Category Archives: faith

Day 6: Trader Joe’s, Beautiful Skies, Talent, and Grace

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This thirty day challenge may end up being a one year effort to put fingers to keys! Nevertheless, here’s day 6!

  • Several weeks ago I was subcontracting for a gentleman who had an exceedingly difficult client ; and I’m not being hyberbolic in that description. In fact, I ended up walking out on the job. Left for lunch and didn’t return. Of course, I let the contractor know, and he understood completely. There really are people in the world who expect what feels like superhuman perfection from us. “Sorry, not sorry,” but I’m disinclined to play that game. Life really is too precious to compete with extra human or supernatural forces in order to please people who give so little grace to the Universe.Late in the afternoon of my second day there, I paused for lunch. In my area, there is only one relatively close Trader Joe’s, and we moved further from it when we bought a new house three years ago. Now, it’s a bit of a time luxury to go, but considering this client was giving me a headache with her “hospital corners” exactitude, I was grateful for the close proximity of a store I consider a happy place.

    Why is TJ’s a “happy place,” a respite from a storm? Isn’t is just another grocery store? No, not to this artistic soul. The music is a perfect mix of oldies tunes to which one can easily make a fool of oneself in front of ten other people doing the same. It’s almost like the old “I’m a Pepper! You’re a Pepper” Dr. Pepper ads! The light isn’t overbearing, but “just right;” the store colors and packaging are spot on for an artist- bright and crisp- with beautiful line art. The flowers at the entrance are welcoming, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a grumpy TJ’s employee. So, when an overbearing client is harshing my mellow in the most excruciating of ways, where else would I rather be within a 2 mile radius? Trader Joe’s it is!

  • Beautiful skies, particularly those near sunset, speak to my soul and whisper the lines from Alma 30:44 in the Book of Mormon:  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. 

    The majesty of massive cloud formations, the variety of colors filtering through the atmosphere, the miracle of light refraction seen in the manifestation of a multichromatic arc stretching across space- I cannot look at these things and deny the Creator of creation. There must be hundreds of cloud and sunset pictures on my phone from years of stopping to snap scenes that cause my heart to pound and words of gratitude to part my lips,”Thank you! Thank you for creating this just for us.”

   

  • I’ve often pondered the parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. Easily, one could interpret the Lord’s words to refer to finances or spiritual gifts. For my purposes here, I’m going with the latter and considering my artistic talent to be endowment. developing, increasing my talent hasn’t been my forte, though using what I have has been. With that, I’d say I’m like the second man in the parable, the guy who received two coins, then doubled them. He got a small, but adequate start. Image result for parable of the talentsNot so sad as to only get one coin worth of seed money, but not so respected as to get five. Have I doubled my coinage over my life time? No, I’ve still got work to do, but I am a problem solver, and I try to be realistic. As artists go, I’m good. Definitely not great, nor amazing, but in my very small sphere I do well. Figuring out where that sphere is, as it seems to keep bouncing away from me, is part of my problem (also known as ADHD). Nevertheless, there are those days when I finish a project or troubleshoot a situation at work, that a sense of gratitude overwhelms me, and I’m grateful for not burying those coins or giving up when the desire had my knees buckling.
  • Grace. Such a small word, but the whole of the eternities is contained therein. For my purposes, however, I’m not referring to the Grace Christ conferred upon us through his infinite Atonement, but rather the goodwill that we impart to one another when we acknowledge their good faith efforts in light of our own failings and limitations. As a fallible, imperfect human with limited sight, as a mother, a wife, a friend, and particularly as an #tinycontractor, I need Grace in abundant measure; when I’m doing my best, I need my efforts to be recognized, not praised, really, but at least noted…and likewise, I must do the same for others.Life is challenging! As a whole, there is no doubt that statement is true. Good days, bad days, moments in between where it feels all is falling to pieces, which often comes on the heels of all going swimmingly well! La vida est loco! Illness, kids, spouses, zigging when we should have zagged!

    Grace comes in when you pause to consider how your actions Image result for you never know what someone is going through mememight be affecting another- then you stop doing those things. Grace comes in when you’re disappointed with another, then you pause to consider what might be the root of your frustrations, and choose to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Grace comes in when someone is trying their best, but falling short of your expectations, and you take a second or two to reexamine your expectations. Grace comes in when you think of your own bad moments and how you wish others had treated you, then you chose to be kind in stead of pugnacious.

    Solo contracting is one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my 48 years. Success or failure is one one set of shoulders, and those shoulders are small and terribly human. I try to be careful about over promising, but I will admit to being the queen of “magical thinking” (read: I’m late, but no worries! I can drive 28 miles in 5 minutes!). By that I don’t mean I can’t deliver, but realistically, it IS going to take me longer than someone with a team or bigger, faster, sleeker equipment, and I’m likely to charge more because, like the local mom and pop store, I don’t make my profits by volume alone. With that, I’m so grateful when a client chooses me, despite those limitations; I’m even more grateful when they see those limitations and extend Grace when I’m “off” one day, and I need to rework something, or my family needs me, or I get a cold that puts me in bed or slows down my usually spastic self.

    May we all give and receive Grace in equal measure, one to another. Peace out!

 

Gratitude Journal Challenge: Day 1

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Well, as I’m looking for things to make me write, to dust off my creaking fingers and cogs, I figure a 30 day gratitude challenge is as good as anything to start me off. Some of these particular may be quick drafts to be fleshed out more in the future, some may get a long form shot out right. Who knows!? So, here goes…

#1: How has an “attitude of gratitude” blessed you in the past?

My life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Though the majority of the “rough stuff” occurred prior to my marriage in 1992, there has been plenty of buffeting about in the past 27 years, too. I don’t believe I could be as functional as I am today without a sense of gratitude.

Sad to say, but not unexpectedly, it took a number of years for the comprehension of my blessings to develop. Yet, once it did, it made understanding my life’s challenges much easier…and it has kept me sane. It can be easy to stew in the anger that often results from loss and disappointment, to muck about in the mire of regrets and “what-ifs.” Yes, it’s very easy, but not productive for oneself or those near by.

As long as we live, we will have trials, things to stretch us- often beyond our sense of comfort. I’ve had a few times I’ve screamed “UNCLE” at God, among other things, but these crisis moments have been short lived.

Several years ago, after my car accident, after my last knee surgery, when I was trying to make a racewalking “comeback,” but everything that could go wrong biomechanically was and I had to stop walking. My mental health was not the best, as it felt like my body was rebelling for no good reason other than to piss me off. Nothing was working. 

It was then that I happened upon a disabled vet who had lost both legs above the knee because of an IED. We chatted for a few minutes about his injuries. He noted that he missed being able to run and play with his kids like before (and here I was whining about not being able to exercise in my preferred manner). It was definitely a sobering moment, a reminder that we just don’t always get what we want, but more often than not we have a helluva lot more than many others. Interestingly, this young vet told me he’d had his own moment at the gym one day, when he ran into a vet missing an arm. “At least I can still play catch with my son,” he observed.

It is during such times that I am grateful for the “smallness” of my struggles. I am still unable to racewalk, but I am little hindered anymore as I scale ladders for work. Yoga doesn’t feel as good as it once did, but I am still more flexible than 95 percent of the population! I still deal with depression, and was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (low thyroid) and I’m barrelling headlong into menopause, but I’m not bi-polar or schizophrenic, my thyroid issue was caught early (I had no idea!), and I can afford bioidentical hormone replacement (though I white hot hate being pelleted in the hip every 3 months!). Even my childhood traumas, and there were a few, including a broken home and sexual abuse, don’t hold a candle to the pitted path upon which so many others walk every day. 

No, I shall take my troubles and simply say ‘thank you’ to God for having the support network, the mental and physical health, the financial resources (for a therapist, and life), and my faith in a better world to come. I don’t want the difficulties others must endure. Mine are quite enough. Perspective truly is everything!

 

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 forAChristus2 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 tantamount to asking women to wear ball gags, handcuffs, 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.

Get. A. Grip.

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?

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.

I’ll drag across the plains, but don’t you dare take away my tech!

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?

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!