Sunday, November 6, 2011

My new blog

I decided I needed to simplify and streamline my personal blogging. Please take note of the new blog address:

(I've pulled all the posts from this blog into my new blog.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Celebrate Family "Blog Hops"

If you haven't had a chance to check out the blogs doing the Celebrate Family series -- focusing on The Family: A Proclamation to the World, you should. :) I love how these women are bringing together so many people for such a great purpose.

Here is a list of the blogs that are hosting this event:

Today, I hopped onto one of the blogs of a guest writer and discovered that there is more to the Celebration than I knew! I'm just going to quote her here:
In addition to guest bloggers on each site, there will be blog hops each Monday and Thursday. Now, I've actually never done a blog hop (this is where my new-ness to the bloggy world becomes apparent, aye?), but apparently you write a post about a specific assigned topic and link to it on the official blog hop page.

Here are the assigned topics for the blog hops:
Monday, Sept. 12th – Family Mission Statements – Do you have a family mission statement? Share it with us! How did you come up with your mission statement?
Thursday, Sept. 15th - Photo Essay: Photos that "say" something about the Family Proclamation. For example, a picture of your family playing a game with the caption from the proclamation that says, "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on . . .wholesome recreational activities."
Monday, Sept. 19th – Family Home Evening (FHE) Lessons pertaining to some part of the Proclamation.
Thursday, Sept. 22nd – How the Proclamation has impacted your family personally.

I think you can just find the Linky tool at any one of the sites. For example, I found this explanation at Welcome to the Madness:

Do you have a family mission statement?  Write a blog post telling us about it, then link it here. You don't just have to link about a mission statement though...we would love to read about any part of the Family Proclamation, so feel free to link up anything you have written on it.   Please be sure to use the link to your post not to your blog's home page. This linky will be up on all four blogs but you only have to enter your post once. It will automatically show up on the other blogs as well.  Super easy!
 I'm thrilled to see so many people working together to celebrate family and the Proclamation. And, if you think the Proclamation doesn't apply to you because you don't currently have a family of your own, this post is for you.

The Family Proclamation Includes Everyone by Jenna Eakins

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Celebrate Family 2011

Several Mormon women bloggers are working together on the second annual Celebrate Family blog event. Different guest writers address different topics in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

In addition to Chocolate on My Cranium, other bloggers posting content include The Red Headed HostessWelcome to the Madness, and We Talk of Christ.

I wrote a little something about teaching children about sexuality using the Proclamation. It will be posted tomorrow, Sunday, September 11.

[edited to add]
Here's the link to my Family Proclamation post: The Proclamation as Powerful Primer on Procreation
I believe that teaching children about sex is an ongoing thing, and must be based on true doctrine to really be understood. The Spirit helped me one night teach my children about the law of chastity and the place of sex in God's plan, using the Proclamation as the foundation. It was an amazing experience.

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” -Boyd K. Packer

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Men are that they might have joy." But....

I think maybe someone needed to hear the message today about the joy of the gospel, because it came up an awful a several comments in Relief Society.

I had an interesting experience with those messages, though. I didn't feel the Spirit when I heard them.

But I know that isn't because what was said isn't truth. The gospel IS a message of joy. And I do think we can often benefit so much by looking for the joy in life. In fact, it's something I've been deliberately working on during the past few weeks as I've been struggling with some really bad days physically (which has led to some really hard days emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). I've made lists in my journal of the little things that have brought me moments of joy. But there's also been a lot of pain, fear, and exhaustion.

I can't even articulate what a blessing Relief Society was. I feel the lesson was an answer to prayer. The message was on adversity. I told the Relief Society president that she was God's mouth for me today. She quoted from numerous talks that have been anchor talks for me during the past several years of health issues. Elder Bednar has said that the timing of things can help us recognize tender mercies. I know that the lesson was a tender mercy for me today.

But when those comments about choosing joy were flying around, it was like my heart and spirit shut down. And at first, I thought it was a defensive reaction, and maybe part of it was.

But as I left the building, I had a quiet feeling that maybe it's simply because that particular message about joy wasn't the one God had for me today. I had the sense that He knew where I was, and what I needed. I needed to feel something before I could connect with the message about joy. And the Spirit let me know what *was* for me. I felt as though my soul was cleansed and renewed. I cried through most of the meeting (why do I keep forgetting to put tissues in my purse?), but that itself was part of the cleansing. A peace settled on me.

Still, the contrast I felt when the focus changed a little during the class was really striking. I could look across the room at another woman who was clearly not connecting with the joy message, either.

The reality is that sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Sometimes it's all we can do to just show up, to not give up. Sometimes it's hard to actually feel joy when you are in survival mode.

And I think that is ok. One of the talks that was quoted today was Elder Wirthlin's "Come What May and Love it." This was one of those talks that came at one of those times when I was feeling weary and battle-worn. I'm ashamed to say I resisted the message, thinking it was a bee-boppy kind of talk that was for those optimists out there who never seem to struggle. (Why do we resist the simple truths when we are hurting? Maybe it's because that's just not the message we need right now?)

But oh, was I wrong. Listen to these tender words:

How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.
If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.
Yes, we are that we might have joy. But that joy is something that often comes as we learn to weather the storms with faith. Joy can come through the process of learning to see the growth that comes of struggle. Joy can come from becoming acquainted with God in our grief. And sometimes we don't quite see that all in the middle of it all.

Another quote that came to mind for me today was this from Elder Holland:

[I]t is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them.
(Oh, how I love our dear leaders!)

But I also love this reminder about how to stay on the path to joy. That deep kind of joy that comes of enduring trials, and enduring them with faith.
But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!
Just in my prayers last night, I cried out, "Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief."

He helped me, and I am grateful.

And because of that, I'm able to feel a little more joy tonight.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dancing in the tension: You're doing better than you think you are, and you can do better

I've long been thinking about how often God is found in the tensions we feel in our lives, our doctrine, etc. I wanted to sort through one of those tensions that came across my spiritual and mental space today. This is long and probably rambling, but I'm sorting as I write, so take it all for what it's worth. 


"You worry too much."

These were the kind (and correct) words of a wise and loving person today after Relief Society. It's too hard to try to capture the dynamic of the Relief Society lesson, but if I were to sum up the message we received, it was to not let anxiety drive our actions or thoughts or determinations about our spirituality or about our decisions. The idea was, "Look, if you hold a current temple recommend and you didn't lie to get it and you are trying to be a kind, loving, service-oriented person, then you are doing ok. So stop worrying about this decision or that decision. Live your life. Relax and enjoy the ride a little more."

And boy howdy, is that a message I need. 

I feel like this validates something Elder Bednar taught in General Conference in April.
I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3)....
In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).

As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (
Isaiah 2:52 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:732:28), and direct and protect you and your family. 

This is something I need to keep pondering on. I sense that there is a lot of healing truth there for many of us. I KNOW there is healing power in those words for me.

But I still struggle with a very real tension that I think exists in all of this.

The scripture that was shared in Relief Society to show how merciful God is to us was from Helaman 10. This is where Nephi is given the sealing power, where he is told that God would give him everything he asked for. I think the message was to show how loving and merciful God is. That He's not limiting blessings He will grant us (the comparison was made to the Aladdin model of three wishes only). And I understand that I don't understand the fullness of God's love and mercy. I know that understanding that more is central to me in my personal journey and particular mortal weaknesses I have.

But there's a caveat to that binding promise that, in my view, is the source of the anxiety many of us (or perhaps I should just say I) feel in the first place: God was able to covenant to grant anything Nephi asked for, because he knew that Nephi would not ask for anything contrary to His will. (I also tend to think this was tied to his calling and keys as a prophet, but I could be mistaken about that.) I don't think most of us are at that point where we (or God) have THAT kind of confidence in our ability to KNOW God's will.

Another scripture was Nephi when he was trying to get the plates from Laban. The notion is the idea of line upon line - that Nephi didn't know what the next steps were.

But there again, he DID lean on the Spirit to guide him. And there again, that is where the anxiety comes for me. Sometimes I simply don't know if the Spirit is guiding me or not. So I don't find the comfort I probably should in these scriptures. They just reinforce the very weakness that gives me anxiety in the first place.

I think this is Elder Bednar's point...that we can grow line upon line in developing and growing in that way, and we can take confidence in the mercy that comes of sincerely trying to do our best. But that isn't the same as having confidence in ourselves to know what we need to do in the first place. And sometimes we do hear about that kind of confidence, and it's hard not to think that I have to be at THAT level to not be anxious about my decisions. We hear, for example, about President Monson's unbending loyalty to the promptings of the Spirit. But I think a good majority of us are still trying to figure out what those promptings are. To me, that seems like a key part of why we are learn to recognize how the Spirit works in our lives.

Also, while I know that the voices in my head that go to self-criticism and fear are not from God, that doesn't mean that I'm always going to make the right choices, nor does it mean that I won't have things I need to work on and improve, even if I'm doing better than I think I am.

The title of this post paraphrases something Sister Beck said in a regional conference a while back. She recognized the trap many of us get into when we doubt and criticize ourselves. I'm learning to challenge those voices and recognize that they don't produce good fruits. But then in the same breath, she also invites us to realize how and where we can do better. And I know that is also true!

Sooooo, how I come to peace with this tension is to realize (or remind myself of) something I know the Spirit has taught me in moments of clarity: God's voice is not one that paints me into a corner of hopelessness. I do think that was probably the main message of the lesson. And I extend to remind myself that His invitations to improve and repent come with a feeling of hope. That doesn't mean His invitations will be comfortable or easy or convenient or even wanted. But they won't leave me feeling despair like the critical, anxious voices in my head do.

I don't worry so much about the final judgment kind of effects of my inability to discern the Spirit in my life. That comes from the confidence I have in the Atonement and in the power of covenants and the reality that God really does know our hearts. I feel confidence in the power grace to cover that gap for me.

But I think the anxiety really comes in worrying about the consequences of dumb choices that come of the whole (very messy) learning-by-experience thing. And that's a whole other kind of fear that requires a deep acceptance of the nature of this mortal existence...something else I'm trying to process.

Something I'll likely explore another day. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is how I approach it

It's time for my midnight snack, and I admit that I've been staring at the bag of unopened Doritos on my table for a while. That, and the chocolate cupcake that my daughter brought home for me from ward choir practice.

But I'm resisting the temptation. It's not because they are bad for me (because we all know they are). No, it's because of how I approach fasting.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints typically fast once a month (usually on the first Sunday of the month). Because of my chronic health issues, fasting is something I can't easily do. We've been counseled to be wise as it relates to fasting and health. But I've struggled with what to do. Do I push myself and fast anyway? Do I just give myself a 'pass' on this one? Do I come up with an alternative "sacrifice"?

For me, the latter made sense. So -- as silly as it may sound -- I don't do treats/snacks/sweets on Sundays. I actually begin this process every Saturday evening and continue it until Monday (which may sound arbitrary, but to me, it makes it feel more deliberate). And since weekends are often family gathering times, there *is* an element of sacrifice to it. (I enjoy joining my family for a good treat!)

More than anything, it's a conscious something to try to remind myself of the law of the fast. It may not be much, but it does help me remember this law and the principles behind it, which include developing self-control, building spiritual strength, and helping the poor. (Along with the process of fasting, we contribute fast offerings every month, which are used to help those in need.)

Do any of you Mormon folk out there have health issues? If you do, what do you do regarding the fast?

Monday, May 16, 2011

"What if equality isn't the end point?" Thoughts on gender and work/family issues

I wanted to share and discuss a few articles on the topics of women and the dynamic of sorting through education, career, and family goals. These articles/posts address these topics with a focus on gender issues. I've been involved in the topic of women and education and women in business for years, and so these articles are of interest to me.

First is this article by Casey Hurley: What If “Plan A” Doesn’t Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course. I think she has done an excellent job of addressing the tension that exists for LDS women when considering the prophetic counsel on motherhood as well as the counsel on education, and the teachings in the Proclamation to the World on the Family.

I enjoyed this article on Empowering LDS Women. I think the concept of personal revelation being essential to these issues is, well, essential.

That article points to a Square Two article by Kaylie Clark: Giving Women a Voice Without Sacrificing Faith or Family: The Changes Needed to Create an Egalitarian Society". Let  me start by saying that I really like the idea of brainstorming different policy ideas to have more a more family-oriented culture in government and business. As was mentioned in both of these last two articles, Elder Cook recently talked about this idea in General Conference. We were invited to “be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents."

And yet, there are elements of Clark's article that don't quite sit with me. I don't pretend to have it all figured out (and I invite respectful dialogue here), because I think part of what Elder Cook's counsel invites us to do is to counsel with others to sort through how best to encourage and create family-friendly policies and business practices.

OK, so I like that she is thinking about some possible ways to do this. That is good. Thumb up there. 

At this point, here are some of my thoughts, however, that keep me from giving her article a double-thumbs up.

First of all, I don't agree with a pure egalitarian model as she seems to. I know that is going to be misunderstood as saying that I don't believe in women being equal to men, or in the blessing of equal opportunity. I do. (Yes, I still have posts to post on my thoughts on equality in Mormon vernacular.)

Here's a preview: To me, equality should not be confused with parity. I think she is not acknowledging the fact that the Proclamation still delineates primary roles based on gender. As such, I feel like her ideas are a bit forced on the "This is spiritually valid" side of things.

I think if we are going to brainstorm, we have to keep those gender roles on the table, and dance in the tension a bit more. To me, it's not as simple as just creating an "egalitarian society" -- that feels too structured and too dismissive of potential gender differences (and/or at least the primary gender roles that we have in our LDS teachings).

This is why I like Casey Hurley's article. She doesn't shy away from the tension but rather engages it. I think it's in such tension that personal revelation becomes all the more valuable and necessary.

So, to me, there is a complexity here that a purely egalitarian model, with its associated numbers-based measures, could very likely gloss over. My concern is that equal opportunity efforts often end up toward a mandated equality that could put both individuals/families and private/public organizations into a hard spot.

For example, I am not convinced this kind of policy (as explained in Clark's article) is a good solution:

After seeing the strong economic benefits of including women several European nations have already passed legislation requiring a specific level of women’s participation in the highest management levels of businesses, (Buzek 2011).
I have always had concerns that prescribed employment/selection rules based on gender (or race) can have a serious downside, including organizations feeling coerced to hire for a profiled characteristic rather than honest-to-goodness skill, need, and 'this-makes-sense'-ness. I also worry about the impact this could have on our culture at large.

This article, The End of Men, explores some trends that concern me that seem to be a result of the push for "equality." The fact that many governments have caught on that women are capable and that their involvement has economic value has led to the fact that there are "political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes" (emphasis mine).

The author of The Atlantic article, Hanna Rosin, poses this question:
[W]hat if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
Clark insists that "psychological studies testing the assumption that women are better nurturers yields ambiguous findings due to cultural influences, so the argument that women are naturally better equipped for the work in the home is weak with little scientific backing."

The scientific backing may be lacking, but there are still trends and issues (and, for Latter-day Saints, our LDS teachings) that I think deserve more attention as the dialogue about gender issues and work/family policy continues.

There are questions that remain. Is it just "natural" ability or drive that should determine the balance of who stays home and who brings home the bacon for how much of the time? (For example, I've seen too many examples of women who don't feel like 'natural' mothers who feel inspired to stay home. I'm one of them.) Does the idea of "equal partners" mean "equal roles" or "equal parsing of tasks"? (I don't think it does.) Can or should "equality" be mandated by governments in ways that could force families to choose something that isn't right for them?

Perhaps I could best sum up many of my questions by echoing the question posed by Hanna Rosin:

"What if equality isn't the end point?"

I know I don't have all the answers, but I think this is a valid question.