Scripture

Sunday Pin: My Treasure

Two beautiful works of art have touched me deeply this weekend. I hope I can do them justice as I piece them together to tell you of the profound inspired message they’ve etched on my soul.

lehis-dream

The first was this painting that hangs in the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. It is entitled Lehi’s Dream by Steven L. Neal. This copy I found online doesn’t do the original justice. The piece is absolutely beautiful. When an artist can make light illuminate from his brush strokes it always leaves me in awe. This piece won first prize in the 1987 Fine Arts Competition and hangs right outside the bathrooms on the main floor of the museum. It’s a good thing we needed a pit stop or I might have missed it all together. I find it very curious that although we went to the museum to see some Norman Rockwell originals (I love Norman Rockwell) this piece touched me so much deeper.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lehi’s Vision, this piece references 1 Nephi 8 from The Book of Mormon. Lehi was a prophet who shared a vision about the tree of life. In the vision, those who cling to the rod (scripture) will be lead to the tree to gain eternal life. The great and spacious building is depicted on the right – it represents worldliness.

What struck me so powerfully in this masterpiece were the people who had reached the tree. They are at the bottom of the piece and they are all holding a portion of light in their hands. Directly above dreaming Lehi, the mother is holding the small child and is kneeling across from the father who is holding the child’s hand. Their circle of love brought tears to my eyes.

Could it possibly be that simple? Light and joy is found in the family? When you find it you have no need for the great and spacious building or anything limited to its realm? Those with the light in this painting don’t even seem to notice the grandiose structure which holds kings and queens and treasures galore much less the college degrees, prestigious titles, fame, and the slew of other stumbling blocks to real happiness. While looking into this painting, I received a message just for me. It was an answer to a conversation LG and I had just the evening before. I wondered what would make me really happy. What did I need to feel completely fulfilled in this life? Surely, the answer couldn’t just be motherhood. What would happen to me if my kids grew up to be total losers? Surely I can’t allow my happiness to be contingent on them.

A tear ran down my cheek. Besides my own salvation, the only other thing that matters to my eternal destiny is whether or not my family will be with me on the side of light or not. All the other things I have worried about and considered to give me the personal happiness I’ve been lacking are just me stabbing at the facets of that great and spacious building. I have everything I need within the walls of my own home, I’ve just been too prideful to see it.

The second form of art came to me this morning via the local radio station that plays church music on Sundays. I don’t even think I have to tell you how this song touched me if I just tell you the title. It’s sung by Mindy Gledhill and its called More than The World. Take a listen and join me on my second journey this weekend into the beauty we call family.

As I sat down to write this post a scripture came to mind. I made it into a pin with a picture of my view while hiking with Abigail early this summer. We were headed down a beautiful mountain trail and in the moment as I snapped this picture I felt such a love and admiration for my oldest daughter.  In this moment, just as with the two pieces of art, I was able to capture my real treasure. I am so very blessed to be a mother and I am so grateful God has been patient with me as He repeatedly opens my eyes to the true happiness that I can only find here at home.

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Lessons from the Trail: Desire and Effort

desire

Last week the marriage counselor gave LG and I a big challenge that we’ve been trying to acheive. LG is to be in charge and do everything that I normally do and I am supposed to learn how to quit being in charge and follow LG in a support role. When she gave us the assignment last week I lamented, “You don’t understand, I don’t do well when things go wrong. You just upped the possibility of things going awry by about 400%.” She understands perfectly. She’s good at what she does. She wants to help me learn to let go and stop trying to control everything and she also wants to help LG to conquer his fear of screwing up which I have exacerbated for 16 years.

She explained, “Alice, you will be fine. Just remember you can’t judge people by outcome, you have to judge solely on the principles of desire and effort.”  “If LeGrand goes to the store and brings home all the wrong stuff, just know it isn’t the end of the world. He can fix it. He can return whatever was too expensive. When he gets home with not even one thing that was on the list, you can be happy because he has the desire to partner with you and he made the effort to do it. ” I tried to breathe. She was totally right, but for some weird reason, I have the hardest time letting people make mistakes. I’m still trying to understand it, but I committed to do better even without the wisdom of understanding my irrationality. I took out a pen from my purse and wrote the words DESIRE and EFFORT in about a 34 font on my left hand. I needed all the help I could get to remember, especially when things went wrong.

So, all this was on my mind as I headed out onto the trail on my bike yesterday. With the ink residuals on my hand, I could no longer read the words but I had memorized them after a few days. I watched the other people on the trail, like I always do. I was in the middle ground of cyclists. I have a mountain bike that I push to the max. I do about twelve miles per hour and get a good workout aiming for at least 15 miles per ride. I am always somewhat astounded when the “real” cyclists go whizzing past me with their fancy road-bikes and padded shorts with matching bike jerseys. They must be doing about twenty-five mph.  I off-set my disappointment in my slower self by passing up the even slower more relaxed riders on beach cruisers and tandems.

It couldn’t have hit me harder yesterday if it was an alien ship landing right on top of me. Everyone on the trail, no matter what their speed or clothing or bike or size had a desire to ride. And if they were on the trail, they had put forth the effort.

We were all winning! No judgement needed. We were all riding. We all had desire and we all had put in different levels of effort. Yes, some of us had a much greater ability (WHY CAN’T I HAVE THE GREATEST ABILITY?) but we were equal in desire and had all exerted effort. Yeah for us!

Now if I can just translate this lesson from the trail onto things more personal I know I will be much happier. Others’ cycling abilities don’t really personally affect me, but when they don’t remember to take out the trash it does. I am still trying to figure out how to handle those more personal moments of disappointment. How do you give someone an A for effort when they forget and there really was no effort at all? I guess at that point I should just hand out an A for desire and give the ADHD members of my family some serious grace.

Some scriptures on desire and effort.

Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to they name, and to the remembrance of thee. ~ Isaiah 26:8

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby ~ 1Peter2:2

Some Mormon doctrine for my LDS friends.

Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in the their sickle to reap. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world. I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in my name. Amen.  ~Doctrine and Covenants 11: 27

And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. ~ Alma 41:3

Here is some good food for thought I just enjoyed on the subject of desire. And here is an address by the intellectually advanced Neal Maxwell.

Goodbye Things


things
I want money, lots and lots of money.
I want to be a billionaire so freaking bad.
Money, that’s what I want.
We are living in a material world,
and I am a material girl.

I love it when lyrics paint a good picture. This picture was me. It was me until something happened. Well, not just something, a lot of little things.

Trying to live by God’s standard for me was causing me a lot of heartache. When I quit my job I was stuck for weeks in the “woe is me” mode. Didn’t God understand that I didn’t want to live another year of my long 40 year life being poor? Hadn’t I had enough? For most of my life (except for those few rebellious years in high school) I have tried to be a good girl, and I have never known the freedom we call financial success. Didn’t this girl deserve a break?

The girl left her mom and dad’s house at 17 with nothing but a few suitcases and a deposit on an apartment and forged her way from there with no assistance at all. This girl worked two night jobs (sometimes til 2 am) while pregnant with her third baby to save money for hubby’s college.  This girl lived three decades plus without a dishwasher and almost a decade with a dilapidated bathroom that embarrassed her to shame. This girl rarely had new clothes growing up and still goes without so much to buy her own kids clothes from the thrift-store. Wasn’t it time for this generous, obedient and loving daughter of God to know another way of life: the better way? Why God? Why when I want to work to have the finer things of life do you make me stay home? Why when everyone else seems to get multiple vacations a year, have new cars, big homes, and plenty to go around (even when they too have large families) are we made to suffer? Why do all those other ladies get to work to pay for that stuff and I am told to stay home?

I was D O N E. I felt picked on. I felt dejected. I was abandoned and forsaken. I was mad. I was hurt. I was confused. Why didn’t Got want me to have anything more when he seemed to give to everyone else so abundantly? Why did I always get the table scraps?

And then three things happened. The combination of which had a profound affect on my heart and mind.

First, I was sitting in Sunday School when asked to share a favorite scripture. I went looking in the Doctrine and Covenants for a verse that was extremely influential at a hard time in my life. It says, “Hold on thy way.” While searching, I stumbled upon an answer I needed in the moment. It happened to be another favorite that has stuck out to me many times in my poverty stricken life.

“And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better.”
~Doctrine and Covenants 25:10

For those of you that don’t believe in Mormon scripture, here is the same message from The Holy Bible.

“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” ~Luke 12:31

I thought, “Why can’t I seem to let go of riches and seek the kingdom of God?”

Then a few weeks later, in a church meeting, we sang a hymn titled How Firm A Foundation. It has always been one of my favorites. As I sang along, the words stuck in my throat, they turned around and flew on wings straight down to my heart. My eyes filled with tears.

“How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

“In ev’ry condition – in sickness, in health, In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth, At home or abroad, on the land or the sea – As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand, As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.”

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

I understood something: God didn’t take this trial of poverty away because He doesn’t care. (What? He doesn’t care? – He cares about me infinitely, he just doesn’t care about my financial status.) It isn’t important to him that I have new clothes or a vacation or a dishwasher. The purpose of this life is to prove me faithful. The more I suffer and remain obedient, the more I earn in the next life. He wants me to have mansions in heaven, and is only concerned with giving me the necessities of mortal life while I am on earth.

Still, I didn’t like it. I couldn’t shake it. I was still resentful. I unloaded on the marriage counselor who happens to be amazing at what she does. I thought surely she would back me up and empower me to go back to work. Yet, I sold her short. She shares my faith and my religion. She called me out and gave me the third part of the message,”You can’t compare your life to other people’s lives. You can’t feel less than others because your challenges are different than theirs. If you can’t learn to be happy poor, you will never be happy rich either.” And the clincher, “You don’t have to be poor, you just have to be willing to be poor.”

I went home and sulked for a day and thought it over, and ended my journey in prayer. My heart had changed. “O.k. God, I’m willing to be poor. Well, I want to be completely willing. Change me.”

The next day as I was looking out my front window, something clicked. I got it. In my changed heart, I was happy that my needs were met. Who cares if the house I live in is rented? God has always met my needs. I didn’t care one bit about my beat up mini-van, second hand couches, or the lack of drapes on my curtain rod (for the last 2 years.) It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the above saying (the most important things in life aren’t things) was ironically found by me at Abigail’s soccer friend’s mansion (full of everything anyone could ever want) because it was true. It was true for me and it was true for the rich people too. If my heart was turned towards God, and if I could keep it there, the importance of things would be nil, and I could be happy.

Ever since that morning, I have been happy. Truly happy. So happy I hope I am never not poor because I might forget.

I guess I can’t like this song anymore. Dangit. It’s so cute.

If you still need some more convincing, go read the whole chapter of Luke 12. woo-we. Good stuff.

Embracing the weakness(es)

caroline preschool

Caroline brought this home from preschool today.
It does a really good job of outlining my weakness(es).
Unfortunately, they are plural.
She doesn’t even give away my best ones here.
(I am sure I will be visiting them all in future posts so keep coming back you moms who want to feel better about yourselves.)
Thank you pre-school teacher for the Mother’s Day gift.

caroline mothers day

1. I like to sleep too much. I’m especially awful in the wee hours of the morning. “Just give me a minute!” I am sure Caroline has heard that one too many times. One time is probably too many.

2. Instead of confessing my love enough I demand things of my children such as “clean your room.” The worst part is this is coming from Caroline who I think I do the best job of telling I love her. How must my other kids be feeling?

3. I don’t like Caroline to clean up with me. In fact I am awful about just wanting my kids to get out of my way when it comes to cleaning. I do let them help, but I need to let them always.

4. I like ALL kinds of food. Yes, I do.

(I am kind of impressed that my 3 year old really knows my favorite color)

The only bit of hope I take from this wonderful Mother’s Day gift is that Caroline still loves me. She loves me because she loves me. Thank goodness!

I take a little comfort from Ether 12:27

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient  for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humbles themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will make weak things become strong unto them.

It makes me feel better knowing that God gave me the weaknesses. They only real fault I have is not turning to him to help me overcome them. For some reason I can handle the fact that I haven’t relied on  him like I should better than the fact that I am inherently flawed. Today I give myself kuddos for admitting my weakness. That’s always the first step.

In my daily study I just found a gem. Here, you too, can read the address James E. Faust was preparing for the LDS General Conference when he passed away.

He said this:

Each one of us has been given the power to change his or her life. As part of the Lord’s great plan of happiness, we have individual agency to make decisions. We can decide to do better and to be better. In some ways all of us need to change; that is, some of us need to be more kind at home, less selfish, better listeners, and more considerate in the way we treat others. Some of us have habits that need to be changed, habits that harm us and others around us. Sometimes we may need a jolt to propel us into changing.

Let us remember that the power to change is very real, and it is a great spiritual gift from God.

I guess Caroline’s Mother’s Day gift was one of my jolts. Why do they have to happen so often?

Faith and Trust

trust
As I chatted with a friend in need yesterday, I was able to walk her through some of her abandonment issues. We are very much alike. She was at the end of her rope with the issues in her marriage and was ready to call it quits.

I asked her if she had received any answers from her prayers about what she should do. She easily spouted off two different thoughts that she had been having, but immediately dismissed them as answers from the past. “What I need is an answer for right now”, she lamented.

I questioned, “But, you thought about those two previous answers in the last few days, right?”

She answered, “Yes.”

I questioned, “And you don’t consider that an answer?”

She sheepishly admitted that maybe it was. She was just so caught up in protecting herself that she didn’t want to listen.

I get that. I get it intimately.

You see, her and I both have great faith, but what we lack is the ability to trust that God will work all things together for our good. We have abandonment issues therefore no one can be fully trusted, including God Almighty. We will push everyone away first so that they can’t be blamed later for letting us down. Our delicate little hearts don’t think they can handle any form of disappointment no matter how minor so we choose misery for ourselves without admitting it. When we look back on our lives, we can spout of thousands of ways we have been abandoned. Maybe millions if given enough time.

The problem in lacking that trust is that we create extreme distress in our lives. We can’t be happy in any moment (good or bad) because we can’t trust that 1- we are worthy of happiness and 2-there is anything better out there for us. We base our most important decisions from the lens of the darkest glasses.

“But, what if He is going to work it out?” I asked. “What if you are going to get the happy ending, would that change your decision today?”

The answer came without a whole of conviction, “Probably.” It hit me between the eyes. Probably? She couldn’t even commit to changing her thought patterns even with the greatest future scenario. In that moment I got my message from God. I can’t change my thought patterns either. But, what if I could? How would I change? If I could really 100% trust Him would I do things differently?

My answer was a resounding, “Yes.” And right at that moment yesterday I made the decision that if I can’t trust my loving Heavenly Father to give me the best that he has, I might as well pack up and head straight to hell because that is where I am stuck when I don’t trust. If I can trust, He can give me all that hath. First I have to believe it, and so today trusting is my focus. It is scary. Real scary.

And now I know why Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been one of my favorites:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Paths are plural and way too often I don’t take his paths because I can’t trust that they are better than mine. I’m a fool.

Here is a great message about faith and trust.

Yesterday

I struggled yesterday. It was kind of the opposite of the Beatles song where “all my troubles seem so far away”. I was hating life. I just didn’t want to be here at home. I didn’t want to be at the mercy of my family for another day. I could blame it on my anti-depressant still kicking back in or my lack of sleep, but what it really boils down to is that I was lacking the light. I had burned it out with my negativity and selfishness. I didn’t start my day out with the family or with my God in study and prayer, but stayed in bed letting LG take care of getting the girls out the door. Then when Caroline insisted on my attention just a half an hour later my resentment began and just seemed to grow throughout the day.

I put a little ditty out on facebook asking friends for advice on how they are happy at home: I got all kinds of advice, none of which was anything new that I don’t know already.  When my first attempt for help on facebook didn’t work, I called a good friend and begged to know the trick to being happy. Surprisingly she said she had no idea. I was so validated by both my friend on the phone and another honest friend on facebook who told me she struggles too. I realized that I didn’t need advice, but validation and support. The validation I had received from two of my many friends (interesting how so many dished out advice instead of encouragement) was wonderful, but I knew what I really needed was the same from my higher power. I needed to chase out the darkness with light.

iron At about 3 o’clock while watching Abigail nap on the couch, I had this overwhelming want for the same. Even though I knew I wasn’t really tired, I just wanted to escape.

I thought of all the friends’ earlier advice about taking time for myself and knew that although that advice was good, it wasn’t a long-term solution to finding peace and joy being home.

I went to my room and got down on my knees. I prayed to God, “I’m really struggling today God, show me the better way.”

I can’t explain it, but I got up from that prayer with an increased desire to serve my family. I decided I would iron LG’s work shirts. Because I quit my job we don’t have enough money this week for dry cleaning. Ironing is my most detested household chores. LG needed work shirts for training this week and I could be a help to him or ignore it and make him do it himself. I was shocked at how the ironing didn’t seem to be so dreadful. With each of the five shirts I felt an increased sense of happiness and love. I was choosing this for myself and God was there to do his magic. My resentment disintegrated with every puff of steam.

While ironing I pondered on the verse, “Come unto me all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I wasn’t angry that I couldn’t afford to dry clean, but I was noticeably supported and enabled.

Wow. I didn’t know it could be that easy.

I then decided to serve my kids. I normally would try to avoid Caroline by doing the soccer carpool while leaving her home with her other two sisters. Instead I took her with me and we played at the park while waiting for the after-soccer commute. She was noticeably more delightful. (Caroline can be super high maintenance) She happily played and even let me sit and read for a bit.

I smiled while watching her interact with another boy on the playground saying, “Hey kid, come and get me.” As she adventured around the cement curbing, it took me back to when I was a kid and would do the same. From where I sat, I turned around to see Abigail out at the front in her soccer drills, and I swelled with pride. I marveled, “So this is what they call joy in my posterity.”  Thanks be to God.

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As the evening came to a close I was actually excited to spend an hour on folding the basket-full of socks that have been ignored for about a month. I turned on a movie which touched my heart and vowed to fold socks weekly and take some TV time for myself – it was actually a break. As I walked back to my room for bed I checked in on each of the girls. As I saw them sleeping comfortably I felt a full measure of joy at just the thought that they are all mine. By the time I got to my room, I felt compelled to my knees to thank God for my beautiful blessings. I haven’t felt like that in a long time, and I certainly don’t feel like that enough when it comes to my kids.

Yesterday, God made all the difference in my life. He literally took me from a dark place where I didn’t want to be to the place where “all my troubles seemed so far away”.