Sunday, January 11, 2015

Time For A Release

It is commonly said, 
"With every call, comes a release."
My good husband was released as bishop of our ward today. He's served faithfully for five years and four months. A bishop generally serves for about five years, and then a new bishop is called by God through inspiration and set apart as His servant  to care for a congregation.

It's been a long five years, but it has been filled with opportunities to share love and do good for others. The Lord cares deeply for all of us, and one of the ways He shows that love is through the service of a kind bishop.

A new bishop was sustained and set apart in our ward today, and although he's nervous, he'll do just fine. He loves the Lord and trusts that he has been called by Him to serve with all his heart and soul.

I have watched my husband serve in many quiet ways these past few years that I am humbled by his devotion to God as he has served so long and so well. He has never been paid for his service. Mormon bishops are lay bishops. Jim works a full time job usually putting in 11 hour days during the week with several hours on a Saturday. Most of the rest of the time has been in some kind of service to our ward as bishop.
I've been grateful to serve in my own ways. Most of that has come from supporting him and not complaining when he's been gone so much of the time. God is very kind to the bishop's wife. I have continually felt His love for me. We've visited many people over the years and have tried to share our love with everyone. We have felt their love in return, and we are grateful. 

Jim packed up his office and had one last box to bring home today.
The look of relaxation on his face tells it all.
It was wonderful to have our family 
there today to support Jim. 
Our children mean the world to us.
We missed Seth and Emma in this picture.

It's now a time of rest and transition. It's a time to set some new goals and figure out where to go from here. It's a time to quietly serve in other ways. No matter what we do or where we go, I will always be grateful for my very good husband.
I love him.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Matthew 25:21


Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Moment In Time

Today I met the man who was instrumental in my conversion 36 years ago. I even wrote about him in the first chapter of my book Conversion. He never knew it. I only knew him from afar. The exchange was tender and sweet. He thanked me for telling him. I thanked him for the blessing he was in my life. 36 years is a long time, yet God orchestrated this moment for the both of us. Once again, I am humbled and grateful. God is real. He seeks to bless us, and when He does and we know it was He who did it, it is called a "tender mercy."

                                   "they bowed themselves down...
                         and did humble themselves before the Lord,
                             and did shed tears of joy before the Lord,
                                         because of the multitude
                                  of his tender mercies over them."
                                                     Ether 6:12
                                          (The Book of Mormon)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Come To The Temple And Claim Your Blessings

I've heard that phrase many times over the years. It is an action phrase that has meaning and purpose. 

"COME to the temple and claim your blessings."

 Washington DC Temple

It is a beautiful invitation from the Lord for all His children. Come to His holy house, the temple, and receive from Him and His authorized servants the greatest blessings available to His children on this earth.

This afternoon, Jim and I had the privilege of attending the sealing ceremony of a young couple and their baby in the Salt Lake Temple. They have been married for a few years, and their baby boy is just about a year old. The woman has been a Mormon all her life. Her husband was raised Catholic. I first met him a few years ago at a ward activity. He struck me as incredibly nice and incredibly quiet. I was aware at that time that he had been talking to the missionaries. We chatted a while during the activity, and I told him that I had been Catholic and attended Catholic School as a child. I encouraged him to take his time and learn about the blessings the Lord had for him. I told him how much they meant to me.

As time went on, this good man took the missionary discussions from a few sets of missionaries as he and his wife pondered the path they wanted to take in life. He made his decision after contemplation and prayer and was baptized a little over a year ago. He has been a wonderful convert, faithfully following the path God laid before him. Both he and his wife exude goodness, and you can't help but smile when you look at them.

My husband is the bishop of our ward and has watched this family progress toward their temple blessings for the past few years. They recently invited both of us to attend their temple sealing this afternoon. We wouldn't have missed it.

It is difficult to describe the feeling one has as he or she participates in or attends the sealing of a husband and wife and their children. It is a feeling unlike any other. I have experienced it many times before and long to experience it as often as I can when I attend these sacred experiences. One way to describe it is as a feeling of profound serenity. There is a gentle warmth that fills my heart as I feel the presence of the Lord's Spirit attending such important events. The quietness of the temple is also profound. People speak in whispers as we acknowledge that we are in God's holy house. We take our shoes off because we stand on holy ground dedicated to the Lord's crowning blessings for His children.

The young couple came into the sealing room dressed in white where family and friends waited. The officiator gave wonderful words of counsel about the ordinance that was about to take place. When the time came, they knelt at the holy altar of God. I was struck by the look of sincerity in the young man's eyes as he knelt across from his wife at the altar. He had a look of perfect love for her. It was easy to discern that he knew that what he was doing was the most important thing he could do in this life. It was clear that they loved each other deeply. Many people in the room shed tears of joy attended by the feeling of deep warmth of the Spirit testifying to all of us that what was taking place was truly of the Lord.

When that ordinance was complete, the couple's baby was brought in. He too was dressed in white. He is a beautiful baby. He was wide awake and never uttered a sound. He looks like both of his parents, making it all that much sweeter. A family member, also dressed in white, knelt at the altar to hold the baby as his parents held hands. I don't think I can ever forget the tenderness of that scene. Just moments before when the husband looked at his wife with such intensity, it was now clear to everyone that the fulfillment of the temple blessings are wrapped in the beauty of the family. The look in their eyes as they looked at their child was as tender as anything you can imagine. Their baby was sealed to his parents forever. Their love brought him into the world, and God's love for all of them provided them with His greatest blessing-the promise of eternal life together as they remain faithful to their promises to each other and their promises to God.

One of the missionaries who taught the young father the gospel over a year and a half ago was also there in attendance. He sat next to us. We had him in our home for dinner when he first arrived as a brand new missionary only three days into his mission. Today he told us he's been a missionary for 16 months. Wow. After the service we discussed that all we do as members-my husband's work as the bishop-and the work of all the missionaries is to point others to Christ and to the temple where they can receive the great sealing blessings God has for them. The Lord's work truly is sweet. The feeling of joy is overwhelming. The realization of the blessings of the temple motivates all of us to try a little harder and be a little kinder to all around us. The blessings are for the entire human race. That's why we send missionaries to all parts of the world, and why we work so diligently to be member missionaries ourselves.

No one forced this couple to go to the temple. The young father willingly accepted the gospel and took the steps necessary to enter the temple. He received the ordinance of baptism and prepared himself to qualify to enter the temple. He understood that the invitation to "come to the temple to claim your blessings" meant that he had work to do, and he did it.

If only the whole world could experience the feeling we felt today as we saw this family sealed together forever. I think if they could feel what we felt, there would be many more people claiming their own blessings. I know by the power of the Holy Ghost which I felt today that this work is truly God's work. Only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all of the blessings of God available. That's why missionaries invite others, no matter their current religion, to "come to the temple and claim your blessings."

God is so good. The family is the center of all He does. Families are important to Him. He wants to bless all of His children. Surely He smiled on this couple today, and we smiled at them as well.

As we left the sealing room and hugged the couple after the ceremony, I hugged the young father. I whispered in his ear, "this is only the beginning." I know whereof I speak. The blessings offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ are many. They simply multiply as the years go on. Oh yes there are always heartaches and trials along the way, but as the couple was counseled today-because of the temple blessings they received-they will be able to handle them. The power of the ordinance that binds them together as a family will help see them through their trials.

I don't think there is any greater invitation I could extend to anyone than to invite them to do as this young couple did today and "come to the temple and claim your blessings." It will be unlike anything you have ever experienced in your life, and it is worth every sacrifice to make sure you find yourself kneeling at the altar of God to receive all that He has to offer you.

It's been a beautiful day. I can't think of a better way to end this Christmas season than to have witnessed what I did today. It is why "we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, [and] we preach of Christ" (2 Nephi 25:26 in the Book of Mormon). It is because Christ was born, and then died for us, that these blessings are available. Christ is The Gift God gave us, so that we could receive the gift of our temple blessings.

That's why at Christmas we remember that "the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" when he announced Christ's birth to the shepherds the night He was born. And that's why "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2: 10, 13-14). The "tidings of great joy" come because of the love of our Father in Heaven for His children, because of Christ, and because of the blessings of the temple.

(A different young family).

So come to the temple and claim your blessings...

I did.

We did.

And so can you.

Nothing else compares to the JOY
 that comes when God gives us
our temple blessings.




Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Equals Family

We had a really lovely Christmas.
 Actually it was three days of Christmas celebrations. 
We started off with our annual Christmas Fireplace Party.
It was great to have Nathan 
and Hannah join us this year.
 Christmas really is for the children.
The fireplace is a nice setting for an evening 
of telling stories and
enjoying time together.
Joy sums it up quite nicely.
We visited Ian & jessa and Baby James
on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
He's a beautiful baby,
but still no traveling for him yet.
Happy me.
We had a simple Christmas Eve
 dinner planned this year.
We had a candlelight lasagna dinner.
Nice
Jim read the Christmas story after dinner.
 Presents ready to go under the tree.
We woke up to a beautiful white Christmas.
More joy.
We had Christmas breakfast at 
Sarah and Gregory's apartment.
 Jim helped cook.
(Guess what he got for Christmas?)
Hannah was no end of delightful.
She loved the Elsa and Anna dolls we got her.
Sweet.
And Nathan
loved the remote control dump truck.
 And can I just say how HAPPY 
I am to have a new camera!
Thanks Jim. :)
The highlight of the day was 
talking to Seth via Google Chat.
 We always have family prayer
 during the missionary call home.
He's doing really well.
We miss him.
 Just a few more images from the last few days.
A new camera is a great thing.
Even if certain people make fun of you
 when you ask to take their picture
 so you can try out your new camera. :)
My nephew Jonathan stopped by for Christmas dinner.
All in all,
it was just a great Christmas.
Soon it's time to take down the decorations
and prepare for a New year.
Here's hoping the New Year 
brings more family joy.

I am a blessed woman, 
and I am most grateful




Monday, December 15, 2014

#ShareTheGift


"For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
 that whosoever believeth
 in him should not perish, 
but have everlasting life." 
John 3:16
                        
Jesus Christ is the Gift given to the world by our loving Heavenly Father. He is the Gift sent to save the world from sin and to redeem all mankind. The promise of everlasting life —because of Christ—is truly wonderful. God wants us to come to know His Son Jesus Christ, to embrace Him as our Savior, and to accept the ordinances of salvation He offers us. They are necessary to realize the greatest gift God can give useternal life. The scriptures tell us that eternal life "is the greatest of all the gifts of God." D&C 14:7

I don't think there is any more important message I can share this Christmas than to share my belief in Jesus Christ. I know He is my Savior, and I love Him. I join with other Christians around the world who also know and testify of His divinity.
One way I can #ShareTheGift is to smile at everyone because who doesn't enjoy having someone smile at them and feeling as though somebody cares? The Savior has done so much for me, and the least I can do is try to radiate the joy He is in my life. One of the resounding messages of Christmas is that of JOY, and I am happy to spread some of it by pointing to the greatest source of joyJesus Christ .                  
Here is a link to other wonderful Christmas videos to enjoy.

Merry Christmas everyone.
May you feel God's love for you
 this wonderful Christmas season
in the Gift of His Son. 
                           

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One Week Old

What can you say about the gift of a baby? Instant & profound love come to mind as a way to describe what I feel for this wonderful gift. He is so beautiful and we are all deeply grateful to have little James as part of our family. I embroidered this blanket for him and these are the little jammies we gave him-Jessa sent this picture as a way to say thank you. He is so sweet. God is so good!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Such A Busy Week

So much has happened, yet there's been so little time to write about it. Some weeks are like that. I spent the day today with baby James and Jessa. Fabulous.
 He finally came home yesterday afternoon.
He spent most of the night crying loudly, but slept beautifully today. Go figure. He is a very beautiful baby, albeit quite small. He weighed in yesterday at 5 lbs. 4 oz-they weighed him wrong the day he was born. It's great to see Ian become a father.
 Baby James has some growing to do, 
but I  think he'll be just fine.
Ian and Jessa seem to have stepped right into the roles of good parents. They are wonderful together.
I celebrated a birthday the other day. Nathan and Hannah brought me birthday balloons. Hannah kept asking me to get my balloons so we could play with them. She kept saying as sweetly as she could, "Happy Birthday Grandma Liz." It was just delightful. Elisa and Emma were also here and helped me decorate for Christmas, which I greatly appreciated.

I heard from Seth today. He's doing so well these days, and he sounds genuinely happy.
He and his companion experienced the joy of seeing someone else receive the ordinance of  baptism. Here are a few snippets from his email home:

I asked him if he was eating enough food. He replied, "I eat ridiculously large amounts of food and I don't gain weight... I will be looking for the Christmas box. Thanks so much for sending it. I won't open it until Christmas. I promise...Thanks for being such an amazing Mom...Transfers are Wednesday. I will be training a new missionary, so I don't know his name yet....I know that this is God's work. I know that He lives! I know that He loves us more than we could ever know...I forgot to tell two things. Our ward has a musical fireside on Sunday. I get to sing in it. I am going to be in a version of away in a manger that has four men in it. :) Then four days later is our mission Christmas party. We are doing four songs as a mission choir. We have sung three of them in choirs back home. It is such a good feeling to sing those songs again at Christmas time. :)We had a great lesson with  our two investigators this week. I felt one of the strongest spiritual confirmations of what we were teaching. One of the most powerful I have ever felt on my mission. I was able to tell them with absolute surety that what they were feeling was the Spirit of God and a manifestation of His love for them. They understood God deeper than ever before. It was about how God is perfect at unconditional love..."

Nice. So much learning and growth.

I love our birthday tradition of "Person-of-the-Day. All of us write a very short "something" in an email that gets added to during the day of whomever's birthday it is. The comments are always uplifting and enjoyable to read. It is a way to reinforce love one for another. Here are some of the comments that my family wrote about me today. They are so thoughtful, so I want to keep them:

From Emma:
I love Mom because she is a go-getter! If she sets her mind to something, it's getting done...gosh dang it! Happy Birthday Mom!!!! 

From Jim:
Mom is the person of *my* day/week/month/year/life/eternity...She's a faithful and devoted wife/mom/grandma, the kind that everyone wants on their side, praying for them ...She's a social media babe, author, overall mega-good gal...我爱你(I Love You).

From Gregory:
I like Liz because she has clarity of purpose - she knows what she wants her life to be about, and she works consistently toward those goals over time spans measured in decades.


From Ian:
I love mom because she relies on the Lord. She has been continually praying and relying on the Lord to help Jessa and our baby be safe. Another *slightly* (but only barely!) lesser reason: she makes me meatballs!!!! ; )  Love you mom!

From Wade (who loves to call me "Mrs. Freeman):
I like "Mrs. Freeman" for many reasons; for like having at least "3" children and naming that third one Emma, for always listening to my "true" stories, for feeding me on my times of visit and countless others. Happy Birthday (week)!!!

From Elisa:

I like Mom because she taught me by example how to be a good leader and how to be faithful and diligent. Whenever people ask how I learned to serve, I tell them, "clearly, you haven't met my mother." Love you Mom! 

From Seth:
I love mom because she was my prime gospel teacher (I read that talk in the Ensign this week). She was my constant source of help in life and the gospel. I could always go to her for help and advice and did many times. She didn't stop me from asking endless questions. She has been the single largest influence in my life in becoming who I am. She has the strongest testimony of God's love and has helped me understand that. Thanks mom. :) 

From Chris:
I love Mrs. Freeman because she has loved me.  She has always been kind to me.  She has always fed me.  She has always let me climb her balcony.  She has always welcomed me to hang out with her kids, herself and Jim.  She has been excited for my accomplishments and she has been empathetic to my sorrows.  She was extremely happy to see me get married and I love that Corinne and I could share our special day with her.  She is the best second Mom that anyone could ever want.  

What more can a woman ask? I feel greatly blessed in so many ways. It's been a very good week.