Monday, July 28, 2014

The Universe is Big. It’s Vast and Complicated and Ridiculous. And Sometimes, Very Rarely, Impossible Things Just Happen

On Friday my wonderful, globe-trotting friend came to visit Sunland. Time was short, so we decided to meet at a beach. She picked a beach I had never been to before and we decided to meet there at ten.

Apple maps (curse you Apple Maps! Was there ever a worse map created? Why won't Google Maps work on my phone?!) decided to take me to the wrong beach. Unfortunately, we didn't realize this until after several confusing phone calls. Since I had had already set up camp and had the two children with me, my friend, L, decided to come to me. As I was walking back up to my site to put my phone away, I met the gaze of the women who was camped out next to us. I recognized her immediately.

"K La?" She asked.

"Yolanda?" I answered.

We went to high school together. All the way back in HomeTown. We didn't know each other well, I couldn't even tell you what crowd she ran with, but we had a few classes together and obviously we knew each other well enough to remember names and faces ten years later.

Her family decided to vacation here in Sunland. Friday was their only beach day, and they picked a beach at random. They decided to set up their spot on the beach next to ours, of all the places. It's just so weird.

But her kids played with my kids and once L showed up we all talked and talked and talked.

It's always so good to catch up with L. We met in fourth grade and have been good friends ever since. Sometimes we don't see each other for years, but once we get together again we just pick right back up. It's wonderful.

We invited Yolanda and her family over to our house for dinner. They brought us a yummy desert and we had a wonderful evening talking and watching the kids play. She is the third person from high school I have randomly ran into out here in Sunland. You just don't think that your high school compadres will follow you across states to show on a random beach, but sometimes they do.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Now I know my ABCs

Today we picked up my younger sister from the airport. Because the airport is far away, and her flight was delayed, and we were there early anyway, we found a park in the city within fifteen minutes of the airport and settled down to enjoy the hours until her flight came in.

There was another family at the park. They had a girl Ash's age, a boy just older, and a girl just younger. The three of these adorable and polite children were being watched by an older sister. The three of them played with my two daughters and got along  like every mother's dream. Not just playing together, but laughing together, being nice together and playing fun and happy games together.

Their mother returned to the park and passed out snacks to her kids. While they were picnicking the four year oild girl came over to me and introduced herself. She told be her brother's name and her baby sister's name. She then asked me to guess her older sister's name. I rattled off a few random guesses, but she shook her head.

"I'll give you a clue. It starts with a "sh" sound.  I made a few more guesses. All wrong.

"How about my mom's name? Can you guess my mom's name?"

"What does it start with?"

"Uh, an "s".

"Sue? Sarah? Sally? Samantha?"

"No, it starts with a "S, T"

"Star? Stephanie?"

Esther. Her name is Esther. I discovered, after several minutes of guessing. I suppose that will teach me to play word games with a four-year-old.

I wish we could arrange more playdates with the family. They were idyllic. Sadly the drive is probably way too far. Maybe the next time we find ourselves waiting for hours for a plane to come in we can randomly meet them at the same park. Maybe then I can finally guess the older sister's name.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sacrament Talk - Obedience

In my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the speakers are called from the congregation. They are usually given a topic and a few weeks to prepare and told a time limit. Usually on Sunday we have three or four speakers in addition to taking the Sacrament.

 I gave a talk today. My topic was a General Conference talk from April 2014 by Elder Robert D Hales entitled  "If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments." My time limit was 12-15 minutes.

I am not a public speaker. I enjoyed writing the talk but once I got up on the stand and looked out at all the people in the meeting, my heart raced, I couldn't catch my breath and I started to shake all over. During my talk I kept thinking my legs were going to give out under me, they were shaking so bad. But it's over. Thank goodness. And I suppose it went well. And since I put so much effort into it, I think I'll post it here on my blog:

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

That is the 3rd Article of Faith. Do we really believe that? Do we really believe that obedience is so critical?

Recently, my curious four year old daughter saw an image of a person drinking from a bottle. She wanted to know what the person was drinking. I answered “alcohol.” She responded: What’s alcohol? Can I have a drink of alcohol?

I pondered her question, not because I didn't know the answer, but because I didn't know how to answer her, a four year old.  How can I answer so that she not only has an understanding of what alcohol is, but why she shouldn't drink it? How do I answer her to give her a testimony of the Word of Wisdom?

Should I tell her the definition of alcohol?  Should explain the chemistry of alcoholic drinks? Should I tell her what happens to a person psychologically when they drink? Do I quote the symptoms of intoxication and alcohol poisoning? Should I warn her of the health ramifications of drinking? Do I try to frighten her with  drunk driving statistics?
Maybe I should stick to the scriptures. But how do I explain Doctrine and Covenants 89 to a four year old?  I would have a hard time explaining “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days,” in language she can understand.

After reflecting on all of this for a moment, I decided to ignore her first question and simply answer her last question. “No. You may not drink alcohol.”

There is nothing I can say that would give a four year old a complete understanding of alcohol. No amount of explaining will convince her that she should never, ever drink.  I simply cannot give her a testimony of the Word of Wisdom in the short time I can keep her attention. .

Right now she needs to trust me.  She needs to trust that I know more than her about this topic, and that I am doing what is best for her. As time goes on, as she gains more understanding about the word around her,  I can talk with her about the facts, the numbers, and the effects. Once she has a little more life experience, I can explain more about the dangers. Maybe when her frontal lobe is fully developed we can discuss conspiring men in the last days. But none of that will change my final answer. The fact she is not ready for all the data does not change the data. The fact that she doesn't comprehend WHY she shouldn’t drink alcohol does not change the fact that she shouldn’t drink alcohol. She simply needs to trust me. She needs to trust me enough to obey me, and over time, as she learns and grows, she will gain her own understanding and her own testimony.

I know Heavenly Father is thinking the same thing about me. I know he wants to tell me all the answers to my many questions, but there is no way my young and undeveloped mind would be able to comprehend all his knowledge and experience.  I can ask, and he will tell me the answer I can understand, which, more often than not, is to trust him. To trust him enough to obey him, and as I grow, as I learn more, as I gain more experience, he will give me more: more details, more understanding, more testimony, but none of that will change his original answer.

Marjorie Hinckley, wife of Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, said, “First I obey, then I understand.’”

“Obey” is a difficult word for me. When I hear it, I cringe. I rebel because when I hear the word “obey”  I think of “control.”  When I hear the word “obey” I think of being controlled for the benefit of the person I am obeying. When I obey men, I give up or restrict my agency.  

But With God, that is not the case. With God, obey is not synonymous with control, obey is synonymous with trust.  When I think of “trust” I think of following in faith for the benefit of me.  I know that trusting God is a choice. God gave us agency  so we can chose to trust him. When we choose to obey (or trust) God, we are choosing to keep our agency.

Do we trust God? God is the father of our spirits. He built our bodies. He created the world around us: everything from the oceans, to the food, to the stars. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our potential and how we can reach it.. He knows when someone means us harm, or when someone needs help.

Moses 1:39 tells us why and what God does:  For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

His intentions are pure. He wants what is best for us. He has the knowledge and experience to KNOW what is best for us.  So do we trust him?

If we trust him, we will do what he asks of us. He is telling us what to do not for his benefit, but for ours. He is not trying to control us, he is trying to bring to pass our eternal life.

Elder Robert D Hales gave a talk in this last conference entitled: “If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments”  In is he says quote: We must not practice “natural man’s obedience,” in which we disobediently reject God’s law in favor of our wisdom or our desires or even popularity.  end quote
This is not trusting in God. If we fully trust him, how can we ever chose to follow our own desires above his? How can we ever chose to obey a man over God the Father?

Elder Hales continues quote: At times members may participate in “selective obedience,” claiming to love God and honor God while picking and choosing which of His commandments and teachings—and the teachings and counsel of His prophets—they will fully follow. Some obey selectively because they cannot perceive all the reasons for a commandment, just as children do not always understand the reasons for their parents’ counsel and rules. End quote

This is not trust. Trust is turning our lives over to Heavenly Father. Trust is asking him to make us an instrument in his hands. Trust is following all his laws and all his commandments. Trust is seeking for personal revelation and following his promptings.

Back to Elder Hales: To rationalize disobedience does not change spiritual law or its consequences but leads to confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief. As disciples of Christ, we have a sacred obligation to uphold His laws and commandments and the covenants which we take upon ourselves

Using our agency to obey means choosing to “do what is right [and letting] the consequence follow.” It requires self-mastery and brings confidence, eternal happiness, and a sense of fulfillment to us and, by example, to those around us; and it always includes a deep personal commitment to sustain priesthood leaders and follow their teachings and counsel.

To summarize the consequences of obeying (or trusting) God are:  confidence, eternal happiness, and a sense of fulfillment to us and those around us.
Disobedience leads to  confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief.

I assume that is why God counsels us in the first place. He gives us laws  and commandments to protect us from unnecessary confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief. and to ensure we find confidence, happiness, and a sense of fulfillment in this life.  As Elder Hales points out, God’s commandments...were given for our good

The very act of obeying is a learning experience. The more me obey, the more we understand.

In the Book of Mormon, Sariah is an amazing example of trusting God.

Sariah is married to Lehi, a prophet. Lehi has a vision and tells his family they all need to leave Jerusalem. Sariah did not have this vision. She does not have all the knowledge of the history and reasons why Jerusalem will be destroyed. She does not know where she and her family will go after they leave their house and all their material possessions, but she obeys, She trusts God is telling them to do this for their own good. She loves God, so she chooses to obey Him. She leaves everything behind  and sets out into the desert.
While in the desert, away from all the comforts of home, Lehi announces that her four sons need to return to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates from a very dangerous and wicked man. Sariah does not understand all the reasons why they need those scriptures. All she knows is that she trusts God knows what is best for her sons, so she chooses  to obey.

In 1st Nephi chapter 5 we read Sariah truly mourned because of us (meaning her sons). 2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.

What an example of faith! After choosing to give up her home, her possessions, her comforts and now her sons, Sariah still trusts God. Her doubts are in Lehi - She has no doubt God, In October 2013 Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk in General Conference in which he says quote:   I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes. This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth. End quote. Sariah knows this. Her trust in God is strong enough that when her doubts surface  she directs it the imperfect people in God’s church.
In response to her doubts, Lehi comforts her and bears his testimony to her.  In 1st Nephi we read:

"And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak."

It isn't until her sons return alive, safe, and with the scriptures, that Sariah gains a witness for herself that God gave her husband the revelation. Until this point, she's been acting completely in faith! She didn’t have all the knowledge, she didn’t have a personal witness, but she trusted God and obeyed. Because she obeyed she was blessed with a testimony. She continues to obey God: She has two more sons in the wilderness, she gets on a boat built by her sons, and she sails across the sea to an unknown land where she helps build a new nation.  I’m sure after many, many years, she finally understood the importance of having the Brass Plates. Her knowledge and her testimony came after her obedience.

Elder Uchtdorf continues:  It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Going back to Elder Hales talk, he says:

In the premortal Council in Heaven, Lucifer rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan. Those who followed Lucifer ended their eternal progression—be careful who you follow!

Did Lucifer and his followers understand the consequences of choosing to reject Heavenly Father’s plan? If so, why did they make such a terrible choice? We might ask ourselves a similar question: why do any of us choose to be disobedient when we know the eternal consequences of sin? The scriptures provide an answer: the reason Cain and some of the children of Adam and Eve chose to disobey is because “they loved Satan more than God.

Do we? Do we love Satan more than God? Do we trust Satan more than God? We need to make sure our actions align with our answers. We need to understand that with every choice we make we are obeying, it is just a question of obeying God or Satan. When we say we don’t want to follow a God’s counsel, we are choosing instead to obey Satan. We are saying we trust Satan, who is trying to control and manipulate us for his own purposes, over God, who is trying to counsel us to bring to pass our eternal happiness. We are saying we love Satan more than God.

Elder Hales continues:
Spiritually mature obedience is “the Savior’s obedience.” It is motivated by true love for Heavenly Father and His Son.  Our love of the Savior is the key to Savior-like obedience.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, trusted our Heavenly Father. In the Premortal life he said: “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. This was his commitment to obey God. Throughout His ministry, “he suffered temptations but gave [them] no heed.” Indeed, “he [learned] obedience by the things which he suffered.”

He was baptized, even though reason suggested that he had no need to be baptized because he had no sins. However, he trusted God more than he trusted reason. He loved God, and so, he obeyed the commandment to be baptized.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed three times to His Father in Heaven, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Again, he trusted God more than himself. He trusted that obeying God in this way would be for his benefit, as well as ours. He trusted God was asking him to go through this pain for both his and our eternal happiness. He trusted God. He loved God, and so, he obeyed God.

Elder Hales says quote:
Because our Savior was obedient, He atoned for our sins, making possible our resurrection and preparing the way for us to return to our Heavenly Father. When we obey, we accept His sacrifice, for we believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws, ordinances, and commandments given in the gospel.  

Brothers and sisters, I bear my testimony that God loves us. Everything he asks us to do is for our good. Trusting in him brings happiness into our lives and into our families. It’s okay that we don’t have to have all the answers right now, we don’t need the answers, we only need trust. The answers will come in time.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

You Ready to Get Down, You Funky Party Weasel?

Some of the women in my ward organize an informal beach day every week during the summer. We show up sometime in the morning at the designated beach and eventually other families show up as well.  The kids share beach toys and the adults share beach umbrellas, beach tents and the occasional sunblock. My girls and I began attending about midway through the summer last year and eventually it got easier. This year I was so looking forward to summer just because of the beach day. Every week I get to talk with wonderful people while our children play happily in the sand, the waves, and sometimes charcoal from long ago beach fires.  It's always mess. There is just no way to keep the sand from getting into EVERYTHING, someone usually gets a sunburn, but it is so worth it.

This week one of the regular attendees was having a birthday. A friend and I planned to surprise her at beach day: She'd do the cupcakes, I'd bring the candles. The day before other people wanted to pitch in as well, so I brought the candles and the lighter, another person brought the cupcakes, another one brought frosting and another one brought little treats for the kids, since there are always hordes of children at the beach but only twenty-four cupcakes.

Everyone in charge of bringing something showed up a little early to make sure it was all there and ready to go. It was so well organized. 

Except we forgot to make sure the birthday girl was coming. Maybe too much of a surprise party? 

And hour and a half in the birthday girl was sent a text, quizzing her about her arrival at beach day. She responded she had piles of laundry to do and decided it would be more responsible to do it instead of spending all day lounging on a beach. Another text was sent implying her cupcakes would be eaten without her. She responded she had no idea anything had been planned and that she was on her way! 

So yeah, maybe we were a little too secretive on the planning of the surprise party. Suddenly I see the value of that person who is assigned to make sure the birthday person arrives at the surprise party. I'll have to remember that for future events. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If I Was at Full Slayer Power, I'd be Punning Right About Now

As Ward Clerk, Drek is in on all the bishopric meetings so he knew what my knew calling was going to be weeks before I did and was even in on the discussions. Last week at church Drek and I met with a member of the bishopric for my new calling.  Drek sat next to me.

I am the new Personal Progress Leader and Young Women Assistant Camp Director.

I actually hit Drek. Seriously? Young Women camp? ME?

I must have this calling for a reason. I'm just not sure what it is. Maybe it's to get over my intense dislike of Young Women camp. Or to replace my bad memories of  Young Women with good memories.

After spending a few hours looking up Personal Progress ideas on Pinterest I've decided that my number challenge will be my lack of ability to craft. I am just not crafty enough to hold this calling. I also discovered that for some unknown reason, everything to do with Personal Progress must involve a pun.  Are we prepping these girls for their divine roll as superheros? Fighting evil is good, fighting evil while interjecting the occasional snappy pun?  Even better.

It's going to be great. The current Young Women leader is amazing. The Camp Director is amazing. Supporting them will be no problem at all.

Prepare yourselves for some future posts about Personal Progress puns and crafts!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

This is a Gift That, As Sisters, We Claim

I’ve been given a few hints that my calling as Compassionate Service Leader is about to come to an end. As long as my new calling isn't in Young Women, or Scouts, I'm happy about any change. Compassionate Service Leader has been by far the most stressful calling I have ever had. I feel like I'm never doing enough and it's always on my mind. At the same time, I know God has looked after me this whole time. I know he has directed me. I only hope I've done enough.

I wanted to share this last story:

As Compassionate Service Leader I feel a need to serve the sisters in the ward and protect them from asking too much. The chain of service is this: First to help is Self, then family, then visiting teachers, then Compassionate Service committee and only if there is still more help needed that no one in that chain can handle, I  send out an email to everyone asking for more help.  This has worked really well for me, and a lot of that is because we have some really great visiting teachers in my ward.

But, there is always that one companionship. We had an emergency a few months back, and the visiting teachers not only didn't know about it, they didn't care. They were too busy, too tired, too...unwilling? When I asked them to provide a meal they wanted me to send out an email to the sisters in the ward asking someone else to do it. After several emails back and forth of me trying to explain the chain of responsibility  I finally gave up. I took on their burden on myself  and saw the emergency through to its happy ending. I came away from the experience with some resentment and a feeling of having to do everything myself.

It was right after that a new Relief Society presidency was called, and the one person on my committee  on which I relied so heavily was called as the Relief Society president. Her position on my committee was not replaced, and I was left with an even bigger feeling of having to do it all myself.

A few weeks later I was supposed to take dinner to two different families in the ward on the same night. It seems in the year I have had this calling there is rarely a week that goes by when I am not making a meal for two families, but rarely is it on the same day. Anyway, of course that is the day Alexa fell and we went to the ER for stitches. As I watched the time pass, I realized I might be stuck in the ER all day and not have time to make the dinners. As I thought about it, I decided to text the new Relief Society president that I was in the ER with Alexa, and I might not be able to take dinner to these two families, but I didn't yet know. After a few more hours, I hadn't gotten a response. It was then I decided to call a sister on my committee. She is a single mother who works during the day. She took on herself the responsibility of calling the widows in the ward every single month to check up on them. Because she does that, I had never asked her to do anything else until this emergency. She didn't answer, so I left a voice message. As soon as I hung up I realized she probably couldn't hear a word I said because Alexa was screaming the whole time. Feeling there was nothing else to do, I just waited.

We got home from the ER around four in the afternoon. I started the dinners and then texted the Relief Society president that I was home, Alexa was fine, and I was starting on the dinners. She instantly texted back that another sister was on her way to deliver one of the dinners. She said she didn't register that there were two dinners. I told her it wasn't a problem and I that I was delighted to only have to take one dinner. Surprised that the one dinner was already done, I then texted the sister on my committee to ignore any voice mails she got from me. She instantly called me. She said she had been in Wal Mart when she got my message and couldn't understand anything I was saying, but could tell I was under some stress. At that moment, she saw someone else in our ward wandering through the store and had her listen to the message. The only thing they could pick out was a name. She assumed I was asking her to take dinner over to this family so she picked up a frozen dinner in Wal Mart and drove it over to their house!

The amazing thing was that in both the text and the voice message, I mentioned BOTH families that needed dinners, but both the sisters only picked up on one of the names. Both families got dinners without any coordination. I was amazed. It was a true miracle. It was God telling me I am always looked after. I don't have to do everything myself, and after I am not the Compassionate Service Leader, other people will take up the burden and everything will be fine.

I am so grateful for this whole experience, but I will be very relieved when I get my new calling, even if it is in Young Women. Just as long it has nothing to do with Young Women camp. Or Scouts.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Why Else Would She Be Acting Like Such a b-i-t-c-h? Willow, I Think We're All a Little Too Old to be Spelling Things Out. A Bitcuh?

Friday night we babysat for a family with a bunch of kids right around Ash's age. For their family, Friday night is movie night, so we decided to pick a children's movie off of Netflix. 

"Make sure you check the rating to make sure it doesn't have any bad words." says five-year-old girl. 

"Yeah, like 'Stupid'" says three-year-old girl. 

"Or the F-word." says seven-year-old boy (with very foul languaged friends)  

"Fupid?" Ash asks.