Friday, August 8, 2014

Hastening vs. Haste

God is giving me varied opportunities to consider how I might be able to surrender more of my fear(s) to Him. I had some great conversations today that gave me a lot to ponder. One of those was with my husband. He is in Australia for two weeks and we have been using Google Hangouts (video chat) to stay connected. We're both in a sort of musing mode about learning to surrender the natural man.

Today, the combination of conversations, a direct fear I was dealing with, a choice I made to try to surrender, and a scriptural concept collided.

Actually, I will start with a scripture that my husband brought up that ties in with the conversation I had earlier today with someone I was having a business meeting with (yes, I have a cool job). He suggested (and I'm going to add my own thoughts, too) that perhaps we sometimes think of the 'natural man' from Mosiah 3:19 in ways that may not be complete (e.g., equating the natural man with EVIL stuff vs seeing it as our mortal tendency to engage life in fight-or-flight mode -- which, as this woman and I discussed, really is built into our biology. I like to say that we are wired to self-protect. We are wired to avoid pain.

For me, that equates to often acting reactively -- in haste. 

But haste is something that the Lord invites us away from because it can bring confusion -- and because, as the first scriptures say, " for the Lord will go before you." The space between my reactive action and giving myself permission and a little time to be still is something I'm trying to allow for more in my life, and especially in my mind.

  • For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward.), 3 Ne. 20:42 . ( Isa. 52:12 . )
  • Saints to assemble in Zion, not in haste lest there be confusion: D&C 63:24 .
  • the Lord will hasten his work in its time: D&C 88:73 .
  • all things to be done in their time, not in hasteD&C 101:72 .
Mosiah 3:19 teaches us that to submit is the way to find grace and the Atonement. I have often pictured submitting as some burdensome thing -- somehow in my fears over the years, even in the face of my strong faith and testimony, I still had imagined up a God who was out to get me. And so subconsciously, I think I have resisted submitting because who would want to submit to a father who was like that?

My husband is reading from Eckhart Tolle right now, and he is sharing some thoughts from one of his books. I was trying to find a quote that he shared and couldn't find it, but you might enjoy some of the quotes from his books. There are some real gems there.
This is the one that hit me between the eyes. “What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.” 

The voice in my head is also not who God is. 

I also liked this.

“Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” 

When I act in haste, in fear, in REaction (acted upon) mode, I have a hard time feeling the Spirit. I am trying to change the present rather than accept it. In so many of the things I've studied and pondered, this notion of being present is so prominent. I am trying to be more present, more aware of the now, more grateful, more willing to learn from what the present has to offer, rather than living somewhere in the past or the future.

The thought has come recently that the only place I can exercise agency (which is inextricably tied to the Atonement) is in the present. 

"Be still [just BE], and know that I am God."

I really loved Elder Maxwell talking about the difference between being anxious and being anxiously engaged. I think this notion of God's way of hastening and doing His work and the mortal tendency to act in haste or by flight (like fight or flight!) is similar. Speaking of Elder Maxwell, this talk is brilliant. (I miss Elder Maxwell!)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Carpe Diem!

The last month has been a very difficult one for me. With my mom's cancer diagnosis, it seems that all the deep-seated fears I have carried around my whole life regarding illness, death, and God's "chastening" have descended upon me. I know the "answers" but as I wrote here at Mormon Women, when my anxieties take over, sometimes I have a hard time feeling those truths.

Perhaps you have felt this way before...?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Angels Round About

I'm just going to come out with it: My mom was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. We have essentially no history of cancer in our family. My mom is probably the healthiest of her siblings. She is young (mid-sixties). 
Needless to say, we are all in a bit of shock. 

It sounds childish, perhaps -- entitled might be a better word -- but cancer is one of those things that happens in headlines, to other people's families. Right? (Yeah, denial can feel like a mighty fine place -- except for the fact that it's a lie.) To have the c-word hit our family has taken off yet another layer of my resistance to this idea that we are all mortal. Life is fragile. We are subject to pain, illness, and eventually death. (And I look to heaven sometimes and say, "REALLY? THIS Is the plan?")

No really. My faith-driven self is so grateful for the plan. I love this amazing earth. I love the Atonement. I love God's work. Our bodies are truly miracles. But my fear-based self...well, suffice it to say that we wrestle a lot, my real self and that natural part of me. 

That wrestle has increased in intensity as of late. Thursday night, I asked my husband for a blessing. It was a beautiful, powerful blessing for so many reasons, but what I remember most right now is that the Lord said that angels would be with my mom. He talked quite a bit about how earnestly involved our family members on the other side of the veil are. That they have authority to counsel together and act on our behalf. (I often look up at our family history wall and wonder who is assigned to me! :) I am wondering what they are planning to help my help my help us all.

There were things that happened at girl's camp that tie into this notion of angels being near. 

My daughter had a sacred experience, and she paraphrased this scripture in her testimony:

"I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up" (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).

Our bishop offered a second witness of the reality of angels. This pattern touched me; patterns are how I personally experience God and His presence and awareness of me. 

I haven't had any experience with angels that I know of, so I wonder sometimes what it could mean to have angels attend us. As I pondered this, a talk came to mind. And wouldn't you know it? It's a talk given by a family member. 

The first time Elder Richards (my mom's cousin) gave the talk ("The Atonement Covers all Pain"), I loved it. And then the Spirit called this talk to mind when I was waiting for my daughter's emergency surgery (she'd knelt on a needle, it broke in half, and it was deeply embedded behind her kneecap). My husband was on the other side of the country, and the truth about angels brought great comfort to me.

Re-reading this tender account from Elder Richard's talk last night brought tears to my eyes.

"Thirteen-year-old Sherrie underwent a 14-hour operation for a tumor on her spinal cord. As she regained consciousness in the intensive care unit, she said: 'Daddy, Aunt Cheryl is here, … and … Grandpa Norman … and Grandma Brown … are here. And Daddy, who is that standing beside you? … He looks like you, only taller. … He says he’s your brother, Jimmy.” Her uncle Jimmy had died at age 13 of cystic fibrosis.
“'For nearly an hour, Sherrie … described her visitors, all deceased family members. Exhausted, she then fell asleep.”
"Later she told her father, 'Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them.'”
I have never seen angels, but I have faith in these beings who are usually not seen but are real. I believe in the doctrine of angels [no really, read this talk!]. I believe in the keys of the ministering of angels that are tied to the ordinances or baptism and the sacrament

My faith in this doctrine was reinforced again tonight as I did some family history. This year, we will be celebrating my grandpa's 100th birthday. He died nearly 12 years ago, but we will be gathering as a family to honor and remember him, and to reinforce our faith in God's wonderful plan. As part of this celebration, we are using FamilySearch to gather stories and records and photos. 

I was happy to see that my cousin had uploaded the transcript from Grandpa's funeral, and I was amazed to read this from Elder M. Russell Ballard (who lived in my grandparents' ward for decades) and was able to be in town for the funeral:

"If anything comes toward you in your life and you have a wonderment, or you have a cause to fear or concern, you turn your hearts to your grandfather and to your father or your great-grandfather and your grandmother. And rest on their faith and call down from their lives, their devotion and their affection and their witness and testimony of the truth. And as you do that, you will be able to face whatever life presents to you."

Here's one last quote from another forebear of mine. 

“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing, we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are the children of God and that He has actually given His angels–invisible beings of power and might–charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.2)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

An Easter Epiphany

I just finished the grueling process of working on a grant. In eight days, I put in about 100 hours. It was a figurative blood, sweat, and tears kind of effort. I can't say I ever want to do it again, to tell you the truth. (Not really realistic since I do work for a non-profit. Ahem.)

But I will say it was an amazing experience for me, for many reasons. There were so many miracles. Doors were opened. We connected with amazing people and moved forward in ways that we might never have been able to move forward had we not attempted this crazy feat of doing a $3M grant in less than three weeks.

There is much I want to record about what we are doing (whether or not the grant comes through it's forward ho!) but today, I wanted to write the simple, powerful a-ha! moment I had a few days before Easter.

In the short span of these intense weeks, I was able to see a little more what happens with grant money and all the amazing things people are doing just because they care. I also feel like I caught a glimpse of how. much. money. it takes to just try to make even a dent in any particular problem. Pouring over research papers, I was reminded how focused change efforts usually are, only touching on the narrowest of issues and related measures. Change is hard and hard-won, and even when change is "successful," by mortal indicators, the weight of all that is left undone is staggering.

Usually, thinking of the smallness of our potential impact and the realization of how broken our mortal world really is would leave me feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. And sometimes it can leave me wondering why why why there is so much brokenness in our existence.

But in the midst of sleepless nights of pouring out all I had for this grant, I felt an appreciation for how broad and wide and deep and eternal and all-encompassing the Atonement really is. A few million dollars may not make much of a dent, but He lets us give what we have in our very limited spheres so we can appreciate a little more the sphere of His infinite influence.

I stand all the more amazed.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How I have talked with my children about pornography -- and some of my favorite resources for parents

I recently wrote a post at the Women for Decency blog about how I have talked with -- and continue to talk with -- my children about pornography.

I just wanted to add a few points.

- I do not believe the primary focus in protecting and preparing children against pornography is good sex ed. YES, children need to hear and learn about sex, and they need to hear it from their parents, and that needs to be an ongoing conversation throughout the years that they are in our homes. BUT, pornography is a drug. It's soooo much easier to help kids understand the harms of porn by simply helping them understand that it can hurt their brains and bodies like drugs, alcohol, and smoking can. Telling young children that all they need to do is look forward to healthy sex someday (assuming they will get married, and some won't, especially some of our girls) will not help them say no to porn NOW. Help them say no! Help them know that they can talk to you about anything. (See the great links on the post for more resources that I think are so helpful.)

- It can be really easy to feel overwhelmed in today's world of over-sexualized everything. I think we can easily feel overwhelmed when we see the impact of pornography and the sexualization of our culture all around us. If you don't know someone personally affected by porn, you will, because they are all around you. It's hard to find good entertainment, etc. We know and see that. But parents, please don't doubt the power you have. If we all unite in believing in the impact our nurturing and teaching can do for the next generation, we can turn the tide on this thing by raising a generation who gets it. As we teach them, it can help us 'get it' even better, too.

How I taught my kids about pornography addiction

Some of the resources that I have found helpful:

Monday, January 27, 2014

A letter to my local legislators -- protecting marriage, protecting the voice of the people, protecting children from porn

It's the season of the legislative session in my state, and I wanted to voice a couple of things to my representatives. So I did. And I figure it's good to share my thoughts publicly, as well. I encourage you to take a minute to share what you would like your legislators to be focusing on in your state.

Here is the message I sent to the senator and house representative in my area.

"Good luck with the next couple of weeks, and thanks for all you do for the people of Utah and for our local community. 

"I know plenty of voices are going to be clamoring for your attention. I just wanted to add my voice in support of challenging Judge Shelby's action to overturn Amendment 3. I'm concerned about what has happened not only for the protection of marriage, but for the protection of the voice of the people.

"I also hear that there is a bill on the table from Senator Todd Weiler taking some steps to protect some children from pornography. [Last session a resolution was passed that recognized the detrimental physiological effects of pornography on the developing mind.] This is a topic I hope will continue to get more attention. I believe Utah could lead the way in our nation with creative, deliberate efforts to make the protection of children a collaborative priority of the public and private sectors. After the dust settles with this session, I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you more about what the non-profit I am now working for is doing to facilitate and encourage [this and other kinds of] collaboration."

(p.s. What is my new job, you may ask? Or maybe you won't because you already know. But if you are stumbling on my blog for the first time, I work for Women for Decency. We are focused on bringing organizations and individuals together in collaborative, collective-impact efforts to help prepare and protect children against pornography.