Some Old Stuff and Some New

At Woo's request, I'm sharing this story.

When we got back from Utah this summer, Woo's asthma returned and I disinfected the bedroom. A big problem, in my opinion, was the pile of stuff Woo had tossed on his side of the bed, collecting dust.

The two biggest offenders over there were his tortilla chip stockpile and his giant teddy bear (which he would occasionally bury his head in and then have trouble breathing later that night... he denies this... )

I hid the teddy bear and put the remaining chips on top of the fridge. Woo has kept that area mostly clutter-free and so far, so good. His asthma problems are gone.

A couple of weeks ago Lidl had tortilla chips again (they're seasonal here), and Woo happily piled two big boxes on top of his cart. I eyed him with suspicion, but said nothing because I knew two boxes would fit above the fridge, but when he gleefully went for box number three I put my foot down with a forceful, "I am NOT dusting your chips!"

He thought that was funny, but he put the other box back.

The air in the church has also not been too bad. There is a room or two that he feels are the worst, and he tries to avoid them. However, watching one session of conference in the church last week was too much (something on the TV that was pulled out of a closet?), and he came home wheezing.

The inhaler he brought to Portugal is practically empty so we stepped into a pharmacy this week, where he picked one up for 3.75€. Quite a bit cheaper than his original.

Another story I'm forgetting from a couple of months ago is of a sacrament meeting. The kind of summer sacrament meeting where everyone shows up pretty tired already and the first two talks are dead boring. Woo was the final speaker.

Archie always sits with Woo in the chairs behind the pulpit. He does the best up there, but with Woo standing at the pulpit speaking, there was no one to keep Archie in line. He stood up several times to give Woo a big hug from behind.

Woo would interrupt his talk every time with a "thank you, Archie," and a pat behind him, which made us all smile.

And then just when Woo was making his most emphatic point, Archie stretched out on three or four chairs behind him, opened his mouth and let out a huge, audible yawn.

Woo paused, looked behind him, then wrapped up his talk.

We had no hot water for the last week, but the water heater has never worked well, and there's a process of calling the realtor, waiting for the workman (sometimes a couple), and then it actually getting fixed. We've already had weeks without it. I was surprised this week when I reminded kids to shower/bathe, and no one complained about the cold water. We can all do it now, even me. But this time the water heater was apparently dead enough to replace. Our cold water days may be forever over?

Ruby had her first experience witnessing the fallout of sexting this week. She came home at lunch pretty shaken after the uproar that had taken place in her grade with the gossiping, fight that broke out on the patio, police involvement, etc.

In the last year she's become grateful that she doesn't have her own phone yet, as she sees the problems that often accompany it. She was home alone with me for about an hour that afternoon, so we were able to talk a bit. But she is becoming self-sufficient in re-centering herself emotionally and spiritually, and before we talked she was already feeling much better.

Herbie bought a new (used) skateboard this week. He was excited to try it out, and he did eventually get to the skatepark, but it almost seemed like the thing he wanted to do most was pull out the tools and switch around decks and trucks and bearings. Woo talked him out of it and convinced him to skate on the board as it is for a while, but Herbie was clearly disappointed.

Herbie made a greater effort to study and do homework at the end of last year. He has continued that this year, and his first few tests have shown it.

I didn't assign a talk for primary today, but instead asked kids to stand and say something they'd learned from conference. I was amazed at Moses remembering almost every detail from talks he'd only heard once a week ago, and to recount them in Portuguese.

When Moses was praying about going to Poland, he got a prompting to do more family history work as protection, and he has been doing that. Ruby and Herbie are being baptized for all his names in the temple.

Elder Bednar's conference talk was an instant hit with the kids. First, he mentioned Spiritual Crocodiles, a talk and video clip they're all familiar with, and then he talked about cheetahs with lots of illustrations.

Linus bore his testimony about it today in sacrament meeting. Linus has had practice recognizing symbols in stories and he identified one that I don't remember Elder Bednar saying. He also made one branch member's day by asking him how to say cheetah and topi in Portuguese, and his testimony was mentioned by a couple other people.

Penelope has suddenly become the messiest kid. There is a pile of sand on the floor anywhere her shoes have been, and if she sits in my chair, there's a pile of sand there too. She and her friends must have some new game in the sandbox area of the playground.

Also, we bought her a brand-new Sunday outfit for her birthday, but she got ink on her shirt and skirt the very first day she wore them. I managed to mostly get that ink out, but every time she wears them there's a new ink stain. Pale pink clothing is still a mistake for her.

(The real star of this photo is the phone booth graveyard behind me.)

The kids and I have switched places in fast and testimony meeting. I give a basic, 3-4 simple sentence testimony. They share a short experience and a personal, thoughtful testimony. Woo's testimonies are the same good in English or Portuguese.

I am going to include my talk from last month. I've been putting it off, because of its potentially controversial nature (shield your teenage daughters and eating disorder sufferers...). And also because this is something that probably no one wants to read.

However, I didn't fast last week (I thought a break on conference Sunday might be nice), and it was a horrible day for me. This whole week was not that great either. I'm not doing that again anytime soon; I'm convinced it's the right thing for me. I'm including this talk for posterity and because it's part of my story.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great week!

I’m grateful that Mario allowed us to pick our topics this month. I thought I was going to speak about temples, but then Heavenly Father reminded me that this is a chance to talk about one of my favorite topics—fasting and fast offerings!

I grew up in a home where my mother and father fasted every fast Sunday and paid fast offerings.

My mother once told me a story of a time when my parents were first married and had a small family and did not have a lot of money. Someone suggested that they not pay fast offerings at that time, but they continued to pay them. They knew they could do it, even though it was a sacrifice, and they knew they would be blessed.

And they were. They always had enough money, never ran into serious financial trouble, and over time they made more money. My father later told me that they had always been blessed because they had paid tithing and fast offerings.

As a very little child I also remember going to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner on fast Sunday and my Grandma explaining that she was fasting and my Grandpa speaking about it in his prayer over the food.

As I grew up, my parents taught me how to fast. When I was 8 years old and baptized, I was expected to fast one meal every fast Sunday. When I was 12 years old and in young women’s, I was expected to fast two meals every fast Sunday.

I was taught to fast with a purpose, to open and close my fast with a prayer, telling my Heavenly Father what I was fasting for, and I almost always remembered to do that.

I fasted this way every month for a long time until my mission. On my mission I was expected to pay fast offerings for the first time. I had no idea how much to give, so I asked my companion. She told me how much she paid and I immediately paid double :).

But I did not tell her that. I knew the Lord would bless me and He did. Many missionaries run out of their stipend by the end of the month, but I always had much more money than I needed and at the end of my mission, I was able to return several thousand Austrian Schillings to the mission home.

My first companion also had a tradition of reading Isaiah 58 every fast Sunday. I began to read it with her and I learned even more about the law of the fast. I grew to love Isaiah 58. It is like poetry to me. 

I don’t know if it is as beautiful in Portuguese, but these are some of my very favorite verses:
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 
And now these are the promises for properly keeping the law of the fast and paying fast offerings. (And they are wonderful!)
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
10 Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 
I continued to pay fast offerings after my mission, and I increased them periodically when I could, and then I got married.

Steven had a new fasting tradition, that I had not yet done. We started our fast in prayer together and we started our fast on the Saturday night before fast Sunday, immediately after Saturday dinner.

This improved my fast in a couple of ways. First I discussed the fast with someone, and together we came up with better things to fast for, and secondly, by starting Saturday night we always got our 24 hours or 2 meals in and we never woke up in a wild rush fast Sunday morning having forgotten it was fast Sunday and needing something quick! to fast about.

And then I got pregnant with Ruby. I had heard that when pregnant or nursing many women modify their fast. They don’t go without food, but they don’t eat anything delicious or they don’t eat any treats, or something like that. They still eat.

The problem was, I really loved fasting. I knew it was a time that I was closer to my Heavenly Father, and I did not want to give it up.

So I didn’t. I fasted just like I normally would, and I was happy to see that I was just fine. No ill effects at all. In my 10 years of pregnancy or nursing I fasted completely normally for all but 5 or 6 months. On those months I could tell and I only fasted one meal, but on the next month, I was right back to normal fasting.

It’s impossible for me to say exactly how I was blessed because of this, but I do know that I was. I assume I was blessed with health for myself and my children and also with the inspiration and strength I needed to be a better mother.

And then when Archie was a couple years old, I started to find that I had too many things I wanted to fast about!

So many of my questions or requests are answered close to immediately while I’m fasting, just like Isaiah says, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.”

And I wanted that more than once a month! I started to experiment with more frequent fasting.

I know that what I am about to say is not required or recommended for everyone. In fact, it is completely the wrong thing for some people. Maybe most?? And I have told very few people that I do this. Really only my family knows.

However, for me, I have found that fasting once a week is the right thing for me. I have done it for many years. I have not lost nor gained weight nor had any ill side effects, but it is something that I do to feel closer to God and I know the Lord hears my prayers.

I have received some truly wonderful bits of revelation for myself and for my family through more frequent fasting and fast offerings.

I guess what I’m saying that applies to everyone is to not be afraid to fast at times outside of fast Sunday, especially if you need it.

As we had children, Steven and I included them in our Saturday night discussion of what to fast for and our prayers to start and end our fasts. Starting as babies they did not eat delicious things on fast Sundays, just very plain and basic foods.

As eight year olds they have been expected to fast one meal and as twelve year olds, a full two meals, although almost all of them have started earlier than expected because as we have fasted as a family, they have gained their own testimonies of the law of the fast.

Living here in the branch, they’ve all gotten to add bearing testimonies to their fast Sunday habits, which has been another blessing.

I love fasting and paying a generous fast offering. I do it to as a way to show love to my Heavenly Father, bless His other children, and feel His love for me.

It is also my testimony that as we keep the commandments and are open to change, we can improve upon the commandments we may already think we are keeping, not necessarily by doing more, but better, with an eye single to the glory of God.

This scripture in 2 Nephi 28:30 also applies to how we keep the commandments. If we are invited to improve them by the Holy Ghost and we refuse, thinking we do it well enough, we will lose what we have.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.