Sunday, March 22, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about endurance lately, for a number of reasons.

Reason #1: We are about in the middle of Lent. While my own faith does not have any formal observations of this period before Easter, and does not give any particular significance to the season, through the influence of my Orthodox friends I have studied and pondered and practiced my own version of Lent fasts for each of the past four years. When I started out at the beginning of this Lent season I had three different things I was giving up and three other things that I was going to do differently to give myself a framework for focused spiritual growth.

I did pretty well the first couple weeks. But one by one my commitment to each of those things got increasingly shaky. Some I fell from and then got right back to doing again, others I just plain gave up on. So I've been thinking about that some.

Reason #2: The marriage of someone I know and care about recently broke up and another friend of mine is seriously considering leaving her husband. It has made me ponder the whole notion of "deal breakers". EVERY marriage has its problems. Some are worth working through. Some are not. But as I have grieved with these people over the lost dreams of their marriages in ruins it has made me wonder about when it makes sense to endure dark, difficult days and when it is better to walk away.

Whether it be a painful marriage, a stressful job, or a commitment to a group we no longer believe in or support...when is it best to stick by the promises we have made and when is it ethical and sound to change paths despite what we said we would do?

Reason #3: I was reading the book Lone Survivor for my virtual book club, Page Nibblers. My posting there describes why I gave up less than a third of the way through in reading that book that is very much about endurance.

One of the things I said over there was: "I believe some pain is there to make us stronger, and enduring that pain is ultimately for our own good. There are other kinds of pain that are there as a message to change course quick for our safety and best interest, screaming out "hey, dummy, take your hand off that hot stove!"

The trick is in sorting out which is which."

I would add to that there is also some pain that is neither instructive nor warning - it just IS. But if we can short cut that nuisance sort of pain, I certainly do not see it as character weakness. Doing things the hard way just for the sake of saying you had the chops to endure it makes no sense to me.

In reading the scriptures, there are frequent references to "enduring to the end". Flash in the pan righteousness seems to be of no interest to God. He wants people who can go the distance in being good. He wants me to learn to Endure. When I did an online word search for the word "endure" in the scriptures it showed up 53 times.

So I'm thinking a lot about the things that I am willing to endure and the things that I balk at. I'm thinking about what sort of things I tend to avoid and what things I just plain give up on.

When is it smart to walk away something negative and when should I stand my ground?
What is accomplished by enduring that which can be avoided? What limits and boundaries just plain make sense?

I gave birth both times by "natural" childbirth, choosing to forgo any pain medication that was offered. I believed it was better for me and for the baby to permit my body to experience the pain of bringing new life into the world.

Years ago I completed the Avon 3 day walk for breast cancer, walking approximately 60 miles from Enumclaw to Seattle, despite the fact that I fell and twisted my ankle the first morning out. Some said I was being foolish, that the smart thing to do would have been to get onto the rescue van in light of my injury. But I was determine to finish the event, and I did.

I finished grad school despite piles of bureacratic nonsense and hoops to jump through, but quit law school after just half a term. I am absolutely committed to my current marriage, but left my first one after seven years.

I don't like to think of myself as a quitter...but I have clearly quit on my share of paths that I had intended to pursue. Some of those made sense, in light of new information or shifted circumstances that changed my power or willingness to follow through. Some were just because the thing I set out to do got too painful or too hard.

When is endurance tenacity to be admired and when it is just plain bull headedness that goes against all common sense? What kind of criteria makes sense for determining when to hold on and when to let go?

I have no answers...but I'll keep pondering the question.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pancake Picnic

Today has been a good day. We started out the morning with a bike ride through the wheat fields, with trusty Morgan dog running along beside us. Then we came back to the house and had a "pancake picnic." My beloved cooked the pancakes and I set up our folding picnic table out in the yard. We had our breakfast out in the open air soaking up the Spring sunshine. It was great! It occurred to me as we did this what a blessing it is to be able to appreciate simple pleasures. Granted, I'd love to have another exotic vacation to one of the many places I've longed to see ... Italy, China, or even just the Oregon coast. But right now that isn't feasible for us. Yet rather than bemoan being land-locked by our jobs and other obligations, we are finding ways to have sweet times doing vacation-like activities right where we are.

It is so easy to get caught in the treadmill of the daily grind...go to work, come home, cook supper, sleep then turn around and do it all over again. I'm trying to make a point of finding ways to break up that routine - looking for little ways to create joy and appreciate beauty interspersed with our basic duties and busy schedule.

In preparation for our Stake Conference that is this weekend at our church our leaders have asked us to study two talks: "Come What May and Love It", by Joseph Wirthlin and "Hope Ya Know, We Had A Hard Time" by Quentin L. Cook. Both of these talks are great, but I must admit, initially I wasn't thrilled because on the surface it seemed both were about adversity and coping with hard times. I didn't want to think about any more gloom and doom.

YES, we are in a horrible recession. YES the natural world is being assaulted in multiple ways and our resources are in jeopardy. YES there is much pain and anguish in this world. YES, marriages are failing, corporations are failing, for many people physical health is failing. I get that. And I do acknowledge that I need to develop tools for resiliency and for withstanding those sorts of storms.

But for today, I just want to smile and think about eating pancakes in the yard and enjoy planting my flowers and be happy. I'll think about all that serious stuff another time.

However, when I finally did go back and read those articles again, it dawned on me that they are not about how to just endure misery. They really are about finding JOY despite difficulty. Especially Elder Wirthlin's talk. His council to LAUGH in the face reversals does not ask for Pollyanna denial. Instead, he is reminding us all that we can CHOOSE to keep our sense of humor even when it seems we've lost nearly everything else.

We have challenges. There is no denying that. But we also can have pancake picnics, appreciate flowers and revel in simple things. So heck with our shrinking 401K accounts and a pox on our legal issues or periodic health hiccups. At the very same time those things are nagging at our lives, we still have much to be very grateful for. I choose every day which one I will focus on. I really can look all our problems straight in the eye and continue to find joy. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bloom Where You Are Planted

For the past two or three months I've been applying for jobs like crazy with the goal to relocate closer to family. It's not that I don't like my current job. Actually, in a lot of ways it's a pretty good fit, even though it can be frustrating at times. (As all jobs are.) However, ever since we sold our house in January I've been anxious to get settled into a new place where I could put down roots and call it HOME.

Initially we were determined to return to my native state of Arizona. My beloved has three grown sons who live there (Mesa, Casa Grande and Maricopa) and I have a whole collection of friends and extended family who I would love to be able to see more regularly.

I applied for at least a dozen jobs, several which sounded PERFECT for my skill sets. None of them ever expressed even a nibble of interest.

So, finally, reluctantly, I gave up on the dream of AZ, accepting the fact that in our current economy it just isn't likely that I'm going to snag a job down there when there are literally THOUSANDS of people looking for work.

Next I set my sights on Idaho. Both my husband and I have siblings there. I also have a cousin and he has a niece and a nephew. We like the Boise area, and felt like that would be a good spot for us to end up. Again I threw my name out there for a few different job. Again nothing.

Then yesterday I got yet another "We don't pick you" letter for a job in Tri-Cities that I was SURE I would at least get an interview for. (That one did not have family, but was for a full time teaching job I had thought I had a shot at.)

So I'm letting of some dreams, accepting these are things I just don't get, at least not now. My days of working for a college may indeed be over. My chance to live close to my kin seems to have slipped through my grasp.

My emotions have tumbled all over the place about that.

On the positive side, my husband has a good job here with great benefits that we would not be able to replace if we moved. One of the perks of that job is the opportunity to live out here on the farm where we moved this past July. The down side of renting this old farmhouse is that it's not ours, so we can't do some of the things we would like. But the upside is that we get to live in a place so full of peace and beauty it really does make up for a lot. I do worry about where we will go once he retires, when we will no longer be able to stay here. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I really, REALLY like the congregation we are currently attending. We have developed friendships we care about. With the exception of this past winter which was just plain awful, we generally like the climate here.

There is much to be grateful for in our current circumstances. Still, this is NOT where either one of us ever wanted to land long term. This was supposed to be our transitional place for a short time while we made other plans. Now it's seeming more like that "temporary" transition is shifting to be something way different.

I come and go with being ok with that. I am truly grateful for the blessings I do have here. Still... I had so hoped to be able to begin our next chapter, to find a place of our choosing to settle in strong so we could be well established as we approach our old age.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around accepting that THIS s where I live and probably will be for years to come. In the words of John Lennon, life is what happens to you while making other plans. I'm trying to be more focused on where I AM instead of where I wanted to be. I am determined to bloom where I'm planted, even if it's not the pot I would prefer.

I'm trying to shift from disappointment to acceptance. I'm trying to put more energy into recognizing the good that I do have here, and less focus on the sting of what I wished for but did not get. It will come. I will bloom where I am planted. I'm determined to. But getting there will not be without some bumps.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daylight Savings Time

An oldie but a goodie that seems worth pulling out at this time of year.

My 2006 Post on Daylight Savings Time.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Artistic Integrity

My pal Jaquandor brought up an interesting point over on Byzantium Shores. Apparently there is a new Star Trek movie coming out. However, THIS movie takes some pretty big liberties with the back story of primary characters from the legendary cult classic. In Kelly's words, "Kirk is apparently the delinquent doofus who gets pushed into enlisting by someone else."

So, just to play devil's advocate, I challenged him on whether this was unrealistic or not. Which started us both thinking a bit more on the issues at stake.

What I'm trying to figure out now is whether or not I agree that there is any sort of ethical or artistic obligation to keep true to established characters in a work of fiction, or whether it might be acceptable to KEEP the same names and basic framework, yet re-invent the way the people interact or what their backstory is.

What do you think?

Monday, March 02, 2009

My Faith Firsts

Here's a different sort of meme...I got this one from Jaquandor who tagged me with it over on facebook.

Memes are usually fun little diversions for giving brief list type answers, not really something for serious reflection. But this one strikes me as something worth exploring a bit here goes.

1. Who gave you your first Bible?

My maternal grandmother gave me one for my eighth birthday. I don't remember Grandma ever being particularly religious. I never saw her pray or go to any church. But yep, she gave me my first scriptures that were my very own. I still have it.

I have always been a King James Version reader, and in recent years exclusively have read the LDS version that has full footnoting to our other "Standard Works", Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide. I've read bits and pieces in other versions, but the modern ones just don't connect with me like KJV.

2. When and where did you receive your first Communion?

I was raised LDS and we don't do that.

3. What was the first prayer you were taught?

While I certainly did learn about the Lord's Prayer, we don't do memorized rote prayers. Our prayers are more a spontaneous conversation with a loving Father in Heaven. When I was a kid I WAS taught a special formula to know what to pray about. I was told to use my hand as a reminder of how to pray:

1) Thumb is closest to you - so pray for your family and friends, the people close to your heart

2) Index finger is the pointer, pray for your teachers and church leaders who show you the way

3) Middle finger is the tallest - pray for world leaders that they will make good decisions and lead us righteously

4) Ring finger is the weakest - pray for those that are weak, anyone sick, poor, lost - all the sad people who are crying and need God's love

5) Pinkie finger is smallest - but your hand would not be whole without it. Even when you feel small and unimportant, know that in God's eyes you are very special and that Christ's atonement and sacrifice were not just for the world - it was also for you is a specific, personal way. Pray for yourself, for what you need, for what you are thankful for, for whatever concerns you may have.

I honestly don't remember who taught me that little piece, but I remember the lesson and used it for years.

4. What was the first church you attended?

My parents converted to the LDS faith the year before I was born, so that is the church they took me to as a baby and young child. By the time I was old enough to form solid memories my dad had dropped away from church activity and never again went to any organized religion. My mom continued to go as much as she could manage with her five wild kids in tow.

In the summers all of us kids went to Vacation Bible School at the nearby Four Square Gospel church - I think just to give our poor mom a break. It was close by and it was free, it involved bible verses and songs about Jesus so she figured it was a suitable place to ship off her brood so she could get some peace and quiet for a bit.

When I was in my teens I got rebellious and quite going to church with my mom. Later I did a bit of church shopping, alternately attending various faiths with my friends. I was intrigued, but none of them really fit for me. I took comparative world religion class in college and that led me to doing quite a bit of reading about eastern religions. Still, from about 18-25 I was a hard core agnostic.

I came back to the LDS faith when I met my sweet husband who came from a family of Utah Mormons with ancestors who had walked across the plains. I had no desire to get involved at first - just started out doing some reading to learn about it so I would better understand him. I considered the LDS faith my mother's church but really didn't think it had anything to do with me. In no way did it feel like renewing something that had once been my own. I had a little bit of background, but no true understanding of it. Initially I approached it with rather jaded, cynical eyes.

Somewhere along the way, however, I had some key experiences, some answers to prayers, some witness of the Holy Spirit that shifted my views. I developed a testimony of the LDS faith that continued to grow over the years and I have been active now for nearly 28 years.

I still occasionally will go to other churches. I plan to attend Pascha services with my Orthodox friends again this year. I have attended other services with different friends. But I am very, very seriously committed to my own faith.

5. What was the first Bible passage/story that became meaningful to you? There was a lady who lived next door to us who used to help me memorize scriptures for Primary. I still remember her helping me learn several different scriptures that were assigned, so some of them dance in my head. But the fondness I have for those passages is based more on my memory of that time with her than it is focusing on the scriptures themselves. As an adult, a scripture that has been powerful for me is from the Book of Mormon Mosiah 27:29 - My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."

I guess I can relate to that one because like Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah, I went through a dark season when I was making choices that cut my life of from light of Christ. Then some stuff happened and my life completely shifted for the better. I was not struck down by an angel, but I did have some very powerful experiences that entirely changed my perspective on faith and life in general. I became converted in the true meaning of the word, in that I experienced a mighty change of heart. I am ever so grateful for knowing what I now know.

6. What was the first miracle you experienced?

This is very personal, very sacred to me and not something I readily share in public.

7. Where and when were you baptized?

I was baptized in Flagstaff, AZ at the age of eight, which is considered the age of accountability in my faith.

I could never understand why other faiths would baptize little babies. I was always taught that baptism was an outward symbol for washing away our sins, and I don't believe babies are capable of sin. They can't repent or develop faith at that early age, so baptising infants has always felt just weird to me. More recently I've come to understand it better - how for some faiths baptism of infants is more a matter of the parents making a commitment to raise the child in the faith, it's sort of like dedicating the child to God. But for those that believe the child will not be accepted back into the full presence of God if they should happen to die without baptism just feels wrong to me.

One of the things I'm wrestling with in my own faith right now is the challenge of understanding my obligation to share what I believe with others. I am quite open to answering questions regarding my faith if asked or to share my experiences with anyone who indicates they are interested. However, I am not one to try to open doors to conversation about my religious beliefs with others unless they clearly show it would be welcome.

In principle I believe in Missionary Work, but in practice I lean heavily on the 11th Article of Faith which says: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

I do believe the truth I have been taught is precious and that it is important that I share that truth with others. Yet I also respect that other folks believe other things and I am very sensitive to not being too intrusive. However, lately I'm wrestling with trying to sort how much of that is really sensitivity or respect for others beliefs, and how much of it is just plain fear because I don't want people to think I'm weird or pushy.

Sometimes it feels arrogant to me for me to presume that what I believe is more correct and therefore superior to what someone else might believe. I tend to take the policy of saying "this is the spiritual path that fits for me and I find it very meaningful. But if you have a different spiritual path, or even no spiritual path at all, I can respect your choice." I've internalized a huge dose of cultural relativity over the years, accept that different people have different ways of living, believing, thinking and presuming that's just fine.

But if I honestly believe what I say I believe...well, then baptism by those who are in authority IS essential for EVERYONE. If I don't share that knowledge with others unless they ask about it first, what does that say about me?

Our ward has an "Invitation Sunday" coming up that all of are being challenged to invite someone we know to church. We've been counselled to make a list of all our friends and associates and prayerfully consider who on that list we can invite. I have been prayerfully considering this, but am struggling with it more than I care to admit. I think in some ways it would be easier to knock on doors and talk to strangers about the gospel than it is to try to share with my non-member friends.

Part of what holds me back is fear. I don't want them to reject me. I also resist because I pre-judge, saying to myself "Oh, he wouldn't be interested" or "she has her own beliefs and is not open to changing them" without ever trying to broach the subject in even the most general of terms. So maybe a first I could add to this list would be

Who was the first person you introduced to your church?

We've had missionaries in our home teaching people before, but that's always been someone who was already an established investigator. It would be something very different to be able to introduce someone I know to my faith. We'll see how that goes...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Old Clothes

Question - What is the longest you have had any article of clothing that you currently wear?

As I was getting dressed for church this morning it occured to me that the dress I put on is one I wore to my younger son's wedding...considering his daughter is 14 yrs old, it's been hanging in my closet (and been worn a few times every year) for quite some time. It's comfortable and looks nice without being too fancy. I take good care of it so it's not worn out. But at what point will I say enough is enough and retire it?

I guess I've never understood why some people feel they need to get a whole new wardrobe every year or two. I pick up new things now and again, more often buying new-to-me things at vintage or consignment shops. But having the latest fashion trend just never did impress me much. Still...I'm thinking 15 yrs is long enough for one garment. I definitely think I got my money's worth on this one.

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