Thursday, May 29, 2008

Digging Deep

It's been a hard couple of weeks. I alternate between feeling like I can't press forward, and deciding that I simply must, and must do it well. Being a mother has never meant more to me than it does now - I'm feeling more focused, more intent, more desirous to give these kids more of me, more of my heart, more of my life. I suspect it is significant that this intensity of desire comes parallel to -- no, intersecting with -- the intense opposition coming from circumstances and from my own internal struggle.

It's at times like these when I feel, almost physically, the roots in my soul thirsting to go deeper -- roots of faith, roots of endurance, roots of trust in God and His Big Picture. I'm feeling the work, almost as though I am literally digging through the rocky soil that is common where we live. More layers of a hard heart to be broken? I feel it has softened over the years, but it's all too easy to harden it again in self-protection, in retreat, in fear, in hopelessness, in feelings of entitlement of wanting life to be easier, cuz you know, sometimes it just hurts and sometimes it's just hard.

Hm. This makes me think of Elder Lund's talk from this past general conference (which I was thinking about earlier tonite, before thinking about writing this post, and which my husband was listening to as well). Hm.

In his talk, he says:
[T]he condition of our hearts directly affects our sensitivity to spiritual things. Let us make it a part of our everyday striving to open our hearts to the Spirit. Since we are the guardians of our hearts, we can choose to do so. We choose what we let in or hold out. Fortunately the Lord is anxious to help us choose wisely.

There are so many ways I close my heart. I have felt that gate open and close much through the past few weeks. I'm going to ponder this more, because I need the roots in my heart to be deep and strong and firm, and that will only come through the Spirit as I open my heart in spite of the hard stuff.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reflections on Sacrifice

I have considered writing a post about my current struggles with health, with the unknown, and with the anguish of having my personal desires conflict directly at times with my circumstances. It's one of those times for me where I am having to dig deep into my reservoir of faith to face my fear of the unknown (and the known). It's a time when "Thy will be done" seems almost more than I think I can say.

But then I just 'happened' to read this post and was reminded of what can help me through this difficult time. It's not just our religion that demands sacrifice. Life itself presents opportunities, personalized paradoxes, that can test us to the core, Abraham-like.

Go read it. It's one of those posts that takes my breath away.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Another M&M!

I read a blog post today that gave some tips on blogging. At the end of his post is a list of different Mormon blog aggregators. (I didn't realize there were so many!) I thought I would check out one I hadn't seen before, and see who was there. There were many familiar blogs, and many that weren't. I was surprised to find my blog there (sometimes you have to request to be part of an aggregator site).

All the while, I thought I had a clever and unique enough handle, but it looks like there is another M&M on the blogck (that spelling was intentional, but it doesn't really work, does it?) -- and her name is Michelle, too. Whooda thunk. :)

If you ever wonder who is who, I don't have any graphic design talent at all, and it appears this woman does. It appears she even did a web design for Nancy Turner, who wrote a book I really enjoyed (and I'm not much of a novel fan). I thought that was cool.

Anyway, once in a while a random blog post is fun, right? I just got a kick out of that. But I thought it might also be good to point out that that M&M is not mullingandmusing me. :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Carpy Diem, or A Pet Covereth a Multitude of Sins?

I am first on the list to receive hand-me-downs from a nice woman in my former ward. I have sheets and toys and books and a stack of writing and spelling papers that should keep my kids more than busy this summer. She was the reason my kids had lots of presents to open at Christmas.

Recently, she called saying she had an aquarium that they needed to get rid of. Would I want it? My impulse was to say no. My husband's impulse was to say no. But I didn't say no. I stalled, saying we would call her back. I forgot (hubby out of town and migraines will do that to me), but she kindly followed up. I decided I'd go see it.

I made the mistake (?) of taking my kids with me. Need I say more?

Seriously, though, I think part of the reason I stalled is because I really was tempted. You see, we will never have a dog or a cat. N-e-v-e-r. (OK, not never. I told them they could have a dog when they had their own house!) But you know, my kids are kids and a pet is something kids like, and I know that and have always felt a little bit of mommy guilt about it.

So in a way, I kind of wanted to do this for them. My husband finally capitulated when I told him he could name the 7-inch goldfish that came with the aquarium. His choice? Carpy Diem.

And so we are carpy dieming it. (And, hey, it was free -- paraphrenalia and all!) We now have a bubbling aquarium in our family room. It actually looks pretty cool, and I love the soothing sounds it produces. We also have an algae-sucking something-or-another with a long name I can't remember. My kids call it cheetah (hubby calls it Leppy -- for Leopard, you know, to go with Carpy.)

I tried to ignore my husband's hesitant stares as we set it up (and try not to think about how much I don't want to have to clean it), because my kids were bouncing-off-the-walls happy. The littlest drew a picture of the water and the fish. She said the prayer at dinner and thanked Heavenly Father that we have a fish, "even though Mom said we could never have a pet." She went to sit by the aquarium after dinner.

As I tucked the little one in, I asked her her favorite part of the day (our nightly ritual). She said "Getting the fish." Ah, redemption?

"Except it's kind of boring becauase we can't hold it."

Oh, well. I tried.

(Anyone want an aquarium? Just kidding....)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good News Reflections on a Bad News Day

As much as I like rain, the grayness and dreariness of the day has matched the grief I have felt as hard, sad, heartrending news has come.

I woke this morning to an email that dear friends from our former ward lost their son last night. He was in his twenties, I believe. Fortunately, his dad made it to be there when he died; the son had called saying he wasn't feeling well. Although he had had health problems, his death was still a surprise. Our hearts ache with this family, who has had major health trials with more than one of their children, including heart transplants and life-threatening cancers.

Not a couple of hours later, I got a phone call informing me that a member of our family -- someone my age -- was just diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. (I still can't stop thinking of that disease as one tied to old age.) He has five children, including one who was born just months ago. Lots of unknowns sit there and will continue to exist as they wait to see how this all unfolds.

At times like these, I have to stop and reflect on the plan of salvation. I can't imagine facing trials like these, even vicariously, without the knowledge of the gospel. I have a hard time believing that life would seem so senseless and random if I didn't know that:

  • God is real and loves us.
  • God knows what is happening in our lives.
  • Trials don't mean He doesn't love us.
  • Trials can help us grow, and can help others grow.
  • Our lives are interconnected. We never know how others' lives can be touched and changed by trials in our lives. (I think we will be astounded at how interconnected everything really is, both in the present and throughout generations...after all, past, present, and future are all Now to God.)
  • As much as we should try to do our part with things like health, financial smarts and planning, preparedness, etc., in the end, we are not in control. Our lives are not ours. They are in God's hands. ALL of our lives are in God's hands.
  • Opposition is necessary, as is death.
  • There is life after death. We will all be resurrected because of the Savior, Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
  • Family relationships can continue after death through the ordinances of the gospel.
  • The measure of happiness is not all dependent on what happens in the short span of mortality.
  • Life and relationships are precious.
  • If we are prepared (especially spiritually, but in other ways as well) we don't need to fear. (And if we feel fear, we need to summon faith, for they cannot coexist.)
I know God could have saved our friends' son. I know he could heal our family member. But His thoughts are not always our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. But I know that God is perfect, loving, and completely trustworthy.

I have a saying vinyl lettered on the inside of my pantry door. It says: "Trust and Let Go." I can only do my best and then I need to let go and let God.

The good news of the gospel is my anchor that helps me in times like this. It helps me as I reflect on and face my own health challenges and the unknown that is still associated with them. Times like this cause me to reflect on What Really Matters, and on living my life so that if God were to call me (or any of my loved ones) home, that I would be ready for whatever happens.

As a friend of mine says, "Life is hard, but with the Lord, we can do hard things."

The gospel, the good news, is true. I am grateful for that knowledge. I mourn today with those that mourn. I weep for their pain, and for mine. But I rejoice in their faith and hold onto my own. God will not forsake us. He loves us. And because of His Son, all things can come together for our good if we love and trust God.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"The Female Half" of the Plan

I listened to the rebroadcast of the 2008 BYU Women's Conference yesterday (nice way to pass the time while on the couch with a migraine! And now today, I am writing to pass the time with another migraine. Ugh.)

Migraine notwithstanding, I was overcome with the power of the talks. (It wasn't just the migraine that drained me yesterday -- I felt the Spirit so strong that it both filled me and drained me at the same time -- you know what I mean?) (If you have the chance, go to, download the Move Networks player, and go back to Friday's Women's Conference. For whatever reason, Thursday's programming doesn't load, but I'm hoping they get that figured out soon.)

Sister Beck was the first speaker on the second day of the conference. Wow, oh, wow. I love this woman. I love what she teaches. She is a woman for our time. I feel so strongly that we need her leadership, that we need to really listen to what she teaches and let it change our hearts and lives. I wanted to capture a few of the things she said.

"We, the women of the church...and of the world have half the plan, the female half to take care of....If we don't do our part, no one else is going to do it for us. We can't delegate it, we can't pass it off to anyone -- it's ours! We can refuse it, we can deny it, but we are still accountable for it. And there will come a day when we will remember what we promised before we were born....How will we account for our half, for what we did with the privileges we were given?...

...We know that we have priesthood keys and revelation and that there is an order in all things and how the lord's work is done. And that half of the plan was given to our brothers, and we support that. The half of the plan that creates life, that nurutres life, that causes growth, that influences everything else, was given to us. And influencing is ever so much mmore long-lasting than managing. The keys are given to help us manage it all correctly. One half is not more important than the other half. ...He couldn't do his work without both.... We help each other with our part of God's work. [She then reads Moses 1:39 and explains that work, that we are ALL part of this work!]

"Our brothers in the priesthood have the same work, they have different ways of operating. We share the same work -- we're helping each other accomplish the Lord's work."

You can see patterns in what she has been teaching (I love looking for patterns in what we are being taught!), even in her short time as General Relief Society president. One of these patterns is that women have an important work to do. We have heard this taught consistently by our leaders -- that this work is different from the men's work -- but equally important. Do we believe that? Do we embrace these truths?

Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

Free and open doctrinal discussion is important in gospel scholarship, but remember that most things have been put into place by God and simply are not subject to change. The doctrines and principles of the Church are established only through revelation, not legislation. This is God’s plan; we do not have the prerogative to alter or tamper with it.

Our task is to integrate the principles of the gospel into our lives so that our lives will be in balance. When our lives are in balance, before you realize it your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm that your Heavenly Father loves you and that His plan is fair and true and we should strive to understand it and enjoy living it. (M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 89)

Embracing the doctrines regarding our divinely different roles is something that has brought great joy, perspective, balance, and understanding into my life. It's why talks like these make me want to stand up and shout!

Sister Beck is certainly not the first to be teaching these truths. Myriad quotes exist on this topic. I will include here only three.

Elder Ballard said:

Even though men and women are equal before God in their eternal opportunities, they have different, but equally significant, duties in His eternal plan. We must understand that God views all of His children with infinite wisdom and perfect fairness. Consequently, He can acknowledge and even encourage our differences while providing equal opportunity for growth and development.

Our Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when we lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters….

Both men and women are to serve their families and others, but the specific ways in which they do so are sometimes different. For example, God has revealed through his prophets that men are to receive the priesthood, become fathers, and with gentleness and pure, unfeigned love they are to lead and nurture their families in righteousness as the Savior leads the Church (see Eph. 5:23). They have been given the primary responsibility for the temporal and physical needs of the family (see D&C 83:2). Women have the power to bring children into the world and have been given the primary duty and opportunity as mothers to lead, nurture, and teach them in a loving, spiritual environment. In this divine partnership, husbands and wives support one another in their God-given capacities. By appointing different accountabilities to men and women, Heavenly Father provides the greatest opportunity for growth, service, and progress. He did not give different tasks to men and women simply to perpetuate the idea of a family; rather, He did so to ensure that the family can continue forever, the ultimate goal of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan.

Elder Bednar said:

By divine design, men and women are intended to progress together toward perfection and a fulness of glory. Because of their distinctive temperaments and capacities, males and females each bring to a marriage relationship unique perspectives and experiences. The man and the woman contribute differently but equally to a oneness and a unity that can be achieved in no other way. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). (David A. Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, Jun 2006, 82–87)

President Kimball said:

Our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences—with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood—but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord. …

Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you just as are those we sustain as prophets and apostles!” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 102.)

One of the most interesting and powerful themes I see in Sister Beck's messages is that of influence, particularly the power and influence women have if they embrace their God-given responsibilities as nurturers of God's children. If you go back and read her talk from the fall, the concepts of power and influence are the glue that pull all of her teachings together. That use of the words underscores the parallel roles we have as women to the 'power and influence' of the priesthood. Fabulous.

She pointed out an interesting phrase in Alma 30:18, talking about how Korihor, an anti-Christ, was "leading away the hearts of many...yea, leading away many women, and also men...." She paused and asked why this may be. The way she read the scripture was as if the men were secondary, not the ones who were most led away. (I think this is particularly interesting given the dominance of males in the scriptures, so I think she has pointed out something potentially significant.) She then noted that "if you lead away all the 'influencers' away down a wrong path, it might make a difference....We are up against a deceitful and determined enemy."

That reminds me of something Sister Sheri Dew once said, in her famous "Are We Not All Mothers?" talk (so when she talks of motherhood, she's talking of this role of being 'influencers' not just the role of those who have children of their own):

Have you ever wondered why prophets have taught the doctrine of motherhood—and it is doctrine—again and again? I have. I have thought long and hard about the work of women of God. And I have wrestled with what the doctrine of motherhood means for all of us. This issue has driven me to my knees, to the scriptures, and to the temple—all of which teach an ennobling doctrine regarding our most crucial role as women. It is a doctrine about which we must be clear if we hope to stand “steadfast and immovable” regarding the issues that swirl around our gender. For Satan has declared war on motherhood. He knows that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire. And he knows that without righteous mothers loving and leading the next generation, the kingdom of God will fail.

Interestingly, the whole idea of being "steadfast and immovable" is something that is being repeated a lot, too. It was even part of the title of Sister Beck's first RS talk.

Ah, there is so much more. She talked about how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones against the evil and deception that is rampant in our day. She read many, many scriptures (asking the audience to hold up their scriptures) and used them as a foundation for her teaching. She reminded us that For the Strength of Youth is a measure of how we are fortifying ourselves (think Alma 48) and our homes and families. She reminded us to point ourselves and those we have responsibility for homeward -- to point them to our own homes, to the temple, and to our heavenly home.

I love the vision and perspective and clarity of the teachings of the gospel that can help me focus on what really matters in my life. With all the voices that can confuse us as women, I am particularly grateful about inspired leaders who teach of the divine order of things, and of our eternally-important role in God's eternal plan.

Here's my recommendation: Go listen! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Walking on Eggshells vs. Hearts Knit Together?

My comment over at Happy Meets Crazy got too long, so I made it into a post.

Thanks for a thoughtful post. I wanted to add another layer to this conversation.

I am one who has children, but has wanted more. For health reasons, that has not been right for us. And it is a pain I carry almost every day, something I struggle with, wonder about, hope we are making the right choice with (because for us, this is a choice we are having to make, not a choice made for us...and that is hard in and of be able to conceive but not feeling right about doing that).

Anyway, there have been times when an announcement of a pregnancy has ripped through my heart, and tears have come. I feel I am more empathetic to these trials of infertility that I ever was before. Having also been single for a decade of my life while friends and family married and became parents, and people sometimes asked why I wasn't married, I understand that side, too. I don't ever want to say something that hurts someone else with this tender topic.

But I don't believe avoidance of the topic is always the answer, and indeed, I think sometimes that can be an unfair expectation, a barrier to healthy relationships in and of itself. As with everything, there is a balance, I think. I would not want people to avoid talking to me about the joy of their pregnancy or infants just because they know I have ached for another baby. And if they *don't* know about my pain, might it be that I am partly to blame for not opening up a bit of my heart?

I think we all need to be sensitive, but I have come to believe that those of us who struggle also owe those we love the comfort of knowing that they don't have to walk on eggshells around us, that we can rejoice with those that rejoice even as we hope that they can also mourn with those of us who mourn. The only way we can really get there, imo, is to be more willing all the way around to open up a bit more, and to be willing to listen a bit more, to be a little less me-focused and a little more others-focused. Easier said than done, I know.

And so, I try not to worry so much. If someone asks me about having another child, I am open and honest with them. I let them know this is a struggle, that we have prayed about it and it doesn't feel right. I don't have to go into deep personal details, but to me, an honest response helps them and it makes me not feel like I have to go to a corner and cry. And I usually get love in return. But I also try to rejoice with others who don't have my struggle, because motherhood deserves to be celebrated! And I think it's not only in focusing on our similarities (important thought this is -- so I am not trying to take away from this post and its sensitivity!) but ALSO in sharing our hearts and learning to *bridge* these difficult differences that we can often grow as sisters and friends, as daughters of God.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

If you only read one Mother's Day post this year... this one. The author shows a great deal of depth and strength and perspective.

Interestingly, this same type of perspective has been criticized in the past; I was astounded at the negativity on this topic that appeared last year (in fact, when I first read the title, I was worried this would be another negative rant). I think she set a wonderful tone for the coming holiday. She shows that even in very, very painful and difficult circumstances (she came from an abusive home and has been unable to have children of her own), a woman can rise above them and find comfort in eternal truths and principles.

No matter what our situations in life, all of us as women can be mothers, whether single or married, whether we have children of our own or not. We can share our hearts, our talents, our love with children and others around us.

Incidentally, you can read a couple of other such personal stories here. Although I have to admit that the first link was one of the best pieces I have ever read on this topic. :)

Clarifications about the Catholic church's restrictions on records

This story is interesting. At least according to this story, the restrictions appear to be less about doctrinal issues and more about privacy concerns.

The Vatican, Bishop Wester says, is simply reminding parishes not to take large numbers of records and hand them over to anyone, but he says it should be OK for specific family requests.

I also appreciated the sense of friendship between the two churches that comes through in the story.

This creates a totally different feeling about the recent decision than the initial stories did.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Elder Marlin K. Jensen responds to NYT article about LDS polygamy

There has been some discussion about a New York Times article that sought to draw parallels between FLDS culture and the practice of polygamy in the earlier years of the LDS Church. Elder Marlin K. Jensen, the Church's historian, wrote a very clear rebuttal to the NYT article. It's well worth the read.

You can also read a summary of the articles here.