Friday, September 30, 2011

Fabulously Freaky & Fantastic Fall

Old Rag Mountain, VA
Currently 52 degrees here in TX.  All functional windows open.  Listening to John Denver.  No candy corn in sight.  Living room as clean as it will ever be while I have children at home.  For a million reasons, fall is by far my favorite.

I grew up in VA near the Shenandoah, so the mountains, deciduous trees, acoustic guitar run in my veins.  Please bear with me while I wax sentimental.  Old Rag Mountain.  Hiking with Dad was the best of times.  He was always with the slowest hiker, which was me (we'll blame it on being the youngest, though I doubt that was the real reason.)  Bear's Den with Mike, my 'brother' and friend, playing his twelve string.  Sky Meadow State Park; 11 years old camping out with Dad for the first and last time on snow dusted hills.  Poor man, I forgot my pillow.  I laid on his arm ALL night (maybe men do know pain.)  Long drives down Great Falls Parkway as fast and smooth as I could corner.  Drives down quiet roads through untouched fallen leaves.  My husband and I were married in fall, my sons were born in fall.  And then there's my mother, a new Halloween costume for 3 kids every year, all the way through high school.

Previous years costumes
And, as every mother knows, the tradition must continue...  This year is no different.  The same family celebrations blown out of proportion to build memories.  And an intense desire for my children to have as much fun at this time of year as I do.  So with the measuring tape around my neck like a noose, a shovel to dig out the sewing machine, and every useable scrap of fabric at my disposal (all of which, will likely not fit the bill.)  I sit to make the final decision for my children (since kids can't seem to pair down ideas to their favorites and it changes daily.)  Scott a mummy (a.k.a. mommy; Jim say's, "Mommy's are scary.")  And Jim a Fighter Fighter (a.k.a. Fire fighter), Scooby-Doo or Buzz Lightyear.  Maybe you can help me out with a vote...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hanging on

Enduring has such a challenging connotation.  Who wants to hang on when there doesn't seem to be any end to waiting, suffering, loss, sorrow, laundry, dishes, diapers...?  I've been pondering this continually over the last few months.  How are you happy when everything seems to go wrong, dreams are lost, and tedium is the daily feast?  I mean manna would get a little tiresome after 40 years. (Ex 16:35)

Here's where the beginning starts, you stop expecting.  What?!  No hope, no ambition, no reward?!  No that's not quite it.  No entitlement, no vanity, no settling for less than the best.  Let me explain. 

There was a rich young man who wanted to inherit the kingdom of God.  He lived a virtuous life and loved the Lord and his fellow man.  He was told in order to inherit, he needed to leave behind all his riches. Luke 18: 18-27  Often, the story is left in the middle when the young man leaves sorrowing for, "he had great possessions."  Leaving the masses under the superstition that he didn't do as he was asked.  It is difficult to do what is expected when we are asked to leave so much behind.  But isn't faith stretching, reaching out to something better?  The scripture says, with God nothing is impossible.

Isn't it obvious that something need be left behind in order to not carry a burden when we are yoked with him. (Matt 11: 28-30)  What does He require that we leave behind?  To paraphrase, "On the path of life, sin is the only acceptable thing to litter."  Let me share a few personal experiences that demonstrate my relationship with the Lord.

It began one night as I knelt by my bed, seeking to know that path the Lord would have me take.  The options as a young single woman were so immense that I found it impossible to make a decision.  After an hour or more pleading to know the best route, the answer came in the form of a question, "What in your life keeps you from being closer to me?"  So I asked myself what it was that I wanted more than to be with Our Father.  Quickly I noticed my error.  I wanted to be married more than anything.  The only way I knew to ensure my not marrying (at least for a time) was to serve a full-time (18mo.) mission.  (One of the rules no dating during that time.) 

Then I wanted to go abroad.  The Lord said state-side.  Well at least I won't be eating Mexican... but then again I learned to love it.  Having seen enough of TX I was happy to return home... only to marry someone from TX.  Someone who hadn't yet completed his education and who was on my "just friends" list, are you seeing a pattern that He knows better?  Children... complications in conceiving.  How about a girl... I love my boys.  At least I can get my education... though I'm married to an instructor, no discount.  So, suffice it to say.  I'm familiar with giving up on what I want.  But having done so much of it, I've found I'm fiercely clinging to my last farthing Mark 12: 41-44

So truly the test begins when we are stretched.  It's hard to share the last Oreo.  It's painful to give the last of our free time.  It's excruciating to give the last bit of our dreams or hopes for sleep or having an adult conversation.  But the promise in every sacrifice is for something better.  The whole, salvation, becoming like our Savior...  And so the invitation to strive to give up EVERYTHING we are, EVERYTHING we have, EVERY talent we possess, EVERY selfish desire, EVERY sin.  But in return he promises that we can become like His son, having His image in our countenance Alma 5:14.  Is there anything more blessed than to count ourselves able to bear His cross.  Luke 14:27 and finish our refinement.  To be made whole, perfect.  Having given up everything in us that isn't divine.  Through the process of letting go we make our hands free to hang onto Him, our Rock (Hel 5:12).  And as we make ourselves one, we become like Him.  What a beautiful cross to bear.

So what's your last farthing?  Chocolate?  Sleep?  Personal time?  A trip?  A second toilet?  Talk to Him, and "if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you."  (Alma 32:27)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's good for what ails ya!

Look for me in future editions.
Disclaimer:  My advice comes with no medical license so don't blame me if this isn't a cure all.

There is a contagion of disproportionate amounts that is spanning the globe.  Its viral effects cause varying symptoms from hair loss to erratic appetite! There seems to be no race immune, nor indication of predisposition.  However, lest I strike fear into the heart, there is a cure.  And luckily, there is no concern of non-payment due to a preexisting condition!  The cure?  Laughter.  

This week alone I have been bombarded with self-doubt and self-pity.  I have seen yet another family torn apart due to divorce.  I have witnessed the physical manifestation of stress in multiple individuals.  Sincerely horrible plagues!  Incredibly serious afflictions.  And even contagious attitudes.  What do I say to myself or my friends with serious maladies?  Don't take it too seriously.

PLEASE, don't misunderstand.  I have the greatest empathy for the pain that is suffered.  I do not discount it, demean it, or disregard it.  Yet, be it by situation, others' choices, our own idiocy... there are only two things that can offer a cure or respite; a Savior and a sense of humor.  God sent us here to have experience and learn.  That doesn't mean fantasy land, or Utopia.  That means get our knees dirty and have a great time playing, even if we strike out!  Fix what you can.  Repair what you've done to the best of your ability and then let the rest fly.  The atonement heals victim and sinner alike. 

Misery may like company, but comedy needs an audience!  Take a dose and pass it on.  Hope your days are lookin' up by rising above what life throws at ya!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Increasing capacity to love

By Bernice Pipa

It is a commandment second to only one.  It reads, ...Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."  Matt 22: 39  It is my father's favorite song.  It was my favorite FHE lesson and scripture as a child.

Is love a feeling we are blessed with , the status of a relationship, or the action that displays it?  Love is charity.  My husband, Andy, said while we were dating, "You don't fall in love, you don't fall out of love, you choose to love."  I believe that's true.  Although each relationship is different in the expression of love, the essence is still the same.  We find value in a person, and express it through thought, word, and deed.

Love is a capacity .  It is as a vessel that can be filled, expanded, overflow.  God IS Love;  it is the nature of divinity to love and be loved.  And possessing that nature as His children, it is our essence.  By receiving from this infinite fountain of love, at the moment we share from our vessel it is replenished.  We can cap it, however; limiting the love given and received.  If we don't receive God's love, we cannot have faith in Him (because faith requires trust.)

Developing this capacity is cyclical.  1.  We must first receive.   Drink deeply from the fountain.  2.  We must seek to share that love with others.  A fire that is enclosed, is a fire that dwindles.  3.  We must love self.  Believe that we are worth the faith invested in us by a loving Father in heaven.  We must treat ourselves with kindness and compassion.

Why love self?  This is NOT selfishness.  (Remember capping that love diminishes it.)  Softened hearts are synonymous with having an open cap on the vessel.  If we believe there is no reason that God would love us, we limit how much love we will receive from him; we restrict it.  If we are self-loathing, we assume others think about us as we do; perceived disappointment.  We then limit our second, indirect source of love; love from our family, friends, neighbors, and associates.  If we judge our faults harshly, we find those similarities in others and judge them.  When we do not accept love from others, we silently tell them their love isn't worth acceptable.  Our ability to love self is equal to our ability to love others.

We each have a need for love, being God's children.  If we are not filled with love, we will look to other sources for love.  We become reliant upon others for our self-worth, justification, and love.  Physical and mental addiction, abuse of self or others, excessive diversion (leaving a course to which God appointed us for a useless one/ virtual accomplishment.)  We teach our children, by example how to shun love.  Any act of reducing love is the result of pride; a division between us and anyone else.  The result is devastating to family, community, self, eternal potential, and the glory of God.

Let us better seek an eternally satisfying course, love others, love self, and thus love God.  For each soul that is loved can better love others.