Wednesday, November 20, 2013
One person who helped to get me through a very long and difficult hardship in my life was Nephi. Nephi just seemed to get it! He understood loss, major relocation, abuse by those who should have loved him, betrayal, fear, pain, loneliness, you name it! But he also understood love, trust, faith, forgiveness, endurance, and looking to Father to find peace. I love Nephi! From day one, I felt like he completely understood me. So, having this kind of faith in this great prophet of God, I listened to him. I studied his words; I prayed about them; and I let him teach him.
From Nephi I learned that it isn't any variety of trial that destroys our peace. It is only when we allow the Spirit to leave our lives that peace can be taken from our hearts. In “Nephi's Psalm” (2 Nephi 4:19-30 from the Book of Mormon), Nephi's heart is heavy at the loss of his father and the other great trials in his life. He takes the time here to marvel at the wonders of God that have strengthened and sustained him numberless times. He lets us know in no uncertain terms that, yes, it's been hard, but he has decided to trust in our Savior Jesus Christ.
He then asks himself, and all of us, “Why should I yield to sin...why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?” I realized that the only thing destroying his peace was his willingness to give in to anger! I knew this was true in my own life as well.
Then he gives himself a to-do and a not-to-do. The to-do: “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, o my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul...Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord...” He beckoned himself to wake up and rejoice.
And the not-to-do he gave himself was simple: “Do not anger again because of mine enemies.”
I love his little pep talk, his day of decision! I love that he had the courage to say, “Hey, this is not right in my life. The Lord has been so very good to me, and I need to step it up for Him. Even if my own brothers are trying to KILL me, they are not the reason for my lack of peace. My own decisions are the only reason my kind Father would allow peace to withdraw from my heart.”
Then, in a great spirit of humility, Nephi pleads with the Lord for strength to do what he needs to do. We can do the same, and we will have the same outcome. The Lord will come to our aid; He will give us everything we need to make it through the days ahead. He will help us so we do more than just “make it.” He will give give us more than survival techniques; He will give us the power to THRIVE, for thriving is truly what living the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. :)
Saturday, November 16, 2013
One day, shortly after the divorce had been filed, I was walking with my friend, Ruth. As we were talking, I mentioned something that might help in a marriage. I abruptly stopped myself and blurted out, “As if I would know!” I realized a horrible truth in that moment. I was losing more than my husband.
I had lost two things. First, I had lost my trust in marriage. Second, in that painful moment, I realized I had lost trust in myself and all I had stood for. I didn't feel I could have an opinion on the subject since I was an obvious failure at the whole thing. Who would listen to me? How could I even listen to myself?
As the months wore on, I learned that this opinion of myself was shared by others. The most painful evidence came one day when I was offering my teenage daughters advice on dating, courtship, and yes, even marriage, although we knew it was down the road for them. One daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, not to be rude (a sure sign I needed to grip my emotional cuddly), but you giving advice on marriage is like a fat person giving advice on dieting.” (Where was my cuddly, anyhow?!)
“That may be true,” I said. But then I remembered Ruth's kind and peaceful answer when I had felt that way about myself all those months before. Her simple answer was, “Maybe you know better than any of us. Maybe, because of what you've been through, you could help the rest of us.” So I turned to my girls and surprised them with, in essence, “but maybe I'm just the one to ask!”
How did I get to this point? How did I go from stopping myself in mid sentence, feeling nothing I said or felt mattered because I failed at the ultimate relationship in life, from being so confident in myself? How did I go from doubting everything I said and did, to believing again? It was a path God has taken me down.
I had to start by regaining my testimony of marriage. I had to know. Is marriage in God's plan for all His children or is it for the few who can figure it out? I read the Proclamation to the World on the Family, I listened to LDS general conference talks on the subject, I watched as others around me kept on going. But mostly, I waited. My heart had been wrenched right out of my chest...... I had to wait.
I don't like waiting. I can be quite indecisive at times, but when I know what I need, I have a horrible time waiting for it. But wait was all I could do. Healing takes times; healing takes prayer; healing takes wisdom; healing takes patience. I was willing to work and learn while I waited- that's what made it bearable.
Elder M. Russell Ballard (in General Conference, May 1987) said, “Satan is always working to destroy our testimonies, but he will not have the power to tempt or disturb us beyond our strength to resist when we are studying the gospel and living its commandments.”
As important as I knew waiting was, I knew I could not wait and do nothing. Standing still drives me crazy, especially when I know it is actually moving me backwards. If I was waiting and doing nothing, I was going backwards, my testimony was shrinking, and my faith in myself and marriage was dwindling. It couldn't happen. So I prayed. I prayed for strength to smile when I saw a couple playfully holding hands. I prayed for courage to sit in the temple's Celestial Room with so many loving couples looking into each others' eyes. I prayed for wisdom to keep my sarcasm to myself when the pain was too much to bear, and I prayed for patience as I waited for my testimony to be restored.
One thing that helped me was that I made a decision; I chose to believe. I chose to look forward and not back. I chose to be glad in others' marriage successes. I chose not to be bitter toward the whole institution. Was I perfect at all this? Not hardly! I was horrible at times. There were times I let the hurt take over and the grief was too much to bear. I let it turn me angry inside. I'd go outside and shoot the bastketball at the backboard. I liked the sound it made- an angry, dingy, abrasive noise- a noise that matched my heart. Or I'd hit the punching bag, sometimes giving it a name. But then I would calm down and I'd remember that I had chosen. I had chosen not to be bitter, but to be believing. I would repent and try again. I believe this is what made all the difference.
One day I got up in Sacrament Meeting to bear my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I was bearing my testimony, I felt a strong urge to share my feelings on familes. I had done this many times throughout my life, but with the changes in my family, it seemed difficult to get the words out in the preceeding months. I stood with confidence on this day and said, “I know that families can be together forever.” I wasn't faking it; I knew it. I absolutely knew it. And I knew that one day my family would be whole again. Oh! How I wanted a whole family! But even without all the members there, I knew we were still a family. I knew I was part of Heavenly Father's family, and He wanted me back. I knew that one day not only would I “cleave together again, that [I] stood," ( 3 Nephi 10:10),” but that my family would somehow, someway “cleave together and [stand].” One thing I have never doubted as I've faithfully read the Book of Mormon is that Heavenly Father keeps His promises. And He has promised an eternal family to all the faithful, not the perfect, but the faithful. As I turn my heart to Him, He will not deny me my greatest wish.
I have just discovered what I will call “creation therapy.” I learned about it quite by accident not to long ago. One of my children was being defiant and rebellious, and really didn't care that they were. They (covering up if said child is male or female) had gotten themselves into trouble without the least bit of remorse. They just wanted to know what the punishment was going to be. I knew if I handed out a punishment, I would get the nonchalant, shrug of the shoulder, “Okay.” I explained that I don't believe in punishments, but in discipline and natural consequences. The natural consequence of the behavior was the obvious temporary loss of trust, but this particular child didn't care about that and I knew there needed to be something more.
What natural consequence goes with “who cares if I break the rules, they are dumb anyway” attitude? I was stuck. I told my child I would let them know later what would happen. When they left the room, I got down on my knees and asked the Perfect Parent what I should do. I had the most overpowering feeling that my child should stay home from school the following day and can applesauce with me. “But I'm not canning applesauce tomorr....” I began to mutter. Oh, yes I was! ;)
The next morning I announced the consequence. “You will stay home from school today and help me can applesauce.”
“That's my punishment?!?!?” they exclaimed with a sly hint of “I won out on this one!”
The canning started, the silence in the room could've cooled my whole city in July. Once in a while I would give instructions on how something needed to be done, I'd let out a little giggle as I messed up on something simple, and I'd let them know they were doing a good job. After a while I got a response, simple and cold. Who was this drudgery for anyway? Me!
Some more time passed and my child started asking questions about why we cooked the apples first, “did they need to be pealed?,” and “were they smashed enough?” Then the questions changed to “can I do that?” And “is this the right way?” A humble demeanor was replacing a cold haughty one.
We even started having a few laughs here and there- together. I realized this precious child was learning to accept help, direction, and insight from someone they were sure they didn't need in their life. I also watched as the creation process unfolded, how good they felt about themselves. Waiting for the can lids to “pop” was our reward for a long days labor. Cheering quietly together as each lid did, was healing.
The act of creating is a God-like quality. It makes sense it is a natural way to heal from heartache, abuse, and even rebellion. I have since found other creative projects to do with this and the other children, some of which have come at crucial times when correction and bonding were needed. As we have sewed together, learned how to knit, and helped duck-eggs hatch, we have grown closer together. The child is not healed, but the relationship is mending by creating together, just as God knew it would be.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
We the People
When I moved from South Jordan, Utah to Ogden, Utah a number of years ago I drove the 50 minute drive to my old city to put in my vote in the primary election. Why would I pack up my little children and make such a long drive just for my single vote? Because I grew up with a mother who taught her children through story telling.
She once told me of a far away land, a land where people were just granted voting rights, a land where there was incredible resistance and horrible violence done to those who used their new found privilege. A woman in this far off land had a daughter with no feet. When asked what happened to her feet, the brave woman replied, “They told me if I voted, they would cut off my baby's feet. They kept their promise.” Just for one vote!
I have a dear friend whose husband has Parkinson disease. Because it is so difficult for him to do small things, even as simple as getting in and out of a chair, they decided to vote early. After sending in their ballots, dear Mr. Smith realized he forgot to sign his ballot. So on election day, Mr. and Mrs. Smith drove into the city and had the election judge go through the box until she found his ballot, just so he could sign it. He knew his one vote counted!
I've had the opportunity to be an election judge on occasion. One year was I was taught a priceless lesson. The precincts and poll locations had been changed, creating an enormous amount of confusion to the voters. I watched as a young man walked in, found his poll location was different, stormed out of the building and shouted, “I just won't vote!”
I watched as another man came in, much older, much slower, with each step a burden to his entire body. He was guided by what looked like an adult daughter. I wished there were no stairs and that the table was closer to the door. When he got to the table he explained that this was his third try to find his polling place. I was so glad when we found his name in our large book. He then asked if his relative could sign the book for him. I didn't know, so I told him I thought he should do it. As he put his cane against the table and tried to balance himself while keeping his hand still, I could see in his eyes as the pain shot up his arm and went throughout his body. I apologized for making him do it. He was kind in his reply. He started toward the booth. After an extended period of time, he started the painful process back to his car. All to cast one vote!
Men and women have died so that we can cast one vote each. Did these people die in vain? These people died so we can be “we the people,” not “well, my one vote won't count anyway.” I once heard a man say, “No decision is your decision!” Yes, it is. And yes, your one vote counts because it is your decision. Make it count for you, for your children, and for America's future. Just one vote makes all the difference.