And This Is Life Eternal

Many of you know that I am a professional educator. I work in the Freeport School District as the Curriculum Coordinator for 21st Century Teaching and Learning. Whenever I have the opportunity to share this with others upon meeting them for the first time, one of the first questions I get is, “Is that your real hair?” Apparently, there are things people care about more than know what it means to coordinate the teaching and learning efforts of an entire century. (The answer, by the way, is yes, this is my real hair; no, I don’t dye it; yes, it really is this curly; and no, you cannot touch it to see if it is actually a wig.) 
Once I am able to get the discussion about my amazing naturally curly hair out of the way, we get back to the question of what it is I actually do. My favourite way to describe my job is that I am a teacher of teachers and that my main responsibility is to get them to put away the worksheets and step away from the PowerPoint so that they can engage their students i…

All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience

Two Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door this afternoon. The gentleman at the door (I believe the other person with him was his wife) did most of the talking. He somehow knew that our last name was Valencic and thought perhaps we spoke Croatian. I explained that my ancestors came from present-day Slovenia but most of them spoke Polish. However, my parents and my grandparents spoke only English, except for a few words and phrases in Polish.

Abandoning his attempts at speaking Croatian and connecting with us that way, he asked me if I felt like the Hurricane Dorian is God's fault. I told them that I do not blame God for natural disasters and they responded by pointing out that insurance companies call them "acts of God." I observed that there are many archaic terms that we still use but that doesn't change the fact that God is not to be blamed for weather patterns. (If anything, people are, but that gets us into a different topic altogether.)

He quickly moved on to…

With Steadfast Faith in Christ

I am a collector of quotes. At one point, I had notebooks full of wise and pithy sayings, sprinkled with the humourous and witty. Later in my life I began to collect the quotes on various word document files, but when a computer died, the quotes often died with them. Eventually I stopped recording all of them in one place and started sharing them on social media, usually using Facebook and attaching a hashtag of some sort to help me keep track of them. Now, it turns out that none of these systems are particularly effective in helping me remember, locate, and share quotes. However, I have been able to at least remember the gist of some of the ones that had the greatest impact on me at different times in my life. Here are a few of them:
Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the courage to make the right things happen.
~Reverend Peter Marshall (United States Senate Chaplain) Right is right, even if everyone is against it; wrong is wrong, even if every is for…

My Recipe for Success

I have had the privilege this week of volunteering with the 44th annual Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute. As most who read my blog know, this is a summer leadership conference for middle and high school students throughout Illinois. (We also have participants who come from out of state.) This was my 17th Teen Institute. This year I was a part of the Headquarters Staff. You can read more about my experiences in this role here.

The speakers we had for our opening session are good friends of mine, Matt Matkovich and Phil Januszewski, both educators in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, who offer inspirational and motivational messages as M&P Presentations. I first met them five years at the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute and, through the power of social media, have been able to keep connected. Their keynote this year was about their recipe for a happy and healthy life.

During their presentation, they suggested that everyone to consider what their own personal recipes. I've been thinki…

Tennessee Teen Institute 2018

For something that has been such an integral part of my life for the past nineteen years, I have blogged a surprisingly low number of times about my experiences with Teen Institutes. I honestly have no idea why this is.

My first Teen Institute was in Illinois in 1999. I attended as a youth participant. I don't remember much of what I learned that year, although I do recall listening to Mike Bruni give a keynote address outside because the building we were using at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, lost power. I recall working with a group of teens from my community to come up with a plan of promoting a youth recreation program in the summer that never took off. And I remember having to be taken to the hospital to be treated for poison ivy exposure. (The staff member who took me was a giant of a man who advocated for me at the hospital when the nurse told me that there was no shot that could be given to me when he and I both knew there was.) I am sure I have other memories of th…

Sacrifice, Service, and Cub Scouts

[NOTE: I was asked to give a 3-5 minute report on a Cub Scout service project in my ward's Sacrament meeting this morning. Remembering the counsel of my mission president to never speak in Sacrament on a topic that did not directly relate to the teachings of Jesus Christ, I wrote and presented the following.]

The Prophet Joseph Smith, in his lectures on faith taught to the brethren in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio, said that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith 6:7).

King Benjamin, in his final address given to his people, recorded in the Book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, taught that one of the outward signs of true conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to “succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his peti…

Remembering the Love of the Lord

[As a member of my stake High Council, I am occasionally asked to visit another ward or branch in the stake and speak in Sacrament meeting. Today I visited the Urbana Young Single Adult Branch. What follows is the talk that I gave.]
For several months now, our stake goal has focused on recognising and remembering times we have felt the love the Lord in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. As I was preparing for this talk, my first as a member of the High Council, I asked my brother-in-law, Jonas Reger. if there was any particular topic or insight he would like me to address when speaking on this topic. His response was, “Oh, you are talking about that again? We’ve been hearing about that every time someone from the High Council speaks!” This comment caught my attention because I had just been at a High Council meeting where someone said that nobody really remembers what we say when we speak in Sacrament meetings. (As an aside, I did some calculations and estimate that I&#…