Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Reverent Baby

Sometimes I feel like I spend a significant amount of space on this blog complaining about how naughty my boy is in sacrament meeting.

There is a reason for this. I can say--without a doubt in my mind--that sacrament meeting is the hardest hour of my week. My dear, rambunctious son makes that hour my crucible of fire. But because of my struggle, it is also the hour when God can bless and uplift me the most. It has the capacity of being an hour for tender mercies, which is what this blog is all about and why those stories keep popping up on my website.

Still, I often feel that I am disproportionately whiny about my son, who is actually one of my life's greatest joys. I feel like I am doing him an injustice, putting up on the web how he kicks and pees and shouts in church when I never write about the way he smiles and plays and sleeps and touches my heart at home.

But today that all changes. Today I want to share how mild and agreeable my son was in church this past Sunday.

Soren and I went to church alone. Scott was home, sick in bed, leaving me to face my most trying hour alone. Or so I thought, in my melodramatic worrying. All alone; how would I manage all alone? I spent the drive to church bracing for the impact.

Which couldn't have been more unnecessary. I have never had so much help as I did on that Sunday. How could I have forgotten? We are never alone.

First, Soren's friend, Sequoia, and her family came to sit with us. Soren and Sequoia swapped toys and treats, enjoying the novelty of someone else's stuff. Soren shared his Book of Mormon pop-up with Sequoia and she lent him The Amazing Life of Jesus, with enough flip tabs to occupy him for the majority of the meeting.

That family was a tender mercy of my God, a timely blessing in my moment of need.

Then Amy and Kathy, my two baby-loving visiting teachees, came to sit behind us. Whenever Soren turned around and looked at them, they made silly faces and invited him into their laps. Thee change back and forth between rows was like a dream come true for Soren. He didn't have to be constantly attempting escape from his one confining pew; that escape was offered frequently and used up his need for constant movement.

I think that those women were prompted by my Heavenly Father to help me.

Finally, I felt like the Holy Ghost was there, aiding me, and that Soren could feel His presence like never before. I felt that God placed an invisible, calming hand on my son. He folded his arms and sat quietly for the sacrament prayers, a hitherto underheardof event. He sat in my lap and waved his arms to the music during congregational singing. And all his babbling was in a whisper, as though he felt the sacredness of the time and place.

I can only describe that sabbath day as a miracle. I got to hear the messages present, feel the sacredness of the ordinances performed, and enjoy the feelings of love and peace that can be present in our worship services. It seemed that even Soren could feel how special that time was.

I am so grateful that, once again, my loving Father made Himself manifest to me in during that sacred hour.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Only Alien on the Planet

"The overall impact of this psychological novel is so powerful." - Booklist

I have a friend who never fails to recommend only books that I will absolutely love. Everyone needs a friend like this; I'm glad I have found mine.

Last week she lent me The Only Alien on the Planet, by Kristen D. Randle. It was actually a book I had heard great things about and seen prominently displayed in local bookstores. But the cover art was distasteful (strike one) and the back-of-the-book synopsis seemed boring and possibly weird (strike two). I was quite sure there weren't any aliens in it (strike three) and so I never read it.

But my always-reliable friend had lent it to me and if she liked it, I could at least give the first chapter a glance.

From the first chapter to the last page, I couldn't put The Only Alien on the Planet down and the first word out of my mouth when I closed the cover at the conclusion was, "Wow."

It's a book about the transformative and redeeming power of friendship, as explored through the relationship between Ginny, the new girl on the block, and Smitty, a strange boy at school who never speaks. The book explores man's power to choose his own destiny, a topic that has interested me very much lately. In spite of the non-textbook resolution, the ultimate triumph of the characters (over external and internal battles) was very satisfying and empowering.

When I picked it up, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it, much less give it an honored place among the many books I read each week. But this was a book that invited the Holy Ghost into my heart and one that I definitely feel was inspired of God.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I think laughter is a gift from our loving God and I am grateful for this gift.

There is something powerful in this simple response. Laughing can change frustration into mirth, anger into forgiveness, and bitter grief into sweet recollection. I can think of countless occasions when laughing has transformed me, pushing out the bitter and making room for the love of God. Laughing at my life makes me more grateful and optimistic.

And laughing makes me a much, much better mother.

An example: A few weeks ago in church, Soren was having his usual squirming-and-squawking fit. His little body seemed to take up our whole pew as he flailed about. His voice seemed to fill the whole chapel. I couldn't hear a word that was being said at the pulpit and I was sure that none of my neighbors could, either.

Many of you more patient parents may not understand the way I felt: I wanted to dump him in Scott's lap, run away, screaming in frustration.

Instead, I held out until the intermediate hymn. Surely I could juggle Soren until the intermediate hymn and then I would let Scott take a turn. There was respite in sight.

When the chorister stood up and the prelude to The Time is Far Spent began, I gratefully stood up to join the congregation in singing. I balanced Soren on my hip and hoped that the music would calm him.

Shrink not from your duty, however unpleasant

Instead of listening in awe, like he usually does during the singing of hymns, Soren squirmed to be let down. Then he wailed when his feet hit the floor.

But follow the Savior, your pattern and friend.

So I picked him back up and tried to hold him steady while he clawed at my shoulders and face. I wanted to throw him from me in frustration. Instead I sang and bounced with all my might.

Our little afflictions, tho painful at pleasant

Soren grabbed at my hair and gave it a powerful yank, perhaps thinking he could use it to climb up on top of my head, the only place he had yet to be that morning.

Ere long with the righteous, in glory will end.

How can I explain how funny that was to me at that very moment? "Our little afflictions, tho painful at present, ere long with the righteous, in glory will end." I suddenly couldn't stop laughing. Soren was definitely being a Little Affliction, quite painful at present, and the hymn promised an end to the pain. It was too perfect, too appropriate and I couldn't keep myself from chortling through the remaining verses. Much to the dismay of those in the pews in front of and behind me.

I don't think I can ever appropriately recapture that moment. It won't make you laugh when you read about it and I don't laugh thinking about it now. But in that moment, the laughter that bubbled out of me felt like a gift from my Heavenly Father. He loved me and knew exactly how I felt, there in church with my beloved son and little affliction.

I squeezed Soren tight, so tight that he let go of my hair and then laughed too. Then I whispered to my husband (with a meaningful look at the hymn-book lyrics), "Soren is our Little Affliction". He gave a little chuckle, then seemed to take heart as we sang the remaining verses, which all dealt with the need to endure.

The rest of the meeting passed much more happily. Even though Soren wasn't a bit more still or quiet, we were awash with gratitude for him and for that moment of mirth. I felt transformed by that laughter and I know that it helped bolster my patience and love.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spiritual Evidence

I was washing dishes about a week ago and thinking about the Book of Mormon. I was thinking about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding its translation and publication in the 1820s. In particular, I was wondering how any clear-thinking person could doubt that God himself had aided Joseph Smith in bringing forth this remarkable book.

"Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon (over 500 pages) by the gift and power of God in about 60 days. During the translation process, Joseph dictated one line at a time, but did not pause to review previous sentences or pages. There is no evidence that he had any notes, manuscripts, or documents to assist him during the translation. There is also no evidence that Joseph Smith did any research or much reading at all before he published the Book of Mormon. The resulting book, with its complex account of individuals, communities and nations, religious teachings and source materials is internally consistent and evidence in itself that Joseph Smith did not write it. That Joseph Smith actually had the golden plates for a period in the late 1820s has been established by 11 witnesses who saw the plates and handled them" (Gospel Topics).

That is absolutely amazing. However much of Joseph Smith's testimony and the testimonies of his associates you choose to believe, one fact is undeniable: it was brought forth by an uneducated man in an unthinkably short period of time. Read it and you will be unable to believe that Joseph Smith just made it up. Read it and you will know that he was a prophet of God.

Sometimes I know the scriptures are true because there is no other logical explanation.


But then on Sunday I was talking to Scott about the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, which we have been studying in our Gospel Essentials class. I wondered how I could possibly reconcile my belief in the veracity of the Bible with my modern knowledge of human history. How could Adam possibly have been the first man when, according to the Bible, he lived only 6000 years ago? Not only is there significant scientific evidence to suggest that the human species has existed for upwards of 100,000 years, there is archeological evidence that even human civilizations predate the creationist time line.

It seems probable to me that some significant chunks of the creation story are missing from the book of Genesis. Perhaps they have merely been oversimplified.

My doubts about a literal interpretation of the Old Testament do not diminish my belief in the Earth's divine design and God's direct hand in the creation of man. But it does leave me wondering how much of the Bible I should take at face-value and how much of current scientific thought I should withhold judgment on.

Sometimes I can't decide between any number of unconvincing explanations to reconcile my testimony and the "real" world.


For the past couple of days I have been thinking about these two experiences and the possible dichotomy they present me with.

On the first occasion, I remember thinking, How could any intelligent person doubt the truth of the gospel? It's the only explanation! And yet on Sunday, I thought, How could any intelligent person buy any of this? It just doesn't make any sense!

Which is why, in the end, I am grateful for the witness of the Holy Ghost.

There is another way to know the most important truths of life. We do not have to rely on empirical evidence alone to learn the principles of salvation. When we try to approach God's truth with our minds alone, we will sometimes be rewarded with very convincing evidence. But the most definitive and enduring witness comes not from man and his limited intellect, but from our God, who knows all and cannot lie.

I am grateful for my faith, which sustains me in the face of all opposition. I have gained a spiritual witness of the existence of God, the Atonement of Christ, the truth of the Book of Mormon, and the plan of happiness, which encompasses both the origin and destiny of Man. Those vital spiritual truths make up the most precious knowledge that I have and are more sure to me than anything I have gained through logical or scientific methods.

My testimony is strengthened by the historical evidence of Joseph Smith's remarkable work. And it cannot be diminished because I don't know exactly how or when God created the human race.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Endure to the End

I am very grateful for the simplicity of the gospel.

Some days I love to sink deeper and deeper into layers of meaning found in the scriptures. On occasion I like to contemplate the big picture and try to wrap my mortal brain around a divine (and possibly 4-dimensional) design. Often I find a new way to understand and approach the gospel, which awakens and rededicates my soul.

But most of the time I am very grateful that God's plan for me is simple enough for even a child to understand.

This is what I must do to be saved:
1. Have faith in my Savior, Jesus Christ.
2. Repent of my sins.
3. Be baptized, by proper authority, into His church.
4. Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
5. Endure to the end.

On days like today, I am very grateful for this very simple plan, made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When I feel overwhelmed or spiritually-detached, it is a comfort to remember what is required: faith and endurance.

Faith and endurance.

That means I keep trying. That means I get up and do the best I can. That means set-backs are only temporary and the only way I can fail is if I give up.

And in the end it means that it all hangs on Christ and my trust in His power.