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

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.

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

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

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?

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.



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.

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?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

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

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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Gentle God's Commands

I remembered too late that the choir was going to be singing her favorite hymn. The cancer had progressed enough that she was unable to come to church.

But I decided to run home and grab my audio recorder; the bishop had given me permission to do it for her.

I didn't get the whole song recorded, and I was standing too far away for it to pick up the sound well anyway.

But no matter.

The choir will sing it again at her funeral today. Assuming I can make it (oh, please, I pray that I can make it -- still sick and mornings are nearly impossible for me with my health issues), I think I am crazy to think I will be able to sing at all. (Nevermind the fact that I have very little voice due to this illness I've had.)

This is really such an understated hymn. I confess I was a little surprised when my friend said it was one of her favorites. But, considering the text more carefully, I can see why.  

How gentle God's commands!
How kind His precepts are!
Come cast your burdens on the
Lord and trust His constant care. 

Beneath his watchful eye,
His Saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guard His children well.

Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste, to your Heavenly Father's throne,
And sweet refreshment find.

His goodness stands approved,
Unchanged from day to day;
I'll drop my burden at His feet.
and bear a song away. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

My friend died on Wednesday.

When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in December, her oncologist asked her what her goals were, what she hoped to do with the time she had left. (I wonder what my answer would be.) Without hesitation, she said that she wanted to see her new little grandchild born, and hoped to see her grandson go on a mission.

The baby was born on Thursday.

Fortunately, her son and daughter-in-law foresaw the possibility that she might not make it to the day of the birth, so they took her to the ultrasound so my friend could "see" her granddaughter, at least in that way.

I can only imagine what the family is feeling -- such sadness at the end of the life of their mother and grandmother. But such joy at the beginning of a new little life.

Doesn't that sort of summarize the bittersweet nature of this mortal existence?

I can't imagine facing the bitter such as death, though, without the knowledge of the plan of salvation, the reality that we existed before we were born and that our spirits live on after we die. That Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to someday be resurrected and live with our families again. That this life has a purpose. That God is real and loves us.

My heart is breaking at the loss of my friend, but at the same time, I rejoice with her as she is reunited with her husband, her mother, and other loved ones who passed on before her. And I carry with me priceless memories and the example she was of faith, selflessness, and love.

Rest in peace, my dear friend, until we meet again. I love you more than words can say.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My new space

This is a quiet space for me to sort through my thoughts about life, to write about my faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to capture moments I have with family and friends so as to turn those moments into memories.

It feels a bit intimidating to start with this empty space waiting to be filled. But my life is full, rich, and challenging all at once. I'm sure I won't have a problem filling the space, if I can figure out how to get what's in my head and heart out in a semi-cohesive way. That's not a small if, but we'll see how it goes....

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 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 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.