Monday, December 28, 2009

What does it mean to be feminine?

A new YW Personal Progress Program will be coming out soon. The new books will be pink. The color choice is very deliberate. Sister Dalton explains:
We are excited about the color of pink, because we think these young women are pink. They resonate to the softness and the femininity of that color. We want them to understand that they are soft, they are unique, they are feminine and that they don't have to be like the boys, to focus on femininity, on the softness of young women.
That word "soft" is bugging some people. And yet, I think there is meaning we can get from mulling over it a bit. Here are some of my thoughts.

Even though I think sometimes it's hard to talk about what femininity is (language is limited, or at least can be (very) charged, as seen sometimes when the topic of femininity is discussed and frustration is expressed about some teachings on the subject). And yet, femininity is valued and talked about by our leaders. (Sis. Dalton definitely isn't the first one to address this subject of femininity. See, for example, here, here, here, and here.)

FWIW, I grew up a tomboy (e.g., only girl in shop class, twice (sooo fun!); very active in sports growing up (including only girl playing basketball with the boys for recess way back when); had hobbies that were more masculine, like doing models; etc.). I studied a field that had an 80/20 ratio of men to women in the classroom, and ratios more on the male side professionally as well. I'm more naturally suited to a board room than a kitchen or nursery or Primary class. I am not instinctively a huge fan of pink (my baby blankie was blue...maybe that has something to do with it - hehe), and I don't particularly care for frills and trendy or girly stuff. And sometimes I can have a hard time processing what "feminine" should mean for me.

But I have found value in pondering how I might be able to be more feminine. I feel I can embrace that concept while still embracing my personality and interests. I don't know that I will ever be a "typical" female in some ways (whatever we think that may mean), but I do believe that there is power in rejoicing in the concept of femininity -- whatever God may guide each of us to discern what that means for us individually, magnifying unique gifts, talents, and strengths, not necessarily taking away from them.

I think sometimes these kinds of ideas (such as what it means to be feminine) are rejected outright because they either feel too vague, or because they may feel like cookie-cutters to some -- that somehow it's all about molds and stereotypes and expectations that we can't or don't fulfill. I think, rather, we can think of them as guideposts to carefully consider and prayerfully apply, as guided through the Spirit. Something may not seem to "fit" at first, but I think time and patience can sometimes show that even principles that didn't click initially can yield impiortant fruit.

As I think about it, I think the new youth theme ("Be strong and of a good courage") and the concept of femininity can actually go hand in hand. I say this because I believe there is power in womanhood. I've been pondering this concept for years, and although I can't fully articulate it all, I can say that I have felt very strongly the reality that women bring something unique and important to the plan of God -- both collectively and individually. And I think the more we can seek guidance in how to be more "feminine" the better instruments in God's hands we women can be.

So, as I ponder the word "soft," I think of things like the following:

Soft can be a soft answer (Prov 15:1) and soft words (Job 41:3) or a 'soft tongue' (Prov 25:15). (The Spirit's voice is sometimes described as soft, such as here or here.)

It can include a soft heart. (e.g., Job 23:16)

Or "lead[ing] on softly" (Gen. 33:14).

Or being a soft place for others to fall.

It could tie into being soft-spoken (hard for someone as opinionated and vocal as I can be).

I think it also has something to do with being (or seeking to be) nurturers. Think of the "soft" sciences, for example -- they have to do more with people and relationships. (I'm NOT saying that those fields are the only ones women should pursue -- I'm just mulling over the word "soft" and how it is sometimes used.)

More thoughts, anyone?

Friday, December 25, 2009

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

As I wrapped presents and set them under the tree on Christmas Eve, I had the thought to keep some of the presents hidden away. I debated within myself, but finally decided I would. We wouldn't have a lot of time to open presents in the morning anyway, since we had to get up and get on our way to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Yes, that would work -- we'd spread our own little family's Christmas out a little -- after all, we've never been the rush-through-the-present-opening types. (I use Christmas as a time to give our children things they need -- I hold onto clothes and supplies and other practical things during the year and wrap them all up for the fun of it at Christmas.)

The children enjoyed having some unexpected gifts to open when we got home. But I enjoyed being able to enjoy the gift-opening. That little thought to hold off on some of the presents was a very unexpected little blessing for me.

You see, I have a sleep disorder, and I had taken some of my sleep meds to catch a couple more hours of sleep before leaving for my parents' home this morning. Before I went back to sleep, though, I spent precious time with my family while the children opened what was under the tree.

But I don't remember most of it.

You see, a side effect of the drug I take is the possibility of amnesia-like memory loss while the drug is active. It must have been a combination of the amount I had taken during the night in combination with the timing of the gift-giving (after the drug had already started to take effect), but it pretty much wiped out most of my memory of what happened this morning. (Yeah, I am still freaking out a little about it, actually. It's an awful feeling not to be able to pull the memories out of my head.)

And I am really sad.

Pres. Packer said this:

I know of few things on this earth quite so celestial as the face of a little youngster, happy, hopeful, and believing, with Christmas almost here. That is the gift that children give to parents at Christmastime.

I love that part of Christmas, but I didn't get that gift this morning.

But because of that little thought to tuck away some presents, I got the gift tonight.

Who knows if that is the reason I had that thought last night to tuck away a few presents, but I'm grateful for the little tender mercy that it was to enjoy a few moments with my children - and to remember them!

As a p.s., I recommend that entire article by Pres. Packer. I hope to write more of my thoughts on it later.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Shawna Belt Edwards' "Do You Have Room?" video

Merry Christmas!

For sheet music or a free MP3, see here.

If you have a minute, read through some of the emails Shawna received this month after sharing her song and inviting people to share how they make room for the Savior.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do You Have Room for the Savior?

A friend of mine wrote this beautiful song. The video is no longer available, but you can listen to the song, find information about how to download a free MP3, and get free sheet music on Shawna Belt Edwards' home page here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Overcoming Overparenting [edited]

I saw this Time article linked on a couple of blogs. It is a must-read for any parent. I'm not sure I agree with all their final conclusions, and while it can obviously go either way (if we celebrate our failures too much, we could end up justifying error that maybe we should correct), I do agree that our generation has swung more to the side of hyper-parenting.

This brought to mind Elder Oaks' talk, "Good, Better, Best." For example, he said:

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children's values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call "the overscheduling of children." In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children's free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.2

The number of those who report that their "whole family usually eats dinner together" has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together "eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children's academic achievement and psychological adjustment."3 Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children's smoking, drinking, or using drugs.4 There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: What your children really want for dinner is you.

[edited to add the following quote that came to mind after I posted...] That same general conference also included this wise counsel from Sister Beck that rings in my head often...from her "Mothers Who Know" talk:

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world's goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.

Some quotes from the Time article that stood out. For example:

"I hope that we're getting away from the helicopter parenting," Meyer says. "Our philosophy is 'Give 'em the morals, give 'em the right start, but you've got to let them go.' They deserve to live their own lives."

Sounds an awful lot like Joseph Smith's teach correct principles principle, doesn't it?

I won't quote any more...just go read it. And then let's talk. I don't believe there is one right way to parent (which is another point in the article -- we have to figure out what is right for our own families). But I do believe it's good to talk about these things.

So...How do *you* find a balance in guiding your children and helping them prepare for their futures, and letting them fly and learn and make mistakes -- and just be kids? What do you to do to simplify and carve out more family time? What do you do to not hover to the point of smothering?

Monday, October 05, 2009


That was what could be heard at my house today. President Monson hadn't even finished the "Amen" of his concluding remarks when my children burst out in protest [no joke] at the fact that General Conference was over.

My sentiments exactly. What a marvelous weekend.

p.s. There's already lots of discussion going on, so I'm going to point you elsewhere to share your thoughts about Conference. Please consider sharing here (a missionary-minded site) to help those not of our faith understand more about what General Conference is all about, what was discussed, and what it means to us.

And for what is sure to be an uplifting discussion among members, see here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thoughts on Turning Hearts -- not to fathers or children this time, but to each other

My husband and I were talking in the car tonight about the gay marriage issue. One of the hardest things I see about the issue, and other issues, for that matter, is that there is too much of closed-mindedness on both 'sides' of these issues. It's too easy to REact without thinking, and without trying to let the Spirit guide choices and actions.

There are many examples that come to mind:

  • I saw it with the recent reaction to Pres. Obama's speech to children about education. Truth be told, I'm not a fan of Pres. Obama. Even as I can understand the initial response of concern, I was deeply, deeply disappointed that parents sought to shut down the chance for children to hear a message about education from our president. It was a chance to respect the office, and even to talk about how we don't have to agree with someone to show respect for them and listen to them. I think our children need to see us modeling reasoned, respectful handling of hard issues, and of responding to those with whom we disagree. I know I can do better in this regard in general, and it is my goal to do so.
  • Another example of emotional reaction that I think created some problems was with the Big Love episode on the temple ceremony. Even as I, too, was disappointed (even shocked) to hear that this was going to happen, I felt there was too much emotional reaction that actually added fuel to the fire.
  • This reminds me of emails that are forwarded without thinking, without checking, without caring about details. ( is great {wink}) BUT -- haha -- in writing that, I realize that sometimes my annoyed reaction to such lack of checking reflects a way I can open my heart more. SO WHAT if someone sends me such an email? I can choose to ignore or check it out myself, right? :) Really, don't I have better things to do than to get frustrated when someone sends something they happened to enjoy, and they send it because I'm on their list of people they love and care about?? Yes, I do, and I should take a moment to check my heart and trust theirs.
  • On this issue of SSA/SSM, I have seen closed-minded and unkind statements made by those against SSM. It's most disturbing to me in the Church, but worries me at any level. Such unkindness is contrary to the Church's teachings, and contrary to the Church's position -- even as their position re: gay marriage and homosexual behavior is clear. On the flip side, I have seen closed hearts and minds from those who support SSM. Too often, assumptions and accusations are made that are unfair and often untrue. To label all those who support the Church's position and/or those who have taken positions on measures such as Prop 8 as hateful homophobes is unfair and unkind, and not helpful to the cause of respect, dialogue, and agreeing to disagree.
  • I see this dynamic in discussions on hot topics like educating our children, childbirth, efforts toward healthy living, plastic surgery, family/work balance decisions, and myriad (!!) other topics. So much of things like these are about respecting and understanding agency. Even as there are guidelines and principles (take general Church teachings about caring for our bodies, for example, or about the importance of mothers' primary role as nurturer), we really have no room to judge others' choices, OR to insist that our personal choices reflect absolute truth that should be chosen by (or imposed on) others.
  • I saw emotional reaction to Sister Beck's Mothers Who Know talk. (I have been online discussing LDS women's issues for nearly 15 years. I dare say I have never seen such a reaction, and it was very disappointing to me.) Before people really even had taken time to process the message, the internet was awash with angry vents and criticism of and misrepresentations of Sister Beck and her words. (Please note: I understand completely how painful mommy (and other) guilt is. And I even felt some of that creeping in when she talked. Fortunately, in this case, the Spirit had already been teaching me and preparing me to hear what she was *really* saying. I *know* how hard it can be to feel the pangs of guilt. And I have had my moments of wanting to throw an Ensign or a lesson out the window. But when I compare those REactions to how I feel when the Spirit is softening my heart and helping me to see things -- and myself -- as they/I really are/am...the difference is night and day! The kind of self-destructive guilt we often feel is not others' fault, and not of God. The Spirit helps calm my initial reactions and helps me process things more clearly. I'm working hard (and it IS hard work) to try to check my REactions and to test them according to the tests we have been given (see, for example, this one). To try to ACT and not be acted upon by my emotions, not at least without seeking the Spirit's guidance.

We don't have to *like* what someone is doing, saying, choosing, or believing, to at least show some respect for differing actions, words, choices, or beliefs. More often than not, when taking a step back from our initial reactions, I think we can usually see that there are holes in our understanding and perception. We ALL are dealing with incomplete pictures and fallen tendencies (our beams). There is, imo, a reason the Lord uses the council system in families and in the Church -- it's because none of us has a corner on truth. There is, imo, a reason we are commanded not to judge -- it's simply because we NEVER have all the information about someone else's heart or life or situation or layers or experiences. And our emotions and experiences -- even our positive ones -- can never can fully reflect the breadth and depth of what God sees and knows.

I know how easy it is to fall into this trap of REacting instead of choosing compassion and care and caution, but I am trying to do better, both in my personal life and also on more general issues, to not close my heart in anger, fear, or other negative emotions. (It's hard work! I fail too often, but I am trying!)

I think more clearly when I take a moment to try to care, to think of others with whom I may disagree or who may have triggered an emotion in me somehow (intentionally or not) as a child of God. I am blessed when I try to stop to realize and remember what anger and closed-mindedness do to my spirit and to relationships, and to my ability to have compassion and to understand beyond my own limited experiences and understanding.

At some point, we will all do what we feel is best, to act on what we know and believe. Sometimes our conclusions or choices will differ. There will always be issues upon which there will be disagreement. Examples are plentiful in our political, cultural, and social climate, and are also present in the Church.

We are all children of God, and ALL deserve respect, kindness, and love -- even when there is disagreement. I believe the best progress is made toward truth when dialogue can take place, even -- and perhaps especially -- when there is disagreement. This requires open-hearts and respect on BOTH sides. Always. "Us" vs. "Them" thinking so often leads to wrong-headed REaction. Without open hearts, we restrict potential for personal and general progress, and, imo, stunt our spiritual growth.

And there are still so many commonalities that we can enjoy, even if and as we disagree on some issues.

That reminds me of something Pres. Eyring said:

You could be one of those peacemakers, whether you are in the conflict or an observer.

One way I have seen it done is to search for anything on which we agree. To be that peacemaker, you need to have the simple faith that as children of God, with all our differences, it is likely that in a strong position we take, there will be elements of truth. The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is the one who finds a way to help people see the truth they share. That truth they share is always greater and more important to them than their differences. You can help yourself and others to see that common ground if you ask for help from God and then act. He will answer your prayer to help restore peace, as He has mine.

That same principle applies as we build unity with people who are from vastly different backgrounds. The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack. More than once the Lord has helped me see His kindness in giving me association with someone whose difference from me was just the help I needed. That has been the Lord’s way of adding something I lacked to serve Him better.

I believe part of the natural man is to REact without seeking that kind of peacemaking. We are wired to self-protect, and will often use whatever tactic to accomplish that protection -- often without thinking, without giving the Spirit a chance to work with us and guide us.

I know I have fallen into reactive trap too often. Again, I am committed to trying to be better, to check my heart more often and more honestly.

Whaddya think? Wanna join me in this effort?

p.s. One of the BEST books I have ever read that has helped me understand mortal reactive and closed-hearted tendencies is The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Group. This book dissects our mortal tendency to go to war with each other with our closed hearts. The book is on my list of the top five books that have had the greatest impact on my life. Were I not big on trying hard to respect others' agency, I would say it should be required reading for all humans. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Comfort Food

The phone rang. It was my visiting teaching companion.

"I'm ordering dinner to be delivered to your house. Is 6:00 ok?" I tried to convince her that we were fine (we really were), but she would have none of it. "What kind of pizza do you like?" When I told her, she asked what else we wanted. Again, I tried to let her know that a pizza was above and beyond.... Again, she just hushed me up and figured out the rest herself.

Nearly on the button, Mr. Pizza Man arrived with not only our favorite pizza, but breadsticks, salad, and brownies for each of us. Oh, yes, and the delish root beer that sends my kids over the moon.

As we ate the food that filled our home with wonderful smells of garlic, my children exclaimed, "I can't believe she would do this for us! She is so nice!"


Why did she do this?

Because she loves me. She knew I was under the weather, and this was her simple way to showing that she cared.

I really could have fed my family. I had leftovers in the fridge. This was not an issue of not being ABLE.

It was an issue of being loved.

What better comfort food is there, really, than that given from the heart?

Thanks, friend. Thank you for loving me.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I was sound asleep when my phone rang, so my brain didn't fully process my neighbor's frantic message:

"Turn on the TV. There has been a terrorist attack!"

I rolled my very pregnant body out of bed as quickly as I could, and wobbled downstairs to turn on the television.

It doesn't matter that words can't really describe it, because we all felt it. I sat, in shock. Watching replays of the planes hitting the towers. Seeing footage of the Pentagon.

And then watching those towers fall.

It was hard over the next few days to not stay glued to the television. To not watch and watch and watch again. But life had to go on. I couldn't imagine how hard that would be for those most personally affected by the tragedies of that day.

Still fresh in my own heart are the vulnerable feelings I had as a mother just a few weeks from giving birth. It was hard not to think, "What kind of world am I bringing my baby into?" My other children were still so very small. Young. Innocent. Pure.

I'm reminded of something President Boyd K. Packer said:

A few weeks ago our youngest son and his wife and family stopped to see us. The first one out of the car was our two-year-old grandson. He came running to me with his arms outstretched, shouting, “Gwampa! Gwampa! Gwampa!”

He hugged my legs, and I looked down at that smiling face and those big, innocent eyes and thought, “What kind of a world awaits him?”

For a moment I had that feeling of anxiety, that fear of the future that so many parents express to us. Everywhere we go fathers and mothers worry about the future of their children in this very troubled world.

But then a feeling of assurance came over me. My fear of the future faded.

That guiding, comforting Spirit...brought to my remembrance what I already knew. The fear of the future was gone. That bright-eyed, little two-year-old can have a good life—a very good life—and so can his children and his grandchildren, even though they will live in a world where there is much of wickedness.

They will see many events transpire in the course of their lifetime. Some of these shall tax their courage and extend their faith. But if they seek prayerfully for help and guidance, they shall be given power over adverse things. Such trials shall not be permitted to stand in the way of their progress, but instead shall act as stepping-stones to greater knowledge.

The short version of his message is this: "Do not be afraid to bring children into the world."

For all that mortality brings with it trials and tragedy, there is much to hope for, much to hold onto, much to do.

I will never forget. But what I try to remember most is that because of the Savior, there is always hope.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"Empathy is Never Wasted"

As I have been dealing with a life that is pretty messy (weird schedule, weird health, long list of to-dos that don't get done because of said and other weirdness), I have thought a lot about the commandment to not judge. I have a greater appreciation for what that means, because I know more what it's like to fear others' judgment because of my messy life.

We so often measure each other (and ourselves!) by the externally visible, the tangibly measurable. Our world is driven by things like checklists, grades, scholarships, salaries, possessions, appearance, degrees, promotions, etc. It's not that these things don't have their place, but if they become the ruler by which we decide how much respect or love someone deserves, it quickly becomes problematic.

The way I see it, we are asked to "live in" this world of mortal measures, but to not "be of" this world. Christlike living demands a different kind of approach -- an open heart.

While I have often wished my trials could be taken from me, one thing that I do feel I am learning is to stop and think and open my heart when I feel the instinct to judge.

The truth is, we are all "weighed in the balance...and...found wanting." And we all need each others' compassion, patience, and love.

I was reading through this talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (how I miss him!), and read this -- one of those wowza kinds of quotes:

As things unfold, sometimes in full view, let us be merciful with each other. We certainly do not criticize hospital patients amid intensive care for looking pale and preoccupied. Why then those recovering from surgery on their souls? No need for us to stare; those stitches will finally come out. And in this hospital, too, it is important for everyone to remember that the hospital chart is not the patient. Extending our mercy to someone need not wait upon our full understanding of their challenges! Empathy may not be appreciated or reciprocated, but empathy is never wasted.
What has helped you feel more empathy and compassion for others?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Lonely Road

When you think of President Hinckley, what do you think of? I think of a lot of things, but one is his optimism.

That makes a verse in the hymn he wrote all the more interesting to me.

Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.

The lonely road.

Truth be told, the walk of faith can be a lonely road. It's not because we don't have people on the path with us, but no one can walk that path for us.

A friend and I were talking about schtuff recently, and she mentioned an insight she had had, one I have been mulling over ever since.

She talked of a friend of hers who, when facing the same trial my friend had faced, had received an answer for what to do that was 180 degrees different from my friend's answer.

My friend then noted (paraphrasing):

"In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord talks of the parable of the ten virgins and about the last days. It is the people who have taken the Holy Spirit as their guide who will be able to survive these difficult times. Perhaps the oil that is talked about is not just about testimony, but about learning to really get answers through the Spirit. Maybe that's another reason the oil cannot be shared -- because we each have to learn to get the answers from God that will be for our specific circumstances, and that will be one of the only ways we can survive these last days."

That resonated with me.

This process of really getting answers -- answers that may not appear in the Ensign or be shared in a Conference talk -- describes what some of the last year has included for me. Truth be told, it has been one of the most difficult and lonely years of my life.

But it's also been one of the most amazing.

I have had experiences with the Spirit that have given me more confidence in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, and even in myself -- in learning to trust that, with Him, I can figure out what is right for me in my life.

My journey simply won't be completely like anyone else's. For a long time, I looked around me for all the answers. I was worried when my life didn't match someone else's. I'm learning to look to the side less and to instead look up.

For all that we have amazing gospel truths to cling to -- and in talking about individual answers I am not talking about dismissing any of those truths or principles -- each of us still has to figure out how to apply those truths to our lives.

For all that we have family and friends, not even those closest to us (not even spouses, if we are married) can receive all the revelation with us that we need to walk the path of life and discipleship.

The lonely road.

I know God is there. The Church is true. The Book of Mormon is true. The Atonement is real (thank heaven!) I know amazing people who enrich my life in unspeakable ways.

But, still, I pray:

Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just read these essays

These two essays are amazing:

"Hope Arising from the Ashes of Grief," Part 1 and Part 2

I will say that I had the privilege of also talking with these women. I saw a presentation they did a few months ago and was so impressed. Amazed, really. I have since had personal discussions with each of them (one is a good friend of mine, and the other has become a friend). When I talked to them this week about their essays, I heard even more.

Moved to the core, I dropped to my knees in gratitude for the blessing of hearing their stories. Of knowing them. Of feeling of their spirits, their faith, their perspective.

If you have ever felt life was unfair, or that some pain is too great to overcome, or that God is not aware, read these essays.

If you know someone who has lost a child or has experienced other heartrending grief, please invite them to read these essays.

Have you ever had those thoughts creep into your mind, like "How can God allow such terrible suffering?" Or, have you heard someone question the existence of God altogether because of all the suffering we see across the world?

You know what I am going to say. Read these essays.

These stories to me communicate so clearly that God is so aware of ALL His children. That pain does not mean He is not there. That, in fact, sometimes pain is the thing that can help Him help us help His children.

And help Him help us, too.

Enough from me. Read the essays. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"You Mormons did it again!" (We have to do better!)

Yesterday, we went with some friends to a mountain resort close to our home. For an amazingly reasonable fee, we enjoyed our fill of fun activities in the glorious beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. I couldn't get John Denver out of my head (tweaked, of course): "Almost heaven, Utah mountains...."

We had a conversation with these friends that disturbed me, however. They are not LDS, and they recently moved here from a place they loved. I see them observing our culture with a measure of interest, curiosity -- and sometimes annoyance.

"What's up with the drivers around here?" they asked. "No one follows the speed limit."

When our friend actually tries to drive at 65, she feels like she's a hazard on the road. She talked also of people driving too fast in neighborhoods where there are small children. "Don't these people have children of their own? Don't they understand?"

I realized that isn't the only indication of a dismissive attitude about the law.

I came out of the services for the Oquirrh Mountain temple dedication, disheartened to find, yet again, numerous cars parked illegally. Like blocking the fire lane illegally. This happens ALL the time, even sometimes during regular Sunday meetings. I see the same behavior anytime there is a big activity at the schools -- cars parked in fire zones, in bus zones, in pickup zones. I saw something similar at the mall the other day.

My husband recalled an experience when living in England years ago. An irate man came into Sunday meetings one week, saying, "You Mormons did it again! You parked in front of my house!" Clearly this was not ok with him, and it was not doing a good thing for building a relationship of trust and mutual respect. Someone had the gall to accuse the man of false accusation. "How do you know it was us?" (It happened every week on Sunday at the same time. It doesn't take much to see these kinds of patterns.) Not cool.

President Monson spoke today about how part of the reason we have a temple in Frieberg, Germany, is because the government had been watching the Church for a long time, and felt that the Church was a trustworthy institution, thus granting the wishes presented.

I thought about our friends, watching us as Mormons here, seeing an obvious disconnect between what we believe and what we do. I think about that man, watching Mormons each week showing blatant disregard and disrespect.

And I many people are watching us and not liking what they see?

I'm the first to want to jump to our defense with sweeping generalizations and stereotypical slurs against Mormons. That said, this pattern is something that shows some evidence of something amiss. Is is arrogance? A sense of entitlement? Thinking that little things don't matter?

I imagine someone not of our faith who sees such "little things" as being evidence of something bigger. I imagine that someone coming into our parking lot today, when most people know that we are attending the dedication of a building we consider most sacred. And I imagine that person driving away, perhaps never to come back, seeing such a blatant and obvious and repeated disregard for the law.

Yes, I know I'm getting preachy here. But I believe people ARE watching. And I believe integrity demands that even in the little things, we strive to truly be honest in all we do. It's what we covenant to do.

"At all times, and in all things, and in all places," friends. Even in parking lots. Even when we are in a hurry. (Note to self, as one who tends to have a lead foot.) We can do better. We need to do better.


"When members don’t live the teachings, it can be a stumbling block to those who do not belong to the Church."

-Elder Quentin L. Cook, "Our Father's Plan -- Big Enough for All of His Children"

Friday, August 07, 2009

Random Thoughts

I just added a bunch of friends, all of whom I have met through blogging. For all that I have a love/hate relationship with blogging (sometimes I have let it suck too much of my time and focus), it has really changed my life in so many wonderful ways. And one of the greatest impacts it has had has been allowing me to connect with some Really. Amazing. Women.


I am down to less than two weeks until school starts and I am feeling so sad. My list of all the wonderful things we were going to do (no, really, THIS summer we were gonna tackle them) seems so terribly un-checked-off.

My mind goes back to Young Women's days, when I was tortured by the goals I set and never accomplished as I would have liked to, when my leaders had to finally help me see that I was already accomplishing much in my life. That just because my life and my lists didn't match up perfectly didn't mean I was a big failure.

Sometimes I wish I had a leader to sit me down and tell me that same thing now. Sometimes it makes me want to get rid of the lists.

We did make it to the library this week, though.

But then I think -- why does the list need to involve GOING somewhere in order to be legitimate? Sometimes I wonder if there is an unwritten something that makes us all think that motherhood is about doing stuff that is tangible and list-able. Maybe sometimes (more often than not?) it's not. So much of it is just about being here, isn't it?

And that's some of what is interesting, too, about summer. I feel more than ever during these weeks and months that a key part of my role is just to be here. To facilitate the flow of life. To help, to answer questions, to keep tabs on who is where (and, on good days, on who needs to do what -- I shouldn't tell you how many times we have forgotten Webelos. Sigh), to call out "Who's dat?" whenever I hear the door open, to smile and hand out snacks when friends come....

It's no wonder some of those to-dos don't get done, because there are so few actual stretches of uninterrupted time!

(I am going to cut myself some slack, too, because I feel yucky most of the time. These last few months have been HARD. Migraines stink.)


Hubby is busy busy busy. We look forward to things maybe calming down here in a week or two. Or not. Does it ever really calm down?

Hm. Better go for not.


I haven't even written about how I have not attended my ward this year (or I wrote and forgot). (Health issues and early (EARLY!) schedule didn't work together.) With the ward boundary changes that happened, I have actually attend this other ward for longer than I was with my own ward.

I get to give a talk next week on the temple. I look forward to it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bound by Time (or When Not To Be?)

We had a lesson on the temple today in Relief Society, using the General Conference talks from Elder Bednar and Elder Scott.

Perhaps you recall the list of suggestions Elder Scott had, including the one to remove your watch while in the temple.

Now, when I first heard this counsel, I was a little concerned about how I could really follow it, because by definition and circumstance (late sleeper-inner, kids need to be picked up from school -- I'm squeezed in from both sides). But I have heard some great stories of people giving it a try (even a temple worker!) and having great experiences doing so.

But this isn't actually a post about removing your watch at the temple (although, of course, I think it's good counsel). It's about the thread I noticed in a good chunk of his counsel.

It had to do with time.

He talked of scheduling carefully. Of leaving sufficient time so that we are unhurried when in the temple. Of removing your watch.

And I recalled something from my patriarchal blessing that often rings in my mind -- the reminder that "the Lord is not bound by time as we are."

And that made me see Elder Scott's counsel in a different light. I understand at one level why he encourages us to not be we can enjoy what is going on, and don't rush through the experience lest we miss spiritual experiences.

But perhaps it's also to help us get into a different mode...not bound by time, as God is not.

Most of the time, we have to be bound to time to function in this world. And of course, even in our gospel living, time is of the essence. But by scheduling carefully, trying not to be rushed, and removing our watches, might we be trying to let time go for a

I dunno. It struck me as something to think about.

What think ye?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Debunking assumptions about bankruptcies in Utah

It's been a crazy few months in m&m land, but I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

I've had lots of posts swimming in my head, but not a lot of time to sit down and write them.

And I have to go get the van registered, so again, time is limited.

But I wanted to link to this article that I just read today. I love studies that debunk the bad rap Utah sometimes gets when stats are thrown around with the assumption that any bad stat must be because of Mormonism (like antidepressant use, or in this case, bankruptcies). Fun to see a name I recognize from the 'nacle, too (Frank McIntyre). Thanks for your work.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Giveaways keep on giving! (more LDS News apps available!)

Just wanted to follow up on the giveaways going on.

First of all, for the LDS News app, I still have two people who have not let me know how to contact them. Please email me!

I also have FOUR MORE apps I can give away. First four commenters will win a free copy. (Please, though, if you want to be considered, be sure there is a way I can contact you -- either leave your email address in your comment, or comment and then send me an email to my address listed in my header.)

Also, if you didn't get a comment into the free food storage giveaway, from Shelf Reliance, you still have this week to enter.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

'Nother Giveaway.... (this one for food storage fans)

Since I was in giveaway mode already, I thought I would link to another giveaway (one I would love to enter). If you are into food storage, this would be worth entering -- it's for six #10 cans of Shelf Reliance food products. Not bad!

(Be sure to comment over there and not here.)

Monday, June 01, 2009

MTC protocol changes!

For any of you who has been on a mission and had the ritual send-off experience ("Families, go through that door, missionaries through this door), this story might be of interest to you. Because of swine flu infection at the MTC, they have changed it's just going to be a curbside dropoff. And it sounds like it will stay like that.

I wonder if that means parents will dread the MTC experience less or more now. I found it all rather intense to have all that buildup before the final separation. Might be better to just get in and be done with it and let the missionary get on with the exciting journey.


GIVEAWAY! Integrated LDS News for iPhone and iPod Touch

My friend has a brand new product for sale in the iTunes store, and has given me a few freebies to give away. Soooooo...the first five commenters with valid email addresses will get this awesome new product (I will email you a redemption code that will enable you to access your free copy of this application). The quick summary from the info website says:

"LDS News is an RSS news reader supporting feeds from multiple sources plus provides easy access to the three Church YouTube Channels as well as integrated YouTube support for Home Page video releases."

The application enables you to choose from 17 different feeds (various news feeds, YouTube updates, daily gems....) The application caches the items you have chosen so they load quickly, and keeps track of what you have already read/watched. You can arrange selected services in the order you prefer. You can also easily email content to others.

More details -- including a list of the 17 feeds available, more screen shots, and the technical features of the application -- can be found here.

Ready, set, GO!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Even if you aren't a Dr. Laura fan....

(yes, I'm in a blog spurt mode today)

Whether or not you like Dr. Laura, I think good principles are worth sharing, and this post to me is worth sharing.

The power of truth is real. It's what is my quest in my personal life right now. I wish I had understood more of the principles she talks about years ago.

Better late than never, though.

Amazing post

This post, by my dear friend, Michelle, is worth the time. Read when you have a few minutes to ponder. (And have a tissue handy; you might need it.)

Truman Madsen passes away

Just in case you hadn't heard....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whoa -- it's no wonder prophets talk about the importance of education

We live in a world that is mind-boggling. Check this out.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

With apologies to Victor Hugo

My children came home from school with hands behind their backs, and light bouncing in their eyes.

"My teacher said I could choose whether to give you your present now or wait until Sunday. Can I give it to you now?"

I settled down to receive these precious presents...a homemade card, complete with an original poem (he honestly used a word I have never used before -- I didn't even know what it meant) and a priceless personal message; a book of quotes and a 'bouquet' of flowers with love notes and coupons written on them; a beautiful, glazed tile with a big, pink heart in the center, all wrapped up in a decorated bag (#3 decided she wanted to rewrap it all and give it to me again on The Day, so I have been instructed to forget that I ever saw anything from her).

The thought I had tonight, at the end of a hard day, is this:

To be loved by a child is to feel the love of God. (And yes, now I have Les Mes songs ringing through my head....)

Mother's Day Program

I didn't realize how stressed I would be about doing the Mother's Day program (I create them each week) until it was on top of me. The bishop had asked me to include some quotes about Mother's Day, and, well, you know, being on the bloggernacle has helped me appreciate all the more what a sensitive topic it is.

After a lot of mulling and reading and praying, I chose the following quotes:

[W]hen we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” October 2008 General Conference)

The theme was on charity, especially as it relates to mothers, and that was one of the talks that the bishopric had assigned. I loved that talk.

Every girl and woman who makes and keeps sacred covenants can have a mother heart. There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities. (Sister Julie B. Beck, “A Mother Heart”)

I love Sister Beck. She has such a firm grasp on the doctrine, and a powerful testimony of it. Sister Beck has such a clarity in her teaching, and a powerful testimony of doctrine. As I read her talk, and the classic talk from which I quoted from Sister Dew (see below), I felt the Spirit so strongly. The doctrine surrounding our importance as women (not just those with children, but ALL women) is so powerful.

And I was moved to tears by this from Elder Holland:
Moved by [your] devotion and determination, may I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well....

Yours is the grand tradition of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel, without whom there could not have been those magnificent patriarchal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which bless us all. Yours is the grand tradition of Eve, the mother of all the human family, the one who understood that she and Adam had to fall in order that “men [and women] might be” and that there would be joy. Yours is the grand tradition of Lois and Eunice and the mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors. Yours is the grand tradition of Mary, chosen and foreordained from before this world was, to conceive, carry, and bear the Son of God Himself. We thank all of you, including our own mothers....

When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, “pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,” that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.

You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.

Remember, remember all the days of your motherhood: “Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.”

Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.” You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even — no, especially — when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” And it will make your children whole as well. (Elder Holland, “Because She is a Mother”)

One of the things I loved about this talk from Elder Holland is that he acknowledges how difficult motherhood is. He reminds us that we cannot do it alone, nor should we try. The guilt that we often feel when we fall short can be swallowed up in the hope of the message of the Atonement. That is what moved me the most -- the reminder that we were never supposed to be able to figure this out alone, and we shouldn't expect that we can just do it and never make mistakes. Motherhood is something that can help us learn to lean on the Lord.

(I sure needed that tonite, myself, actually! It's hard to be so imperfect with something that matters so much.)

I wanted to be sure to include some quotes that capture the importance of all women in God's plan. My heart goes out to women who want to be mothers but do not have that opportunity right now. I know that sometimes even the promises of blessings in the next life don't seem to really compensate for the blessings missed now. I don't know what to say, except that I feel the Spirit when I study that doctrine, and I hope someday it can bring you peace.

I also hope that we can all as women understand that no matter our current situation, we can be instruments in God's hands for the good of His children. We all have the stewardship to be "mother[s] of all living."

When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” —and they did so before she ever bore a child....Every one of us can show by word and by deed that the work of women in the Lord’s kingdom is magnificent and holy....[O]ur calling is to love and help lead the rising generation through the dangerous streets of mortality. (Sister Sheri L. Dew, "Are We Not All Mothers?")

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fear vs. Faith

I try not to worry, but I do. I worry about a lot. I have basically been a worrier all my life. It's kind of wired in me to worry.

There are lots of things weighing on me right now, and I'll admit that the flu thing is one of them. The potential of what could happen freaks me out. It could just pass, but it could be big. It could not affect me personally, or it could.

We are told that if we are prepared, we don't need to fear. When it comes to natural disasters and things like a possible pandemic, there are things we can do. Right now, I'm seeing people discussing disease prevention and hunker-down prep, and that's good. There is much that we can do to prepare physically - have food and supplies on hand, wash hands often, etc. (The church even has fact sheets on pandemic prep and illness prevention.)

But you know, if this turns into a pandemic, even the healthiest, best-prepared people might get sick. And some even might die. In fact, of course, some people already have gotten sick and even died, and some of them were probably really good people. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and so does illness. Sometimes I wonder if we sometimes think that we have more control over life than we really do. God is still in charge. That doesn't mean we should stop temporal preparedness efforts, but I think there's more.

While I think a lot about physical preparedness, I am also working to increase my stores of faith, and to teach my children about that principle. In the end, all the food and supplies and masks alone won't help me truly be at peace, not at the core. Being prepared to the point of not being afraid for me takes more than food storage and hand washing and 72-hour kits in my closet, as important as these things can be.

It takes faith.

Most of us have thought about how to prepare for storms. We have seen and felt the suffering of women, men, and children, and of the aged and the weak, caught in hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, and droughts. One reaction is to ask, “How can I be prepared?” And there is a rush to buy and put away whatever people think they might need for the day they might face such calamities.

But there is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can’t be bought. It can’t be borrowed. It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.

What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation. - then-Elder Eyring

At one level, I have always known this, but I'm feeling my faith being stretched in new ways, different ways, many ways -- at the personal level, and also as I consider the challenges we face at the global level.

Below, I review some of the talks from conference as I ponder fear vs. faith.

Pres. Monson:
It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives....The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.”

...My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.

I am reviewing conference talks to help fill my stores of faith. From Elder Andersen's "You Know Enough" talk:

Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time.

I'm going through a hard time personally right now, and it makes it all the harder to have things globally feel so uncertain, so frightening. My mind plays out what-if scenarios (worst case, usually). I find no peace alone. And so I cling to words of truth, and hope they will wash over me, bring me peace.

And yet, I know that it's all a process, too. Just as we can't build up a year's supply in an instant, our spiritual reserves are built upon gradually, over a lifetime. But I feel the urgent need to be doing all I can to keep letting the Spirit guide me, rather than to let fear dominate me.

Pres Uchtdorf: Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.

Too often we approach the gospel like a farmer who places a seed in the ground in the morning and expects corn on the cob by the afternoon. When Alma compared the word of God to a seed, he explained that the seed grows into a fruit-bearing tree gradually, as a result of our “faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.” It’s true that some blessings come right away: soon after we plant the seed in our hearts, it begins to swell and sprout and grow, and by this we know that the seed is good. From the very moment we set foot upon the pathway of discipleship, seen and unseen blessings from God begin to attend us.

But we cannot receive the fulness of those blessings if we “neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment.”7

Knowing that the seed is good is not enough. We must “nourish it with great care, that it may get root.”8 Only then can we partake of the fruit that is “sweet above all that is sweet, and . . . pure above all that is pure” and “feast upon this fruit even until [we] are filled, that [we] hunger not, neither shall [we] thirst.”

It's sobering to realize that I cannot rely on others for my supply. I can and must rely on the Lord.

When the winds blow and the rains pour, they blow and pour on all. Those who have built their foundations on bedrock rather than sand survive the storms.1 There is a way to build on bedrock by developing a deep personal conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing how to receive inspiration. We must know—and know that we know. We must stand spiritually and temporally independent of all worldly creatures. Elder Allan Packer

I KNOW that the Church is true, the scriptures are true, that this work we are about is real. But I'm feeling the need to deepen my roots of faith.

And as I even do a simple glance at the conference talk titles, it's clear that we are being reminded of the need for real, deep faith. It is that faith that brings lasting, real peace.

[W]hen adversity arrives in our lives, the only true source of comfort is God. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27) - Elder Rafael E. Pino

Just saw this from Pres. Uchtdorf as well:
When we hear the transcendent truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope and faith begin to blossom inside of us.5 The more we fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ, the greater our desire is to follow Him and live His teachings. This, in turn, causes our faith to grow and allows the light of Christ to illuminate our hearts. As it does, we recognize the imperfections in our lives, and we desire to be cleansed of the depressing burdens of sin. We yearn for freedom from guilt, and this inspires us to repent.

I have to say that that cycle of realizing weakness and imperfection is a hard one for me. But it is good to be reminded that that is part of the journey of faith.

That's all for now, but it's good for me to reflect on these wise words of counsel, encouragement, and truth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Let it wash over you"


Life is very interesting, and quite challenging for me right now. I have already written much about my health struggles. They are my resistance training, which is why I write so often about them. (When we build muscles, we have to break them down to build them. I feel like I'm in the spiritual gym a lot these days!)

Recently, things have been worse, as I have had migraines that keep coming (or maybe A migraine that has never left). I have already written a little about that, too.

This last weekend, I got another one. I wasn't as angry as I was before, but I was deeply discouraged. And afraid. And feeling lost as to what to do. I was trying not to feel hopeless, but I did.

Once again, as the week before, I found myself in my bed, crying and praying. I needed help and guidance. I didn't even know where to start. I wasn't even sure what to ask (a favorite scripture comes to mind). I shared all of this with Heavenly Father.

My dear husband came up and listened for a while. He counseled with me, and I with him.

"I feel like everything I do is wrong!" (Migraines had hit after doing good going to a family Easter dinner, serving my family. One even hit after lying in bed reading my scriptures, even before I had done anything else.)

"Is that really what you are feeling?" hubby asked.

No. I knew that the Spirit wasn't saying I was doing everything wrong. But I felt within myself that I was. (Hence, my hopeless feelings.)

But my husband kept listening while I sorted things out, out loud. (I am a very verbal sorter-outer, as those who know me know.)

After a while, I started to talk about things I could do to make some changes. A peace settled over the conversation, and my husband identified it. He could sense the change in my demeanor, my voice, my emotion level.

And he helped me realize I was getting answers. I was getting answers!

I called a friend, and the conversation I had solidified that I was heading in the right direction. I cannot thank my friend enough, and I cannot possibly capture it all here, but I will say this:

God heard, and answered. Again. I was in the dark, and He gave me some light.

I recalled a conversation I had last week with a friend. I had shared my many mini miracles experience, where I received a clear message about God's love.

She wisely noted, "But you don't fully believe it, do you?"

And then she said something that has stuck with me.

"Let it wash over you, Michelle."

I know intellectually that God loves me, loves us, loves His children. But for so much of my life, when things have gone wrong, when I have goofed, I have gone to a place in my mind, a dark place of shame and personal criticism. I am coming to recognize more fully and quickly that this isn't truth, but I know I need the Lord's help to change my mind and heart, to let the truth of His love and mercy wash over me.

Of course, the truth of His love and mercy doesn't absolve me of responsibility, doesn't give me permission to slack off and sin. But I think I am at the extreme end, trying still to earn my salvation alone, on my own merits, with my own spiritual résumé (which, of course, is pretty thin -- after all, I am mortal!)

The scripture that has come to mind today is Alma 42:30:

Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God [after all, I shouldn't justify sins; that said, I'm still mulling over the difference between sins and mistakes]; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

I felt like I was face-down in the dust for a while there on Sunday, gritty teeth and all, struggling for breath. That's not it, though. He doesn't want me choking on the dust! I realized that as I started to feel the power of humility as answers and TRUTH started distilling about why I need to be humble: because God loves me and wants to help me. And I need to let those truths wash over me. I need to figure out better how to let Him. To make space for Him and His love in my life. To not be afraid of not being able to do it all on my own, because that isn't the plan. Or that isn't how to access the power of God's perfect justice and mercy -- the power of the plan.

Lots to mull over. Will probably post more as I continue to sort through it all....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When Innocence and Tax Season Collide

#3 is a bundle of wonder, energy, love, compassion, and faith. Lately, she has been praying in a tender and precious way -- thanking Heavenly Father individually for each member of the family. "I'm thankful for brother because...." Her prayers are actually long. They are heartfelt. They nearly take my breath away.

(The fact that her siblings listen intently and patiently, and melt afterwards with hugs and love takes my breath away, too.) [Yeah, can you tell I'm in love with my kids?]

This past week, she thanked Father for her dad. It went something like this:

"Thank thee for Dad, that he works so hard for us so we can have a house, and a life that is easy --"

[I am thinking, "What a blessing that even with the challenges of our life, with Mom having health stuff and all, that she feels her life is easy....]

In the same breath, she finishes her thought with this:

"-- except for taxes, cuz they are hard."

Ah, the wisdom of little ones. :)

When it Rains it Pours

We really, really like the rain. We were loving the pounding against our roof yesterday. We loved watching the big drops splash in the street.

We loved it, that is, until the rain decided to enter our entry way.

I am so grateful I heard something before I went to bed (although disappointed that my efforts to go to bed early were thwarted...trying to get these headaches under control). The antique buffet, still moved away from the wall from our earlier leak problems (we've had workers come out three times to fix the problem -- but if anything, things are worse), was getting dripped on. I caught it before it really became disastrous (the water had not yet entered the drawer or cabinet where pictures are stored, and was still on the surface enough to be quickly dried off, and it hadn't taken over the floor yet).

Hubby was already in bed. I got a big bucket for the new leak, and arranged some more towels around the other bucket to trap the water streaming rapidly down the wall.

I jumped online to see what time it was in Australia; the only people I knew with a ladder I could use at that time of night were in Australia vacationing! I got their permission to use their spare key that we happen to have to get their ladder. (Yeah, well, what do you do at midnight?)

I reluctantly woke my husband. We managed to get some holes punched in our vaulted entryway ceiling so the water doesn't pool behind the paint and do more hidden damage.

I woke up this morning to a LOT of water in that big bucket. And the realization that we are going to have to replace our roof. But with the realization that things could have been a lot worse had this happened while we were sleeping.


Life stays interesting.

BTW, my good husband's first action was to pray. He prayed that a miracle might come about, that the rain might stop over our house.

It is now snowing.

[p.s. That IS a blessing, because it slows the direct flow of water. Right now, there is no dripping, and no stream of water down our wall. So the blessing came in a different form, but I'm still gonna count it as a blessing.]

Monday, April 13, 2009

From Migraine, to Mad-ness, to Many Mini-Miracles

I haven't been in blogging mode much lately for a couple of reasons. One is that I am trying to do less on the 'puter when my almost-edible chillens are home and awake, and another is that I have had some monster headaches the past few weeks. But most of the time, I sorta just do my best to do what I have to do. Unless I get the classic migraine aura thing going on, then I stop.

I had grand plans of spending some good time with my aforementioned precious ones this week, since it's spring break. I was up for a whole two minutes when I got an aura today. And I was mad. Hopping mad. Like the kind of mad-that-is-bad-for-your-spirit mad. I had even just prayed specifically to avoid *that* kind of migraine so I could take my kids to see their out-of-town cousins, whom we didn't get to see Saturday because of their dad's headache (yeah, we are quite a pair, I know).

I got my meds in me and went promptly to my bed, where I pouted, and vented (I really am trying to do less of this -- it's often that same kind of not-good-for-my-spirit kind of thing), and prayed, and sobbed until perhaps I could sob no more. (That probably isn't the best thing to do with a migraine, but it did provide its own kind of relief.)

And, did I mention that I prayed? A that kind of way where I am stumped and feeling stuck and feeling hopeless and afraid and wanting to quit.

And as my day comes to a close, I look back and I can see the miracles.

-Hubby was home, and was well enough to help a little. He also did a lot of listening while I vented. Even though my venting probably gives him a headache.

-So did a dear, dear friend, who not only listened, but sobbed with me, and told me she wished she could take it away, and wished she could fix it, but knew she couldn't, and because she knew that, she was a great sounding board in thinking through what I might need to be learning through all of this. (If you are reading, thank you. I love you, friend. So much. You are such a blessing in my life.)

-My kids, as usual, were amazing and kind and compassionate and caring. But they also had friends to play with all day. So mom being in bed all day wasn't so bad.

-And then I got a message from a friend from whom I haven't heard for quite a while. And her love and concern, even without knowing what kind of day (month) I was (am) having, was so evident, and so needed today.

-And then my sis called, and we talked for quite a while in a way-that-is-really-good-for-my-spirit kind of way, and she reminded me why I don't quit, and why I never will -- because the Savior is there, and because I want to be there with Him.

-And then I found a message from a Relief Society president who said she just kept thinking about me today. And I haven't seen her for weeks.

-And to finish the day, another friend posted one of my fave quotes ever:

"Each of us will have our own Fridays - those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

"But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death - Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

"No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or in the next, Sunday will come." (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov. 2006, page 30 )

And then, as I mulled over all of this, the thought came loud and clear: God wasn't mad at me, even though I got mad, and even though I pouted, and even though I doubted, and even though I vented. He sent many miracles today, through the love and simple efforts of numerous people, and by so doing, reminded me of this pure and perfect and powerful truth: He loves me.

As Elder Holland and Pres. Eyring recently testified, I realized that I was not alone, even though I felt alone.

I know answers to prayers sent to heaven from our times of deep pain are not always answered as quickly as mine were today. I have many, many of those prayers, too. They also aren't always answered as we want them to be (my head still really hurts, and probably will for days, even weeks to come, and that is hard). But I have had enough experiences like this, where I have cried out in my extremity, and I have seen His loving hand enter my life in ways that continue to amaze me. In His own way and time, He lets me know time and time again that He Is There.

I go to bed still with a headache, but with a full and grateful heart.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Stats on Online Activity Around General Conference Time

Thought this was interesting.... (I love LDS Media Talk's blog!)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Companies hiring right now plus other employment links

There is much to reflect on after Conference, but I was moved to hear about Bishop Edgley's talk and the responsibility we have to help people who need to find work, I wanted to post this link that I saw when I opened one of my rarely-used browsers.

Apparently, there are several big-name companies who are hiring right now. I figured it might be worth posting.

Also, here are some other links aimed toward LDS Employment, networking, etc. Please share links and resources of which you are aware.

The Church's employment site, which includes job postings, job search hints and tips, resources for those serving in LDS Employment Resources callings, and more.

Networking tips from LDS Employment services

A Facebook group for Stake and Ward LDS Employment Specialists

And for someone who might be interested in a service internship with LDS Employment services, I found this

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mommy Moments

Sunday, for over an hour, #3 turned all of her communication into song. (she is nothing if not a determined little soul, and if you know her, you can picture this, I'm sure). My favorite part of the experience, though, was when she sang about how much she loved everyone in the family, and included herself on the list. Then she sang about how everyone was her best friend, including herself. What more could a mom ask for, really?


#2 was having a hard time with fasting. I thought I would try giving something to look forward to when she broke her fast, so I made bread Saturday night. I killed the yeast, even though I hoped up until the end that it would eventually work. It was too late (even by the standards of my crazy schedule) to make more.

I had to laugh, because she had just learned about making bread at Activity Days, so I could explain what I did wrong, and she understood. (Good teaching moment, right? Riiiiiight.)

All I could think about was this phrase from Pres. Uchtdorf's talk: "the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.” Seriously.

I did make honey butter for them to put on store-bought bread, though. Riiiiiight. Ah, well, there is always next month.


#1 was part of an awesome night celebrating our state. They sang a song that brought tears to my eyes. Utah gets a bad rap sometimes, but we really have an awesome heritage, and it was great to see these kids celebrating that. I also got to see him do the Virginia Reel. So cute. I was fascinated by the research the kids had done on different people from Utah history. Makes me want to get a book about the topic. (Any suggestions? *cough* Ardis? *cough*)


This last thing isn't a mommy moment per se, but I thought I would include it because it was so funny. I went to the story today for a quick run -- milk, juice, fruit, and a few ingredients for things I wanted to make in the next while. French bread was hot and fresh, so I decided tonite we would have stuffed manicotti.

When the checker gave me my total, it was for a ridiculous amount, given what I had in my cart. When I said it was impossible that the total could be that high, the checker said, "Let me look and tell you what ended up costing you so much." I think she thought I was overreacting. She then called the manager over to point out that the box of manicotti rang up at $200 instead of $2.00.

Whew. Glad I caught that one. hehe

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How I Love the Temple!

As we walked out of our church meetings, the satellite connection that would provide the Draper temple dedication services was already live. Music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was playing, along with beautiful photos from the inside and outside of temples.

And even that filled my heart with the Spirit.

I was thrilled that two of my three children were old enough to attend the dedication. My "baby" and I had our own special temple day; we went to a local temple, and she got to take pictures with a disposable camera that was all hers. We came home when the weather started to turn, and watched "The Mountain of the Lord" (one of my favorite Church videos) while eating popcorn and sipping hot chocolate.

For scripture study a couple of nights ago, we simply read and discussed these two quotes.

The temple is the house of the Lord. The basis for every temple ordinance and covenant—the heart of the plan of salvation—is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house. Our efforts to proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead all lead to the temple. Each holy temple stands as a symbol of our membership in the Church, as a sign of our faith in life after death, and as a sacred step toward eternal glory for us and our families. (Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 2001, 32)

Temples are the very center of the spiritual strength of the Church. We should expect that the adversary will try to interfere with us as a church and with us individually as we seek to participate in this sacred and inspired work. Temple work brings so much resistance because it is the source of so much spiritual power to the Latter-day Saints and to the entire Church. ...Pres. George Q. Cannon [said]: “Every foundation stone that is laid for a Temple, and every Temple completed according to the order the Lord has revealed for his holy Priesthood, lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness, moves the heavens in mighty power in our behalf, invokes and calls down upon us the blessings of the Eternal Gods, and those who reside in their presence” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” Ensign, Feb 1995, 32).

I am so grateful we have another temple to invoke those blessings and increase God's power on the earth.

Another thing that has really affected me this week is something my husband recently heard.

Our forebears had little money, and what did the Lord ask of them? To sacrifice their money (think of what it took to build those early temples).

We often find ourselves strapped for time, and what does the Lord ask of us? To sacrifice our time to go to the temple often.

He asks what is hard to give. I am determined to give more of my time to this marvelous work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Women on the Internet : Should the Church create a site for women?

This post was really interesting. I wanted to bring it to your attention if you hadn't seen it.

What do you think? Should the Church venture into creating a site focused on helping meet the needs of women online?

Just seeing the numbers for the traffic that go to other sites, and knowing how much women like to connect in this way, I'm thinking it may not be a bad idea to consider...especially given how much our teachings help support women in their roles and responsibilities.

That said, there are many sites that already exist toward this end. But there aren't any of which I am aware that bring the kind of traffic shown on that table.

My vote is that this would be worth looking into. What's your vote?

(Share your thoughts over at LDS Media Talk's blog!)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Thoughts on Gender Roles as Taught in the Proclamation

I just wrote a too-long comment on another blog, and decided I wanted to share my thoughts here as well. (Actually, it was two comments, so that's not so bad, right? hehe)

The conversation was about traditional roles as taught in the Proclamation to the World on the Family. Some argue that teaching the ideals of husband as provider and presider and wife as primary nurturer really aren't necessary, since the Proclamation leaves room for individual adaptation. And we all know that our leaders have talked about how family decisions are ultimately their to make.

Someone asks:

"But if it really is all about individual adaptation and nuance (which I wholeheartedly wish it would be), why bother delineating it?"

And someone else said, "It's all about individual circumstances."

And here are my thoughts in response:

IMO, these two statements to me illustrate perfectly why we have the Proclamation. It *isn’t* all about individual circumstances. Those only come once we know the doctrine and teachings and ideals. If our leaders did was say, “do whatever you want,” we *would* lose sight of the ideal, the pattern.

Elder Holland’s talk last year in the WW leadership broadcast, in my view, is one of the best I have ever heard on this topic.

The gospel (and the Church’s role) is first about doctrine, standards, and principles that don’t change (even if and when exceptions clearly exist). Those ideals need to be clearly articulated for people to truly make their choices. We can’t fully exercise agency without knowledge and understanding of truth.

BTW, I know too many women, too, whose husbands are not fulfilling those basic roles. IMO, every woman deserves to have her husband at least be willing and prepared to do what he can to provide the possibility for her to be home with her children. If individual circumstances vary from that ideal, then that's between a couple and heaven. But if those standards don't continue to be taught, I fear that more women will be forced to work when they don't want to. That's beyond individual adaptation. That's just plain wrong in my view. And it actually removes agency from the woman, and perhaps could mean that incorrect principles are perpetuated for generations to come.

BTW, I'm not men-bashing here. I know there are a lot of good men out there who know what it means to preside and provide, and take caring for their family seriously. But, imo, in the end, a family can't fully function, and a woman can't fully develop and fly, unless the man is willing and prepared to do all he can to fulfill those basic roles.

On another note, as a woman who is more "naturally" suited in many ways to my career that I had before marriage and children, I am also extremely grateful for the teachings of prophets, because it was only in actually taking that leap of faith in choosing SAHMhood that I discovered that that really was something I could do. And something that I have grown to love doing. It's the hardest thing I have ever done. I still have found ways to keep my pre-Mom self alive, and I am a fan of that. But because of the ideals that are taught, I have discovered more about who I am.

I listened to an interview with Kathy Soper yesterday. She said something that I found profound. The thought was something along these lines: When women discover the mother within them (and that *is* a process for most *doesn't* just happen or come naturally for many of us), they discover the divinity within them.

I have found this to be true. And so, again, I say thank heaven for prophets who teach us true and lasting principles. And then who also recognize the importance of agency *after* teaching those principles.

As the saying goes, all things must be done in order....

p.s. IMO, I can't help but think that one reason these teachings are sometimes misunderstood is that sometimes people think they describe what we should all be born with. But if that doesn't apply for any other gospel ideal (minus those few situations where someone may truly have a gift they don't have to work and pray and sweat to obtain), why should these ideals be any different?

Ten years into motherhood, I feel like I am becoming more of a nurturer. This is not about a checklist of tasks, but about what choosing to fulfill this role, with faith even though it didn't come naturally, is doing to my heart and spirit.

These ideals, imo, are about becoming, but we too often want to reduce them to just about doing.

[I should add that that this whole notion of finding divinity within through growing into motherhood doesn't mean there aren't other ways to discover that divinity as well...through creation and compassion, for example.) But I think sometimes women think, "Well, nurturing doesn't come naturally for me, therefore, I must not be destined to do it." And I think this is often something that causes women to miss opportunities to find that divinity within by taking a leap of faith on this issue. Again, ultimately, God can and will guide with individual lives, but let's not dismiss the principle and ideal just because it may not all come naturally or easily to some of us, or because maybe not all lives fit the ideal.

I will always love this scripture: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine...." Having chosen motherhood in faith, I can testify to this principle. Don't assume that because it doesn't come naturally that you can't or shouldn't do it.]