Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Twelfth Day: My Family

"On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
twelve drummers drumming."

My family is the final thing which has sustained me through my life. I truly have an amazing family. Having grown up in the military, I have no sense of belonging anywhere, no real sense of roots or connection to any one place. But perhaps because of that, my family is my connection, my roots. If it had not been for my Dad and my Mom, I would have never recognized the severity of the life I had been living while married, nor had the strength to get out of it.

For a long while, I called my mom multiple times per day to cry on her shoulder as I weathered the considerable consequences of standing up for myself. My dad was always there to give me perspective when I needed it. My daughters have been a constant source of joy. It is for them that I have been able to do it all. A few good friends who are the family of my heart have been rich support.

But family is even more than that.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Eleventh Day: The Atonement

"On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
eleven pipers piping."

Like bagpipers, the pipers to me represent strength, death and war as well as song and dance. I put the Atonement here because gaining a deeper understanding of the Atonement is probably the single greatest sustenance my soul has craved through the hard times in my life. As much as we celebrate the birth of Christ, it is His Atonement which fulfilled the purpose of that birth.

In seeking to understand the Atonement, I have gained greater and greater knowledge of my God. He is truly a God worth worshipping. Many people imagine themselves an incapable God, or an unjust God, arguing that God could be any two of all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-loving, but not all three. I argue that He is all of them, and I submit the Atonement as my evidence.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Tenth Day: A Living Prophet

"On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
ten lords a-leaping."

There is a unique tension between the principles of agency, personal revelation, and a living prophet. Most people prefer their prophets dead, unable to argue with them and their choices. It is much more comfortable to direct our own spirituality without another source of input.

When we used to teach investigators into our Church, the first thing we taught them was Joseph Smith's vision. The second thing was the pattern by which they could find out for themselves if their Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ did actually visit Joseph in the grove.

That same pattern, the ability for us to ask God directly if something is from Him or not, is not just a test of truth, it is also a way for us to learn to listen to the Lord.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ninth Day: The Temple

"On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
nine ladies dancing."

The temple is a tangle of emotions for a great many people. I didn't used to understand the issues. My first experiences with the temple were beautiful in their simplicity. There were no surprises for me. I had been well prepared by my bishop and my roommate.

When I made the covenants surrounding the endowment, a world of peace and love was opened to me. Finally, I felt I was in a place I belonged.

The covenants of marriage were no less glorious. I made those covenants with determination and love. I dedicated my heart, mind, and soul to my husband. I was not a perfect wife by any means, but I gave everything I had to making the marriage work, to trying to bring happiness to my husband.

Then came the time when I realized that those very intentions conflicted. I could no longer keep all the covenants I made, but I had to choose between dedication and love to my husband and dedication and love to my God.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Eighth Day: Power Through Service

"On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
eight maids a-milking."

I know I am in a transition time, a time when the price for what I want is still being paid. As hard as that is sometimes, it is also a beautiful and glorious place to be.

Watching my very young daughters learn to process very advanced life lessons has been humbling. They both have amazing capacity to determine truth and error, to see through illusions and lies, and value the good and true, even when their friends and others try to direct them otherwise. Of all the roles I carry right now, the one that matters more than all others is that of mother.

Oh, I know there are a great many people who see motherhood differently. It is quite popular right now to talk about how hard it is, how thankless. It seems that half the world despises it for those things and the other half wallows in it for them. But I see the difficulty itself as fun, paradigm-shifting and therefore painful, yes, but also wondrous fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Seventh Day: Eternal Life

"On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
seven swans a-swimming."

Eternal life is a tricky one. Most of us think of it as something we will get in the future, like an ultimate prize for righteousness. We love to joke about how much we can get away with and still "get into" heaven. Even within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we often talk about "making it" to the Celestial Kingdom.

Eternal life is more than just living forever. It is living as God lives. Eternal life is His life. To live as God lives we must be willing to be what He is. That is not some prize to be won, it is something to become. And face it, we don't know all that much about God.

What we do know is nearly impossible to understand.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Sixth Day: Joseph Smith's Vision

"On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
six geese a-laying."

When young Joseph Smith went into a nearby grove of trees to address his Maker, I doubt he had any intention of founding a Church or becoming a martyr. When I was fourteen, my family returned to America from six years in Europe. Rather than flying directly to our new home in the West, we touched down in an eastern airport. We visited a long series of historical sites, both in American history and in the history of the Church.

Although at the time, I was determined to seem as much interested in my books as I was in the scenery, that journey sparked a slow change in me. I stood in the room where our forefathers argued the points of the Constitution. I wandered through the Smithsonian, where the works of men over ages are gathered.

And I stood in a small, unassuming grove of trees.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Fifth Day: The Book of Mormon

"On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
five golden rings."

I don’t often bear testimony of the Book of Mormon because we members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often bear testimony of little else. But I am so thankful for the Book of Mormon. There is no end to the stories I could tell about how the words and meanings in that book have supported me.

I love the Bible, and the Doctrine and Covenants. But there is something about the Book of Mormon and the stories of the people that lived then which calls to me. They seem more personal, somehow. Often, the Bible seems to moralize, every story has a purpose. Even the D&C often has a specific point to each revelation. But the Book of Mormon is about life, about the principles of the gospel in the rough and stark lives of the people.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Fourth Day: Charity

"On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
four calling birds."

More than any other gift of Christmas, charity calls to me. After the disastrous events which changed my life, as soon as I was able to think again, I was given a very clear choice. I could not change the things which were happening to me, but I could choose whether or not they would engender charity or bitterness.

To be completely open and honest, sometimes I get one and sometimes the other.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Third Day: Courage

"On the third day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
three French hens."

The third day is courage. When I used to think of courage, I imagined a shining knight on his battle-ready steed, charging in to fight a dragon. Now, I realize that true courage rarely shines or makes loud sounds; it is found in the small things. For some people, courage is smiling at their children as they tell them their cancer gives them only a few more months of life. For some, it is speaking an unpopular truth.

Courage for me has become quite complicated.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Second Day: Repentance

"On the second day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
two turtle doves."

Today, I think of repentance. Repentance is another doctrine which has sustained me. I have spent many hours of prayerful study and thought, searching my personality to find the failings which caused the difficulties I have faced in my life. Most of what I have been led to change involves trusting less, learning to live with an element of caution. But I remain unable to find a definite character flaw that is within my power to change.

It reminds me of something Paul wrote hundreds of years ago.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On the First Day: Faith

"On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
a partridge in a pear tree."

I have decided to take these next twelve days to reflect on those doctrines which have sustained me in my life. On this, the first day of my twelve days of Christmas, I think about how my faith in God has kept me.

I have had many occasions to make difficult decisions, and have been fortunate enough to have been taught to rely on my God. When I was a teenager, trying to decide what path I would take, after much fasting, prayer, and pondering, I realized that it didn't matter what my role was in life, so long as I dedicated it to the Lord as His disciple.

Popular Posts