Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Occasions & Transitions

Our society has a lot of great celebrations to mark happy and momentous occasions and transitions. As one who generally balks at riotous living, I am grateful for meaningful opportunities to act in a crazy, joyful manner contrary to my nature. We also have rituals to assist in coping with heartbreaking events and death. Generally these occasions are less than riotous, though not all of them are depressing. In the case of funerals, I’m grateful for Truth that by and large bypasses the depression. Appropriately, some events in our lives have no community based rituals to assist affected individuals in their journey through many of the 'shadows of death'. The community wide affects of events, such as the death of a marriage through divorce, are most suitably confronted privately. These events offer meaningful opportunities for deep personal enlightenment.

Recent events of grave infidelity and betrayal by an individual within one of my Tribes, as Oliver DeMille calls them, have offered me and many of my associates an opportunity to seek after that personal enlightenment as a means for coping with the damage to our hearts and our community. Providentially, within this struggle I have found a greater propensity to love Mercy more. Almost of its own accord, my heart reaches out to this child of God who is still a model for me of so many great qualities. Because of this, I find myself reaching out to my Savior with renewed faith in and understanding of His Mercy that He offers me. Unexpectedly now, I have even more profound reasons for celebrating the occasion of His birth.

Merry Christmas!!

Ummm, don’t even think about asking about the identity of this individual. I simply won’t answer. And please don't post it if you know. This family has suffered enough.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finding Joy in the ONE

OK, here’s another song that has recently risen in status from ‘mildly annoying’ to ‘rather irritating’. (And don’t get me wrong. I really don’t hate every hymn in the LDS Hymn book. It’s just that the ones that challenge me are more fun to write about.=] ) It’s a lovely song, I’ll admit, though somewhat grudgingly:

Count Your Blessings

Sung Brightly (Ummm, are you kidding me?)
1. When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.
3. When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold. Count your many blessings; money cannot buy Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
4. So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged; God is over all. Count your many blessings; angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

The Chorus, in particular, has wrecked havoc on my sanity:
Count your blessings; Name them one by one. Count your blessings; See what God hath done. Count your blessings; Name them one by one. Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.

The following scripture has helped me understand my challenges with this hymn:

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:40-42

There are a lot of tasks our family could be running around stressing about. During this holiday season, one of the things I’ve worried about is my own aversion to the task of ‘counting our blessings’.

Just after the Thanksgiving holiday, there repeatedly entered into my heart the desire to redecorate my web browser theme. I ignored the idea for a while as unnecessary. When I finally took a moment to make the change, I began searching, as I usually did for browser decorations, under flowers. Only this time the thought occurred to me that with so many choices I should narrow it to what I had professed casually in the past to be my favorite flower, the daisy. And suddenly my eyes were so ‘tickled,’ as my grandmother used to say. Each picture of a daisy brought me so much joy. I searched out other websites for daisy pictures and found joy in the grand varieties of daisies.

I was completely amazed and beyond grateful at how much joy those pictures brought me. This experience reminds me of some things we’ve learned about Diabetes in our journey with Merisa who was recently diagnosed with Type 1. Put simply, Type One Diabetes is a disease where the body no longer produces the Insulin the body needs to absorb glucose. We’ve learned that exercise can also help the body absorb glucose. So if her blood sugar (the amount of sugar in her blood) is high, then exercise can bring it down. If her blood sugar is too high, however, only insulin will bring it down and exercise will only cause very harmful stress to the body.

So, our family has been experiencing lots of stress lately as financial pressures continue to mount, despite two years of efforts to relieve those pressures after Rob lost his job. I truly believe that it’s really come to the point where more “careful and troubled” effort on our part is not going to help. Rather, we need to choose “that good part, which shall not be taken away from” us. Sometimes that means just resting from all of our cares, including from all the voices around us with good intentions or not. And sometimes it means listening to the one thing our Father in Heaven is trying to tell us, even if He’s just telling us to look at pictures of Daisy’s on the internet.

So, in all our craziness I have no problem singing the song this way:

Count your blessing; Name it ONE, ONE, ONE! Count your blessing; See what God hath done. Count your blessing; Name it ONE, ONE, ONE! Count your single blessing; Love that special ONE!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dear Grandma Ada,

Thank you for being my Grandmother!

Thank you for running away from the Draper snow to stay with a crazy teenager who really didn’t want any more old folks around. Thank you for enjoying the porch and the sunshine and the flowers in our back yard. Thank you for teaching me about dentures and Ben gay. Thank you for sharing your home with a crazy college student who still didn’t really want to spend all of her time with old people. Thank you for letting me hang your laundry on the line for you and watching you smell the sun dried clothes. Thank you for not always being a sweet and loving grandmother.

I love to remember you playing “Come, Come, Ye Saints” on the piano. I love to remember the home that Grandpa built for you, every nook and cranny. I love to remember you falling asleep during General Conference talks and waking up for the songs. I love to remember your garden and the flowers you took to church. I love to remember giving you hugs and holding your arm as you walked.

Thank you for the histories you left us. Thank you for the struggles you over came in life through your Faith and the ones you simply endured because of your Faith. Thank you for being that stalwart connection to others who also sacrificed so much for their Faith.

Every memory of you is a cherished treasure.


Grandma’s Attic
Grandma’s attic is full of strange inventions,
worn out tools, and snatches of memories.
Each fits together as the pages of a book.
This book teaches tomorrow’s grandmas’
about the lessons common to yesterday, today and tomorrow,
These lessons then infuse new life
into grandma’s attic full of strange inventions,
worn out tools and snatches of memories.

I guess it's a poem . . .
written in response to Arleta Richardson's In Grandma's Attic.

(Good grief! What is that costume I have on???)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Counting It All Joy

Almost two years ago I found a lump in my throat. This lump has grown and diminished and grown again until I could hardly breathe. A tumor? Cancer? No. Though I’m beginning to see an amazing amount of similarities between cancer and being unemployed or under employed. While facing these challenges I’ve taken a new interest in stories of those who have beaten seemingly insurmountable odds. My favorite is that of the pioneers in the Willie and Martin Handcart companies who came to know God in their extremities. As the kaleidoscope of life shifts, so do our goals. Currently it has become my sincerest and most humble desire to make the most of my own current extreme circumstances to become acquainted with God better than I ever realized I needed to or even could and to discard, like the Pioneers did, everything I could that would keep me from that goal. For He has truly been merciful during these amazing and challenging years while we have fought to find joy in the journey.

Too Heavy to Carry

As our financial stresses have grown continually heavier over time, the lump in my throat became regular night time attacks of fear and panic even while my day times were relatively happy and peaceful. Darla Isackson said it well, “The fear always pops up uninvited and unexpected, and ferocious in its attack.” During these night time episodes, “fear and negativity [certainly had become] the path of least resistance.” Satan’s fiery darts of shame, guilt, and fear beat relentlessly upon my worn down soul. Night after night I have pleaded in prayer for comfort but I experienced very little change. Then I found Sister Isackson’s article, “Fear Is a Lie”, on the Meridian Magazine and the healing could finally began. Her thoughts inspired me: “Because I have a soul-deep desire to live in light and truth, the best motivation I’ve found to weed out fear is simply to see that fear thoughts are lies.” As the truth of her words settled in my heart, I at last found a short reprieve from the night time attacks. However, as Sister Isackson explained, “In order to take advantage of the best, we have to let go of the worst; we have to weed out Satan’s influence and Satan’s lies.” Letting go of the worst proved an overwhelming task as I faced an impressive supply of fears concerning a variety of issues far beyond merely our financial situation. Sis Isackson said, “I wrote down my thoughts and challenged them, asking the Lord to help me see the truth.” Oh how I longed for the truth to overcome my fears, but how could I possibly face them individually when together they had become such a MOUNTAIN???

Still, in my own humble way I clung to my goal, waiting for more light and courage to assist in my journey. As Mark Twain said, necessity really is the mother of taking chances and recent assurances from General Authorities that there was no need to fear gave me added determination. Like Maurine J Proctor proclaimed in her article “How Can God Say ‘Fear Not’?”, “I [could] understand the shakings of the Children of Israel, stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, but I [didn’t] want to be them. I [really wanted] to take a journey like Moses, and leave my fears behind, littering the desert as too heavy to carry to the Promised Land.” Furthermore, the Savior’s own admonitions to the apostle Peter as he sank in the water (Matthew 14:30) and the disciples who feared perishing in the storm (Mark 4:39)—which had long puzzled me—gave me fuel for my deep pleadings, seeking for more light and understanding.

Sister Isackson’s words helped me rediscover the essential source of peace. “I am always in His hands, always spiritually safe, regardless of outward danger. That message increases in importance as calamity and evil increases in this world.” (emphasis added) I sensed a deep need to abandon all extraneous sources of peace and refocus my efforts to know God. I wanted my “confidence [to] wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). In order to let go of my fears, however, I needed to understand God better.

He’s Not the Accuser

Sometimes I go several months without reading articles on The Meridian Magazine, but recently the Spirit has clearly directed me to important and timely Truths through His blessed Servants. Enter Maurine J Proctor’s article, “The Lord is Not the Accuser”.

“Some of us have a critic in our heads, an evaluator who whisks through our lives with white gloves, running a disapproving finger over the dust that seems to settle everywhere, taking notes of the ways we don’t quite measure up, and scolding us, invisibly, for our failings.” “If this critical voice is loud in good times, think how many decibels it raises when times are really tough—like the economic trials of the present.”

How could someone possibly know the incredible pain in my heart? How could they understand the lump in my throat that was never completely gone and which haunted my nights? Not just fear of external forces, but also that incredibly painful fear of not measuring up, of forever distancing myself from God, of failing to fulfill my Divine missions in life.

“Let us come to clarity. Let us be clear. The accusatory voice that you may hear inside you, which echoes and re-echoes down the stony corridors of your soul, is not God’s. He is plenteous in mercy, he is loving and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness. He is the perfect parent.” Somehow as a passionate seeker of Truth, I had misfired and for many many years had became a prisoner of war to Justice. Sis Proctor finally helped release me from my unseen prison, and the gulf that separated me from His Love began to disappear. For “the word of God . . . is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil” (Helaman 3:29).

Shortly thereafter, during one of my night time attacks, with humility and new trust in that Perfect Parent, I pulled out my Palm Pilot and began listing my fears and also, occasionally, those things I was grateful that I did NOT fear. My list of fears went on and on, and I rejoiced in the peace I found by simply facing my fears head on. I realized, as I recorded in my journal, that “The power of fear lies in its ambush qualities.”

The resulting peace was overwhelming. Still the night time attacks did not end, though they thankfully ebbed and flowed in their intensity. With renewed gratitude I continued on, sensing the incredible healing of a lifetime of hurt feelings and flawed habits slowly but miraculously, consciously, & consistently dropping away as “the spirit of fear” was replaced by “power, and . . . love, and . . . a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Slowly releasing myself from my prison, I spent the next few weeks refilling my “bowels” with “charity towards all men, and to the household of faith”. (D & C 121:45) The result? Days such that I recorded in my journal: “Yesterday was a dream. I felt so much love and peace in my heart.” There was no room for anything else. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s Mercy that changed the lump in my throat to a heart filled with love and light which flowed “without compulsory means” (D & C 121:46) to my family in ways I had LONG prayed and pleaded for.

Discovering Freedom

Newly released from my mental and emotional prison, I began pressing forward discovering where my new freedom would lead me. Along with that the ‘ebbs’ also continued through life’s challenges that returned the lump to my throat and severely restricted the love and light that flowed from me.

However with such beautiful memories fresh in my mind, I find each time the strength to humbly press forward staying in tune with God’s commandments even as I reach out and reclaim the Mercy God offers. I now reach heavenward with my heart knowing that even during trials, He will reach back with comfort, guidance, and peace. And the lumps become bridges to my Savior, drawing me closer and closer to Him. So while I still fervently pray for a new financial season for our family, more and more I can sincerely say with James,

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Love at Home?

10/10/10 (In honor of a truly perfect day!)

On page 294 of the LDS Hymn book, there’s a lovely song called, “Love at Home”, whose text and music were composed by John Hugh McNaughton, 1829-1891.

1. There is beauty all around
When there's love at home;
There is joy in ev'ry sound
When there's love at home.
Peace and plenty here abide,
Smiling sweet on ev'ry side.
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there's love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there's love at home.

2. In the cottage there is joy
When there's love at home;
Hate and envy ne'er annoy
When there's love at home.
Roses bloom beneath our feet;
All the earth's a garden sweet,
Making life a bliss complete
When there's love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Making life a bliss complete
When there's love at home.

3. Kindly heaven smiles above
When there's love at home;
All the world is filled with love
When there's love at home.
Sweeter sings the brooklet by;
Brighter beams the azure sky.
Oh, there's One who smiles on high
When there's love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Oh, there's One who smiles on high
When there's love at home.
It hasn’t been one of my favorites for a long time. I mean, honestly, WHO REALLY has a family like that???

Recently, however, I was blessed with several days where God’s love filled my soul to overflowing. (I’m still working on explaining how that came about. Sorry, you’ll have to wait.) It was like hiking to the top of a tall mountain and looking down on the place where you spend most of your days living and working and eating and sleeping. And suddenly the place you thought you knew, looks very different and you can never live your life the same way again.

I feel extremely blessed to have a testimony of the Savior’s Restored Church. Every vestige of doubt has been removed from my mind and heart even as I continue to grow in my understanding of the Principles and Ordinances therein. But this experience truly humbled me as I realized how limited was my understanding of God and how He loves and cares for His children. I'm beginning to realize that when the Lord says "where much is given, much is required," He also means that we should work as hard at obeying His commandments as we do at just comprehending and enjoying the unfathomable love He offers us, His children.

So now the other day I had the phrase “Hate and envy ne'er annoy” in my mind, and I realized that this song is impactful on more than one level.

Societies need ideals in order to flourish. I really believe that families can be like this. Are they? Probably not. But this song paints a beautiful picture of how lofty our goals can be.

On another level, however, just because we or those around us are struggling with human weaknesses doesn’t mean we can’t feel joy and peace and plenty. Certainly “Hate and envy” in those around us or even within us will “ne'er annoy” if our homes are regularly filled with love. Fighting children won’t draw the love from our heart, we’ll see them as God does. Personal thoughts of envy or other vices won’t stay long, we’ll see ourselves as God does. Roses can “bloom beneath our feet” and “there’s One who smiles on high” even if tragedy is also afoot. We’ll see the beauty of how the experience is fashioning us for the eternities. Gratitude and a commitment to following the path of beauty, peace and plenty will always bring the Love of God in our hearts and homes.

Thanks, Brother McNaughton, for such a lovely and lofty new view of the place where I live. And despite my personal history with your song, it is my sincerest prayer that I will never live my life the same way again and that the most important question I can ask will be,

“Is there Love at Home?”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tower Construction

A few months ago my dear friend Keelee M shared this quote with me (via text, if you can believe it!) from Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe by Todd Wilson. “Every homeschooling mom needs to have a like-minded friend to help protect her against the lies of the enemy (hope this makes sense without knowing the list of lies). By like-minded, I mean someone who home schools for the same reasons. ... if you're around someone whose chief purpose is to provide quality academics, which isn't your chief purpose, you're probably going to come away feeling discouraged. Why? Because your goals are different which means your daily methods are different as well as how you measure success. ... If you don't have a like-minded friend, ...You will always be questioning your goals and methods. ... if you have a friendship with a homeschooling mom who home schools for the same reasons you do, you'll be able to be with non like-minded friends and stand tall.“ At the end she says, “Verena, thank you for being my like-minded friend. ~Keelee”

This past few weeks I’ve felt the meaning of this quote keenly. This Fall our family activities shuffled around quite a bit, taking on some activities and saying no to others as we focused our priorities on what was most important for our family during this season of our lives. Gratefully, we have made friends with some new and wonderful families. As a mom I have rejoiced to find moms who are like-minded, home schooling for the same reasons, and therefore with the same methods, as I do. I am grateful God directed us together. They truly inspire me. (wait for it . . .) But the connections have been made primarily outside of TJEd community that we had, for many years, immersed ourselves within. It’s been fun, and I see SO many of the TJEd principles being applied within the homes of our new found friends. Yesterday, however, I really began to feel the effects of the shift of associations to those outside of the TJEd community.

Oliver & Rachel DeMille explain the purpose of adulthood as follows, “Leadership Education demands of the adult two new things, not just one. He is required to build two towers. This will take everything he has to give, and will push him to his limits. The two towers that he is to build are a family and an organization (as entrepreneur or intrapeneur)” (Leadership Education, 253). So while I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing with my new friends as we worked together to build our ‘family’ tower, our focus has been almost exclusively on this first pillar. I sincerely sense the lack of quality companionship as I build my second tower. I look forward to this new challenge to re-build the community that will assist my second tower construction.

Tell me about your like-minded friends and how they are helping you build your two towers!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Everything I Need to Know to be an Adult . . .

. . . I Learned in my Childbirth Education Classes.

As my childbearing years move further and further into my past, many of the lessons I learned while teaching my Childbirth Classes never seem to fade. In so many ways childbirth is a rite of passage to adulthood. While admittedly not the only ‘rite of passage’ that can teach these lessons, these lessons can have a powerful impact on the myriad of other experiences one faces as an adult.

Here are some of my favorite childbearing related quotes and how they apply to my life now. And yes, that stuff in the ( ) is the page number I found it on. THAT lesson I learned in college. =]

People are often too unwilling to trust their own judgment. It is essential for responsible adults to be able to say, ‘Okay, I have gotten as much information as I can get. I have talked to people. I’ve read. I’ve thought about it. Now I am going to trust my judgment.
David Stewart & Lee Stewart Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (215-16)
In our society where so many experts in every field disagree, it is imperative during times of important decisions for us to do the hard work of study, evaluation, and then trust in your own reasoning and conclusions. We are capable of and personally responsible for making decisions, even if that decision disagrees with some experts.

Where is the proper dividing line between what people can do for themselves or with the help of friends and family, and what they require professional help for?
Dr. Michel Odent The De-Medicalization of Childbirth
Similar to the previous one, only WE can make our decisions and some decisions are acute enough that they require an expert and some really are best ‘home grown’ by our friends and family.

The effect on the baby of a few hours of drugs during labor is not nearly as potentially damaging, in my opinion, as nine months of poor diet in pregnancy.
David Stewart & Lee Stewart Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (109)
Some decisions, while impactful, are less important in the long run that the choices we make every single day.

Generally speaking, mechanical assistance is rarely needed, but psychological or emotional support to the mother is almost always in order.
Gregory J. White, M.D. Emergency Childbirth (VI)
Our society tends to jump to extremes with everything assuming the worst case scenario, when more often than not we just need a little nudge in the right direction.

Birth is a slow, individual process, to be savored and enjoyed slowly. The safety of the process is MOST THREATENED BY RUSHING MOTHER NATURE.
Marjie and Jay Hathaway, AAHCC Children at Birth (68)
Life IS an individual process and trying to follow an imposed time line almost always leads to disaster.

Taking analgesics during transition is not good timing for the baby, since the peak effect may occur around delivery time and depress baby’s breathing. From your point of view, by the time the shot takes effect, transition is likely to be over and the medication may then compromise your ability to participate fully in the pushing stage.
William and Martha Sears The Birth Book (219)
I would add to this from Pam England’s book Birthing From Within that the natural endorphins produced through relaxation and natural pain relieving methods disappear immediately with medical pain relief and stick around for 2 weeks after a birth without.
Under normal circumstances, patience and endurance always yield the very best results.

One of the problems is that nature intended children to be born alive, and, irrespective of what you do, they usually survive.
David Stewart & Lee Stewart Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (109)
Life was meant to be good. Experts didn’t invent that. That’s all I have to say about that.

There is a secret in our society, and it's not that childbirth is painful. It's that women are strong. ~ Laura Stavoe Harm
There is a secret in our society, and it's not that LIFE is painful or stressful or hard or even that it’s going to get harder!
(Please, it's REALLY NOT a surprise!!)
It's that WE, with GOD, are

Monday, August 9, 2010

Being a Producer

Last night I had a dream that Rob received a letter from one of the jobs he had applied for. It told him that he was not qualified for their job. Recently I had the opportunity to preview Oliver DeMille’s soon to be released book FreedomShift. I had already been on a journey to embrace Abundance in place of Scarcity, but this book gave me a new look at the need in our society for more Producers and for less dependence on Experts. Depression and panic have been increasingly frequent companions despite our best efforts to keep our hearts close to God. So the emotional heart of my dream was that Experts had deemed Rob (and I) unqualified to Produce anything good or needed in the world. Undoubtedly, the financial challenges that we have faced as a family have beat down confidence in our abilities to be Producers at the same time they have beat down our Consumer tendencies.
I’m a firm believer in moderation in all things, so I’m confident that there’s an ideal Mean between being only a Producer and only a Consumer. Somehow though, when your abilities to Produce dwindle, one feels left with only the ability to Consume, especially with prolonged outside assistance. So I never suspected a few weeks ago, when I started down the path of trying to add to our family’s income, that the concept of being a Producer would be so exciting! With care and unhurried consideration, we evaluated our options for work that I could do. So many choices were quite overwhelmingly depressing! When I made a little money by helping my sister clean one of her apartments, I decided to follow the 60/40 Principle. Following an Abundance world view, this principle provides for both ebb and flow of resources—savings, tithe, service, and personal needs. I no sooner had even made the plans to follow this principle than I was blessed with a vision for becoming a Producer. Advertising and work fell into place--blessed work and more advertising which was actually joyful (a true miracle, I HATE advertising) when it was in harmony with my heart.
So, I’ve started Patch Solutions sewing on patches for Scouts, other uniforms, etc. and I’ve been blessed with work. Not everyone has been happy during my time Producing, but it’s been a joy to work at home with my family. After finishing up one particular evening of work I felt overwhelmed in my heart the incredible joy of being a Producer. I felt joy as the shackles of Scarcity continued to drop away and I discovered more joy in remembering other times when I had also been a Producer in my marriage, childbearing, writing, and serving. I also realized that I could rejoice with other Producers and their success in a wide variety of arenas. I can take care of my own with confidence in the present and the future.
Surely, the balance will be an ongoing challenge, but for now I rejoice in
Being a Producer!

Oh, and if you get a chance, buy and read FreedomShift when it comes out. It's AMAZING, and I'm sure it will be available at either TJEd Online or The Center for Social Leadership.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

20 Years with Two Special Friends


TO ME!!!

As my graduating class begins preparations to reunite and celebrate 20 great years since graduation, I wanted to take a moment to honor two special friends.

Twenty years ago I was getting ready to leave home for the first time to attend college at BYU. Before I left I chose a matching pick and comb from the bathroom drawer full of miscellaneous hair combing utensils.

These two have moved with me through all of my adventures at BYU, to the dude ranch in Jackson Hole, on a mission to Argentina, and to the various homes, apartments, and vacations since being married and having children.

They have been true friends. Thank you for your service. I am sincerely grateful. May we enjoy many, many more years together.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Living with Jagged Edges

Last week I was feeling really cruddy and writing to my sister, Jane, made a huge difference. Well, I’m feeling cruddy again, so I’m taking the best action I know: writing again.

Many of you know that our family has been just hanging onto a jagged edge financially for a very long time—though I know others who have suffered longer. During this time, it’s been an ongoing battle to figure out what it means to endure faithfully, without whining. Sometimes that means screaming and letting out all the pent up frustration and anxiety. And it also means you have to stop screaming and move on. . . . But at least for the Pioneers there was a clear goal (right?). Will someone, please, tell me what my goal is and where I am going with all of this crazy financial and emotional adventure? (BTW, that’s a rhetorical question.)

. . . . Um, I think this is where I’m supposed to talk about how much I’m learning and triumphing over the challenges God has given me by seeking for His peace in my life. Well, I won’t. Tonight I’m just tired. I haven’t really conquered anything except that I survived. I did at least think about having more faith and charity in my heart. And that was a good thing. But today, for better or for worse, my focus was just hanging onto my jagged edge.

And for all of you out there just hanging on to your jagged edges, I’ll shed a tear or two (really, I did). Not in the way of recruiting others to my pity party, but so you know that you’re not alone if today, having faith meant just, as peacefully as possible, hanging on, jagged edge or not.

(So, am I feeling better now? . . . maybe . . . I’m too busy just hanging on to admit any such improvement. ;] )

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

. . . finally!

I had an epiphany today. The kids were singing Primary songs, and this song hit me in a new way today.

If the Savior Stood Beside Me

Words and music by Sally DeFord

1. If the Savior stood beside me,

would I do the things I do?
Would I think of His commandments,
and try harder to be true?
Would I follow His example?
Would I live more righteously
if I could see the Savior standing nigh,
watching over me?

2. If the Savior stood beside me,
would I say the things I say?
Would my words be true and kind
if He was never far away?
Would I try to share the gospel?
Would I speak more rev’rently
if I could see the Savior standing nigh,
watching over me?

3. He is always near me,
though I do not see Him there,
And because He loves me dearly,
I am in His watchful care.
So I’ll be the kind of person
that I know I’d like to be
if I could see the Savior standing nigh,
watching over me.

Until today, whenever I thought of this song, I always perceived the effect of 'the Savior standing beside me' as something akin to driving past a police officer and slowing down or behaving better as a kid when the Bishop was around. After everything we've been through, however, I've started . . . 'thinking of' isn't the right phrase . . . It's more like 'feeling' how much love the Savior has for us. He's not easy to satisfy. I know that to be true, because He knows the blessings of us being diligent in our duty. BUT He is easy to please, and His eternal love is with us in everything we do.

And He is there for us in every struggle. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4) I don't believe that to be figurative. I believe it's literal--a thought that's almost too overwhelming to comprehend. And we make the world a better place when we choose to act with faith that, even though we can't see or even necessarily feel him, He is right there for us.

So somehow that finally got through to me today. And now my prayer is that I'll stay on course, remember this epiphany, and keep that faith.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Online Adjunct Teaching Assistant Application Essay

Create a scenario and describe your response to a nontraditional student seeking your support.

The students have been asked to write a personal essay in response to a recently assigned book. Before final submission, the Student has submitted a rough draft for my review. The essay is largely in a journaling format with some book summary and a few bold statements of opinion in response to content within the book.

Student Essay:
I really enjoyed reading Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. It had some really great stuff in it about leadership and how the battle between good and evil plays out between individuals and within individuals. What a tough thing it would have been to experience the Shaod and to continue living but in the conditions that Elantris presented and separated from the world you knew before and those you love. But I’m not sure I would have faired any better in Sarene’s place who had to face a monarch destroying his country and the loss of any hope for a real marriage. Sanderson did a great job creating an amazing world in need of salvation and then using amazing characters to save it. If ever a book warranted a sequel, this one does.

Dear Student,
What amazing insights you have! Elantris is also recently one of my favorite reads. Writing is such a wonderful process of self discovery. It is very clear to me that you are well on your way to discovering your voice in response to Elantris. Here are a couple of thoughts that may help give you confidence and ability as you refine your response:
Look at what you have written and find the common thread to what you have written and what is in your heart about this book. Make this the heart of your essay. State it in the beginning and then use that thread to tie things up at the end. Is it leadership that you want to explore more? Or is it the internal battles you see happening? Tell us about your personal journey because of this book.
Show the reader with examples from the book what lead you to feel what you do. For example, tell us where you saw the leadership happening in the book and why it was great.
View yourself as an artist. Words are your medium, but they do not control the end result. Work and rework your essay until it communicates what your heart has to say. If your heart wants to speak about leadership, trust yourself enough to say it using the book to bring your thoughts to life.
I would love to share this journey with you. Please send me additional drafts if you feel a need for more feedback.
Verena Beckstrand

Through Christ the Lord

Even while we have been sensing that the Lord would soon part the Financial Red Sea before us, many of the avenues we had been pursuing in order to provide for our family have recently come to dead ends. During this time, Rob and I have continued to ponder, to pray, to listen, and to consider every option for providing for our family. Currently, Rob has passed the initial HR screening for a job with Pinal County in Florence (AZ, not Italy ;), which is about an hour commute from here. We are now waiting to find out if he'll get an interview there.

While waiting, I began considering the idea of ME looking for a job. NO FUN!!! Quite mind blowing and mind boggling to say the least. And heart wrenching too to think of leaving my children, particularly Merisa, in order to punch a time clock somewhere. Not to mention the whole scary process of 'selling myself' to potential employers by updating my resume and then hitting the pavement to find something, especially considering the present economy.

However, as I thought about looking for a job and then discussed it with various people, I gained some incredible insights. Immediately I gained a better appreciation for those mothers, of all walks of life, who face that choice with courage and willingly put their shoulders to the wheel, in all sorts of jobs, to provide the basic necessities for their families. I'm not entirely sure how God wants me to assist in the family finances, but for now I'm gratefully not sensing that I will need to leave the home for work. With that in mind I also considered how I might serve my community in the future, and I began to look for opportunities that would assist me in using my Gifts in order to serve others.

So, while searching for a job on the Craig's list, I found a great job opportunity as an Online Adjunct Teaching Assistant. (Which basically means assisting in online classes, specifically with writing.) It seems like such a great opportunity that, frankly, I'm wondering if it's even for real. I took a few days to write the required essay and then applied. I've posted the essay that I wrote on this blog. Mostly, I just thought of some of the papers that some of the ladies wrote in HAPE Group (I won't tell who!! ;), recreated their style, and then I commented on it. Weird, but fun. The resume I resurrected from a job that I had applied for in Colorado. It was amazing how well it suited this position. There was very little to update, for which I was very grateful. (How ELSE would I have remembered all the dates and info from the various jobs I had had before motherhood???)

We also had a great visit with our Bishop this last Sunday. I think I had somehow got it into my mind that help from the Church would expire like unemployment, or that because we have needed help for so long that somehow we weren't worthy of more help. Anticipating the appointment surely gave me insight into those that suffer with burdens of sin. I love how God uses His servants to show us how much He cares for us even when our best efforts fail to produce the results we seek. And I went to bed with my burdens lifted. They weren't gone, but they were undoubtedly lifted.

So we've had a lot of stress waiting to hear from Florence on the Pinal County job. Can I just ship Rob away for a few weeks so I don't have to wonder at every phone call or email he gets?????? Today I felt impressed to read Mosiah 16:15: "Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen." As I read it I had the distinct impression that Financial redemption also comes through the Savior. Wow, so comforting . . . I pay that this additional understanding will ease the financial panic attacks I get so regularly in the middle of the night. And hopefully it will bring me more awake peace in this time of waiting. Truth is freedom, but sometimes it just doesn't come until after the trial of our Faith.

We also got a call from our Relief Society President this week. Someone was giving away a queen size bed. Not new, but it's a pillow top and doesn't have the hump in the middle like our cheap mattress did. And we're enjoying it. Another blessing that should also help the night attacks. No, the assistance from others hasn't expired. =] And as much as we can, we are striving to be on the other end of the giving to help others feel salvation through Christ the Lord.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Opening the LOG JAM

Over the past year and a half or so, my life has been a fairly scary white water trip, sometimes even to the point of paralyzing me mentally and emotionally. As a woman of Faith, I have diligently sought the Faith and Love of God to dispel the fear. Sometimes, however, life has felt simply overwhelming and last night I was particularly paralyzed.

At the suggestion of a dear friend I had begun reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen . His techniques help people in the task of “unsticking their work flow”20. I certainly felt stuck. The heavy burden of life’s many tasks on top of my already overly stretched mental and emotional health left me paralyzed in my abilities to tackle any of them. I felt like a wild river overflowing its bank with a huge log jam. However, working on faith in Allen’s principles of productivity, I put up a wall of inactivity, a mental dam. The logs needed straightening so they could continue to flow. Putting up a wall would prevent the dangerous explosion down stream as the log jam began to straighten out.

Log Jam

Piece by piece I straightened out the jam. I addressed each project and other mental pieces that blocked my mental & emotional flow and my productivity. I assigned each item a »”next physical action” and a category on my Palm Pilot14. I also assessed my long term, short term goals and “my intended successful outcome” for each action14. Then I slowly raised the wall for the logs to flow smoothly downstream.

My river of life is still an incredibly crazy and stressful one. However, when I regularly review each »next physical action, my goals, and my intended outcomes, then I can keep my faith flowing rather than feeling paralyzed in fear, and love in my heart rather than dangerously exploding emotion.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Protecting Our Future

Today I saw a sign on a bumper (it wasn’t a sticker) that read:
“I’m a Mexican, pull me over”.
And, frankly, I got mad. I’m still mad. Really mad. Mad that people would see laws and the basic systems we have in place from our founding to protect Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as a reason . . . well, darn it, as a reason to have a tantrum because someone might take something away that they thought they could just have without asking.

Currently the great State of Arizona has been under fire for passing a law giving local police the power to enforce existing federal laws that have not been enforced by the agencies empowered to do so. Many are claiming that this puts certain portions of the population in danger of being mal treated by Arizona law enforcement.

My understanding of what John Adams called the Divine art of politics is limited. And I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers or even understand all the facts involved. What I do know is that NO race or group of the population is safe from the effects of ANYONE choosing to break the law. Furthermore, from where I sit, the debate concerning the new Arizona law isn’t about any particular race or nationality, it’s about protecting citizenship. Consequently, my response to the sign today is:
“I’m a legal citizen, steal my identity. Better yet, steal my daughter’s.”
Oh yeah, that’s already happened. Thanks. We’ll be busy running errands to the police and the social security offices to protect the future while others are busy protesting those state and nation’s laws doing their best to protect the future of ALL of its citizens.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I got this in an email that has surely gone viral by now, but it's been on my mind a lot lately.

The Two Wolves and A Wise Old Indian

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, 'My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all..

One is Evil.
It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego..

The other is Good.
It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute.... And then asked his grandfather: 'Which wolf wins?'

The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'

So I'm thinking that I have a WHOLE PACK of evil wolves that I've been feeding. Oh, sure, I have a decent amount of Good wolves that I feed too. But on a moment by moment basis, I give out a lot of food to the Evil ones.

Well, even the longest journey has to start somewhere . . . .

Time to start paying MUCH more attention to the Good Pack.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oh, the Places We Go

Last night’s Greatness event by Dan Ralphs FELT STRANGE.

I loved these thoughts from him: Mediocrity & laziness have the same symptoms. AND American Democracy is a believe in absoluteness of God along with a belief we can all have an opinion and we must battle through differences to find absolutes.

The meat of this presentation, however, I just didn’t feel like I could apply to myself. I felt dead. Four ways to begin: 1. living life on purpose 'I'm not happy with . . . (and being intentional) ' 2. "How you do anything is how you do everything." (1 improvement improves everything) 3. Come face to face with greatness.

Then he got me on the last one: 4. Get caught up in a higher purpose, excellence will follow. That one I did almost without thinking last night as I ignored some serious distractions and focused on Connecting with Others. With a capital C and O, I got caught up in a higher purpose. Now I feel excellence following as I keep my priorities in order and move forward with my goals.

Today I’ve been reviewing “The Path of All Success”[1] . Wow, it sure feels strange to recognize the recent Steps along this path in my life as I progress in my personal mission with Mentoring. Today has been a good review and time to evaluate. I also see many of the same steps taken by my husband in his career mission. I’ve ached for him and myself as we have faced "Roadblocks", "vital choices" and an onslaught of "anxiety, fear, doubt, hesitancy, and concern". I have seen us both overcome at times with so many of these challenges.

So today, as I enjoy a relaxing Easter and General Conference weekend, I wanted to journal a few thoughts to help both my dear husband, Rob, and myself. I wanted to “focus on how exciting it is to be on The Path of All Success”. Somehow we will rise through the ashes as we seek to follow Him who rose on the third day, and we will overcome our challenges as we get caught up in a higher purpose.

The seeds are there, planted with personal intention, inspiration, and Divine intervention.
We’ve chosen our path and we will succeed!
“So . . .” in the words of the great philosopher Dr Seuss[2],
“be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So . . . get on your way!

[1] Handout. Face to Face with Greatness Seminar 2: The Power of Mentoring the Classics, Mesa, AZ. February 24-25, 2006.
[2] Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


In the past few months I've been praying to understand what Charity LOOKED like. I knew that quite often I felt no feelings of love towards those I cared so much about, so what could I do to have charity?? I didn't even realize it, but I wanted to understand what the essential choice was in this virtue I so desired. God did.

While reading C S Lewis' Mere Christianity yesterday I had a major break through.

Starting with "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," Lewis says, "our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good." Right. That made sense.

Following that line of reasoning, Lewis explains that "it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings." We must start by wishing them good, then "treat everyone kindly" so that one "finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on."

So I have found that "Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is [after all really] an affair of the will." And God "will give us the feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not."

Having Charity, then, is not about feelings.

It's about choosing
to wish the best and serve others the best I can.

The feelings of love then
are a gift from God for choosing Charity.

Thank you, Father, for helping me understand.
Knowledge really is freedom and in this case
the freedom to love!!!

I had thought this would be a good post on Facebook. Obviously, I needed more room. ;)

Monday, February 8, 2010

TOYB Journal

Trying to get back to blogging:
Dec 31 TOYB (The One Year Bible) Journal

OK, so I discovered this people who lived a long time ago and God loved them and He brought them out of bondage. And he helped them form into a great nation. They messed up a lot, but He kept sending prophets and He helped them build a temple and a great city. They got ran over by neighboring nations, but God kept helping. He kept talking to them and helping them find happiness. He warned them of dangers and guided them through tough times.

In the 2nd chapter He came to earth as a baby and lived for them. Then He died for them. He died for us too. He talks to us too and wants to help us be happy. He can warn us of dangers and guide us through tough times. God loves all of His children. He speaks to them according to their understanding. And when He speaks, His children share what He says with others. They write it down as their testimony of how wonderful God is, how He loves all of His children and wants to keep them from danger and to teach them how to be happy.

August 10, 2009

I don’t know everything about how God talks to His children. But after immersing myself this year in reading the Bible from cover to cover, letting the book stand on its own as a distinct entity, I think I know more. I know more about how God spoke to the people in the Old and New Testament and about how He speaks to those who rely on these testaments as their primary connection with God. I know more about the foundation of my own Faith. I know more about my God and the Son He sent to save us.

I’m very excited to continue my study of the Bible.
Next I’ll be reading: And: