Friday, November 9, 2012

Another short thought on the political scene...

I promised I wouldn't post anything more political on my other blog, but I made no promises here...bwa ha ha.

I love this verse from Joseph Smith History. It's verse 6:
"A scene of great confusion and bad feeling that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions."
It's so easy to fall into this trap. I have been doing much thinking about how to avoid it, and in the middle of all of these very musings, I sank into the trap myself. I found myself thinking about a candidate for public office, making comments to myself about how untrustworthy he was and how I distrusted him, dwelling on a small lie he had told that I thought showed a lack of character. And then, whammy, I caught myself.

I was a little shocked to discover that I could be WRITING and TALKING about how to be kind and reasonable in our public discourse while internally I was criticizing and labeling.

Pot, kettle, dark color, whatever. It's me, too.

We are to learn to act and not to be acted upon (2 Ne 2:26). It's hard work. We have to be vigilant in our words and even in our minds. It's one thing to note facts and opinions so we can be informed, but another to cast aspersions about people, whether politicians, school officials, neighbors, or family members.

I want to build good feelings, not lose them in a "strife of words and a contest about opinions." It's not as fun as being snarky, but it's a whole lot more rewarding.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Can Forgive and We Can Repent

“That’s why I don’t take this very seriously down here. We’re just sort of dabbling around, playing around, being tested for our moral qualities, and above all the two things we can be good at, and no two other things can we do: We can forgive and we can repent. It’s the gospel of repentance. We’re told that the angels envy men their ability both to forgive and to repent, because they can’t do either, you see. But nobody’s very clever, nobody’s very brave, nobody’s very strong, nobody’s very wise. We’re all pretty stupid, you see. Nobody’s very anything. We’re not tested in those things. But the things the angels envy us for, we can forgive and we can repent.” (Hugh Nibley, “The Faith of an Observer”)

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Back in April 2010, I wrote a post based on my thoughts on Elder Holland's talk For Times of Trouble. I was struggling (as I often have) with my weaknesses and feelings of despair.  Here is some of Elder Holland's wise counsel and how I decided to follow it:

Immerse yourself in the scriptures. You will find your own experiences described there. You will find spirit and strength there. You will find solutions and counsel. Nephi says, “The words of Christ will tell you all things [that] you should do” (2 Ne. 32:3).

Pray earnestly and fast with purpose and devotion. Some difficulties, like devils, come not out “save by fasting and by prayer.”

Serve others. The heavenly paradox is that only in so doing can you save yourself.

Be patient. As Robert Frost said, with many things the only way out is through. Keep moving. Keep trying.

Have faith. “Has the day of miracles ceased?

“Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

“Behold I say unto you, Nay; for … it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men.” (Moro. 7:35–37.)
I'm going to keep working, keep trying. I'm going to study the scriptures. I'm going to fast weekly for the next few weeks. I've done it in the past when I've needed extra spiritual strength, and it is a sweet way to grow closer to Heavenly Father, and a wonderful way to grow stronger. I'm going to choose to have faith that Heavenly Father can make my weaknesses strengths so that I can serve Him better. I'm finding that choosing to have faith is both easier and harder than I ever thought it would be. Sometimes I make the very conscious choice to say, "I have faith. I believe that Heavenly Father can help me change" and to really believe it.

It's been over a year since I made this commitment, and what a year it has been.  This is some of what has taken place:

  • My little brother died in a tragic drowning accident.
  • My piano teacher died.
  • Along with these deaths, we were touched by the deaths of 6 other people, all within 2 months of my brother's death.
  • Finances were a major source of discouragement.
  • Thing after thing after thing broke down in our home and in our cars.
  • Our dog kept getting older (as living things tend to do. What's that about?) and has created much of a most disgusting nature. I will spare you details. Be grateful.
  • I felt inspired to prepare for an audition for the doctoral program in piano at our nearest university, which meant I practiced 2-5 hours a day for 6 months. And then I didn't get in.
  • Depression.
  • My hard drive died and we lost 2 1/2 years of pictures, writing and financial information.
  • I had important relationships fall apart completely.
  • So much sickness. Seriously. We were sick for months.
  • Devastating things happened that I can't talk about publicly, but which have changed relationships, my perceptions of the world and those around me, and which cannot be resolved in any quick or easy way.
Those are the major issues, but of course there were minor ones, too, which added to the daily stress.

Why do I reference all this negativity?  Because I survived.  Not only have I survived, but I've survived with more peace than I ever would have expected.  And I see the hand of God in my survival, in my peace, in the lessons I've learned.

This is the result of my experiment, based on Elder Holland's talk:

1.   "Immerse yourself in the scriptures."  A short time after I made the commitment to try these things, I came across a new idea for studying scriptures. Basically, you go to the scriptures with a question and read until you feel the spirit testify the answer to you.  This was life-changing for me.  I have had more exact answers to questions than I ever dreamed possible.  I knew when the Lord was directing my path and that He was mindful of me and my family.

2.  "Pray earnestly and fast with purpose and devotion."  I tried to have more kneeling and vocal prayers.  I prayed more frequently.  And I've fasted almost every Sunday since April of 2010.  I've fasted for help, for relief, and mostly for others.  I've learned to do better at doing an almost-24-hour fast.  Maybe one day I'll be as good as my mother-in-law at doing an actual-24-hour fast, but at least I'm doing better.  I have had weeks where David's told me I had to eat so I wouldn't be so grumpy, but overall, I've had some amazing experiences.

3.  "Serve others."  My mom told me she was worried that I was losing myself in my practicing, that I was failing to see the needs of others.  I worried that, too.  I started to pay more attention to the needs of those around me, and found that I was stretched to be able to help.  Some days I was so exhausted I didn't do a great job, but I had more joy when I watched for chances to help.  I still have a way to go on this one.

4.  "Be patient."  This is HARD.  HARD HARD HARD.  I found a quote last summer from Winston Churchill: "If you're going through hell, keep going."  Well, I kept going.  Through new hell after new hell.  I admit to having a few pity parties on the path through, and I know I have been less patient than I might have been.  But overall, when I don't know where the money for the mortgage payment is coming from and I want to scratch my eyes out from fighting children and I don't understand how so much could go wrong, I've learned to make cookies, turn on music, say another prayer, and wait for the hand of the Lord.  We haven't missed a mortgage payment yet, one of the relationships that seemed destroyed for good has been redeemed, and my cookies have improved dramatically.  I have had to stop eating them because they made me gain 6 pounds, but they've helped my patience level.

5.  "Have faith."  Do I have faith?  Yes.  Do I believe in an all-knowing, loving God?  Yes.  Do I know why He allows some things to happen?  No.  Do I believe differently than I used to?  Absolutely yes.  I used to have an "a + b = c" kind of faith.  I thought if I did "a + b", then God would give me "c."  "C" of course was a happy life with great relationships, plenty of money for wants and needs, peace of mind, and an easy road out of all trials.  Yup.  That's not how it works.  Pretty much I now believe that if I do "a + b," there are no guarantees.  Doing is important, but perceiving is even more important.  Choice is important.  Trust is important.  And knowing God allows us our agency, even though it creates so much pain, is important.  And the miracle I've experienced is the miracle of a changed heart.

Heavenly Father asks us to experiment on His word, that if we plant a seed and nourish it, we'll know whether or not it's true based on how it grows.  This is what has grown in my heart:

  • Peace.  When the world has fallen apart around me, when I didn't get in to the DMA program, when people have disappointed me and torn apart our world, when I wasn't sure how to keep going on one more day, I've often been able to feel the most extreme peace.  Not always.  Some times I despaired.  But at the worst of times, I've felt cushioned from the pain and very very loved.
  • Love.  I've been able to experience love towards those who don't "deserve" love and learned in loving them that all of us do indeed deserve love, and that loving those who bring us pain helps us feel more like instrument in God's hands.  I've watched others love those who haven't earned it and have learned so much from their example.
  • Hope.  I have felt hopelessness before.  I don't much like it.  I much prefer hope.  Hope is a choice.  Hope is choosing to look for things to be grateful for in the middle of dark dark times.  Hope is looking beyond the next month or year and trusting that Heavenly Father has a plan.  Hope is holding on through darkness, waiting for the light, actively SEARCHING for the light.
It hasn't been a perfect year.  I've spent time wailing on my closet floor.  I have had weeks where I don't want to open my scriptures, and days that I question and shake my fist and get really mad at those around me.  But overall?

Overall, I am so grateful.  I am aware that Heavenly Father loves me and will continue to shape me as he sees fit.  It doesn't feel good much of the time.  Really, it hurts.  But if I can keep the peace, the love, and the hope that I have gained from my experiment, I think I can endure the shaping.

That doesn't mean I want any more trials for a while.  Can I spend some time at the oasis before being cast into the desert?

(It's always dangerous to ask that question.  Maybe I should erase that last paragraph...)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Fruits of Peace

I just need to share this talk by Patricia Holland.  I'll try to come back and share some thoughts on it later.  The truths of Sister Holland's words moved me.  I am determined to ask the Lord to help me love more deeply and more purely.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I've been being stretched lately.

Yup. Really really stretched.

Sometimes stretching doesn't feel great.

When we were deciding whether or not to put an offer in on this house, we fasted. I was playing for a choir rehearsal and arguing with the Lord in my head (and we all know how well arguing with God goes) about why moving to this new house was a really bad idea.

At one point I told Him, "I am COMFORTABLE here," and added all kinds of evidence supporting my argument.

And the Holy Ghost said to me, "It is time for you to not be comfortable."

That kind of shut me up. For a while.

And guess what? I have been very very uncomfortable. I have been changed. I have been through more than one refiner's fire of varying intensities. I'm not sure what the end result will be, but I know the process HURTS.

While I traveled to California (ALONE) last week, I had some time to read and think and meditate. I reread this CS Lewis quote which rang with so much truth:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of– throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Now, I'm not saying I'm getting anywhere close to a palace. I'm more like a broken-down garage with cracked windows and a shifting foundation. But I understand the feeling of being changed in a way that hurts abominably and not being sure what God is really planning.

And then I found this:
Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see proverbs 3:11-12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain . . . Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.

Richard G. Scott, "Trust in the Lord," Ensign, November 1995

So I'm learning. I'm being stretched. I don't love being stretched. But I trust the One doing the stretching. And for now, I hope that's enough.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Another Tender Mercy

So yesterday was our multi-stake conference (or was it a regional conference? I really don't know. All I know is that there were a heck of a lot of stakes involved.) Elder Eyring and Elder Hales spoke, and so did Sister Beck. You might remember that I spent much of last Sunday afternoon thinking about Sister Beck and her talk.

And guess what her talk was about yesterday? "Mothers Who Know," just revisited as "Lionesses at the Gate."

She made some of the same points and discussed many of the same obligations we have as mothers.

And I listened to the whole darned talk without feeling anxious or angry or misunderstood. I opened my heart and head and listened carefully and said, "OK, Heavenly Father, you obviously wanted me to be prepared for this talk today, and you loved me enough to give me a heads up."

Seriously. Wasn't that great of Him?

There's still that part of me underneath that wants there to be an easier answer than "Get with the program and figure out how to be a good homemaker." But apparently there's not. Apparently it's important for me, for David and for the darling children we've brought into the world.

But at least I know that Heavenly Father is aware of my needs and loves me enough to sometimes cushion the hard things. Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes I get knocked upside the head, and that hurts plenty. But yesterday I felt loved and known. That was nice.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Revisiting 'Mothers Who Know'

In October 2007, I sat listening to General Conference, excited to listen to Sister Julie Beck's talk. I had loved so many of her talks before, I loved that she uses her normal speaking voice, not a high-pitched "Primary" speaking voice when giving talks, I loved her haircut and her choice of clothing. I'd felt myself inspired by her words in the past.

So it was with great shock that I found myself listening to 'Mothers Who Know,' a talk that's pretty famous (and infamous) in Mormon circles now. I felt my chest tightening, my breath becoming more shallow. I felt tears come to my eyes. And not in a good way.

My imperfections are many, but the imperfections I have dwelt on most in my life have been those dealing with homemaking and mothering. I've found much solace in the idea that we all have different strengths and weaknesses and that we should do the best we can with what we've been given. I've been given some pretty strong gifts, and I've done a lot to strengthen those. I've also been given some strong weaknesses, and I have spent hours on my knees, days fasting, and time in the temple begging Heavenly Father to make me stronger in these areas. I haven't seen much improvement.

Let's just say first off that my house is not a disaster zone (most of the time.) Meals get prepared, laundry gets folded, dishes get done. But the toy closet is scary. The laundry room...also scary. Closets and cupboards range from mostly organized to total chaos. I lose things. I forget things. Our clothes are not usually laid out before church. We're often late. The kids go to bed later than I'd like and have baths less often than I'd like. I don't sign the daily reading schedule. I forget to send back permission slips. The kitchen floor hasn't been mopped in a while.

But I have always WANTED to be different. I've wanted to have perfect routines, to have a place for everything and everything in its place. David is a very organized and clean soul, and I've always wished that I could keep our home in a way that gave him more peace. The biggest hardship to me is that I know what my strengths are. I used to be able to use them daily in school, in my teaching and accompanying. It's been incredibly hard to feel on a daily basis that my main responsibilities now lie in the places I am the least talented. It's like I trained all my life to be a doctor, and then one day I wake up and someone says, "Oh, here's your new job. You'll be a lawyer and you need to be in court in an hour. Oh, and your client's life is in your hands. Better do the best you can." It's daunting. More than daunting, it's depression-inducing.

So Julie Beck said, "Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world. Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate. Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a “house of order,” and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house (see D&C 109). Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work."

And what I heard was, "You are not enough. You will never be enough. You are failing in the most important area possible." I felt a punch in the stomach.

I read it again later when it was posted on the internet, thinking that I must have overreacted.

I felt the same pain. The same judgment. The same overwhelming feeling: That I wasn't enough and I'd never be enough. I told a friend (my visiting teacher) about how it made me feel: that despite being a prized daughter of God with important gifts bestowed upon me, I would be judged most on the things I lack.

The next time she came to visit teach, she said she'd prayed and prayed and prayed and felt like she was supposed to talk to me about 'Mothers Who Know'.

I cried through the whole discussion.

Finally, I decided that I needed to shelve it. Let it go. And in the next conference, Elder Ballard spoke to young mothers. His talk, 'Daughters of God,' was balm to my soul. He said, "We need to remember that the full commitment of motherhood and of putting children first can be difficult. Through my own four-generation experience in our family, and through discussions with mothers of young children throughout the Church, I know something of a mother’s emotions that accompany her commitment to be at home with young children. There are moments of great joy and incredible fulfillment, but there are also moments of a sense of inadequacy, monotony, and frustration." Once again, I cried, but this time it was with relief. I felt understood and blessed.

In fact, it was in response to this talk that David and I made the final decision for me to stop teaching piano so that I could spend more time with our children in those precious after-school hours.

Fast forward to now...

I've spent time pondering and fasting and praying. I want to walk in Christ's footsteps better. I want to follow the path that Heavenly Father knows will help me and others around me find the most joy. And I've found myself drawn back to 'Mothers Who Know.' Sometimes I respond extremely negatively to something I read or hear because it's just plain wrong. But sometimes I have the same reaction to something that is true but that is hard to accept, something that needs revisiting and a softened heart.

And today, when I read the talk again, I was able to sift through the elements that I find troublesome to find the truths.

It's OK to reach for ideals and fall short. After all, we are asked to emulate Christ in all of our actions. I think it's safe to say that none of us manages to do this. We struggle, we try, we fail, we repent, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

I'll only be a mother with small children in my home for a few more years. I only have a little while more to teach them, to train them, to love them. I AM inadequate to this task. I AM an imperfect mother.

But I can continue to reach for the ideal. Too often in the last couple of years, I've stopped trying. Family scripture study too difficult? Oh well. We'll just read once a week or so. Family Home Evening is tricky to schedule? OK. We'll have ice cream and call it good. Feeling irritated? I'll just say something sarcastic or snarky instead of biting my tongue.

Now of course I'm the first one to say "Let it go" when something is crazymaking. But scriptures? Prayer? FHE? Teaching about how to use gospel truths to make life better? NOT crazymaking. Vital.

So I'm going to try to stay calm about my weaknesses and keep reaching for the ideal, RECOGNIZING that we'll fall short. It's accepting the impossibility of it that makes me feel calmer. I think I realize now that if I do my best (even if my best is a weak effort) to do what Heavenly Father asks me to do, He can make up the difference.

So this week I'm going to get the scriptures out every day. We'll have an FHE that I actually plan ahead. I'll keep trying to get organized. I'll pray for my children.

And I'll wait for grace to make up for what I lack.