Category Archives: Faith

Weekly Encouragement: There Will Be an Answer, Let it Be

“Paul McCartney’s mother was a profound and calming influence in his life.

She passed away when he was only 14 years old.

Years later, in one of his darkest hours, she appeared to him in a dream. Offering wisdom only a mother could give, she said, ‘Paul…let it be.'”

And Paul wrote that famous song.

In the past few weeks I’ve repeated these words to myself, countless times. When we just don’t have the answers, it’s good to remember that someday…There Will Be an Answer, Let it Be.

And I love this Beatles cover by Gentri.

Happy Monday!

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Lent. And Taking Yourself to the Challenge. Part II

Take yourself to the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.

The girl can run the hills

Do you celebrate lent? In 2014 I first wrote about my lenten experience. I was trying it 40 days before I flew to the base of the Rocky Mountains to run a marathon. Glad that’s over.

This year my brother, Patrick, and I are accountability buddies. There are no marathons in sight. He gave up caffeine: “the first week was rough but I’m feeling better now.” At the moment he’s…struggling. I refuse to accept his defeat. Get back on that Lenten train, buddy!

I gave up some of my addictive technology practices: I can only check phone/email/computer at four specific times a day. Sound easy? Well, it’s not! I’m a chronic user abuser. I get so much email! To stay on top of it, I check when I’m bored, when I’m not bored, when I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, when it’s been over an hour, when I’m waiting for a play to start, etc etc. Since I like to BE PRODUCTIVE ALL THE TIME I feel antsy just sitting. So, this has been a great challenge.

Well.

It’s been life-changing, she said dramatically. YES IT HAS. Now. I check email once in the morning before awaking children, once at lunch time, sometimes after dinner, and once after I put the kids to bed. Writing this feels ridiculous because it’s still A LOT. But it’s working. My mind is less frazzled. I feel calmer. I’m getting more important writing done. I’m actually cleaning more. Hallelujah, her husband said.

I even daydream more. I no longer keep my phone by my bed so I can’t reach over and check it when I can’t sleep or want a dopamine hit right before sleeping. I feel like I have so much more time! It’s also led to me deleting emails and unsubscribing to newsletter I just don’t have time to read, leaving only the most important. It’s a really, really good feeling.

I’ve experienced some physical withdrawal symptoms. Where at first my brain was anxious and antsy, feeling the need for a phone hit, only to BE DENIED, I’m now a little more whatever. It can wait.

Thanks to KJ’s advice (of NYT Motherlode column), I installed the app Moment, which tracks the amount of time I’m on my phone (the kids also installed!) and RescueTime on my laptop. Both are free and have completely revolutionized my thinking, time, and productivity.

All because of lent!

Sometimes I’m tempted to cheat – I remember I have to write a really important email RIGHT NOW. So I do something else: I write it down on paper. And on my next tech moment, I write the email. The sky has not fallen yet.

I thought lent it was a Catholic holiday, but actually, it’s a Christian tradition that many different religions practice. I know this because I Googled, “Lent for Dummies.”

I love the idea of lent, of how it can be a holy period that leads up to Easter.

In the Christian tradition, after the great party of Mardi Gras, where everyone sins and has their riotous fun, there is to be 40 days of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and periods of fasting.

Well, I think we’ve had some riotous fun, and wouldn’t it be nice – and doesn’t the world need – some time for the holy? My heart is breaking for Syria and the people of Allepo. The images of children…aside from donating money, what can I do? I pray mightily. There is great power in prayer. Miracles, even. I have felt them in my own life.

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. – Doctrine & Covenants 8

Lent’s significance is supposed to be heightened during the Holy Week leading up to Easter, marking the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

In our house we always celebrate Easter, but I sometimes fear that all my children will remember about Easter are addictive, sugary, pink marshmellow bunnies. Yuck.

But the spirit of lent is something I’m familiar with.

In the Mormon religion, each first Sunday of the month is designated as “Fast Sunday.” This is a time of prayer, scripture, and going without food and water for 24 hours (as health and circumstance permits.) It’s voluntary and, for a society that really likes food – really hard.

I find it most interesting that it is during these hard, hungry days, that clarity often comes.

Why, I wonder, must we suffer to come closer to the divine? All I know, is that as we descend, we are somehow lifted. It just works.

This year the calendar says that lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Thursday,

April 13. I know this because The Idiot’s Guide to Lent told me.
In my 2014 post, my friend, Julia wrote in the comments:

I am Catholic, and I must say you covered the bases pretty well. We fast so that we can make more room for God in our lives. In my house, we always give up sweets/desserts for Lent. I call it detox. Now that the kids are older, they are feeling the sacrifice more. (Example: 12 year old daughter gets into van after school yesterday and says, “Sebastian brought cupcakes to school for his birthday.” Glare. “And for pi day on Friday (celebrating that wonderful mathematical construct) everyone is bringing in pies.” Another, more venomous, glare.
I smile. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” I say. This sacrifice is supposed to turn our dependence back to God and away from worldly things, or worse, our own sense of accomplishment. It should bring challenges that will make us better people. I hope. The Catholic Church also encourages Christians to use this time for increased prayer and works of charity- anything that will increase the amount of love in the world. Goodness knows we need it!
I’m also trying to fast from worry. Pretty hard for this mama.

Just love this.

We give up something good for something better. This is the true meaning of sacrifice. And in a world that hates to be uncomfortable and has become increasingly more self-centered, we could use a bit more sacrifice. For our family, our marriages, our neighbors. Ironically, it ultimately benefits our own selves.

So. Have you taken yourself to the challenge? My daffodils have:

Daffodils are insistent

Are you practicing lent? Do tell!

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Think You’re Past Your Prime? Think Again!

The last ten years I’ve been fascinated by race results. I began to notice a disturbing trend among female runners at race events: they seemed to be getting faster with age.

I say “disturbing” because I was under the false impression that if I just kept running, I’d be on the only one left to win the bling. Ha ha ha! Oh, contraire.

What the heck was going on? Why were women in their 40s running faster than their younger peers? Why were they smoking past me?

In my 30’s I would occasionally place in the top 3 of my age group. Sadly, I realized that if I didn’t get faster, I’d never take the podium.

You know what I think now? “Yeah. YOU GO GIRL. You go get that!”

Something happens to us when we “grow up.” We believe lies. We think we’re past our prime. We think sport is just for the more talented or for those girls who played varsity sports in college. We stop walking and running and pushing ourselves athletically. “It’s too late. We’ve missed it, blown our chance, and I never even played a sport in high school, let alone as a mom.”

Puh-lease.

Here’s the truth: We Are All Athletes.

Maybe we believe the lie because for many many years, it’s hard to do anything but work hard and nurture hard. There doesn’t seem to be any left over for us. This is where our ingenuity must kick in. We have to do squats while folding laundry, perform calf raises while vacuuming the stairs, get in some arm circles while in our work cubicle, skip lunch with colleagues to walk around the block. Staying at home doesn’t make it easier. There were always babies saying, “You want to work out in peace and quiet? Get real!” (good thing they’re so cute.)

How many times did I look like a dork trying to run up a hill pushing a stroller while mixing in lunges and swinging my legs for hip mobility? The baby was always screaming and I’d be throwing cheerios down at her while gasping out a Cinderella or Peter Pan story all the while experiencing milk letdown. Oh yeah, I was a beauty out there with my stroller.

And than there were days where it was just too much energy to dress the baby and myself and a toddler in all those layers when it was so cold. There were many many days of missed workouts. But I also knew this: a little goes a long way. So over the years I tried to get a little bit here, a little bit there.

I felt slow in my 20s and even slower in my early 30s. There were times when I couldn’t run more than a mile without stopping to walk, when I was just too tired and it was too late to get on the elliptical. But there were other times that I did. How serendipitous it was to find running buddies (bless you!), an awesome running watch (bff for life!), a few 5ks while dear husband watched children. I played indoor and outdoor soccer on a real team for as long as I could. One year the season started when Nelson was just two months and I had to bring him with me because I was nursing. I remember running onto the field to join my teammates and they turned around and started clapping. That moment still makes me want to weep, it meant so much. Sisters cheering for their sisters!

I remember Meredith and I getting permission to bring a big Hogwarts bus to one of our soccer games so all of our kids would fit. We laughed like crazy and I nursed Nelson behind a tree during halftime, all sweaty and gross! (sorry, Nellie boy for that image 🙂 ). I remember thinking at the time, “what the heck am I doing???” But a voice was saying: just keep your foot in the game. I was slower, underweight, had looser joints and was severely sleep deprived. There was also the pleasure of milk letdown while trapping a throw in. Heavens. It was worth it. God gave me this body and when I was running down that field I felt His pleasure (to paraphrase a hero, Eric Liddel.)

As my kids grew older and my own hobbies and teams took a back seat, I volunteered to coach because I loved the game and wanted to spend time with my children. I also hoped it would keep me in shape. It helped. I make the effort to keep playing summer soccer at least once a week with my children, even as they overtake me in speed and touch. But I can’t stop. I have role models out on the field inspiring me, and yes, maybe I too can be that person for someone else.

I feel this huge surge of pride every time I take the field. No, I’m not first, not the quickest, and can’t get that shot off as fast as I use to, but no matter. Console yourself with these words: at least you’re out there.

We hear all sorts of negativity: “you’re going to slow down,” ” you’re going to get old and your knees will hurt,” and “things change after 40.” Yeah, the body changes, but life isn’t even close to over at 40. It’s not over at your wedding. It’s not over when you get pregnant. It’s not over when you have your first baby or your fifth. You’ll have to work to “get back,” but didn’t you have to work when you were 15? I tell you what, I’m way faster and can run way farther than I ever could at 15.

And I happen to think that’s wicked cool.

Two weekends ago I ran the Cape Cod half-marathon. Robin is a veteran runner with dozen of halfs and full marathons behind her. She’s 48, my friends, and she’s still going at it! My sister-in-law, Jill, is 44 and just finished her FIRST half marathon, running under 2 hours! So impressive. This is only the beginning.

half6

Thank you, Brendaen, for the pictures! I used the semi-decent ones…ugh, you should see some of my running shots 🙁

half4 Want another good reason to run? You get bling bling!

amy2One of the most rewarding parts of sports as a mom is having your children cheer you on, an odd but needful reversal of of roles. Yes, mom has legs. Yes, mom has hobbies. Yes, mom has interests others than chore charts. Yes, mom is a person! Mom kindof rocks.

amy1And no, she’s not ever going to stop trying!

This was at mile 6. I had downloaded the Hamilton CD. The song “I am not throwing away my shot” was on repeat. 🙂

jill2 Jill came through the finish line blowing kisses to her daughters and husband – it was SO cool. “Wow, mom just ran 13.1 miles!” Remember all those mornings when she got up before we were up to get in her training run before she had to help us pack a lunch and drive us to school before she could even eat or take a shower? Wow, GO MOM. This moment? So empowering.

half3I ran the Cape Cod half with my friend, Eric, in mind. Eric is in the late stages of ALS and cannot move any part of his body except to blink, speak some, and move his fingers. We stayed with Eric’s parents at the cape and when I was out there on the road, I thought of Eric. What would he give to be able to run just once more? Maybe we should move just because we CAN.

jill4You did it. And it was so not easy. So proud.

Stats from the Cape Cod half were eye-opening. There were 1,307 female runners. Of the top ten female finishers, four were in their 20s (29, 29, 24). Four were in their 30s (33, 34, 32, 33), one was 49, and one was 52! They all ran super close races, too. The first place 29-year-old ran a 1:16:52; 5:49 minute/mile splits for 13.1 miles – wicked fast!

The 52-year-old woman ran a 1:30:57; that’s a 7:01 minute/mile pace for 13.1 miles! At 52 years old.

Overall, the women 39 and under ran faster than women in their 40s; but the 40s, 50s, and 60-year-olds were still competitive. Sidney Letendre, a 62-year-old ran a 1:40:31; 7:40 minute mile splits! And Nancy Spiro, age 74, ran a 2:15:39. Of course, these are the top finishers in their age group, but there were many many more runners post-40 runner. Incredible. Inspirational.

Think it’s all talent? Oh no. It’s time and training. Which is good news for us all: we can all do it.

Don’t think it’s going to get easier when “the kids are older.” Twice a week I run at 5, not because I want to but because it’s the only time I can fit it in. It’s kindof horrible. But I’m realizing life is not slowing down anytime soon, and tomorrow has a way of turning into never. There is only today.

A few years ago I emailed running coach, Jason Fitzgerald of strengthrunning.com, to ask if he knew if their women in their 40s were running faster than women in their 20s and 30s, or if I was making this up. We couldn’t come up with any scientific answers except anecdotally. In our 20s and young 30s, women tend to be in the pregnancy and child rearing years, taking them out of the competition stage. But what I love about that, is that many are coming back to run or starting to run for the first time in their later 30s or early 40s. Next time you’re at a race, check the stats – women in their 40s and 50s are getting after it.

I write this post as an anthem to YOU! To women. Your life is not over at 20, at 30, not 40 or 70. Not by a long shot. Your knees might creak a bit more (stretch your butt!) and you might need more of a warm-up than you did at 14. You may get sidelined for awhile. You might even need a knee or hip replacement and you might have battled a cancer scare, but I tell you what, I know a lot of women who can walk and run and bike farther and faster than many many kids. It’s not because they’re the “lucky ones.” It’s not all that mysterious. It’s because they’re putting in a little bit of time, a little bit of dedication to use that amazing body of theirs.

Love you girls. Use that smokin’ hot body of yours 🙂 If you love it, it will love you back. Guaranteed.

Okay. Now go schedule something. Put it on the calendar. Make your friend sign up too and you’ve got an accountability buddy instead of a wish. Go get it.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. -Henry David Thoreau

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Seminary: What Those Mormon Kids Are Doing Every Morning

As a Mormon girl, I am asked the best questions:

Can you use electricity? (yes, I am not Amish)

Do you have magic underwear? (um, I don’t think so?)

Do you celebrate Christmas and birthday? (YES!)

Are you Christian? (YES!)

Can anyone attend your church? (Heck yes!)

I really don’t get asked these questions that often anymore. But my children do! And believe me, many of those questions I cannot type out in this forum…:)

But hey, at least they are asking and we are discussing.

Here’s another question we get all the time: Your kids are taking what?

Seminary.

“What’s seminary? Are they monks or something?”

Seminary is a religion class for high school age students.

Does everyone have to do it?

No. Only about half of my children’s Mormon friends are enrolled.

Not everyone thinks it’s important. Or, they think it’s important, but it’s not worth the time and effort. But for our kids growing up in this world, I think it’s essential.

So I say: LET’S DO SEMINARY!

If you live in Utah, Idaho, some parts of Arizona, and other regions of the United States with large concentrations of Mormon high schoolers, you actually get to take a religion class during the day, in a separate building close to your school. You lucky ducks.

But for the majority of LDS teens, class starts before school. I’m sure your teens would shout for joy at the prospect; teenagers love to get up early!

Typically this religion class begins at the beautiful hour of 6 a.m. That’s right, 6 a.m. five days a week. I participated in seminary when I was in high school and luckily, the church was five minutes away. Even as an early bird, it was about the hardest thing I did for four years, especially on the cold Nebraska winter days when it was black as night and I was a frozen, really skinny ice cube.

And there was always the issue of my hair. No matter my grand intentions to look stellar at 6, (uh, there were BOYS in the class!) typically I would roll out of bed mere minutes before rolling out of the driveway looking…like I just rolled out of bed.

It was a happy day for my mother when we had our license. My siblings and I may have broken a few speeding laws and rolled through a few stop signs…and popped a few tires…oh, those were the early morning days that we used to call “cemetery.”

The seminary program has continued. Since we live far away from civilization, I do not have to drive my children to seminary (oh, happy day) but they still get to participate! The internet is one amazing thing. My two teens are enrolled in on-line seminary. They have a real teacher and a real class they connect with every Thursday evening. The other days of the school week they complete a lesson that typically takes between 30-40 minutes.

What exactly are they studying?

DSC_0786For Mormon youth, they rotate every four years between: The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine and Covenants.

img_2217 This year they are studying The Old Testament.

img_2222They can complete the lesson at any time during the day; they don’t have to get up really early, but they sometimes do, to get it done. And yes, they are often very tired.

img_2225 I especially like when they sit and complete a lesson together. img_2212 Enough with the pictures, Mom. I’m trying to concentrate.img_2234Seminary is best done with cozy blankets. And if you’re really lucky, Mom or Dad might bring you a snack or make you breakfast (but admittedly, #slackermom.)

Why would you do such a thing?

Well, here’s my thing.

I want my children to know and love the Lord. I want to raise my children to not only be good, but spiritual. I want them to know that God speaks to us through the scriptures. I want them to know for themselves, that they are not alone on this earth, but that there is a higher power who will get them through their darkest days.

The New Testament tells about the greatest man who ever walked the earth. It tells of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It gives us lessons from the past and hope of things to come.

Last night I considered the wisdom of these scriptures as I peeked over my children’s shoulders:

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthes 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

The language is not only beautiful but inspiring. Sometimes I start to lose hope and faith in this world that we live in. The political climate is toxic. But I hold on to the words I read in my youth from Isaiah: Do not fear, for I am with you.

A few weeks ago one of my children had a really hard day at school. As I worried, this child said: “But I remembered a scripture I had read from seminary. It just came to my mind.” And my heart was filled. This strong, good child was going to be okay.

Honestly, with the things our kids have to deal with, sometimes I wonder how I would get through high school now. Today’s youth are part of a strong and good generation, but they need us to help them be good and strong. Reading the scriptures helps our family and our children. There is a great spirit that fills our home when we read individually and together. We are kinder, closer, better.

As for seminary? What could be better than starting the day with prayer, personal scripture study, and meditation?

Seminary had other consequences I didn’t appreciate until much later: I learned that I could do hard things like get up every morning at 5:30. It helped me go to bed earlier. It challenged my willpower. I became much more disciplined. It raised my confidence in myself. It helped me be obedient to the other things I knew were right. It helped me not be so vain about my hair 🙂

It helped me learn and know this principle: God Honors Those Who Honor Him.

Seminary is early and it’s hard and hardly convenient – and it’s worth it.

So that’s a little insight into our world. I’d love to hear from yours!

Any more questions? Ask!

 

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Where Can We Turn For Peace?

My heart is with those in Brussels. This morning I learned that one of our students was in the airport when the terrorist attacks went off. Four missionaries were seriously hurt. Thirteen people were killed.

I can’t fathom what ISIS thinks they are accomplishing? If it’s hate, then let us fight with love and light right here in our own homes and communities. Love is a grassroots movement. The hand that rocks the cradle rocks the whole world.

“Religion offers no shield for wickedness, for evil, for those kinds of things. The God in whom I believe does not foster this kind of action. He is a God of mercy. He is a God of love. He is a God of peace and reassurance, and I look to Him in times such as this as a comfort and a source of strength.” –Gordon B. Hinckley

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Sunday Meditations: Why I Love Mary

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Mary was named National Geographic’s Most Powerful Woman of 2015, and while I don’t “worship” her the way some religions do, I revere her. I always imagine the type of young girl she must have been, to be chosen to raise the most extraordinary man and influence the world has ever known.

Sometimes I feel very inconsequential, like I’m never doing enough, that I’m not “living up to my potential,” the message “CHANGE THE WORLD OR YOU’RE NOTHING” constantly being thrust at us. It’s exhausting.

During the bustle and hustle of Christmas time, I’m so happy to pause and think of Mary. Quiet and serene, holding a small baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a dirty barn in a field under the stars. Or maybe she was loud and boisterous and had a wicked sense of humor. I don’t know. But she’s sitting in the barn wrapped in pure love with some cows, her Joseph, and their beloved baby. She’s thinking nothing of social media likes or platform or being important. She’s just loving her baby. This scene is pure peace. I want to sit under the stars with her and just hold my babies, hearing nothing but the cattle lowing…

A few years ago I realized that the greatest thing I would probably ever do in this life was raise good children. What a wonderful way to change the world.

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Thankful for the Good Ones

Last night Brynne was writing the answer to an assigned essay.

The question: “Is religion important to a region? Why or why not?”

Brynne quite indignantly wrote: “Religion is important to a region because it helps solve problems and causes less contention between people. Without religion, there might be more conflict, more worldwide issues, and more separation between different people. Religion unites and connects people and places all over the world.”

In the wake of the Paris bombings, I nodded dumbly.

Brynne writes this with all the conviction she has, because of her good religious experiences.

But another 11-year-old classmate wrote: “Religion is stupid. It’s people who commit suicide.”

Brynne thought this was stupid. I really hope she didn’t tell him so. You see, we’re all working on taming our passionate responses 🙂

This 11-year-old classmate writes because of his experience: he has none. What he knows of religion comes from the news; he hears of terrorist attacks, where people tie bombs to their body and kill others. All in the name of their God or Allah. If your religious exposure is based on the news, why wouldn’t you think religion is horrid?

I feel a slow burn when I read the terrorist reasons for the Paris bombings: Vengeance for “prostitution and vice.” As if they, the chosen ones, are justified in carrying out God’s punishment.

Didn’t the Ku Klux Klan and Hitler have similar egotistical justifications?

Extreme examples, but there are millions of people who have terrible interactions with “Christians.”

Recently I saw a Facebook post that read, “Act like Christ, not Christians.” This seems to come up during election time and these days, it’s always election time.

With the news cycle only reporting the horrible and shocking, we don’t hear of the food drive up the street, the coats donated to a domestic abuse survivor, or the Thanksgiving baskets assembled. Which is too bad, because the Christians that I know, respond.

I’m better for my religion. It’s been the conduit for spirituality and knowledge. It’s how I make sense of the world. It gives me a vision of who I really am and what happens next. It has made my family happy. It’s kept my parents married. It forces me to be less selfish. I cling to it.

So why are some people worse?

Huffington Post reports that millennials are less likely to be religious than their parents because of our culture change and emphasis on individualism. I begin to wonder? Without religion, who will organize my mother’s funeral? How will anything get done?

In January, the terrorist group al-Qaidain, Muslim extremist attacked the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing a drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

Al-Qaida’s Yemeni leader Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi said:

“As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organization of al-Qaida al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God.”

And it’s not ending. There is a sweet and innocent new generation of terrorists being trained Here.  “My father reminds me of Osama bin Laden, who terrorized and fought the Americans,” Abu Ashak, a boy in the camp, told Dairieh. “One day my father will be like him, and I want to be like Osama’s son.”

It’s no wonder, with this kind of news, that after the Paris attack, Joann Sfar, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, wrote a controversial Instagram post: “Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don’t need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy! #Parissaboutlife.”

Christians verbally attacked him.

To which Sfar responded with more cartoons:

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Dear Christians. Perhaps we have not opened the great history book called, The Bible. Perhaps we need a refresher course on how Christ actually behaved?

Just as I was feeling terrible and hopeless, convinced the world was going straight to you know where, I read two great responses from the church to which I belong:  the late Gordon B. Hinckley responds to terrorism Here and, and Dieter F. Uchdorf recounts his life as refugee, calling on us all to remember the humanity we all share. I began to feel a bit better.

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As Dieter F. Uchdorf has taught us: if we are criticizing, bullying, writing mean things on Twitter, there is a very simple solution: Stop it.

If you haven’t seen it, listen to the Paris pianist.

One other thing happened too. A very short conversation with my sister, who is about the kindest, most patient person you ever met (I mean, the hours she spent math tutoring me!)

Sister has been babysitting twins three days a week for a young, single mother who is really down on her luck. If you’ve ever babysat 3 1/2 year old twins all day, three days a week, you’ll know the energy it takes.

Sister has been doing this a long time.

As I busily cleaned up the kitchen I asked, “Are you getting paid pretty well?” Sister paused and very carefully said,

“Um…I’m getting paid in blessings from heaven.”

“What?” I exclaimed, snapping to attention. “You’re babysitting three days a week for free? Like, until they go to kindergarten?”

“You know,” she said. “I kind of think of it as a service. Some people go to India. Some people volunteer in orphanages in Russia. Some people travel the world doing these amazing things. And, I don’t know. This is just something I can do.”

All was right in the world again.

It makes me teary writing this. Thanks, Andrea, for once again reminding me: there are really good people in the world.

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Paige’s Baptism and the Holy Week Begins

People often ask me what baptism is like for members of the Mormon faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). Well, it’s cool! I only know how to write what I know, so this is what it looked like for our family this weekend:

Sunday was already a special day as Christians everywhere began the celebration of The Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. Palm Sunday, seven days before his resurrection, Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem.

It also happened to coincide with the day our sweet Paige was baptized.

As is the Christian custom and belief, baptism is the first step toward living with our Heavenly Father again. In the Mormon faith, there is no infant baptism as we believe babies are all born clean, pure, and without sin. By age 8, our opportunities for naughtiness increase :). Children are capable of knowing right from wrong and are able to take responsibility for their own actions, thus the need for baptism.

We have been talking about baptism for many months now, preparing Paige. It is very important to us that she knows what baptism is all about, what covenants (promises) are, what it means to “take upon us the name of Christ.”

It is amazing what a little child can understand, how close they are to spiritual matters, how soft their hearts are. There was no holding her back – she practically danced her way to church.

Earlier in the week, on her 8th birthday (my baby is eight, an unfathomable topic), the thing she most wanted was her own set of scriptures. She was very particular about the style: compact, black, snap-shut case, and her name scripted on the cover.

The scriptures include The Bible (the King James Version) and The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ’s ministry.IMG_8269

She did not specify a duct-tape scripture case, but that’s what she got 🙂 Nelson, of course, made it for her, and she was pleased as punch. (Get your orders in now!)

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As the big baptism day approached she was so excited, she could hardly sleep.

paige3We had a little photo shoot. I practiced my rudimentary ISO and aperture knowledge, attempting to capture my girl and all her goodness.paige2 paige1 IMG_8367

Finally, the big day arrived. My parents had flown in from Scotsdale, AZ, my twin brother drove up from New York City, and our dear Makechnie cousins arrived from Needham, MA. Yes, baptism is something so important that family members travel from far and wide.

IMG_8368Paige felt pretty special as we drove to church, stuck right there in the middle.

The program is simple. Paige had made assignments weeks earlier. Grandma Heather gave an opening prayer. Brynne (10) led the music (so darling.) Brother Nelson (13) gave a short talk on what baptism means. He talked about sins feeling like heavy rocks, but because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent (say we’re sorry, try to make things right, pray for forgiveness, and try not to do it again), and that heavy load disappears.

Hearing my boy bear his testimony and share what he believes at such a young age made me teary; I caught a glimpse of the good man and missionary he can become.

Then it was time for the baptism. Paige wore a simple white dress, representing “clean” and the “washing away of all sins.”

In the Mormon faith we are baptized by “full immersion” as Jesus was. It is a sacred ceremony, but all are invited to attend and witness, whether you are a member of the church or not. Gregor performed the baptism as he did for all our children.

When Paige came out of the water she had a big smile on her face. As I helped her get changed and back into her other white dress I told her I was very proud of her and asked if she was happy. She nodded and gave me a big (wet) hug.

While she was getting changed, Paige’s cousins played the violin and the cello (awesome!) When Paige was dressed and we were seated again, her cousin Hailey (15) gave a short talk on what it means to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Wow. The talk was wonderful and I felt so grateful that my girls have such strong female role models; girls who know they are daughters of God, who have such a strong sense of self and faith.

The baptism was followed by a confirmation as Paige received “the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Hailey reminded Paige that the Holy Ghost would be a comforter in her life. It would guide her as she goes through life, making important decisions, and help her recognize right and wrong.

Paige listened so earnestly and the feeling of love was strong. She was confirmed an official member of church by her Grandfather Nelson, followed by handshakes and hugs.

The “cousin choir” sang a closing song and then Cope gave a beautiful closing prayer. As Grandpa Art said, we were “brimming with joy.”

After the baptism Paige sat next to me during sacrament meeting. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “I am perfectly clean now with no sins. I’m not carrying anything heavy.”

I smiled down at her, knowing how she felt. But the greatest thing I wanted her to understand is that baptism is just the first step. There will be times she feels heavy. She will make mistakes like we all do – and it is okay. There will be heartache and missteps. Like all of us, she will feel badly. She will feel guilt. And, like all of us must do to progress, she will try to do better. That that’s what this life is all about.

When I sat down to write this post I put aside the worry and second guessing my word choices. I tried to just write what was in my heart and then go back and edit. But after, I didn’t want to go back and “fix” and make this all sound politically correct or “right.” What’s in my heart feels right, so I will leave it largely unchanged and unedited.

I am often hesitant to share my faith so publicly, for fear of criticism or misunderstanding, but you know, Jack Canfield wrote, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” The more real and honest we are with each other, the more we do understand. The more open I am, I find that my fears are unwarranted; many many people not of my faith asked how Paige’s baptism went. They want to know. We are curious cats. Pepper me with questions if you like. My blog is as open book as it gets!

As I tucked Paige into bed last night she asked her usual questions and some unusual ones too…”would you still love me if…” I assured her I would love her forever. I think she’s also testing me. Now that she’s all “good” and hasn’t had time to smash the car or smack her sister, will I still love her if she messes up?

She smashed her nose to one side. “Would you love me if I looked like this?” “Would you love me if I did this…” The scenarios ranged from the innocent to the more macabre, “if I killed a squirrel…”

I assured her that there was nothing she could do to make me not love her (though perhaps I might not always like everything!) Times my love by an infinite number and that’s how much I believe God loves her and each of us individually. That love is not conditional. It is always there, waiting for us to receive it.

The scriptures say that this life is the time for “men to prepare to meet God.” Baptism is that first step. We’re so proud of you, Paige.

Love, Mom

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Sunday Meditations: when life is most definitely not fair

We often feel bogged down with the weight of sadness in the world.

Life wasn’t fair when we were children and it’s not fair now. Hate is strong. Planes crash into buildings. Friends struggle to have babies.

I live in America. That baby in Africa will die before age 1. How is that fair?

It’s not. Forget fair.

My friend Eric has ALS. It’s so unfair. And I can’t stand it.

And of course I’m going to have to stand it.

Anne Frank.

Ugo Betti.

Corrie Ten Boom.

Emilie Parker’s mother and father.

This short list of names say something about how some people respond when life is most definitely not fair.

They see something beyond the right now.

Does faith emerge because of tragedy? Or in spite of?

To have faith is to “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (see Book of Mormon, Alma 32:21 and Hebrews 11:1). Each day you act upon things you hope for, even before you see the end result. This is similar to faith.

“faith is believing what you know, and knowing what you believe.”

Ugo Betti, a writer and POW wrote:

“To believe in God is to know that all the rules will be fair, and there will be wonderful surprises.”

It keeps me going.

 

I invite people of all different faiths, beliefs, ages, and walks of life to share their own Sunday Meditations in the form of short stories, thoughts, quotes, and inspiration. If interested, send me an email at amym (at) proctornet (dot) com. Thank you! And if you never want to miss a post, well then you best subscribe RIGHT HERE.

 

 

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