Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"That they might have joy."

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "forced joy," or (much like Elder Uchtdorf's talk in fall 2017) the idea that we can be joyful in spite of circumstances.

It's something I'm really struggling with. I can pretend to be happy. It's not hard. I can spare everyone around me the struggles that I'm facing. But the more I try to pretend I'm not facing them, the more they weigh on me. The more "joyful" (read "of positive affect") I become, the more sorrowful I truly am.

When I accept that it's okay to have a hard time, that the things I'm going through really do suck, and really are hard, and really do hurt, the more I can separate them from me and find joy in spite of the hardships. But other people often don't see the joy I feel, especially since few of them are around me to see it.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Pride of My Heart: Doing it Myself

And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty. —Alma 4

There are so many things about recovering from a divorce you once swore you would never allow to happen, and subsequently coparenting with someone who likely has serious mental issues that gives a person "cause to mourn." I have been mourning the loss of my marriage and the loss of peace and freedom for years now. Until recently, I haven't been able to truly look at the cause of my afflictions and (hopefully) see them for what they are.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tale as Old as Time

This isn't exactly a review. I wasn't terribly impressed with the live-action Beauty and the Beast. It was okay. A little more backstory, sure, but nothing like the Cinderella remake.

Beauty and the Beast used to be my very favorite movie. A heroine who loved to read and had her own horse? I was hooked. I loved idea of learning to love, rather than falling in love.

But I saw Belle's and the Prince's relationship differently after I married. I realized that happily-ever-afters are really just in stories. That people who are abusive stay abusive, people don't really change. So I was hoping that the new movie would revitalize the story for me, and help me see the beauty again.

I didn't learn what I wanted to. As I was watching Emma Watson's Belle and the Beast develop their relationship, the sudden realization came to me that I identified much more with the Beast than with Belle.

At that point, the story completely changed for me. It was no longer about falling in love. It was about forgiving myself. Forgiving myself for never being enough. For always falling short. For being imperfect. For being ugly. For making huge, earth-shattering mistakes, the consequences of which are also bourne by innocent people.

My seven-year-old poignantly summed it up two nights ago. "Mommy, it's okay to make mistakes. That is why we are here. God wants us to make mistakes so we can grow and be better."

Beauty and the Beast wasn't about Belle overcoming all odds to fall in love. It was about the Beast learning to forgive himself. Sometimes beauty is not only found within, it is found in imperfection and ugliness. Our struggle to learn and become like God is ugly and messy, and not at all heroic. At least not the way we think of heroism.

In reality, repentance is much more about the Beast's story, than about Belle's. I doubt that was the message the writers intended. But it is the one I needed.

Friday, February 17, 2017

"You have no power over me!"

When I was in kindergarten, I used to go to the principal’s office to read TIME magazine to him. Occasionally, he would ask me what a specific word meant. I remember being worried I wouldn’t explain it correctly, that I would be wrong. That summer, I spent weeks wrestling with math, sometimes literally banging my head on the desk in order to catch up enough to enter 2nd grade.

My mom was an early childhood educator, and my dad was a social worker. It was the early 80s, a time for child psychology. I was born with some natural intelligence, but my parents trained and honed it. I was in the Gifted classes. I was told how unique and special I was. How I was smart. I was raised to believe I could solve any problem, accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.

As I got older, I went to college, graduated in veterinary science, became a web designer, served a mission for my church, came home, and met a man.

He was not of my faith, and I was only interested in dating people who believed as I did. He said that something had been missing from his life. He wanted the family life, the life of faith. He wanted to have the relationship with God I had. He listened to the missionaries in my home, and was eventually baptized into my church.

Everyone in my ward said how cute we were together. When, the night before I moved away, he floundered over asking me to marry him, I said yes before he finished his sentence. I had prayed about it. I thought it was right.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Non-prodigal One

I have not written in some time, since I have been under considerable stress in my personal life. I don't write much when I'm in the middle of my own crises. I have no energy for it, nor do I feel I have anything to offer. But recently, a thought did occur to me which I felt I ought to share.

One of the many things which has troubled me lately was the cry of the non-prodigal son, the one who said, "these many years do I serve thee...yet thou never gavest me a kid." It is not that I feel I have never transgressed, because I know I have. Nor that I deserve blessings, because I know I don't. But it is hard to see how far off the tracks my life has gone. Tracks that I followed only because the Lord asked it of me, and not because I wanted those tracks at the time.

I am surrounded with people who have the life I was taught to accept (and even desire.) But it is a life I'm forever barred from, all because someone I trusted decided to exploit that trust to its fullest extent. I have fought, not only to become strong, but to keep that strength from making me hard. It is a daily battle, sometimes harder than others, but something I have to fight every day. And sometimes I lose.

I do not understand why I can't seem to catch a break. I just need a year or so of equilibrium, of rest, a time when I know that my kids are safe, that I am safe, and that I can heal a little.

But I was looking up a scriptural reference, and ran into something that I think applies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

That Which is of Most Value

"Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:30

I have been thinking long and hard about the war of ideologies we are in. On both sides, people are fighting so hard to prove themselves right, especially on the internet. We talk about principles and doctrines, but we rarely talk about individuals.

In his talk, "The Worth of Souls is Great!" Elder Paul H. Dunn makes an important point, in a time before internet really existed. In talking about a schoolhouse, he said:

"...Along with the wonderful new discoveries in education, the emphasis must still be placed upon the individual and upon his needs and relationships with others....I understand from what the Lord has revealed to us through the prophets that people are his greatest concern. We are his children. We are somebody, as Elder Ashton so wonderfully stated this morning. We are his children, and he continually reveals himself through the prophets so that one day we can be like him.

Programs, then, wonderfully inspired programs, like the Sabbath, exist to help people. If we are not careful, it is very easy to put the mechanics of the program ahead of the person."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

So Simple a Call

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."

Luke 10:36-37

If there is anything at the core of the Gospel, it is this commandment: to go and show mercy on our brothers and sisters. The Atonement itself was necessary, not only to redeem us, but to show that redemption comes through submission without compulsion. Our submission to the Savior, yes, but more importantly, it comes because a God with all power submitted Himself into our hands.

The more I learn about the Gospel and about God, the more amazed I am at how all the secrets to life, all the keys of the Gospel and exaltation are found in scripture. It's not in the complicated attempt to figure out which part of geography the Nephites occupied, nor is it expounding difficult-to-understand concepts of how the Atonement works, why only men are ordained to the Priesthood, or determining how, exactly, we should follow the prophets. All of those things are mere window dressing.

True religion, the core of spirituality, is ministry. It is extending ourselves, opening our arms, inviting vulnerability by becoming vulnerable. There is nothing that can compare to knowing that you have served in the name and stead of God.

"The only joy that is comparable with the joy of the one receiving the help is the glow that seems to emanate from the one who has given so unselfishly of his time and strength to quietly help someone in need."

"Go and Do Thou Likewise" Robert L. Simpson

Living in the Mormon Belt means I witness many people hungry for position in the Church, wanting to serve more and more prominent callings, to make a difference in the Church by being included in councils, wanting to be heard by protesting or being the squeaky wheels. But the key to eternal life and all the power the Father has is not found in callings, nor in effecting change.

"There are those who associate high calling in the Church with guaranteed rights to the blessings of heaven, but I wish to declare without reservation that the ultimate judgment for every man will be on the simplest terms, and most certainly on what each has done to bless other people in a quiet, unassuming way."

I think we will be very surprised to find that those closest to God's throne are the ones we have never heard of here in this life. I hope and pray that I may serve God by serving His people. This isn't just part of the Gospel. It is everything.

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