Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Amazing Family History Tips

If you are wanting to find ways to find more information about your ancestors, this post by historian Ardis Parshall is a goldmine of information.

Dance, Dry Bones, Dance

(Oooo. I love the title, too.)

She's done other posts on family history as well.

Lesson 1 (First steps)
Lesson 2 (Home sources)
Lesson 3 (Social Security)
Lesson 4 (Census)
Lesson 5 (Resolving Discrepancies)

She has a gift, I tell you, and it's a gift that she shares it.

And if you are interested in reading history, you'll want to sit down for a while at her blog. Amazing stuff, particularly if your interest is in Mormon history. (But it's not the typical LDS history she writes about. She shares stories that are less-known, if known at all.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Migraine Musings, Part 2

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Let it wash over you"

(This is an old post from a previous blog that has come back to my memory as of late.)


Life is very interesting, and quite challenging for me right now. I have already written much about my health struggles. They are my resistance training, which is why I write so often about them. (When we build muscles, we have to break them down to build them. I feel like I'm in the spiritual gym a lot these days!)

Recently, things have been worse, as I have had migraines that keep coming (or maybe A migraine that has never left). I have already written a little about that, too.

This last weekend, I got another one. I wasn't as angry as I was before, but I was deeply discouraged. And afraid. And feeling lost as to what to do. I was trying not to feel hopeless, but I did.

Once again, as the week before, I found myself in my bed, crying and praying. I needed help and guidance. I didn't even know where to start. I wasn't even sure what to ask (a favorite scripture comes to mind). I shared all of this with Heavenly Father.

My dear husband came up and listened for a while. He counseled with me, and I with him.

"I feel like everything I do is wrong!" (Migraines had hit after doing good things...like going to a family Easter dinner, serving my family. One even hit after lying in bed reading my scriptures, even before I had done anything else.)

"Is that really what you are feeling?" hubby asked.

No. I knew that the Spirit wasn't saying I was doing everything wrong. But I felt within myself that I was. (Hence, my hopeless feelings.)

But my husband kept listening while I sorted things out, out loud. (I am a very verbal sorter-outer, as those who know me know.)

After a while, I started to talk about things I could do to make some changes. A peace settled over the conversation, and my husband identified it. He could sense the change in my demeanor, my voice, my emotion level.

And he helped me realize I was getting answers. I was getting answers!

I called a friend, and the conversation I had solidified that I was heading in the right direction. I cannot thank my friend enough, and I cannot possibly capture it all here, but I will say this:

God heard, and answered. Again. I was in the dark, and He gave me some light.

I recalled a conversation I had last week with a friend. I had shared my many mini miracles experience, where I received a clear message about God's love.

She wisely noted, "But you don't fully believe it, do you?"

And then she said something that has stuck with me.

"Let it wash over you, Michelle."

I know intellectually that God loves me, loves us, loves His children. But for so much of my life, when things have gone wrong, when I have goofed, I have gone to a place in my mind, a dark place of shame and personal criticism. I am coming to recognize more fully and quickly that this isn't truth, but I know I need the Lord's help to change my mind and heart, to let the truth of His love and mercy wash over me.

Of course, the truth of His love and mercy doesn't absolve me of responsibility, doesn't give me permission to slack off and sin. But I think I am at the extreme end, trying still to earn my salvation alone, on my own merits, with my own spiritual résumé (which, of course, is pretty thin -- after all, I am mortal!)

The scripture that has come to mind today is Alma 42:30:

Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God [after all, I shouldn't justify sins; that said, I'm still mulling over the difference between sins and mistakes]; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

I felt like I was face-down in the dust for a while there on Sunday, gritty teeth and all, struggling for breath. That's not it, though. He doesn't want me choking on the dust! I realized that as I started to feel the power of humility as answers and TRUTH started distilling about why I need to be humble: because God loves me and wants to help me. And I need to let those truths wash over me. I need to figure out better how to let Him. To make space for Him and His love in my life. To not be afraid of not being able to do it all on my own, because that isn't the plan. Or that isn't how to access the power of God's perfect justice and mercy -- the power of the plan.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Migraine Musings, Part 1

Monday, April 13, 2009

From Migraine, to Mad-ness, to Many Mini-Miracles

(This is an old post from a previous blog that has come back to my memory as of late.)

I haven't been in blogging mode much lately for a couple of reasons. One is that I am trying to do less on the 'puter when my almost-edible chillens are home and awake, and another is that I have had some monster headaches the past few weeks. But most of the time, I sorta just do my best to do what I have to do. Unless I get the classic migraine aura thing going on, then I stop.

I had grand plans of spending some good time with my aforementioned precious ones this week, since it's spring break. I was up for a whole two minutes when I got an aura today. And I was mad. Hopping mad. Like the kind of mad-that-is-bad-for-your-spirit mad. I had even just prayed specifically to avoid *that* kind of migraine so I could take my kids to see their out-of-town cousins, whom we didn't get to see Saturday because of their dad's headache (yeah, we are quite a pair, I know).

I got my meds in me and went promptly to my bed, where I pouted, and vented (I really am trying to do less of this -- it's often that same kind of not-good-for-my-spirit kind of thing), and prayed, and sobbed until perhaps I could sob no more. (That probably isn't the best thing to do with a migraine, but it did provide its own kind of relief.)

And, did I mention that I prayed? A lot...in that kind of way where I am stumped and feeling stuck and feeling hopeless and afraid and wanting to quit.

And as my day comes to a close, I look back and I can see the miracles.

-Hubby was home, and was well enough to help a little. He also did a lot of listening while I vented. Even though my venting probably gives him a headache.

-So did a dear, dear friend, who not only listened, but sobbed with me, and told me she wished she could take it away, and wished she could fix it, but knew she couldn't, and because she knew that, she was a great sounding board in thinking through what I might need to be learning through all of this. (If you are reading, thank you. I love you, friend. So much. You are such a blessing in my life.)

-My kids, as usual, were amazing and kind and compassionate and caring. But they also had friends to play with all day. So mom being in bed all day wasn't so bad.

-And then I got a message from a friend from whom I haven't heard for quite a while. And her love and concern, even without knowing what kind of day (month) I was (am) having, was so evident, and so needed today.

-And then my sis called, and we talked for quite a while in a way-that-is-really-good-for-my-spirit kind of way, and she reminded me why I don't quit, and why I never will -- because the Savior is there, and because I want to be there with Him.

-And then I found a message from a Relief Society president who said she just kept thinking about me today. And I haven't seen her for weeks.

-And to finish the day, another friend posted one of my fave quotes ever:

"Each of us will have our own Fridays - those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

"But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death - Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

"No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or in the next, Sunday will come." (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov. 2006, page 30 )

And then, as I mulled over all of this, the thought came loud and clear: God wasn't mad at me, even though I got mad, and even though I pouted, and even though I doubted, and even though I vented. He sent many miracles today, through the love and simple efforts of numerous people, and by so doing, reminded me of this pure and perfect and powerful truth: He loves me.
As Elder Holland and Pres. Eyring recently testified, I realized that I was not alone, even though I felt alone.

I know answers to prayers sent to heaven from our times of deep pain are not always answered as quickly as mine were today. I have many, many of those prayers, too. They also aren't always answered as we want them to be (my head still really hurts, and probably will for days, even weeks to come, and that is hard). But I have had enough experiences like this, where I have cried out in my extremity, and I have seen His loving hand enter my life in ways that continue to amaze me. In His own way and time, He lets me know time and time again that He Is There.

I go to bed still with a headache, but with a full and grateful heart.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Glenn Beck and Social Justice, and Thinking Outside the Box in Politics

OK, so I get that people feel strongly about helping the poor. I think rare is the person on either side (and all along the continuum) of the political spectrum who doesn't.

I'm not necessarily a fan of Glenn Beck; he too often uses too much extreme rhetoric for my liking.

But good grief, the responses to his recent comments on social justice (or, better said, how people are framing those comments) are also really extreme in their rhetoric, and to me missing the core point -- and missing an opportunity where we as a nation might actually have some discussions on how we really can and should help the poor.

Even before I read this quote, my thought about all of the hoopla was that many people are hearing what they want to hear in what he said, not actually addressing the core of his concern. Reading this strengthened that opinion for me:

"Social justice is code language. Code language for big government… If your church is preaching social and economic justice you better do some digging and find out exactly what that means. Because if that means big government, (that) you need to support big government programs, (then) you don’t have a church… Now if your church is talking about social justice in a way that you empower yourself to go help the poor, well then that is exactly what Jesus… would like you to do.”
– Glenn Beck, March 12 radio program (hat tip for the quote comes from a comment here)

Does he dismiss social justice outright? No. Does he show ignorance about the notion that helping the poor is important to religions? No. Is he really saying something so outrageous? I don't think so.

Here, I hear him encouraging people to think about what social justice means -- because it means different things to different people and faiths -- and to figure out if it's really a good thing in every context.

What is so crazy about that?

I understand disagreeing with his politics, but so many really emotional reactions to his comments don't seem to me to be hearing what he is saying at all and don't really even address the politics he takes a stand on.

In Anatomy of Peace language (a book that I think should be required reading for everyone), that's called being in the box. And it's pretty much like shutting off your heart AND your brain.

Such a dynamic plagues the political process. But it's such a precious waste of time and energy, and clouds the ability to actually think clearly about things like this that matter.

We've got to get outside the box.

For Mormons, to me, a compelling point when engaging in politics is to note that the First Presidency has reminded us that "“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of various political parties."

So I say let's seek for good, solid principles across the spectrum, rather than waste precious time slinging mud at the "other" -- especially when that mud-slinging often involves arguing against things that weren't actually the real message of what was said.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day

We are having a pi party with extended family to celebrate. I might even post some pictures. I made a yogurt cheesecake something (an experiment...we'll see how it tastes) for my "fruit" (we'll smother it in berries) and also a cow pie dessert (no bake oatmeal fudge cookies all in a big pile...may never cool but I wanted to have some fun with my dessert).

I might slice some oranges and then cut the slices like pieces of pie.

My sister-in-law is going to make chicken pot pie for dinner.


Do any of you celebrate pi day?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rest in Peace, Merlin Olsen

For those of you old enough to know who Merlin Olsen is, he recently passed away. He has always come across to me as a gentle, quiet, good man.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rejoicing in the Gospel and in Being a Mormon Woman

Recently, I was accused of being over-cheerful about my perspective on the eternal blessings awaiting us -- women included -- in the eternities.

At some level, I'm still just sort of dumbfounded.

Sometimes in conversations about women's issues, I find myself wanting to ask, "Do you WANT me to be miserable about being a woman in the Church?" I sometimes feel as though there is the feeling among some that if you are *really* smart, you will figure it out that Mormonism really is awful for women. Or that if you are happy, it must be that you haven't really looked closely enough at that verse or this policy or that part of our history. Or that you are being "intellectually dishonest" by being happy.

For the record, I've spent a good portion of my adult life thinking about women's issues relative to Mormonism. Thinking about these issues pretty much fill any extra mental space I may have for pondering life and the gospel. I know that doesn't make me some expert, and I'm certainly not an academic of these issues, but I have given these things lots and lots of thought. I love chewing on the gospel, and I'm not afraid to consider hard questions. But there needs to be space for simple answers, too.

I also actually try hard to understand and try to be sympathetic to the struggles some have in the space where feminism and Mormonism seem to collide. I know such struggles are real. We all have our struggles. I'm sorry for yours, if you have them.

But at some point, I just have to say let me have my space to rejoice in what makes me happy -- in the things prophets of God tell us we CAN and SHOULD be happy about! -- without expecting me to be able to answer to all the things that may bother you, if you do struggle. If you disagree, please leave me the space to have my perspective and to disagree with you or to engage things differently. Please don't expect me to explain away the things that bother you. Please don't expect me to take your approach to processing the gospel.

If you feel pain about these things, I'm so sorry. But I can't solve it, nor should I be expected to see things as you do. Your pain, your questions, your issues are for you and God to work through. He is the source of peace and truth. He can help you sort through these things, in His time and His way. I have my own things to sort through. Believe you me.

I cannot change what is in holy writ, nor do I want to. I cannot change Church structure, nor do I want to. I cannot change prophetic counsel and teachings about gender roles or other topics relative to women, nor do I want to.

Am I without questions? No. Do I wonder sometimes about policies, practices, or topics of preaching? Sometimes, yes. Are there things I don't fully understand? Of course. But I don't expect to understand it all. I think it's plain wrong to expect to understand it all, especially without accepting what we already have been given. And the more I rejoice in and embrace what I DO know, the more things make sense to me.

What I DO know is that God is a loving, perfect God, that "all that He has" awaits us all if we follow His plan and His Son. The Church is true. God's authority is here, the ordinances of salvation are here, the doctrines of salvation are here, prophets live and teach and preach today. Their teachings won't always gel with the isms of the secular world. That should be expected. The texts won't always be neat and easy to process intellectually. That should be expected.

Elder Maxwell used to say something like if God promises all He has, "brothers and sisters, there isn't any more." I believe the prophets and the scriptures and the beauty found in temple ordinances that teach that God has promised us -- women and men -- all He has. What more could we want? We -- women and men -- have all we need to be able to receive all those blessings. ALL of the ordinances necessary for eternal life are here, on the earth, binding us to God for eternity if we will receive them and receive Him and His Son. Those blessings are what my last post was about. At some point, I see absolutely no reason to look for reasons to doubt those blessings or to take issue with things that don't seem to fit nicely and neatly into these core doctrines of the gospel. We are mortal. Things of God won't always make sense. But wow. What does and can make sense is pretty glorious in my experience.

And so, I rejoice in that.

Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your atrust in bGod, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who cbrought the children of dIsrael out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red eSea on dry ground, and fed them with fmanna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them.

[S]hall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. aCourage...and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into bsinging. Let the cdead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the dKing Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to eredeem them out of their fprison ; for the prisoners shall go free.

Let the
amountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid brocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the cmorning stars sing together, and let all the [children] of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and dimmortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding God in the Space Between Pain and Resolution

I don't have much time to write, but wanted to capture this concept that is pressing on my soul....

So often, we seek God for relief, to have challenges, pain, cognitive dissonance -- whatever is causing us grief -- taken away, solved, fixed. I think it's easy to read of healings and miracles and somehow translate them to equating God's power with complete resolution of problems and pain.

While sometimes such complete miracles do happen, I'm feeling more and more that we really learn to find God and His power in the times when resolution and solution don't present themselves as desired. Such tensions require really leaning on God, trusting in His timetable, letting go of our wills and expectations and trying to let Him mold our souls.

At least that is what I am feeling in my own life. I see enough in my life, both in the present and especially in the aggregate of the past, to KNOW that He is there and very involved in my life. But answers and help have often not come in immediate moments, and sometimes unfold over years, even decades. And some problems I have had since childhood (like issues with mental illness) are still affecting my life in significant ways. There is just so much messiness in this mortal life of ours, and I feel my soul stretching as I learn what of that mess I should focus on right now, and what I need to let go of for now -- to let some of it just be messy and trust that through the Atonement, resolution will come, either in this life or the next. Enduring well is my job, not necessarily fixing it all.

I think the times I have felt most distant from God are the times I have demanded resolution in MY way. I have felt close to Him as I see His hand in direct and miraculous ways, but also as I trust in the fact that He is there even when I don't see as much of that direct intervention.

Mortality is such a journey. Walking by faith is hard work.

But it's good work when I can see it for what it is, in the light of the eternal plan of God.

[Heavenly Father and the Savior, Jesus Christ] sustain us in our hour of need—and always will, even if we cannot recognize that intervention. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. Of that I personally attest. I thank my Father in Heaven for His goodness past, present, and future.... -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland