Sunday, October 30, 2011

I've Gotta Get To Institute!

Let me tell you about one of our students. He's a 21-year-old pet store employee who joined the Church about a year ago. He is enthusiastic, energized, very organized, and totally involved in the gospel. It has changed his life. He's the class president in our Annandale class, and when he emailed students with an Institute reminder last week, he attached this fun YouTube message. Check it out!

While attendance at Institute has many bonuses, we've found that meeting new people, great food, and good instructors are not the only reasons students come.  These things make a difference, but it's really all about faith and testimony. Those who persist in coming are there because they honestly believe that this is Christ's ancient church, reestablished in our day. They know why they are there. They've asked hard questions and are finding the answers they need in the scriptures and in the counsel of living prophets. They take their covenants seriously and believe their bonds with the Savior can last through eternity.

Those who read, study and participate continue to come to Institute
because they have tasted the fruits of the gospel, find hope and comfort
in its truths, and enjoy being with others who live its teachings. When the
restored gospel of Jesus Christ finds place in their minds and in their hearts, they grow in confidence and purpose.

We love to be with them and to see this process take place. We learn alot from them. We are buoyed up by their enthusiasm, their insights, and their faith in the future. That's why we're glad that once again this week...
we've gotta get to Institute!      ~Don~


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Surprise Visitors!

We had the most wonderful surprise! Our two youngest grandchildren, the only two who haven't been here for a visit, showed up at our front door yesterday afternoon! Well, sort of. They came as Flat Ammon and Flat Laina (Flat Stanley style) -- in the mail. We loved it!

We took them right in the living room and sat them on the couch for awhile. They've been there ever since. It's almost as good as seeing them in person. Ammon and Laina are five and three, respectively, and we have been missing them so much. They are at that cute, cute age where they just love to be with us. They come running and throw their arms around us when they come to visit. Now they're here!

This morning, when I came downstairs to do the laundry, there they were again, waiting for me. What a great way to start the day! They grin at us all the time, and they make us smile every time we walk through the room. I think I'm going to ask for Flat Jacob (who's 16), Flat Adam (who's 6'2"), Flat Noah, Flat Matthew, Flat Mary, and Flat Rachel for Christmas!

All of our grandkids have been just great about keeping in touch while we've been gone. We get postcards and drawings and letters, cards, and emails every once in awhile.There's always something from them hanging on our fridge. We've also received two envelopes of the cutest drawings from two Primary classes: one of our daughter Kristen's ward Primary classes, and one from Mary Rasmussen and Shawna Fuller's Primary class in our home ward. We love them!

Thanks to everyone who has take time to think of us. It really gives us a lift. Makes me realize I could have been much more proactive keeping in touch with the missionaries going out from our ward over the years.... Now I know how good it feels to be on the receiving end and it doesn't take much to make someone's day. I think it's my turn now.                                                                              ~Pat~

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The World Is A Carousel of Color

Does anybody (other than me) remember the Disney's Wonderful World of Color TV show from the 1960's? These past few weeks, the theme song, which began with "The world is a carousel of color...," has been floating through my mind at different times as we have driven through the magnificent countryside of the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia to and from our classes. We spend a couple of hours on the road to and from our classes every day, which gives us a lot of time to observe this beautiful part of our country.

We live in an area of rolling green lawns and thick forests. What fun it has been to see the changes in the colors of the leaves on a day to day basis! Every day is different. It has seemed lately that every night as we sleep someone comes along and sets random trees on fire with incredible hues of deep red, rust, gold, burnt orange, and brilliant yellow. They say the rain this year has deepened the colors. Well, I'm glad all that rain has been good for something...! It's been downright soggy around here and we're in for rain again almost every day this week.

Inside the Capitol Rotunda
This afternoon we said good-bye to Janet, Kim, Adam, Matthew, and Rachel. Good-byes are always the hardest part of the visit! What a blessing that all of our daughters and their families have now been able to come and experience the majesty and beauty of our nation's capitol. It's a senior missionary blessing that we didn't even consider when we submitted our papers. Having family visit us occasionally has been the icing on our missionary experience, and it's been a great education for our 'tween and teen grandchildren. Janet and family have been with us for a week or so during their school break. We loved having them here. Most days, we had to drop them off at the Metro in the morning before our classes and pick them up late in the evening after our night classes, but they covered a lot of territory while we were busy teaching.

We did get to spend all day Saturday with them at the Smithsonian and Mt. Vernon. So much to see and do! We particularly love Mt. Vernon. Although we have always looked up to George Washington, the more we learn about him, the more we admire him. The Father of our Country was an amazing, gifted man. There is so much to celebrate about the history of our country!

It was Adam's 15th birthday on Saturday, too, so we celebrated by going out to dinner and embarrassing him early in the morning with our family's scary rendition of the Happy Birthday song.

Monday marks the beginning of a new week of classes - so it's back to work for us. We already have this week's lessons outlined, but it'll take many more hours of study before we feel completely prepared. Ready, set, go!              ~Pat~

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Scripture Power

Scripture Power -- everyday I need...
The power that I get each time I read."

Our good and kind friend, Clive Romney, wrote those words twenty-five years ago and Primary children have been enthusiastically belting them out ever since.

There is so much truth in that simple phrase. We need the power of holy scripture in our daily experience, and as we teach Institute we are witnessing the results of the habit of scripture reading in the lives of our students. It has given us a powerful object lesson.

The generation that we are now teaching has grown up during the twenty-five years since President Benson gave his epic sermon in General Conference calling upon all members of the Church to make the reading of scripture, and particularly the Book of Mormon, a daily habit. Many of these students' parents took President Benson's counsel to heart when their children were young, began to read together daily with their families, and we now see the result. Their children have become our students, full of love for and understanding of the scriptures. The scriptures are their friends, just as Elder Scott described in his Conference talk a few weeks ago:

"The scriptures... can become stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar. They are always available when needed.... Learning, pondering, searching and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinetwith friends, values and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world."

The scriptures guide the lives of many of our students. You can see it in their actions, their attitudes and their choices. These students are normal young single adults facing uncertainty, trials, and weighty decisions. They struggle. They do the best they can. But what we see is that they are grounded in truth through their friendship with the scriptures. They turn to the scriptures for answers. They know the teachings and the stories found therein and they turn to them for guidance. The scriptures help them make better decisions. And the scriptures help them find their way back when they stumble.

We are seeing the cumulative effect of the years that both the students and their families have invested in scripture study, as well as the power the students have gained from that habit. And it is a cumulative effect that has been acquired once day at a time. Just as it would not be effective to pile seven days worth of toothpaste on a toothbrush every Sunday so you only had to brush your teeth once a week, scripture study, too, is most effective on a daily basis. It invites the Spirit of the Lord into our minds and hearts each day.

As we have taught two classes each week on the power of the scriptures, we have been reminded of the blessings and benefits of habits we have long practiced. I am really grateful for the effect that the scriptures have had on my life. Because I am "old" and have lots of years of experience to look back on, I can now see how regular scripture study has taught me things I needed to know, improved my ability to learn and comprehend truth, opened me up to receive inspiration when I needed it, protected me from some mistakes I might have made, and gradually changed my heart and my mind over a period of many years. I wish I could say that reading the scriptures has made me perfect, but, alas, I've still got a long way to go on that count. Nevertheless, my life has been greatly blessed by the scriptures and I do not regret one minute I ever spent reading them.

Isn't it amazing that we can carry them with us everywhere we go now -- on our phones, our laptops, and our iPads? Here's to scripture power! ~Pat~

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Heat Is On

Quite literally, and in many ways, the heat is on! Summer has come and gone and the days are cooling off. The beautiful forests of trees in Northern Virginia are teasing us with the first of their brilliant fall colors. We can hardly wait to see what this area will look like in a few weeks. The heat is on in our townhouse already, but some afternoons we still have to sneak in a few hours of air conditioning. What a great time of year.

The weather has been perfect for the past few days, not too hot and not too cold, with lots of sunny, blue skies. Perfect timing, because this weekend we had two of our daughters and three grandkids visit.

Kristen, Jacob, Noah and Mary arrived late last Wednesday night. It was our grandkids' first trip here and they pretty much took in everything in the District in three days time. Phew!

Josh and Emily arrived Friday afternoon with BYU Folk Dancers to perform at an annual ambassadors function at the Marriott Ranch on Saturday. We all met up on Saturday night: eleven of us in all, including our niece, Susi, who lives in D.C. What a great time we had walking the mall (again), seeing the sights, and enjoying being together. So much fun! The hardest part was having to say goodbye to them all as they flew home within a couple hours of each other on Sunday.

Tonight, we're back at work preparing and finalizing lessons for the coming week. The heat is on in our Institute calling, too. We are definitely earning our pay.... :) We do a lot of driving, a lot of teaching, and a lot of preparation. It keeps us busy all week. We have to work hard to have something worthwhile and challenging to present to these students. We are constantly impressed with the amount of gospel understanding that they already have.

Then there's the cookie baking project. That's the reason the heat is on in our kitchen. For some unexplained reason, I had the bright idea when we arrived that I'd like to bake cookies for our classes each week. I must admit I was a little out of practice. I haven't baked cookies for years, so don't ask me why I thought that would be a good idea, but I did. My cookie making expertise has grown by leaps and bounds -- almost as much as my teaching ability.

So, the cookie baking project went well when we had about 10 students in each of our classes. Now one of our classes is averaging 80 - 90 students each week. Yikes! It looks like cookie heaven in our kitchen every Monday. The up-side of all of this is that the students really appreciate them! Of course, it isn't hard to please a 20-something-year-old student who hasn't tasted anything home-baked since the last time they went home (if then).

I make about 10 dozen every week. This week I'll bake chocolate chip cookies again. Last week it was Orange Oatmeal cookies (a big hit), and before that brownies, and before that - s'more cookies. Yup, that's right. Kristen gave me the recipe for s'more cookies. They were also a big hit, but kinda labor intensive when you're making 10 dozen. I had a lot of requests for the recipe. Here it is:

S'More Cookies
1 pkg. graham crackers (9 full-sized)
6 Tbs. butter, melted
2 Tbs. sugar
Dash of salt
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbs. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. milk chocolate chips3 1/2 c. flour
Large marshmallows
Hershey chocolate bars or chocolate kisses

Break the graham crackers up into the food processor and grind into crumbs. Add melted butter, sugar, and salt. Crumble them together and set aside. Cream together softened butter, brown sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix in baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Toss in chocolate chips and crumb mixture and stir by hand. Roll in 2" balls. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes (not completely cooked). Cut marshmallows in half and press one piece into the center of each hot cookie. Return to the oven and bake a little more (4-5 minutes) until the mallows puff up and get all beautiful. Remove from the oven and press one chocolate square into the center of each.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's All About The Students...

Our Mt. Vernon class last Tuesday night at the 23rd Street Chapel in Crystal City was exciting -- the best teaching experience we've had yet. About 80 students were there. With much time spent in preparation, Pat and I are learning how to team teach, using our individual strengths and styles. We are delving into selected General Conference talks, mining their meaning. Many students had read the assigned talks and were willing to discuss their concerns and challenges. They raised questions, answered questions, questioned the answers, and expressed deep faith in the gospel.
Pat had the students role play parts of Elder Bednar's talk, Nothing Shall Offend Them, asking "an offended student" to refuse to take offense, and then to communicate privately, honestly, and directly with "the offender." Students demonstrated how we can choose not to be offended and to actively seek to resolve hurt feelings and misunderstandings through caring dialogue.
These DC Institute students are amazing. They come to class prepared, ready to learn, and anxious to share and participate. They come from varied backgrounds. Many come from homes where the scriptures were read daily. They are deeply rooted in the gospel. Others are recent converts. They are eager to learn all they can about the Church and its teachings. They have strong testimonies. They are bright, capable, and spiritual, and they challenge our ability to keep up.
The area around the 23rd Street Chapel is known locally as "Little Provo" because of the large number of LDS singles living there. You can read about it in The Washington Post at 
At the Annandale and Centreville Stake Centers, and at George Mason University, we teach smaller classes. We have come to love these wonderful students as well. Last week we divided students into small groups to come up with current problems that can be solved through searching the scriptures. By using the Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, Indexes,, smart phones and I-Pads, they worked as teams to explore the scriptures to find answers to the challenges they had identified.
This week, we're looking forward to hearing how the students felt about the messages of last weekend's General Conference. It is very gratifying to feel the students' enthusiasm and love for the gospel and for Institute. The more we come to know these young adults, the more we love them.        ~Don~