Sunday, May 29, 2011

Look at Your Heart

I just got back from a really awesome fireside where I learned a lot and wish the speaker could have kept teaching. Only problem—not a single, stinkin’ guy even said hi to me. All the ones my age ran off right after the fireside was over and didn’t stay for the “mingle”. Plenty of 60 year olds+ stayed. I did make a new friend though. Yay for that!    ANYWAY---

When I was preparing my visiting message this month, I was looking through the General Conference talks   from April and thinking of things that touched me in so many of them, but I quickly chose Elder Dallin H. Oak's talk Desire. It was funny because the sister I shared the message with asked me if her husband asked me to teach that message because it is something she needed. I think we all do. Here are a few parts taken out of the talk with some interruptions from me. The quotes are in quotation marks and italized in case it gets confusing. Another clue: All the profound thoughts are from the apostles and my little thoughts are just thrown in.

“I have chosen to talk about the importance of desire. I hope each of us will search our hearts to determine what we really desire and how we rank our most important desires.

Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.

Readjusting our desires to give highest priority to the things of eternity is not easy.”

Not long ago I went to a fireside with speaker Brandon Doman, former quarterback for BYU and then the San Francisco 49ers, and current offensive coordinator for the BYU football team. (GO, COUGARS!!!)

He quoted a saying his father taught him. "If the mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, you can achieve it." He was talking about how you can be running a marathon (no, I can’t!) and you think that you absolutely cannot continue. Your heart will explode if you keep going. Your body will stop. But then, if you push through it, with a desire to continue and a belief that you can, then you can keep going further than you thought you could. I’m sure it’s like when people are put in situations where they must keep going or die.
Elder Oaks talked about the story of Aron Ralston. He was the man whose arm was trapped under a huge boulder in a remote location in Utah. After trying desperately to get free for 5 days, he still was stuck. He thought that there was no way out and that he was going to die.

“When he was about to give up and accept death, he had a vision of a three-year-old boy running toward him and being scooped up with his left arm. Understanding this as a vision of his future son and an assurance that he could still live, Ralston summoned the courage and took drastic action to save his life before his strength ran out. He broke the two bones in his trapped right arm and then used the knife in his multitool to cut off that arm. He then summoned the strength to hike five miles (8 km) for help.”

When we have a vision of living for eternity with our Heavenly Father and with our families, we can find the desire to do what we need to, no matter how difficult, and we can find the strength to put into action that which we must do to get there.

“Most of us will never face such an extreme crisis, but all of us face potential traps that will prevent progress toward our eternal destiny. If our righteous desires are sufficiently intense, they will motivate us to cut and carve ourselves free from addictions and other sinful pressures and priorities that prevent our eternal progress.

We should remember that righteous desires cannot be superficial, impulsive, or temporary. They must be heartfelt, unwavering, and permanent. So motivated, we will seek for that condition described by the Prophet Joseph Smith, where we have 'overcome the evils of [our lives] and lost every desire for sin.' See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 211."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2011, General Conference

In his talk, Elder Oaks briefly quotes Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s talk According to the Desire of Our Hearts  . I will quote a bit more of it because I really like Elder Maxwell’s talk too.

“Exemplifying this happy reality are the doctrinal teachings concerning desire, which relates so directly to our moral agency and our individuality. Whether in their conception or expression, our desires profoundly affect the use of our moral agency. Desires thus become real determinants, even when, with pitiful naivete, we do not really want the consequences of our desires.

Desire denotes a real longing or craving. Hence righteous desires are much more than passive preferences or fleeting feelings.

Therefore, what we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity.

Mostly, brothers and sisters, we become the victims of our own wrong desires. Moreover, we live in an age when many simply refuse to feel responsible for themselves. Thus, a crystal-clear understanding of the doctrines pertaining to desire is so vital because of the spreading effluent oozing out of so many unjustified excuses by so many. This is like a sludge which is sweeping society along toward “the gulf of misery and endless wo” (Hel. 5:12). Feeding that same flow is the selfish philosophy of “no fault,” which is replacing the meek and apologetic “my fault.” We listen with eager ear to hear genuine pleas for forgiveness instead of the ritualistic “Sorry. I hope I can forgive myself.”
Like it or not, therefore, reality requires that we acknowledge our responsibility for our desires. Brothers and sisters, which do we really desire, God’s plans for us or Satan’s?

What we are speaking about is so much more than merely deflecting temptations for which we somehow do not feel responsible. Remember, brothers and sisters, it is our own desires which determine the sizing and the attractiveness of various temptations. We set our thermostats as to temptations.

Once again, we must be honest with ourselves about the consequences of our desires, which follow as the night, the day."
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts”, Ensign, Nov. 1996

My favorite part of this great talk is: “Therefore, what we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity.” How do we know what we “insistently desire”? What do we think about when we don’t have to think about something? What do we choose to do with our time? This shows our priorities. As Elder Oaks said, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.”

If we don’t desire the things that will bring us closer to our Savior and our Father and ultimately to live with them and our family eternally, then it is our responsibility to pray for that desire and work on those things we have been told by the scriptures, our prophets, and our local church leaders that we need to do. None of us is perfect and changing those imperfections starts with a desire to change them.

President Joseph F. Smith taught that the "education. . . of our desires is one of far-reaching importance to our happiness in life" (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 297).
For one more great talk on desire by Elder Oaks read DALLIN H. OAKS ,"The Desires of Our Hearts" , BYU Devotional, 8 October 1985

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grilled Lime Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

We had this for dinner last night and really liked it. I was surprised that even Elisa liked it since she dislikes cilantro. The photos don't show the salad on the other side of the plate which made it even better, and there was something else I didn't have, but was craving to eat with it. Fried plantains! Yummmmmmm. This is an easy meal that I cooked up on my indoor grill. I like the lime flavor. I just mashed the beans a little instead of putting them in the food processor. I found this at Simply Recipes.
Grilled Lime Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
Juice of 4-5 limes
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c.+ (more to taste) chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 t. dried oregano leaves
1/2 t. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 red onion, halved then sliced into 1/4” strips

Black Bean Sauce:
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 quart filtered water
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced and chopped
Stems from one bunch of cilantro, chopped into 1/4” bits (approx. 1/2 cup)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper in a glass bowl and mix well. Trim the chicken breasts, then add to the marinade. Cover lightly and marinate, turning the chicken occasionally, for 2 hours at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge).
Prepare Black Bean Sauce while chicken is marinating. Place beans in a large sauce-pan or soup pan, and add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours. Add additional water if needed. Remove bay leaves, then transfer the bean mixture to a food processor. Process well, adding water if needed to make desired consistency.

Preheat oven to 350° F, and prepare grill (gas or hot coals). Place the red onion slices in the bottom of a shallow, oven-proof dish, then cover with chicken breasts and marinade. Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil, then bake for 15-20 minutes (only until the chicken is opaque). Remove the chicken breasts to a platter and set aside. Continue to cook the onions in the marinade (covered) for 10 minutes. Save the marinade for grilling.

Place the chicken breasts on the grill over very hot coals or gas flame, and grill until they are thoroughly cooked but still moist (approximately 2 minutes on each side). Drizzle with remaining marinade while cooking. Remove to platter when grilled.
Serve the grilled chicken with the red onions, drizzle with the black bean sauce. Garnish with sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes or fresh cilantro - or serve with a leafy green side salad, as desired.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the story of how my scientific experiment went wrong. While I was organizing my kitchen cabinets a couple of weeks ago, I found rice flour that I had forgotten about. I bought it to make some gluten-free cookies a while ago. They didn’t turn out good enough to make again so I threw out the recipe and didn’t share it here. I wanted to use more of the rice flour so I searched for a gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe. Sabrina had been begging me to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for a couple of weeks, but I had been too busy. I found this recipe at kill.the.gluten.  

So I decided that I’d make two batches. One gluten-free version and one made with regular flour (same recipe) and I wasn’t going to tell the kids what the difference was, just that I wanted to know which recipe they liked better and why. BUT Sabrina was too clever and looked at the recipe on my computer and saw that one was gluten-free and she told her brother and sister. So I didn’t get an unbiased opinion.

They all said they didn’t like the gluten-free version because it has a granular texture. I could tell a difference with the texture, but I thought they were good. For some reason, the gluten-free cookies were less smooth and a little higher than the regular. I think they're a good and really liked them warm with the melty chocolate chips. And I just did one batch of each. We all know that you have to repeat the experiment several times to get a true representation of the product, but I didn't. It's possible that a second batch could have tasted slightly better (or worse). But this was my flawed (and very yummy) experiment.
Gluten-free Version               Regular Version

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 t. vanilla
2 c. rice flour
1 t. gluten-free baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, pumpkin & vanilla. Then add all dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips and mix in. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until a little underbaked.
Regular Version above

Gluten-free Version above

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nik Day

Today I am introducing you to Nik Day and his music. (You're welcome...You will thank me.) I heard his music online for a while and when he was playing at BYU Unplugged a few months ago, I went to see it with my friend who had never heard of him. There were lots of good artists that night, but he was my favorite and my friend likes his music now too! He is fun and energetic on stage.
Many singers don't like to be compared to other singers, so I won't do that, but on his own Reverbnation page he did, so I'll quote him.
 "His style is uniquely his own, though some say his music is similar to Michael Buble and Jason Mraz, with a warm, raspy voice similar to that of John Mayer."

Any DAY is a good DAY to listen to Nik Day, but I am thinking of his music today because he is playing tonight (May 20th) in SLC, but I won't be there. I'm happy that I'll be at BYU for my sister's sister-in-law's Artist Reception. If you are anywhere around Provo up until May 30th, you should stop by BYU to see the show.
Back to Nik-I included two videos here. If you know Provo, you might recognize a few of the places in the videos. If you like his music, you can LIKE him on Facebook and get updates about his shows or just leave him some words of love on his wall.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Snappish & Willful

I am so honored that Laura from Living a Big Story asked me to be a guest blogger on her May Mother's Day Series along with other women. She will be posting mine Monday, May 16th. So you can head over there and read my little post, along with some other posts by awesome women guests and Laura's own posts too!

You most likely have heard the following analogy before in Jeremiah 18 or recently in The Potter and the Clay, Ensign, January 2011. I found a bit more of Heber C. Kimball's quote, which was used in the Ensign article, in Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer By Stanley B. Kimball.

“I do not know that I can compare it [the proper course of life] better than by the potter’s business. It forms a good comparison. This is the course you must pursue, and I know of no other way that God has prepared for you to become sanctified, and molded and fashioned, until you become modeled to the likeness of the Son of God, by those who are placed to lead you. This is a lesson you have to learn as well as myself….You have come from the mill, and you have been there grinding. For what purpose? To bring you into a passive condition….Now suppose I subject myself enough, in the hands of the potter, to be shaped according as he was dictated by the Great Master potter, that rules over all things in heaven and on earth, He would make me into a vessel of honor.
There are many vessels that are destroyed after they have been molded and shaped. Why? Because they are not contented with the shape the potter has given them, but straightway put themselves into a shape to please themselves; therefore they are beyond understanding what God designs, and they destroy themselves by the power of their own agency, for this is given to every man and woman, to do just as they please…Well, then, you have to go through a great many modelings and shapes, then you have to be glazed and burned; and even in the burning, some vessels crack. What makes them crack? Because they are snappish; they would not crack if they were not snappish and willful."
(Pretty Elisa made this fun pottery)

This goes along with taking hold of the steering wheel instead of trusting our Father to guide us. Before this quote, Heber C. Kimball talks about how "as [His] work progresses, the works of Satan will increase, and he will continue to present one thing after another, following up the work of God, and increasing means of deception, to lead astray such men and women, and take them captive." How can he lead us astray if we are trying to do good? When we are not in a "passive condition" or humble, we may think that we know more than the potter. Who is the potter? Jesus in the master potter, shaping us the way His master, our Father, instructs Him to. But our church leaders are also our potters, as stated in the quote above.

Are we humble enough to listen to our church leaders when they guide us, advise us, teach us? Or do we decide that we know better what shape we should take, trying to mold ourselves and "destroy [ourselves] by the power of [our] own agency?" Why do we fight it when He knows what our design is, what we must become? Why would we question it when He will make us into "a vessel of honor", something we cannot do on our own? I have been blessed with many wise and kind leaders who have helped and guided me. We only have to listen to the Father's words through them and obey. They want what our Father wants--a pot molded just right.

Besides the molding by our leaders, our Father uses our experiences to mold us. Many people talk about how we grow and are molded in our trials, and it is true, but I have also learned so much in the good times. We just need to always be willing to learn and grow. Two people going through the same experiences could come out very differently. We need to let the Spirit guide us and always stay on the straight and narrow.

I'm gonna start using that phrase "snappish and willful" when I start to take over and think I know what's best. Hopefully that will snap me back to humility so I will allow myself to be molded, so I can be what the potter is trying to make me into.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Catchin' Up

Most of the last month and a half I was studying even during the weekends, but did manage to squeeze a few fun things in. My poor bored children. 
I took Alexander to a Japanese restaurant, just the two of us. He loves all things Japanese. He even had the sushi. He said the wasabi was too spicy so he couldn't eat more than a couple of nibbles. 
Just hangin' out at home, day after day
My friend Katherine got married and I was blessed to be there. Yay for second chances at love!
Sabrina bought some flowers for me at school and it wasn't even for Mother's Day. So sweet!
I finally got to visit with my friend Kathryn. We've been friends since before we had children, but she has lived out of the state for years. She is also getting remarried and I'm so excited for her! (I think I need to change my name to some spelling of Kathryn. Did you notice why?)
I took the kids ice skating after my finals were over! We all ended up bruised from falls or with blisters from the ice skates. But we had fun and want to go again sometime soon. I didn't want to take my camera so I took these photos before we left. Kinda boring, but I haven't taken many photos of them or with them for a while. 
Alexander taught Elisa how to mow the lawn. He does not mind one bit sharing that job.
Alexander had a band concert. He's the one in "concert black", pretending to play the trombone.
We hung out in the mall being silly.
                   Julie, Me, LesaKendraCheryl, & Valerie (another one!)

Then last week I got to go to breakfast with these beautiful, fun and wonderful women! I sure hope it won't be the last time we get together. There wasn't enough time to chat all we wanted to. But now I know them all in person and it makes their blogs even more fun to read! Kneaders=Gooood breakfast, Kneaders with Blogger Friends=An unforgettable morning!

Now I'm back in class. Gotta get through this chemistry class and the lab in half the time of the normal semester since it's a summer block. Here's hoping I survive!
So much stuff bouncing around my head. I sure hope I can find time to blog soon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chocolate Recipes Revisited

My days off before school starts on Monday went so very fast. Several days I was busy baking, which is a nice change from never having time to bake. But I didn't dare try something new because the baking was all for Teacher Appreciation Week and I wanted the teachers' treats that I took to the junior high to be great. So take a look at what I made from some of my old posts. I'm hoping to find time for a new post soon.
Creamy Cocoa Cookies with Fat Fudge Frosting

Ultimate Orange Raspberry Brownie Muffin
Pretzel Crusted Caramel and Chocolate Brownie Cups

Monday, May 2, 2011

When In the Depths of the Sea or Enveloped by Fog

In all of our lives, there are times when it feels like a battle just to keep our head above water because of a situation that we are in. I have found myself feeling that many times in my new situation as a single mom. The first several months after finding out my temple marriage of almost 18 years was over, I was an absolute walking zombie. Throughout this past year (the one year mark of that horrible day recently past), it has been a roller coaster ride, sometimes feeling such peace and faith that all will be right in the end and I can be happy, and other times falling so low and wondering if I can ever ride back up.

Many of you know the story of the brother of Jared  from the The Book of Mormon. I have identified with being in one of the Jaredites’ barges, down under the depths of the sea, down so long with both holes stopped up, almost gasping for air at times. But every time, if I look to my Father in Heaven, when I need it most, He “will bring [me] up out of the depths of the sea.”

Ether 2:24
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.
There is one difference with my barge and theirs. My barge has a steering wheel. I can choose to let my Heavenly Father guide me or in moments of doubt about my ability to be enough or with fear of my present and future, I can grab a hold of the wheel and turn that boat where I think it should go. My Father in Heaven knows all things and can see what I need now and where I need to be headed now to get to the right place in the future. I can’t even see where I am clearly, let alone what is best for me later, so how can I steer that boat better than He? Of course it is absurd, but sometimes, full of stupidity, I do that.

A few years ago, my parents gave me the book Better Than You Think You Are by Ardeth G. Kapp as a gift. It is a wonderful book with so many truths. You may have heard this story that is in the book.

“I am impressed with the story of Florence Chadwick, who determined at thirty-four years of age that she would be the first woman to swim the twenty-two miles from Catalina Island to the California coast. She had already been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

“One writer reported the experience: ‘The water was cold that July morning, she could hardly see the
boats in her own party. Millions were watching on national television. Several times sharks, which had gotten too close, had to be driven away with rifles to protect the lone figure in the water. As the hours ticked off, she swam on. Fatigue had never been her big problem in these swims – it was the bone-chilling cold of the water. More than 15 hours later, numbed with the cold, she asked to be taken out. She couldn't go on. Her mother and her trainer alongside in the boat told her that they were near land. They urged her not to quit. But when she looked at the California coast, all she could see was dense fog.’

“A few minutes later, at fifteen hours and fifty-five minutes, she was taken out of the water. It was not until hours later, when her body began to warm up again, that she felt the shock of failure. To a reporter she blurted out, ‘Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I cold have just seen land I might have made it.’ She had been pulled out only one-half mile from the California coast. Later she reflected that she had been defeated not by fatigue, not even by the cold, but by the fog. It had defeated her because it had obscured her goal and blinded her reason, her eyes, her heart.”
Ardeth G. Kapp, Better Than You Think You Are, p. 102-103
We cannot see through the fog, but our Father in Heaven can. He guides us through the Holy Ghost, our church leaders, the scriptures, and our patriarchal blessing. We have to trust that what our Father tells us is true, that we can make it to the coast, no matter how cold or tired we get. We cannot pull out when we are so close to the goal. We need to keep our eternal perspective to remember that all of our sacrifices and hard work will be worth it when we can be reunited with our Father and with our families.  
I gotta send all of you over to Laura's blog Living a Big Story (which I recently mentioned in a post) because she has a great giveaway going on and a Mother's Day guest blog series all month with guest blog posts, including one from me sometime this month.

Utah Local: Rico Cocina y Tequila Bar

I wanted to find somewhere different to have dinner with my children, but it had to have food that all of them would eat. It's not easy ...