Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Reason for the Season

Of course, the title and the timing probably make you think this is a Christmas post. But it isn't really your typical post about a newborn babe, mangers, donkeys, and a virgin mother. The Church's video A Savior is Born covers that with far better artistry than I could.

But I feel the urge to write something very different. When I was searching for a title, this is the one that came to me. And maybe, in some ways, it's more Christmas-appropriate than I intended. It is certainly exposing a huge part of myself, which is a frightening thing, especially given everything. I'm going to talk about sin, and its consequences. I'm going to talk about imperfection, and the desperate hunger to be perfect in order to be loved. I'm going to talk about learning to accept the Atonement in the midst of sin and imperfection. And I'm going to talk about forgiveness.

Many years ago—I can't remember if it was before or after my life took a drastic turn—I prayed for charity. It's kind of a joke that if you pray for an increase in faith, patience, charity, or some other Godly virtue, you are setting yourself up for disaster. But when I finally knelt down and prayed for charity, I knew exactly what I was doing. I had been prompted by the Spirit to learn charity for some time. Even my patriarchal blessing commanded me to overcome selfishness. I had studied, read about Abinadi, Nephi, Abraham, Noah. I had pored over the words of Paul. It had struck deeply into my heart: "[if I] have not charity, I am nothing."

I didn't want to be nothing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Messy Faith

"Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed."
Isaiah 6:10

I'm exhausted. The things going on in my life have me flat-on-my-back emotionally and physically. I don't even have the energy to put up a tree this year (but I'm going to do it anyways.) School, two wards, work, friends, and family all have their demands and/or expectations, and I haven't got anything to give.

I'm not a very good Mormon. I don't make casseroles to take to people. I have no time for crafts. I can't even get my visiting teaching done (but there's always next month to do it right!, my VT Supervisor says.) I feel pretty good even when I make cookies or something to take to my neighbors. My testimony is "complicated," as I put it when trying to explain it in RS yesterday. Unlike the woman on the back row, I DO doubt, I have doubted, and I AM doubting, but I know "by my own experience" that faith and doubt most certainly can occupy the same space at the same time. Because my faith isn't about "feeling good" about something. It is, and always has been, a raw choice for me. I can't explain my turbulence of emotion and how I have come to float on top of it. But I have. I'd be a bad liberal, too, if I were one, for the exact same types of reasons.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Priesthood

I love life. I love the smell of rain, the feel of my daughter's hair on my face as she cuddles into my shoulder. I love the ability to create, to make things better than I found them. I love watching people struggle and move forward with faith. I love being there for people, being someone they can talk to and want hugs from. I love watching things grow, the changing colors of the mountains, the sting of cold air and languid exhaustion after a day of hard work.

But, at the same time, I don't handle life very well. And a fews weeks ago, I was struggling with something very deep and personal which I will not get into here. But as I prayed and struggled, I kept feeling this urge to get a priesthood blessing.

I have good home teachers, a great man. I have a father who lives not too far away. I work in a building stuffed full with men who hold the priesthood. But I realized I had no one I could ask for a blessing. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Fire of Faith

This post addresses my thoughts regarding, not only the recent policy clarifications in Handbook 1, but the overall nature of the doctrine of Christ, our place within it, and what we can expect as disciples of the Sacrificed God.

It is not meant to be kind, or empathetic, or consoling. It is an exploration of Christ's doctrine as I understand it. I hope it can help someone, even though I expect it will be harsh in places.

In watching (mostly) the discussions going on about the policy changes, one thing is clear. So very, very few of us understand doctrine. I'm not claiming to any special understanding, but I have studied the scriptures long and hard, pondered them, and applied them to times in my life that nearly broke me. So I do know a few things about struggling to reconcile my life with God's word and the policies of the Church. I'm going to get a bit personal here, in the hopes that my experiences can inspire someone to seek understanding, rather than justice.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Same-sex Marriage Policy

There is a flurry of opinions and thoughts flying around about the policy clarifications regarding same-sex marriage and the children of gay parents living in a same-sex relationship.

I will only say that I am sorry for all the hurt that it causes. I am also glad the clarifications were made, and support them. The Lord is a merciful God. He is the only source we can turn to for comfort and understanding.

In time, all the wounds of mortality will be healed.

Even mine.

Even yours.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Version of Testimony

I wrote this testimony for a very close friend. I expected it to hit on several points of study and inspiration. But soon after the first three or four paragraphs, my words took an unexpected turn. I wrote it, asking myself, "When did I truly know?" The truth is that the answer is messy. There have been dozens, if not hundreds of times I "truly knew," where I felt God's presence unmistakably. My testimony is not one earth-shattering moment, it is many. It is a testimony of the Lord's patience as he has held the hand of a willful, rebellious, lonely child as she struggles through a life that has never been what she wanted it to be.

To me, testimony has not been a plant or a light as much as it has been a struggle to stand against the waves of the sea. My life has never been truly bad. I have been richly blessed, and kept safe by the hand of God. But to me, it has been difficult to stay true to what I have known to be true, and to learn that elusive charity for others...and for myself.

I have long acted on belief. I have not often been disappointed in the rewards for that trust in God. But I am learning that some rewards are long in coming, and some blessings look an awful lot like curses. Trust does not come easily for me, but I have learned to trust God and rely on Him for my salvation. I only hope that I can be an instrument for good in His hands.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Top 5 Reasons I'll Never Marry

I wrote a post that didn't quite fit into this blog, but I'd still appreciate any feedback or thoughts you have on it. Part of me really wants my developing paradigm to be blown out of the water, but I've not found evidence that I'm wrong yet. So:

Top Five Reasons I'll Never Marry

Fire away.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Having No Joy

I hate the word "trials." We talk about getting through our trials, enduring our trials, or suffering trials, as if they are something that stop. Our tolerance for helping other people "get through their trials" fades over time when those trials just don't go away. And for those of us whose "trials" are permanent, at some point we begin to wonder what we are doing wrong that we cannot find the peace and happiness promised in scripture if we follow the commandments.

When I was 17, I planned to focus on a career and eventually get married if the right man came along. I'd have few kids, no more than two, because I knew that my personality and temperament was not well-suited to child rearing. In my Patriarchal Blessing, I was told that the task the Lord set for me, among others, was to be a mother in Zion. The words of my Patriarchal Blessing rocked me to my knees, and I spent the next four years changing my paradigm. If the Lord wanted me to be a mother, I'd focus all my energy on learning to do it right.

I changed career plans, served a mission, and over the course of the next two or three years, became someone who not only submitted to the will of the Lord as spoken in my blessing, but actually craved it. Which is why, as I realized that I could not succeed in being a good wife to the man I had married, it cut so deeply. I sacrificed to be the kind of person who could be a good wife, and one simple decision—choosing a man who later decided to not choose God—meant that my sacrifices were pointless. It has done more than ended a marriage. It killed my confidence in myself, and broke my hope to become what the Lord wanted of me.

Friday, October 2, 2015

If It So Be That They Will Repent

Safety is something that many of us take for granted in a first-world country. Unlike our ancestors, even the poorest of us generally have access to food, water, and shelter. Most of us wake up in the morning, go to work, mow our lawns, go shopping, without ever once feeling unsafe. When something does happen to us, it's a shock.

A coworker of mine recently experienced a break-in. It was a kid who knew the family, and thought he could get away with ripping off a few cell phones. He confessed to his misdeeds, and the family now knows who it is and what led up to the break-in, but he still said that they couldn't sleep well at night, knowing how easily their safety could be shattered.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Beautiful Poison

I noticed this plant earlier this year, and as I usually do, let it grow until I could know what it was. Yesterday, when I was weeding in my garden, I started to pull out the vines which have beautiful, tiny purple and yellow flowers, and wide, heart-shaped leaves.

I stopped, thinking about how beautiful a vine it could be if I just let it grow on my fence. I decided to get an ID before ripping it all out. It turns out it is woody nightshade, a close relative of deadly nightshade or belladonna. While not as deadly as the more familiar belladonna, it is also toxic to humans and animals. When broken, it weeps a sticky, smelly sap. It has medicinal properties which have grown out of use.

As long as it is not eaten, it is safe. For a brief moment of insanity I considered leaving it, even knowing that it has the habit of overtaking gardens, simply because it is so pretty.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pride of Faith

Last night during a long drive home, a girl told me that she was thinking of leaving the Church because of how women are treated. And she is right. In many ways, women are afterthoughts at best. Especially among the midsingle men of the Church, women are a mystery who don't perform according to plan, a challenge to surmount, a problem to solve. Whether it is the men who are baffled by women and want to learn the rules so they can push all the right buttons to get what they want, or the ones who think they know the right buttons to push boundaries as far as they can, we women are objectified. Benignly and not-so-benignly.

I supported one of the teenagers in my Sunday School class in teaching a lesson on how we can teach of the importance of marriage and family. It is not an easy lesson for me, so I was mightily glad he chose it. But as I studied, I realized how strongly I feel about the importance of marriage between a man and a woman, in part BECAUSE my husband did not, as my daughter phrased it "treat me well."

When I asked the teens why marriage is important, their first answer was "to make it to the celestial kingdom." And that isn't wrong, exactly. But it's not the important part of the answer, either. "Making it" to the celestial kingdom by checking items off your list, a wife only being one item of many, is nothing but an illusion. A lie...or, at least, an embarrassingly dramatic oversimplification.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeing Through A Stone

To me, the Church's release of photographs of one of Joseph's seer stones falls under the category of only "mildly interesting." But thinking about that and hearing others' thoughts about it has coalesced some rather unrelated thoughts.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Punishment without Volition

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn from my marriage was about agency. We often talk about agency like it's "free will" or the power to choose. But it is inarguable that the vast majority of us are very much "punished...for Adam's transgression." Here on earth, mortality is one long experience of being punished for the mistakes and sins of others.

Most of my tear-streaked nights were spent wrestling over the effect my divorce was going to have on my children and my eternity. I stayed in a marriage which had nothing to offer me almost from day one because I believed in the covenants I had made in the temple. I believed that if I was patient, things would work out for good. I thought that my ex would eventually see how much a covenant life had to offer, that he would be able to forgive me my failure, and we could work together towards God.

But that wasn't to be.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Taking it Personally

I was writing in my personal journal. When I finished, I realized there is something about my heart and mind right now that other people might need to hear. I try to be vulnerable here. It is easier, behind the protection of an online persona, to share the uglier parts of my personality. The difficult part of trying to serve God. My insecurities and doubts.

I know that distance makes it easier to hear, and not to worry about me. Because I'm ultimately all right. I've been through a refiner's fire, and I am stronger than a little sadness. But I find that allowing myself to be sad is a powerful thing. It helps me grow, keeps me humble, and gives other people a chance to feel safe and acceptable. Hiding the bad parts only makes us all feel like we can never measure up. So here it is:

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Right Ways to Criticize Church Leaders

This talk dates from nearly thirty years ago, but it is just as relevant today.

Throughout our history we have had members who have criticized the Church and its leaders. Church disciplinary action against such members has been rare or nonexistent. Persistent, public critics punish themselves. By deliberately separating themselves from those who have been called as their leaders, critics forfeit the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord. They drift from prayer, from the scriptures, from Church activity, and from keeping the commandments. They inevitably lose spirituality and blessings. As the prophet Nephi observed, those who succumb to pride and “works of darkness” are on the way to spiritual destruction, “for the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man.” (2 Ne. 26:10–11.)


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mormons are Hypocrites

I mostly grew up outside of the Mormon Corridor. When I was fourteen, my family moved from Germany to a small town in Idaho. The culture shock was the greatest we had ever experienced. I went from a high school with nearly a thousand people in my graduating class to one with nearly a thousand people in the whole school. We went from being surrounded with trees and cultural activities to being stuck in a desert, with only two basic things for a teen to do on the weekend: get drunk/high or go to the Mormon dances.

It was definitely a step down.

But, over time, I made quite good friends with a girl I'll call Kelly. Her family was in the Church, but they didn't go consistently. They lived in a different housing complex across the base from us, but we still frequently hung out together. We were friends for the better part of a year before Kelly started dating.

Now, I wasn't interested in dating. I was tall, gawky, frizzy-haired and awkward. Plus I was a definite tomboy and bookworm. And boys scared me ever since I had heard them talking about girls when they thought none were listening. But that was all Kelly could talk about. Swiftly, she found a particular boy and they would make out every chance they got, often with me around. I remember playing chauffeur to them frequently as we went to and from activities. They would kiss (and other things) in the back while I drove.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Faith Unto Joy

Not long after the events which eventually led to the final end of my marriage, I had the opportunity to receive a blessing from my father. It had been years since I received a blessing, because my husband was not comfortable with giving them, and I felt it would undermine him to ask for one elsewhere.

It was a very dark time in my life, when fear was nearly overwhelming. I had no idea how I could protect my children. I was nauseated from early pregnancy, and my stress level was so high that I would months later experience adrenaline withdrawal. I felt like my life would never be free from feeling in constant danger.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Perspective of Joy

Twice I have stood on the ground of Dachau, closing my eyes as the horrors of history reached into the present to sanctify through suffering. I have spoken to survivors of Auschwitz, and read the stories of many others. My own grandfather was captured near Strasbourg, France, and survived a death march in World War II.

Two things I have gathered from those who have survived horrors: That all are given a choice between allowing the darkness to make you his own, or to fight to find joy in the midst of atrocity; and that there are some things too dark to talk about.

When another human being chooses to do everything in their power to hurt you, words fail. There is nothing that can be said about that particular use of agency which fully communicates the way it changes your perspective, tries its best to warp your faith and rob you of power.

While not all of us will face the unspeakable hell faced by the victims of the Nazi regime, we will all at some point be injured by the deliberate actions of another. We will all have the choice to face aggression with returned aggression, or meet it with candor and acceptance...which is far easier talked about from a distance than up close. How, when you are attacked by another human being, can you truly forgive?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Grief and Redemption

Let's imagine for a moment that you see a child reaching for a pot of boiling oil. You know you can't stop the child from severely burning himself, and he will probably die.

But in that instant, you are given the chance to take the pain and scars on yourself. You will not die, but you will spend your life in incredible pain. Would you do it?

Now let's say that you did this, but the child somehow chose to suffer all the pain die, even, because he didn't want you to pay for something he did.

Would you still have taken the pain on yourself? As the child, given that you can't stop someone from suffering your pain for you, what will you do? Will you reject His offering, or accept it in humble gratitude and love?

Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

D&C 19:15-19

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Forgotten Grief, World Without End

"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; ...

... and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

—D&C 132:19

When I was a young teenager, I realized that because of my impatience and temper I would never make a good mother. Steeped in a culture that rigidly emphasized motherhood as the measure of female worth, tall, gawky, and unattractive, I simply assumed I was not feminine enough to attract a man, nor compliant and sweet enough to mother innocent children. So I decided to focus on work, on the things that I COULD change.

It was in this mindset some years later that I received my Patriarchal Blessing. I won't share the details, but it gave very specific instructions and commandments from God which painted a picture of me as a stay-at-home mom, supporting my husband in his church and public service, raising many children and keeping the doors of my home open to all who needed a safe haven.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Behold Your Little Ones

When I was a young teenager, I sat on the ground at the edge of a large pavilion. It was dark, and I was surrounded by other girls and women. It was Young Women's Camp, and it had been pouring rain for three days.

We had an old, military-issue canvas tent, the type which leaked water if you touched the sides. We were soaked, our food was cold because we could not keep a fire, even under shelter. The wind had blown down some of the tents, and two of the wards had gone home. When the leaders of our ward had asked us, my two best friends and I wanted to stay, and we convinced the two other girls to agree. Which is why, clutching flashlights and huddled together, I was among those who were left under a tent which, for the first time since we had pitched our tents, did not patter with raindrops.

I loved it. The air was scented with Austrian white pine and rain. We had seen enough sunshine to dry out a rainwashed set of clothing. We had carefully started a fire, gathered around the tent, and prayed. One at a time, people got up to bear their testimony of the Savior. One of the younger leaders, a girl who seemed at the time to be so old, had just returned from her mission. There was nothing unique about her testimony except that, as I sat there, I was suddenly overcome with the knowledge that I, too, wanted to serve a mission.

Years of change followed. I decided I wanted to change my life around, clean up my language and my thoughts, be a better person. I went to college and prepared to serve a mission. Many things happened in those years, but eight years later, I opened up my mission papers. Six weeks after that, I stepped off a plane onto German soil.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Power to Change

"For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved." —1 Nephi 6:4

I've been thinking a great deal of conversion, of what it really means to change a life around, purify yourself, and come to the God of sacrifice. Many times in my life, I've had reason to doubt myself, my conviction, and most especially my capacity to be saved.

So often, we think about missionary work, conversion, baptisms in terms of trackable numbers. Goals. I spent most of my mission wearing myself out against this perception of what it means to proclaim the gospel. And I get it. Numbers can be measured, goals can be set, failure or success can be determined. But the older I get, the more I live through, and the more I come to terms with having to live with my own imperfections, the more I realize that numbers can never measure the capacity of a human heart to change. And none of us have a right to decide whether or not a heart can change—not even when that heart is our own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Still Waters

When you don't know me,
my life seems peaceful.
I have a good house,
a good job.
Children who love me.

When you don't know me,
you see the bread I bake,
the quilts I make.

You see my knitting,
cooking, gardening,
hiking, praying,
teaching, hoping,

And you are jealous.

But you don't see
what lies beneath.
The tossing and turning
when I should sleep.

The nightmares that come
in night or day.
You don't see heartache
that never goes away
under the smile I
paint on for you.

You see all the pain
of your life,
and think that mine
must be much better
because I have learned
to smile when I want to cry.
Comfort when I want to be comforted.

You don't see how
my loneliness cannot find
what compassion creates.

How I have learned to hope,
when hope is darkest,
laugh when there is nothing funny
in life.

If you knew me,
you would see
the real things I have

How, when I despair,
I seek someone who needs
a hug.

When I ache,
I find another's wound
to bind.

And, pray for better
when I despair
of ever finding joy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Abomination of Desolation and a Little Fig Tree

Before you try to read into what I'm about to say, and boil my words down to a "HATEZ TEH GAYZ," I'm going to fully admit that my words are about the legal ratification of gay relationships (vis a vis gay marriage) BUT that they are about much, much more than that. Most of you who read this will call me a bigot, insist that my opinions come from hatred, and soon (once you have power to do so) you will probably physically revile and attack me and my family.

So be it. I hope that when the time comes, I will be able to face it with courage and kindness.

For a long time, I have been fairly silent on the subject of gay marriage/civil unions. I probably will be again, once I've posted this. The only chance I had to vote on it so far, I voted to support gay marriage/civil unions. But my opinions have changed since then, and I become more sadly convinced of them as time goes on. My opinions haven't changed because of gay marriage, or gays, or aversion to homosexual attraction. They have changed because I've been taught of a much larger picture of the role of religious beliefs in a public sphere, and it is that larger picture I wish to address.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"The Spirit said...Slay him."

The first truly troubling passage in the Book of Mormon comes when Nephi, the hero of the book so far, is commanded by God to kill someone. Now, I have never killed anyone or any thing larger than a spider, but I have been present at the death of animals. Death, like birth, is a sobering and humbly powerful thing to witness, let alone do.

For several verses, Nephi rationalizes what he's about to do. He creeps into the city towards the house of Laban, pausing only to assure us that he had no idea what was about to happen. As he comes closer to Laban's house, he sees a man fallen down dead drunk. As he comes closer, he sees it is Laban and furthermore that Laban has his "exceedingly fine" sword with a hilt of PURE GOLD and a blade of precious steel (which is nearly as expensive as gold.) He's just laying there in the muck with his ultra-fancy sword strapped to him.

(I've always wondered, where were Laban's friends? Surely he got drunk WITH someone, and wasn't randomly wandering the streets. How did he come to find himself alone this night? Did his friends feel guilty the next morning, when they realized he had been killed?)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Marriage Contract

You might wonder why I, as a woman who was single longer than I was married, and whose life as a divorcee is now longer than as a wife, might come and talk about what marriage should be. As a failure, perhaps I have no right to counsel those of you who have kept your relationships intact.

Since my own marriage (and even before,) I have watched all of you who are married. I have watched for signs that marriage can be what I think it is. I have found a few people who I believe live what God intended. But I have also found plentiful evidence that being married does not necessarily teach one understanding of marriage.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Liberal Mormon

Why, when those who agitate, prod, question and demand call us "TBM" as though belief is something shameful, do we turn around and label them as "Liberal Mormons," mock them with "clever" poetry, and pat ourselves on the back for not being like them?

Are we so jealous of their position that we must toss away the better part of faith in Christ in order to join them in the work of destruction?

Far better that we remember: obedience is unto righteousness, faith is unto the power to heal the brokenhearted, and exaltation can never be achieved without the pure love of our Savior coursing through our collective soul.

If we cannot hang upon our own cross of public opinion and summon an outpouring of love for our accusers, we can never be the disciples of Christ that we think we are.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ordain Women, Midsingles, and the Trouble with Agency

Have you ever wondered why a third of the hosts of heaven left God to follow Satan? I have. I've spent hours of time wondering why, when presented with God's eternal Plan, some shouted for joy, and others left the service of God forever. When I was younger, I couldn't comprehend it. How could someone, faced with the prospective glories of exaltation, simply leave them behind? As an adult, I'm starting to understand.

We often talk about the Celestial Kingdom as if it is heaven, and everything else is a version of Hell. We Mormons haven't really left our Protestant ideas of glory or punishment behind. We act as though, by following the commandments and doing all that we have been commanded to the best of our abilities, we will be justified by our sacrifices, forgiven by Christ, and enter into the Father's presence. But it doesn't work like that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Help Me Stay?

There are no comments here on my previous post, but I have observed some Facebook conversations about it which made me think I definitely need to clarify.

I didn't write "How I Stay" so that I could get pity or compassion. I didn't write it to guilt people who happen to have intact and more-or-less working families, nor to tell people in wards that they're doing something wrong. I wrote it mostly to people like me: people who struggle and need some tools to fight harder for what they really, deep-down, want. But this one is to people who aren't struggling, and want to know how to help. I'm going to try my best to give you some tools to try.

The fact is that me and people like me KNOW we are different. There is nothing you can do to make us feel not-different. All your efforts in the world can't erase the pain we've felt as collateral damage in someone else's attempts to "be true to themselves" or whatever other reasons lurk behind our lives.

It's like I told a friend recently: you can't be responsible for other people's feelings. But what you can be is compassionate. And I think that's what the questions and comments are really getting at: how can you show compassion and make space for difference?

I have a few thoughts on that, but first I want to point out that "divorced people," or "people who have lost children," or "people who struggle with the Word of Wisdom," or "people who struggle with pornography," or "feminists" or whatever other category leaves someone feeling on the fringes, are first and foremost PEOPLE. Every single individual has individual needs or hopes. Don't take my word for what will help them. Ask them.

Secondly, don't expect them to tell you right away. Most of us are well aware of our other-ness. We often feel like burdens, and abhor the thought of being more of a burden. Granted, some of us accept as much help as we can get. I'm not one of those, and based on observations, I think that those who gladly consume others' resources are a vocal minority.

So, first search your own soul. Do you REALLY want to know what we need? Because it's probably going to cost you something, even if that "something" is nothing more than your own paradigm. If you really want to know what we need, you're probably going to have to ask more than once. You're going to have to show that you really mean it, and you're not just offering to assuage your own guilt at being more blessed/differently blessed/luckier than we are.

So with those caveats to what I'm about to say, here goes my attempt to give you some concrete tools. I'm not trying to share specifics of what I personally need in my situation as a divorced single parent, but to share more general tools to help approach anyone who doesn't quite fit into the standard Mormon mold. Please take what I say and apply it to whatever circumstances surround you. It may be that it doesn't help, but I hope it does.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How I Stay

It's not exactly a secret that, while I defend the Church online, I often struggle with it personally. I am a divorced, still and probably endlessly single mom. I am an opinionated and outspoken female. I am great at acquaintance-friendship, but struggle mightily trying to find the real thing. My schedule means that I say "no" far more than I should, if I were a "good Mormon woman."

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