Finding Joy In Jesus this Easter with Nolong Bonner Bullock (2023)

Kathryn Davis 0:00

Is springtime one of your busiest seasons of the year? Sometimes it's the small things that help us recenter our focus and find joy in Jesus. Hi, and welcome to magnify an LDS Living podcast where we cheer inspire and embolden each other as women and followers of Jesus Christ. We hope to use our influence to make a difference in the world. I'm your host, Kathryn Davis, a mom, a seminary teacher, and a football fan who loves God. Today's guest is someone you may have already heard but didn't realize you were listening to her sing. Nolong Bullock is the oldest of the eight children in the musical Bonner family.

It's almost Easter, we often use the word joy around Christmas time. But it really deserves a place at Easter too. Nolong is here to share small ways to joy in Jesus this holiday even if you're feeling busier than ever. I'm so happy to chat with you today. Nolong. me too. I really am. I've been so excited. Before we start to talk. We always love to start each episode with some rapid fire questions so we can get to know our guests a little bit better. Okay, sounds good. Are you ready for some rapid fire questions?

Nolong Bullock 1:25

Fire away?

Kathryn Davis 1:26

Okay. This first question. So we both have kids who play football? Yes. Which is so fun. Your son is currently playing at Harvard, right? Yes, yes. My son just committed to play football at BYU. That's awesome. I know. So fun, right?

Nolong Bullock 1:44

Yes. Friday Night Lights. It's the best the best. It's the best date night. It's the best solo night. It's the best mother's son night. It's the best.

Kathryn Davis 1:55

So what do you love the most about it?

Nolong Bullock 1:57

Oh, there are two things. First, of course, you always love when your kid has the ball. So my kids a running back, he gets the ball regularly. He always has the ball. So that's always super exciting, when I'm the loudest. But I think when you first the first play of the night, and your team has the ball. And so for me, whether it's my son or another running back out, there's a war cry. I didn't realize I did this. But every time I get there, I scream so that he knows that I'm here. So is this really loud? Whoo. It's really loud. It's pretty distinct. And as soon as he hears that, he smiles and his whole team was like, Dude, your mom's here. We're gonna win. So I think that's my favorite. And I've done that since they were kids. There are five. Really? Yeah, because sometimes, you know, I was a working mom. So I would come in sometimes 5-10 minutes late, but I wanted them to know I am here. I'm watching you. So I scream as loud as I can. I scream their name, all kinds of stuff. And everybody knew. Okay, that's his mom. He's here. We're gonna we're going to great.

Kathryn Davis 2:58

I kind of love how you call it a war cry. Yeah, it's a whoo?

Nolong Bullock 3:03

I mean, no, it's it's much more than that. But, but it's, you know.

Kathryn Davis 3:09

Okay, next game. I'm gonna watch when Harvard plays I'm going to listen to the very beginning to see if I can hear you.

Nolong Bullock 3:16

You're not gonna be But uh, yeah, those those stadiums are huge. High School, you'd be able to hear.

Kathryn Davis 3:22

Yeah, but he can always hear you.

Nolong Bullock 3:24

I don't know about college. Well, not usually. Okay. Yeah.

Kathryn Davis 3:27

Do you ever get nervous watching him play or your daughter perform?

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Nolong Bullock 3:33

For my daughter, I just, I always want her to do her best. So when she sings you know, she's she's very good. So I don't ever get nervous there. I'm always always excited because she does something new every time. Or there's a different level that she goes to internally on the song. So it's exciting to watch her singing, dancing. I just when they put her in the front, I just want her to show out. So it's really just Okay, I hope she does what she's supposed to do. And I don't know if that's the difference between having a daughter and having a son. And with my son's one son was big. So I knew he wouldn't he would always be okay. So I just wanted to make sure he was his eye was on the ball because eye was on his opponent and he was paying attention. But younger son, you know, he's the one that gets tackled. So as long as I see him get up, I'm fine. But if he is taking a minute to get up, then I'm ready. I'm ready to go to the field. So rarely Am I nervous because he always pops back up. But if he doesn't get right up, then of course I'm nervous.

Kathryn Davis 4:29

Yeah, yeah, no, I, I totally get that. Right.

Nolong Bullock 4:33

Being a football mom is not for the faint of heart, is it?

Kathryn Davis 4:36

No, and it was not really what I wanted. Yeah. Oh, really? Yeah. I just I don't know why. I love football. But the thought of my boys playing it. I was like, Oh, I don't think I like football. Yeah. But my son who was playing it was like he was born to play. From a young age. It was what he wanted. And I thought, yeah, okay, here we go. And now I just I love I'm watching it.

Nolong Bullock 5:00

Yeah, I love it. Awesome.

Kathryn Davis 5:02

Awesome. Yeah. So we are just past the first day of spring. Yeah. Although, here today, you wouldn't be able to tell because blizzard outside.

Nolong Bullock 5:12

Oh my gosh, it's 80 degrees here.

Kathryn Davis 5:16

Is it really? Are you in Atlanta?

Nolong Bullock 5:18

I'm in Atlanta, it's 80 degrees. It's nice.

Kathryn Davis 5:21

Perfect. But with spring, a lot of people get excited about a new beginning and spring cleaning and organizing. My second question for you is do you listen or seeing music when you're cleaning? And if so, what kind of music?

Nolong Bullock 5:39

I always listen to music when I'm cleaning because I really don't love cleaning. So music is something I leverage when I'm doing something I don't like to do. And it always puts me right where I need to be emotionally to get done whatever it is that I'm getting them whether it's cleaning, driving, I hate driving, especially long distance you really oh my gosh, long distance driving, I can't. After about an hour I get sleepy. So I don't like to drive. But if I'm putting music on then it's it's fun. It's fun. For me. It's fun for everybody in the car. It's great time. So when I'm cleaning...

Kathryn Davis 6:15

What type of music?

Nolong Bullock 6:16

When I'm driving or when I'm cleaning? Both when I'm cleaning. Afro beats. This is This is music from West Africa, sometimes South Africa, sometimes Broadway shows with African music in it. So that's and it changes right right now. That's my my new passion is the afro beats Rhema. Calm down. That's a good one that gets a man. My house gets cleaned so quick. When I'm driving, always, always always Disney and Broadway tunes. Always. If I listen to Afro beats, or hip hop music or jazz or Tabernacle Choir, I'm asleep after an hour. But Disney, Ariel?!

Kathryn Davis 6:56

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That's your favorite is Ariel your go to?

Nolong Bullock 6:59

I mean, any Disney song any Disney or Broadway song. Absolutely. I can drive for 30 hours.

Kathryn Davis 7:05

Do you sing along?

Nolong Bullock 7:07

Yeah. Are you kidding me? Of course now, to Beauty and the Beast? Me and Belle. Absolutely.

Kathryn Davis 7:14

I love it. Well, something that I have loved about participating in timeout for women over the past few months is hearing your family sing. My favorite Bonner Family Song is child of God. Yeah, it's good. And I think that is one of my favorites. Because we say that all the time. And we sing it all the time in primary, but I think it just gets so repetitive. And there's something about the way your family sings that that helps me believe it and feel it like I feel it when they sing it. What is one of your favorite family songs to sing together?

Nolong Bullock 7:54

Child of God for sure. Really? And I think we like How great thou Art. I think those are our two favorites. Probably how great thou art because we're all singing. And we're all singing like all out. We're a family of soloists. But in this how great thou art we each get to be a soloist together. So I think we love that one. And of course child of God because you know, it's a reminder of who we are. And it's so funny. It wasn't until after that song. I'm the primary president in my word. So we get to sing that song. It means I mean, primary songs are great, right? I love them. I love all of them. But after knowing the song that we sing, it just brings deeper meaning to the child of God primary songs, so it never sounds the same to me. So that's probably my those two are my favorites.

Kathryn Davis 8:43

I actually agree. And I don't sing, but just hearing your family sing that I can't listen to that song the same way again. So what is one of your favorite memories of singing all together?

Nolong Bullock 8:55

Oh, so we have... So we sang together from when I was a kid. And all the years that I've known them and have vocalized with them and express in song with them. I think my favorite time was just recently like less than 60 days ago, we got to sing the national anthem as a family for the NBA Playoffs. And it just it brought new meaning to the song for me. It brought new meaning to what it means to be an American. It was just so profound to have all of my siblings there so it was great and my parents.

Kathryn Davis 9:31

love that I actually watched that and it was so beautiful.

Nolong Bullock 9:34

Yeah as dynamic.

Kathryn Davis 9:35

Well actually we talked a little bit about springtime and how excited I am that it spring but with spring it can also bring a lot of extra activities. I know any time of year is busy, but it feels like sometime in spring. It can be extra busy there's spring cleaning and there's spring sports and there's garden mean and spring break. It's like everything keeps kind of being added upon. So with all these extras, I think it's really easy to lose focus on the Savior, even though with spring comes Easter. And I think sometimes it's hard to focus on Easter and I know something that the last couple of years in my seminary classes, we have been really trying to focus on Easter and Passover, and what the sacrament means. And especially last year, as I taught the meaning of the sacrament, it was able to bring a whole new meaning for Easter for me and a whole new focus and kind of settle in on what is important and how we can focus on the on the Savior. And Easter is probably one of my favorite times of year, and one of my favorite holidays, but it's so easy to get lost in everything else that we have to do. And you are from such a musical family. And I know that music is something that brings you closer to the Savior. So how do you use music especially during this time of year to focus and refocus on the Savior?

Nolong Bullock 11:08

I think like you mentioned because spring is so busy. And people are now outside and then you're you have this newfound gusto to go to the gym. Because summer's around the corner. Yeah, all the things you start putting on your plate, it is easy to forget what what springtime means and what it means in regards to the Savior. And so often I have to consciously think, okay, it's Easter. What does that mean? Okay, things are born in the spring. What does that mean? Okay, people are happier in the spring than they are in the in the wintertime. What does that mean? And how would my Savior like me to use this season in which he was resurrected? How does he want me to do that? How does he want me to serve Him and His other siblings, his sisters and brothers? I have to consciously make that effort. But it's definitely it's definitely there. Especially when you hit March and you come into April knowing that Easter is around the corner and certain Easter things. You see easter eggs and Easter bunnies. And every time I see an Easter Bunny, I think that's that's not what it's about bunnies are cute, and they're fun. And so are ducks and peeps and all those things. But it's a reminder of what is Easter really about? And how am I going to live this Easter?

Kathryn Davis 12:19

So how do you use music to help you consciously focus on the Savior?

Nolong Bullock 12:24

So being... I wouldn't call myself a musician, being musical, you know, I listen to all kinds of music. And I there's not one kind of music that moves me more than another kind just depends on the mood that I'm in. But when it comes to thinking about my Savior, gospel music always resonates with me. Because in gospel music, the words are repeated over and over and over again. I know you know, for us in the hymns, we've got 3456789 verses that we can sing during sacrament meeting. But in those verses, there's so many words, and you just you're following the notes and you want to get the notes, right. But in gospel music, it's just about what you're saying. And so my I think my favorite gospel song is called Oh, how I love Jesus. And that's that phrase is sung probably about 24 times in that song. Oh, how I love Jesus. And it's a beautiful piece, and you hear all the voices and all the other words. But as I think about the song right now, the only phrase I can remember is Oh, how I love Jesus. And so gospel music definitely makes that spirit of God just swell inside me because of the repetition of the words.

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Kathryn Davis 13:31

So would you mind singing that phrase, Oh, how I love Jesus from that song?

Nolong Bullock 13:36

It's just It's just Oh, how I love Jesus and it just over and over again throughout the whole song. And then as the choir sing, Oh, how I love Jesus. The soloist is singing all around it. So she's doing all kinds of flips and turns with her voice as the choir continues to sing. Oh, how I love Jesus. And so that's probably even now I can feel it swelling on the inside of me. And I just it's a beautiful feeling. And it it helps me never to forget why I'm here, Where I'm going, who brought me here and who helps me stay.

Kathryn Davis 14:15

Well, I think it's the simplicity of those lyrics. Yeah, for sure you don't get lost in anything else. You can just feel the power of those lyrics and that idea of focusing in on what's truly important, and especially this time of year, and focusing in on how spring can be a season of rebirth and renewal. And how do you use this season to renew your faith in Jesus Christ?

Nolong Bullock 14:44

Kathryn, that's a hard one because I think every season is a reminder of how to renew our faith. So I guess there are pieces of every season that helps you do it differently but I guess for spring because it is the rebirth of So many things and the renewal of so many things that can be likened it to the renewal of the covenants that we make with our Father in heaven, the renewal of the covenants if you have a spouse, or if you're a parent, or if you're a sister, just anything that reminds you of how to do it brand new. We have, there's a saying in our community that says, Why are you acting brand new, brand new meaning why acting like you haven't done this before? Do it like you've never done it before. Live like you've never give like you've never love like you've never done it before. And it's constantly rebirth. So I think every season has its way of reminding you what to do for your Savior. But this one for sure, because this was the season that that makes it possible for us to live with God again.

Kathryn Davis 15:43

I think one thing that really helps me do that is I don't know about an Atlanta, but in Utah, in the winter, we all have a tendency to hibernate in our homes. Right? Yeah. And I think with spring and warmer weather, we can start going outside. I love to trail run in the mountains behind my house with my dog, wow. And when I can take my dog outside, and I start running up in the mountains, and I can see things start to bloom and I can be outside again, it just reminds me of a new start and a fresh start. And it reminds me that in this season that Christ truly brought joy, and it gives me something to look forward to. Right. What is spring like for you?

Nolong Bullock 16:32

So you know, after the winter, and it starts to rain, right? And then the rain goes away, and there's all this pollen. So then it's like, Oh, you just wish you were back winter again? Or do you want it to go forward, you just kind of almost yell upon Atlanta's no known for its pollen. And so I think it kind of reminds me of you know, when Jesus dies, and he's dead for three days. And then he rises again, that three days was dark. And so you just want to get through it. And so for me, when I think about spring, pollen is in my car, I have a black jeep wrangler. So my jeep is glowing, like I get it when I come outside to get in my car, it's glowing with yellow pollen. And I just, I don't want to move backward, I want to move forward. And I want to move through to the spring to where everything is blooming. And it's not so like, oh, and so it kind of reminds me of the resurrection. Because when he rises again, you know, Mary sees Him, His Apostle see him, and he's risen. So in Atlanta for me, springs, pollen after the pollens over then we get to enjoy the light, and the good weather.

Kathryn Davis 17:41

So how does that good weather help you find joy in Jesus?

Nolong Bullock 17:46

So there's a mountain net? Well, like you said, there are mountains in your house. So there's a mountain near my house called Kennesaw Mountain. And oftentimes, you know, when it's warm, then you see all people going up to Kennesaw Mountain, you can walk up and down. They're like 12 different trails. And so the mountains in the Scriptures have always been the place where God's children have gotten to get closer to him. So when we're when I'm able to climb that mountain, go to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, and look over the city and all of His creation. That's a great way for me to appreciate all that God has created for me for my benefit, is it I don't do it in the wintertime. It's too cold. I don't do it in the fall, things are icing up and it's rainy, and it's slippery. But in the springtime, that's the perfect time to go. I feel like even though it's not true, right? Just because I'm in the mountains, it doesn't mean I'm closer in proximity. But that's when things are quiet and you're surrounded by his creations, his natural creation. So that's what makes me feel closer to him as his natural creations are, are within arm's reach.

Kathryn Davis 18:47

Well, yeah, for me, it's like an evidence that God loves me. Yeah, for sure. And I think of the Savior like in Mark and also in John it talks about how he would get up early in the morning and depart to the mountains to go find some stillness.

Nolong Bullock 19:02

I mean, the temple is an awesome place for me that's my favorite place to connect with him. I can hear him louder there than in the mountains are great, but they can I can hear him so clearly. So that's that's my favorite place to go when I want to connect. And when I'm looking for something that I haven't been able to find outside with all the busy going on, even in the in the mountains in the temple, it's everything is so clear, that's my favorite place to go.

Kathryn Davis 19:28

And I think I think of the Savior as we're talking outside and, and him ministering. Most of his ministry was spent outdoors right as he walked amongst the people and healed and taught and spent time with people. Is there a particular story of the Savior's ministry that resonates with you when he's teaching or talking with someone?

Nolong Bullock 19:54

Two stories. The first one probably because we just learned about it and come follow me but it's the The story of the 5000 in the two loaves and the fishes, it's like, I bet I still don't know how that how that happened, you know, right? I know that he performs miracles. So it was miraculous, however that was. So that's moving to me. And also the story of the woman who was sick, and she just touched his garment, and she was healed. And he's so powerful. That's all it takes faith and be able to touch him and, and we can be healed. So those two are the stories that stand out the most for me.

Kathryn Davis 20:36

I actually love those two stories so much. And I think of the feeding of the multitude. And I love that story of the loaves and the fishes. Because no matter how meager our offering is, what can God make of it? And I think that goes with me a lot with spring because I feel really overwhelmed. Like right now in my life. I'm feeling a lot of to do's. Like, for example, today, you know, I teach full time seminary, and it's been a busy week. I did not have a lot of time to prep for a lesson today. And I teach 80 minute classes. And that's a long time and I walked into the seminary building, and I just had this little prayer. I'm like, Heavenly Father, I'm gonna do all that I have, but can you please make the most of it? And he did. And I saw a miracle happen in my class today as he took my meager offering. And man, he poured the spirit out. And I think we all learned and grew so much, because the Spirit took control and took over that class. Have you ever had something where it's like, it's meager, but he's magnified that?

Nolong Bullock 21:45

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Every Sunday? Really? Yeah. In our callings, like, yes. And when I get there, I'm just like, Ah, this is not gonna go well, especially if you know if you have teachers that aren't able to be there. And so you have to stand in for the teachers. And you know the children just as not as well as the teachers know them. And so you just hope, to your point, the teaching, you hope that you reach a child. And I think there was one Sunday where my teacher called that morning to say they weren't going to be there. And you need two teachers right in primary. And it was a lesson on teaching the children how to pray. And for me, praying is very personal. It's hard for me to tell somebody, put this word and this word in this word in your prayer, usually is the personal relationship you have with your Father in heaven. So I'm supposed to teach these children how to pray. Yet I haven't really dived into the lesson for this age group. So I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is gonna be horrible. By the end of the lesson. So I don't remember what we did in the lesson. I don't remember what it was that was that I said, or that we said, but at the end, I said, Okay, who wants to offer the closing prayer? And these are children were five, six, and seven. And one of the children offered to pray. And immediately they all fell to their knees, they folded their arms, they bow their head, and they close their eyes. And the child prayed. And they all said, Amen. And I was like, That was not me. That was not me. And I immediately wanted to take a picture. And it was, it wasn't by my prompting, like we're in class, you can sit in the chair and pray, but each of them fell to their knees, to pray their father in heaven. So it wasn't about the words that are used. It wasn't about, you know, the manner in which it was it came from them, their reverence, their adoration for their father in heaven. So that was a beautiful thing. That was a miracle, a miracle for sure.

Kathryn Davis 23:31

Beautiful. Well, I love some of the small things that you would do to find joy in this busy season, whether that's through music, or through being outside, or through going to the temple. And what you've shared today reminds me of the Scripture because you've given me simple ways for finding joy in Easter, by reminding me how to find joy in Jesus. I think sometimes we overlook that part is finding joy in Jesus. What does that mean to you? What does joy in Jesus mean to you?

Nolong Bullock 24:03

Joy in Jesus means he talks to me in my language.

Kathryn Davis 24:08

Hey, Nolong can I ask you a question? What does your language look like?

Nolong Bullock 24:11

My language? Girl, that language... Lord now, you know, and he'd be like, I know. That's the language that I speak like. You know, I can just be myself, however I feel it. It can come out. That's the language I speak. It's the language he speaks with me. And so that's what I mean by my language. He's, he speaks he understands my language, I can be who I am.

Kathryn Davis 24:38

So he speaks in your language. What else does joy in Jesus mean to you?

Nolong Bullock 24:43

Just he gets my sense of humor and certain things are funny to me like and I get to laugh all the way out loud head thrown back, laughing. And that's joy for me. Now I know there's also the peaceful joy that we feel you know during sacrament or and service, but for me with my Jesus, I can laugh. That is joy being who I am my authentic self with my savior is phenomenal.

Kathryn Davis 25:09

Don't you think you can be your authentic self because He created you? Like you said at the beginning my favorite song, I am a child of God. How does that bring you joy? Knowing that song You said you feel it when you sing it as a family? How does that bring you joy?

Nolong Bullock 25:23

Because it's true. That's the truth. And no one can say otherwise. Because it's the truth. So the Truth brings me joy.

Kathryn Davis 25:31

The truth brings me joy. So Nolong we like to end every episode of the podcast with a small idea or action that we can take home and implement throughout the week. So before we end today, what is one small way we can keep Christ as our focus during this busy time of year?

Nolong Bullock 25:50

I would say and this is something that I'm going to do for sure. I would say 10 minutes before you get up and shower, even before you open your scriptures. 10 minutes, just with him. The scriptures are is what everybody can read. But something that cannot be duplicated is the revelation he has for each of his children. So taking 10 minutes before the sun comes up, 10 minutes before you feed your child, 10 minutes before you send that email, 10 minutes before you check the Instagram post, 10 minutes before you crack open your scriptures. Spend it just with your Savior. For me that brings clarity throughout the rest of the day.

Kathryn Davis 26:30

Okay, I'm going to try and do that this week. So good me to tell me how it goes and along I want I want to know those. So good. If you're able to do it. Thank you so much for being here. You really are a joy.

Nolong Bullock 26:46

It's been fun. It's been fabulous. Oh my gosh.

Kathryn Davis 27:06

It was so fun to have this great conversation with Nolong. I think it's so important to take time with Jesus this Easter season and whatever that time looks like for you. Maybe it's in the morning. Or maybe it's in your car on the way to work or in the mountains, but really to take time and be still and follow the Savior's example to spend time quietly connecting with our Father in heaven. Thanks for being here and hop on over to Instagram at magnify community for more inspiration and conversation. And of course subscribe and listen to the magnify podcast where ever you get your shows. Let's meet up again next week.

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