Living my Religion

Thee World

“Thee world” is a term I just accidentally formed while writing a post over on facebook. I typoed an extra “e” on “the,” and then when I went back to delete it, I realized how much that extra “e” actually worked with what I was saying. You see, “thee” is a scriptural word reserved for when we want to reverently address deity in our prayers. I thought it a fun little play on words when describing the church-world problem of self-preservation that ofttimes shows its ugly face as self-righteousness. Here, you be the judge if it works:

I really wanted to include this in a blog post I am working on this morning, but it’s stuck in the FB interface, so here it is. I will direct my blog post this way. I believe strongly in this message. We all have stuff, and the people who talk about it, make “thee world” a better place by offering hope. The problem is that a lot of people won’t be brave because they are afraid of the backlash. If there is anyone out there who really needs to talk about any hard stuff in a safe place, I am here with judgement-free open arms. I believe that to be the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is Dan Workman’s original post (as my facebook is private), in case you’d like to watch the video I reference. If you don’t want to take the time right now, your loss. The essentials are that Dan Workman is a recovered heroine addict. He talks about this “perfection syndrome” that we’ve let grow out-of-control within the LDS church. He pleads with Utah to open up and be real because the “white picket fence syndrome” is “killing our kids.”

I would argue that “white picket fence syndrome” is not just happening with us in the LDS church, but that it’s a problem in every social construction out there. Anyhow, Dan’s a little brash (which I personally love about him), but I can see that he might turn off a lot of my “church friends.” I may get backlash from sharing his message here, but I must share it because I think it is so vitally important for everyone to hear. The change has to come from the inside and the only way we can make change happen is to first create awareness. I applaud you, Dan Workman. I hope you know that there are many of us, still inside the church, who are trying to fight the good fight with you. We don’t judge you for leaving, but we do wish you would come back and fight along side of us.

Many times, I fight the fight knowing the result will be my personal social ostracization, yet I still fight because I believe so strongly in the truth of what I speak. I love this meme below by Dwight. It explains me to the core. It takes special people to get past my brashness, but I keep at it because I know that the one person I have to answer to is not any mortal being but my Savior Jesus Christ. He loves people, and if we want to truly love people like he did, we need to first offer a safe space. A safe space cannot exist in a world where everyone can’t allow one weed to grow in their yard! And I can hear the argument now, it’s not like I am out to grow weeds on purpose, people, but weeds happen. People are not perfect. They will never be perfect, so how about we talk about that?

hard to handle

Right now, there is a culture within the church that is “killing our kids,” and “our kids” are really all of us. As Dan made mention to, Utah is #4 in the nation in drug overdoses. I think we need to honestly ask ourselves why so many people are falling into that terrible trap. What are they trying to escape? And why can’t they get help to escape once they realize they are in big trouble?  On the uptake, why do so many people love Jeffrey R. Holland? I personally believe the reason that Jeffrey R. Holland is so powerful is because he “gets it.” He talks about his own struggles. He sets an example for the rest of us. However, we need to recognize that it’s a lot easier for Holland to talk about his struggle with depression (which is now generally socially acceptable) than it is for others to talk about their addictions, their marital issues, their apostate children, suicide, eating disorders, etc.

Whenever I am given the chance to speak in church, I always try to include a personal story of triumph over my own issues. It’s so funny because inevitably I get a handful of people that thank me profusely for my honesty, but in general most people seem awkward after I reveal something personal. They don’t know what to do with it. Why? Because it NEVER happens. When I was in the MTC, I was taught to “never reveal past transgressions.” I understand the reasoning behind this, but I wholeheartedly and adamantly disagree with what we’ve created using this harmful socially-constructed rule for decades. The Book of Mormon is replete with PROPHET after PROPHET who have repented. They are the true victors. They are the ones who applied the atonement and moved forward. When we don’t tell our own stories of triumph, we are creating a church for saints, not a church for sinners. Then we wonder why so many people leave the church. Why are so many sinners leaving the church? Because they feel like the only ones who belong there are the saints. How pathetically true this has become.

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If only all of us could really be more like Jesus!

John 8:2-11

2  And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

3  And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4  They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5  Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6  This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8  And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9  And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10  When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

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Dear Mom [Week 14]

Hi mom,

Wow, I’m fired from my weekly writing duties. I don’t even want to apologize because it seems so trite. I know you don’t expect an apology anyhow. You, of anyone, have an understating of my time constraints.

I know I already told you this on the phone, but I just think it means something  more to read a sentiment in words. I hope you know how much you are the highlight of my life. My conversations with you have become one of my Top 5 life joys. I’m so glad we battled our wills and differences out to get to this point. It is such a powerful place to be in a relationship where there is full honesty, yet no enmity.  I hope and pray I can reach this same place of pure acceptance and love in all my relationships. I wish it didn’t have to be such a struggle.

Joy is the word of the month. I already posted on instagram and told you over the phone about my Christmas decorating epiphany, but I want to write it here as well. Please humor me again. For the record. I know you, like me, are a fan of the record. It’s probably ingrained in us to write things because of our lack of memory.

joy
As I was decorating for Christmas, the word joy kept repeating. Over and over again. I started to suspect the universe was trying to send me a message. I then chuckled thinking of dad controlling the universe in his new elevated state.  Immediately, I was dumbfounded. If dad was controlling the universe and its messages to me, why in the world was he exaggerating the idea of joy? That seemed so awful. Surely, he couldn’t expect me to be joyful this Christmas. Not when he isn’t around. He couldn’t be joyful either, could he ? Yet, it kept coming. In tree ornaments and on the new wall vinyl. Joy. Joy. Joy. It was shouting at me. I shouted back from the grieving recesses of my heart. NO JOY. NO JOY. Go away. I have no need for you this Christmas. I just want my dad back.

I had already decided that I wasn’t going to unpack my precious Willow Tree Nativity because I was sure Max would destroy it one crushed figurine at a time. But, something kept biting at me. Mom and dad wouldn’t care if it was broke. They don’t care about materialistic things. They wanted that unpacked. They wanted it to be enjoyed. So, I started unpacking. One box at a time. Abigail helped. We marveled again and again at each and every piece, and there was a palpable feeling of reverence as we placed each piece on my beautiful turquoise buffet. The buffet that is also a gift from you and dad. (It’s hard  to remember that we all worked on it together just six months ago. Dad wrestled with the shoddy hardware and told  me what to do in the future in case he wasn’t around. I thought he would always be around.) I especially love how Mary is cradling Jesus in this set. I pondered in my heart about the baby Jesus and how grateful I was for him and what he grew to do.

I got to the last box and immediately noticed one significant difference from the rest. Each box had my name written on it in black sharpie. With your signature angled cursive, you had labeled my boxes to be differentiated from the 6 identical ones meant for my siblings. But, the last box had my name, yet it wasn’t in your deliberate and feminine scroll, it was written in dad’s boxy and rushed block letters. It was as if he was in the room with me. My eyes welled with tears. “Oh dad, I wish you  were here. I don’t want this box with the last remnants of your handwriting. I want your hands. I want your voice. I want you!” I hugged the box to my chest, and the name of the contents on the top of the box slowly focused upward through my tears. One tear dropped on the spacing of the letters. S-O-N-G  O-F  J-O-Y  A-N-G- E-L. The universe whispered. “Hey it’s your dad here. I’m right here. I’m an angel now. And angels only declare one thing. JOY. Glad tidings of great joy.”
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I placed the angel among the other figures in her place of honor. Looking down on mortality.  I quietly thought about her singing with dad – the glad tidings of great joy. What exactly were those tidings? Why should I be joyful when my dad and I were separated? The answer came powerfully. The joy is that because of Jesus, you will see your dad again. Jesus paved the way. Jesus opened the way. Jesus made it all possible. I alarmed Abigail as a loud weeping escaped my mouth. I sat on the couch. She stared, not knowing what to do. I told her I was okay. I was just thinking about my dad. She’s gotten used to the sudden outbursts. I showed her his handwriting on the box. I told her how he used to write me letters from Alaska and how he always included a smiley face and an X and an O. Max climbed  up on the couch beside me. He pointed to our family picture. He was listening to the message from the universe. His chubby finger announced, “Families are forever. Because of Jesus.”

Thank you for teaching me, mom. Thank you, dad, for indulging mom’s wishes to get all of her kids a nice nativity. It was your last Christmas gift to us. And it is everything. Literally everything. You are both so wise. You always had your priorities straight. You weren’t perfect. No one is, but you had perfect perspective. You still do.

I love you, mom. Merry Christmas. I hope you will feel the joy that dad is shouting from the heavens. It rings crystal clear.

I know you can’t watch the video I am including here. It shows dad as he talks to all of us at Erick’s house in 2014. (I’ll show it to you next time I see you.) It was the very last time we were all together. You and dad had just handed out all of our  Christmas nativities.

I quote dad: “Most of all, I want to thank you all for staying close to the gospel, and  bringing it to a setting like this today. You cannot imagine what  it means to grandparents to know that all of our children are close to the gospel. And are being taken care of by Him. I don’t have anything else to say except I love you.” I love you too, dad.

Revelation Two 2015(2)

For an explanation of this series, go to the first post, here.

My second question going into  General Conference in October 2015 was

How can I be happier?

Pull up your socks, and tie your shoelaces tight because this question was answered in an overabundance. I believe this is a testament that we are living under God’s plan of happiness. He wants us to be happy!

Revelation  Two 2015(2)

How can I be happier?

  1. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Don’t give up. … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. … It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”10 Wixom
  2. [Boyd  K Packer taught],”Our happiness in mortal life, our joy and exaltation are dependent upon how we respond to these persistent, compelling physical desires… The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars…There are so many of us who are thrashing around … with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity…It is not the time to receive all of our blessings. And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”9 However, a vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies”10 that we experience on a daily basis.”What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior? Reeves
  3. “Aunt Rose, why are you so happy?” Eva was silent, so Great-Aunt Rose continued: “There is enough that doesn’t go right in life, so anyone can work themselves into a puddle of pessimism and a mess of melancholy. But I know people who, even when things don’t work out, focus on the wonders and miracles of life. These folks are the happiest people I know. “But,” Eva said, “you can’t just flip a switch and go from sad to happy.” “No, perhaps not,” Aunt Rose smiled gently, “but God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!3 So if we trust Him, He will help us to notice the good, bright, hopeful things of life. And sure enough, the world will become brighter. No, it doesn’t happen instantly, but honestly, how many good things do? Seems to me that the best things, like homemade bread or orange marmalade, take patience and work…“There were so many things I wished for in my life.” As she spoke, a sadness entered her voice that Eva had never heard before. “Most of them never happened. It was one heartbreak after another. One day I realized that it would never be the way I had hoped for. That was a depressing day. I was ready to give up and be miserable.” “So what did you do?” “Nothing for a time. I was just angry. I was an absolute monster to be around.” “‘It’s not fair’ was the song I sang over and over in my head. But eventually I discovered something that turned my whole life around.”

    “What was it?” “Faith,” Aunt Rose smiled. “I discovered faith. And faith led to hope. And faith and hope gave me confidence that one day everything would make sense, that because of the Savior, all the wrongs would be made right. After that, I saw that the path before me wasn’t as dreary and dusty as I had thought. I began to notice the bright blues, the verdant greens, and the fiery reds, and I decided I had a choice—I could hang my head and drag my feet on the dusty road of self-pity, or I could have a little faith, put on a bright dress, slip on my dancing shoes, and skip down the path of life, singing as I went….“It is love—the pure love of Christ,” Rose said. “You see, everything else in the gospel—all the shoulds and the musts and the thou shalts —lead to love. When we love God, we want to serve Him. We want to be like Him. When we love our neighbors, we stop thinking so much about our own problems and help others to solve theirs.”7 “And that is what makes us happy?” Eva asked. Great-Aunt Rose nodded and smiled, her eyes filling with tears. “Yes, my dear. That is what makes us happy.” Uchtdorf

  4. And all of us, as members of the Church, we need to make a conscientious effort to devote our energy and time to the things that truly matter, while uplifting our fellowmen and building the kingdom of God…My dear brothers and sisters, if we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with everlasting potential and with a divine destiny Uchtdorf
  5. Now, as we ponder just these few truths that exist within the Old Ship Zion, let us stay on board and remember that, by definition, a ship is a vehicle, and the purpose of a vehicle is to take us to a destination. [My note: We have not arrived.] Ballard
  6. The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ….“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”Matthew 13:44..What follows is a reflection from Sister Maynes on her experience:

    “As a young adult in my early 20s, I was at a point in my life when I knew I needed to change something in order to be a happier person. I felt like I was adrift with no real purpose and direction, and I didn’t know where to go to find it. I had always known that Heavenly Father existed and occasionally throughout my life had said prayers, feeling that He listened. As I began my search, I attended several different churches but would always fall back into the same feelings and discouragement. I feel very blessed because my prayer for direction and purpose in life was ultimately answered, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was brought into my life. For the first time I felt like I had a purpose, and the plan of happiness brought real joy into my life.”…At this point in time, some 30 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Nephi makes a well-documented and somewhat surprising statement, especially after recording in the scriptures the many afflictions and tribulations they had faced for so long. These are his words: “And it came to pass that we [did live] after the manner of happiness.”5 Despite their hardships, they were able to live after the manner of happiness because they were centered in Christ and His gospel. Mayneskingdom of heaven

  7. Our family motto doesn’t say, “It will all work out now.” It speaks of our hope in the eternal outcome—not necessarily of present results. Scripture says, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”5 This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good, and the timing is the Lord’s. We wait on Him, sometimes like Job in his suffering, knowing that God “maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.”6 A meek heart accepts the trial and the waiting for that time of healing and wholeness to come. Marriottjob
  8. Through our experience in life, we learn that joy in this world is not full, but in Jesus Christ our joy is full (see D&C 101:36). He will give us strength so we will not have to suffer any manner of afflictions save they are swallowed up in His joy (see Alma 31:38). President Marion G. Romney taught: “The suffering and distress endured by people of this earth is the result of unrepented and unremitted sin. … Just as suffering and sorrow attend sin, so happiness and joy attend forgiveness of sins”..With the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will not be offended, nor will we offend others; we will feel happier, and our minds will be cleaner. Vinas
  9. The adversary has been successful in planting a great myth in the minds of many people. He and his emissaries declare that the real choice we have is between happiness and pleasure now in this life and happiness in a life to come (which the adversary asserts may not exist). This myth is a false choice, but it is very seductive.2 The ultimate noble purpose of God’s plan of happiness is for righteous disciples and covenant families to be united in love, harmony, and peace in this life3 and attain celestial glory in the eternities with God the Father, our Creator; and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior…and from Ezekiel, that the Sabbath “shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.”24 For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, honoring the Sabbath is a form of righteousness that will bless and strengthen families, connect us with our Creator, and increase happiness.  Cook

  10. Recently, a young filmmaker said he felt he was part of a “generation of prodigals”—a generation “looking for hope and joy and fulfillment, but looking in all the wrong places and in the wrong ways.18 Hales
  11. A few days after this trip, I visited this stake and asked the president if I could talk with some of the members who were unable to attend the temple that day. One of the brothers I visited told me: “Elder, do not worry. I was at the house of the Lord. I sat on a bench in the garden and pondered in my mind the ordinances. Then I was given the opportunity to enter, but instead I allowed another brother, who had come to the temple for the first time to be sealed to his wife, to take my place. They then had the opportunity to attend two sessions that day. The Lord knows me, and He has blessed me, and we are fine.”…Smile. This small action can help those who are overwhelmed or burdened.  Montoya
  12. Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to say: Thou shalt not lie; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; and so on.2We know the commandments. He understands that when we keep the commandments, our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and less complicated. Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear, and we will receive His promised blessings. But while He gives us laws and commandments, He also allows us to choose whether to accept them or to reject them. Our decisions in this regard will determine our destiny.  Monson
  13. The path of happiness is through the basic family unit as originally organized and revealed by our Heavenly Father. This is the familiar melody of the message that many can recognize because they have heard it from their premortal life. It is time for us, as Latter-day Saints, to stand up and testify. It is time for the notes of the melody of the gospel to rise above the noise of the world. I add my testimony to the message of the Savior and Redeemer of this world. He lives! His gospel is restored, and the blessings of happiness and peace can be secured in this life by living His commandments and walking in His path. Schwitzer

  14. While a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, George Q. Cannon urged that we make a constant quest for the Spirit to be with us. He promised, and I promise it as well, that if we pursue that course, we “will never lack for knowledge” of the truth, “never be in doubt or in darkness,” and our “faith will be strong, [our] joy … full.2 Eyring
  15. provide an uplifting place for your thoughts to go—a place that keeps you close to the Spirit of the Lord. Durant
  16. As we submit ourselves to His will, we increase in peace and happiness. King Benjamin taught that those who keep the commands of God are “blessed and happy … in all things, both temporal and spiritual.”6 God wants us to have joy. He wants us to have peace. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be safe and to be protected from the worldly influences all around us. Keetch
  17. I testify that as we trust God, our Eternal Father; trust His Son, Jesus Christ, and exercise faith in His Atonement; trust the whisperings of the Spirit; and trust the counsel of living prophets, we will find our way off the edge of the road and continue safely—not just enduring but finding joy in our journey home. Stephens

So, to summarize:

Keep trying, there is happiness ahead. They lived happily ever after is reserved for the third act. As Aunt Rose taught, happiness is a decision. A decision to love.   We are beings of eternal light. The church is a vehicle that will get us to our  final destination. “The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”  Believe that the good and bad will work together for our good. We will  be more happy as we are forgiven for our sins. Satan plants the lie that we have to choose  between happiness now or happiness later – we have a generation of prodigals looking for joy and fulfillment in all the wrong places. “The Lord  knows me, He  has blessed me, and we are fine.” When we keep the commandments our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and less complicated. The path of happiness is through the basic family unit. If we make a constant quest for the spirit to be with us, our joy will be full. Provide an uplifting place for our thoughts to go. (That is opposite of what I’ve wished. My mind provides the place, not the words changing my mind.) Submitting  myself to His will will increase my happiness.  We can get off the side of the road and find joy in our journey home. (Remember this life is just a journey home –  as long as I am headed home, I’m okay.)

Note:

This series will be an undertaking of love. This post has taken over an hour to compile. I know it is too lengthy for a blog post, and I am pretty sure no one  will ever read this, but this morning, happiness, my desire for it, and how to get there have been solidified in my mind again.  And, isn’t that the main point of writing this all down?

For the heavy-hitting moms

I sat behind a friend’s family at church two weeks ago. She has A LOT of kids….just how many you will see in the poem I wrote below. Their family got to church before ours, and her kids were super well-behaved through the hour-long service. I was in awe. I wrote a poem.

For all you moms out there, especially you heavy-hitting ones with a bunch of kids, this is also for you. When you gather up all your kiddos and take them to church, so they can give their Heavenly Father proper respect, you are doing something that God can’t do himself. I’m pretty sure He is super happy with you, and He knows the struggle. It’s oh so real.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Some Sundays are not as ideal as others. I’m sure my friend Anjella has known many that didn’t go so smooth. Like  probably every single Sunday when at least one of her kids can’t find the right shoe. Or when they didn’t make it on time because someone puked at the last minute. That maybe happened six weeks in a row. Or when the kids aren’t well-behaved, for an entire two years straight. But, I firmly believe that when we do our best, God takes care of the rest, and helps in every way He can. We are revered. We are partners with God in raising His children. He must be so grateful when we remember Him, and even more grateful when we teach our children to do the same.  We are all poem-worthy.

Disclaimer: the dad in the poem had a name-tag on his binder
under his chair that said, “Hello, my name is crazy.”

Revered

9 little heads of hair:
5 crew cuts, and
1 cascades to the chair.
Two bows,
and a fishtail braid

9 feet.
Each has a match
encased in the finest.
A closet-full of oxfords,
cowboy boots, and sandals.

9 bodies
outfitted pristinely.
4 dresses,
5 white shirts with vertical ties
and one horizontal striped.

9 pairs of hands
tiny to preteen,
turning the hymns,
clutched in contemplation,
and combing mama’s hair.

9 sets of eyes
look to mom,
glance at dad,
proliferate the chapel,
missing nothing.

9 hearts in need.
9 mouths to feed
9 sets of skin
to wake, wash, and love
over and over again.

9 children
with just one mother
and a dad named “crazy”.
They meet each need
before their own.

9 is monumental
more than possible
for just two sets of hands.
Oh wait!
There’s 2 more.

The 2 oldest
joined the rest
after serving
the Lord’s supper.
1 more week of power.

Revelation One 2015(2)

This is my first installment. I hope to keep it up.

I plan to start a series here called Revelation. You don’t have to read it. It’s more for myself than anyone, but I love having one place to put all my stuff. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. This is my blog, and I will do what I want with it. Oh, the power. I think this little blog is the only thing I actually have control over.

As many of you know, I am a believer. Specific to this series is the fact that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of you will now automatically think you should stop reading because I belong to a cult. Some of you will think you should stop reading because I am not Christian. Some of you might stop reading because you’ve already “been there, done that”, and you don’t believe anymore. That’s fine. Once again, this is for myself.

As a member of my religion, I believe strongly in personal revelation. In fact, I shape my life and all of my decisions around it. Personal revelation is when you believe God talks to you. I think God talks to all of his children. I also think we have to believe He talks to us to hear his voice, and we have to listen to what He says or He will stop talking.

He communicates with us, as described here:

So, I seek revelation through prayer, scripture study, meditation, communing with nature, going to church, and attending the temple. One way I find the most success in receiving revelation in my own life is through something called General Conference. In the gospel of Jesus Christ we believe in a living prophet (like Moses) and twelve living apostles (like Peter, James,and John.) These mouthpieces for God speak to the world twice a year in an eight hour breakout meeting. It’s my favorite two weekends of the year. The spirit I feel during these meetings fills me with fire, gives me perspective, and brings me peace like I cannot feel anywhere else.

I started a pattern in my life many years back. Before conference weekend I write down questions for which I need answers. My techniques in capturing answers have evolved, and for the last several sessions I have dedicated a whole composition book to taking notes, cross-referencing, re-reading, and digging deeper. I index the question numbers at the front of the book, and annotate in reference to each numbered question as I go. It sounds complicated, but it is actually simple, and it provides amazing results. The results are what I plan to share here in this series.

So, sorry for the long explanation. In this post I will address question number one that I had before the October 2015 session. As referenced in the post title. Revelation One (referring to question 1) 2015 (correlating to the year of conference) and then (2) meaning the second session of October as opposed to (1) which I will use for April session.

Right now, my front page looks  like this:

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Thus, the reason for transferring it all to this here blog. I want to take all the indexed page numbered answers to each question and write them all in one place.

This may seem silly and even a little OCD, but I can’t wait to have one place to mull over the collective revelations I received for one topic. It is quite astounding what kind of very specific messages one can receive from God by listening to general talks from complete strangers. If you are still reading, and continue to do so, you might be really surprised as well.

So, with no further ado.

Revelation One 2015(2)

English Education or English major?

  1. Rose had been a schoolteacher, and it wasn’t uncommon for former students—now grown up with children of their own—to stop and chat. They thanked her for being a good influence in their lives…’I went to school. I got an education. That led me to a career that I loved.’ Ucthdorf
  2. Ask yourself, ‘If I make this choice, what is the worst thing that could happen?’ Your righteous choices will keep you from getting off course… Education prepares you for better employment opportunities. It puts you in a better position to serve and to bless those around you. It will set you on a path of lifelong learning. It will strengthen you to fight against ignorance and error. As Joseph Smith taught: ‘Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power.’9 ‘To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.’…’I didn’t raise my children on money; I raised them on faith.’ There is a great truth to that. Begin exercising your faith in every area of your life…Prayerfully select mentors who have your spiritual well-being at heart. Be careful about taking advice from your peers. If you want more than you now have, reach up,not across!…Ask yourself: “What areas of my life do I want to strengthen so that I can strengthen others?Where do I want to be a year from now? two years from now? What choices do I need to make to get there?…As you follow Him, He will strengthen and uphold you. He will bring you up to your highest home. Hales
  3. I can’t think of a better example of helping someone gain understanding than the story of Helen Keller. She was blind and deaf and lived in a world that was dark and quiet. A teacher named Anne Sullivan came to help her. How would you teach a child who can’t even see or hear you?… Helen Keller went on to earn a college degree and helped change the world for people who couldn’t see or hear.9 It was a miracle, and her teacher was the miracle worker, just like you will be Foster
  4. I cheerfully accepted, feeling at the same time my great weakness and lack of experience…You can pray to know His will, and with the honest desire to do whatever He asks you to do, you will receive an answer Eyring
  5. When firmly planted, our testimonies of the gospel, of the Savior, and of our Heavenly Father will influence all that we do. Monson
  6. As I agonized over my inadequacies this week, I received a distinct impression which both chastened and comforted me: to focus not on what I can’t do but rather on what I can do. I can testify of the plain and precious truths of the gospel. Stevenson
  7. Many of the personal rewards I have received in life have come as a result of someone inviting me to do a difficult task. Durranttrue disciples
  8. True disciples desire to inspire the hearts of men, not just impress them. Schwitzer
  9. Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts.  Clark
  10. Show faith to reconcile your wishes with the will of God. Eyring

These last two are from studying The Book of Mormon along with Conference Talks:

  1. 2 Nephi 29:11  For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
  2. 2  Nephi 26: 30-31 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.

So, to summarize:

Going to school to “lead to a career that you love,” is a good thing. Education is awesome, will give me greater opportunity to serve, and will ultimately bring me to my “highest home.” I  shouldn’t raise my kids or my writing or my teaching on money but “on faith.” I don’t need advice from my peers, and I should carefully select mentors. (This is really important when you are studying the liberal arts at a liberal institution.) Because of Helen Keller’s teacher she went on to be a teacher and help many people. It boils down to what “He wants me to do,” and I should seek his “influence.” “Focus not on what I can’t do, but what I can,” especially when plagued with my own inadequacies. Succeeding at a difficult task will lead to personal reward. “True disciples desire to inspire the hearts of men, not just impress them”: this can be achieved through writing and teaching or in just teaching or in just writing. I need greater faith for whatever lies ahead, either choice. I need to reconcile my wishes to God. I need to write the books of the world, and if I labor for money I will perish.

Pretty amazing, eh? I still haven’t decided if English Education is a “have to” in my life. I can teach with just a plain English degree with additional  licencing work after I graduate. I will write either way. I would LOVE to teach. I would LOVE it. I will be good at it. It will give  me an awesome opportunity to inspire the next generation. It will also fulfill a lifelong  dream that I would enjoy achieving immensely. But, it may not be God’s ultimate goal for me. Either way  I just need to seek Him out and He will direct me. For now, I am certain of two things. I will graduate, and I will write and teach. In what capacity may be answered in a following conference.

I screw up. You screw up.

Change starts with one person at a time. Steve Harvey did a fantastic job of owning his mistake and apologizing recently at the Miss Universe pageant. He even made millions of people laugh when he showed he can laugh at himself.  And his wife did a great job of showing her unconditional support. If the ripple effect takes control, then before you know it, we can all live in a better world where we support each other instead of killing each other emotionally.

steve

On Christmas he posted this pic with the caption “Merry Easter y’all”  on his facebook and twitter. Class act!

Steve Harvey screws up. I screw up. You screw up. Everyone screws up. The screw up doesn’t matter as much as if we are able to identify it, apologize, and better ourselves.

The following is my Christmas story this year.

Here’s a screw up of mine at FedEx a few weeks back.

school of ex

You see, the clerk didn’t have the best customer service skills, and I reacted harshly when she told me I was forced to pay $5 for a shipping box because the one I brought didn’t have the FedEx logo on it. I was trying to ship back a textbook I had rented, and there was no way I was paying $5 for a box when mine would work perfectly fine. I insolently told her how I felt: I would go to UPS because I wasn’t paying $5 for a box!  Then I stormed out.

I drove home to print the shipping label as I realized after-the-initial-trip that with the preprinted label the textbook company would foot for the shipping cost. As I drove home with full intentions of taking my business to UPS I evaluated my impatience and realized what I needed to do to make it right. Maybe because I was so abrupt I didn’t allow her to explain correctly? Maybe it would actually cost $5 for the box and the shipping? I printed the label and stopped at Chickfila and bought a $5 giftcard.

When I got back to FedEx the original clerk was busy with another customer. Another employee came to help. I showed him the box and the label. He explained that FedEx could ship my shoebox, but it couldn’t guarantee its safe arrival. It did indeed cost $5 to buy the box and have it packaged by them for total assurance. I explained I didn’t want to spend $5 on a box and we evaluated my other options. I decided to go home and get a box other than a shoebox. But, yes, the first clerk had been wrong about the FedEx logo necessity. Maybe if I would have let her properly explain I would have saved myself a trip. Or maybe not because she seemed to be learning this for the first time as I did.

Before I left I went up to the original clerk and apologized explaining, “I was rude to you, I’m sorry. I got this for you, so you will know of my remorse for acting impolitely.” She said, “It was fine.” I continued, “It wasn’t fine. I jumped to conclusions and was aggressive and these are things I am trying to work on personally, so I thought if I bought you lunch it would help me remember how I should act next time.” She took the giftcard and thanked me. All three Fedex employees were staring at me in disbelief.

I went home for the right kind of box, and returned to FedEx towing along for the third time my 37 pound one-year-old who was now ready for a nap. I grabbed a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups at home for the second customer service rep. that was truly helpful, and thanked him profusely for his patience and competance as I handed him the candy and the correctly packaged book with the shipping label. While he handed me back my tracking information I realized that it had taken me all morning, but I ended up not spending a dime at FedEx.

Unless, of course, you count the gallon of gas, the $5 giftcard, and the bag of Reese’s Cups.

Lesson learned. I laughed at myself the remainder of the day, and when my husband got home from work and I told him of my whole morning spent going back and forth to FedEx he laughed too.

The thing is this….we’ve learned a lot in therapy. He gets what I was trying to do. Be a better person. He  knows that I’ve learned that I am aggressive. I’ve learned that I am abrupt, and that those behaviors are keeping me from having the relationships I want with others. I am actively trying to change my bad behaviors.  It’s hard to do. Old dogs like old bones, not new tricks.

However, we both understand, also, that no one is perfect. All we can hope for is improvement. All we can give is effort. We should be patient with ourselves and others. When we openly work on our stuff (like I did at FedEx) other people might be inspired to openly work on theirs. They may not work on their stuff because “working on stuff” has never been demonstrated. They may have never “worked  on their stuff” because everyone around them is either in denial of their own stuff or critical and not allowing room for work.

So, even though I have a great desire for altruistic behavior all of the time, my actions fall short. Often. I am no saint. But, I still can be someone else’s inspiration when I say I’m sorry. I screwed up. And so can you.

And change is a beautiful message to ponder this Christmas season.

What screw up are you ready and willing to fix?

He Gets Us Money

I was at Caroline’s school the other day and noticed this hanging outside  her classroom. If you can’t read it from the  photo it says,

My hero is my dad because he gets us money.

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I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between the hubster and Wreck-It-Ralph in the picture. He’ll be so flattered. (Another embarrasing sidenote is that  when I read this, I automatically inserted new lyrics into the Golddigger song. Sing along:  “He gets us money, when we’re in need.”

It was a fun mom moment. It’s not every day you get to see inside of your six-year-old’s head. I should have taken more  time to  see what the rest of the class wrote. I’m not sure if they all have an understanding of the neecessity of their dad’s paycheck quite like Caroline.

I’ve been chuckling in my head for days over this art. I am grateful that across the hall was another art project that read

I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my home. I am thankful for Jesus.

jesus

It looks like we’ve gotten past just plain old materialism. Phew.

So, with all of this circling around in my mind, our family had tithing settlement last week. I just had to come and write about what has happened since.

[ Read more here. Essentially, every member of our family pays ten percent of our income to our church. At the end of every year, we have an opportunity to go in and talk with the Bishop about what we’ve paid and tell him we’ve given a full tithe as well as get our tax statements.]

Most of the time paying tithing is easy. It’s just the first check we write every payday. Other times (like Christmas around the corner for five kids) it’s a little bit harder. But, we always do it. My entire married life (18 years and counting) we’ve given back to God 10% of what He has given us.  We have repeatedly tested His promise in Malachi 3:10 . He never fails us.

Now, we haven’t been given a mansion. In fact, we probably have a lot less than a lot of our fellow American tithe-payers, but we have been blessed over and over again. Since paying tithing last week we have gotten an unexpected rebate check in the mail, my mom and dad sent us some money, and today I got a one-time exception 40% discount at  Target for Christmas stuff I bought four days ago that happened to be on sale today only. Abigail got a job. My kitchen mixer keeps working despite its weird noises. A lady from church gave our girls some clothes. An old friend of mine brought us some clothes for Max. Another generous friend insisted on paying for my breakfast yesterday and when we ran to Costco for a few things before I dropped her off, she also insisted on paying half of my Costco bill.  A lost phone has been found TWICE.

Tithing isn’t just for material blessings, it’s for blessings of faith. Every time something has come down the pipe, I can’t help but exclaim, “Yes, God, I know you are there. You are always watching over us.”

I’ve heard a lot of crap from non-believing friends about tithing and the financial status of my church. People have told me how bad it is that my church spends so much on temples. (What do they think a house dedicated to God should look like?) I think temples are worth every penny. Look at this one just finished in Tijuana, Mexico. Tell me if you can find anything else as lovely in all of Tijuana. Temples bring heaven to earth.

Tijuana_Mexico_Temple

Other people have asked me if  my money couldn’t be used for better purposes? Again, I wonder. What is better than this?

Whenever I hear of suffering around the world. Anywhere. I know that my tithing will be utilized to alleviate it. Hurricane Andrew. Hurricane Katrina. Check and Check. Hurricane Sandy. Check. Chronic Homelessness. Check. Tsunami in Japan. Check.  Devestation on the Polynesian islands. Check. Phillipines typhoon. Check. Clean water and immunization worldwide. Check. The Ebola outbreak. Check. I could go on and on and on. Here is a great read.

I’m  not sharing this to brag. I also didn’t use any of my church’s newsroom links, but cited a variety of news sources above. I just want to show what tithing is capable of doing. It’s a trillion times more efficient than government because God directs its utilization.

It’s funny. I always dreamed of joining the Peace Corps. I never got to, but my money has been sent to the far corners of the earth. And I usually don’t take time to even think about it. I just consistenly give my 10% and every day my mite blesses people around the world in real need.

Anyhow, like my six-year-old, my hero is my dad. My heavenly one. He gets us money. Then we try to give Him some back, but He takes it and gives it back to us and a million other  people in need.  The system is flawless. Also like my Caroline, I’m so thankful for my family, my home, and my Jesus. I’d give everything I own for any one of them, but Jesus says my 10 percent is plenty. And I believe it is.

 

Each One of Us

He computes, analyzes.
So intelligent, but has no confidence.

She toils and serves.
So capable, but doesn’t believe she really makes any difference.

She is beautiful, talented.
So phenomenal, but doesn’t trust herself.

She is artistic, and a symphonic joy.
So welcoming, but she shuts the world out.

She is bold, and kind.
So forceful, but she loves everyone but herself.

They won’t find their part in the symphony
until they believe
each one of us
is glorious.

start here

startMy hubby and I have interviews with our kids once a month. We take about an half an hour to meet with each child privately and talk to them about their personal and family concerns. We take time to express our love, remind them of their strengths, and set goals for improvement.

It’s really just our way of implementing “therapy” into their lives. We hope by working with our kids on emotional well-being now, we can give them the tools that we’ve paid a generous amount of money to professionals to teach us as adults. Hopefully this habit will also save them from repeating a lot of our heartaches. Doing this also helps us as parents to know how we need to improve. Each time the kids leave with one goal and we do too.

Besides teaching them the importace of faith and how to do their own laundry, I think this little practice is the most effective thing I’m doing as a mother. I highly recommend its implementation. I wonder if so many senseless tragedies could be avoided if all parents would invest just a little time to talk to their kids about emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological nitty-gritties. We have noticed a huge difference in our relationship with our kids after our consistent first Sunday of the month interviews.

If anything it gives the kids the chance to be acountable to themselves for self-improvement.

So, yesterday we had a pretty intense interview with one of our girls. She does not want to discuss a sensitive subject that is causing her a lot of heartache. She just totally shuts off and tunes the whole experience out. Her tender little heart can’t deal with its vulnerabilities and broken parts. After trying repeatedly to coax her out unsuccesfully we ended up just cutting the session early and encouraging her to think about things on her own so we can readdress next month.

As she exited and closed the door behind her, with discouragement and feelings of utter parent failure, I turned to my husband and said, “I think that we might have to do this every time until she realizes what closing herself off is depriving her of.” He agreed, but more than anything, we wish we could help her be strong and face herself because we know it’s essential for her peace and happiness.

This morning I read this and was reminded of my own journey in self-awareness. It’s a lot easier to address our weaknesses if we first start with the foundation that we are divine beings with divine potential.

“Satan uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying…We don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you…If we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough but our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become.”

The moral of the story, kick those fear-based lies in the butt, and start where you are. Don’t be afraid. You are not supposed to  be perfect. Yet. But, if you aren’t willing to take a honest look, you never will be.

The Bomb

I just read another mommy blog post that although long-winded had a great little tidbit of wisdom.  From all the places in the world for it to come from, I never expected it from Stephen Colbert. After digging for a bit, I found the GQ article where the wisdom orginially surfaced. It’s a gem. Go over and read if you have time. It might bring tears to your eyes.

If you don’t have the time, here is the Cliff Notes’ version. While at Northwestern University, Colbert was introduced to improv. Here are his words:

“I went, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I have to do it. I have to get up onstage and perform extemporaneously with other people.”

“Our first night professionally onstage, [our director said:] “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

Colbert spoke of how not just living with discomfort but embracing discomfort – really loving it – is essential to joy and success. He’s a deep dude:

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”

He shared how his mother helped him to live with courage after they lost his father and two of his brothers in a plan crash.

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example I am not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.

“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

He went on to quote Tolkein. {Wow, he really knows how to get through to everyone: even the nerdiest, especially the nerdiest.}

” ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head…. It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened, but you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

escape

I was in awe of how much Colbert’s message correlated with the post I started in my head yesterday based on the this sermon. Here are my favorite parts of it:

A vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies” that we experience on a daily basis.

What will  it matter in the end if what we have suffered here are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation.

So maybe you are wondering how the two correlate. Let me see if I can make sense of this. I just learned that some people who I love and adore just received the awful devestating BOMB that the last of their IVF transfers was unsuccessful. Of course after a year of full commitment and a $20k investment, they are devestated. They are paralyzed with grief founded in lost dreams. More than anything they just want to be parents. I cry with them today. I don’t understand the intricacies of their trial, but I do understand their pain. I have known BOMBS in my own life. Bombs leave devestation and paralyzing questions and fear. But, like Colbert says, we have to learn to love the bombs. Maybe not today, but eventually. So, after we process, we get up and walk in the direction of acceptance and understanding. The escape is in the light at the end of the tunnel.

We let our faith guide us and comfort us. We walk with God and we let him turn it into beauty. Like Tolkein versed, we turn the punishment into a gift. Or, like Linda Reeves said, “A vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day.” He’s going to give us everything he has. It may not be right now, and it may seem like he’s withholding, but he is always blessing us. Always.

So, when all crapola hits the fan in the form of your greatest fear manifested. Just listen. God’s voice is on the other side of the bomb. It’s quiet, but it is saying, “I’m here.” When you are forty-two and live in a two bedroom condo and just wonder why when you work so hard God doesn’t give you as much as everyone else. Just be glad you don’t really live in a warzone. When you have to put an elderly parent in a home because you don’t have the capablity to care for him and you’re heartbroken. Embrace the explosion. When you are suffocating under the weight of depression that most others don’t understand. Know that the black ball of TNT was meant just for you. On the other side of the sphere, opposite the TNT, it had your name on it. In a nice pretty mongram with an escape clause in small letters the words were etched, “I understand. I’ll get you through this.”