Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Square Peg

I am having this mini-identity crisis lately, which I will have to expound upon later. It's too late for details now, but I wanted to get this post started because it's been rolling around in my brain for a while.

My political misplacement began when we changed our TV subscription to include Fox News because we only had CNN and Glenn Beck was moving from CNN to Fox and we really wanted to hear what he had to say about the "new day" in government (let me be clear, I start my day with "Morning Edition" from NPR news, which I LOVE,  so I can get the whole spectrum of news and find the truth somewhere in the middle). Little did I know that my favorite commentator was going to slowly get crazier and crazier until he started fitting in with all the other guys at Fox.

Lemme back up here and say that in the 90's I was a huge Fox News fan. Committed. Loved it. I lived with my grandparents the last 2 years of college, so I would come home to dinner and Shephard Smith and it was all so soothing and delightful. So imagine my horror, to find what Fox has become the past 12 years. I don't know what happened, but there are all these anchor women dressed like they're cocktail waitresses rather than journalists. The headlines, teasers, graphics--everything--are so sensational, they offend my sensibilities. The last straw--or straws, I guess--were when Glenn Beck hyped all these "shocking" revelations, etc. and they turned out to be, well, crap. I'm especially thinking of the time he gave the White House 30 minutes to call and stop him from releasing the news that Van Jones was a 9/11 truther. REALLY? That's all you got, Glenn? 90% of Montanans believe 9/11 involved conspiracy...and you're gonna make THAT the big dirt on Jones? I was MAD. Manipulated. Annoyed. I understand how it fits into the big picture, and I agree that Jones (and the whole posse) has ideas dangerous to capitalism and the constitution, but I don't believe in this sensationalist delivery of the information. It's starting to feel like...well, if the National Enquirer could TALK, it would sound like what I am hearing at Fox, in terms of tone. And it's embarrassing. Good info+paranoia+sensationalist delivery=no more Fox for me. Did Murdock do this? What happened?

Also, I've got a pocket full of religious stuff to share, too. I am discovering a whole new definition of Christianty (this is some CRAZY crap, y'all) from reading "Stealing Jesus" and it explains a lot. A LOT. Maybe it's in the water here in Montana, I don't know. I am gonna be in a hut somewhere typing my unablogger manifesto soon. But I just feel like people in so many facets of life are twisting truth to suit their fancy and it's getting on my last nerve. I kinda keep singing to myself, ala All, "Is everybody crazy or is it just me? Everybody's crazy, it isn't just me!" I'll be back to finish this soon, but I might post some uplifting things FIRST, some things I know are real and true and good, just to balance out the crazy. K, so later...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

One Small Update

Oh, I can't wait to blog about conference! But my little Relief Society goals of reaching out, etc., are keeping me pretty busy this weekend. Sister Beck's talk in the Dec. 2005 Ensign has been my inspriation (as well as watching "Julie & Julia") to try to feed spirit & body while building relationships with my family AND my ward family, so I've been cookin' up a storm this week and we're hosting a new family in our ward AND a sister who was recently baptized for conference and homemade pizza dinner. I'm looking forward to all of it.

Anyway, it wouldn't be fair to readers not to mention that my mother sent me a very sweet and apologetic email yesterday between sessions (I knew that the Spirit would work its mojo at some point). While I am grateful the tension has been broken and I could express my love, my resolve to create a different relationship has not wavered. I know that she wrote me because my Aunt told her to, which I think is kind of cute in itself. So I told her that I love her, that will never change, but I am heretofore going to avoid situations that bring up past hurts and I just need time and space to redefine things and to be sure I am putting my family (vs. extended family) first.

For me that means that we have to avoid all situations that involve parenting. I don't want to see how she treats her kids at home and I don't want her disciplining my children. I am ok with her being Nana as long as her role is to make my kids feel like her sun rises and sets on them--that's what Grandmas are for in my book. I'll be the mean mom, she'll be the fun Nana. I don't want to hear about what she has said or done to other siblings and I don't want to have to play along when she's not straightforward with her hubs. So basically, I have to interact with my mother like a (distant) girlfriend to keep it good, and I think that will work.

So I am off to start the breadmaker, y'all. Have a great Sabbath. And hey, won't you come back and share your favorites moments from conference (either here or on the public blog)? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lessons of 2006: Chapter 2

Faith and God's Domain

Faith is an interesting concept. Like love, it grows. It means different things to us at different times, and (hopefully) it matures as we mature and leads us to a higher plane of living. It’s kinda like that old song, “And he thought that he knew what love was…” I really thought that I knew what faith was.

When I was called into the Relief Society Presidency for the first time in 1994, Grandma Lyn sent me the book, “Love Is A Verb” by Mary Ellen Edmunds. It was such a nice introduction to the idea that love becomes charity when we DO something. Likewise, belief becomes faith when we take those first steps into the unknown. I have taken a lot of steps into the unknown the past few years and I have been overjoyed at the things I have found on the other side.

One of the things that has helped my faith grow immensely is internalizing the parameters of our agency and God’s role in His plan. As a parent, I am amazed at the restraint Heavenly Father exercises as he allows us to grow and experience this life. I try (and often fail) to keep myself from interfering with the agency of my kids. If I think I can save them some pain or frustration, I want to step in and “fix it.” I try to give them room to learn by natural consequences, but it’s really hard. So really I admire God’s respect for our agency. The only lines he has drawn are around life itself. He has given us specific instructions about how life should begin and how it should end, and there are dire consequences for those who step over those lines. Life and death are His domain---what I do from my first to my last breath is mine.

And so there I was, worrying about my brother Matthew being deployed in Iraq in early 2006. I remember being really particularly upset one day, and having the spirit calmly speak to me: “He will not die until he has accomplished his mission on earth.” Now, I kinda knew that already, but it started to sink in at that moment. We are all here to become like God (remember the Sermon on the Mount? “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”?). We arrive with cracks to fill in our characters, and through the application of the atonement of Christ to our life’s experiences, those cracks are filled and we become worthy of our Father’s presence. And only He knows when that mission has been accomplished and we are ready to move on from this life.

The lesson began to sink in even more as I watched two different TV shows—one was a show about freak accidents on the Discovery Channel, and one was a show about miraculous survival on Oprah. For some reason, watching those shows within a day or two of each other helped me to realize that these were not really “Freaky” or especially “miraculous”—each of these people had a mission in life. For those who died in “freak” accidents: mission accomplished; for those who survived, there was obviously still work to be done.

Suddenly it all made so much sense. I felt totally at peace, not only with Matt’s mortality, but my own and my children’s. While I still take caution and I’m always concerned about their well-being, I have a peace inside me knowing that the best thing I can do for them is to pray for them, and pray for me—that I can help them fulfill their missions and meet their potential so they are ready to meet their Maker whenever that time comes.

And the same goes for me. I am sure, like me, most people suddenly take much better care of themselves, take much more precaution when they become parents. We have a new reason for living—we want to be here for our kids. But I have so much less worry now that I know for sure that as long as we are striving to progress, our lives are preserved until our missions are complete. It’s like the hymn—“And should we die before our journey’s through, happy day—all is well/ We then are free from toil and sorrow too—with the just we shall dwell.”

To me, one of the most beautiful expressions of faith in the scriptures, and the most meaningful to me right now, is 1 Nephi 11:17. Nephi is being shown The Grand Vision, specifically the birth of the Savior, and the angel serving as his tour guide asks him if he knows about the condescension of God. “Condescension” is a big word, and I bet Nephi (Mr. Plain & Precious) was thinking, what? But here is what he said: I know that he loveth his children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things.”

Isn’t that AWESOME? A prophet of God basically said I don’t know everything, but I know he loves us…and that was enough. And you know what? I think it’s enough for me. I have been a “why?”-asker and truth-seeker and pattern-finder all my life—I want answers!—but Nephi has taught me to chill. I am able to act in faith much more often now because (a) I understand God’s parameters and (b) I know—I feel it in my heart for real—that he loves us and will only guide us in the paths that lead us back to him. We just have to trust, to follow, and quit taking short cuts or our own little roads because his ways don’t seem to make sense from where we’re standing. I’m not sure what’s around the next corner for me, but I have learned from experience that I will be okay and it will be for my good because my Heavenly Father loves me. And he loves you, too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lessons of 2006: Equal To My Day

I became a mother at the age of thirty. I had twelve years of adulthood under my belt by the time my first daughter was born—twelve years of doing what I wanted, when I wanted, and lots of excitement. Within the space of nine months and five days, I had gone from a Professional Single Young Woman to Wife, and then Stay-at-Home-Mom. My busy-yet-organized life of goals and checklists and accomplishments came to a grinding halt.

Good-bye, control freak, hello new mom.

The first out-of-control thing my daughter introduced to me was parental love. I was totally unprepared for the depth of emotion and sense of connection and responsibility I had for her. I was shocked at the heart wrenching sadness I felt when they took her out of the hospital room for a few minutes to do her neo-natal tests. I sobbed when I heard her cries as they stuck her heel. And then I sobbed some more because I knew that old quote about my heart living outside of my body was coming true. What had I done? I had opened myself up for a whole new world of joy and sorrow. As much as I thought I knew what was coming, the love was something beyond any possible description—something I never could have known without experiencing it for myself.

The following weeks and months brought on a slew of things that were beyond my control. After a few weeks, I could no longer remember what it was like to sleep for 8 hours at a time (and I had a relatively mellow baby—it’s just that she ate slow and I obsessed about every little breath she took)—I was thrilled to get 4 hours. What luxury! What utter decadence to sleep for 4 hours! With the sleep deprivation came the slippery slope of “letting myself go.” A shower longer than 2 minutes AND blow-drying my hair became a great indulgence. A really, super-good day included some make up and pants without drawstrings. Oh, and shoes, because on a super-good day, we might leave the house.

While I could often find joy and revel in my new role, I also often felt totally overwhelmed and alone. And then feeling overwhelmed made me feel like a loser. I’d say to myself, “She’s ONE LITTLE BABY! You can’t handle ONE baby? Most of the world does this three or four or five times over and you’re freaking out with ONE?” And of course I thought I was the only horrible woman who wasn’t a natural mother; the only wretch who ever had a hard time nursing, who sometimes cried when her baby cried, and found it difficult to do her wife stuff and housekeeping stuff while trying to figure out the mother stuff.

Eventually I got used to my new life. For two years, I struggled with my new slower pace. My daughter grew into a sweet toddler and I felt like I might be ready for another baby. My second daughter came, and it wasn’t such a terrible adjustment. She slept more and ate faster and life was good. But I had lots more going on the second time around. We were building a house and I was serving in the Young Women’s Presidency and I was carving my niche in a new town and culture. I felt overwhelmed all over again, in a different way.

But even in my stress, I knew that I was trying to do good things. I felt that I was, for the most part, “about my Father’s business”, and that he would help me. A phrase I remembered from Wilford Woodruff’s journals rang through my mind almost everyday. When he was called to be President of the church, Elder Woodruff wrote, “I pray God my Heavenly Father to make me equal to my day” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. xxx). I started saying that to myself like a mantra. It was my daily prayer, and I began to see that my prayer was answered. I noticed that as long as I gave my honest best efforts, I had enough energy and health to complete the tasks I faced. Like the principle of tithing, when we put the Lord first, there is always enough. I may have been running on three hours of sleep, but I believe God made me able to finish the worthy things on my daily checklist. Somehow, when I put him first, I had just enough time and just enough energy to do His work.

In the few years of my motherhood I have gained a testimony that raising my children is my part in building the kingdom today. I made a commitment at baptism to take upon me the Lord’s name and his work, and I promised over the altar as I was sealed to my husband that we would be fruitful. Although many days and many tasks seem menial, and there is too much on my plate, I remind myself that I am keeping my covenants and God will help me. Even with the testimony I’ve gained I still find myself saying. “Oh, I would die if Heavenly Father asked me to ___,” or, “They better not EVER ask me to do ___. “

Silly me.

That attitude began to change in the fifth year of our marriage when we decided to have a third child. Like the other two times, we decided to have a baby and I was pregnant within six weeks. I remember thinking as I took the pregnancy test, “This is so exciting and so hopeful…I feel so bad for my friends who go through this month after month, hoping, watching for the two lines and only seeing one…or seeing the two lines and then miscarrying a few weeks later…I am so glad that hasn’t happened to me…[and then the old familiar] I don’t think I could ever live through that!” I never felt ungrateful for this amazing fertility, but I guess I was just sort of used to having a baby when I wanted a baby. I really liked having a spring baby, so I was going to do it again and lah-dee-dah. I felt super-blessed this time because I wasn’t even sick—just tired. Maybe it was a boy!

Of course you know what happened. I went in for my 10-week appointment and everything looked great. Everyone was so happy about my pregnancy, great to see the doctor again, let’s do an ultra sound at 12 weeks to confirm the dates. At the ultra sound, the tech said I must have my dates wrong because the embryo only measured 7 weeks. I felt like my heart stopped and I tried to catch my breath. You see, I never get my dates wrong…my body runs like clockwork, and so do our “romantic dates.” So I held it together in the office, but fell to pieces on the way out because something was very wrong. I just didn’t think that the little fishy we saw on the screen was still alive. A week later, my feelings were confirmed and I went through that process so many women go through—an experience that just weeks before I had sworn I would never survive.

But I was made equal to my day. Not only did I survive, but my heart and soul were opened up and strengthened in ways I hadn’t experienced in years. That humbling experience opened me up to so much more teaching from the Holy Spirit that followed that sad week. I remember Rich’s cousin telling me that she, too, had a miscarriage between her second and third children. She said, “It was really hard because were ‘planners’, too, but six weeks later I conceived my last son and he has been the sunshine of my life. He has totally blessed our family.” And guess what? Six weeks after my miscarriage, I conceived a son who lights up my life everyday.

So I am trying to never say never. I am trying to replace the negative “I can’t…” with the faithful response, “with Heavenly Father, I can.” He knows my limitations and where I need to grow and I know that if I let him, he will always make me equal to my day.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lessons of 2006: The Series


I know, it's been a VERY long time since I updated this personal history blog of mine. I've been dangling by a thread of sanity, white knuckling my way back to where I can make my own priorities. But guess what? I'm back to that place and making my personal and family history a priority again.

There has been a story brewing in my mind for about 10 months and I am just starting to get it out. I want to share my recent growing experiences and especially my testimony with my loved ones and posterity.

Starting with my miscarriage in November 2005, I felt Heavenly Father "cranking it up a notch," so to speak, in my life. For a solid year I could feel the challenges and lessons flowing to me. If my mission had been my spiritual undergraduate work, then my doctorate studies began in November 2005. I spent a year soaking it up and The Test began the week before Christmas 2006 (and the pop quizzes continue). I think I passed, but I need to get this thesis written so I can continue growing and remember what I have learned (there is nothing worse than having to repeat a course, is there?!).

So far I have five chapters sketched out in my journal/notes: “Equal to My Day,” “Faith and God’s Domain,” “Satan Hates Happy Families,” “The Heart of the Matter: Forgiveness,” and Discipleship. I will post the first tonight, and I may add some more chapters from thoughts/lessons that I am currently processing that center around not taking offense (Elder Bednar’s Oct. 2006 talk), not giving offense (Elder Holland’s April 2007 talk), and the Holiness of Hausfrau-hood (Julie Beck’s Dec. 2005 article). So welcome to my inner life!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What I Got Out of Stake Conference (February 25, 2007)

The past two years, Rich and I have taken turns going to stake conference because we have a toddler who makes the drive to Bozeman, the two hours in the meeting, and the drive home almost impossible. So rather than bringing the whole family home frazzled and un-edified, we just took good notes and talked to each other about the conference. This year, we decided to be brave and go all together, taking all three kids. Of course, our stake has split sessions and our ward was supposed to go at 1:00pm, which was out of the question (we do not mess with nap times around here). We arrived just in time for the 9:00am session and took our seats near the overflow.

The kids weren’t terrible. They were quiet, but consistently a little naughty, constantly distracting me from the speakers. I tried to listen and I did feel the spirit and I waited for something to teach me. Over the din, I listened intently to the final talk from our dear Stake President. His day job is Institute Director, so he is a great teacher, every time he speaks. I had gathered enough from the meeting to know that the theme was the price of discipleship, and that we needed to make a few more sacrifices to get to the temple more often. I counted that as lesson number one—there is always room for improvement in our temple attendance, mostly for the same reason there is room for improvement in our stake conference attendance (getting a babysitter for three kids for at least 7-8 hours is no small feat…but I digress). So President Heap centered his remarks on this scripture:

Luke 14:26-27: If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children. And brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
(The footnote refers us to Matthew 10:37, which reads, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy
of me.” It also shows a JST that explains the hating your own life thing as “is afraid to lay down his life for my sake.”)

This scripture and the ensuing sermon spoke to my heart in a very current way, and also as a reminder of a sacred experience I had as a missionary.

The current way is this: it’s no secret that I am very close to my siblings. And it’s probably no secret (through reading my blog, anyway) that about half of them have gone temporarily insane recently (and by insane, I mean making choices and justifications that are totally off my personal radar screen and, for some of them, totally out of character). After visiting with each of them over the holidays and New Year, I had quiet spiritual assurances that they would all be okay (and that I and my own family would be okay), and that was nice. But within a few weeks, a horrible chasm had grown between us. Trust had been broken; lots of common ground was lost. I was a thousand miles away from my dearest friends in every way imaginable: physically, and now emotionally and spiritually, too. And it hurt. It hurt really bad.

One morning in early February, I woke up and could no longer hold it all in. I felt terribly sad knowing we couldn’t all be in the temple together anymore. It felt like some of the joy of being temple worthy and all of the blessings and camaraderie of gospel living had been stripped away from the relationships that meant the most to me (besides those of my nuclear family, of course). I cried. I cried like one grieving the death of a loved one. And I guess it really was a death—a spiritual death, however temporary—and it deserved my grief for a moment. At the same time I was overcome with gratitude for the pure goodness of my husband and the trust I have in him. Each time I thought of my family of origin, though, I felt a profound loneliness. It shouldn’t be so hard to be good, I thought to myself. It shouldn’t be so hard for me, and I wish it weren’t so hard for them. I felt like I was shouting over the chasm and only my echo came back.

Which then reminded me of the mission thing. At one point in my mission, near the middle, I transferred in to what became a small scale “mission scandal.” You know, one of those situations where people get chastised and transferred? My mission president asked me about the situation in an interview and I told him everything I knew. I wasn’t directly involved and our work was going fine, so I wasn’t too worried. President told me he was very concerned about certain missionaries and I should have noticed this or that, and he wondered if he could trust any of us anymore. This shocked and hurt me and I carried the hurt with me into my work the next week. Although I knew I had been 100% honest, and I knew God knew it, I was still terribly shaken by the thought that my President didn’t trust me. I prayed about it one night and fell asleep praying. I had a dream that was long and strange but had a message for me, directly from Christ: “You need to put your trust in me and me alone. You have to stop worrying about what other people think, even your mission president.” Profound and applicable, and easier said than done. It’s something that has become easier, but is still a struggle to this day. And I believe He knew it would be.

I really miss my siblings. There is an enormous part of my life that I can’t share with them. You know, when you’re in it together, you get it, and when you’re not, you just avoid the topic? There are lots of things like that in life—motherhood, marriage, addiction, etc.—either you’ve been there or you haven’t. Pure Religion and Discipleship are in that category for me, and it’s sad. I have felt left out for a long time, but it’s a good kind of left out. The Savior said in Luke 14:26-27 that it might be like this and I have to love him more than anything to be his disciple (and I think I do—I’m trying to prove it). But he also said (coincidentally) in John 14:26-27 he would send me comfort and peace… “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And I’m not troubled or afraid anymore. He kept his promise in a million little ways throughout the month of February. My cup, which felt so empty on that morning I cried has been filled to overflowing with assurances that I am never alone; that God gave me Rich for this exact reason (and a million others); that my siblings will indeed come back someday, and we will all walk this path together with our families. Until then, I’ll stay the course and pay the price of discipleship. There is no title I’d rather have.

(Thanks, President Heap)