Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Few Nails

It's been a long time.  A lot has changed.  My life has gotten more complicated.  We've moved twice, have another child, another miracle - this time through adoption, and we have both struggled and rejoiced as a family of four.

I've again found myself in spheres where people are asking me about my faith.  I encourage that.  I enjoy talking to others about my faith.  I enjoy learning and sharing how much we have in common.  I have also again felt the need to write in order to solidify my personal thoughts, and so I made the decision to return to this blog.  Maybe only for today, maybe for a long while, I don't yet know.

My faith has been at the front of my mind recently.  Like everyone else, my faith is constantly tested.  That is by design.  We are tested, we struggle, we grow stronger, we prevail, we are tested again.  As long as we continue to grow and hold our determination to prevail, the cycle will repeat and we will fulfill our purpose- growing stronger in faith until we are ready to return to our Lord.

Often as I pray, answers come to me in the form of parables.  This isn't surprising, as Jesus often spoke in parables, and they seem to be a form of communication that is particularly well suited for me.

Recently as I was praying, pondering, considering, the vision of a large building came into my mind.  It was a lovely building, new and well built.

Soon a carpenter walked into the building with his family.  He showed them the walls, arches, and columns he had constructed.  He pointed out his fine finish work.  He walked them through the rooms, proud of what he had accomplished.

Next, a foreman came into the building with his family.  He showed them the placement of the walls, arches, and columns as had directed.  He pointed out the fine finish work.  He walked them through the rooms, proud of what he had accomplished.

Next, an architect came into the building with his family.  He showed them the walls, arches, and columns he had designed.  He pointed out the fine finish work he had ordered.  He walked them through the rooms, proud of what he had accomplished.

Last, the owner of the building came in with his family.  He showed them the walls, arches, and columns as he had envisioned them.  He pointed out the fine finishes he had chosen.  He walked them through the rooms, proud of what he had accomplished.

Each individual, rightly so, was proud of what they had accomplished.  Each of them had an important role in the building of the structure, however, none could have accomplished what they did without the others

The architect takes direction from the owner, but he uses his experience, education, and talent to design the building.  The foreman takes direction from the the architect, but he uses his experience, education, and skills to insure the building is sound, and all the details come together properly.  The carpenter takes direction from the foreman.  He uses his experience, skills, and tools to create quality pieces of the building, along with other carpenters.  Those pieces will come together, at the direction of the foreman, architect, and owner, to create a beautiful building that will stand the test of time.

We are all carpenters in the building of the Kingdom of God.  We have been given tools, talents, and experiences that will help us create quality lives.  If we are willing to take direction from the foreman (the prophet and other servants of God,) the architect (Jesus Christ,) and the owner (God the Father) we contribute to the building of something beautiful, strong, and lasting.

However, if our desire to stand alone, to take the glory for our own, and to disregard the direction of those whose job it is to envision the entire structure, we may build beautiful pieces - but those pieces will not fit together with any other pieces, and will be of little use.

Lincoln and I once planned, designed, and built a rather large chicken coop.  About 1/3 of the way through the building of the coop a strong wind picked it up and threw it off a 15 foot cliff in our back yard.  We did not have the experience to know that this could happen and to take measures to avoid it.  It destroyed the structure and we had to start over. 
Once the coop was finished we were quite proud of it, however, there were some problems.  It was not vented properly and the legs did not have the proper bottoms to prevent them from rotting.  We had been painstakingly careful in our planning, and yet we had made mistakes that could have been avoided if we had consulted with someone with experience. 
Lastly, we built a chicken coop.  Not a home, not a school, not a building that was of any use to a human.  It was a home for chickens.  It was a good coop, but the very best we could accomplish on our own, was not something great, beautiful, and long lasting.  It was a chicken coop.

Alternately, Lincoln worked for a summer on the building of the The LDS Conference Center.   It is a stunning and magnificent building.  It took three commercial companies and thousands of men and women to build it.  Rightly so, Lincoln is proud to have been a part of building that center.  The first time he took me there he showed me the seats, how they were all laid out in a perfect pattern.  He did that.  He was on the team that laid out those chair so precisely, using tools that I had never heard of, and mathematical skill that are far beyond my education.  He did so at the direction of the surveyor who oversaw the team, who was managed by the superintendent, who was directed by a project manager, and so on.

I will let you guess which project he is more proud of, which he will take his children and his grandchildren to see, which will stand for hundreds of years and serve millions of people.

I am aiming to create a meaningful life that will be part of a grand building.  Yes, I can build a chicken coop, but I would rather be part of something bigger.  I will try to sacrifice my prideful desire for glory and recognition to contribute to the building of something more.  I will learn to take direction from those who have been called to direct the building, whose knowledge, experience, and faith are greater than my own. I will do my best to carefully hammer my few nails so that my children, your children, and millions of people will benefit from the quality parts that all of us contribute in building something eternal. 

Friday, January 11, 2008

I started this blog in response to questions I had been posed about my faith. It has evolved a bit into a place where I can share more of my spiritual side without inserting that into my more casual fiber (and now baby) space.

I haven't been out in public much for the past year, and so I haven't really had a lot of questions to address, however that doesn't mean there is a lack of questions.

I thought that with the start of a new year, and with the birth of my little miracle, it might be a good time to share some of the questions that I asked. The questions that eventually lead me to adopt Mormonism as my own personal faith.

Here is the first-

I was aware at a very young age that relationships required a lot of work to be successful. Just like a living being, if you don't feed and follow and grow a relationship, it will become weak and die. This makes sense, as our relationships are all with other people. This is especially true of marriage.

What I wanted to know was:

Why should I extend myself, put myself in vulnerable places, and give so much of myself to develop a relationship that would end with death?

It was too hard for me, too mush risk, too little reward.

In answer, what I found was the doctrine of eternal marriage and families. We (the Duke and I as well as many other LDS couples) are not married "til death do you part." We are sealed to one another for "time and all eternity." This sealing extends to our children. In return for this opportunity, more is asked of us, but I knew that I would happily give anything to have the blessing of having my marriage and my family exist beyond this lifetime. Occasionally I have been asked if it is difficult to live the seemingly strict tenants of my faith. I easily repeat, I would do anything asked of me by the Holy Being willing to permit my marriage to perpetuate forever.

The second question is the reverse of a question that once or twice I have been asked point blank, but more often only see in people's wondering, but silent, eyes. They want to know- "What if it isn't true?"

For me, the question was the opposite:

What if it is true?
How would I feel if I passed into the next life and found out that by living the principles of the gospel that I could have been married to my husband for eternity, that I would have had eternal relationships with my children, that I would have been extended the opportunity to have more children and increase many many times over all the joys of this lifetime.

How great would be my regret if I had passed over that opportunity?

And so what if it isn't true- I believe that it is, and isn't it better that I live my life in this way, hopeful, expecting, working to enrich a family and a marriage that I believe will extend beyond this life. I certainly won't be punished for my beliefs and my chosen way of life.

If there is no possible punishment for my acceptance of this faith, even if there is nothing more than the possibility that I will receive the blessings it promises, that is reason enough to live the way that I do. The risk of loosing those opportunities, those blessings, is too great. The simple possibility of gaining them is enough incentive to live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 26, 2007

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This was my son the day he was born.

He was 1 month early.

Three days prior an amniocentesis had told us that his lungs were not even developed enough to be considered immature.

He had been under stress for weeks prior to his birth, he had endured three and a half days of induction.

His first APGAR was a 4.

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His second APGAR was a 7.

He was completely calm all through and after delivery, he never did cry.

He was breathing without any help at all 10 minutes after birth.

Because he had been through so much, was early, and had been exposed to so much, (including an infection (in mom) that was not responding to antibiotics) he was sent to the special care nursery. He was poked, prodded, harassed and carefully monitored. Three days later he was proclaimed perfectly healthy.

A month early and under duress
7 lbs 2.8 oz
18 inches
perfectly healthy

Yes, there is a God and He does answer prayers and perform miracles.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

–verb (used with object)
1. to irritate or provoke with persistent petty distractions, trifling raillery, or other annoyance, often in sport.
2. to pull apart or separate the adhering fibers of (wool or the like), as in combing or carding; comb or card, as wool; shred.
3. to ruffle (the hair) by holding it at the ends and combing toward the scalp so as to give body to a hairdo.
4. to raise a nap on (cloth) with teasels; teasel.
5. Also, teaser. Television Slang. a short scene or highlight shown at the beginning of a film or television show to attract the audience's attention.
–verb (used without object)

6. to provoke or disturb a person or animal by importunity or persistent petty annoyances.

I have, along with others, been the object associated with this verb for a long time. My (relative) is the master of what, according to the people whose job it is too sooth his victims, is "just teasing."
By telling me that he is just teasing, they suppose that I am to overlook and forgive his behavior, and in fact, that is what I have done until recently. Now, pregnant, exhausted, and with raw emotions, I no longer have the will to do that, and I've asked myself, why should I?

1. to irritate or provoke with persistent petty distractions, trifling raillery, or other annoyance, often in sport.

Why should I tolerate someone irritating and provoking me for sport, for their own entertainment? Isn't life difficult enough without someone needlessly making it, even if only slightly so, more difficult? And isn't it all the worse if this person is someone who supposedly cares for you, who you are expected to maintain a relationship with? I do not need, nor do I want a play ground bully in my life.

6. to provoke or disturb a person or animal by importunity or persistent petty annoyances.

My (spouse of relative) has told me, in an attempt to get me to forgive this behavior, that he is just "yanking my chain." What would happen if this idiom were taken at face value. If a person were to repeatedly pull on a dog's chain, over time, what would happen? The dog would certainly come to distrust and dislike the agitator, and isn't it likely, depending on the disposition of the dog, that it would eventually attack back? How does that likelihood increase if the dog is all ready under some other distress?

No, I will no longer accept the term "just teasing." The word "just" does not appropriately belong to the word "tease." When one person exploits the emotions, weaknesses, or sensitivities of another person for their own entertainment it is nothing short of cruel.

I will not pretend that I am 100% guiltless of ever teasing a person, but I will say that it is not typical of my personality. I do not find pleasure in seeing another person uncomfortable, irritated, or unhappy.

Here is my resolve. I will do my best to never again tease anyone. I will teach my children that it is wrong and in fact punishable behavior to tease another person. I will try, in my own way, to make the world a better place by encouraging all of us, instead, to find pleasure in seeing other people comfortable, content, and happy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On occasion (which I find far too often) I am asked (often with an accusing tone) how the Duke and I are able to maintain the lifestyle that we do on the budget of church mice. It is true, we don’t have a lot of money. In the 6 years we’ve been married, between the two of us we have had a full time job of 22 months, less than 1/3 of the time. Both of us have had part time jobs, and fairly well paying ones at that, most of the time. That, however, does not explain how the two of us, students our entire marriage, have been able to buy and remodel a very nice house in Seattle, bring two little pups into the mix (an spoil them silly) as well as get away from the city a couple of time per year.

The answer to that, elementary my dear Watson! The Duke and I find one another very entertaining. HA!

No seriously, we have discovered that traditional entertainment is not only out of our budget, but beyond our interest. Everyone has so called disposable income, and we spend ours differently than the typical American.

Let me show you where ours NEVER goes:

Coffee- this one gets me every time. An acquaintance recently told me that she and her husband spend $10,000.00 per year on coffee. Now, most people (including them) would find this ridiculous, but let’s look at a more reasonable number. If each of us drank 5 coffee’s per week at an average cost of $4.00 per drink, that is $40.00 per week, or $2080.00 per year. (That’s nearly two house payments.)

Movies- May we assume 2 movies per month per person? At $8.00 per person plus a very conservative $4.00 each time for popcorn, that’s $40.00 per month or $480.00 per year. (A great weekend get away!)

Dinners Out- How often do average 20 something’s eat out? Or how much does a young couple usually spend each month eating out? I couldn’t find a definitive number, so let me make some conservative assumptions. Let’s assume that the Duke and I ate out to lunch each, 3 times per week, at $6.00 each time. That’s $24.00 per week. Then, let’s say we eat out for dinner once a week, and we choose less expensive places, or go out less often to average it out at $30.00 per outing. So that’s $54.00 per week or $2808.00 per year. Now, the Duke and I do eat out on occasion, we will say once a month at $40.00 per outing, that’s $480.00, and we allow ourselves each $15.00 per month for “forgetting our lunches” that’s $30.00 each week, $360/ year, still we save $1968 per year.

Videos: The Duke and I don’t rent movies very often, maybe 3-4 times per year. I recently read that the average American home rents 6 movies per month. I have a hard time believing that, so let’s say 4 per month, at $5.00 a piece. That’s $240 per year.

Alcohol: We don’t drink alcohol at all. Let’s say that each person in a relationship has 2 drinks per week at $4.00 per drink (even though I don’t drink, I know this is conservative) so, $16 per week, or $832/ year.

Cable: The entire time the Duke and I have been married, we have never subscribed to cable. A basic cable subscription is $30 per month, or $360 per year.

Now, there are other things that we do or avoid that help us save money. I have never purchased a piece of clothing at full retail price, second hand or deeply discounted is more our pace. We buy what ever we can in bulk to save money. We don’t eat a lot of red meat. You get the idea. We also have generous families that value the same things we do, however, all that aside, just the items I’ve listed above save us. . . drum roll please.


That is over $5000.00 dollars per year, just by eating at home, avoiding those “chemical” indulgences, and reading out loud to one another. I have made the argument before and people have told me that they could never “deprive” themselves in such away. I’ll tell you what, when I am sitting in a Jacuzzi tub at a world class lodge in the Methow Valley, I am NOT feeling deprived, but that’s just me, I guess.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There are only 10 of them for Heaven's Sake

You wouldn't think that it would be so hard to keep 10 little commandments, but evidently, for our society, it is very difficult.

Honestly, I don't really care if you are Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Agnostic, or other. If the world would just take these ten, think of them as rules for a better world, that is exactly what we would have, a better world. I'm not a religious scholar, but I'm pretty sure that every religion has something similar to the big 10.

Here they are- per the KJ Bible: Exodus 20

1 and 2. Thou shalt have no other god before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.

Well, we have really screwed this up. We worship our jobs, money, our cars, our things, ect, ect. Anything that we give so much of ourselves too that it detracts from the important things in life, (family, spiritual well being, physical well being,) those things have effectually become our gods. Will anyone argue with me that the world would be better off if we put more of a focus on family and health?

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

The name of God is no longer sacred among us. I couldn't count how many times a day I hear his name used as an expletive, or even just in excitement. It is so common that there is even an common Internet abbreviation: OMG! The thing I find ironic, is many of the people that use this expression, would not, if pressed, actually claim him as "their God."
The other way that God's name is taken in vain is when people out there claim to do something in God's name. Let me just tell you right now, NO! God does not need us, simple and weak humans, to accomplish his work, HE'S GOD! Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that God doesn't direct people on this earth. I truly believe that he does, but it is not done in a hair raising, media frenzied, debate ensuing, way. It is done in quiet, reverent and sacred ways. It is done in small, almost imperceptible ways that eventually change lives.

4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Do I even need to explain? Sunday is, for many people, the busiest day of the week. I believe that the loss of the Sabbath in our cultures is one of the main causes of the increased pressure and stress in our lives. I could not live without the Sabbath. My Sundays are often very full, they are filled with worship, service, and music. They are also the only day of the week I can nap without feeling guilty, I can spend a few quiet hours with my husband, I can have a break from the day to day chaos that is my life. People would probably be a lot nicer to one another if they had a day in the week to rest, to spend time with their families, to focus on personal reinvigorating.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother.

We are so busy that we can no longer take care of our elderly parents. They are shipped off to a retirement center, where we visit them once or twice a month, if we can get to them. We are also too busy to teach our children the meaning of the word honor. It's not just that they don't honor their parents, either. They don't honor anyone or anything, including themselves. They just don't know how, or understand why they should.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

Um, yeah. We kill each other. We shouldn't.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

I can't even think of this without pain in my heart. How many families would be saved? How many children would be happy and healthy? How many hearts would not be broken? When we commit to a person, we become responsible for that person as well. We are not permitted to be selfish. If there is a problem, it must be fixed, not run from. When it's said like that, isn't it so clear, because that is all adultery is, the selfish and cowardly running from one's problems.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

Recently someone told me that retailers report more losses from their employees than from their customers. I don't know if it is true or not, but just the fact that someone could make that statement and we could all conceive that it might be true; that is an awful thing. This is also about selfishness as well as laziness and a sense of entitlement, we all know it's wrong, but so many people do it anyway.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor.

We live in the most litigious country on the earth. People are not willing to take responsibility for their own problems and their own actions. It is easier to blame in on someone else.

10. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet they neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Ok, so I don't know anyone with a man or maid servant, or even an ox or an ass, but I do know a few people that live a life fraught with envy. Never being satisfied is a terrible way to choose to live your life, and yes, it is a choice. How much happier would we all be if we weren't always having to take care of all our "stuff" in addition to working more hours in order to get more "stuff." Maybe if we weren't so concerned with all that stuff, we would have more time to enjoy our families, and learn more about who we really are.

Now, this is, as I hope you all know, not a self righteous soap box. I have been guilty of not keeping several of these commandments. Even number six, my Buddhist friends have taught me a lot about number six. Yes, I have killed many an insect in my days.
I just want to try to make the world that I live in a better place. I am starting here, because it is such an easy and basic place to start. These are things that I know I can do, with a little self control and determination. And just think what the world would be like if everyone tried to do the same.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mormons and Sex

That got your attention didn't it. I knew it would

So a while back manichispanc asked this:

This one is more silly than anything else. i can barely keep from giggling as i type this.
anyway, i was told that Mormon couples, prior to getting married, go through the act of sex with a sheet separating them. so, they know whether their marriage will be fulfilling or not.
is there truth?

Ok, short answer, NO! We practice chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards. What that means is no sex before marriage, kissing is fine, but anything that is sexually arousing is tabo, as it's only purpose is, well, to get each other all worked up- and why torture yourself? After marriage your spouse is your one and only partner. A little more on this in a bit, first lets look at the myth. . .

Shanny, let me remind you that I said all good myths had a basis in truth. I was talking to some friends about this and one of them mentioned that she thought Orthodox Jews may have some tradition like this and that is where it came from, so a little Internet research and this is what I find:

This guy writes an article somewhat like this blog, only about the Jewish religion. He got the same question. Go here to read the whole thing.

Rabbi number sixth I spoke to had the most plausible explanation to me. After racking his brain he called me back to say that perhaps the rumor comes from a little known Jewish divorce law that speaks of a spouse willing to have sex only through a sheet. This is considered so bad, that the other partner can cite "the sheet" as grounds for divorce--with no financial remuneration! In other words the law condemns such behavior.
OK, so that is a NO for the Jews too.
Now, lets talk a little bit about why we practise this belief. I know there are all sorts of reasons that you could give me on why one shouldn't wait until marriage to have sex. I've heard them all before. Let me tell you why I disagree.
1. I know that my husband respects me. If a man will date me for over a year and go through a 9 month engagement with me, I know he's in it for more than the sex, he must really love me.
2. STDs??? Not a concern, at all.
3. Insecurities in the bedroom? Not me, I know my hubby has nothing to compare me to. I am the best he has ever had, period. He knows the same for me.
4. A lack of insecurities makes it easy to be creative, have fun, and try new things. We are free to say we do or do not like something, knowing that there is nothing behind it, other than love, excitement, and making each other happy.
5. No regrets.
Five very good reasons (and I have others if you want to go further) that, in my opinion, are a lot more important and positive than any reason someone can give me for not "restricting" yourself sexually.
Now that I have said all of that, let me also say, that everyone comes into a relationship with baggage. Less anyone conclude that I think people who have not lived (for what ever reason) the same lifestyle I have chosen, are of any less value, or are somehow worse off than me. Love is about acceptance, forgiveness, and relying on the Savior. He suffered for our sins, and he will take them if we are willing to give them up. He is the great healer, and he heals heart and minds, not just bodies. He also heals our relationships, and helps us understand and love one another more. We have an opportunity to love our partners more with his help, and what greater gift could we give?