French, Anyone?

I have decided to make an attempt to learn French. I need to stress that this will be a tiny attempt. In my short past, I have found the attempt to learn a language to be something that is an impossibility to me- like math. No matter how hard I try, I have not been successful. Its almost like I have a mental block that tells me I can't do it... so therefore I live up to that idea and I am truly unable to do it. I feel a little uncomfortable with that idea though; the idea that something that is perfectly possible in impossible for me. I am intelligent, kind, motivated, and determined. There is no rational reason that I can come up with that I cannot learn a language. And I loved my time in Paris and I am interested in moving to Canada... so...

Today I will try! I pledge to give five minutes at least four days a week to this goal. Not so much that I feel pressured, but enough to remind me of my goal and to learn a word and how to use it. And if I am really good... I will try to stick to appropriate words, although that doesn't sound like as much fun! :o)

So, if I want to try and do this without the help of my family because I am hoping it will be a pleasant surprise, does anybody else know of any good resources for learning the language? If you have learned a language before, what helped you the most? And please, what was not helpful to you? What advice would you give me?


Prayer, Service and a U-Turn

Today, until just recently I was having a great day. I felt so peaceful and just... happy. I really couldn't find anything that seemed to break in and distress the 'groove' so to speak.... until this afternoon. I am disappointed that I can be so easily acted upon and I am really disappointed that I 'allow' myself to have negative reactions to things. Even when something isn't good and is negative, it doesn't mean that I need to dwell on it and it doesn't mean that I have to forget all the good that I am surrounded with. So why do I have such a hard time focusing on the positives?

Anyway, I decided to pick up my scriptures and do a 'random' reading. Yesterday at church, there was a great discussion by two members of the stake presidency on the importance of scripture reading. I have sat through MANY lessons on this topic throughout my life with small variations based on teaching skills and class interest and focus, but essentially they have been all the same. You must read your scriptures because:

1. It is a commandment and you will be held accountable.- Some teachers have suggested that you will be cursed for not reading, others have suggested that you will 'lose blessings' without appropriate scripture study, and others have gone to even more interesting lengths; one I remember in particular is John Bytheway who thought we 'might' have to confess to the actual prophets who wrote these books after we die that we didn't read them because … *** insert lame excuse here***.

2. If the scriptures are a gift given to us by a loving Heavenly Father to help guide us, give answers and advice, and offer comfort and hope... then how ungrateful are we if we allow this positive and loving gift to sit on the shelf collecting dust? I know of one member who was born in the church and while she has had periods of inactivity she has for the most part been a faithful attendee (she confessed to me several months ago that she has never read the Book of Mormon.) How many others of my faith fit in into this mold?

The phrase 'reading the scriptures' is one of the best generic answers for church. Any question asked with very few exceptions can be answered with it and it will be an unassailable answer. But while it is an 'easy answer', it tends to not be an easy thing to do. And the lesson on Sunday mentioned that when we pray, our answers from God are more likely to come from the scriptures than anything else. I have always thought that answers would come in many other ways as well as scriptures- instead I learned that if you do not read your scriptures, you are less likely to receive answers at all. The stake presidency also talked about how scripture study is uniting- that those who read the scriptures become bound closer to others, even if they are not reading them together. He said that scripture study helps you to interpret true miracles as well.

So today.... today, when I felt confused and sad, I picked up my scriptures and opened them randomly and landed on Alma chapter 34. These verses really pulled me and I read them over and over for almost a quarter of an hour.

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;

18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.

19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.

20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.

21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid–day, and evening.

22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.

23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.

24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.

25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.

26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.

27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.

(Book of Mormon | Alma 34:17 - 28)

I realized that I have not prayed enough lately. I have cried (probably more than necessary I should think :) but I have closed myself off from many but I have also started in my pain to close myself off from my Father. Until that moment I hadn't really realized it. Lately, I have given a short prayer and immediately fallen into sleep. If I wake a few hours later, my brain simply continues a circular pattern of the same fairly horrible feelings and thoughts that have been running through my subconscious for a few months now... and the thoughts will continue for hours until exhausted I fall asleep again. In verses 27-28, Amulek (the speaker) reminds his audience that it is not enough to pray constantly about your welfare, but you must also pray for the welfare of others. I was struck suddenly by the idea that if I am not constantly working for my good but also the good of others, my prayers will be next to useless. I will be crying and begging just to hear the sound of my own voice. Sounds embarrassing and foolish.

So I think I have been doing things a little backwards lately. I have been volunteering and spending my free time working to help my family and others and exhausting myself so that I do not have time to think... no time to read scriptures... and no energy to pray. So I think I need to make a 180 degree change... and start praying more, reading more... and then volunteer and continue to do my work for my family and for others. This may help me find the path I have been looking for over the last few years.


Small Blessings

Tonight, I almost lost a close and loving companion. While I have rarely taken it for granted that my pets are safe outside, they on the other hand sometimes seem to feel that they are invincible. Tonight, Achilles seemed to believe he was so and dusk came and he did not return and night came... and he did not return. My calls and the tapping of a fork on a cat food can brought no response. So I continued to put Bug to sleep and only after he had fallen asleep could I get up to look again. At 10:30, I walked outside to see a pair of eyes glowing from the woods near my door-maybe 100 feet. When I called out towards the eyes, a second set of glowing eyes answered me from under my car and ran towards my open arms. As I picked Achilles up to hold him close to me, I aimed my light at the eyes in the woods,which immediately vanished. I held Achilles close and felt the supreme softness of his fur and his happy purr and thanked my Father. With the trials that I am currently facing, it would have been a difficult blow to lose a friend. Thank you Father for my momentary respite tonight. Thank you so caring enough for me to protect my companion for this moment so that I can feel gratitude and delight and thankfulness for the small miracles that you perform in my life and the lives of others... even the miracles that we have no idea of. Thank you.


2010 Poetry Corner # 7 - "Repentance"

I close my eyes and look within
The deep dark blackness of my sin
is oozing, flushing through my heart
I need to atone... how do I start?

Instead of standing, tall and proud
I need to kneel down on the ground
and pray until my lips are sore
so the Father can open another door
and guide me in so I can see
his love and joy because of me....

I am not perfect- I don't feel whole
I find it hard to heal my soul
but maybe it was meant this way
so I would have to ask each day
for the help I need to just survive
but also.. the help so I can thrive!


History of a Song: May - “Give, Said the Little Stream”

This song was written by Franny Crosby Van Alstyne. Frances Jane Crosby was born in Putnam county, New York on March 24th, 1820. Although born a healthy child, when she was six years old she developed pus in her eyes. A treatment by the local physician caused permanent blindness. Her father lamented at the time, “What kind of life can a blind girl have? Who will want our precious Fanny?” Her father died less than one year later. Her mother read to her everyday from the Bible and her mother told her at one point - “Two of the greatest poets are blind. At times the Lord takes something physical in order to awaken a greater spiritual insight”. From a young age, Frances loved poetry and she was very close to her grandmother who made the bible and the outside world 'real' to her- she could picture everything from her grandmother's descriptions. While others told her that she couldn't do things because she was blind, her grandmother encouraged her to have faith, boundless ambition, and the courage to do both. In 1828 she wrote her very first poem at only eight years old. In 1835, she left her family and went to study at a school for the blind in New York City. She spent the next forty years there. As she grew and learned, she decided to become a teacher. In 1844, she met the founder of the New York Tribune Horace Greenley and soon after he began to publish her poetry. She married Alexander Van Alstyne in March 1858, another student from the same school that she had grown up in and worked as a teacher. By the end of her life, she had written by all accounts around 4000-8000 poems/hymns. She died in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1915.

The music was written by William Batchelder Bradbury. He was born in Maine in October 1816. By the age of fourteen, he had mastered almost every musical instrument with the exception of the piano. He was also known for writing the music to many other popular hymns including “Jesus Loves Me” and “Sweet Hour of Prayer”. He met Frances in 1864. They spent 4-5 years writing together until he died of consumption in January 1868.

This song has gone through a few small changes over the years. Additional lyrics were written a few years ago by Kimberly Brown... they are:

Give what is in your heart
Give away, Give away
Give what is in your heart
And your heart will ever live

Laugh when you're filled with joy
Laugh away, laugh away
Laugh when you're filled with joy
For laughing's giving too


Give all you've got to give
Give away, give away
Give all you've got to give

Sing when your heart is full
Sing away, sing away
Sing when your heart is full
For singing's giving too

This song is in hymnals for many Christian denominations including the Baptists and LDS faiths. The song has been sung by many organizations and group and was most recently recorded and released on the “The R.M.” movie soundtrack. Due to the popularity and common knowledge that the song has developed over time, it has even been used as a title for a dissertation by Helen Ruth Aspass (Give said the Little Stream: An urban stream cleanup’s impact on scholarly advancement and community enhancement.) A few individuals have used the title name for the name of their posts in their blogs describing the donation of blood, an 'anthem of liberal mormonism' and more.

This song has always been a favorite of mine. I have always loved the images of service and sacrifice as well as the images of joy. Bug loves this song and will happily sing it with almost everyone and he will jump and dance while singing it- he is unable to just sit and sing it as it gives him such a feeling of happiness. So, what are your thoughts on this song? What does it mean to you? The story of Mrs. Crosby Van Alstyne was amazing and inspiring! What did you think of her?