Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I am a Prodigal Child



No matter what, no matter how hard I try, I am a prodigal daughter. I can't follow perfectly, I am NOT the older son, who never transgressed a single time. 

Simply put, I am prone to wander. 

And I think, deep down, in our core's every single one of us indeed a prodigal child of God. It doesn't matter how much we want to be perfect. We aren't. We all stray. 

Amazing, isn't it, though, that proverbially, every single time we stray, we are able to return home, and let the fatted calf be killed in our honor. Our Savior's sacrifice allows us to celebrate the little returns home, when humble ourselves enough to admit that we've screwed up. 

I can't pretend that maybe it would be better if I were the older son, my only transgression being righteous indignation at the sins of another, perhaps... 

But I am not. I will never be that good. Not in this life, not without the inheritance Christ has promised. 

 It's pretty easy to assume that is the better course. Perfection is the goal, right? 

Turns out though, that I don't actually WANT to be that older brother. Nope. Not really anyway.

What I think is more important, is to be humble, to be determined to get back home again, even if we wander. I think when we're at our lowest, wallowing with pigs, that we most want to find the light. 

As the hymn, "Come Thou Fount" says, 
"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God, I love.
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above" 

If we give our hearts to Christ, then even when we wander a bit, even if we get very very far off course, leave the God we love so dearly, we are never too far to come home. Even if we willingly rebel. We can still come home. It's not too late. Ever. 

Think of Alma the Younger. He was so far off the path, that he took great glee in leading others purposefully AWAY from God. That's SUPER bad. You would have to try to be that bad. 

And yet, through Christ's atonement, Alma received forgiveness! Despite what he had done, his heart ultimately was sealed in Christ's courts above. 

As it says, in Luke 15:32, "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." 

We are all lost, we are all dead, and made alive again, over and over and over through Christ. Each time we turn to Him and say, "I screwed up again, same as last time, and I'm really sorry. I really do want to be better," we're made alive, we're saved, over and over. 

I am the prodigal daughter of a kind, benevolent Father who simply wants me to come home. 

I am the prodigal sister of a Savior who's love and sacrifice are so deep and infinite that it is beyond comprehension. 

And it turns out, that I'm okay with that. Me and my imperfections will just have to try harder tomorrow to return home. 

Please, dear friend, don't let the fact that you too are prone to wander, that you might have weakness that you wish you didn't, or even sins that you kind of like, keep you from home. Don't give up. Keep on heading toward home. 

It'll be worth it. 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

When Life is Unfair

Sometimes, life is unspeakably unfair.

One of my  piano students said to me the other day, "The only fair thing about life is that it's unfair to everyone."  Wise words from a twelve year old.

And I've thought of that a lot since she said it. Who doesn't have trials and difficulties? Who's heart hasn't been broken?

It's life. It's messy, it hurts so much that it seems to be too much to bear at times.

It's unfair.

Linda Burton, relief society general president said, " Heavenly Father … sent His Only Begotten and perfect Son to suffer for our sins, our heartaches, and all that seems unfair in our own individual lives.:

Christ didn't just suffer for the sins of the world, but for all the unfairness.

For Christ is the great mediator of it all. To mediate in this case means to "bring about." Christ brings about a lot of things: peace, comfort, salvation, grace, love, miracles, and hope.

But He also brings about mercy; mercy that outstrips the unfairness in life.

Life is hideously unfair, but through Christ's great and eternal atonement, that unfairness is washed away into grace, forgiveness, comfort and peace.

There can be mediation between us and the pains of the word. Christ is our intercessor between all that is awful and all that is good. 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;". He is a buffer, a protector, a friend.

We have no chance on our own to reach the goodness and perfection promised in the next life. NONE. The only way to get there is through Christ. And thank goodness that He is there, to soothe the hurt, comfort us and bind up our wounds, even when it is all terribly unfair.

So don't despair. Don't give up. Keep going. Every day.  Turn it over to Christ, even in the moments where it seems it will never get better.

I'll try to do the same.

Monday, March 24, 2014

When God is Silent

Psalm 143:1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.

Have you ever felt that your prayers were literally going unanswered? Despite your pleas, despite your faith, and righteous desire, you still do not hear or feel the inspiration, the answer that you feel you need? That you deserve?

I have been wrestling with this exact issue in my life of late.

I wanted an answer gosh darn it. Frankly, with the current trial, I wanted a bunch of answers.

And so I turned to scriptures, to prayer, to music, to all sorts of gospel mediums to try and seek the pathway we (as in myself, my husband and our family) should go.

As I turned my gaze heavenward over and over, it was very quiet.

Much quieter than I wanted.

I wanted some overwhelming conviction of what we were supposed to do.

And yet, the crickets chirped.

Nothing.

For weeks this went on.

WEEKS.

Until, one day, something shifted in my own heart and mind.

It occurred to me that despite study, prayer, etc, I wasn't actually doing my part. I wasn't acting.

"TELL ME WHAT TO DO!" wasn't going to get me anywhere.

Think of the Brother of Jared, when he went to the Lord with very legitimate and big problems, the Lord provided SOME of the answers but He also required the Brother of Jared to do some leg-work too.

 Ether 2:25 And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?

What WILL YE that I should prepare...

In other words, "What are you going to do about, Mahonri?"

In this case, God expected His child to use the intellect he had to figure it out.

God can do anything, anything that we ask. Sometimes He says no, and sometimes He says yes.

Sometimes, He says nothing.

Crickets. Nothing.

Richard G. Scott said, "When he withholds an answer, it is to have grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act."

This simple, profound truth can be TERRIFYING.

Just act.

Just do it.

Do what is right, let the consequence follow.

Use prior knowledge, insight, gospel truths and your own intellect to make a choice and move forward.

Scariest thing in the world.

Yet, it is also incredibly freeing, to say, "Lord, I am trying to have faith. I'm going to go ahead with this. Help it all be okay. Help ME be okay with whatever comes."

"Come what may and love it." 

So, maybe God is choosing to be silent.

Isn't it amazing?

His silence is proof to you of HIS ultimate faith in YOU. He knows you well enough to know that you will not fail Him.

He trusts in YOU as you trust in Him.

God's silence is His faith in His child.

So have faith in Him as He has faith in you.

You'll find the quiet a lot less terrifying.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Getting Better One Baby at a Time

People here in New England comment on our family ALLLLL the time. I can not leave the house without my kids without it happening. Since we homeschool, my kids all come all the time. It happens every single time we go anywhere.

I think people look at me, with my "large" family and say the thing that seems the most... benign.

"You sure have your hands full."

"Are they all yours?"

"You finally got your girl!"

"God bless you."

"Are you all done?"

And I smile and nod and thank them or answer or laugh with them, or whatever seems appropriate while I'm just wishing to survive the grocery store without losing anyone or my sanity and without forgetting AGAIN to buy black beans.

While those short conversations are really nothing is the course of a lifetime, and really what others think does not matter in this whole crazy life, but sometimes I wish I could explain. I wish I could set the record straight, that rather than them assuming that Derek and I don't "know what causes that" that they could SEE the way these children have made me...me.

I am so much better than I was when Henry was born. I'm a better mom, of course, but above all else, I'm a better person.

See, when I started on this path to motherhood, I was selfish. I didn't mean to be, and I didn't know I was. But I was 22 years old. I had two jobs I loved, a little apartment, a husband in grad school, and I knew what I WANTED.

Yes, part of what I wanted was a baby, and I got a cute, squishy one that never slept, I mean not at all.

And it made me angry. Didn't he know that at the end of a long day working, mothering, wife-ing, etc, that I just wanted to sit and watch TV? Or sleep?

It was hard to give that up. Because I was selfish. My time and energy had been mine to give and now it belonged to HIM and that made me resentful, not really at Henry but at the whole institution. But child after child has slowly burned that selfishness out of me. I am a slow learner, I'll admit.

And now? Sleep is for the childless.

I'm more okay with tired days and dreary nights. I'm better with accepting less personal time, less time for interests or hobbies, less time for anything really. It's not about me anymore and that took a while for me to realize (about, oh, three and a half babies, I'd say.)

 My selfishness, while not obliterated, has become much less. I'm becoming refined.

I find compassion easier to give, I'm more understanding of what others might be going through, or how they might perceive a situation. It allows me more patience. I used to be terribly impatient.

I worry less. I know bad things can happen, and while I work hard to prevent them, in the end, I can only do my best. The rest I have to let go of. My faith has grown immeasurably over the years. I can control almost nothing. I have to have faith.

I'm more confident in my own beliefs, in my own mothering, in my own convictions that every baby is different, every kid is different and there is no one way to do things. It's so much less stressful to shrug, say, "To each his own," and MEAN it. Oh I was so judgemental back then.

I'm more relaxed about basically everything. Socks don't match? Yeah, I don't care.

You want to eat four apples in a day? Fine. Don't come crying to me when you get the poops.

I pick my battles much more judiciously. Three year olds are not to be battled unless absolutely necessary. Let them run, play, be as free as you can, I've learned. Discipline less, teach more. Read more, watch less TV.

Love more love more love more.

My house? I could keep up with it when I had just two kids. Then there were more and it drove me nuts. Now? I don't even try, That's right, I don't even try. We work together every evening to clean and straighten. I don't stress about it. It is going to be a mess. It is going to be cluttered.

It is going to be a work in progress.

Just like me.

My body is way better now than it was nine years ago. My body has aged, it has grown five babies and is working on a sixth! There is no recovering from THAT. But it's also learned to get by with less food, less sleep and more tension. My ears are better at tuning out noise. My eyes don't see the mess the same way.

My heart has grown so much and still it can barely contain the love, the gratitude and the sheer amazement that is watching these people grow and become who they are going to be.

When I stopped working three years ago, I worried I would be lost, a ship without course. How could I be ANYTHING if I was JUST a mother?

Well. I still have those moments when I wonder why I bother, but overall, the places motherhood has brought me; the realizations, the growth, the potential I've reached are frankly, amazing.

I'm not bragging. I'm praising. It's nothing short of a miracle, what God has done to my life, where He has directed me, those who He's brought into my life to teach and mentor me and to set an example for me. These blessings from Heaven have made me better.

These children have made me better.

So, yeah, I've got a lot of kids, my hands are freaking full. But my spirit? It's finally being allowed to grow. As my body ages, changes, stretches, so does my spirit, and in all that, it's made new.

My perfection is still so far outside my grasp that I can do nothing but spiral upward, hoping to find it in the eternities through Christ, but for now, I can look back on the last almost decade and see how, through small and simple things, it could be possible that SOMEDAY I might, through lots of help and grace, get there.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Joy when Life Stinks

What if you're doing the things you're supposed to be doing, prayers, scriptures, tithing, church, callings, parenting, dishes, laundry, carpool, cooking, fun times as a family, etc etc etc and things still aren't perfect? Or even close to it?

It's hard when you feel like you're earning the GOOD stuff but the BAD stuff is overwhelming you.

I've been in that exact spot.

I've said to my Father in Heaven, "Uh, excuse me, I'm a decent enough person, I work super hard, I feel like my desires are pretty dang righteous, and yet, xyz happened and frankly, I'm offended."

Or perhaps it's not even bad STUFF but maybe you just aren't feeling the radiating joy that everyone is always kind of pushing for in the gospel. You know what I mean, like, "If you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, you'll be happy no matter what."

That idea?  It's like a THING in LDS culture.

Yeah, what if that is just kind of not working for you? What if you're just kind of surviving?

Then what?

I've got a few different posts in store addressing exactly this issue. Today's mini-solution is gratitude.

Perhaps one of my most favorite quotes of all time is this one by Gordon B. Hinckley,

"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

Why do I love this quote so? Because it basically says that the joy is in the little things.

Every minute of every day is NOT going to be some glee-filled-smile-until-your-face-falls-off kind of minute.

No, most minutes are normal, some quiet, some loud, some messy, some VERY messy, some simple, some complex, some scary, some serene, but MOST of them are just normal.

And within the normal, there are ways to find joy.

President Hinckley says the trick is to thank the Lord for the letting you have the ride. YES YES YES!

An "attitude of gratitude" is essential to finding joy in life. I submit that the most happy people on the planet are those who are grateful to the Lord for the blessings they've been given; the big blessings, sure, but most essentially, the little.

Every single day is a lesson in gratefulness. Today perhaps you can find five things to be thank God for that you've previously overlooked or kind of taken for granted.

What are those things?

Maybe today they are: peanut butter and jelly, anti-depressants, a friend who sends a witty text, matching socks, kids who play nicely for a few minutes, a pizza delivery man, a loaf of homemade bread...

If you can, in the moment, when you realize you're grateful for something, send up a quick prayer heavenward, thanking God for that thing, whatever it may be, big or small, you'll find your heart a little lighter, life a little less heavy. No, it won't make your problems go away. No, it won't make you delirious with joy or anything, but it will allow you, in the times of regular old hard life, to push through, and to recognize the moments of true and deep joy when they come. They are almost always small and simple moments that are the most joyful. And with a grateful heart, you'll see them more often.

Colossians 2:7 says, "Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." Be built up in Christ, be faithful and be grateful.

There, in the quiet, in the difficult, in the painful, you'll find the light.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Process!

Derek wrote this about resolutions verses goals verses actually getting stuff done. He kindly agreed to let me post it here. That's how we roll. Happy New Year!! 

New Year/New Process
At this time of having a year anew we often decide to have resolutions. I want to share two concepts with you that every person should keep in mind as they develop resolutions. The first is focusing on the process and not the outcome, the second is developing healthy living skills.

Process not Outcome
When we think of resolutions we think of overarching abstract goals for what we want in the New Year, like, “I want to spend more time with family”, or “I want to lose weight”, or “I will be a better father/mother”, etc. These ideas while good are not specific enough to be of service in the day to day living that we are engaged in. These statements are all outcome statements, while you want a specific outcome the abstract outcome is neither specific nor is it enough to sustain change in the moment.

 Instead, focus on process. Process is to change the outcomes to specific behaviors I will engage in on a routine (daily, weekly, biweekly, etc.) basis.

Instead of “I want to spend more time with family” because it is too vague you would develop a set of habits that will increase the likelihood of spending more time with family. Some ideas include: “I will go to work a half hour early every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so I can come home a half hour early to play a game with my children”, “I will turn off my cellphone and my computer while at home”, and “Every day will begin and end with family prayer”.

 These are just three ideas of process, your process goals should be things you can maintain and be built upon with increased goals. Notice I said a half hour early not an hour or two early and only three days a week not every day.

The idea is to begin with something attainable that you can feel good about as you achieve the process goals and then over time you can increase those goals. Each individual will have different process goals to work toward attaining their desired outcome. Imbedded in process is the belief that you do not need to be PERFECT, you focus on IMPROVEMENT. Even having family prayer in the morning and night one day is better than not at all and it begins the process of having prayer every morning and night, it may not be every day at the beginning but it will come as you PRACTICE.

Healthy Living Skills
As you plan your resolutions you can focus on developing skills of healthy living. Healthy Living Skills are contained in the five categories of living: Emotional, Mental, Relational, Financial and Spiritual. You must first take stock of where you are and then plan a program of improvement where your goal is to improve yourself in each of the five categories with plans for ways you can grow little by little.

Within the Emotional category you might resolve to attend a yoga class to increase your ability to relax and not get overstressed, or you can resolve to spend fifteen minutes a day engaged in meditation practices.
In the Mental category you will want to set a goal for improving your knowledge or mental abilities. One goal can be to take one college course or to memorize a scripture a week.

The Relational category can be focused on improving an individual relationship, like having a fifteen minute conversation with my wife every night to discuss her feelings or improving a relationship skill, like practicing “active listening skills” once a day.

Financial resolutions should be something small, not “pay off all my debts” but something similar to “track my income and expenditures”. The tracking can build into paying off debts little by little or increasing savings at an achievable rate.

Spiritual growth should be a focus of every person no matter what level of spirituality they are currently. These can be as simple as writing a daily gratitude journal and use those entries in my morning and night prayers, or just setting a goal to pray first thing in the morning.

The goal is to improve yourself in each of the five areas, and bringing in the process not outcome concept you will begin with an activity that is achievable and can help you grow. Choose to only do one thing better in each category, do not get overzealous and set high expectations of change.


So, as you plan for your new year, develop process oriented healthy living goals. As you do, you will find your resolutions are both easier to maintain and they can grow all year long. These goals then become habits and you can find yourself not failing at a huge resolution but overtime growing and becoming better.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel HAS Come!

I find that Christmas music is such an excellent form of expression during the season. I DO NOT mean trite songs such as Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, fun though they may be.

No, I mean, that there is power in the notes, poetry and worship that is created through the music.

I can't eloquently express (despite multiple attempts at it) the depth or breadth of feelings, testimony and abundance of joy that attend during the Christmas season. It simply can not be expressed in mere words.

So, rather than continue blog silence while I try and fail to add anything of uplift to what is potentially the most wonderful and stressful, and expensive, and busy time of the year for us all, I think I'll share a bit here with words AND music. It's the only way I can think to adequately do the thing. I don't expect anyone to sit here and look/listen all the way through in one sitting, but if you can, great!!


Merry Christmas. I only posted three of the ones I WANT to post here, so perhaps I'll do another round soon. :)


What Child is This. by Lindsey Stirling


Child of the Night
By Holly Woolley
Child
Of the night and hushed
Majesties of light.
Cool evening breeze
And single cry,
A mother’s tender arms
And eyes …
Unspoken grace adorns
Crude stable hay and
Humble cloth.
A King is born
In quiet manger
Without pretence
Or display …
No jeweled crown
Nor fame is found
Except,
In lighted
Sky
And whisper
Of a father’s tender
Murmur of His name,
“Jesus.”
The morning breaks
In quiet sigh and fame;
A dark and sleeping
World awakes
To never be
The same.


Jospeh's Lullaby by MercyMe




Joseph, By Gilbert Thomas

Who has not carolled Mary
   and who her praise would dim?
But what of humble Joseph
   is there no song for him?

If Joseph had not driven
   straight nails through honest wood;
If Joseph had no cherished
   his Mary as he should;

If Joseph had not proved him
   a sire both kind and wise
Would he have drawn with favour
   the Child's all-probing eyes?

Would Christ have prayed "Our Father",
   or cried that Name in death
Unless he first had honoured
   Joseph of Nazareth?

O Come O Come Emmanuel, David Crowder Band 


O Come O Come Emmanuel"

O come o come emmanuel
And ransom captive israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of god appears

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel shall come to thee oh israel

Oh come thou day-spring come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel shall come to thee oh israel

Oh come desire of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid thou our sad divisions cease
And be thyself our king of peace

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel shall come to thee oh israel

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel has come
Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel has come

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel has come
He has come
He has come

O come o come emmanuel
And ransom captive israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of god appear

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel shall come to thee oh israel

He's coming towards us now
He's coming towards us now
He's coming towards us now
He always will