Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Magic Eye" Moments

I was on a date when it finally happened.

It was something I had waited for, worked for, hoped for. Something that had eluded me for too much time. Something that brought such a thrill that I wanted to call home to share my excitement and relief.

I had finally "gotten into" a Magic Eye picture.

They had been all the rage at our family parties. I would sit and listen to the "oooooo"s and "aaaahhhh"s as relative after relative would discover the wonder lurking in that third dimension. I tried many tricks at those parties, but couldn't seem to get my eyes to do what they were supposed to do. I was left with what was simply printed on the page. But it was clear that seeing the image beyond the image was an experience worth seeking. (I wanted to "ooooo" and "aaahhhh"!)

And, at last, perseverance paid off. The initial rush of finally seeing beyond the two-dimensional image was thrilling enough, but then I discovered that the longer I was "inside" the image, the more clearly I could see. I could even "look around" – and it was as though I was in another world for those moments.

A few years later, I had another "Magic Eye experience," but this time it was with the scriptures. It was one of those more rare and intense "pure intelligence" experiences that was like having light poured into my mind and soul. I had been studying for some time about the temple; I wanted to understand it better. The "a-ha" experience I had peeled off layers of my understanding and started me on a journey of study and understanding that lasted for weeks. My temple worship has not been the same since. 

What made the experience even more interesting (and humbling) is the realization that I could have had learned these things months earlier had I really heard and read what an apostle of the Lord had taught. The scriptures and Bible Dictionary entries I had read had been suggested by Elder Russell M. Nelson in a Conference talk and then again in an Ensign article less than a year later. I discovered Elder Nelson's article open on my bed after having this flood of light. It was as if the Lord wanted me to realize what treasures are in the words of the prophets and the scriptures, if I have eyes to see.

Of course, most of our experiences with studying the gospel aren't quite as dramatic as what I have shared. But the principle is true: when we feast on the word of God (personally and as "fellowcitizens with the saints"), we can gain insights through the Spirit. We can have those "a-ha" moments – Magic Eye Moments, if you will – that help us see beyond what our mortal minds and eyes alone can teach us. They give us a glimpse here and a glimmer there of an eternal dimension. The more we learn through the Spirit, the more clearly we can really see and understand "things as they really are, and...things as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13).

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Stress release is going on at my other blog today. Hear me roar.

I am woman. Hear me ROAR!

There are so many things that have me in roar mode lately. Some of that is good, some not so good. I haven't actually roared (as in I haven't yelled at anyone, which is good) but the extremes of feelings are wearing me out. And they are leaving me blogging IN CAPS which I typically try to avoid.

I warned you. HEAR ME ROAR.

- I'm a lioness at the gate of my home. Hear me roar! The energy -- spiritual, mental, emotional, physical -- that is required to be a good wife and mother, a powerful mother, is both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Honestly, motherhood when children were little was exhausting, but not so much in this all-around way. They didn't NEED me like they do now. I feel the urgency to use well the time we have left with our children (we're already halfway done with this stage of children being in our home (hear me roar). As they come and go, as they think and ask, as they search and seek, they need me, their mother. NO ONE ELSE in the world can do for them what I do. Not even their dad. NO ONE. And I feel heaven screaming to my soul to savor the sacredness of this. (That screaming, by the way, is the good kind of roar. Moving me to my core, motivating me through the Spirit.)

- On the flip side of this, I feel the battle that is going on out there and sometimes I feel nearly smothered by the responsibility to be that lioness. I also struggle not to feel sheer anger at the forces trying to pull women away from this critical, eternal role and those that twist and distort truth about womanhood in general. I am angry that the world objectifies women AND WOMEN PARTICIPATE IN THAT OBJECTIFICATION.

I watched a game show today (an archived broadcast online -- we don't have a TV connection, but my cousin was a contestant (he won!)). I was happy for him, but honestly DISGUSTED to see that these shows still use women in slinky outfits to slither around the stage showing off the stuff. (The stuff element of it all is also roar-worthy, but I'm already at risk of being hoarse.)

I want to shout out that WOMANHOOD MATTERS. Womanhood = power. Righteous woman living lives consistent with eternal principles and priorities are, individually and collectively, one of the most POWERFUL forces in the world. But the world keeps sending the message that sex=power, position=power, money=power. And women are buying into those lies. (LIES, I say!) Those are ILLUSIONS of power. Real power only comes from God.

How can we get women to get it? I feel to explode with the desire to shout those things to the world. But instead, I blog. (HEAR ME ROAR!)

- I am so stressed with so many things happening in our life right now that THAT is nearly consuming me, too. I want to scream: Stress, GO AWAY. To be that lioness, I have to watch for the enemies of anxiety, fear, insecurity, and distraction. Hear me roar as I fight off those things. I can't let MY stress become my family's stress.

- One of the things that is helping with this (although it may sound crazy) is to have family dinner every day, even if it's only for five minutes before everyone goes off to whatever. Hear me roar: Family dinner matters! Guard it like you would a treasure. MAKE IT HAPPEN! When we can sit together and chat and laugh and eat, everything else in the world is a little better. Connecting with family, nurturing those relationships is second only to nurturing faith in God. Of course, family prayer and scripture study are also glue that keeps us together and focused on what matters most. (I'm listening right now to a Mormon Channel broadcast with quotes about family life and the Proclamation, and right now Elder Bednar reminds us of how the little, daily things matter -- the consistency is a powerful force in family life.)

- In all of this, I have found lifetime friends along this journey, women who know and are doing all they can to know and learn more about being women who know. They are women who are working against the tides within and without to tap into that power that comes only from God. (Roar!) They understand statements like this one from Pres. Kimball:

Bear in mind, dear sisters, that the eternal blessings which are yours...are far, far greater than any other blessings you could possibly receive. No greater recognition can come to you in this world than to be known as a woman of God. No greater status can be conferred upon you than being a daughter of God who experiences true sisterhood, wifehood, and motherhood, or other tasks which influence lives for good....

Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility.
These women, heroines to me, make me perhaps not want to roar, but to weep in gratitude. (No, then I want to just stand with them and roar. They are lionesses, too, women of POWER. Hear them roar.)

- I roared with laughter with some of these women yesterday. Oh, how I love my sisters. Oh, how I love the sisterhood of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

- I had to suppress a roar as I went visiting teaching and shared the message that ties into so much of this. All of these emotions were swirling and surfacing. I was grateful to be able to teach and testify (with more fervor than usual for a visiting teaching visit) about the principles in The Proclamation to the World on the Family (15 years old today, Sept 23). I'm grateful to my sisters who let me do a little pulpit pounding (or knee-pounding in this case). I'm grateful for prophets who give us anchors to ground us. Hear me roar. No, hear them roar (again, good kind of roar, full of the Spirit, connected with heaven).

- I'll just finish by saying I love to hear Sister Beck ROAR (good kind -- she's a fearless spiritual leader). I read all of her words directly today from the VT message (no paraphrasing today -- so powerful). I recently listened to her loving yet very direct teachings in a regional conference. (Priorities = Power. We are doing better than we think, but can be doing better, too.) I see her as a modern-day Esther (a post for another day). She is a woman who knows. Listen to the interview recently done with Sister Beck and her daughters. THEY are women who know, too. Sister Beck is the leader of the largest women's organization in the world. And I'm grateful she has the voice to shake the world. Hear her roar. (We'll get a chance to hear her this weekend. I can't wait.)

There is POWER in righteous womanhood. In motherhood. In sisterhood. Listen to the roar of the Spirit, live it, feel it.

Roar, ladies, ROAR! (The good kind, of course.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoughts on Presiding and Partnership

This is a topic that comes up often in feminist discussion. Below are some of my thoughts on how these two notions of presiding and partnership are not necessarily antithetical.

I think that the doctrine of presiding as it relates to partnership is there for us to see and it isn't what people describe it as when they are frustrated about it. Personally, I think those who insist the word preside is a problem or that somehow in the Church presiding in the home means something akin to lording over or controlling or being better than or being 'over' a wife are missing all that we are taught. Such insistence to me ends up being part of the problem. We need to be willing to look beyond our limited language and seek the language of the Spirit which transcends Webster or feminist theory or logic alone.

Some use bad examples of marriages to 'prove' that the Church's use of presiding is wrong. But we need to just acknowledge that a woman simply stepping back and doing nothing is really missing the boat, as is a man who dominates. Any other permutation that includes control, abuse, manipulation, or power struggles is inconsistent with the doctrines surrounding partnership and what priesthood presiding is all about.

I think the covenants of the priesthood plus the covenants of the temple can work together in a harmony, a dance if you will, with each partner in the marriage seeking the guidance of the Spirit to truly counsel together in righteousness and equal partnership. A true presider in the gospel sense (look past the limitation of language -- what is the Truth in the gospel sense?) is nothing to be feared. I see, in fact, it potential evidence of God's love for women.

So why presiding? Why not say they are equal partners and be done with it? This is totally my opinion, but I think part of it may be that the presiding brings a covenantal responsibility (this is not to say priesthood is a prerequisite to good husband-hood or fatherhood, but I do see it as bringing a covenantal accountability and covenantal promises and power that can help a marriage and family). And a true presider SEEKS the counsel of his wife. That dynamic and responsibility is in my view inherent, implicit in that priesthood duty. A true presider gets that. Just because some men don't get that doesn't mean that that principle isn't true. (And, btw, that goes for at church or in the home... priesthood holders who get the spirit of the priesthood in my mind get what it means to seek and listen to counsel of those around's not about lording over).

A presider will see and understand that his wife is his partner. He'll know of her strengths and lean on her to use them in ways they feel right about in their family. She might be the better teacher, so it might make sense for her to take the lead on FHE. But he's plugged into that process, rather than sitting back letting her take over. By the same token a wise wife doesn't just sit back and silently let her husband lead. She has a responsibility to be a true partner and to discuss and decide things together with him.

The true spirit of priesthood is about service and seeking God's will and seeking others' well-being, not self-interest and control and all the things people fear with the word presiding. This spirit is not inconsistent in my view with the principle of partnersthip.

I think there is wisdom and *order* in how things work. I see presiding as a first critical element that is a foundation to a true partnership. If the man is not willing to preside in righteousness (D&C 121, which is really quite opposite of 'being in charge' of someone), then partnership cannot happen. If a man does not choose to really receive his wife with all his heart, then she will not be treated as a partner. I think the choices that a man makes about how he views and treats his wife sets the tone for the marriage partnership (even determining whether partnership can even happen) and the family culture. And I think we can see that reflected in how covenants unfold, starting even with priesthood training at a young age. (I felt the power of that at a recent Duty to God orientation meeting...POWER there to prepare young men to be real men who cherish their wives and serve with the Spirit. None of this lording over business.)

When a woman sees that her man is willing to (or at least trying to) make such loving and righteous choices, then -- and only then -- is she invited to also covenant to do her part to be a full and equal and righteous and D&C 121 type of wife and mother. There is a message there to me that God cares about the well-being of His daughters and there is no compulsion in His order of things.

By the same token, I think He has ways to remind His daughters that they, too, should not use compulsion or power struggles in order to prove something in their marriage. (We strong women do have a tendency to sometimes be too strong and maybe even too independent in our marriages, many of us, if we are honest with ourselves...imo. Partnership is interdependent and both parties need to be willing to engage in that partnership.)

To me, priesthood presiding is something akin to a man choosing to use an umbrella to gather his wife and children together in safety from a storm. What he chooses to do with that is something he'll answer to God for. If he uses it selfishly, he's not used it for why it was given. As he acknowledges and opens this the umbrella and what it's for (again here the analogy could breaks a little because an umbrella could be just self-serving, but priesthood service is others-focused ... and yet blesses him in the process), he provides a safe place for his wife to be right by his side. It's a signal that he's invested in her well-being and that he wants her there.

She'd be silly to ignore that effort of his just because he's a man. She'd be silly to insist that she should hold the umbrella to prove she's as important as he is. She knows she is perfectly able to hold an umbrella, but she lets him show his love in this way. She chooses to let him take the lead, as it were, in keeping the family safe from the storm. But that doesn't mean he's 'over' her or more important than she is.

Because he has made the choice to protect the family, shown his priorities and care, she feels safe next to him and then is available to wrap her arms around the children and pull them in. (Have you ever seen how hard it is for a woman not treated well to be a good mother?)

They don't have to fight over who holds the umbrella, and she doesn't have to nag him to do it or do it herself (while he's of doing something else. He's already taken that first step to 'take the lead.' But they'll probably talk as a family to figure out how they can best weather the storm together. But always, the husband/father is willing to be responsible for that umbrella to make sure it stays there over his family. If it's broken, he takes initiative to fix the holes...even as he surely will solicit help (again, not as a boss, but taking the lead to care for his family). 

A woman certainly could find an umbrella that works just as well with the function of shielding from the rain. But it sure makes life easier and sweeter when the wife and children know that the husband and father has made the choice to be there and be proactive saying, "I'm here for you. I care about your well-being." 

I think of the women I know who haven't had that kind of safety and love, and the priesthood expectation of presiding to me is a protection to them that says 1) you deserve to be treated with love and respect, to have a man who chooses to follow God and care about you and 2) if there is abuse, manipulation, controlling behavior, whatever, your covenants do not bind you to be miserable and repeatedly and grossly mistreated. The Spirit can help such women know if they need to draw boundaries, or in some cases, get out of their marriages altogether.

But there's a flip side to this partnership. A good man deserves support in his commitment, to have a wife respond lovingly to his in-tune invitations (and patiently even if his efforts aren't perfect) to come under the umbrella to work together as a couple, and then as a family, to weather the storms of life.

That's my meager (but long-winded) attempt to draw a visual of how I see presiding. I don't see it as an insult to women. I think God cares deeply about our well-being. To me presiding is an appropriate prerequisite and covenant-based accountability structure that shows God is serious about all of this.

In the Book of Mormon, when men were caught in sin or wickedness, the women and children suffered. I think the reverse is true. I think there is an important message in this. When men truly preside in righteousness, women and children can flourish as individuals and together as part of the eternal family unit.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What did you do today?

After reflecting on this post I wrote on motherhood, I've decided that I need to be able to answer, "I've been doing God's work." I need to be sure that how I'm spending my time is in line with what it means to keep my eye single to God's glory.

I loved this -- from a devotional I recently listened to, given by Jeffery Thompson (a grad school colleague of mine, actually). He quoted his mission president's wife, who said this:

When I do the laundry, I am building the kingdom of God. When I scrub the floors, I am serving the Lord. When I tidy the clutter, I'm an instrument in His hands. I do a lot of mundane jobs, but if my eye is single to God and I'm trying to serve my family, then I feel [great] purpose in my work.

That's not to say, of course, that there isn't anything else of value that can be done in a day besides housework. (And I'm not saying housework is only ever the role of a woman...we should work together as partners to tackle the tasks that need to be done. But for a SAHM, it makes sense that a lot of the work should fall under my umbrella.)

But I think it's so easy to relegate the routine tasks of life to the category of 'unimportant' while envying others' tasks or jobs or responsibilities that seem more glamorous.

The glory should be God's and we should be His instruments. Truly.

I'm going to try answering my husband's question with "building God's kingdom" and see if I feel I'm really being honest. Because I think I'm going to realize that I need to tighten up my time a bit more to really be better at giving Him my heart and my time and my life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Power in Partnership

The focus of Family Home Evening last night was back-to-school blessings for the children. We started with them each picking a song for us to sing; two of them actually sang solos for us. We then had a family prayer. I also shared a couple of thoughts, one from this talk by Elder Bednar (reminding them of the story of a priesthood blessing that didn't come to pass until after the mom and son exercised their faith to help it come to pass) and this recent one from Elder Oaks (reminding us that the words themselves are perhaps not as important as the faith we bring to the blessings we receive). The idea was to invite the children to be active participants in these blessings -- not just to listen, but to act on them, to implement them.

This all set the tone and helped the children settle their spirits to prepare to receive their father's (Father's) blessings.

The Spirit was thick, the counsel direct. Interestingly, the warnings that came through the blessings reflected concerns that had been on my mind all day as a possible lesson topic. To me it was a witness that the Lord was involved in the process and that He was guiding our thoughts and words to help guide our children.

And it *was* a 'we' thing. My husband was voice for the blessings pronounced, but I was an integral part in the process of making this happen, helping set the stage, and then encouraging the children to record their thoughts and feelings. In addition, the discussions that followed were priceless; the journal entry from our 8-year-old was simply stunning. (All I could say to her was "I can tell you wrote this with the Spirit." The Lord can open the mouths, as it were, of children to testify powerfully of truth. Wow.)

I write this to remember the experience, but also to emphasize the fact that priesthood and the divine role of a husband to preside does not prevent true and equal partnership. The power of partnership I felt last night was real...and it's something I have felt time and time again in our home.

Back to School

How is it possible that it's that time again?

You can feel it in the air -- the cooling crispness, the excitement in the kids' faces, the buzzy hubbub at the stores. (I thought I had it all ready -- but, alas, I still ended up with a last-minute trip to the dollar store tonight.)

This summer has in some ways been personally very difficult, but all I really remember is that it was fun. And I think this post by my friend Julie sums it up very well:

“The adventure [summer] is over.  Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough.  Except the part you carry with you.  It’s the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don’t pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home.”
E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
I welcomed my summer inside of me.  I made real clicks and heart clicks over and over to preserve the vibrancy and action and emotions; the people, the places, the feelings.

Most of my favorite childhood memories were just the times of pure play. I have many photos in my mind and heart of watching my children be children this summer, playing until way past sunset (oh, boy, are we having a hard time readjusting to a sleep schedule). My inability to be all over the place has in some ways been a real blessing. We did have some outings and a vacation, but mostly, we had a lazy summer here at home. Ahhhhh.

I'm more than a little sad to see summer end. But I'm excited for my children in their excitement. As we went to the back-to-school open house, it was fun to watch my children scurrying around the school visiting former teachers, walking around the grounds surrounded by their respective friends -- content (close to giddy, actually), ready to be getting back into the swing of things.

In their prayers as of late, they sometimes say, "Please bless Mom that she won't be too lonely while we're gone."

I will miss them, that's for sure. But at the same time, I LOVE watching them grow. I love who they are becoming. Mothering just keeps getting more and more fun, and more and more rewarding.

All sorts of sighs, for all sorts of reasons.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When a BYU Education Week Financial Class Becomes a Miracle

"But I don't want to end my Education Week experience with a class on finances," I argued silently.

I figured it was probably my overactive brain talking anyway, so I marched away from 446 MARB toward the Jesse Knight building without thinking much of it.

Until I had gotten settled in the next class.

I had picked a nice seat, way in the back, where I could juice up my laptop and convince myself that I could find the information from the finance class online. With no internet signal available in this particular room, that approach failed. I couldn't dismiss the nagging feeling I had that maybe I needed to go to that finance class. I was not happy.

As the nice host gave his usual schpeel about moving in toward the center so the latecomers would have a place to sit (this brother's class filled up every night -- he was good), I realized it was now or never. I walked past the instructor apologetically and marched back out into the gorgeous evening.

Right back to 446 MARB. (Ha. Joke's on me. Chalk it up to exercise for the day.)

After sitting for ten minutes, I thought of leaving. After all, I got the handout when I walked in. My stomach was in knots; I couldn't help but wonder what I was missing in the other class (and I've been known to split time between classes when I've been conflicted about which to attend).

But I held on, looking for something perhaps that could give me some reason as to why I felt pressed to come.

I learned a couple of cool things, got information about a great budgeting spreadsheet (you should check it out -- it's a Dave Ramsey special), and felt overall that it was a good class. I figured I'd leave and share the spreadsheet and hope someone could be helped by it.

But as the class ended, I looked over and saw a woman who looked familiar. I did a double-take (or two) and decided I'd take the chance that she was who I thought she was. (I even had a name come to mind.)

She was, indeed...someone from my high school days. Someone I'd never talked to, mind you. Someone who had actually moved away during our high school years.

But we proceeded to chat, and the chatting turned into a heart-to-heart conversation that lasted, er, well, a long time.

Oh, OK, I'll tell you. It lasted four and a half hours. It was as though we'd been friend a long time. (Bonus: We saw seven deer cross the parking lot and street while we talked in her car.)

Interestingly enough, she had planned on going home before this class, but a few things happened and she stayed.

The experience left us both in awe and feeling the Spirit from all that we had explored together. It was amazing.

I really need to learn not to argue with that "voice in my head." I'm glad ultimately He won out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I can tell when I'm not feeling good because I tend to slog and blog more. I haven't been doing my typical blogging and commenting for a while, but I've slipped back into it. And I at once hate it because it's indicative of my current state and I feel like a flake. But also in a way enjoy it because I really do enjoy chewing on ideas. And sometimes something of this speed (as in sit and think and that's it) is all I have energy for.

Blech. Chronic illness is hard. Is that just a whine? Maybe, but sometimes I just have to say it anyway.

That's all for today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

All things point to Christ

I finally sat down recently and spent the ten minutes needed (yes, I'm rolling eyes at myself that it took me so long) to download schtuff onto the little 30-dollar MP3 player that I bought for myself on clearance during the holidays. Consequently, in the last week, I have listened to all four general sessions of General Conference as well as the General Young Women Meeting. Priesthood session is on my list to complete in the next day or so.


It's been wonderful to listen to all the sessions again in succession. I love seeing what themes weave throughout the talks. I love how Elder Christofferson explained how the Lord works through such patterns to help us know what He wants us to hear.

There are no assigned subjects, no collaboration of themes. The Lord’s way, of course, is always the best way. He takes the individual prayerful efforts of each speaker and orchestrates a spiritual symphony full of revelation and power. Repeated themes, principle building upon principle, prophetic warnings, uplifting promises—the divine harmony is a miracle! I testify that in this conference we have heard and felt the mind and will of the Lord.
Speaking of Elder Christofferson's talk -- it prompted the Family Home Evening lesson tonight. The plan was to talk with my children about how all the commandments, both the big and small things, can help point us to Christ. The scriptural text that was the focus was from 2 Nephi 25:
24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we akeep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.
25 For, for this end was the alaw given; wherefore the law hath become bdead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
26 And we atalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we bprophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our cchildren may know to what source they may look for a dremission of their sins. 
I wanted to give them some background on what Nephi was talking about, so we talked about the law of Moses. And the discussion just sort of took on a life of its own. I was able to share with them how the Jews who understood the plain and precious things (things not found clearly in the Bible) about the law of Moses knew that all the 613 commandments and the rituals they practiced (such as animal sacrifice) were there to point their souls to Christ. We talked about how their tabernacle parallels our modern-day temples in important ways -- ways that in both eras were/are designed to point our souls to Christ.

Likewise, the commandments and rituals we have in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are there to help us "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."

The Spirit was strong as we discussed this very important truth. All things we do in the Church, if we let them, can help point our souls to Christ.

This is a truth that even a child can understand, and it thrilled me to see and feel my children understanding tonight. How I love the gospel and how I love talking about it with my children!

I am grateful for Elder Christofferson's reminder to remember and talk about Christ more. He is the center of all we do, and should be the center of our teaching and living and listening and worshiping and studying of scriptures and words of the prophets. I am recommitting to talk more of Him at home and here and elsewhere.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


When I was in college, jogging was pretty much everything to me. It was my sanity, my health, my connection with heaven (I used the time to pray and ponder), my stress release, my time outside. My so much. The worst thing I could think of happening was to blow out a knee or something and not be able to run.

I haven't run since my first pregnancy. Three children in three years pretty much was worse to my running career than a blown knee would have been. Add to three children the two bulging discs in my neck and I'm just never again going to be a runner.

And you know what? I'm ok. I miss it, and I was in much better shape back then, but it wasn't the end of the world.

You can probably tell from my blog that I loooooove tennis. I was raised with a tennis racket in my hand. I played tennis in high school. My first date with hubby was on the tennis court. (My first kiss as a teen was on a tennis court, but I digress cuz that just popped into my head and I found it funnily fitting.) Our summer family time has been spent largely on the tennis court.

And it was just suggested to me last night by my physical therapist cousin that when it comes to taking care of my messed-up neck, even running would be better than tennis.


I felt kinda sad last night as I thought about the possibility of having to give up tennis to preserve my body.

My husband's compassionate response was:

"Well, at least you can still play tiddly winks."

Ah, yes, the options are still so broad and exciting.

(But he is funny. He makes me laugh every day.)

IMNSHO, why we should let polygamy go

(If you read that title just right, it has a little poetic lilt to it. Clever, huh?)


In this month's July Ensign, a talk by Elder Ballard has been reprinted. In the article, we read his counsel about not being defensive while sharing the gospel. One of the things he touches on is the issue of polygamy -- a topic that gets a lot of people riled up (and makes some want to be defensive). ;)

Our Church members have often allowed others to set the conversational agenda. An example is plural marriage. This ended in the Church as an official practice in 1890. It’s now 2010. Why are we still talking about it? It was a practice. It ended. We moved on. If people ask you about polygamy, just acknowledge that it was once a practice but not now and that people shouldn’t confuse any polygamists with our church. In ordinary conversations, don’t waste time trying to justify the practice of polygamy during Old Testament times or speculating as to why it was practiced for a time in the 19th century.

I'm seeing people get riled up about this comment by Elder Ballard, too.

I've been involved in discussions about the Church on and off for 15 years. Polygamy is an inevitable topic in many circles, such as those passionate about feminism. But discussions always include an inordinate amount of focus on frustrated (sometimes desperate) speculation and personal opinion -- much of which is, imo, potentially very problematic.

In my view, if people try to speculate or explain or justify or apologize for polygamy, there is a huge risk of creating folklore -- false foundations and perspectives on which people could wrongly build their understanding -- which can later bring disappointed and disillusionment when such faulty explanations are shown to be misguided. I really haven't seen anyone who is upset about polygamy be able to come up with something to explain it -- or explain it away -- in a satisfactory manner. I infer from Elder Ballard's counsel that explanations in support of it are also often insufficient or at least unnecessary. 

Do I understand wondering about the topic of plural marriage? Sure. I don't think there are many who don't at some level. But to me this counsel from Elder Ballard is very wise. We can show others that there is so much more to Mormonism than polygamy.

Part of why I appreciate his counsel is because there are so many opinions about topics like this. Again, discussions about it usually lead to little or no resolution but a lot of speculation.

In short, we can spend precious time and energy "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). And we can lead ourselves and others away from the beautiful core doctrines of the Church.

Most importantly to me is this: A testimony of the gospel can and should be independent of opinions or unauthorized speculation about the practice of polygamy. We don't even have to like it and definitely don't have to understand it all to fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not talking about being a blind sheep here, I'm talking about digging roots of faith that run deep because they are focused on the truths that bear the most fruit: the Savior, the Atonement, God's character and the plan of salvation, principles and ordinances of the gospel that bind us to God. Wringing hands over the whys and wheretofores of polygamy does not, in my experience and observation, yield the spiritual fruit that the pure and simple (and at the same time very deep) doctrines do. (Some may suggest that is because because polygamy was wrong, but I submit that it could be because the focus on it is.)

All of this reminds me of Sister Beck's recent counsel (and other leaders' counsel as well) about avoiding distractions. Distractions can come in the form of activities and how we spend our time, but also in the form of ideas and where we let our mind and heart focus. Elder Ballard has reminded us to focus on the core of the gospel. There is power in truth. Speculation is not truth, and at some point is just a waste of energy at best and a potential source of false doctrine and even deception.

And now...remember, remember that it is upon the arock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your bfoundation;  ... Hel. 5:12

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Summer Snippets

I'd dare say this may be one of my favoritest summers as a mom. Maybe it's because I have dropped some measure of the problem of trying to measure my mothering "success" which has often translated into nothing but unmet expectations and frustration/depression. I'm just trying to enjoy each day, go with the flow a bit (including cutting myself slack for what I can't do, like do mornings), and keep our schedule as simple as possible.

Here are a few more snapshots of our summer:

Today, I had one of those rare scheduled meetings. I got a somewhat frantic call from #3 saying a glass plate had broken. "Just stay out of the kitchen," I said. "I'll clean it up when I get home."

"No," she said. "It was in the microwave!"

Note to self (and to you): If Corelle gets hot enough, it can explode.

- - -

After a day of errands, #1 says to me, "Mom, just so you know, those are the pants that have the hole in them." Let's just say the hole wasn't in the knee. (I'd checked for a hole there, but not there.) Yeah, well, I'm getting better at laughing at myself. Or with myself. Or with my kids as they laugh at me. Or with me.


Tennis. And more tennis. I can't run very fast with neck and head issues, but I can still get some good swings in there. I love making hubby run a little. ;)

This activity has been a great way to end the day spending time as a family. The kids seem to be enjoying it.


Too many late nights. And too many times of saying, "Tonight we'll get the kids to bed earlier." It's just too fun to soak up all the daylight having fun.


A couple of middle-of-the-night moments with #2, reading until she gets tired to go back to sleep.


Watching #1 do some serious housework in three days -- voluntarily. He was working to earn money to pay for half a Kindle. I'm such a stingy mom when it comes to trendy technology and schtuff like that. But this purchase made sense for my little man. He reads like crazy and this saves us space and I think my favorite part of all of this (besides him taking initiative and working like a madman to earn money) is that he's going for free books right now (I think he's downloaded 70 or so), which means that he's reading classics that he might not have read otherwise. He does his scripture reading on his Kindle, too, which is fun.

It's also been a great experience, I think, for him and his sisters to see that efforts to build trust with Mom and Dad can have dividends. Because he has been trustworthy with certain things, he has the privilege of having this cool tool.


For our holiday this past Monday, in one of those spur-of-the-moment moments, we decided to go to a 'fun center' with mini golf, arcade, batting cages, and go carts. Our children ended up cleaning house on 'tickets' on one of the games in the arcade. It was almost embarrassing. Their reflexes were lightning fast and twice, two of them hit the 'bonus' on the spinning lights game and earned over 500 tickets.

Needless to say, I didn't have any takers for a round of mini golf. Once we did go-carts, the arcade was the focus of their time. Next time, I'll probably make them spread their time out a little more, but it was fun. 

We came home and I made a quick red, white, and blue dinner (pizza bagels (red sauce and white cheese), garlic toast with blue garlic butter, berry smoothie parfaits with tinted plain yogurt). My kids think I'm a little weird, but it was fun. (And did I mention quick?)


I think one of my fave things is just watching my kids play. Most of my greatest childhood memories are simply of enjoying childhood in play. We live in a great neighborhood with lots of children around, and I love the happy chatter, especially when they are playing outside, creating worlds of their own, playing outdoor games like kick the can (seriously one of the greatest games ever invented), having water fights, playing at the park.

I'm wondering how on earth I'm going to want them to start school again. I suppose they might get bored eventually and I might be ready then, but golly gee, I love having them home. And I love the lack of structure. I know such lack of structure drives some people crazy, but there you go. Just another evidence, perhaps, of the fact that I'm a little weird. ;)

Monday, June 28, 2010

On Bubble Wrap, Armored Cars, and Agency

Angie commented on my last post with something that I want to address more directly in a post:

I think in soul gripping fear that we parents want to encase our children in bubble wrap so to speak. If there is bad on the Internet, don't have it, if there is bad on cable, don't pay for it (I remember a certain roommate whose parents vowed to never have cable because MTV was there), if if if. The thing is, none of that bubble wrap actually works. We have to immerse our souls in gospel light to protect ourselves and our children when we go out into the world. Only then are we able to recognize toxic situations and know if there is a way to mitigate damage or if we must just opt out. Only with sufficient internal light will we be able to navigate the minefields that are rampant in the world. That internal light will attract those of like mind, who are searching, to us so that we can find all that is good and all who are good in the world.

This reminds me of something a former bishop used to say: "We sometimes want to put our children in an armored car. But we have to help them learn how to put on the armor of God."

So, how do we do this?

Actually, in our home, we don't have a TV connection. It is one of the lines we have drawn both for spiritual but also for practical reasons (we're cheap!) We also find TV for us to be a potential distraction, nevermind the potential "bad" that is there. We feel great about this choice.

But I know we are actually in the minority, and I don't think those who have a TV/Cable/Satellite connection are "bad" people.

To me, this issue of how and where to draw lines brings up an important point. There is no One Right Way to prepare our children to both be able to face the "bad" and to embrace the good. Each family has the responsibility and opportunity to figure out what is Right for them.

Bathing our children in light is, in my mind, a combination of deliberate focus on good and also the avoidance of evil. As Angie points out, bubble wrap -- avoidance alone -- will not work on its own. But I think avoidance can have its place, if it's coupled with filling lives with light and truth and teaching. It's one thing to draw lines out of fear, it's another thing, imo, to do so deliberately and to teach about why those lines are being drawn.

But again, for each family, how both are done can vary, and vary quite a bit!

- There are people who choose to homeschool to keep outside influences down and family/gospel time up. But there is nothing that says homeschooling is more righteous (so anyone who wants to try to suggest that to me is out of line).

- There are people who choose to limit internet access. I imagine there are some who choose not to have it at all. I don't see a Right answer on this score, either, except to have any internet access monitored and public (with computer in a spot where everyone can see, not in a bedroom, etc.)

- There are those who draw a line at a certain kind of movie, e.g., "No PG-13 movies in our family." Prophets in the past drew lines at rated-R movies, but we all know there's a whole lot that isn't rated R that is probably best left unseen. Others may draw lines with movies on a more case-by-case basis. Some live in countries without ratings, and it's wise to note that ratings are no guarantee.

- I've been fascinated to see how parents in my area feel about specific movies, and I love how we have been deliberate about respecting each others' lines. I'm talking differences regarding Disney and even LDS cinema. I love it, actually, because it shows that we are each willing to draw lines even when our close friends are doing something different. I saw similar differences with how people dealt wiht Harry Potter books and movies with their kids.

- Some families choose not to have video games at all. Others have multiple options. I see differences with choices about iPods and cell phones, too. Is there a Right answer here? I don't think so.

- I think we could also discuss things like curfews, dating rules, etc.

One of the central doctrines of Mormonism is agency. We are given guidance about truth -- in this case, the need to keep ourselves pure and unspotted from the world, to feed our spirits, to try to be more like the Savior, etc. We are given counsel about practical things like being wise with our entertainment use and being courageous enough to draw lines in our lives.

But we are rarely told exactly where and how to draw those lines.

So, I'm curious to hear others' thoughts on how to help develop the internal light of your children and also how and where you choose to draw lines.

Not of the World

Sometimes the Mormon notion of being "not of the world" can rub some people the wrong way, and I can understand that...but only to a point. Because there is so much about "the world" that is awesome -- the natural beauty to be sure, and also just a plethora of wonderful people of myriad belief systems (or even without belief systems) -- it could be interpreted as a rejection of some really great things.

But I think sometimes this notion of being "in the world but not of the world" is misunderstood.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both rejoice in the good that is around us and also warn boldly of the dangers that can threaten our personal and societal well-being. In my view, we shouldn't reject the notion of rejecting the bad because there is good out there. I think we can do both.

So what might be some of 'the world' we should shun? Many stories swim in my mind.

-I think about a young man who was chosen for a prestigious national sports academy, and the environment was so toxic, so laced with boys sharing pornographic material with each other. As a "joke" they planted pics on his computer. He simply couldn't stay and not have his spirit affected. (We take for granted what the law of chastity does for our youth, imo).

-I read another story of a group of young men who had created a band that was going big. But the producers wanted to use material that was sexual to sell, and one young man could feel that he was at a crossroads. He had success sitting in the palm of his hand, but he could tell his spirituality would suffer.

-How many stories do we hear in the news about people who have chosen wealth over integrity? Dishonesty and corruption exists in business, government, and more personal relationships as well.

-I have far too many friends whose marriages have ended because of pornography, abuse, infidelity, dishonesty, and other ills of a spouse. It's heartbreaking to watch.

-Think of the number of kids who have tried cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs (which is not only harmful, but illegal) - as though it's no big thing. If anything, it's THE thing to do for many. This puts youth on a path toward possible addiction and many other problems, and can seriously impact their growing brains.

-I think of college students for whom drink and fooling around are just normal behavior, even expected protocol, for college life. To me, the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity are amazing spiritual and physical shields -- for all of us, of course, but I think about that critical stage of young adulthood when life is really just beginning. Alcohol and out-of-control sexual activity not only put them at risk physically, but also end up being such a waste. of. precious. time. And talent. And opportunity.

There is also a connection between the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity. Those who drink and do drugs will sometimes (often?) use these substances as manipulative power tools to facilitate their ability to abuse others sexually and otherwise. As a side note, those who champion the power of women to have control over their bodies should, in my view, also be champions of soberness and chastity. With all the talk of abortion as a way to protect women from sexual abuse, I think we should be talking more of prevention that can be in the control of the women in many circumstances.)

-I think of trends leading away from marriage, family, and God toward a more individualistic and secular society.

-I think of wars and serious tragedy that exist because of evil. We who might be living in places where such tragedy is not a mode of life would do well to remember those who live dominated by tyranny and absolute chaos because of the institutionalization of evil.

These are just a few examples that have come to mind.

Let me say again: I have felt strongly of the good that is out there. I rejoice in that good. Mormon leaders do, too. There are so many people out there who are grounded, principled, hard-working, kind people. I thrill to feel the spirit of service that exists all around the world.

But we can rejoice in the good while being mindful of the problems that exist -- problems that do pull at society as a whole, and that can also affect the lives of individuals who make them and innocents who are affected.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

True Humility

I'm subbing in Primary for the next two weeks. Tonight, while skimming the lesson the children had last week (I like to try to build on what they have been talking about if possible), I found this simple quote:
Ask if we can be talented and humble at the same time. Explain that each of us has been given talents to develop. Some people want to take credit for their talents, thinking that they did all the work to develop them. Other people belittle themselves, saying they have no talents. True humility is not to belittle or make light of our abilities. It is seeing ourselves as God sees us and recognizing that, as children of God, he has given us all that we have, and that each of us has been blessed with many talents.

This is reminiscent of a now-favorite book of mine, Weakness is Not Sin. A key message of that book for me was that it's important for us to come to know what strengths we have been given, because it is through such gifts that we can be instruments in God's hands. And in fact, if we spend too much energy focusing on weakness that may never be removed or improved, we might be missing the boat a bit.

True humility is power, but is a balancing act, I's too easy to slip into prideful self-praise or discouraged self-doubt.

Yet another example of how life presents us with opposition that requires a delicate and inspiration-based balancing act.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wait Training

In my world, where health struggles are the norm and medical testing is not unusual, I have done a lot of waiting. Waiting to see that expert doctor. Waiting in the waiting room (sometimes those minutes can be torture). Waiting for a scheduled test. Waiting for test results (weekend waiting is the worst, I think). Lots and lots of waiting. (To quote Princess Bride: I hate waiting. )

You'd think I would get better at it, but if anything, I've come to feel as though I have done nothing but perfected my fretting frenzies.

Case in point: Just a couple of weeks ago I was nearly beside myself for two weeks while waiting to see how severe my heart murmur is. I was a wreck!

I know in my head and heart that fear and faith cannot coexist, but it's one thing to know and another to be able to do. I really am sort of wired to worry. And the more I worry, the more my brain and body want to go to that place of worry.

It's like swimming upstream to try to change that.

But swim I must. For months, going on years, I have been working to build my faith through personal study and worship and by reading lots of books and going to a therapist. (She's a specialist in chronic illness and a woman of deep faith, and true angel in my life.)

This week, I had another something go wonky with my body which entailed another doctor's visit. A perfect storm was building for another pity-panic party. I woke up Tuesday with pounding heart and racing brain.

BUT, I am grateful (shocked might be the better word) to report that perhaps for the first time in my life, somehow I was able to push beyond the yuck and go -- AND STAY -- in another place in my mind -- a place that allowed the Spirit to penetrate through the panic and calm my soul - and STAY. I feel more than His peace -- I feel His power.

What a long-awaited-for gift!

I'm reminded of something my therapist has taught me. Repentance is not just a change in sinful behavior, but a change in how we see ourselves, life, others, and God. It often requires a new way of thinking. (See the Bible Dictionary definition of repentance -- talks about a changed view of self, others, God...I'd add mortality to that list.)

Such change is not just a spiritual endeavor. It involves real, physiological changes in neural pathways in our brain, many of which are both part of and reinforced by our fallen natures. My fears are an example. I think I *am* wired to worry, but as I said, I've sure developed a talent for it, too, through lots and lots of practice! This is an example of how the "natural man" can manifest itself -- not just in depraved sinfulness, but in distorted thought patterns that can keep God's peace at bay. We aren't bad people if we struggle with these things. Faith really is like any other exercise! It takes lots of time and repetition and patience and consistency and all of that.

But with that exercise and God's help, we can develop a new mind.

Let me be clear here. I know not everything about our brains can be fixed in this life, and in fact, some of that brokenness may be part of the necessary opposition for our journeys. Some mental illness is beyond agency's ability to affect. My experience has been that there are things I have tried to focus on fixing in my brain and have felt wrong about addressing right now. Others I have worked on and have had little success.

But on the other hand, I have felt pressed to focus on things like this kind of spirit-choking fear. I think I needed to get to a point in my life (yes, through a whole lot of "experience") where I was able to tackle retraining my brain.

And can I just tell you that progress has been colossally slow?

But now, this experience gives me hope. I know I'll slip into old patterns of fear again, but maybe, just maybe, I can practice going to this place and build a new road in my brain!

You know, I don't always like the learn-by-experience plan that is central to God's work with us {grin}, but when I taste the fruits of faith like this, I can embrace the plan more fully. (Fighting against God's plan has never yielded good fruits. Yet another pathway that needs some work.)

It's a wonderful thing to read the scriptures or sit in Sunday School or go to the temple and have the Spirit testify of the truth of the Atonement. I think all these things have helped plant truth in my spirit.

But it's truly miraculous for me to see those truths come to fruition in my life and take hold in a new-mind kind of way, even if just in a small way.

The Atonement is real.

We've just got to keep on working, exercising our faith (not giving up, and sometimes just showing up!)...

...And waiting. Waiting on Him.

- - - - - - -

What truths help you in times of waiting?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Savoring Summer

I can feel it -- it's going to go too fast. It's already going too fast. But I'm just trying to enjoy it. Something has clicked in me this year. It's only taken me eleven years, but I'm doing better this year than ever before at detaching from "my" stuff to play more with my kids. I'm a slow learner, I know. But it has given me hope that maybe I can get even better over the next eleven years in savoring the time I have with them while they are still under our roof.

So, if the whole get-on-the-floor-and-play-with-your-kids thing doesn't come naturally for you, either, I hope this can give you hope, too. ;)

Here are some of my favorite memories so far.

- The end-of-school party with #3 and her friends. (#1 and #2 were on a trip.)

- Sitting on the grass in the cool evening, cuddled on a blanket, reading. (We did that again tonight.) I love to close my eyes and listen to the birds and the breeze.

- Sitting around the table, or on the couch, or on the bed, laughing together. We tend to get a little silly around here.

- Going to a movie with #1 and #2 while #3 was on a trip with her dad. What made the memory fun was that I forgot my wallet, but #2 just happened to have hers, so she paid. (She also paid for the new shoes we got after the movie -- I'd forgotten that my wallet was MIA.) It was funny to watch her count out her money to bail out her mom's spaciness. I played it up a little, too, clinging to her and begging as we walked to the cash register: "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze will you buy it for me? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze?"

- Spending time with my girls sewing princess dresses. I'm not a seamstress at all, but they and their cousins came up with a new imaginary game and they wanted to make dresses. I figured it was a chance to try to teach them some basics while we spent some time together. (It was fun until I tried to tackle sleeves last night. Uh, ugh. Yeah, I guess they aren't the only ones learning. Ahem.)

- Playing tennis with my fam at sunset.

- Introducing the children to Icees (cheap treat -- a buck each at BK). (One child noted, quite astutely, that the first bite tasted like medicine but then it tastes good. Artificial schtuff doesn't taste as good as it did when I was a kid, that's for sure.)

- Family parties with out-of-town siblings in town!

- Surprising hubby with an amazing collage of photos of the kidlets for Father's Day. We had so much fun sneaking around, keeping that a secret. I have to say that I am regretting my no-photos-of-children policy about now. They are sooooooooooooooooo cute. (I'm such a mushy mom. I cried when I gave it to him.)

(Does anyone else struggle not to feel like they simply can't NOT use a photo from a photo shoot? Sheesh, these companies are smart. That free 8x10 sure ended up costing us, er, more than $0. Now we know why I don't do professional photos very often. But hello? Who's going to pay $120 for a digital copy of four photos?)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life is Uncertain. Carry a Leash.

We both noticed the dog at the same moment as we pulled into our driveway. I think the same thing was going through our minds, too. "Who's dog is that?" with a simultaneous "I hope it doesn't poop on our lawn!"

(We don't have a dog for a reason. For THAT reason. I paid my poop dues with diapers, thankyouverymuch.)

It was clear that this dog had no other place it wanted to go. She looked at us, wagging her tail in anticipation of our exit from our vehicle. She even sat, patiently, while we sat in the car, giggling at the playfulness on her face and being able to easily see where this was going.

Sure enough, when hubby opened the door of the car, she was by his side in a matter of a second or two.
(All I could think about was how we inherited a cat when I was a kid, all by being too nice to it.)

I noticed the dog had a tag. Hubby called both numbers. No dice. The address put her as being well over two dozen blocks away from her home, if that was, indeed, her home.

There was only one way to find out. I wasn't about to leave the dog to wander off and get lost (or to poop on my lawn, thankyouverymuch). She was awfully cute, after all. (Were I to ever get a dog, I'd like one like this one.)

I called her to me and led her to the car. (Hubby's car, of course. Less cubic footage in which potential dog damage could be done. He wasn't so sure he liked that idea.)

Let me just tell you that that two dozen+ blocks was quite the adventure. She was all over the place -- on my lap, on the seat, licking my face, bumping her head on the windshield, sticking her head out the window.

As she whimpered, I worried. Is she trained? Am I going to regret not bringing a towel? Am I going to get a ticket for driving a bit like a drunk person as this animal was jumping all over me?

I was relieved to get to the address on the tag, although by this time I was beginning to wonder if I'd really made a mistake by bringing her.

I knocked. Again, no dice, although there was clearly another animal inside. Right after I decided I needed to let her down to, er, take a break in the grassy area between apartment buildings, a man came out with his three chihuahuas. Grrrrrrrrrr. Little dogs were growling and snipping and pouncing, and I was panicking. "I'm sorry," I explained. "This isn't my dog...I'm trying to find the owner." Fortunately, his dogs were on a leash and he did all he could to reign them in so he could take them in.

By this time, the dog had turned the corner on the neighboring building. I had visions of trying to explain to the owners that I had found and then promptly lost their dog....

"Can you help me get that dog?" I cried out to a tenant of that building, explaining again the fact that she wasn't mine.

"Do you need a leash?" I felt like I could have cried with gratitude.

Long story short...I finally found a neighbor home, who agreed to keep the dog and put a note on the owner's door.

By the time I got home, the owner had called my hubby's cell phone back. And I had the humorous experience of telling the tale to my neighbors. As it turned out, the suspicion that crept into my head as I drove to the apartments was true...

...It was my neighbor's son's dog who had gotten out while they were at dinner.

(Well, at least they know I care, right?)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oxygen for the Mommy Race

Actually, I still maintain that I need to get off the track, but this post gives me a chance to take a breath from the panic post I wrote earlier. This may illustrate one benefit of me having two I try to work through some truths that can help keep me on track (on the track that matters, that is).

Tonight, I read a post that was just what the Doctor ordered.

Am I Doing Enough? reminds me of the crux of Sister Beck's recent Women's Conference talk (and apparently it's the talk she is giving as she travels, because I have heard this report from several women now who have had the privilege of having Sister Beck visit their area).

She talks about activities in three areas of life: essential, necessary, nice to have (to me it rings similar to the whole "good, better, best" thing from Elder Oaks).

Here's the list as Kiley shared it:

1. Essential Things (things you must do to attain eternal life):

* Pray Daily -- don't wait to pray, because you will never have a convenient moment.
* Scripture Study -- every day spend time in the scriptures.
* Temple Attendance -- whenever you can.
* Regular Church Attendance

2. Necessary Things (things you need to do to get through life):

* Eating, sleeping, bathing
* Serving
* Getting an education
* Managing your resources

3. Nice-To-Dos (things that are not essential but you enjoy doing):

* Reading, gardening, sewing
* Using the computer
* Watching television or movies

I'm trying to consider how these categories can transfer over into my role as a mother. I appreciated Sue's comment on my panic post. Spiritual and emotional time with children -- teaching of truth, connecting with them, trying to build a home environment where the Spirit can dwell, helping them feel loved and cared for -- these are essential things. The important things are the quehaceres (there is no word in English that says it quite as well), the tasks that keep us going physically (and also have a spiritual element to them as we help our children prepare for adulthood). Would nice-to-dos be extracurricular activities? I suppose for everyone that will all fall out differently. But I do think it's all too easy to confuse busy-ness with success. And I also think that it's not always so easy to discern where one category ends and the other begins. No wonder Sister Beck is urging us to seek personal revelation constantly!

You know, in spite of the health issues that are obviously weighing me down right now (the hard-ness of it all comes in waves, I've found), my husband and I do still try to teach my children and keep the gospel at the center of our life. We care about spending time as a family (and I think we are doing better at that than we used to). I try to connect with each of my children every day, to show love and interest in them. Although sometimes only barely, I keep us fed, clothed, and going with the schtuff of life. We try to do some service, and we try to have some fun along the way, too.

So, you know, maybe I need to just take a chill pill. (Surprise.)

I have to remember, too, that there is an Atonement -- a welcome balm for all us imperfect mothers.

Inhale. Exhale.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stop the race! I want to get off the track!

We usually talk about the rat race in terms of business or the crazy, money-making world out there.

But gollygeewhittakers [or is it willakers?], it actually really frustratingly (adverb attack was annoyingly deliberate; I'm feeling off tonite) creeps into the realm of motherhood. AND I HATE IT.

I know in my heart of hearts that motherhood is not a good place to be playing comparison games, but sheesh. Try telling that to my brain.

And then summer adds a whole new dimension, because now children are home! Now is when you really show your momma stuff! (Maybe summer is a good time to avoid reading others' blogs. When you sleep half your day away, you're not going to be able to pull off much of that Fun Momma Stuff. Meh.)

I have to keep reminding myself that there is more to my mothering than just how Fun I may (or may not) be. And I'm not knocking Fun, either. I just need to figure out how not to care so much about what I can't do (or even just what I'm not doing) and just let myself be me and let our life be what it is. To figure out what for me, for us, is good (best?) and right.

As I talked to a friend about this today, a thought I had is that learning to discern what is right for your particular situation is a key part of the journey. And trying to sort through that in the role of mother is some serious soul work.

Just more evidence that motherhood isn't just about the growth of the children.


 ˙ʍou uǝbʎxo ןɐnʇıɹıds ǝɯos ɟןǝsʎɯ buıʌıb :ʇdıɹɔsʇsod*

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'll add my amen, sister!

People who know me know that I spend a lot of time thinking and writing and talking about the importance of women in God's plan. One element of our role about which we are reminded is that of being nurturers. This was actually a powerful theme I felt woven throughout this last General Conference. I don't know that I've ever witnessed a conference quite like this last one in that regard.

Sometimes it's easy to equate worth with visible positions or headline-worthy accomplishments. But this post, Amen sister, by my friend Dalene is a perfect example of how sometimes (often) it's the little things that can make a difference. I think moments like this where love is shown are moments that can help young people (and help us!) discover the reality of divine love.

Heaven only knows that those of us who are mothers simply can't be there in every moment for every need our children have. Thank heaven for women like Julie who, in small and simple ways, step in to help.

I'm grateful to Dalene for capturing this moment and this message in such a powerful way. It's stayed with me all week. Every time I read it or explain it, I get a lump in my throat.

Go read it. You'll be glad you did.

Spring Perfection

It was a simply stunning evening tonite. The clouds went on to the edge of the horizon in a beautiful pattern of puffs. The wind came in gusts strong enough to keep tennis balls rolling in perpetual motion on the court, but not so strong that we couldn't enjoy some great volleys.

I haven't been on a court for probably a year, and didn't realize how much I missed it until I was out there.Wow, I love that sport.

And headache notwithstanding, it was as if a bit of life was breathed into me by that wind. I couldn't resist just stopping occasionally to breathe in the marvelous spring air. I even did a few slow twirls, with my arms fully extended, Julie Andrews style.

For me, I dare say there is nothing better than a gorgeous spring evening, the chance to play tennis, and priceless time with my precious family.

It was the picture of perfection. Too bad I didn't have my camera.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly"

The recent realization that I pray more when I have migraines sort of left me feeling frustrated with myself. "I don't want to have to be compelled to be humble! Why can't I figure it out without being in pain?"

Nevertheless, true to form, in my post-more-intense-than-usual-migraine state, Saturday night I prayed harder than I have for a while. Hubby was out of town. I was feeling alone and weary, and frankly, quite scared about how bad my headaches and dizziness have been. Recent doctor's appointments have left me feeling nervous about other things as well.

And so, I lay on the couch and sobbed, pouring my heart out to God. When I woke up Sunday, I considered staying in bed. After all, I think health-wise I had a legitimate reason to do so. And it's hard for me to go when I feel so spent, so weary. I just want to curl up into a ball and pull into my shell.

But I really was feeling well enough to go. And I know I need church. I need the consistency. My children need to see me go. And going to church is one way I seek to show God that I'm not going to give up (even though sometimes I think I can't keep going). I made a decision long ago that I would just always go to church as part of keeping my covenants. Church is often a place, too, where I find peace, solace, and inspiration. And I really do love to worship with my brothers and sisters; we have a fantastic ward family.

I dragged my weary self out of bed and went.

True to form, God gave me help.**

I'll write about other insights another time, perhaps, but here I want to share just one. During the sacrament, I opened up my General Conference Ensign, hoping for some insights. I scanned the table of contents, looking for a talk that might catch my eye.

This one did: All Things Work Together for Good (need I say that that is from one of my favorite scriptures, Romans 8:28?)

As I read the talk, this paragraph in particular stood out:

[W]hen we face our challenges, we must seek greater help from God. Even the Savior of us all found a need to pray “more earnestly” as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.5 We can learn to gain great faith if we do this. We must remember that often the answers from our Heavenly Father do not remove the trial from us, but instead He helps strengthen us as we pass through the experience. As He did for the followers of Alma, the Lord can “ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs.” [Mosiah 24:14, another favorite scripture of mine.] In our trials, let us not become bitter or uncommitted, but let us follow the Savior’s example of becoming more earnest, more sincere, and more faithful.

Suddenly, I wasn't berating myself for praying harder when I'm in pain. Even the Savior, the perfect Son of God, did just that!

I will be honest. I am having a really hard time right now not wanting my pain to just be removed. I'm. so. tired. Weary. Wanting to feel better. Wondering when and if physical healing will ever come.

Again, I am reminded, though, that sometimes our cups do not pass, but we can be given strength. And I take comfort and ponder truths from the Savior's experience in Gethsemane.

Even the Savior of the World was "sore amazed" (even "very heavy") when the time came to drink of His bitter cup!

Even He wanted His bitter cup to pass!

Even He "prayed more earnestly" in His time of agony.

And even He needed and received strength beyond His own to bear His pain.

I realize tonight that it was a physician, Luke, who recorded many of these details that have brought a measure of healing to my soul this week, reminding me of the power of looking to the Great Physician for help in facing my health struggles.

Much for me to ponder and remember....

**As a postscript, I will add that answers don't always come that quickly, so if you happen to be still waiting for answers, don't give up, ok?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

End of School Reflections (Ramblings?): Motherhood, Growth, the Atonement....

I really can't believe it's the end of another school year.

I measure my kids' growth not by birthdays, but by their progression in school, so this time of year is always a bittersweet time for me. I am so proud of them and the people they are becoming. By the end of the year, I'm so ready for them to be home and to have a break from the routine of homework and all.

But it's also a time when I come face-to-face with how fast they are growing. It's so cliché, that phrase, "They grow up so fast." But it's so. true.

Sometimes the reality of that cliché nearly takes my breath away. Sometimes it comes close to making me sick to my stomach, actually.

My children are close in age (all born within three years of each other). I love it. They are such good friends. Since we haven't been able to have more children due to my health, I try to just enjoy the unique fact that our children are all pretty close to the same stage of life, so that makes family activities really fun.

But guess what else it means? The empty nest thing will not be gradual. Even as I can't wait to see how they will continue in their path to becoming their own people (it's so fun watching them grow!), another part of me wants to scream: STOP! Slow down!

Each year, I think I savor, value, appreciate, understand motherhood more. While I know I still have lots of room to grow, I have been doing this long enough to see that there has been progress in my personal journey. I get it more and more. I'm less and less threatened by talks about the ideals surrounding motherhood, because I see that it's all a process, and the ideals are essential in the process. And anger at the ideals distract us from the real work and give the adversary power.

The Atonement works, people. It really does. And wow, if there is ever a place where the Atonement is needed, it's in the realm of parenthood. Growth is sometimes so imperceptible -- sometimes so much so that it makes me crazy -- but it is real. Grace is real. Walking by faith bears fruit.

Being a stay-at-home mom for me has been in large measure an act of faith. I am grateful I have the choice to do that, and realize not all women do have that choice. But you need to know that it's not necessarily been the natural choice for me.

But there is lots about seeking to be a follower of Christ that isn't natural. It's a process to learn to become like God. Just because we have a divine heritage and birthright, just because seeds of godliness are within us (and that is truth), doesn't mean that everything divine will come without effort and sacrifice. I think we sometimes forget that. I think women in particular forget that.

More and more, what motherhood means to me is finding more of the divine within me through obedience and sacrifice. No, better said, it's having God reveal more and more of the divine within me -- and in this role -- through His grace.

And every year, at the end of school, I get to reflect on all of that. It both pains me to realize how fast they are growing and how much I still need to grow, and also excites me to see how we are all growing up together.

I love being a mother.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Migraine Madness

Migraines make me feel a little crazy. Like maybe I'm going to lose it.

But I realized tonite that I tend to pray more when I have migraines, or at least think about praying.

It's pathetic, but true. 

I'm trying to be positive here. There has to be a silver lining in the pain, right?

Opening Up

I've had a migraine the past 24+ hours. A bad one. As in maybe the worst one I've ever had. I shouldn't even be at the computer, but I am glad I got on for a minute, if for no other reason than to read this.

My situation is different than this woman's, but I know the pain of needing to really talk to God and yet not doing it. I don't think I do it to punish God, but I know holding back hurts me. I'm reminded of my friend, Sue, who has taught me much about God's goodness and love, about being so honest with God -- no holding back.

But I still do.

I just can't quite figure out why, though. I think there is a part of me afraid to ask for anything, because I've sometimes been just so wrong about what I've wanted. I think sometimes I'm probably afraid of the answers, even though I know that fear isn't consistent with what I know of God. I know that some of it comes that sometimes whatever I would want to say is buried so deep in my soul that I can't find words. I know He hears those kinds of prayers, but I think sometimes I use that as a crutch.

There are so many times when I have opened up that I have had amazing experiences.

It's time for some soul work.

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings. ~Bible Dictionary, Prayer

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garage Sale = Miracles

It started off as a lousy day, really. I had a hard time falling asleep (above and beyond the usual -- I didn't drift off until the sun had awakened. Zonk.)

When I woke up a few hours later, I knew I couldn't help with the garage sale. I needed sleep...again above and beyond my usual needs; I was still dealing with the remnants of the icky sinus/bronchial infection I'd had. And so, for the second week in a row, I wasn't going to be there with my kids, helping with their fundraiser.

As usual, my husband was kind and supportive. "Don't you worry about it. You get back to sleep."

I woke up after the 2 p.m. finish time. I was curious to see how they did, so I went over to the neighbor's garage. (Oh, my neighbor. She's one of my living angels. Seriously. I'll need to write more about her sometime.)

My mind immediately started thinking about trying to sell some of the stuff on Craigslist or something. That futon would likely make someone happy -- I mean, it seemed to me to be a steal at $25.

And then I thought, "Hmmmmm. Maybe we could buy it." Wheels started turning.

Long story short, with the help of home teacher and a family friend, we miraculously got it down our bendy staircase. We put it in what had been a craft room for the kids and created a bedroom for #1. He is more than thrilled.

That means #2 and #3 also have their own bedrooms now, too.

(And so does dh. Due to my major sleeping and health issues and his major snoring issues, we don't sleep in the same space. Sad, but true. For the past several years, he's been sharing a room with #1. Now he's got his own space downstairs. He's by ds, so I can worry less. ds still has a parent close. And dh is pretty happy to have a place (old craft table now in the middle of the not-huge room) to spread out all his books. Which means they aren't on the kitchen table anymore. Ahem.) 

Anyway, I could never have imagined what this would do for our family and for my mothering, but I feel God knew. He knew what I needed and what they needed. (And He was so frugal about it, which makes me nearly giddy and, of course, deeply grateful.)

I feel He has helped compensate for things I cannot do very well as a mom, such as teaching them in focused ways how to clean and organize. I have felt much guilt about my weakness in this area, which is only compounded exponentially by the chronic illness issues which have plagued me for years. I can't fully capture here what it has felt like to watch my children suddenly have a stewardship, a place to order and organize and call their own, but it has been a spiritual thing to see something beyond myself happening. Divine intervention came in a wholly unexpected way, compensating for my mortal weakness in this role that matters so much (and where my weakness pains me so much).

Things just clicked. Without being able to anticipate this happening, each child now has a desk (I dare say homework has been more fun for them the past few days) and a CD player (one of those was also a garage sale find, one was a Christmas present from grandparents, one had already been in the girls' room). Should I confess that neither dh nor I knew that #1 loves classical music? He's been listening to it pretty much nonstop when in his room. He's never listened to it before. I have always hoped my children would resonate with uplifting music. Now they each have the means to do that in their own way, without having to answer to a sibling. (Having children so close together is such a blessing, but does have its challenges, and this has really helped with many of those. Just like that.)

Another tender mercy element of this that I'll capture here corresponds to recent inspiration (you know it's inspiration when it just works) to have #3 get herself to bed earlier than the other two (bedtime has been another challenge with three so close together). Now there is no need for #2 to tiptoe in or sleep on the floor in "the boys'" room.

And now, every night, my favorite ritual has even more meaning because it's truly one-on-one. I get to tuck them in and cuddle and chat in more personal ways, in their own little world. They are at an age where that personal space really means something, and being allowed in that space to help them end their day is sacred time to me.

As I stood in my kitchen eating a midnight snack tonite, I saw this on my pantry door, and it really says it all.

Believe it. Look for it. See it. And be amazed.

I sure am.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Musings (or soapbox, depending on how you look at it)

Mother's Day. It's arguably the most controversial, angst-filled, sometimes-even-anger-inducing days of the year in Mormondom. People ban church on this day. Numerous blog posts show up explaining why Mother's Day is so awful, or why church on this day is so difficult. Talks and programs and songs are mocked to assuage the pain. I watch year after year as people feel on pins and needles as they try not to offend. But year after year, people get offended.

Now let me say that I understand and sympathize (and even empathize) with some of the pain. I mean, there is perhaps nothing that brings more intense feelings than motherhood -- whether that means being a mother, or not being a mother and wanting to be, or not being a mother and secretly being relieved, or not having a good relationship with your mother, or not feeling like a good enough mother.

I don't know that there are any tears more shed than for reasons like the above.

And yet....

And yet!

There has to be more than this. I think there is something missing in this. (Remember, I've already warned you that I'm sorta in soapbox mode. And I write this knowing that not everyone is upset on Mother's Day (e.g., see here and here), so this is not a complete post about the topic.)

In my view, ultimately, whether that missing piece comes is not ultimately up to the speakers or the planners of Mother's Day programs or the writers of music or the gift givers or anyone else. It's not the bishop's fault or the culture's fault that Mother's Day is not perfect. It's not the leaders' fault that every talk given in General Conference doesn't suit every woman perfectly.

The peace we seek has to come from within us, as women -- and can only be found, I believe, as we really turn to Christ and let Him help us know what to do with all our imperfections and the imperfectness of our world.

Christ is the missing link in our pain. The Atonement is the balm we seek at these times. We come to these moments sometimes with such high expectations that no mortal will truly be able to fill them.

Nor should they.

The scriptures tell us that "All things must fail." I find that phrase interesting. Why must they fail? That could be interpreted as simply meaning that they will fail. But I take it to mean more. I think we have to come to grips with the fact that all things must fail so we can find that one thing that never faileth -- Christ's charity, evidenced through His Atonement. He is willing to help us.

But do we let Him? Really let Him?

I think too often we don't. We give way for the enemy of our soul by being angry about this or that talk, feeling depressed about this or that weakness, wanting this or that whatever to change around us in order for us not to be upset about this or that. The internet has made it easier to look for validation of these things from others, which often, imo, pushes His peace further and further away.

There is a continued insistence that the solution is 'out there' -- and as long as we think that, then we are really only there to be acted upon, to stay stuck in our misery. I'm not saying 'the culture' doesn't have ways to improve, but honestly, I think the best improvement to LDS culture would come not from better talks or most of the things people complain about, but from us all individually seeking more to follow Sister Beck's recent counsel about leaning hard on God and needing less validation from mortal sources.

I know from personal experience that this is much, MUCH easier said than done. But I feel strongly about it. I think we need to really trust more in the True Solution to our pain and insecurity. Let's stop insisting that the problem is 'out there.' It's not. Deep down, we know that God doesn't want us to be depressed and paralyzed by insecurity and weakness. That doesn't feel right, does it? So when those feelings come (which are different from God's invitations to repent) let's choose to let His light and hope in. When we hear something that hurts, rather than complain or criticize or curl up in a ball, let's learn to go to God and ask what He would have us do, now, given all our particulars. For many of us, this will take retraining from the usual knee-jerk reactions to things that touch on tender topics. The answers will be a little (or sometimes a lot) different for all of us. Let's do more of what Sister Beck counseled and seek personal revelation. And seek hard.

The power is in us to choose to let the Atonement Christ carry us over our valleys of sorrow and pain, and to find more peace in the journey, regardless of what goes on around us.

Even on Mother's Day.

p.s. See my other blog for how my day went. It was lovely.