Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Faith to Be Bold

I've been thinking a lot about Abinadi lately.  He was assigned a very difficult mission.  The Lord commanded him to preach repentance to the people of King Noah--no small task, as it was a culture awash in hedonistic indulgence and not real inclined to change.  The first time he tried to teach the people, he warned them that if they didn't repent they'd be brought into bondage, and they essentially ran him out of town.  Two years later, he was commanded to return and try again, this time warning the people that they were going to be brought under bondage, but if they didn't repent now, they would also be destroyed.  They angrily bound him and brought him before the king, claiming that he was speaking evil of the people and the king, who according to them had done no wrong (this may be the most accurate, succinct example of the general reaction of the unrepentant guilty, "How dare you judge me!" followed by dissembling and justification).

Not only did Abinadi not back down from his prophecies, but he bore a bold, powerful testimony of the Savior and the Atonement (the claim that the call to repentance is an act of love falls on deaf ears amongst the hard-hearted;  Abinadi could have quoted the Savior's declaration that "I come into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world" and it wouldn't have been truly heard), quoting the prophet Isaiah at length.  He chastised the priests for teaching the law of Moses but living a life of debauchery. He was told by the king that he was going to be put to death for the things that he said.  He continued to testify of the Atonement and the need for a change in the peoples' lives.  He was told that if he recanted, his life would be spared.  He refused and was burned to death, testifying boldly until literally his last breath, shouting over the initial flames.

There is much to take from Abinadi's story, but the thing that has struck me over and over is how easy it would be, from Abinadi's perspective, to feel like he had failed.  He accepted a difficult assignment from the Lord, that made him a loner and an outcast.  He had to speak uncomfortable truths that people didn't want to hear.  He lived with much discomfort for an intensely arduous mission that ultimately claimed his life.  All this, and in Abinadi's life on the earth, he never (as far as we know) witnessed any positive effects or consequences of his teaching and prophesying and laboring.  At the time of his martyrdom, it looked like all he had accomplished was to die nobly for a lost cause.

But we know the rest of the story.  We know that Alma, one of the priests of Noah, heard the words of Abinadi and was touched by the Spirit.  He made drastic changes in his soul, sacrificing a life of comfort and privilege in order to hide himself away in the wilderness to repent and record the things that Abinadi had taught.  He became a remarkable missionary, teaching these truths to anyone willing to listen.  Hundreds of people came to Christ through Alma, who became an outstanding prophet in his own right, guiding a people who were humbly focused on Christ, who lived with "their hearts knit together in unity" through the love of their Redeemer.  Alma raised a son who became one the most effective missionaries ever, bringing hundreds more to the Savior, with his own conversion serving as a living witness of the ability of the Savior and the Holy Spirit to work mighty changes in men.

On this side of the veil, Abinadi never got to see any of that.  But he could boldly fulfill his mission, no matter the sacrifice, because he trusted that the Lord has wise purposes and that no labor in his name is ever in vain.  Surely Abinadi was greeted on the other side by the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

We are often guilty of wanting instant spiritual gratification:  Ok, Lord, I've been good and done what you asked me to do, so now where's my insta-miracle?  The fact is that many of our labors require lifelong work, and we may only see small progress, little changes, if we can see them at all.  But I believe with all my heart that the work we do is not in vain, that the testimonies that we bear do not always fall on deaf ears, that the service that we render is never wholly ineffective.  If we live faithfully enough to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, others might be able to feel that influence through us, might feel that confirming confidence as we bear testimonies through both word and action.

I think about these kind of things more around Memorial Day, I guess.  My grandma, who has been gone for many years now, was always very diligent about cleaning and decorating the graves not just of her husbands, but also of her parents and her husband's parents.  I never knew my great-grandparents.  In fact, my mother never knew her paternal grandfather, and her paternal grandmother died when she was only 5 or 6.  It would seem that people I never knew, that my mother never really knew, wouldn't have much effect on me and my life.  I certainly wouldn't have been a glint in their eyes, having been born three or four decades after they died, but I realize that my life is what it is, that I am the person that I am, partly because of who they were and the decisions that they made.  The raised their children with the Gospel, spent their golden years serving their children and grandchildren and traveling to various temples doing work for those who had passed on before them.  They certainly could never know the effect that their example has had on my life, but decades later the testimonies that they lived have been a tremendous influence on my life.

So when the difficulty of of remaining faithful and fulfilling your moral obligations seems too great, remember that what you do matters, that you have greater influence than you probably know, and that your hard work will be rewarded, both for you and for those you serve.  It matters.

Years ago, I wrote down this quote, the source for which I've lost track of, but I absolutely love it, because it captures so well the faith and forward-looking nature of Gospel work: "Even if your efforts of attention seem for years to producing no results, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood your soul."

Be bold, be faithful, and trust the Lord with the consequences.

Just have to say

I find it both bizarre and unfortunate that in our society any unmarried person of prominence confessing that they are, by conscious choice, a virgin is big news.

And controversial news.

On one hand, I'm grateful that those who have made that kind of moral choice are willing to say so, because I think it does help young people who are trying to walk that path to know that they aren't actually alone in a world that often seems hyper-sexualized.  But honestly, its all just a little strange.  We live in weird times.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feeling Grateful

Despite my long night the other night, its been a good week.  Doug's been very fortunate at work.  One of the reasons that we took the job in Anaconda, was that the opportunity for advancement was better.  On Tuesday night at the County Commissioners meeting, Doug was officially made the interim Planning Director.  The previous Planning Director is currently the interim CEO and is running in the fall election to serve in that position permanently.  It is likely that after the election Doug's position will become permanent as well.  There are more responsibilities, more accountability involved, but there is also a substantial raise involved, so hopefully it will be worth it.  We still won't be flush with cash by any means, but it does give us a bit of breathing room.  It will challenge him, but I have every confidence that he will rise to the occasion.

I got a physical this week and then took a pack test today for wildland firefighting.  I was convinced I was going to fail the pack test (walk 3 miles--jogging or running is not allowed--in 45 minutes while wearing a 45 pound pack, which is actually a weighted vest).  I'm not sure why I was convinced I was going to do so poorly.  I've been jogging every day for a few weeks;  granted, not very far and not very fast, but I have been consistent.  I was sure my legs would give out on me (I find rapid walking to be way more exhausting for my legs than jogging, especially with an extra 45 pounds to lug).  Turns out the trouble was all in my head:  I finished in 42 minutes, and the second half my legs didn't hurt at all (or, if they did, I had ceased to notice).  I've been trying to adjust so many of my habits lately, and it is starting to pay off little by little.  After 4 kids, I can't get back into shape as quickly as I did at 16 or 18, but I am feeling stronger again, and a little faster each week.  The only thing missing is decent sleep.  Still can't figure that out, what's causing the restless sleep, but I'm working on it.

Anyway, with that out of the way, I can do rookie training now, which I'll get paid for.  I could use a 40-hour week paycheck.  And with any luck I'll get one decent fire that will earn me a big chunk of change.  A 2-week roll would pay off our last non-student loan debt, or buy a new computer and some furniture. Even an 8-day roll would make a huge dent in my financial to-do list.

After two years of ridiculous stress, so many unknowns floating around us, so many emotional ups and downs, and feeling like no matter what we did we just kept digging a deeper and deeper hole, it feels like there is really, truly light at the end of the tunnel.

The list of things we need/want is still pretty long, but it finally feels like, even if it takes a while, it might actually be doable.  For the first time in our marriage, I think, those fun things we'd like to have/do seem like realistic goals instead of pipe dreams.  Heres hoping the inklings we've been getting about the future are correct.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I've had better days. . .

. . .and worse ones.
I didn't get done everything I meant to.
That means I'm waking up to a semi-messy house,
just the thought of that makes me grumpy.
I wasn't my best self today,
probably mostly because I'm not sleeping well,
probably because halfway through the night,
I have several children in my bed.
Or maybe because I feel like 
I'm never getting done all I mean to do.
I'm running, but still behind.
Feel like I'm trying so hard,
and yet never much closer 
to that person that I want to be.

I don't care for self-pity,
I'm not a big fan of needy, 
and I try to avoid them both.

But there are those moments
when an attempt at prayer 
just turns into incomprehensible crying
and I can't decide if that's very sincere
or just miserably pathetic.

It seems like it'd just be best
to declare, "I suck at everything"
and slip into the deep slumber
of the not-trying-anymore types,
comforted in my self-loathing 
by my own self-pity
(Because, really, who tries this hard,
very consciously, every day,
and makes this little progress?)
But alas, that's not the right course.
So I'll lay down,
try my best to sleep 
(though I'm not making any promises)
and start fresh tomorrow.

I think I need some positive reinforcement.
And a vacation.
And a nap.
Definitely a nap.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My little guy

Something that I really love about Dylan, and something that is very easy to miss because he is so self-contained, is that he is very loving, and accepting.  I noticed his self-contented nature almost immediately (especially in contrast to his older sister--my first baby--who wasn't so much affectionate as she just constantly wanted to be interacted with).  He roomed in with me in the hospital, and he liked to be held.  But in sharp contrast to what I was used to, he was generally perfectly content on his own in the bassinet most of the time.  He's remained that way, generally content where he is, with his own imagination to keep him company, but that doesn't translate into a lack of compassion, interest or concern for those around him.

He is a great big brother.  He has always been very patient with Kylie, and has been a tremendous playmate for her--he has always been very innately good at molding whatever he is playing to suit her interests and capabilities so that she could join in, and has always handled her bossiness and emotional nature with good-natured humor.

He adores Keira, and she him.  He was the first person who ever got her to laugh out loud, and is still the person who does so most often.  He will do just about anything to make her smile.  Of any "pair" of kids in the family, these two get on the best.  Dylan tickles her, wrestles with her, even reads to her, and he never expects her to act anything but her age--an innate gift, at an age where explaining developmental levels to kids is a challenge.  He just seems to get that people go at their own pace, and is adept at figuring out what that pace is for each person he interacts with and adapting to it.

Which leads me to this:
This is Dylan at tonight's baseball game, playing with a boy from his kindergarten class.  This little boy has epilepsy and some developmental delays, and Dylan loves him.  He talks about him almost every day, and loves when he gets an opportunity to play with him.  They had a ball chasing each other around in the grass.  When we first started spending time with the Ashcrafts, and the few occasions when Andrea hung out at our house, Dylan seemed drawn to Andrea.  He would follow her around, picking up her toys for her, and crawl up into her chair and watch her Baby Einstein videos with her, and talk to her. . .or not, just sit quietly with her. He would ask me questions about her.  Last year, he thrived in the the preschool class he was placed in, because of, not in spite of, all the special needs kids in his class.  He made a lot of friends, but spent most of his time playing with the special needs children.  One of them became his closest friend--Dylan played with him nearly every day, almost every opportunity.  When that little boy started the school year, he was barely verbal, but by the end of the school year, he was speaking in understandable, near-complete sentences, and both his teacher and his mom credited a lot of that to all the time that he spent with Dylan.

He's a lover.  Not overtly affectionate by nature, but attentive.  He is that rare combination of self-contained but not aloof, and I love him for it.

I've said often about our little man, and can't think of a more accurate thing to say, "He delights me".  Oh, he does.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Letting Go

Have you ever felt like you've lost someone, even though they're still sitting right there, looking at you and drawing breath?

Sometimes in life we create an idea of someone in our lives and its not who they really are.  Its who we think they are.  Or maybe who we know, deep inside our hearts, that they're not, but convince ourselves they can be, the person we want them to be.  Its usually with someone important to us.  We convince ourselves they are or can be something or someone that they simply aren't, as a survival mechanism usually, so that we can excuse/ignore/accept that they aren't giving us the things that we need.  So we can pretend that if we just hold on a little longer, they'll figure it out and be the (insert relationship here--  friend/sister/brother/lover/parent) we wish they were.  

But something funny happens.  Heavenly Father gives us the tools to find elsewhere whatever they aren't giving us, even if they're the ones we should be getting those things (affection, dependability, validation, honesty, support, love, etc) from.  He provides His own love and also very frequently puts other people in our lives to make up for the deficiencies.  And we learn to stand on our own a bit more.  And we learn to trust and rely upon the right people, little by little.  Finally, one day, we realize that we can get by just fine, even happily and contentedly, without whatever we thought we should be getting from that person.  And then the person we thought they were dies: that idea dies, and we finally see them just as they are, because we don't need to pretend anymore.  We still hope.  We may still try to reach out.  But we make our peace with the fact that they may never get it.  They may never be the person we want them to be, or think they ought to be.  Perhaps they aren't even capable of being that person.  And that's OK, because you're not relying on them anymore, and you know there are other people in your life who can provide you with the things they can't.

And yet, just like when we in reality lose a loved one, the longing doesn't ever entirely go away.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Even As I Am

Something I have worked on very consciously for pretty much as long as I can remember is trying to overcome my natural inclination to be shy as well as inward, and combatting many of the feelings and behaviors that accompany that.  I've come a long way.  That said, my first inclination as soon as I see someone approaching me is to hope that they haven't noticed that I've noticed them and turn away and pretend that I didn't see them (and I don't dislike people at all--most people, anyway--its just my first, instinctual reaction), because if I have to talk to anyone I don't know very, very well I still feel hopelessly awkward and very inarticulate.  If I'm sitting at a computer or with a notebook and pen, I feel like I can express myself quite well, particularly if I have plenty of time.  But when I have to express myself verbally, when I have to interact face to face with another human being, all too often I feel tense and awkward and self-conscious, robbing me of some of my better manners and making my mind go blank.  For the life of me, I just can't make small talk sometimes.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I took a summer job that required going door to door talking to people for four hours a day.  I gave people lots of reasons for why I did the job, each reason having some degree of reality to it, but the truth was that the primary, driving motivation behind it was this: I knew that in about a year I'd be off to college, and that none of the colleges I was applying to were less than 2,000 miles from my home and every soul I knew; and with that in mind, the fact that I was still afraid of talking to strangers, that new social situations (or virtually any social situation that wasn't my immediate family or the same people I'd gone to school with for 12 years) made me anxious, short of breath and nauseous, made this job seem like as good a place to start as any.  After all, they gave me a script to start the conversation with.

Those first few weeks of college were as difficult as I imagined they would be, but in the long run, I made wonderful friends, and even met the boy who became my husband.  Part of the reason for that was that I was at BYU-H, a place that was tremendously welcoming (who doesn't feel welcome among Polynesians, really?), and where I was constantly reminded of the power and necessity of prayer.  And in prayer, it didn't matter if I was eloquent or even terribly articulate, because I was speaking with someone who knew my heart, and can understand those things which I often had a horrible time trying to say.  Recently, a post by a very dear friend of mine indirectly reminded me of one of the things I love most about prayer.

This is Andrea.  She is the daughter of a very close friend of mine, and she has very profound autism.  Not only does she not speak, but she has very little of anything that could reasonably be called communication.  I immediately teared up when I saw this photo with the accompanying verse, because of the love I feel for this child, certainly, and also because of a greater love it pointed me toward.

If the Lord can know and understand Andrea's heart even when she is incapable of communicating with the rest of us (and I am certain that he does indeed know what is in her heart), then I have no doubt that he can hear the words of my heart.  We have the right, at any time and in any place, to speak to the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of All Things, Almighty and Omnipotent, and yet have no need for any self-consciousness, as flawed and tiny as we are in comparison.  We can pour out our whole souls to Him and trust that He hears, understands perfectly, and loves completely.

This sweet photo reminded me that the Lord says, "What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I am," but knows better than anyone what a challenging ideal that is for incomplete and imperfect children to meet, and so in the mean time, he accepts and loves me even as I am, right now, at this moment.  Personal, reverent prayer helps me to feel that fatherly affection around me and remember that the Lord loves me in spite of my imperfections, and will help me, bit by bit and day by day, to overcome them.  He has already helped me come so far, and so I try to patiently believe that he will continue to make weak things strong, until I get to that point where I have become even as He is.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My adoption quirk

The other day on Facebook, I listed several things that I have somewhat quirky or unusual views on, one of them being adoption. That piqued curiousity, so I will do my best to explain and hopefully by the time I'm done this will make some kind of sense.

 Let me preface this explanation by saying that my first and entirely honest reaction to hearing that just about anyone has adopted or is trying to adopt, is "Awesome!" I know way too many kids who grew up without a real family, or bouncing from house to house or foster home to foster home, or (in the case of a couple of amazing people I knew in Hawaii) in an overcrowded orphanage and it thrills me whenever I hear that a kid is going to get a good home. Furthemore, I have several loved ones who have chosen very selflessly and wisely to trust someone else with the most precious thing they have by giving up a baby for adoption, and so I have some idea what it means to know that someone good and trustworthy and loving will be raising that child. So, my point it, what I am about to say applies to me, my husband, to our little family, so please, no one interpret it as judgment or criticism of any decisions you may have made or plan to make in the future.

 Unless specifically prompted to by the Spirit, we will likely never adopt. If I felt like that was what we were supposed to do, I would do so unhesistatingly and would have no trouble loving an adopted child just as readily and personally as I do my natural-born children. The hang up is that I have received the impression many times (usually while thinking about foster care, which I've considered many times--its something I grew up with and keeps me mindful of how many kids need a stable home) that even though there are many, many children on earth who need a loving home, there are even more on waiting on the other side of the veil who need a body AND a good home. I can provide them with both.

 I know so many women who are unable to have children, or have as many children as they would like, due to health or fertility problems, and I always enthusiastically cheer their victories along the path to finding those kids who need them. But I don't have those challenges--quite the opposite. I've been blessed with good genetics and good health: its easy for me to get pregnant, I'm physically healthy and mentally and emotionally sound (the effets of pregnancy on me in that respect are pretty insignificant), I have problem-free, low-risk labors and births, and sturdy babies that turn into healthy kids (the last few weeks super-bug infestation notwithstanding). Those are all wonderful gifts that I've felt impressed a loving Father wants me to make use of to serve his children who haven't received the blessing of a body yet. As large families become less "desirable" in the western world and more and more women have fewer and fewer kids, I feel that I have a moral obligation, as my husband and I decide how many kids we can reasonably provide for, to bear those children myself--to be willing to make the sacrifices that pregnancy and childbirth demand because I've been blessed with the capacity and the time--I was married at 19 and had my first baby just before I turned 20. I'm going to be 28 this summer. A lot of people don't have their first baby til after 25 or 30. And, as important as any factor, I have a wonderful marriage to a man who is a fantastic father. Every time I see him teaching Dylan all about what he's doing in the woodshop, or snuggling with Kyile Bear, laughing and teasing with Keilana, or pushing Keira in a swing, I love him a little more for how much he loves them. He dotes on his kids, plays with them, but he also sets standards and teaches them. Ultimately, the more kids who come into the world where they'll be well loved and taught by parents who love them and each other, the better off we'll all be in the long run.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

That's it. . .

Tomorrow, I'm going through the whole house, and anything that can be thrown in the washing machine will be, if it can't thrown in the washer, I'm spraying it with disinfectant,and if I'm not comfortable spraying it with disinfectant, I'm going to boil it. Keilana threw up this morning, again. After several days of seeming to finally be better--eating normal, color in her cheeks, she was right back where she started. By about noon, she was doing pretty well. She ate lunch and dinner, and even went to baseball practice. At bedtime, she said her tummy hurt again. Just after 10, she soaked her bed in vomit. I got it all stripped and cleaned and the washer started, got my sewing stuff put away, and was just about to head to bed when Dylan emerged from his room with wet, gross clothes and said, "I threw up in my bed five times." So I stripped his bed and sent him to my room, where Keilana was already asleep. Kylie is mostly OK--she threw up once this weekend and has had diarrhea since Thursday, but is actually eating and playing quite well. Thankfully, Keira has been spared thus far. Two week of this nonsense. I'm sick to death of seeing my kids miserable and so very tired of feelig like my whole life is consumed by other people's bodily functions. This is the most stubborn bacteria/virus (not really sure which) I've come across since being a parent (and thank you for the concerns/suggestions: Keilana has none of the other syptoms that would indicate appendicitis, especially what you'd expect to see after a few weeks in, so I think we're probably in the clear there, but I do appreciate knowing there are people out there reading my rants and thinking about my kids). And it doesn't make me a bad mom that I'm sleeping on the couch, instead of in my bed with the sick kids, to avoid th possibility of being covered in poo or puke