esther and I took a quick trip out to Utah last weekend.  She became BFF with the stewardesses in no time.

The purpose of the Utah trip was to surprise my dad IN the temple for his 70th.  First time all of us were there together.  Pretty special.  

We ate lots of meat and then had ice-cream afterwards - things my dad loves, all in one day.  That and we each hand-wrote our testimonies for him and bound it together for him. (Can you tell I got up at 3:00 a.m.?)

Esther found an audience.
Esther bonded with my cousin and an all-time-favorite human, Jordan Toone.
And my brother Paul, whom she gave kisses on demand.  Not even I get that!


Parking lot of Maplin, a luxury shop in town.  Totally normal, right? 
Feeding a pup wood chips. My kids need a dog so badly sometimes it is embarrassing.

Tuned up the bike!  I can fly again!

Clean up Hopkinton Day.  Kids were champs and both pitched in.

Sunday walks.



  1. I loved your comments on Grace. You have a lovely and intelligent soul. Love learning from you.

  2. ... and write more about the gospel and your faith. It is one of your strengths. It is a testimony to your children.