This Easter morning my heart is filled with a love that cannot be adequately expressed for Jesus. He is my all. I glory in Him.
This Easter morning my heart is filled with a love that cannot be adequately expressed for Jesus. He is my all. I glory in Him.
I would never compare my life to that of Esther's in the magnitude of responsibility, but I have always looked at her with awe. Her remarkable strength and courage to do something really hard has given me fortitude many times in my life. The way she turned to God in prayer and fasting has always been an example of how the simple things can make a difference.
As I look around at the women in my life, my neighbors, friends, and even strangers that I meet I find the same strength and resilience even though their trials and weaknesses all look different. However, I have always found it difficult to see those same traits in myself.
This was very evident the Monday night before RootsTech, as I laid in bed crying trying to figure out how I had gotten myself into this position of presenting a workshop that I felt completely inadequate participating in. I knew I was prepared. I had spent the last couple of years studying and living family history, but I let the doubt and fear of who I wasn't, become stronger than the faith I had in the Lord and His ability to make up for my weaknesses. Thankfully I was able to receive a priesthood blessing that brought peace, but I still did not know how it was all going to work out. So like many other times in my life, I put my trust in God and walked a path of faith.
"I am inadequate. But the Lord is not inadequate. I'll depend on Him." (Neill F. Marriot, "A Gathering of Women," BYU-Idaho, March 2018)
The morning of LightKeepers this scripture kept running through my heart, again, not because I was saving the world, but I was doing something difficult for me and I knew the Lord had prepared me for this event. I didn't understand and the question, "Why me?" kept running through my head. There were so many more qualified women that could teach this, but I was here and I would do all that I could for Him. Because for Him I will do anything. Because of Him, I had absolute peace as I walked into the room where three hundred women (a handful of men) will fill in and expect to be inspired and fed. The words that came out of my mouth were not always what I had practiced, but they were what God wanted me to say and the day was remarkable. Not because of me, but because the Spirit, the Holy Ghost answered the prayers of my heart and many others in the room. His influence taught in ways I will never be able to if left on my own, but with Him, miracles can happen.
At the end of the day, I knew that this scripture was meant for all of us. I am not singular or special. I am just one woman doing all that I can to help others. I am just one woman who loves Christ and wants to always remember Him. I am one woman trying to change my nature so that I can become more like Him. I am one woman surrounded by many who help lift and strengthen me.
We each have gifts, unique talents, and strengths that help those around us. Each day we have the opportunity to show faith and follow Jesus or to have fear. Our lives are different, our situations and trials are different, but like Esther, we are uniquely prepared for this time and this day. We will always face the reality that we are not enough, but the Lord is enough and He will do what we cannot if we just follow Him.
I loved this quote I read yesterday by Virginia H Pierce, "Unity is a holy thing. How many times did the Savior reiterate His oneness with the Father and His injunction that if we are not one, we are not His? Unity doesn't mean "rubber-stamping" the word of our leaders. It requires listening, weighing, pondering, seeking inspiration, speaking up, articulating problems, and recommending solutions." (The Beginning of Better Days: Divine Instruction to Women from the Prophet Joseph Smith," Deseret Book, 2012, p. 10-11)
UNITY IS HOLY.
We can't do it alone. Whether we are united with the Lord or as sisters, friends, and neighbors (or all of the above) we can accomplish all that is required of us. Even remarkable things, because He is not inadequate.
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I have always found architectural drawings so fascinating. I even recently signed up a class to help me learn how to draw in such a beautiful way. This drawing is by Leonardo da Vinci (see this article). I adore the color and shape and composition. I know it was just from his sketchbook, but it's so fascinating to me. It allows me to reflect on what is required to build a good foundation not only on a page but architecturally and in construction.
One of John's recent posts (found here) really resonated with me and I've been thinking about it ever since, especially the concept of the keep. He said,
"the word for keep means to guard, protect, save, watch, treasure up, and celebrate. One way to understand the meaning of the word for keep is to think of the English word as a noun. Keep in English can refer to the innermost stronghold of a castle. This is the place where a keeper of the castle keeps that which is most precious, particularly his wife and children, safe and nourished with provisions that he also keeps there for that purpose.
In this sense, the Garden of Eden is a keep just as heaven is a keep where God keeps, protects, saves, and nourishes His family, or as the holy of holies in the ancient tabernacle and temple is a keep as a representation of heaven.
This understanding of the word keep is meaningful from other perspectives as well. For instance, to me it gives greater weight to what it means to keep commandments, implying obedience with a deep recognition of the importance of the commandments and of honor for the giver of the commandments."
A castle keep.
I adore a wonderful swashbuckling adventure with beautiful dresses and heroic knights. Then there are the castles, with their sweeping vistas that offer protection and security for the protagonists. Each castle has a stronghold, a keep where things of greatest value are kept. Even in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ring series, there is a time when people sought refuge in the keep that was stocked with supplies, an armory, and even stables.
When I hear expressions like:
"keep the commandments"
"keeper of kin" and
I have to wonder if I guard or treasure up those things.
The teachings of the Savior?
It has also made me wonder if I had such a keep in my life and what would I add to my keep?
Realistically my home should be my keep, a place of refuge from the storms. A place where there is safety and security from whatever plagues or stresses we face. A place filled with what we hold most dear and precious. For me, that, of course, is the children, John, and the gospel of Christ. But it also includes the people who come and visit, the records of our lives and our ancestors.
My heart and mind are also keeps that contain the secrets of my innermost desires. Do they match my actions? Do I hold a grudge? Do I pretend to be something I am not? What do I value when no one is looking? What do I truly love? This has really caused me to reflect on the feelings of my heart and if I need to make some changes.
I've been thinking about this specifically with the Light Keepers workshop and what I want to present that is worthy of a keep. I hope thinking about a keep in this manner will help you better understand the name we chose for the workshop and ultimately where we find the Light for our keeps. More on that and the giveway tomorrow.
I wanted to create something to add to my little mini album and remembered that a family history document I created a few years ago for girls come. A few quick modifications and I slipped this page in. There are two formats, one per page and two per page.
I am also including the original family history page. A friend was teaching about how when we are looking for people we are looking for families and their story. She talked about fairy tales so as you will see it's a "Once upon a time..." kind of printable. It allowed the girls to look at records and fill in the blanks as they looked at sources. It was a great activity.
One of the favorite things I have done this year is to ask more questions about a persons' history. Simple questions. Listening questions. I wanted to learn a story or two about who they are how their lives were shaped. Just yesterday I learned from an uncle how a vacuum came crashing into their bedroom window when they were first married. I have giggled and giggled just thinking about how startled my aunt would be and what the upstairs neighbor must have been thinking trying to swing her vacuum down to the parking lot. It's such a simple story, and I can see it all in my mind, and I will smile thinking about it for years to come.
It left me thinking about all the stories in my life that I have written down in my journal and those forgotten. No one is going to want to go a reread what I have written within those pages, although I will continue to write. It reminded me again why I started this blog. I started it for my children to come back and read the stories not only of their lives but mine. An easy place to share a simple story. The last few years I have forgotten that purpose or made it a priority with all the other demands on my time, but we are all pressing commitments, deadlines, and projects. I need to practice what I preach: 10 minutes a day. Everyone has 10 minutes a day for one story or memory.
Today I am committing to writing those stories here. If you want to join along find a medium that you can be consistent with. I wasn't consistent in my handwritten journal. I only have so much time to handwrite, and I am so much faster at typing, so I am changing the format. Here are a few ideas that might help:
Find what works for you and if you have to try a few things that is okay. Paul Nauta, a wonderful man, wrote about creating a New Year's resolution of writing and sharing your stories for FamilySearch. You can read it here for added motivation.
Rather than just looking at this as goals with starting and stopping points, I am looking to change or refine some habits using goals. A habit is an acquired behavior followed until it has become almost involuntary.
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” ― Samuel Johnson
I have good habits, and I have not so good habits. I want to change the weaker habits into strengths. I want to rewire my brain in certain areas so that I am stronger physically, mentally and spiritually. I loved President Monson's encouragement, " We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits." (Thomas S. Monson, "See Others As They May Become," General Conference, October 2012). Sometimes as I work on a goal year after year with seemingly little success I wonder if I am can change, but I can and I will. I am going to work on the habits to help me be successful.
1. I want to make sure I make God a priority every single day this year, no matter what happens. I wrote more about this yesterday in this post. I am trying to focus on the essential things that bring me peace.
2. I want to lose the weight I put back on this past year. I only went up one pant size, so I'm still maintaining muscle mass, but I want to continue my health journey with a more concerted effort now that I am healthy once again.
3. I want to be more consistent in sharing our stories here. As I look back on what I have written in the past, I find a treasure. I want to continue this once again.
4. I want to learn to enjoy fasting. I want to learn to look forward to fasting. There is great spiritual power in a fast and this year I am going to fast at least one day a week.
5. I want to draw or paint something every day. It doesn't have to be big, just something. I still have a goal to be an artist. I don't know what that looks like, but I want to continue learning. Consistency is going to be the key.
6. I want to learn to manage my money better. I'm terrible with a budget and savings is a foreign word, so I'm going to do better this year.
7. I want to finish projects. I have so many unfinished quilts that I would love to clean out the cupboards and see people wrapped up in them. For Christmas, I helped finish a quilt my mother started many years ago, and it helped me remember how much I love to quilt, and I want to get back into working with fabric.
8. I want to dejunk the house. It's not necessarily junk, but we have too much stuff. We don't need all this stuff. So I'm going to go from room to room and purge. Keep only the essential and donate the rest.
It seems like a big list, but I have an entire year to work on things. A little bit every day.
"The spirit of Christmas … puts in our hearts a desire to give joy to other people. We feel a spirit of giving and gratitude for what we have been given. The celebration of Christmas helps us keep our promise to always remember Him and His gifts to us. And that remembrance creates a desire in us to give gifts to Him." (Henry B. Eyring, "The Gift of a Savior")
Today's download is three wreath printables in honor of wreath day.
I had the opportunity to make fresh wreaths on Friday in a class taught by my cousin Jason who works (and is a master gardener) at Red Butte Garden along with two of my daughters, several of my cousins, aunts, my mother, and sister. It was such a fun night filled with laughter, messy hands, amazing scents of pine, delicious food, and laughter. Many are hoping it will be a new tradition.
How grateful I am for these strong women who build my life and set examples of strength and love. I am truly blessed.
SIDENOTE (behind the scenes): I woke up and felt like today's blog post should be a free download. I had created the wreath elements as part of my latest RhonnaDesign App kit: "Build a Wreath" so it was a quick download. I printed them off and stuck them in my journal and wrote a few things, took the pictures and tried to decide what to include in the post. I remembered the wreath workshop which was a perfect fit. So I spent more time than necessary organizing photos, but that was okay because I was staying home with a sick child (throw up is not my favorite) and had a little more time. I finished everything up, hit publish, uploaded to social media and then opened my #Lighttheworld journal to start studying day 3 only to find that the first suggestion was to share your talents. I had done it without even planning on it and I don't know if the downloads will bless anyone's lives, but they are pretty.
I have known about and had the assets for a while to make something for the #lighttheworld Christmas initiative, and in the end, I decided I wasn't going to do anything this year. So many talented people create lovely and inspiring things to download and do to help make things easier. I just didn't feel like I needed to or had anything to add. Then Monday night I was talking to John about something completely unrelated, and suddenly the Spirit whispered (very loudly because sometimes I am hard of hearing), and I saw in my mind this download. So Tuesday morning I started working, and I sent an email requesting and receiving permission to alter the content into a journal form. This project came together faster than anything I have done in a very long time, such that I was able to create the content, print it off and study.
Time for study is always heavenly.
So once again I say, anything that is good that comes from me I acknowledge God's hand and divine intervention. I am nothing without Him.
The download is straightforward.
I wanted something that you could just print, cut (if desired), and go. There is too much going on this time of year for anything complicated, and I enjoyed the reflective questions and knew I wanted to write as well as act and perhaps even write about the different ways we decide to serve.
I just took the materials provided, created the daily entries, added two per page and printed. You can even fold into a book. However, I will warn you that the download isn't in a book format so you won't be able to print front to back and have the days be in order.
I wanted something that was versatile for as much or as little embellishing as possible. I also wanted to leave plenty of room for writing, and as you will see there is not enough, and that is okay. I love adding inserts and post it notes along the way.
You will notice, and if you don't I'm pointing it out, my printer is once again running out of ink, and I was in such a rush I didn't pay attention until everything was printed and I wasn't going to fix it. So my light the world is probably more pink than red, and there is a darker streak on the left-hand side. Rather than getting frustrated I just said, "Oh well" and started cutting the pages in half.
I knew I was going to continue in my smaller Moleskine notebook (5 x 8.25) so I reduced the pages to 95%. If you are going to use a Leuchtturm1917, you can just print and cut. I love that feature, but I had a Moleskine, so I used what I had on hand. I always go with a softcover because I know it will accommodate all the extra paper I add to the journal. Both bindings hold up beautifully to the abuse I give them.
I also created four pages of labels; one is not pictured in the photos because it was a late edition. Labels are my favorite accessory.
I printed everything on inexpensive full sheet shipping labels, like these on this link. I'm not overly concerned about them being archival. I have photos of most of my pages, and I will probably scan things, so my scripture journals are more for me than anyone else.
As always I didn't have enough room, so I added a page using washi tape on the outside edge. I ran out of time this morning, so I didn't finish day one, but that is the beautiful thing about studying. Some days you have an hour to devote to the scriptures, and other days there might only be 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. No matter how long I have to give the Lord seems to bless me tenfold. It's such a blessing.
Another reason I moved to a smaller journal is that it's a little easier to throw in my bag and it doesn't weigh as much.
If you could describe my style, it would be messy and chaotic. I don't worry about staying in the lines. In fact, one of the reasons I have multiple lines is because I always mess up. I get bumped, or I'm just careless, and the pen goes crazily off course. I've learned to embrace the mess and just move on.
I also don't have enough emotional energy when I study to do big fancy things. I typically only have two pens, a ballpoint pen (Uniball Signo 207 or Uniball Signo RT1 0.28) and a gray brush pen for shading (currently using a Koi cool gray from this set). That being said, I know you will look at this and think it's big and fancy. Remember to do whatever feels right for you. The journal is only secondary to the scriptures. Get into the scriptures and see what God wants to teach you.
After cutting out a sheet of the labels and penning around them in my journal, I got smart and outlined the labels before I cut them out. You certainly don't have to outline anything. I just like the way it looks.
Also, can you see the super lame washi job I did on page one (see below)? I'm classy that way.
Now I know it's not December 1st yet, but I wanted to start and give you an idea of what I do when I study. There is no rhyme or reason to how I study or format a page. I love my stick people (see this post), and I always have arrows: big, small, thin, fat, arrows are essential.
As for my studying, I try to stay in the scriptures as much as possible. I do enjoy another person's views or the way they understand a passage of scripture, but if the Spirit can teach me that is preferred. I love using the cross-referencing system that is in the scriptures. I learn in ways I didn't anticipate and in ways that are hard to describe.
Scripture Citation Index I love this resource and use it all the time. I have the app on my phone as well. I look up the scripture reference and then it brings up a list of conference talk in which the scripture was mentioned. So thankful for this resource and it has significantly enriched my studying.
I'm sure I've forgotten something, so please ask. I hope you will feel Christ's light and share it with others this holiday season and always.
Download Akimball_lighttheworld_2017 (journal pdf)
Download Akimball_lighttheworld_labels_2017 (labels pdf)
I seem to fall apart when it comes to my journal in October, at least I did this year. I think it was the different assignments, I didn't make journaling a priority. Rather than get frustrated with myself I'm just going to start anew and November is the perfect month. I always look forward to focusing on the many blessings I have in my life. I can even find blessings in my trials and weaknesses.
Ten years ago I hear President Eyring say,
"When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.
He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened." (Henry B. Eyring, "O Remember, Remember", General Conference, October 2007)
I have never forgotten his words and think of them often, usually when I forget to write. However, despite my inconstancy, I have seen great blessings as a result of consistently (in my inconsistent way) recording the blessings in my life. So today I made it a priority to print off the pages and add them to my journal. I date stamped each list and I am ready for the month.
If you would like to participate and use the gratitude pages here are the links.
Gratitude poster (idea, super simple. We are on our 7th year.)
TheSmallSeed has a wonderful Daily Gratitude Devotional Guide available for download as well. I'm looking forward to learning and seeing God's hand in my life this month.
I'm embarrassed this update has taken me so long to do. I'm even more embarrassed that I have not updated my children's folders in a very long time, but today is the day. Just in time for General Conference this weekend and possibly more updates to come. That is one thing I did not really think through when I first made the folders, who was going to keep updating the charts?
Did you get a chance to listen to the General Women's meeting last weekend? It was lovely with so many inspiring messages and thoughts and feelings.
Sister Eubank's talk (Turn On Your Light) quoting President Kimball has been something near and dear to my heart. I wrote a quick thing back in 2011 (see this post) and will look at again as I review her talk.
Sister Marriott's talk (Abiding in God and Repairing the Breach) about the Savior and love pierced my heart. I need to do better about this and I want to fully understand this scripture in Isaiah, “The Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.” (Isaiah 30:26)
Learning that Sister Jones' son was buried the day before her talk made her words (Value Beyond Measure)so rich and meaningful. Not that they weren't on their own, but knowing about a person's life and their struggles always helps me relate and feel a connection.
Of course, I always love hearing President Uchtdorf speak and his talk (Three Sisters) was filled with wisdom and love. I can't wait to hear the words, teachings, and inspiration at will be shared this weekend.
Here are the latest updates:
If you are looking for more information on the folder format go here: "Conference is Awesome" folders.
If you are looking for more information on the big chart format go here: "Conference is Awesome" chart.
You can also get more ideas here at: Ideas to Prepare.
I'm going to to try something a little different this year, I think, which I will share in the next couple of days.