Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Are All Children

It would be an understatement to say that we were suprised by the words, "it's a girl!" when Emily was born. We knew it was a boy. We just knew. Even though our ultrasound was inconclusive, we knew. It was a boy and he would be our last and we would finally have our completed family.

But it was a girl.

I can be honest when I say that there was not an ounce, not even a smidge, of any kind of disappointment in that first moment or minutes or days or weeks or the past 15+ months. There was shock and suprise. There was "are you SURE?!?". There was, "then where's the boy we KNEW we were having?". "Is there someone else in there??". And another, "are you SURE?"

The doctor was sure. It was a girl.

And she was ours right from the start. I had prepared myself mentally to move into a "mom of boys" mode and all that it brought with it ~ trucks and jeans and dirt and more dirt. Oh and did I mention dirt? I thought I was done with frills and dresses and hairdos and pink, pink and more pink. I felt lucky that I would be having each of these in their turn. We had three girls first. Then we'd have two boys. I would have had the chance to devote myself to little girls and then to little boys.

The fact that it didn't work out like I thought it would doesn't make me less lucky. Now that we have Emily, I think we're even more lucky, because we have her. She, who is the baby we never knew we would get; the baby we never got to know we wanted until she came.

Sunday in church Kurt had Emily standing on his lap and she was making funny faces to the people sitting behind us. She was squinting her eyes, as if by doing so she could disappear. She'd open her eyes with surprise, and people would laugh. Rinse, lather, repeat.

It was in one of those moments that I had a feeling of such mom-ness come over me: where would our family be without her? It would be incomplete, even though we might not know it (though a part of me knows we would know). We would have missed on all that is Emily ~ from her skinny chickenness as an infant, to her emerging words, her Schmemily Meeman moments (this is her alter ego and what we call her when she has seemed to have turned to the dark side).

It was a flood of thought and emotion that came more quickly than I can type them or even be able to sort them all out.

Later our YW President gave an incredible Christmas Lesson to all of our YW. She related to the girls how our Heavenly Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ, that He (Jesus) is divine, and that because of His divinity he was able to overcome not only physical death but spiritual death for all of us. She described the Atonement and talked about how our behavior can sometimes remove us from hearing and being close to Him. That by prayer and scripture study and repentance and church attendance we can better bring ourselves back into line with Him.

As I listened I thought about how we are all children of our Heavenly Father. And, as we sometimes compare our roles as parents to Heavenly Father's roll, in order to help us understand, even a little, the love he has for us, I thought again about my feelings for Emily, and for each of our children. And I thought about how our family would be missing something if Emily, or any of them, weren't there.

I thought about how it's the same for Heavenly Father's family. He loves each one of us, sent His Son for each of us, and His family would be missing something if we weren't back with Him someday. He would miss us, just like we would miss any of our children.

He is our Father, and we are all His children.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Most Cherished Relationship

My wedding day was the very best day of my life. I married my best friend Kurt, whom I loved. We were sealed together in the Boise Idaho Temple. Our faces could have cracked with the size of our smiles that day!

In the Bible Dictionary, Adam and Eve are defined as a family. Joined as husband and wife, they were a family. Certainly their relationship set the tone for children that would eventually join them. Their posterity ensured the world would be populated. We do not, as individual couples, have that same responsibility. As children are not guaranteed for any of us, though certainly a blessing, the Church website states 'those who are married should consider their union as their most cherished earthly relationship. A spouse is the only person other than the Lord whom we have been commanded to love with all our heart.' (D&C 42:22)


When I was seven, I watched as my parents' marriage ended in divorce. My brother and I lived with my mom from that point on, though we continued to visit my dad regularly and had a good relationship with him. My mom worked very hard to make sure we had what we needed. At 6ft tall, she was a formidable woman, who carried on strong and capable. She was my role model as I grew, and as I focuses on a long school career and eventual work in medicine, I thought "if she could do it, so could I". Though the idea of marriage sounded nice, if it didn't work out I would move forward as I had watched my mother do. My attitude on marriage at that time was articulated by Elder Hafen as being that of a "contractual marriage" ~ a marriage of convenience that lasts as long as the fun does, but really misses the deep and wonderful bond that comes from what he described instead as a "covenant marriage". A contractual marriage brings a "what can you do for me?" attitude, according to Elder Hafen, while a covenant marriage starts with two people looking to make their spouse's life more comfortable. A covenant marriage begins in the Temple, where a couple pledge themselves to each other and to continue in obedience in following the Lord's commandments. There is a certain sweetness that accompanies a covenant marriage; a sacred trust and cherished friendship.

Temple marriage covenants do not magically bring equality to a partnership. Those covenants commit us to a developmental process of learning and growing together, by practice. (Elder Bruce C. Hafen, Ensign, Aug 2007)

Of course my attitude on marriage is very different now. An introduction to the Gospel in High School by good friends began that change of heart. Kurt and I have enjoyed our 15+ years of marriage. Though we have been spared any serious heartache in our relationship, feeling the influence of our Temple marriage has helped us to dig in at times and keep a more eternal perspective.


Nothing is more important, and nothing is more influential in our home as the example of a husband and wife, who love each other. Home becomes a place where other want to be. As ware now raising our children, we desire an atmosphere at home that leaves no doubt in their minds how mom and dad feel about each other. Couples who strive to keep their covenant marriage a living entity develop a love that becomes less bothered by personality quirks or differing opinions. They reverence each other as they share their most personal details, dreams and intimacies.

In our family, my mother and father-in-law are incredible examples of this principle. It is obvious, after 41 years of marriage, that they still love each other in a way that is renewed regularly. Our oldest daughter, now 14, used to call her Grandma Freeman her '"Woot Woo" Grandma', because Grandpa is always whistling to Grandma, "woot woo!". Their love for each other revolves around service and daily displays of affection. They speak in a considerate tone; they counsel with each other regularly; they do things together.

As Kurt and I dated, I saw this example and came to know better the man I would marry, because of the parents who raised him. I knew a son who had always seen his father treat his mother with respect, would treat his wife the same way. I was right!


It is imperative that we include the Lord in our marriage. Praying together has an amazing way of removing anger from the room and builds the bond of spiritual strength and security. There have been times when an answered prayer has made such an impression on me, that it's influence has lasted well beyond the issue that was prayed about.

When Kurt proposed -- at 3:30 one morning -- and after only 5 1/2 weeks of dating, I was not completely prepared. An institute teacher we'd had one told the story of his proposal to his wife, and it was his story that introduced the suggestion to me of praying about who we might marry. So when suddenly I found this wonderful boy kneeling in front of me, all I could tell him was "yes, but I need to pray about it." I'm sure that wasn't the romance and fireworks he was hoping for! And then he endured a grueling 19 hours before hearing my answer, which was a firm and elated "yes!"

That prayer that I went home and prayer, after waking my mom to tell her what had happened, was strongly affirmed by a warm, special spirit. This was an acceptable union to the Lord. In moments when I may have lost my perspective, this memory helps guide me back to confronting better the issue at hand.

Prayer made a memorable difference as we contemplated our first big move away from where we grew up. Kurt was offered a job, we were given the opportunity to buy a house, and I would be able to stay at home with our two small girls -- all good things. But was the move the right thing for us to do?

Returning home from a trip to this new place, we attended the Temple where in the prayer circle I heard for the first time (though I've heard it many times since), "bless those who have come with a specific purpose, that they will receive the desire of their hearts." It was that same confirming spirit that consumed us, and we knew that moving was the right thing to do. How the memory of this prayer sustained us as those first months, even years, held times when we wanted to come running back!

There is so much power in praying for our spouse; For their safety, their health, their ability to withstand the things the world throws at them; For success in their righteous endeavors. In a world that can bring so many tough challenges, where our worth can be dashed and our best efforts beaten down, our spouse -- even our Eternal Companion -- can and should be the wonderful soft place for us to fall.


As Kurt and I prepared to be married, we interviewed with the Stake President in order to obtain our marriage recommend. During his interview, I was asked if I knew what the number one cause of divorce was. This question caught me totally off guard because here I was, in love and looking forward to a fairy-tale life. Of course I hadn't thought about divorce, at least not how it applied directly to me. When I stumbled for an answer, he responded with one word: SELFISHNESS.

I have remembered that interview question, and have seen where that wise Stake President was right. When selfishness instead of charity governs out actions, troubles arise, misery sets in and eventually marriages come to an end.

On one of our first trips to the grocery store after we were married, Kurt and I discovered that we might not be completely like-minded in every detail. I was appalled that he would causally put a dozen eggs in the cart without checking to maker sure none were broken, and let him know of my disapproval. Heavy silence ensued.

Not too many isles away from the eggs, Kool-Aid was put into the cart. Here again, we had differing ideas. His children were going to drink Kool-aid; mine were not. Since we'd thought those children were going to be the same people, this was now a problem! We eventually compromised and decided that if the kids wanted Kool-aid, they'd have to get it from dad. Now, I can't tell you the last time we had Kool-aid in the house... It has just become something we grew out of buying. It's a shame we put so much energy into the issue that day at the store!


To be one with our spouse comes by living the gospel and keeping our covenants. The extent to which we become one with Christ is the extent to which we become one with each other.

Elder Eyring states, "the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would part of His Church: "Be one: and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). And at the creation of a man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope, it was a command! "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity."


The Church website states; 'Couples must center their lives in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As couples help one another keep the covenants they have made, attend church and the temple together, study the scriptures together and kneel together in prayer, God will guide them. Their companionship will sweeten through the years; their love will strengthen. Their appreciation for one another will grow.'

Elder Eyring adds, "Where people have the spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The spirit put the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention. It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife. It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified [marriage] depends on unified souls."

Years ago I saw a diagram drawn on a chalkboard during an institute lesson. It was a simple triangle, with Heavenly Father at the top, and two people's names attached to each other bottom two corners. Those names in my case were mine and Kurt's The lessons was simple: the closer we come to God, by keeping His commandments and through obedience to covenants, the closer we come to each other. Seeking to have and then maintaining a covenant marriage through loving service and faithful commitment to our spouse leads to the happiness and pure joy offered by our Father in heaven.

This I know for sure as I have felt the Spirit's influence in my marriage as we strive together to nourish our most precious relationship here on the earth.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Smile Challenge

My friend Krista started a fabulous program called "The Smile Challenge" with her YW last spring. She extended an invitation after October's conference for others to join in the fun and after a little hesitation (I didn't want it to fall into that "one more thing" category and become an obligation when I knew the potential was there to be an amazing experience), I accepted the challenge and as a result have been reading one conference talk each day (or very nearly every day....sorry Krista! I'm coming clean here!).

I had that feeling of great potential and excitement as I got started on the 1st of November. I decided to print each talk and keep it in a 3-ring binder so as not to mark up and muck up our family copy of November's Ensign. Doing so has also given me ample space to write notes and impressions as I've read. Love that!

The first big thing that struck me, though it took a couple of days to do so, was the inspired order in which the talks are presented. The very first talk, "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance" by Elder Scott was about gaining the ability to recognize the Spirit in our lives. That was followed by Sister Matsumori's talk, "Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit". Based on this order, the principle that we first must learn for ourselves before we can share with others is emphasized. Amazing!

The final speaker on Saturday morning was President Uchtdorf. His talk was entitled, "The Love of God". He spoke about our love for God being the factor that most completely rules our behavior. It was a great way to end that first session.

The first speaker of the Saturday afternoon session was, after the sustaining of church officers took place, Elder Oaks. The title of his talk was, "Love and Law". Here we heard about God's love for us (in contrast to our love for Him in President Uchtdorf's talk), and how it balances perfectly with his perfect adherance to the laws of the Gospel. These two talks, technically in succession, were again evidence of the inspiration each speaker received as they prepared to present their talks.

Now I am reading Sunday Afternoon's talks, and just re-read Elder Hollands powerful (whoa!) words regarding his testimony of the Book of Mormon. We were driving home from UT and had Conference on the radio and I remember feeling each of his words penetrate my spirit. I knew, because of the way I felt, that he was speaking the truth. I knew that he spoke with all the energies of his soul because he too knew what he was saying was true.

I've been glad to re-read the talks that came after Elder Holland's, because I remember feeling badly for whoever spoke next. I sat through the next few speakers still recovering from Elder Holland's direct and powerful testimony.

Re-reading their words (Elder Cook's talk on Stewardship and Elder Brent Nielson's talk on missionary work) now have been edifying parts to my days.

My next goal is to go back through what I've read and study the footnotes and write more completely about the impressions I receive. Maybe some of that will show up here. Stephanie over at Diapers and Divinity is having some fabulous conversations on various conference addresses. They, along with her other amazing posts, have been great to read.

I know Krista would love to have anyone join her Smile Challenge. Along with a daily conference talk, participators are reading a chapter in the Book of Mormon, along with saying their morning and evening prayers. Originally started for her YW, it's an awesome way to lift your day.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Above Mediocre

October 2009's General Conference has left both me and Kurt reflecting. On our drive home last night from Utah, he said that the overwhelming theme to him this conference was that it was time to choose. No more fence sitting ~ you either did things or you didn't; you either chose the Lord or you chose something else.

I have a new quote (though I don't know the author) hanging by my desk. I saw it in our friend's house when we stayed over before our cruise in August. It reads:

If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God as a goal in life, it will - in the end - make no difference what you choose instead.
One of the impressions I had as the conference ended and as Kurt and I talked was that I have no desire to be mediocre. We have no desire to be mediocre. I read Kurt the experience Heber C. Kimball and his companions had the night before they baptized the first saints in England. They were shaken by demons and evil spirits and were shown just how many were working to keep them from accomplishing the work.
Kurt and I discussed how really the adversary's work is one of distraction. He doesn't really have to get us to do things that are bad; he simply has to keep us from doing all the good we can. He has to keep us from moving forward, making progress and gaining self-earned, God-given strength.
If he can keep us at "mediocre" levels, he will accomplish an awful lot.
And so, it is our desire to fight against mediocrity, because I have no desire to be mediocre.
And I honestly feel the potential within myself that makes me believe that I am meant for so much more than anything mediocre.
so. much. more.
All of us have this potential, but maybe we're already convinced that we can be happy with mediocre. That mediocre is good enough. I have had thoughts that have tried to convince me of that.
I don't believe Heavenly Father created us to be mediocre. I don't believe that He saved us for this time and place, just to "get by".
We are destined for greatness, needed to stand up for all that is right, help grow and progress the Kingdom (even if that means only within the walls of our own homes most of the time),
and to be
'doers of the word, not hearers only'.
I am not meant for mediocrity.
CS Lewis said, "We are half hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when INFINITE JOY is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased!"
After Heber and his companions fought off (through prayer and the Priesthood) each of the demons trying to thwart them, they received and out pouring of the Lord's spirit.
We are all entitled to such experiences, if we are just willing to get up and TRY.
I have a desire to fufill my potential. To not look back, when my life is over, and see a series of regrets and disappointments.
Today I lift my eyes above my circumstances and search for the greatness I know is within.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You Can't Earn a Gift

As we were leaving the CostCo parking lot a few weeks ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said, "If we can earn it, why did He die?" I felt as though it was a direct hit on the mis-informed notion that as Latter-day Saints we somehow believe that we can earn our way to heaven. And it got me thinking about the balance between grace and works, between justice and mercy.

I know that our Father in Heaven has blessings for us that are ours for the taking if only we are obedient to His commandments and are willing to follow his principles, to keep our covenants and to live His doctrine. There are, in fact, blessings that can be earned. And there's a big bucket (how I picture it, anyway) with our name on it, ready to be poured out into our lives. But we have to do our part.

Then there's the blessing of Salvation, and that is something that we cannot earn. It is a gift, and you can't earn a gift. This is where the delicate balance between doing all we can and the infinite grace of God come together. Even doing EVERYTHING, we still would fall short. And really, who can do EVERYTHING? Though surely as a girl, not for the lack of trying!

The gift of exaltation cannot be earned, though doing our part now does mean that we will become more pure, that we will become more like Him. We will be more ready to accept His gift as it was intended to be given.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Had You Thought of This Like This Before?

I have in my van John Bytheways' book, "When Times Are Tough: 5 Scriptures That Will Get You Through Almost Anything". In it he outlines four sets of five scriptures that will help us improve our marriage, our family relationships, our faith, will motivate us to action and a set that will 'get you through almost anything'. It's been a great read.

In the set that are aimed at strengthening faith, Brother Bytheway relates a thought from Jeffrey R. Holland who counsels that the scripture that admonishes us to "not let our hearts be troubled..." (John 14:27) is a commandment.

Elder Holland says, "I submit to you, that [John 14:27] may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord's merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my chidlren were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when He find that His people do not feel confident in His care or secure in His hands or trust in His commandments."
Brother Bytheway hadn't thought of this this way before. Neither had I. Had you?
But as I read it and thought about Elder Holland's comparison as a parent, I know he's right. I would feel the same as he said he would. And so as I relate that to my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I am inclined to increase my communication with Him that I might enlist His aid more in my life.
It's so easy to shy away from laying out our issues before the Lord, because we're embarrassed at what He might think of us when He has to deal with our shortcomings and imperfections and less-than's. (hint: he already knows!!)
It's also so easy to think that our troubles are too small, that we should reserve our time with Him for the big stuff, the really important stuff, like safety and health and making sure our boy has a desire to serve a mission or our girl will marry in the Temple.
But in all of my doing all of the above, I NEVER thought I was being hurtful. I actually thought I was sparing the Lord from having to deal with me. Of course that's not what He wants from any of us.
Thank goodness for the Perfect Patience of our understanding Heavenly Father. Thank goodness He is willing to let us go through the process of life, and learn and add ability little by little.
I have a desire to know my Father in Heaven, and for Him to know me. I want Him to be able to trust me as an instrument in His hands, and am learning that, by my actions, I can put my full trust in Him and never be disappointed.
How grateful I am to know that God loves us, that He cares about the big things and the little things in our lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Can't Remember

As I was doing my hair this morning, I was thinking about the day ahead and my mind flashed to the last few days as well.
Sunday was a rough day. While I didn't have a moment to pull Kurt aside and let him put his arms around me while I cried, the words came to mind many times throughout the day, "this is really really hard. this is a tough day."
Something about admitting it consciously rather than enduring it made a difference.
I've written already about the words I heard as I prayed. This morning as I tried to remember some of my very sharp feelings and aches I felt on Sunday, I couldn't remember.
I remember the day being rough. I remember looking at the clock several times during the day and thinking, "eleven years ago right now...."
At 1:30 she was standing my kitchen. We were talking about Easter dinner at Kurt's parents house. Dinner was at 5pm.
At 3:40 she died, while I was taking a nap.
At 5:00 we were racing to get out the door to Kurt's folks' house, eventually coming upon big orange cones and Sheriff's car parked on Hwy 55, blocking us from turning and going the way we usually do.
At 5:25 we pulled up in front of their house (I know that was the time because I looked at the clock in the car). When my mom's truck wasn't there, I thought she'd left because we were late. She wouldn't have gone in without us being there.
At about 6 I got the news.

As I was going to bed Sunday night my mind did the "eleven years ago today...." one more time. I would go to bed and get a good night's sleep, but eleven years ago that was not the case.

At 1:30am we got home again (finally finding the courage to come home) to see her things on my kitchen table. I found a box right away and put those things in it ~ her new Mary Kay purchases, some papers I think. I don't know why I needed to put them away so fast, but a part of me that I am not proud of was glad to finally have my table back. We'd battled about her putting her things somewhere else. I'd even made a spot on a shelf nearby, but she didn't want to move anything.

Her pillow was still sitting on the couch where she slept. At some point I went over and smelled it. It still smelled like her. I'm really glad I did that because when I got up a a few hours later to feed Kathryn, that smell was gone.
It was easy that night to imagine that she was at work ~ she worked all night at the hospital ~ and that she would be home in the morning. Not having her in the room didn't make reality sink in any that night.
For the first and only time I can remember in my entire life, I laid down in my bed and did not go to sleep. Kurt put his arm around me, I curled up in the place where his arm meets his body, and we just talked. I don't remember about what exactly except that he shared how he just wanted to put his arms around me enough to take some of the pain I was feeling away. I know I felt that way about having to tell the rest of my family.
Spare them if I could just hurt in their place.
Finally about 4:30, we slept a little.
Kathryn got up at six, and I turned on the TV to see the morning news. The story was told; her name was shown on the screen as the person who had died. There.
That was reality.
I have digressed...

As I was doing my hair this morning, I was trying to remember the pain I felt on Sunday. This Sunday ~ two days ago. And I couldn't remember it. I searched for those feelings because I felt that writing about them would help, and I wanted to put some words to them so I could prepare for what I would write.

But I still couldn't remember them.

In the scriptures we know that the Lord eases the burdens of those who call up Him. The people of Alma were persecuted to the point that Amulon set guards around them to prevent them from praying publicly. Mosiah 24:12 reads, 'And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.'
The Lord heard the people of Alma as they poured out their hearts to Him. The Lord heard me as I poured my heart out to Him, confessing my shortcomings and telling him of the sadness and ache I felt in missing my mom on this anniversary of her death.

Verse 13: 'And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covnant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.' READ: "Go In Peace".
Not only does the Lord hear the cries of the people of Alma, but he promises them that everything will be alright.

Verse 14: 'And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.'
I can testify that this is true. The Lord does hear our prayers, he does visit us in our afflictions. Today I know that he can ease our budens so that we might not be able to feel them upon our backs. I know this because today I cannot feel any part of the pain and the ache I felt on Sunday.
Verse 14 is in the future tense, still something the Lord is going to do. Verse 15 tells us He follows through on His promise: 'And now it came to pass that the budens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their budens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.'

I know that the Lord loves us. Loves me. He knows who I am. He knows what I need and as I allow Him to guide me, he has blessings to bestow. My blessing today is not being able to remember.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Go In Peace

It's Easter. How grateful I am for this day where the world celebrates and remembers (even through commercialism) the Savior's resurrection.

In Gospel Doctrine today, the question was asked, "why don't we have special Sunrise Services, or change our schedules for Easter Sunday"? The answer was immediately in my mind, and I raised my hand. I commented that in our church we focus on the Savior's life and his atonement and his resurrection on a regular basis, so the need to set aside one day is not as great as for those who might only think about these things once a year (my friend Jane said that when she was growing up, they called themselves "Creaster's" ~ they went to church on Christmas and Easter).

I woke up this morning with the same awareness the anticipation for this day has had: that it would mark the 11th anniversary of the death of my mother, though this is the first time, because of Leap Year, that April 12th is on Easter Sunday again. I've known that today would come for probably six years. One of the downsides to paying attention to dates like I do...

It's such a strange irony that the day my mom died is celebrated for the very reason I know I'll have her back someday.

I have been weighed down with what feels like an awful lot of failure these past several days ~ failing at an exercise program that has completely gone by the wayside, not to mention any accompanying weight loss; failing at any sort of discipline whether spiritual or in the schedule of activity in maintaining my home; and a terrified feeling that the new business we are trying to get off the ground and all the dreams we're making with it's success, will only fail.

I've also felt a nearly unbearable tiredness in my own every day battles ~ taking great care of two small children and not having slept more than a few hours at a time in nearly eight months; the financial juggle we've been dealing with the last two years; and again being constant in the maintinance of my home.

However, in the midst of my sorrow and frustration over my weaknesses and through the thickness of the haze of tiredness , there has been that ever-present feeling of my Heavenly Father's love for me. I know he wants me to come to Him. I know he wants me to succeed. He did NOT send me here to fail in my mission.

As I went to Him this morning it was the words to a song that came to my mind. There has been only one other time that I remember having a song answer my prayer, but what a powerful reminder and /or comfort these words have brought.

I heard this morning the words, "Go In Peace".

These were the words the Savior said to the woman of questionable morality. She knew her sins were many and sings of the weight that is lifted off of her when He sees good in her and tells her to "go in peace."

What a sigh of calm and comfort I felt as these words washed over me and my mind began to chew on them.

Peace brings to mind thoughts on what it is exactly, and what it is not. The opposite of peace is fear. Fear is not something the Lord instills, rather that is from the adversary. My grandma Ruby marked all of the "fear not" and "fear thou not" phrases in her bible, and they are many. Constantly the Lord tells us to be not afraid. "Be not afraid, only believe" he says in the New Testament. Not hard to remember, but easy to forget when we get caught up and lose perspective a bit.

It is not my morality that is in question, but those words to "go in peace" have brought great comfort to me today.

How grateful I am that the Savior's atonement means that I can overcome my weaknesses. How wonderful to know that because the Savior took up his mortal body into immortality, I will see again those whom I love but whose time on the earth has already ended.

With peace comes a renewed sense of determination, and a willingness to act in faith, even when I'm not sure of the path ahead, or really feel up to the challenge walking that path might bring. Thank goodness for Alma 32 that describes the power in exercising even a tiny bit of faith.

I have a desire to gain in knowlegde; to draw closer to my Heavenly Father; to reap the benefits of teaching my children well and being an example in word and deed. I have a desire to serve, to be a useful tool for Him. "when ye are in the service of your fellow being, ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17). I know that service is the purpose to life.

Tonight I am rejuvenated in spirit. Willing to exercise that portion of faith so that I might fulfill the mission I am on the earth to accomplish. Have these challenges gone away? No. But with an improved sense of self and a knowledge that I do not have to do any of this alone, I will begin.

So tonight, I "Go In Peace".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sharp Pencils

I love new notebooks and sharp pencils. They are so fun to use and write with. A sharp pencil is so important when you want to write your best. Which is sort of an interesting thought ~ be sharp, be your best.

My good friend Jessica had the most beautiful writing. I was always a little bit jealous! I wanted to have writing just like hers.

One of the things Jessica always used was a newly sharpened pencil. She was at the sharpener a lot! But the results were impressive. Her schoolwork, even the notes we passed, were like art.

Now I think I should admit a few things. First, I was not a part of Jessica's "sharpened pencil" club. I was more comfortable with a tip that was a little worn down. And all my life I had compliments on my handwriting. I knew it looked pretty good. I could have been pretty happy with myself.

But something just bugged me about Jessica's writing. Not so much that she was better than me, but that just maybe I could be better.

That maybe Jessica knew something that gave her the edge.

So one day I tried it. I sharpened my pencil. I mean really sharpened it. Guess what happened? My pretty good writing became lovely too. Suddenly that sharp point in my hand gave me confidence and pride like I'd mever felt before. My writing was elegant ~ yay! What a feeling!!

But some time went by and I found that I was back to just pretty good. Argh! Why? How did this happen? I had sharpened and things were great. For a while. I thought that having known what it's like to write with a pencil that was really sharp, I'd just adjust and still be great when the point wore down. But what had I done wrong?

Then I understood.

My trip to the sharpener was a one-time event, but it needed to be a regular one!

I realized that Jessica's writing was always lovely because she made her trips to the sharpener often.

I have to say that my decline to "pretty good" again wasn't instant. It happened slowly and so I really didn't notice right away the effects that the dullness of my pencil was having. After all, my writing had always been pretty good. I could have been satisfied with what I had. But Jessica's writing was still beautiful and now I had tasted that, too. And I wanted it all back.

So I made the trip back to the sharpener, and I sharpened my pencil.

It's been a long time since I started sharpening my pencil regularly. Admittedly, I'm not always vigilent/diligent enough and my pencil gets a little dull. But I'm getting better at paying attention to the point of my pencil, and I do make more regular and frequent trips to the sharpener. My writing? It's better, but not in the way I thought I wanted it to be better back when I was in classes with Jessica. It seems that my sharpening has given me writing I would/could not have anticipated.

The other thing I remember about Jessica's writing was how neat and clean her papers looked, even when I know she'd made mistakes and had to make corrections and revisions.

Jessica was a good eraser! I know that might sound silly ~ to compliment someone on their erasing skills ~ but you would have too if you'd seen the crisp, neatness of Jessica's work.

Notice I didn't say perfection.

Perfect would have meant never making any mistakes.

Jessica's papers I think were even more attractive because of the effort she made in erasing her mistakes. To the point that usually you'd never know she'd made them. Jessica put the same amount of effort into erasing that she did in getting to the sharpener regularly.

I continue to learn lessons as I strive to keep my pencil sharp.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Precisely the Point of EVERYTHING

Some months ago, while I was pregnant with Emily, I was in the most common position and place of the day ~ horizontal on my bed, with pillows tucked in all the right places. I was not asleep, but neither was I awake. It was that place in my mind where great thoughts take place sometimes. It is a place, I believe, where revelation comes more easily.

The question, "what is the purpose to life?" popped into my mind... it was something I'd thought consciously about not long before, and here was the question again.

This time though the answer came very clearly: TO SERVE.

Quickly my mind raced through analyzing if this was really the right answer: Education? yes. Job? yes. Calling at church? yes. Exercising and eating right? yes, because being healthy means you can do more for others. Marriage? of course. Parenthood? absolutely.

So the question that so many seem to trip on, seem to wonder about, has a simple answer: The purpose to life is to serve.

The End.

On Being a Planner

I am a girl who likes to have a plan. I do better knowing what's coming, not necessarily enjoying having to change directions on a dime.

With that "flaw", once I make up my mind, it's not likely to change which makes me pretty loyal. All for better or for worse....

I am reminded that the Lord is also a planner. Not only does He have a Plan, THE Plan, but he's also outlined his Plan, and it's summarized in Moses 1:39 ~ "for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man". Everything is to accomplish this end.

Long ago I read something by Stephen Covey who was talking a bit about planning... he described the time he and his soon-to-be wife sat in a park under a tree and talked about the life they wanted to have. They talked about their home and their future children. How they would handle different situations and what they wanted things to be like.

I loved this, and it made me ache a bit that I hadn't thought of doing this. I was SO clueless regarding home and marriage and family. So very VERY clueless.

Now, don't get me wrong ~ we're doing a pretty fine job with things overall, but deciding along the way or in the middle of a tough situation is tougher than it would be if we already knew, if we had already decided.

If we would have established "no matter whats" beforehand, and not just stumble upon then along the way.... that would have been better I think.

Thankfully, the Lord is merciful, our kids are good people and we've taken some time more recently to plan. Experience is a great teacher, and I am a believer of "when you know better you do better". Yes!