He Is Risen!

Happy Easter Sunday! What better way to celebrate than by beautiful hymns of praise!

Here is my favorite for blasting! My children LOVE singing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on this one. I’ll bet Handel would have loved to have seen this.


My next pick is probably most famously known from a Civilization video game: Baba Yetu. BUT did you know this beautiful song is actually the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili? Here’s my current favorite rendition, recently released by Alex Boyé, BYU Men’s Chorus & Philharmonic.


Ooh, I want to listen to this over and over again. In case you do too, here are two other versions of Baba Yetu to keep you occupied: this very similar one by BYU Men’s Chorus minus Alex, and this a capella one by Peter Hollens and Malukah.

Lastly, Nearer, My God, to Thee. This is my all-time favorite hymn, and THIS is my all-time favorite rendition. It’s a capella by BYU Vocal Point and (again!) the BYU Men’s Chorus. (Can you tell I love the Men’s Chorus? I even married one of their ex-basses.)


And because I couldn’t leave it there, how about this version by cellist Steven Sharp Nelson of the Piano Guys?

Have a lovely, wonderful Easter!

Nature Study in a Suburban Backyard

I don’t have the capacity to get out of the house much, yet. I am still pregnant, and thus still hyperemetic, which means I am barely getting enough calories to function while stuck in bed.

Along the lines of my last post (finding and eliminating “unnecessary friction” which might prevent me from achieving my lofty goals to become a more able wonder worker), my thoughts turned to how I would ever get myself outside with the kids.

You have to realize that for the majority of my life, I’ve been a sedentary indoor bookworm and screen addict. So my life is not set up right now to get outside with any frequency, and there are so, so many small things that I might do to nudge myself in that direction. Too many to even know where to start!

As I usually do in these situations, I sought inspiration from God, and as usual, it came. As I found myself sorrowing that I knew nothing about the natural world and wondering how I could possibly end up leading my children in a Charlotte-Mason-style nature study in future years, the inspiration came: simply identify the tree in your backyard.

So I did. And it was impossible, at first. Here I was, chomping at the bit, and the tree was still clothed in the nakedness of winter.

But then an unexpected heat wave came in early February, and that tree started to bloom before it even got leaves and identification became possible.

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After some research, I decided this was a white mulberry tree (Morus alba), specifically a sterile fruitless variety called Kingan, which strangely doesn’t have the lobed leaves typical of most mulberry trees. Further research led me to note that our tree is male.

Springtime marched onward and the blooms fell off…

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and the leaves grew in.

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And those leaves got bigger and bigger until the tree provided lush shade cover. Look at our tree today!

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Some of the leaves are as big as Jadzia’s (age 3) face.

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I am so grateful for the inspiration I received to identify this tree. I was taken by complete surprise when I realized that simply knowing the tree’s name burned a deep connection between us—yes, between the tree and me. Suddenly, I had a relationship with it—the tree.

It was shocking and warm. I felt more inclined to spend time with it, because I knew the tree now. The more time I spent under its branches, the more I began to get the bizarre sense that the tree might even enjoy providing shade for my little ones, which was beautiful to think about.

I later discovered that the trees in all the neighbors’ yards also seemed to be fruitless mulberries, but they all bloomed weeks later than ours did. I confess to wondering if our tree was simply more eager to bloom and produce shade because my children played there so much, whereas the neighbors hardly spend time in their yards. Another strange thought.

And here’s a fun aside. As we developed our friendship with our tree, James decided we needed to know the tree’s Serbian name. This deepened our friendship with the tree even more! It turns out the Serbian word for mulberry tree is dud, which is pronounced (you guessed it) “dude”. What a great nickname for a tree friend!

What I wish to emphasize here is the wonder I felt upon discovering the tree’s name, and how this completely changed the way I viewed the tree. It transformed from an unknown thing to a cherished friend. Wonder is an element I had noticed missing in my own life, but wished to give my children and had no idea how.

I have heard the idea expressed in many places that knowing a thing’s name changes your relationship with that object profoundly. I can now from experience tell you that this is, indeed, true.

Names are important. Knowing the names of things around you is an almost sacred thing, not to be dismissed as trivial! I am even pondering the idea that one reason God intended people to develop relationships in and with nature is because the resulting wonder at Creation brings us that much closer to Him.

I think it might be true.

P.S. I was a little intimidated at the idea of drawing a full portrait of the entire tree, so instead I drew one of Dude’s leaves.

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P.P.S. I have identified two other things in our yard: the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and the common inky cap mushroom (Coprinopsis atramentaria), which shriveled up and died within a few days. I drew portraits of these as well. I am especially proud of the mushrooms and had to share. 🙂

The Value of Meal Planning and Habits

Well, after my last post, I found myself unable to do a whole lot to work toward my new goals. How terribly disappointing, right?

My situation at the moment is that I am stuck in bed nearly all day, everyday due to hyperemesis gravidarum. The resulting difficulty I am having is getting enough calories to ever stand up, let alone actually do anything. Unfortunately, a lot of what I have planned in my goals will only be realistically achievable once I have given birth (hopefully in the next month!) and I can adequately nourish myself again.

In the meantime, my prayers to know what I can do to bless my family and work on my goals have been answered!

While collecting recipes, I came across the idea of writing down what dinner will be each night in the upcoming week… ahead of time. That’s right: meal planning. Of course, I’ve seen this idea before; it’s hardly an unusual one!

The difference was that this time the Spirit gave the idea an added oomph so that I didn’t pass it by yet again. I confess I’ve passed by the idea multiple times as something overplanners do rather than something that might help us.

I began to think. This might bless my family even now while I am unable to cook at all… even now, while my body tends to react most violently to healthier food… even now, while we are eating easy-prep processed foods… couldn’t planning out our meals still potentially bless us?

With my extreme illness, and with my husband at work or commuting a staggering thirteen hours each weekday, we’ve been basically scrounging through the fridge and pantry for snacks at dinnertime instead of eating a real meal, so here, the answer was clearly YES.

We’ve been “meal planning” for about two weeks now, and it has been a great success.

Even with me in bed, not able to do a lick of food prep, my husband now comes home and, on autopilot, if you will, starts the quick dinner idea we wrote down earlier.

James has expressed appreciation multiple times for this; it seems we had underestimated the amount of work it was to simply decide what to eat each night! It was often more work to try and think of something to eat than it was to actually prepare dinner. Wow, that’s lame (what a first world problem), but in all seriousness, it blew my mind when I realized it because it was true.

Have you ever thought about that idea? Decisions are hard work! This is why good habit formation is so important, especially the “little” decisions!

Here’s the thing about habits. They decrease the amount of effort it takes to do things. Let me say that again: habits decrease the effort involved in action!

That is profound.

My husband took the Top Performer course from the bloggers Cal Newport and Scott Young; it was essentially a self-improvement course on how to be more awesome and productive. A common motif from Cal’s blog Study Hacks is this: plans and habits form the scaffolding for a productive life.

There are lots of ways of to sabotage yourself from doing awesome, productive things. Your habits, or lack of them, can create unnecessary friction when you are trying to get into the smooth glide of productivity.

And humans are very good at getting out of productivity, yes? It is terrifyingly easy to sabotage yourself from doing something awesome, even something terribly important.

Case in point, when my husband had to decide what was for dinner each night, that little expenditure of mental energy was often enough to sap his motivation to cook a real meal, and so we’d snack instead. Bummer.

Adding in the meal plans removed that “unnecessary friction”, as Cal would call it, and enabled James to make us dinner without feeling overburdened.

So, we’re not eating healthily, not yet. But, we ARE eating dinner together each night, which is a vast improvement. And, while dinner still doesn’t usually settle well for sick me, what it does do is keep my kids and husband better-fed and in a better mood for the evening.

Such a small change, but with such remarkable results! And that reminds me of a treasured verse from the Book of Mormon:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6)

I challenge you, dear wonder worker, to find a small, simple thing you can change that will bring great things for you and yours! If you cannot think of something, ask the Lord, “What lack I yet?” à la Matthew 19:20… And then do it!

A Starting Place

“…Mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.”

—Charlotte Mason, Home Education,Vol. 1, pg. 44

I have recently become convinced that wonders are demanded of me.

Have you ever felt this? It can be overwhelming when you have this realization: that someone, or Someone, is demanding wonders from little, old you. My own realization took place once I decided that homeschooling my kids would be a perfect fit for my family.

The challenge to create a home learning environment which would encourage my children to develop lifelong relationships with the things they were learning, to be able to set before them a feast of ideas from a wide variety of worthy subjects, as well as to instill in them a love of God—all that is what left me feeling simply overwhelmed with the sense that, as dear Charlotte Mason would say, wonders are, indeed, demanded of little, old me.

And… well, why shouldn’t my Heavenly Father—the ultimate Worker of Wonders—expect such things from His daughter? I have, as have all His daughters, inherited many divine qualities from Him, including the capacity to work wonders.

“To be a daughter of God means that you are the offspring of Deity, literal descendants of a Divine Father, inheriting godly attributes and potential. To be a daughter of God also means that you have been born again, changed from a ‘carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness’ (Mosiah 27:25).”

—President James E. Faust, “What It Means to Be a Daughter of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 100

If I am the offspring of Deity, then surely I can be successful in working wonders, particularly if I have Christ and His Grace to buoy me up and transform me into something better!

My conclusion: it is possible to work wonders—with God’s help. Indeed, as the apostle Paul would say,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Philippians 4:13 KJV

I am fond of goals, and have had much success with them in days past. That said, when I envision a version of myself capable of managing a home and a homeschool, I get a bit intimidated.

I see someone who has so many habits, skills, and qualities I have yet to succeed in establishing. Am I even capable of getting there? Can I be the mother I want to be?

Here is an exceedingly comforting fact: I have over two years to become this person because my children are still young enough that any formal homeschooling won’t begin until fall 2018 when my oldest turns 6. And, perhaps more importantly, any imperfect and blundering attempts to become that person can only leave me more able to achieve my goals.

With that in mind, here is what I, personally, most urgently need to become by fall 2018:

  • Someone who consistently eats nutritiously and enjoys nutritious food
  • Someone who consistently incorporates a healthy amount of movement into her day and spends hours outside with the children
  • Someone who has some basic, consistent home cleanliness routines on autopilot

These are my personal weak points; if you were to make a journey toward becoming a worker of wonders with me, your goals and the steps you take to achieve those lofty goals could differ wildly!

No matter where you are in your journey in life, I invite you to ponder this: Are you working wonders? What needs to change so that you can? Give yourself a generous portion of time and patience, and start becoming that wonderworker. No one else can do the wonders which God has set aside for you to do!

“Live up to the great and magnificent inheritance which the Lord God, your Father in Heaven, has provided for you. Rise above the dust of the world. Know that you are daughters of God, children with a divine birthright. Walk in the sun with your heads high, knowing that you are loved and honored, that you are a part of his kingdom, and that there is for you a great work to be done which cannot be left to others.”

—President Gordon B. Hinckley,“Live Up to Your Inheritance,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 84. Emphasis mine.

These are some inspiring words from a Latter-day Saint prophet I want to keep in mind as I begin. I will share them with you, as I find them vastly encouraging! If you have any encouraging words to share besides these, perhaps from your own faith, I would love to hear them as well!