Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Woman I Become

I believe that the people that you love most have the power to change the person that you are.

Falling in love with Scott forever changed the woman that I am. I look back with fondness on the girl I was. She is someone I was always happy to be. But I'm different now. And although as I was content before, I became even more so afterwards. I became more open and trusting. I felt more stable and peaceful. I think I gained wisdom. I don't think you can love and not be wiser.

Loving Soren has irrevocably changed me too, as I hope every child I have will. Sometimes I feel as though I have borrowed his driving need for self-discovery and his refreshing lack of inhibitions. Sometimes, when I look in his sleepy eyes, I feel as though I have regained a lost innocence. And, again, I believe I am wiser now.

This is how it happens: I'm sitting on the couch reading a book or a blog. I am encompassed by my own affairs and my own interests; I am an island and happy to stay that way. Soren is balanced by the coffee table, excited to touch and move everything. He is babbling in a way that seems absent-minded. Look up. Behold your little one. I look up from my task, from myself, and see him. He is the flesh of my flesh. He is my son. He is innocent and full of potential. And, feeling my eyes on him, he turns to smile at me. He knows so little and yet mine is the face that makes him smile. My little perfect boy, and he loves me. Elder Russel M. Ballard has said that mothers must realize that "the joy of motherhood comes in moments". Often, this is one of those moments. It is a shining yet ephemeral piece of sacred time. I look up from myself. I love him and I become a new person. A mother, the realization of my potential.

Then, suddenly, the glow has faded. But the change remains. Love has the power to change us, to make us become more like He who loves us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An All-Encompassing Commandment

I've lately come to realize how important it is to study God's word. I have often listened in church meetings or in conferences and been discouraged by the sheer weight of God's commandments. I have thrown up my proverbial hands in despair and felt unable to make the tremendous life changes God asks.

Recently, however, I have come to understand that those changes are made in increments and that they are made naturally as we study the word of God and sincerely pray to know His will. I now know that if I read my scriptures and pray daily, every other commandment will fall naturally into place (eventually). If we can keep those lines of communication open between us and the heavens, then we will have access to God's help. We will have the Holy Ghost with us and He will tell us all things that we should do. He will change things about us that we never thought we could overcome. So much of what God wants from us is an attitude adjustment. Searching, pondering, and praying will soften our hearts and yield the necessary results.

As long as I pray sincerely and ponder God's word in the many ways it has been revealed to me, I do not have to worry about my Heavenly Father's judgment. As long as I do not willfully reject the teachings I receive, the Holy Ghost will make sure that my heart will be in the right place. I believe this is how the prophets of old could be so confident that they would meet us at the final judgment, standing on the right hand of God. It was not pride or knowledge that they had done everything right. It was a recognition of the power of the Atonement and a knowledge that they had the Holy Ghost with them, sanctifying them. They knew that their earnest desire would enable Jesus Christ, through His infinite and all-powerful Atonement, to do the rest.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I have the whole pie (and so can you!)

I was appreciating the church's new website ( this morning. I love all the videos connected to the site; I'm very much an aural learner. One of my favorite videos was about how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has all the truth, not just some of it. And those who are baptised into this church have access to all of God's greatest gifts, not just some of them. The man speaking compared truth to a pie and he said that, after hearing the missionaries, he wanted the whole pie, not just a sliver of it.

Following the deaths of Christ's apostles and due to disobedience and loss of authority, a great deal of spiritual truth was lost. The beauty and wisdom of God's plan was obscured from man and His power was no longer on the earth. Those lost truths were restored through a modern prophet, Joseph Smith, and even now the veil between heaven and earth is peirced by continuing revelation via God's chosen mouthpeice today, Thomas S. Monson. This is a most glorious time to live! Now is the time that all of God's blessings are available to all of His children, according to their agency. Now is the time that, if you choose, you can have the whole pie!

I am grateful for many these restored and reiterated truths. They bring purpose and joy to my life. What more could I ask for? Simply stated, that these same truths might be available to everyone. I want everyone to know...
... that we have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves each of His children. He is all wise and all loving; if we follow His plan, we will be lead to eternal life and everlasting joy.
... that God's Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, performed an infinite Atonement and has the power to redeem and to change us. If we desire it, He will remake us in His image. In this suffering and fallen world, it is a comfort to know that He will return and make everything right.
... that the same Jesus which was crucified for our sins, was literally resurrected and that He lives. And so shall we someday be resurrected, reunited with our bodies and with those we love.
... that families are integral to God's plan. That in order to receive our inheritance as children of God, a man and a woman must be sealed together in God's holy temple and there become an eternal unit.
... that God speaks to each of His children through two channels. We can receive personal revelation through the power of the Holy Ghost and we can receive the unalterable commands and truths of our Father's plan through His prophet and the Holy Scriptures.
... that man is that he might have joy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

An Award

Heather Farley (aka TopHat) passed along to me the "You Make My Day" award--and that made my day! It's always comforting to know that I'm not just yammering to myself here, and even better to know that someone else appreciates what I have to say!

RULES about this little award:
(1) give this to people whose blogs mean something special to you - or give it to the blogs whose persons mean something special to you
(2) leave a comment on their blog so they know they got it
(3) you get to pick the number of times you give it

I would like to pass this award on to:
* Jennie Yri, whose writing blog is my favorite and whose blog about politics routes out the cynic in me;
* Audrey Duede, my hillarious mother-in-law who writes about adventures in knitting and keeps me updated on the status of my husband's childhood pets;
* Alisha Stamper, a stay-at-home photographer who takes glorious pictures of things moms see everyday;
* and Russel Stevenson, who helps me stay abreast of issues in the news and challenges (and strengthens) the way I think about my faith.

I am grateful that I can stay in touch with my friends and family as well as be stimulated by their experiences and ideas. Reading your blogs keeps me thinking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Power of Prayer

I am grateful for the supernal gift of prayer. This blessing and commandment is truly a tender mercy of the Lord to me. Through prayer, I come to know the will of my Father in Heaven and I access the power of the Atonement to experience greater conversion.

I have recently started adding an extra prayer to my day. In the middle of the day, when Soren is sleeping and Scott is gone, I kneel down and pray in complete privacy. I am able to pray out loud and to spend time pondering without any interruptions. This has become the foundation of my day. From that prayer, I try to decide what good I will do that day. I find motivation to study the scriptures with real intent. The Spirit I feel during that special prayer is something I yearn to keep throughout the day and that influences the ways in which I act. That prayer has great power. It always invites the Holy Ghost into my home and my heart. When I strive to keep that Spirit with me, I have power to make changes in my life.

I have found nothing to be more rewarding than praying, receiving insight into what I should do, and following that counsel. When I pray, the Holy Ghost whispers God's will to me and sometimes it is something I can do right away. That action brings great joy and confidence. Prayer is what allows me to be an able instrument in hands of God.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

"An achingly beautiful story." -School Library Journal (starred review)

Four years ago I read Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux, which won the Newberry Award for the greatest contribution to children's literature in the year of 2004. It was an enchanting fable and easily became one of my all-time favorite books. I never thought DiCamillo could write a more captivating story and, as a rule, I have not enjoyed her other books very much. So when I picked up The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, I was not expecting to become so entransed. I was certainly not expecting to be inspired, to feel my heart ripped from my body in sorrow and joy. It's a book about love in all its simplicity and pain and glory. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. "Achingly beautiful" is right. That's exactly what reading it felt like; I ached with the beauty of it.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit loved and pampered by a girl named Abilene. On an ocean voyage he goes overboard and is lost. Thus begins his wandering at the hands of fate and a journey could teach him the importance of love.

It's a very simple story and a quick read. I made it through the whole book in less than an hour. And I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Come and borrow it if you like but don't keep it for long. It's one I'll want to read again and again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Aural Indulgence

I am grateful for good music (and a nice sound system). I am grateful for great composers whose music inspires me and invites the Holy Ghost into my life. These are a few of my favorite recordings, in no particular order.

1. "The Messiah" by George Frederick Handel (as recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
2. "Flute Concerto" by Christopher Rouse (as recorded by Carol Wincenc)
3. "Songs from the Trilogy" by Philip Glass (as recorded by the Phillip Glass Ensemble)
4. "Requiem and Magnificat" by John Rutter (as recorded by the Cambridge Singers)
5. "Kindertotenlieder" by Gustav Mahler (as recorded by Janet Baker)
6. "Crown of Ariadne" by R. Murray Schafer (as recorded by Judy Loman)
7. "Symphony No. 9 Aus Neuen Welt" by Antonin Dvorak (as recorded by the Berliner Philharmonic)
8. "Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi (as recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
9. "Appalacian Spring; Rodeo; Farfare to the Common Man" by Aaron Copland (as recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)

Feel free to add your own in the comments. I'm always looking for more good music.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In Defense of Cheerfulness

Christ commanded us to "be of good cheer". Elder Holland postulates that this may be a commandment we break more than almost any other. He offers a maxim I find to be very true for me: "No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."

When I first heard those words, I thought they were quaint but made no effort to analyze how they could improve my life. There are negative things to face in life and I used to think that they could be improved by commiserating about them. Whenever something unfortunate happened in my life, I would immediately start brainstorming about who I could go complain to. If I could illicit a little sympathy, maybe I would feel better about myself. And when others came to tell me of their misfortunes, I thought to make them more comfortable by unburdening my own (or sometimes exaggerating them). When I worried about it, Scott told me that complaining is an inescapable fact of female communication. For awhile, this seemed an acceptable conclusion.

But I know that Elder Holland is a special witness of Christ, an apostle of God. I know that his words in general conference, and the words of the other prophets and apostles, are among the most pertinent words to me today. I had to ask myself, do I really believe that the prophet and the apostles speak for God? If so, then that particular counsel is from God to me. If so, then it is an immutable truth that no circumstance is improved by complaining. If so, I decided I must experiment upon those words.

I have found cheerfulness to be among God's most gentle commandments. In my life, I have found that there is no misfortune so bad that being cheerful won't make it better. Of course there are unfortunate circumstances that I must discuss with others to alleviate. But I am trying to think carefully before I lay my burdens at any feet but those of the Savior. Most of the time, I find there is no need to complain and great reason to rejoice, even in misfortunes. I believe that when we replace our negative communication with gratitude we invite the Holy Ghost to be with us. And He can comfort and uplift us.

Friday, September 5, 2008

As a Man Thinketh

So I have been asked to teach Relief Society on Sunday and since it's the presidency message, they've given me free reign to talk about whatever I want to. WARNING: Anyone reading this from my ward, BEWARE! It contains spoilers!

I've decided to give my lesson on the importance of controlling our thoughts. This is a topic that gets a lot of attention in Priesthood meetings but is very rarely taught to women. I think this is because it is generally assumed that we have less problems with sexual transgressions. Be that as it may, I think that controlling our thoughts is about more than controlling physical desires. It is also about not being judgmental, maintaining a healthy optimism, and pondering spiritual things. It is about the state of our soul for "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." I feel very strongly about this topic and I'm really excited to teach about it.

I have lots of things I want to draw from in a very short amount of time. The umph behind the message comes from Elder Packer's talk "Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts" and (my all-time favorite) Elder Holland's talk "The Tongue of Angels". I am seriously considering beginning with a clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the thoughts of the enterprise crew shape the reality around them. Does anyone think that would be blasphemous? It's very pertinent and the clip I would show is very short.

Mostly, I wanted to put up this post to see if anyone out there has ideas, stories, or pertinent talks they could share with me. Why do you think it is important to control our thoughts? And how do you accomplish it?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Temples and Covenants

On Saturday, Scott and I had the opportunity to attend a sealing of a child to her parents in the Salt Lake City temple. It was very special to see a whole family there in the temple receiving the greatest blessings promised by God.

My Aunt Karen adopted a Cambodian baby a few months ago. The story of Kalea's adoption is a very special one and I know that Heavenly Father intended her to be a part of their family just as surely as He intended Soren to be a part of ours. But because Kalea was not naturally born to Karen and Mark Roylance, she was not born into their eternal family and she did not inherit the blessings granted to a daughter of a covenant union. So on Saturday, she was sealed into their family and became a rightful heir to the blessings of a child born in the covenant. She became a part of their eternal family unit. She is now linked forever to Karen, Mark, Tiffany, Ashley, Michael, and Matthew, as well as to the family of Christ.

At the conclusion of the short and beautiful ceremony, Scott turned to me and said, "She is so lucky." He was referring to Kalea who was born into very different circumstances but was now adopted into a family who could offer her a double portion of life's greatest blessings. She will partake of a very prosperous lifestyle and grow up with all her basic needs fulfilled and many of her wants met as well. She will have a mother and father (as well as doting siblings) who love her and are devoted to her success in life. But perhaps most importantly, she will have all the blessings of Father Abraham. She is now set on the path to eternal life. She will have the knowledge of righteousness and the priesthood power in her life to cement God's promises to her. Yes, when we thought of how different things could have been for Kalea, we agreed that she was very lucky.

But we also realized how fortunate we are as well. Through no actions of our own, we also have access to all those great blessings. It is only through the grace of God that we are blessed with temporal prosperity and spiritual knowledge. Sometimes I get a little prideful and I think of all the things I possess and all the correct choices I have made as though I had made my life this way. Instead, I must thank my Father in Heaven for His many tender mercies on my behalf.