Something Much Better Than Overpriced Roses and a Sugar Coma

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Something Much Better Than Overpriced Roses and a Sugar Coma

The three most important words ever uttered are not “I love you,” but rather, “It is finished.”


btwPreface: I have decided that I must carve out space to start writing again. In doing so, I am starting by looking through the ten drafts I’ve had sitting on this site for faaaaaaaarrrrrrrr too long.

This particular post is from Valentine’s Day 2017: the day Brownie got accepted into a private school for her freshman year of high school. As overjoyed as I was in the original post, last year it became screamingly obvious that school, the one for which I prayed, was not the place for Brownie to thrive for another two years. My more studious, philosophical Blondie might have flourished there, but it became suffocating to my more… light-hearted…Brownie.

You see, dear reader, somewhere in the early days of the 2018-19 school year, Brownie finally convinced me to pay for voice lessons. Annnnnnd that changed everything. She is just not a classical Christian school kind of girl, and certainly not if that school is under 160 kids, K-12, with few opportunities for exploring her seriously amazing voice. Nevertheless, more on that later. Suffice it to say, School A was the right place at right time, but School B, with its expansive choir and drama departments, will see Brownie through to graduation. Praise be!

Oh, yes, an an additional aside, Blondie went on to start school at BYU-I in January 2018. As they are on a trimester system, her school terms run from the frwhatozen days of early January to the more temperate end of July. She comes home for 6 months, helps me with my business (also, gotta write about that!!), then heads back up. However, she’s only got one more trimester to go. January to April, and then she’s only got a summer internship to complete to wrap up her illustration degree. Tempus doth indeed fugit!

There was a clear indication I had other thoughts to add way back when, but I think where I left off works well enough as an ending, I’ll just let it lie.

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My heart is very full tonight, and none of it has to do with what many would consider a “traditional Valentine’s.” Somewhere between spending two years in the pit of depression a decade and a half ago and the stresses of mothering two high intensity girls and wifing a type A work-a-holic, my inner romantic realized there was a lot more to life and marriage than roses and chocolate once a year. Overpriced flowers & crap in place of the strawberries I’d much prefer doesn’t do much for me. Yeah, got a little too practical for my own good. So, Valentine’s… Meh.

Nevertheless, lots of wondrous, marvelous stuff today…

~ My Brownie has a place for school next year that is an answer to my frequent and fervent prayers; and I cannot express the pure love I felt pour out on me when I saw the acceptance email this morning from the small classical Christian school to which we made application last month. God, indeed, hears our prayers and knows our needs…ours and those of our children. Through tears I said ‘Thank You!’ over and over again.

We have homeschooled Brownie (in one form or another) since 2nd grade, but the older she’s gotten the harder it has become. When Blondie came “home” for high school and stepped directly into college classes, I became her chauffeur to two different campuses, 25 and 45 minutes from home, respectively, and her “required on campus guardian” for two solid years. When you are constantly in and out of the car, killing time here and there, particularly when it entails dragging a kid with ADD along for the ride, and expecting her to get anything out of your time together…yeah, not cool. Brownie suffered in the process, and so did I. Blondie, however, will graduate high school with 75 hours of college under her belt. But it hasn’t been accomplished without a tax on her younger sister and an increasing strain on the relationship between Brownie and I. Please, pile on the mother guilt. Heap on the ashes.

Despite trying on-line classes, small Great Books-styled pre-college classes at one of Blondie’s campuses, and a few one-on-one subjects mother y daughter, I finally, with the help of hubby and Blondie, ceded my dreams to reality on New Year’s Day and we started searching for a private school we could (choke) afford and still…eat… and put gas in the cars! Very quickly, we focused in on two excellent prospects. Within a month, however, it was crystal clear there was only one choice; gratefully, God agreed.

~ After deciding to have Blondie skip her 9:30 class and me opt out of my usual Tuesday morning scripture group due to some hellacious rain and tornadic winds in the area through which I chose not to drive, the girls and I a blessedly relaxed morning. Unfortunately I considered the holiday a little too late and got to the south side of town too late to meet Hubby for lunch (when your day starts at 4:30 a.m., lunch comes pretty early).

Despite missing my scripture group, which is made up of some dear ladies with whom I look forward to studying God’s word every week, and my husband, I got to speak to two dear friends- and on the phone no less (not usually my favorite mode of communication, but a necessary evil at times). First I talked to a fellow athlete wannabe who is such a stalwart spirit and a sweet, thoughtful soul (much sweeter and more thoughtful than me most days). She actually thinks to pick up her phone and call people. I think of a 100 different ways to get around phone calls! Then, a bit later, my BFF rang me up to congratulate me on Brownie’s school acceptance. I am always grateful for her calls. Seeing as neither of us are big “phone people,” it means a lot. I’m thankful that at this point in our lives neither of us requires an umbilical attachment to maintain the blessing of our friendship, which has dragged out over nearly two decades and several moves. Great is the blessing and the joy that is a low maintenance friendship with the person to whom I would entrust my children.

~ Picking Blondie up from classes has been a high point of my days since she was a freshman taking Great Books I and Philosophy from a local Christian university. She is always so willing to communicate what she has learned; her passion for learning is an energy source of its own. One of her courses this semester is the VERY intense “Art of Storytelling,” taught by two men who spent time writing and working in the movie industry in California. It is a class that lights her up when she considers her future. She wants to work on movies that cut the political crap and the filth; movies that make people remember the days when films were of good quality AND entertaining- for everyone. Alas, one of her frustrations with the kids in her class, and at this university, in general, has been the quality of expression of their religious values. The way they speak (word choices), they way they dress (barely, in some instances), and the way they demonstrate their faith has been quite puzzling to her. Today (this being several days post-Valentine’s that I am working on this post), for example, a girl came to her art class class wearing a t-shirt with “Magical Motherf*****” emblazoned across the front! Really?!

Well, for Tuesday’s class they had had the assignment to watch the Brandon Routh/ Kevin Spacey “Superman” from 10 years ago or so. The students had to do a write up on it to be turned in, but the class also discussed it amongst themselves. In my chat with Blondie, she observed how difficult it was for her to wrap her mind around a film in which the creators tried so hard to sell Superman as a type of Christ, yet they chose to give him an illegitimate child? Yeah..connection fail. However, not a single kid mentioned that as an issue. Lots of other stuff, yes, but not ‘knocked up Lois Lane.’ Furthermore, not

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her kid in class made the comment, “Most people I know, and I’m sure most of us in this generation, don’t really think about being Christian except during church on Sundays. I mean you do the church thing and then you go back to what you were doing.” He meant it, too. He wasn’t joking. No one dissented, at least not vocally. Blondie desperately wanted to speak up, to challenge him with, “I DON’T! What is the point in calling yourself a Christian if you don’t demonstrate it by your actions and let it show in your countenance every day!?”…but one of the profs shifted gears shortly thereafter, and her moment was lost.

happyvholyShe has said it a few times in recent months since taking classes only on the main campus, but today, there was a heavier weight to her sentiments: “I thought the difference between the students at [the local junior college] and those at [the Christian university] would be greater, but it isn’t. You still hear foul language, maybe not as much, but they are just as unapologetic and open with its use. The kids at the university aren’t even as friendly as the ones at the junior college, but then to hear ones I’d expect to be more serious in their faith treat it with so little reverence? Well, I’m just looking forward to seeing if there isn’t a more serious expression of faith in the students at BYU (where she’s hoping to go after Christmas break).”

I warned her not to get her hopes too terribly high, people are still people, but ‘yes,’ I think BYU actively cultivates the Spirit in its student body (I’d love some feedback on this point). No doubt the profs at the Christian university are serious about their walk with God, but sadly, it’s not immediately visible in the students- cross necklaces and themed t-shirts aside. They are young though. How many of us didn’t have our own true conversions as adults until our mid to late 20s, or older? Still, I am so grateful to have a kid with her head and her heart pointing to Christ with such depth and understanding at this point.

Activism Over Obedience? Not for this Crazy (former) Red Head.

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Note: this is another post started a while ago, but which has been sitting unfinished in my drafts. Nevertheless, it is of sufficient weight for me that I feel the need to compete it for posting. Started in October 2018.

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I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and every six months we have this thing called General Conference. It’s a big deal- lasting ten hours, spread over the first Saturday and Sunday of both April and October. Been that way for

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many, many, many years, and will likely continue that way for many more years to come.

At General Conference, the leaders of the church, collectively known as “General Authorities,” who include our prophet (also called the president), our apostles, our seventies (yes, we believe those are still necessary offices in the authoritative leadership of Christ’s kingdom on Earth), as well as women who serve in high leadership positions, speak on important topics concerning the Atonement, Christ’s mission, our doctrine, the world, our responsibilities as Christians, and a myriad of other subjects, all with the intent to push us to strive for a higher purpose.

Well, the other night in the course of the Women’s Session, which is held only once a year in the fall General Conference (the men get their own session in spring), our beloved prophet Russel M. Nelson issued an invitation, as seen in this graphic. It was a powerful invitation, and one I, and many other sisters, did not take lightly. Social media accounts went silent through out the world- some almost immediately. It was definitely an E.F. Hutton moment (Google that, youngsters).

Why? You might ask. Well, again, we Latter-day Saints believe in prophets, and most of us still believe they speak for God. As such, their counsel is not on level with just any old motivational speaker or religious leader. No, the prophet and apostles are more like Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Isaiah were for the Jews: men with a mantle of authority, called of God and able to receive revelation for the body of believers.

Alas, just as many in Israel took their prophets’ counsel for naught and mocked those anointed to leadership, so do plenty in our world-wide congregations of modern-era saints. Since I am a small, very small, business owner, I had to at least keep up with my business social media accounts, but I did do as asked and chose to steer clear of my personal accounts and new feed…mostly. Very quickly I repented of the “mostly” part of the preceding thought.

Apparently, asking women to temporarily and voluntarily minimize the negative influences of social media and digital devices, influences which I thought an abundance of digital ink had been spilled in recent years documenting, is tantemount to asking women to wear ball gags, hand cuffs, foot bindings, and burkas!

Sadly, I only knew this because I failed to avert my eyes from the darn FB newsfeed, which was alight with stories of women howling to raise the roof about this “misogynistic” request, which was “clearly” meant to stifle women’s political voices in the run up to the mid-term elections. Not to mention the “obvious” fact that the men weren’t asked to do something similar (their (the brothers’) conference is in April… maybe they will (or maybe social media isn’t as big an issue for men)). The travesty! Like Lot’s wife in the Old Testament, I felt like I had been turned to salt for looking.

Nevertheless, yawn. In the popular phrase, I will take refuge: sorry, not sorry. Of all the things by which to be offended in culture, the simple request by our prophet to take a break from the negative and time sucking influences of social media, to read the scriptures, to attend the temple, and to participate in our church women’s group (Relief Society), should fall way at the bottom of the list.

But no, not in 2018. In 2018, everything just be questioned. Every benign request from a male to a female must be scrutinized for motives, for surely they are nefarious. Every suggestion to improve. Every comment that isn’t equally directed towards the men. Every opportunity to run down leaders and assert one’s “right to…” must be taken, and taken publicly, with as loud and large a platform as possible. Indeed, I found the response by some supposedly believing, active female members of my faith to such a simple suggestion to be akin to burning down a house to kill a single ant. The perpetual outrage is ridiculous… and usually misplaced.

There was nothing of love, perspective, grace, or even thoughtful consideration or constraint in the stories I read of the aggrieved. Unremarkably, in several articles I read on the “firestorm,” it seemed the conservative-leaning women moved more easily towards compliance or “obedience” to the prophet’s request, egregious as some may find those terms. Whereas, more left-leaning women, whose primary concern appeared to be political activism in the weeks after the Kavanaugh hearings, seemed to have a knee-jerk “Hell, no!” What the hay, ladies?

This is what you get upset about?

The later response left me shaking my head to the point of dizziness. I freely admit there are a things in my faith with which I struggle from time to time, but like Paul, who in 2 Corinthians urges us to keep our eyes on the prize of eternity, not the things of the world, I try not to get bogged down in what are often inconsequential matters of this terrestrial realm.

Now, lest it be said, “You just don’t understand how important this election is!” I’m very politically active. I get that politics are important. Elections have consequences, etc, etc. However, elections don’t matter more than obedience to a righteous request any more than Saul’s unholy sacrifice to God did in I Samuel 15. Why must “But I…” or “Doesn’t apply to me” be the first response, like a petulant child who believes she knows more than her parents about most any situation?

As long as it doesn’t mean sacrificing our tech, I guess!

Gratefully, Faith is one of my spiritual gifts. All things in me draw me towards an Eternal Father, Christ, our resurrected Savior, and the wonderful Holy Spirit. If I believe in those beings, and also believe Christ’s church has been restored in these latter days as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then I am compelled to take the words, challenges, suggestions, and exhortations of our leaders, most of all our prophet, whom I believe is called of God, with due soberness and a mind towards implementation.

What have we to gain by being contrary simply for the sake of being contrary? More importantly, what do we have to lose?

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 (KJV)

P. S. In true Murphy’s Law fashion, my desktop has decided to be a pain in the rear about opening my blog. Alas, I’m having to write in my phone, which I hate almost as much as I hate writing on a laptop. Hence, this post is, for the timeline, ridiculously devoid of appropriate placed visuals and links. As soon as I can get a desktop page opened for editing, I’ll liven things up!

A PSA on Depression

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Having “dealt” with depression for 15 years now (dealt=medication, therapy, an annoying level of self awareness), but having “suffered” with it too, both before that 15 year period started and also during it (you get it?), it is sometimes hard to gauge feelings and emotions. You second guess if what you’re experiencing during bad moments is “real” or “imagined,” or maybe “appropriate” vs. “out of proportion” are better terms. You struggle to keep your head on straight, to realize we all have bad days; you wonder if your meds are still working; and if you have a really, really bad day, you’re certain they aren’t, and panic ensues. If you’ve ever been in residence at the bottom of the black pit of despair (or unable to get out bed and function- same difference), the panic and anxiety stems from the fear that you’re heading there again. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. Horrible and soul sucking.

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Yup. This pretty much sums up depression.

Well, Blondie was about 13 months old when I first started doing weekend visits to the Pit. By the time she was 2, I was in residence (though truth be told, I’d had short bouts of the blues every year or two for a decade. Depression, I later learned AND realized, runs strong in my family). When I finally broached the subject with my OB/GYN and we set up hormone level testing, things were pretty awful at home. My husband of nearly ten years at that point and I didn’t fight much, but there was a constant tension. He didn’t know what to say to this beast who had suddenly taken over his wife’s body and I didn’t want to talk…at all.

By some miracle, however, I got pregnant with Brownie (zero recollection of this event. I swear I did not mean to engage in a procreative act with my husband!!) before I could get that testing done. No benefit in doing it then, because of course your hormones are going to be a mess! To add insult to injury, my mom died suddenly between Christmas and my birthday (I think the 14 year anniversary of her death was last week; I try not to dwell on such things), and BAM! I was in weekly therapy sessions (for 3 or 4 months, then we went to bi-weekly at some point for another 2) with James Taylor (lol- that was actually my therapist’s name).

It took me three or four sessions of talking predominately about my mom and our stellar (not) relationship and the rest of my screwed up family to finally come clean on wanting to smother my husband (actually, I said my husband’s breathing annoys me) and I’m struggling with dueling voices in my head (No! Not like the Son of Sam. Google it, children), like I will say things to my husband, then almost immediately hear “me” in my head saying, “What the hell are you doing? You idiot!

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Wow! That was a sobering revelation

You do not mean that!” Of course, the voice that had my vocal chords was saying, “Piss off! Yes, I did! Screw you if you don’t like it.” [Several years later, when we were doing better (largely because I was “me” again), hubby let me in on something: he was so miserable, so completely confused during that two year black hole in our marriage, that he would have left me if it hadn’t been for Blondie.]

In that moment, my therapist let me in on a little secret: “You have textbook clinical depression.” I hated to admit it; I fought it, but that didn’t make it any less true (kind of like Trump being president). My counselor pushed me to start medication, and I did. I was 12 weeks pregnant with Brownie and still reeling from my mom’s unexpected passing, but after about 6 weeks on meds, I felt an enormous, crushing weight slowly start to lift off of both my mind and body. Suddenly, that deep pit had rungs on its walls. Suddenly, I felt the shell of my cocoon (bed covers) break open, and instead of saying, “Thank you, God, for another dismal day,” I actually began to just say, “Thank you, God!”

In the years since climbing to the surface, I’ve still had to fight that demon beast. The medication was a life and a marriage saver, but I found something so potent that even Big Parma can’t bridge the gap every moment: teenagers! No, just kidding (a little). The monkey wrench in the works to which I’m referring are hormones. Bloody, freaking hormones.

How depression feels

How depression feels

Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Darn you, all three! I tried an ablation 5 years ago to mitigate your effects, but it finally took a complete hysterectomy (one ovary is still doing its thing though) to finally kill those cyclical rages that could come from out of the blue and make me feel like I was losing my mind all over again- and worse. I never raged during the dark years, but I had horrific episodes of PMS in my late 30s & early 40s! Yet still, something was “off,” has been off.

A year ago, I took the step to start a dialog with my GP about my feelings, my malaise. We opted to adjust my meds-for the first time in 14 years. Alas, it didn’t change anything. So, back in the fall, or rather September, as it is very difficult to distinguish “the fall” in Houston, my doctor ordered a hormone panel. Fifteen years later and I finally got that hormone screen!!!

The results came back showing that, even post hysterectomy, I had huge levels of estrogen in my system,

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but sad, pathetic levels of testosterone (the range for women is 20-70; I was at 21). He immediately began me on a testosterone cream in an attempt to balance my levels.

It took a few solid months of supplementation, but I’m finally feeling the difference. All the months surrounding our recent and less-than-smooth move had my cortisol levels running at maximum overload, so it was difficult to tell if it was doing any good. Now that things are calming down, it’s clear it definitely is. Thank heavens! So, maybe at this point I can get back to “just” dealing with the non-hormone induced depression!

The moral to this story is this: talk to your doctor if you feel “off” or “out of sorts” for an extended period of time; and if s/he blows you off, FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR. Get those hormone levels checked before assuming anything. And don’t get suckered into thinking thinking/feeling/acting like Eeyore is normal and OK, especially when you know who you REALLY are.

A great talk from a spiritual perspective:

The biggest massacre in U.S. history wasn’t about gays.

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The biggest massacre in U.S. history wasn’t about gays.

I’m reblogging this post intact, as well as the previous post by Lemonythings on the topic of gay marriage because I’m just so blasted tired of the culture wars, of the media telling me, of parts of the population screaming at me that they will force me to “love them and accept them” in a manner that brings to mind the closing scenes of Orwell’s “1984.”

As much a one side of the culture divide likes to assert that “there is only one race: the human race, ” I feel this same side does nothing but seek to parse us into a million different identity groups, each with its own political agenda to which the rest of us must subscribe if we wish to survive. “Fly my flag!” “Add my filter!” “Go Fund ME, not them!”

Well, you know what? Diversify this! The only problem with all of the screaming is no intellectual diversity is allowed. No discussions seeking common ground, points upon which we can agree, realizing there will always be points upon which we disagree (and that’s o.k.!). Nope. The only thing allowed is unwavering allegiance to the totalitarian ideals of those on the “right” side of history… in their own heads.

If we are ALL a part of the human race, ALL united by our common humanity, ALL supposed to embrace the vast diversity of our fellow beings, can we also allow that we should ALL be able to mourn and weep and feel the weight of sadness for the loss of life among these souls, these children of God, without being yelled at because we don’t believe any political or social group should receive such a massive amount of media time, when others get nothing, but have suffered more acutely? Is it really “erasing” or denying suffering to say millions more have be subjected to like hate, as well? Must our mourning really be wrapped or filtered or flown under specific colors in order to be “appropriate?” Cripes! I hope not.

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I woke up today thinking about the 50.

The 50 who, just two days ago, had lives cut short on a night unexpected. The 50 who never came home, never responded to that last text, never got to say that one last thing. The 50 who have families and friends and loved ones who are waking up today with a hole carved into their lives–one that will always be there.

50 souls.

And as I watch the country grieve I see rainbows on profile photos and gay slogans and anti-religion propaganda because the biggest massacre in our country’s history was at a gay night club, The Pulse. I understand the sentiment. I understand the rainbows. But the thing we need to understand a little bit better is that it has nothing to do with gay or straight, religious or non-religious, male or female, white or non-white.

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It has everything to do…

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The thing we’ll regret from the legalization of same-sex marriage

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Same-sex marriage is legalized–and I know we have all read 537 articles telling us so. This blog will make it 538. In all honesty, as soon as I heard the news I told myself under my breath, &…

Source: The thing we’ll regret from the legalization of same-sex marriage

Spiritually Speaking

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While lying in bed perusing Facebook this morning, I came upon this gem of a post by Greg Trimble entitled “ You Can Make Fun of Me for Being a Mormon if You Want…” I immediately swyped out a response on my Kindle, but upon  reading it later at my desktop, I found it to be wholly inadequate (not to mention filled with typos and structural errors!) in expressing the deeper feelings of my heart on the subject of my faith. So, without further ado, here’s what I meant to say…Images-of-jesus-christ-097-2c

I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had what I thought was a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, as taught by said church, as a teen. But somewhere around seventeen, I started going off track, and by nineteen I was pretty much there. Looking for the love I didn’t feel I had in my family took me to a place I never imagined I would be. Eventually, it became easier to push faith to the back of my mind than to live with the guilt of my actions.

At 21, I married a great Christian guy (actually, we met just as I was trying to come back to church). We tried to find a middle ground between my LDS faith and his Pentecostal one, but by the time I was 24, pushing 25, it was clear to my both heart and soul, I needed to be back in what I strongly believe to be Christ’s restored church, not biding time in a holding pen. The people I met in the other Christian denominations we tried were generally lovely, kind people (as long as they didn’t know I was a Mormon); I expected nothing less. During my years in their pews, I learned intimately about the beliefs of others and the likenesses (there are so many!) between my “LDS Christianity” and their “mainstream” kind. But despite nodding my head in agreement with many of their teachings, I could never get past the fact that something was missing, at least for me. AChristus2

So, for 16 years after I returned to the faith of my youth, my dear husband and I “split the difference,” alternating Sundays at each other’s church. Although, I am the one that has been more involved in the “other than Sunday” activities of my ward; and I’ve no doubt that was part of the reason both of my girls chose to be baptized in the LDS faith. Sadly, in all of our years together, hubby has chosen to be an only- on-Sunday worshiper (he’s not much of a socializer/ joiner). The fissure that occurred in the church community of his youth (and his family) when he married a heathen like me (“He was such a good boy, until…”), the cold shoulder we’ve received at times from mainstreamers when they learned I was LDS, and the fact that he is a federal law enforcement officer (naturally stand-offish and very distrustful), has made it difficult for hubby to insert himself meaningfully into any church. He prefers the anonymity of being last in and first out. To be sure, you don’t have to answer many personal questions that way, which suits him just fine.

Well, the every-other-Sunday agreement he and I made before the kids came along worked fine for a while, but after Blondie, our oldest daughter, turned twelve, it was once again clear a change need to be made; she was growing up without a firm anchor to either his faith or mine. She was getting nothing out of our compromise, and Brownie, our youngest, was getting even less. After all, it is hard to make connections on any level, especially as a kid, when you only see people every other week; and if you
actually don’t want to talk to anyone, it’s even worse! The change we agreed upon was that my two girls and I would attend our ward full time and he would come with us every other week (a day I jokingly refer to as  his “Outreach Sunday”). On the “off” weeks, he attends his church solo (but due to the lack of his exact flavor of a Pentecostal church locally, he actually attends the Methodist church, which was our middle ground denomination in the early years of our marriage).

Now that we are coming up on five years since we made that last change, it’s gratifying to contrast where we were to where we are. Our compromise isn’t ideal, but it has worked as I had prayed it would. I’ve watched my girls’ connections to both the faith, in general, and Christ, in specific, grow and develop beautifully, as has my own. Because of some rough family issues in my youth, church means “family” to me. It was breaking my heart that my kids weren’t developing that same sense of church members being an extended family, and even worse they had no deep, meaningful understanding of God’s love and Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us. But they are getting it now…especially my Blondie. Her faith, her testimony simply amaze me!large

I’m personally grateful for the testimony that I have of Christ as my Savior and His grace that attends me each and every day as I struggle and thrive in this earthly testing ground. Without my upbringing in the LDS faith, the examples of Christ-like love and direction that have attended me as a direct result of my “Mormonism,” I don’t know if I would be in any church today. My path has not been smooth nor easy, and during long periods, I’ve struggled mightily, due both to my own choices and those of others. I’ve had doubts and questions, some that have been answered well, some that I’ve chosen to “put a pin in” for now, but always I have had faith in Christ. My faith has seen me through the rough patches, created within me a gratitude and joy I could not know without Him, and it gives me a vision of who I really am: the daughter of a King.

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Interested in more reading? Here’s a few that have influenced me:

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The Holy Bible (particularly the KJV version)

The God Who Weeps, Letter to a Doubter, and Crucible of Doubt, Givens

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Spangler and TverbergBOM11

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman

Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, Mason

Shaken Faith Syndrome and Of Faith and Reason, Ash

LDS- Gospel Topics Essays

A Reason For Faith, Hales

The Weight of Glory and Mere Christianity, Lewis

Letters to a Young Mormon, Miller

The Rage Against God, Hitchens

LDS Living

A Different Jesus?Claiming Christ, and The Mormon Faith, Millet

Comparing LDS and Evangelical Beliefs

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nterested in commenting? Feel free to do so, but know that I do not engage in arguments about my faith. There are plenty of bloggers and the like that do, but I prefer instead to state our 11th Article of Faith and leave it at that: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. 

My Time is Coming Around Again

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This image pretty well sums up how I feel from late August until mid-May every year while my “homeschooled” kids are “in” school. I am decidedly not a super mom. In fact, far more often than I probably should, I feel like a super loser (insert head smack or hug, and the reminder ‘You are doing better than you think you are!’).

To my credit, I can multi-task, to a degree, and I probably do it at least as well as the average mom. I mean I can schedule dental, optical, and medical appointments for myself and three other people; worry incessantly about my children’s future, drive all over kingdom come for my kids and husband, volunteer for Meals on Wheels a few times a month, get the car serviced (sometimes), do or schedule needed house maintenance, go to a weekly scripture group, workout five times a week, make sure my kids are doing their class work (and help, when needed), do the grocery shopping, cook (ahem…), obsess over healthy eating and whether or not my kids have had an adequate number of fruits and vegetables each day, replace or repair worn clothes and shoes, consider writing a budget, clean enough cat hair off of my floors and furniture to make a horde of Tribbles every week, keep up with the news, be “outraged” at the current political climate, ponder life and spiritual things, do monthly service projects, and sleep.
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Additionally,  I even manage to do “enrichment” activities like read non-fiction, watch HGTV shows on Netflix, play Words with Friends, pop on and off of Facebook (as my sanity allows), date my husband, and get a massage once a month (to help deal with all the tension that the above happy list creates in my neck and shoulders).

What I have found I cannot do, however, is write and do family fun. It just doesn’t happen. I’m on the road way too much during the school year to write well…and I suck at using a laptop. It simply isn’t natural for me; a real keyboard is a must.

Oh, and I do kind of get an “F” in maintaining friendships. When my oldest came home for high school, for better or worse, my friendships got sent to the back of the bus.

Alas, we are not all wired to do it all anymore than it is actually possible for all of us to have it all- whatever “all “is. Alright?

Yes, I suppose it is. At least for me. And with that all said, I’m pleased to announce:

Schools-out-for-summer

Mostly.

It is already in the summer plans for me to be doing classes with my thirteen year old: French 1, Geography, a grammar refresher, and we’re starting pre-algebra over again, shoring up important skills before Algebra I comes around. In a change up from what has become our norm in recent years, I get to be the teacher again. Ah, such were the early days of our homeschooling adventure! And for the first time in three years, my seventeen year old will only be doing on-line college courses. All in all my, drive time will be dropping to nearly zero and our daily bouts of eating “elsewhere” will be greatly diminished. So, maybe  instead of “School’s Out!” what I really mean is:

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and

 

 

 

 

Yeah. That’s exactly what I mean. Almost all that my monkeys and I will have to do this summer can happen within a five mile radius of our house. Ahhhhh…..and I can do more than ponder life while careening down the fast lane; I can actually write about it, too. Which makes me feel a little bit like doing this:

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Yipee!!!!!

 

No, Virginia, Christianity Doesn’t Need to Change, People Do

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:While doing a quick “pop on and off” on Facebook the other day, this Matt Walsh repost from a friend caught my eye. I mulled it over for twenty-four hours then decided I would repost it, too. Blogging has been more difficult since my recent uptake in school-related chauffeuring duties, but I felt strongly enough about Walsh’s sentiments to hammer out the longest Facebook post I’ve done in many a moon. When I got done writing, I realized I had essentially written a blog post with very little effort. Duh. It’s amazing how passion about a subject can make composition a breeze. With that, and a bit of extra editing, here it is:

Along with “sex06be951ca0503442ec7e8e44524b011dual atheism” among the supposedly faithful, I truly believe “liberal” Christianity, which has removed all expectations of both physical and spiritual change in those who come to church, is a blight on Christ’s teachings to “Come, Follow Me.” Christ had no difficulty calling sin sin, but I’m amazed that such a large crowd of religious folks these days can’t seem to spit that word out without choking! Without the the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which clearly delineates good from evil, or at least good from bad or incorrect, if you prefer, everything is subjective, open to interpretation; and I don’t believe Christ left that much of His teachings open ended.

Christ did, however, invite all to leave their lifestyles and seek Him. Never once did he say, “Keep doing what you’re doing; just follow those of my teachings that is easiest for you.” Yet that is exactly what far too many ministers, priests, preachers, and the like are telling their congregants, and it matters not a whit whether they say it explicitly or implicitly. “Come as you are, stay as you are; don’t change a bit,” that is the message that is received. And it is a perversion of Christ’s life-altering message and the meaning of His eternal sacrifice on the cross.

One of the arguments frequently heard against “traditional” Christian morality, morality that eschews homosexual or other aberrant behaviors, “shacking-up,” pre-marital-sex, children being regularly conceived and born out of wed-lock, and extramarital affairs, is that it shames and condemns individuals, or rather those claiming to practice this morality shame and condemn; and Christ didn’t do those things- that is completely true. He didn’t, and we definitely shouldn’t. People are weak; mistakes are made; even deliberate actions are taken because humans are quite adept at selecting the wrong path to happiness from time to time. Gratefully, we can repent of our errors; grace and love need to be extended to those who stray. Nevertheless, despite to fact that disciples of Christ during the time of his mortal ministry were expected to get their mess together, or, if you prefer, “Go and sin no more,” we modern day followers, according to so-called “liberal Christians,” are expected to welcome everyone in while they live in, flaunt, and frolic about in their sinful behaviors—and even jump for joy as scriptures are cut and pasted (or just cut) to allow for such lifestyles. Seriously, folks?! The Jesus who said, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” and “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me,” is suddenly into moral relativism? I think not.

Christ did say if you want to be my disciple DO as I say. He wasn’t loud or hateful about it (many of us do need to work on our delivery); He never would have put a Scarlet Letter on a woman’s dress or stoned her lover, but He always asked those following Him to seek after better things, to, in fact, BECOME better; choose better, BE better; and bring others up, too. Don’t, however, stay exactly where you are. Why is this so hard for the “enlightened” people of today to understand?

Liberal Catholics in San Francisco want their archbishop removed and replaced with one who holds “their” values (regardless of whether they may be Christ’s values), liberal Mormons want a more “diverse” look to their leaders and demand women get the priesthood (because that matters a whole lot to Christ), and apparently, even agitators in the Churches of Christ want women in the pulpit. A broad swath of liberal “general population” Christians appear to want any part of scripture (the hard parts) with which they disagree to be stricken from the record or ignored (the Nazis rewrote Lutheranism to their purposes, too). Goodness, there is even a group of “pro-choice” religious leaders out there blessing abortion clinics! Isaiah 29:13 comes to mind here, which reads something like this: “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

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Christ was definitely all about Love, and reaching out, pulling people in, loving them through thick and thin, tolerating (which is very, very different from accepting). We all need to love more and love better. BUT in addition to Love, Christ was also about Change, and broken heartsOn Duty 3 003 and contrite spirits; he was about us overcoming our human weaknesses and frailties to rise to a higher plain. Thank heaven for Grace and the Lord’s forgiveness for those of us who fall short (on a daily, or sometimes hourly, basis). Included in that expectation of change was living a sexuality based upon and confined within His laws, God’s laws, not men’s (and women’s) rewriting of those laws to something easier or more palatable for “21st Century morality,” a morality which cares more about shrinking one’s carbon footprint, recycling, LGBT rights, and animal welfare than treating our own bodies as temples. You remember what he did to those who were defiling the temple, right? Man, woman, married– period- that is sexuality His way (or to use the common vernacular, “No huggy, no kissy, til I get a wedding ring”).

In the Book of Mormon there is a section we LDS refer to as “Lehi’s Dream.” In this dream or vision, the prophet Lehi sees a beautiful tree heavy with the delicious fruit of eternal life to which he hopes his family will gravitate and partake, but the path to it is filled with a variety obstacles. One of the difficulties for those seeking the tree is a “great and spacious building” without foundation. It floats, as it were, above the ground and is filled with people in worldly finery who mock and jeer at those seeking the tree; their taunts are meant to shame the faithful and shake them from their true course. Many do fall away from the path, some before they even get started. Others make it further along but step off the path and get lost in mists of darkness; still others make it to the tree, but then step away when they start heeding the idiocy of the onlookers from across the way.

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I think more and more of this tale these days. It is clear that millions of my fellow Christian (and other religiously oriented) brothers and sisters are seeking for a gospel that lets them be comfortable in whatever life or lifestyle they see fit to live. And they are doing so at the expense of those Christians striving to live lives of holiness in this increasingly wicked culture, a culture that doesn’t bat an eye at calling evil good and good evil!  By all appearances, these hip, mainstream, 21st century Christians (though there were plenty of the same ilk in the 20th century, too!) believe that and as long as they go built a Habitat home once a year, feed a homeless dog from time to time, and support liberal ideas of social “justice,” it doesn’t matter that they throw out 80% of Christ’s inconvenient teachings, teachings that require them to work on themselves, not just point fingers at others and say, “Jesus wouldn’t do that!” Yeah, that beam in the eye story works both ways, folks.

Modern social righteousness often differs from the righteousness of the Bible. Someone has said: “A wrong deed is right if the majority of people declare it not to be wrong.” By this principle we can see our standards shifting from year to year according to the popular vote! Divorce was once frowned upon by society, and laws against fornication and adultery were strictly enforced. But now divorce is accepted by society, and fornication is glorified in our literature and films.                                                                                                    –Billy Graham

We are all guilty of looking at another’s sin, but ignoring our own, even liberals who feel they are more loving, more kind, and more tolerant (of some things and some people, maybe). Oddly, the very people who are first to scream, er, um, quote Christ’s “Judge not that ye be not judged,” can be just as, if not more, ugly, hateful, and intolerant of those with whom they disagree as they claim we uptight old Victorians are. How they can not fall to the ground in a stupor from all of the cognitive dissonance is beyond me! Nevertheless, in Revelations we are reminded that as many as God loves, he also chastens and rebukes. “Be zealous,”  John said, “and repent.” That goes for us all, each and every one. We all sin, we just sin differently. Still, the difference lies in being able to accept that there are behaviors and deeds, thoughts and actions, that are, in fact, sinful, and own up it! One can’t possibly repent and change if one feels he has nothing to change.

What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven — a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves,’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.                                                                                                                                           — C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Make no mistake, my friends, being a Christian is HARD work, as it should be. We are pulled in many directions by the hyper-happyvholyreligious, the hypo-religious, scriptural interpretations, T.V., social media, newspapers, magazines, movies, and governments. The World in general mocks the precious and the sacred with increasing intensity, enticing people away from God, away from Christ, but being the salt that has lost its savor helps no one! We Christians, we all fail, stumble, trip, fall into traps, act as stumbling blocks for others, mess up, screw up, crash and burn—daily! We can’t keep our mouths shut or our feet out of them, or our fingers off the keyboard. We’re proud, carnal, rude, crude, weak, and horrid- and we know better! Granted, some of our weaknesses, sins or transgressions can be (or seem) terribly hard to overcome. Some problems are definitely tougher than others. True enough, we’re human!

But we’re also wonderful, beautiful, strong, humble, capable, peaceable, loving, kind, spiritual and thoughtful. Indeed, “[We] can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth [us].” We are not objects to be acted upon, but agents capable of choosing to act in one way or another- despite our “human nature.” Long ago, all churches taught that our natural man was something to be overcome. Yet now, more and more  church leaders are joining their voices with those of the World in saying, “If you were ‘born that way’ or your way works best for you, run with it! God expects nothing of you.” ALL of us are born with things to overcome. Some of those issues are internal, others are external, but they can be conquered, or at least dealt  or struggled with, if we so choose to do so. Lest we forget, the great Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh with which he lived his entire life. Are we better than Paul? Should our walk as Christians be easier than his?

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.                                                                                                                                                   C.S. Lewis, “The Great Divorce”

Despite the difficulty, living the Gospel of Christ is a joy and a blessing for those up to the task- or even up to simply trying their best. We are asked to bring our cares to His feet, to bring our failings and frailties to His throne, all that He may make our burdens light, not so He can say, “Nice to see you. Now, go, go, and keep on transgressing my law. Obviously, you know what ‘works best for you‘.” Nope, Jesus’ Hope and Change is a plan that actually works, one that really fundamentally transforms. But it can do none of that as long as we hold on to the world’s morality, not if we turn the meat of His gospel into pablum for babies, not if we only do what “feels good,” labeling sexual purityjesus-kneeling-in-prayer-nelson-82890-gallery before marriage, traditional, God-sanctioned marriage, and marital fidelity (among a whole host of other issues) as old-fashioned or quaint.

Honestly, I doubt dying on the cross felt very good to Christ, not to mention the beating He took before being nailed to it; and I’ve no doubt that bleeding-from-every-pore thing was a bit more than simply uncomfortable, but despite the agony, fear, loneliness, and utter humiliation, He did both anyway, willingly; and He did it all for us. He did it that we might find strength to overcome the world and its teachings; He did it to make it possible for us to conquer our natural man (or woman) by accessing His strength. He did it because we are spiritual creatures created for more than just this earthly realm, to BE more than “just” human. Indeed, according to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” And if we are to be with our Savior again, after we shuffle off this mortal coil, our vision of us must be as high as His, not as low as the world’s.

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Extra Reading:

Darn that Matt Walsh…the same, but different Read the rest of this entry

Tales From Times Past, pt. 2: Barbie’s Dream and Her House

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Second in my Facebook Recovery Posts (FRP). For the first, and an explanation of exactly what an FRP is, read here.

History is fascinating to me. I love the million, billion interesting and important stories of humanity’s past, to see where we were, what we’ve built, conquered, and accomplished- those are stories I could listen to all day long. However, in a recent Imprimus essay, “History, American Democracy, and the AP Test Controversy,” historian Dr.Wilford McClay laments the dismal state of historical studies today, citing, among other issues, the propensity for modern scholars to divide history into micro-oriented grievance groups and to look at everything of the past, no matter how noble, with a jaundiced eye. In other words, since (and because of) the 60’s we’re only allowed to look at the past and be angry, particularly if we happen to be a minority in any way, shape, or form. I am saddened that this is so, for I am angry. I am angry that I can’t simply “enjoy” our common history anymore because, now, everything is tainted by modern man’s need to Monday morning quarterback.

Case in point: We have amazing historical neighborhoods in Houston, thousands of beautiful lots with stunning homes from the 20’s and 30’s. Be they small craftsman and Tudor-style bungalows or massive mansions on finely manicured lots, these houses, many of which have been either well-maintained or meticulously restored, are quite simply lovely. The era in which they were built, an era that included      The_Public_Enemy_1931_Poster
trans-Atlantic flights, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, Mae West, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, Bonnie and Clyde, the Olympics of Jessie Owens, and the rise of Adolf Hitler, saw many old conventions fall away and opened the door to both miraculousp5436_p_v7_aa progresses and never before imagined horrors. To some degree, I look back and think of those years as, in Dicken’s words, the best of
times and the worst of times
. And the people who built and lived in those homes saw it all. How cool is that!?

Sadly, that was also the era when Jim Crow reigned, with no small thanks to that progressive demon Woodrow Wilson, mind you. In all likelihood those grand homes had “negro” nannies and servants, and every last one of them rode in the back of the bus, drank from separate water fountains, and sent their kids to “separate but equal” schools. More broadly, children died from diseases we nip in the bud so easily now, there were few social safety nets to help the poor and the destitute, women had little control over their own lives, abuses occurred without laws or law enforcers willing to support the victims of rape or incest, Indians languished on reservations, South Africans were brutally oppressed, Britain ruled India, and Belgium the Congo! Western imperialism was in its heyday!

See how I dip5920_p_v7_aad that? Despite the fact that people talked to one another, neighbors knew and helped each other, movies were unrated, and children got to roam freely, to be children, though at a certain point it was expected that they would put away childish things, marry and start families of their own, because of inequalities everything was awful. Regardless of the fact that the nuclear family was the only norm, children of all colors, were largely born within the bonds of holy matrimony, divorce was uncommon, as was abortion, and people worshiped at church on Sundays, instead of at the mall. But according to those in charge of the academy, we’re not supposed to remember any of the good of those days gone by, only the bad.

As usual, I refuse to comply.


April, 21, 2014

Today, today, I am waxing poetic.

What a good morning I had. Brownie is taking a class at MFAH’s Junior Art School this week. So, everyday at 8 a.m. we’ll be heading to the Hermann Park area for a class that runs from 9-11. This
morning I took a long stroll around the neighborhood, reveling in childish fantasies for the better part of two hours. The ‘hood directly behind the building, which is off of Montrose, is rife with 30’s & 40’s era apartment buildings and quaint homes that have often been converted into apartments. Of course, there are also some newer, sleeker patio homes, with lots of frosted glass, metal trim, and art deco numbers affixed to their facades. The older places just scream “starving artists live here,” while the newer, pricier builds are more demonstrative of the choices common among the young urban singles with high paying jobs. BMWs and Range Rovers were not uncommon sights in those driveways.

Following the homes back a few blocks, the narrow, “mulit-family dwelling” lined streets gave way to a wide, tree-lined boulevard featuring a median divided in half by a long, broad walkway made from terracotta pavers laid in a herringbone pattern. Massive century old oaks sheltered what was Oaks North Blvdessentially a linear park in the middle of row of 1920’s mansions, sitting on lush, well-landscaped lots of four or five acres each (by my estimation). I felt like I had stepped back in time to the Golden Years of Hollywood. All that was needed to complete the image in my mind was a platinum blonde Greta Garbo look-alike outfitted in a designer red silk dress, dripping with furs and jewels being driven up one of the long drives in a silver Rolls Royce by a tuxedo clad chauffeur.

North Boulevard captured my heart & took me back to the days when my family would drive through the equally august Monticello and Westover Hills areas of Ft. Worth “just for fun” on Sundays. For a young girl living in a mobile home with orange shag carpet and vinyl couches out in the sticks, my mind would soar during those drives! Goodness, how I wanted to live in one of those special homes.

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Yours for a mere $3.8 million!

After the mansions, came the more “modest” homes on more “modest” lots. The next block or two had beautiful multi-story villas of Tudor, Spanish, and Craftsman design, and a few of those stylish contemporary homes, too—the ones where it was obvious the original home had been razed to make way for a twenty-first century variation on a theme: contemporary conveniences, sleeker styles, no rusty pipes, knob and tube wiring, or window units, but generally, with a few exceptions, enough charm to fit in with the original models. Yes, my fantasies did just fine there, too.

Further along, the lots got ever smaller, and the houses began to shuffle closer together, as if they were lining up to be photographed and had to squeeze into the camera frame. The appeal of these smaller bungalows did not diminish in relation to their size though. In fact, I loved them even more for their small yards, narrow drive ways, garage apartments, lush greenery, and brightly painted front doors. Not to mention the fact that I might someday actually be able to afford a mortgage on such a property. After

Event this small shack would run you about $600K

Event this small shack would run you about $600K

all, Fantasies are all well and good, but in the end, I’m a realist.

Eventually, I reached a block where the lots gave up on sidewalks, as the front doors were just a few feet from the street. At that point, sidewalks apparently became less important than a tenuous, but necessary finger hold on green space.Sadly, it was at that moment the outside world intruded into my day dreams, just as the street had intruded upon the front yards of these fanciful doll houses. As I glanced a little farther along my path, I recognized the familiar golden arches of Mc Donalds on Kirby; the noise and industry broke the spell the trees had cast upon me, and my imagination could go no further.

But wait! I remembered something very important at that moment: I still had to turn around and go back to get Brownie.

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As an aside, there was something I couldn’t help but laugh about on my walk, strike that, my stroll, today, and that was the sidewalks. They were simply hilarious to me. The few people 007I did encounter in the hour I was out were not walking on the sidewalks, but in the street! The roots on those massive old oak trees had pried up large sections of concrete with the ease, if not the speed, of a 50 ton bulldozer.
Every time I came to a curb cut, I smiled. Seriously, if the idea of a curb cut is to take away the need for one to step-up, or make it possible for a wheel chair bound individual to roll across a street and back onto the safety of the sidewalk, making them was a huge waste of tax payers money. Huge! No grandma or gandpa with any sense of joint preservation would dare attempt to walk anywhere BUT the street! LOL. I’m so grateful I get to walk this area every day this week. But, tomorrow I think I will check out South Boulevard instead.

Progress is a Series of Small Steps in the Right Direction

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The word disciple comes from the Latin meaning “a learner,” and the older I get the more aware I am of that status within myself. When I think of my kids’ approach to life, the term “intellectually curious” is often used when it seems they are engaged and actively seeking answers to their daily questions. Conversely, “lazy” is the term employed to describe them at rest, and I don’t mean during periods of recovery from life; Lazy happens when they opt to fully disengage from everything…and drool on themselves, rather like I used to be with Facebook! In the former mode, it is less difficult to get things done around the house and to get school work accomplished; they are enjoyable and deep, meaningful discussions occur. However, when they are in the latter state, I’m not even sure they can hear, and I sometimes question if they are still breathing!

But we all have those moments, don’t we? ‘Lazy’ is a much easier state to reside within for long periods of time than ‘intellectually curious,’ which is a shame. Looking at society, particularly my own American society, it appears to me as if Lazy is a huge part of what we prefer to be, of what we choose to be, and there is really no good reason for it. Sure, some are afflicted with naturally short attention spans, but most of us have opted to have such. We want to be disengaged. No wonder the world is in the state it is in (although, I wish our legislators and this president would spend more time on social media or binge watching America’s Got Talent reruns rather than finding new ways to meddle in our daily lives!). Perhaps if we all embraced the truth that we were sent here to be or become disciples, perpetual learners, whose job it is to forever be moving forward with our education, particularly of spiritual things, and even more particularly of things (and people) other than ourselves, even when that progress seems terribly incremental, things here on Earth would be better for all.

But, of course, that’s only a dream until we graduate to a higher place. Truly, until such time, I suppose we are doing better than most by simply being aware of our obligation to learn, to progress, to make the most of our finite time on this tiny ball of rock, and to do a little more, serve a little more, study a little more each day.

Some observations on my own improved awareness lately…

Recently, I went to spend a week with my dearest friend in the world, and my youngest daughter came, too. As I desperately needed a break from the kids and the house, I was not pleased to have a tag-along for this much anticipated visit, but she was going in order to give my BFF’s granddaughter, who was there for summer vacation, someone to hang out with. The two pre-teens had known each other in early childhood and the last visit (nine years ago) which threw the girls together for any length of time was anything but restful. I was not hopeful that this outing would be much better. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. They had a blast, and so did I!

What I learned on this trip:

1) When separated from each other, my kids can be so very different from who they are at home. It was nice to see my girl blossom as a friend, an individual, and a daughter during our short vacation together. Maybe she needed the break just as much as I did.

2) With the right person, having and being a friend, even a “bestie,” doesn’t require constant contact. My closest, oldest friend, my BFF, the “aunt,” the “sister” to whom my children are bequeathed should any harm come to me and my husband, once lived walking distance from me, then she moved a quick drive away; then a plane flight became the fastest way to get to her door. Two years ago, she moved back within Texas’ borders, and we can be on the others’ couch within three hours, but neither of us make that drive more than once or twice a year. We don’t speak on the phone often either, maybe quarterly, if something important comes up. Neither of us are too keen on that phone thing. She and I email slightly more frequently, when there are things to communicate, but even then our messages are the antithesis of verbose. In truth, I’d love to see her a little more, as for me she’s the big sister I had but never had- the only big sister I have to go to for advice when I can’t think straight, and depending on the day, it seems I have hundreds of questions that only she can answer! In the years we lived close to one another, she helped me out of more than a few jams (and keys locked in cars) when I was a clueless, overwhelmed young mother; she helped me feel almost sane when I was dog paddling in the depths of depression, and she was there for me when my mother died suddenly. She was and is the aunt

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I wanted my kids to have, to trust, to love, and to know they can turn to if I’m not there or they need another ear.

Still, within the last six years I developed a friendship that was everything I thought I had missed out on from my own sisters and friends over the years, even my BFF. Both fortunately and unfortunately, that relationship burned hot and burned out quickly. And when it died, it died hard. While it lasted, it was nice to feel truly wanted and valued as a friend, like I wasn’t only taking, but giving as a friend. It was nice to feel a close sisterhood with another woman and to have someone with whom to do things; in many ways it seemed like everything I’d missed out on with my own sisters or seen in other female friendships was being fulfilled with this woman.

Alas, our relationship became the living breathing example of the old line, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.” She had to be in constant daily contact ( even when I was on vacation!) to the point it was nearly suffocating. When I complained of the list of things I had to get done, never was, “Maybe we should spend less time together or talk on the phone less frequently,” the answer. No, it was always, “You should give up X,Y, and Z, (but never me).” I knew on the day I announced that I would be homeschooling my youngest the following school year and her reaction was, “But we won’t get to spend as much time together!” things were wrapping up.

In the years that I’ve had to ponder the painful oddities of that relationship, I’ve come to be grateful for the time, short though it may be, that I do get to spend with my dearest friend. Every visit is like coming home again, picking up where we left off. I still have a hundred questions, but I save up the most important ones for our visits, though lots of them go unasked, and that’s okay. When she moved so far away that it took a plane ticket to get to her, I learned, over time, that I really could find many of the big answers myself; I could dig myself out of some ditches, and I could even call my own locksmith. She is that big sister, she is that aunt, but she is not my mother, and I am not five years old. Conversely, neither of us are leeches, sucking the life out of the other, or parasites who require the life force of another for sustenance—or validation. Perhaps some women need friends like that, need to use friends like that, thankfully, I learned I don’t. Our is a friendship of the best kind: the self-sustaining kind that doesn’t fade with time or distance. In other words, it is just what I need.

3) My Uncle Leslie, my mother’s youngest brother, is quite wonderful. In the forty-four years we’ve shared on Earth together, I don’t recall ever having any uninterrupted one-on-one time with him. As he lives within thirty miles of my BFF, and my visit with her was going to last longer than a millisecond, I thought it would be nice to get together; and it was.

Like my grandfather, Leslie has always held a special place in my heart; and perhaps because of the rarity of our visits, which seem to have always been predicated upon baptisms, deaths, births, and family reunions, it has been easy to put him on a pedestal. It didn’t hurt, of course, that his was the only example of what seemed to be an intact, well- functioning nuclear family among my blood relatives, which was something for which I yearned desperately. In his house there were no out of wedlock births or divorces, no drug abuse, extra marital-affairs, sexual abuse, or screaming matches. And Leslie’s family, from what I knew, had no welfare queens or shot gun weddings. His family was always active in the church (not that that makes everything all better, but it doesn’t hurt!), his kids went on to college, married in the temple, served missions, formed cohesive families. In other words, they did all the things I wished my family did, but mostly they just seemed to love one another without reserve. How he and Aunt Linda managed all that when mine couldn’t even figure out the rudiments of society most of the time was baffling.

Similar to the list of questions I always have for my BFF, the list I have for Leslie is at least twice as long. During my sixteen years of motherhood, fourteen of which I myself have been motherless, I have become terribly curious about my mother’s life, the choices she made, the trials she endured, the role my grandparents, aunts, and uncles played in her life, and how they saw her. My visit with Leslie proved a mix of all of those things, and I learned more about him as an individual; I walked away wishing we could make such lunches a weekly event. But regardless of whether we do or don’t ‘do lunch’ again in the future, I am sure that two plus hours we sat together over pizza is going on my short list of “Life’s Best Moments.” Thank you, Uncle Leslie.

Finally, there is this:

4) It is easy to focus on spiritual things when you don’t have to focus on a hundred other things, too. I started a book entitled Walking with the Savior: 365 Days of Miracles by Rena Petterson…three years ago. And never made it past the first two weeks. I restarted it just before my trip, worked on it during the trip, then came home and forgot about it for a week and a half. What is it about the two week ma

cs-lewis

rk that keeps stifling my progress on this 365 day journey? Oh, yes, I remember now: life. Well, I’m trying to get back on track with it. Clearly, I need the time within its pages (which also includes time in my scriptures) just as much as I need food and rest on a daily basis, yet “things” come up. Mostly, though, we simply get lazy (see above), and taking the path of least resistance, as we are want to do, leads to binge watching Netflix or any of a number of truly time-wasting endeavors that carry no celestial significance. How easily we get distracted; how easily we seek for things of lesser “weight” on which to spend our precious time. Very often these days I am reminded of a poem I read aloud during a sacrament talk years ago. It is called “The Devil’s Convention,” and is readily available on a hundred different websites. The unknown author echos many of the same things C.S. Lewis captured in his small but important book The Screwtape Letters, and to a lesser degree in The Great Divorce. It reads as follows:

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said,

“We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do angels: Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” shouted his angels.

“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work! Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly! Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions. Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”

“It will work! It will work!” his angels cried.

It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

I guess the question is has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge!

Does ‘busy’ nean: B-eing U-nder S-atan’s Y-oke?

so-busyHere’s to hoping you & I find a way to be less B.U.S.Y. this week and more focused on life’s truly important things.