Thursday, February 28, 2008

Strengthen thy brethren. . .

Ok, so after David Archuleta (an adorable Mormon munchkin) sang the atrocity that is John Lennon's "Imagine" on American Idol last night, I was going to write a diatribe about the hypocritical egomaniac that was John Lennon and the mindless worship of him these days, but then I thought better of it since I just popped off on Oprah the other day.  Two nasty posts in a row running people down probably isn't in anyone's best interest, especially mine.  So instead I've decided to post a talk I gave in Sacrament meeting a month ago (January 27).  It seemed like the more constructive thing to do.  Enjoy.

I was asked to speak on "Converting to Christ" and it has been a struggle for me to write this talk.  Part of the reason for that has probably been self-doubt.  As most of you know, one of the great frustrations of having a three year old at home is that you have someone who is able to repeat with crushing exactness everything you shouldn't have said.  I had a few of those moments this week and I just though, who am I kidding?  But I got over myself and pushed forward.  The other struggle has definitely been the very personal nature of the subject.  Each one of us, whether you joined the Church 25 years ago or last week or were raised with the Gospel, has a conversion story of some kind and that story is a deep part of who we are.  I kept getting distracted because its such an important topic.  If we are not converted to Christ, then nothing else we do, no matter how good, matters much because either we aren't doing it for quite the right reasons or it will not last--we won't be able to maintain it.   Having a converted heart is key to all else we can hope to accomplish for good.

I tend to be a somewhat concrete thinker and so I usually assign people in my mind to principles, so that I always have an example at hand to draw on, rather than trying to define the idea.  I don't think I'm unique in that when I think of conversion, I usually think of Paul from the New Testament.  Paul spent most of the early years of his adult life using his position and authority to persecute, sometimes quite maliciously, the true saints of God.  But Paul had a conversion if ever there was one.  He heard the Lord and when the Lord identified himself, Paul's response was immediately humble obedience.  He didn't try to justify himself or became indignant or shameful.  He simply replied, "Lord, what would you have me do?"  Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to his friend Timothy and said, "I have fought a good fight.  I have finished my course.  I have kept the faith."  Despite his early sins and mistakes, which could've seemed daunting to overcome, Paul's conversion was so complete, it was so borne out in his actions, that he could say that with confidence.  I can remember the first time I read the scripture.  I was sixteen and I thought, "That's who I want to be.  I want to live the kind of life that when that life draws to a close I can say with confidence, 'I have fought a good fight and I have kept the faith.' "  At that point, I already had a testimony that Jesus was the Christ, that he was the Only Begotten of the Father and that this Gospel was true, but I knew I wasn't that person yet. 

I am still trying to become that person.  Conversion is a process, not an event.  When we talk about conversion stories, usually what we're talking about are those few divine, crystallizing moments where we've gotten on our knees and asked in sincerity and hope if it was true and received a witness that it was.  Those moments are unspeakably important, but they are, in fact, only the beginning of a conversion.  It's a long road from receiving a confirmation of truth to receiving His image in our countenances.  And that, ultimately, is what we want to do--to change our natures so completely that others can see His image in our countenance.  That is not an easy process, but it is a simple one.  A lot of us try to make the Gospel more complex than we need to--than it is--missing that its profundity is partly in its simplicity.  I think one of the reasons for that is that we simply are so incapable, with our limited mortal minds, of comprehending the fullness of the Atoning Sacrifice of our Savior and the love that he must have for us that we feel like we must have to do something more, bigger, than what we have been asked to do.  But the Lord asks something very simple--keep his commandments.

We become converted to Christ by doing all those things that a Primary child could tell you we should do: reading our scriptures, saying our prayers, attending our Church meetings, taking the Sacrament, listening to the Spirit, holding Family Home Evening and going to the temple.  By the time most LDS kids hit 9 or 10, they can rattle off that list in response to nearly every question, every lesson.  But those are the right answers.  They are the Primary responses because they really are the answer to nearly everything.  Becoming like the Savior, becoming converted to Him, really is THAT simple.  There is scarce a question or doubt that we could not have answered by the scriptures if we are searching them with an honest, open heart.  There is hardly a fear or problem that cannot be solved with prayer if we are listening quietly for answers and for comfort.  And very few troubles of the world can make it into the temple if we go in honesty and humility.  We become converted to Christ by doing as He has asked and forsaking our sins with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  A converted heart never says, "It wasn't that bad, its not that big of a deal," no matter how small the sin.  A converted heart is a repentant heart--someone who says, "I can do better".  Not in a prideful I-can-do-it-myself way, nor in a self-deprecating, cynical way--beating yourself down because you fell short again.  Its saying it with hope and confidence and enough faith in the Savior that even though we know we are imperfect and weak we know that through the Lord we can do better.

A conversion is often called a change of heart. I'm a word person, I like words, their meanings and origins and such, so I thought about some of the other uses of the word "convert". This year, my dad converted his library into a dining room.  A conversion is when you take something and transform its use or function.    When we convert to Christ, we speak of changing our heart--not because we literally change the use of our mortal heart muscle, but because we speak of the heart as the center of ourselves, of who we really are.  So we take a heart that even at its best is somewhat worldly and selfish, and through the Spirit, we transform it into a heart like His.  How converted we are to Christ is directly reflected in how much we are like Him.

At the Last Supper, the Lord turned to Peter and told him, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren".  That admonition applies to us as well. There are many ways that we strengthen, but certainly one of the things that the Lord meant by telling Peter this was the responsibility to share the Gospel, to preach the truth.  As a Church, we grow in numbers every day, but members of the Church still account for less than one half of one percent of the entire population of the world.  That's a lot of people who still need to hear the good news of the Gospel.  And it is indeed very good new.

A few years ago I had a physical experience that helped me to better spiritually empathize with those who have not yet heard that message.  Just a couple of months before Doug and I got married, I had spent the day out with my sister helping her get some shopping done with her two small children.  On the way home, I had a grand mal seizure and blacked out.  When I started to come to, I was in an ambulance.  I was raised by two EMTs, so ambulances are not unfamiliar to me, having spent a fair amount of time in them as an observer, but I couldn't quite put together where I was.  The first thought I had was a mental image of Doug, kneeling on a hillside in Hawaii with the Pacific Ocean behind him.  I knew, because this was the first thing that I remembered, that this must be someone important, but I could not for the life of me think who.  Finally, from somewhere in the random misfirings that were occurring as my mind rebooted itself, I found the name, "Doug".  I still didn't know who he was or what that meant, but I had something to attach to that face.  In this supremely strange state of consciousness the strangest (and worst) part was that I didn't know who I was.  If you had asked me at that moment what my name was, who my parents were or even what year it was, I couldn't have told you.  And I knew that I didn't know.  It was a lonely, frustrating and nearly panicked feeling.  But fortunately for me, it was physical problem, rather short lived.  As I have thought about that experience and the terrible feeling of knowing that I didn't know who I was, I've thought about some of the people I've known who've probably felt that way, spiritually, for most of their lives.  I have known many people who didn't know who they were, who didn't know what it meant to be a child of God and I now realize that some of them have been quite lonely and frustrated and scared.  When we have become converted ourselves, it is our privilege and obligation to share the Gospel with all who will hear.  We must strengthen our brethren by testifying.

There are so many words to describe the Lord and His ministry here on earth, but I always come back to just a few that stick out to me, one more than all the others: obedience.  The Savior was nothing if not perfectly obedient to the Our Father in all things.  The more converted we are, the more we are like the Savior and the easier it becomes to be obedient.  And the more obedient we are the more we become like the Savior.  Its a beautiful cycle.  As we become more Christ-like, being obedient to our Father in Heaven becomes more and more second nature because we know that the Lord wants only good things for us.  In his book "When Thou Art Converted", Elder M. Russell Ballard writes: "There is nothing good that exists in this world without His will and pleasure.  When I contemplate the creation process and realize that the Father promises to all His sons and daughters who are willing to pay the price of keeping His commandments that He will give them all that He has--everything!--I feel that it is indeed worth the price.  D&C 76:58 says, 'Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God.'  Oh if we could only begin to understand what that really means!  If we could just place that priority properly in our lives and live up to it, we would never have any difficulty making the right decisions. We would always have tucked away in the back of our minds this eternal reality: 'It is worth it'. . .We would pay any price, under any circumstances, because we know more surely than we know anything that it is worth it."

I thought about that quote last week during Sunday school as we discussed Lehi's vision of the tree of life.  A great tragedy is told in that story.  There are those who make it all the way to the tree and partake of the fruit and then fall away.  They knew the love of God, they had tasted of its sweetness, but they were not changed, not really--they were not converted and so they could not withstand the pressures of the world and were lost.  I've known a few of those people in my life--they have touched the truth, but they can't hold onto it.  I remember one in particular, who I love very much, who once told me that doing the right thing, even when she knew what it was, was just too hard.  I felt so much pain for her as I tried to help her understand that it is so much harder to not do the right thing.  Yes, initially it can be difficult to choose the right, but the more often we make wrong or bad decisions, or simply ones that aren't as good, the harder life gets even when its pretty good.  The more frequently we submit to the will of the Lord, the easier life gets even when its pretty hard.  When the Lord said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. . .for my yoke is easy and my burden is light," he meant it.  What could we possibly be asked to bear, what load could ever be too heavy, if we have Christ to help us carry it?

Which leads me to another thought.  Earlier I said that when I think "conversion" I think of Paul, but the other person I think of is my paternal grandmother.  Now, I say that realizing full well that there are people that know my grandma who if they heard that would respond, probably with a chuckle, "I never really thought of Elda as a spiritual giant," but that's really part of my point.  She certainly has her share of flaws and has made her share of mistakes, most of them obvious, but her faith is simple and pure.  In my short life, I have seen her changed from a good and faithful woman who was nevertheless somewhat famous for her fiery temper and snap judgments into a woman who usually speaks softly and with gentleness and has a great deal of patience.  This change is not just a product of age or circumstances.  She simply believes that whatever the Lord requires is right.  She gave birth to six little boys and two little girls.  One of those boys she lost in infancy more than 50 years ago, another she lost to a logging accident when he was a young man about 30 years ago.  A year and a half ago, she lost one of her daughters in a manner that was, to say the least, incredibly shocking and painful.  As I played at home with my two small children and tried to process the news of my aunt's untimely death, it seemed to me that it was too much to ask of any mother to have to bury three of her own children, let alone lose a daughter the way my grandma did.  But I have talked to her often and watched her closely since then, and she has amazed me.  She has never seemed to be consumed by her grief the way that others sometimes have.  I have never seen her filled with anger or rage at the the man who took her daughter from her, as nearly every other member of the family has been at some point, myself not excluded.  I have only heard her speak of him only with confusion and worry, and often with concern for his own well-being, his eternal future.  Not two decades ago, this was a woman who wouldn't speak to a family member for months over an inadvertent miscommunication and now she feels some compassion even for the one person who has caused her deepest pain.  Trule, she has been converted--transformed--and done it, by her own word, by striving to be obedient in doing all those things a Primary child could tell you we need to do.

To my mind, the most difficult thing Christ has asked of us is, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them which hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you."  But He has  nothing of us where He has not shown the way Himself.  When He was on the cross, He pled, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."  He looked around at those that had beaten Him, whipped Him, spat upon Him, mocked Him and crucified Him and as He was full of pain and exhaustion and near to death, what He felt for them was love.  He did not demand justice for their actions or speak their condemnation--both of which He certainly had the power and the authority to do.  He asked for mercy to be shown unto them.  When we are truly converted, when we truly have a heart like His, there is no room for anything but love.  There can be no hate in our hearts for our brothers, friends, or even those who would make themselves an enemy to us.  To be sure, that is not an easy thing, but it is possible.  I am certainly not there yet, but I have seen it--in a simple woman as full of flaws as any of the rest of us--and that give me hope than I can get there.  The first step in converting to Christ is coming to a knowledge of who He is and thus who we are--sons and daughters of God.  The next step is seeing others that way--children of God with infinite worth and potential. When we are converted to Christ, we see all men and women, no matter who they are, no matter what our differences and no matter how they may treat us, as our brothers and sisters, deserving of our love, patience, forgiveness and longsuffering. It is not always easy, but as we strive to be that kind of person and become more converted, it gets easier.  And it is always worth it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Its all about the O

I have a confession to make. Now let me preface it by saying I am generally a very accepting and kind person.  I certainly have my moments of impatience, arrogance and self-righteousness, but I try to own up to those things quickly and make amends for them as completely as I can.  I love people very much and the feelings and needs (particularly emotional needs) of those around me are of utmost importance to me. I had a very good friend who used to make comments on a fairly regular basis--and in a somewhat irritated tone--to the effect, "Well, you like everyone," or "Yeah, but you're nice to everybody."  I believe the irritation was because he saw this trait as evidence of poor judgment skills. :)

But every now and then, someone comes along who just grates on my--who I can simply find no affection in my heart for.  This was brought to my remembrance a few weeks ago when Doug and I were watching the NAACP Image Awards.  At one point, Oprah was mentioned as a nominee in one of the categories.  They didn't cut to a shot of Oprah in the audience, so I concluded that she must not be there.  You would think that an event that centers entirely around honoring people of color in the media would be important to someone like her, but she wasn't in attendance.  Perhaps it was a scheduling conflict or maybe she had the flu.  My guess?  With women like Aretha Franklin and Ruby Dee in the audience, she knew she wouldn't be the most revered person in the room.  I don't think she can stand to be so obviously outshone.  That's right, you're hearing me correctly:  I can't stand Oprah.

The name "Oprah" comes from Hebrew, meaning "desperately seeking validation".   It seems to me that this woman does everything that she does to try to make herself the center of everyone's adulation.  Now before you legions and legions of Oprah fans start blasting me with comments about all the money she gives away and all the charity she does, let me give you a thought to chew on:  she's worth more than a billion dollars.  She makes somewhere in the 200 million range each year.  She donates roughly 10% of that to charity.  That's what I pay in tithing, all other charity and generosities aside.  Now granted, to the people who need the supplies it purchases, $20 million is $20 million, but lets not blow out of proportion how "charitable" she truly is.  But my bigger issue with it is that she makes a show of all her giving--literally.  She always makes sure the whole dang world knows about every dollar she gives away, every charitable task she's taken on and ever free spa weekend she hands out.  In the end, her "giving" always someone ends up being about Oprah.

She started her own magazine several years ago (which I refuse on principle to ever read) and what did she name it?  O. The Oprah Magazine.  But of course! Nothing else would do.  And what is on the cover of this magazine each month?  Pictures of different celebrities they do major interviews with? No.  Photos of the wonderful "real people" that are written about in its pages?  No way.  Perhaps occasionally photos of some of the children helped by her famous African school?  Alas, no.  Every single month, month after month, year after year, the cover shot is a different glamour photo of, you guessed it, Oprah.  

The one thing that really got to me the most, though, was probably something she did a few years ago.  Being oh-so-generous and thoughtful, she decided to gift some newlyweds with surprise gift at their wedding.  Ok, great, pat yourself on the back, and be sure to bring along a camera crew so that EVERYONE ELSE can pat you on the back, too, because you (yes, you, who could buy and sell Poland) bought a young couple a set of dishes.  But the bigger surprise was that she "gifted" the couples by making an unannounced stop at their reception.  Oh how kind of her.  What does that really do?  It suddenly makes the most important day of  their lives all about Oprah.  Obviously she sees nothing wrong with this because in her world, everything is  about Oprah.

The whole kerfuffle last year with the Hermes store in Paris was a perfect example.  She showed up after closing and was told that she couldn't run in and make a purchase.  Well, welcome to the world that the rest of us live in, where we don't get everything we want, particularly if we're trying to get someone to bend the rules for us.  She wasn't denied entrance because she was Black.  She was denied entrance because someone didn't care who she was.  She made it a race issue so she had a socially acceptable reason to be ticked off at being denied entrance to a closed store.  The whole thing reminds me a bit of Eddie Murphy's old SNL Gumby skit in which, dressed in the big green suit, he would bark, "I'm Gumby, dammit!"  That's how ridiculous the whole thing was to me.  What she was really upset about was that either she wasn't recognized (heaven forbid!) or she was recognized and the employee simply didn't care--oh, the humanity!!  In her head (undoubtedly covered with lacking-TV-perfection tresses) she was probably barking "I'm Oprah, dammit!" and furious that no one cared.

But you know what? I don't care, either.  It seems to be so important to her that the whole world love her, but I don't.  If you are devoted Oprah fan, please don't take offense--please don't hold it against me.  I don't care if you love her.  Obviously some one must.  I simply cannot understand the appeal.  Unfortunately, I have no desire to understand either.  So watch her if you must, give her the ratings she so desperately needs to feel good about herself, but don't sing her praises to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thought for the Day

I was given a paper with this quote on it today.  It is from one of my favorite people in the entire world, and is now one of my most favorite quotes, so I thought I'd share it.

From Marjorie Pay Hinkley:

I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.

I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.

I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk's lawn.

I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirts from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children.

I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.

I want to be there with the children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.

I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"P" is for Psycho

I was having an online conversation with all of my sisters-in-law yesterday and we got going on personality types after one of them mentioned that she was thinking about switching her major to psychology.  I thought I was an INTJ, but after looking up some old tests and taking several new ones I found out I'm actually an INFJ, which really makes more sense.  The most pronounced characteristic is introversion, hovering around 90%.

On top of being introverted, I am by nature also quite shy (no, they are not the same thing--look it up).  This combination has not made connecting with people easy in my life, particularly in the last few years with frequent moves.  As I was talking about it, I realized it may have sounded to them like I was proud of being an introvert or of being reluctant to share things with others, which couldn't be farther from the truth (and would be just plain weird, besides).

My insistence was in fact a symptom of my frustration with myself.  Those are all things about myself that I fight very consistently.  When I was a teenager, my 3-year-old nephew was at our house and my dad was good naturedly teasing him.  He responded, "That's not funny, Papa. You hurt my feelings."  I started to laugh at him and my mom said, "Don't laugh, that's good.  When you were that age we were worried about you because you never wanted anybody to see anything but happy, even when you were a baby."  I faked a laugh, but it wasn't funny anymore. I was still very much that person.  There was only one person I ever really opened up to at all, and with him it only happened about 1/8  of the time.

I've gotten much better since then.  This blog is evidence of that.  Writing it is one of the ways in which I try to get myself to open up a bit more (its easier this way since I don't actually have to talk to anyone and can pretend no one reads it).  When I was 16, just writing the above paragraphs for public consumption would have felt like sacrilege and been simply impossible for me to do.  Its making me mildly nauseous right now, but I'm confident I'll be able to hit "publish" when I'm done.  I do open up to people more now, but only in tiny bits or relatively general statements.  More than that, its enormously difficult and a very conscious effort for me to do it and to appear at ease while doing it.  Talking about myself in any way that is more than superficial--such as basic goings on in my life--makes me very uncomfortable.  Saying anything more specific than "I used to do this" or "one time I did this" or "I've always struggled with this weakness or doubt" doesn't usually happen.  I speak very openly with my husband and with Sam, but beyond that its just little bits and pieces here and there.

The only problem with all of this (I mean the part that's "gotten me in trouble" with people, so to speak) is that most people perceive me to be a very open person.   I remember one time during college, I made a remark to my closest friend at the time that really surprised her and threw her perception of me off.  She looked me over for a minute and then said, "You aren't quite the open book you seem to be, are you?"  For some time after that she was a bit more cautious with me, until she learned I was not actually deceptive.  I love people and having friends and am very trustworthy--that part is all genuine.  But it took some time for her to believe that after I messed with her view of me by being a little more forthcoming about myself.  The fact is that, quite simply,I am turtle.  Its not that my heart is any more complex or interesting than anyone else's.  Its not that my thoughts are deeper or more meaningful than anyone else, or my experiences broader or having greater meaning.  Its simply that I have a nice hard, little shell that I tend to retreat into the moment I feel the least bit exposed.

Which is probably why one of my college professors only half-jokingly accused me of having avoidant personality disorder.  He had plenty of evidence on his side (I didn't help him by bringing up several old friends who had thought that we'd been fairly close for years, only to feel in the end like they hardly knew me), but I always held the trump card.  At 18, I intentionally chose a school 3,000 miles away from home and everyone I knew in an unfamiliar environment and I not only survived it, I thrived there.  I certainly have my deficiencies and challenges, but even if its a slow process, I am winning the battles against my weaknesses.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Yesterday was such an odd day in some ways.  At about 9 in the morning, one of my friends called and asked if Keilana and I would like to come play, which was a definite yes.  It was nice and sunny out and they have a great big backyard, so we had my two kids, her two kids who are still at home (ages 4 & 1) and another friend's youngest two who she was babysitting (ages 3 & 1) all running around the backyard with the two dogs, having a blast.  Dylan, Grant and Lulu--the youngest three--mostly amused themselves by throwing dirt.  They also enjoyed the various ride-on toys scattered about the lawn and deck.  The older three spent most of their time on the grass or the trampoline just enjoying the sunshine.  It was a glorious, spring-y day--about 65 degrees and sunny.  The kids were all so excited to be outside, as winter seems to be long gone around here. I hadn't sat and had a real, grown up conversation with anyone but Doug is some time, so it was a lot of fun for me, too. I LOVE to be outside, so it was a real treat to just be out in the spring sunshine.

It wasn't all wonderful, though.  Yesterday was also what would've been Conner's second birthday, so I was a bit melancholy all day.  Dylan turns two on Monday, and we haven't planned a birthday party or even bought any presents yet.  I seemed to be having a hard time getting around to it.  I think the truth is that, though not entirely consciously, I've been avoiding it.  It just doesn't quite seem right to be planning a birthday just for Dylan--it feels incomplete.  So it'll probably be another week before we get around to doing cake and ice cream for him, which is fine since he won't know the difference.  No matter how good the day got, I couldn't ever quite get it out of my mind.  And I hope that for my son's sake I can eventually get to a point where I can celebrate his birthday without grief.

On the drive home from Angie's, I had a pretty light-hearted moment.  The windows were down with the wind blowing through the car, the sun was shining and I had Tom Petty blaring through the stereo.  Whenever that set of circumstances comes together, I'm suddenly in my old car driving too fast down Hillside road with a cloud of dust behind me; or in the back of a convertible on Kam Highway with my feet hanging over the side, watching the sun pass through the palm trees.  And life is good.

This time it wasn't a dirt road in Montana or a two lane highway on the north shore of Oahu--it was the driver's seat in a Honda Accord with two kids in the backseat.  The feeling was the same, though;  heartaches and all, life is still good.  As a matter of fact, its better than ever.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Valentine's Post

A couple weeks ago, Doug and I went to a great party at a friend's house.  It was just couples--no children--and all people we really like, so it was a lot of fun.  The hostess had prepared several games, all with a Valentines-y theme.  I won for who had done the sweetest thing for their spouses' parents, thank you very much.  (For Christmas, I went through all Doug's missionary journals and found any place he'd said anything nice about his Mom and then typed them up and gave them to her.)  The evening capper was a round of the "Knewly"wed game.  The men sat on one side of the room, the women on the other, and we each had to  fill out a sheet that had questions about ourselves and our spouses and then got points based on how many answers matched our spouse's answers.

Doug and I got second (by a mere five points!) to Scot and Carolyn, who have been married for 20 years.  Not that we were all that far ahead of everyone else--it was a room full of great people and mostly very happy, rock solid marriages.  But it was kinda fun to almost win, especially since everyone else there has been married longer than we have.
We really do have an uncommonly good marriage, which I didn't entirely realize until I started spending nearly all of my time with people 10 to 15 years older than me, who have good marriages and have been married a lot longer than we have.  That game is evidence of one of the primary reasons our relationship is so good and strong--communication.  We don't really have those typical male/female communication break downs.  We talk about nearly everything, there is hardly anything that ever goes unsaid between us about what's going on in our lives or thoughts, and we understand each other well most of the time.

I was talking to an old friend from college recently, who once upon a time had a crush on Doug herself, and she said that we were the perfect personality combination, based on Myers-Briggs personality typing. I laughed and told her I like to think of it as being broken in the same way.  That probably sounds ridiculous to most people, since our flaws manifest very, very differently, but when we met each other we lacked a lot of the same things, had some of the same hurts.  Because of that, we were able to see through each other in a way that most of the people around us could not and because of that understanding of the things that were the most personal and complex (and painful), it has been much easier to understand the smaller, simpler things. 
I think the other thing that makes a huge difference is that we're both pretty self aware and have good senses of humor about ourselves and each other.  When the other is impatient or upset with us, we usually understand why and can fix it relatively quickly.  We can joke with each other about our own faults and each other's faults.  When either one of us is wrong, we're quite willing to admit it.  We observed the relationships around us as we were growing up, saw what worked and what didn't and have applied the lessons to our own relationship.  

Now granted, there are definitely moments where one of us would like to strangle the other, but those are far fewer and farther between than the laughs and good conversation.  I am lucky to have married a man who is intelligent, talented, gentle, thoughtful and who more or less understands (as much as any male can) how women think and function.  He understands my weaknesses and recognizes my strengths.  A few weeks ago, a friend of ours said to Doug, "You have an amazing wife".  He was genuine in responding by simply smiling and saying, "I know."  I know that he believes that, even if some days I think its just because he's a little loopy.  And I think he's an incredible husband, even if some days he thinks it just because I have Stockholm syndrome.  We're both a bit weird and a little goofy and very dorky, and so we delight in each other.  We are truly each other's closest friend.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A day at the park

After several weeks of being holed up in side due to fog, rain, colds and such, last week things cleared up and got warm and sunny enough to get back to our routine of mostly daily trips to the park, and the kids were excited to be outside again.  Just a few pictures.  I took them with my phone, so forgive the quality on some of them.

A Window

Its past midnight now, but I'm having trouble getting to sleep tonight.  My mind is racing and I can't get it to slow down.  It doesn't happen very often any more, but it used to happen in high school a lot.

Last week was a hard week.  I found out that what I thought was a moderate but easily fixable problem with a friend is in fact a deep, twisted, tragic problem that my take a long, long time to fix.  That was a big blow.  Then the irritating presidential race got me all bogged down, as its become a mess I find more and more disheartening all the time.  Then one of my oldest friends shared some discouraging news with us and my heart broke her.  It was one of those weeks where I just felt like I kinda wanted to hibernate for a while.

But then several things happened.  The bad news was a blessing in a least one way--it snowballed into a conversation between my four oldest friends and I that has been more complete and open than we have talked with each other in probably years.  That conversation just brightened my life again.  Then today at Church, Carolyn, one of the women I love and respect most in my life, gave a beautiful talk about love.  It was everything I needed to hear and it lifted me up hugely.

Tonight was a great blessing, also.  An old friend from school, someone I'd always wished I'd gotten to know a bit better, popped up on instant messenger.  It was a delight to talk to her.  She said a few things that caught my attention.   "You were so quiet and mysterious in college, with nobody really getting through except Doug."  I was so glad she said that--it reminded me how very, very blessed I am in the primary relationship in my life.  That makes such a huge difference in EVERYTHING.  I'd almost forgotten how much I liked her until we started chatting and it really buoyed my mood to speak with her.  There's a chance we may be able to see her and meet her boyfriend this fall, which I would love.  She lives in Beijing right now, so that makes a meet and greet quite tricky!

And lastly, but certainly not least, when I hopped on to write, my favorite cousin was online.  I haven't talked to him in forever and haven't seen him since his wedding almost a year ago.  We talked about our families and whatnot.  And I thought about what it meant to me to be at his wedding.  Doug knew without me saying it that not making it to his wedding was not option, so he made it work.  I was glad that I was there, as I ended up being the only member of his family in the temple.  When I was getting ready to go to the temple myself for the first time and getting ready to get married, sometimes I would think about the fact that none of my family would be there, and I would start to get really bogged down--I would feel very sad and lonely.  But then I would think of Brandon, out in the mission field--an entire ocean and continent away from home knocking on doors, talking to strangers, living in tiny little apartments--and the loneliness would dissipate.  I would think to myself, Brandon's doing it, and somehow that always made everything ok.  I had to be in the temple that day to say thank you, because in a different way he had been there for me.  He's been such a wonderful friend to me.

Every time I have lacked something in my life, someone has come into to fill the gap.  The Lord has blessed me with such wonderful people in my life always, and all I really needed was a reminder of that.  I feel a bit undeserving of such wonderful friends and such wonderful experiences at times, but I am tremendously grateful for them.  I'm grateful for that window that lets in a little light even on the dark days.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tag! You're it!

Sam tagged me (in her oh-so-official way), so here it is.

How long have you been together? We've been friends since October of 2002.  Started dating early December 2002.

How long did you date?  Officially, only like a month before we got engaged.  We decided to get married in January of 2003.  Then Doug actually proposed in March of 2003.  We got married that July.

How old is he? 31

Who eats more? Definitely Doug.

Who said "I love you" first? He did actually.  I'm far too much of a fraidy cat to go first.

Who sings better?  I'm gonna have to go with Doug on this one.

Who is smarter?  Coincidentally, we both know our IQ's and so technically Doug.  But it doesn't matter, 'cause people like me better. lol.  Doug's a big believer in the theory of multiple intelligences, though.  You oughtta hear his IQ rant--its a good one.

Who does the laundry?  Always me.  Doug only does laundry if I'm gone or severely ill.

Who does the dishes?  See above.  Let's face it.  He works like 50 hours a week and I'm home all day.  I don't see any good reason for him to do dishes or laundry with any regularity.

Who sleeps on the right side of the bed?  That would be me.

Who pays the bills?  Doug.  

Who mows the lawn? When we had one, Doug mowed it.

Who cooks dinner?  Oh, that would be me again.  I am SO a 50s housewife. lol.  Actually, most 50s housewives probably cooked better dinners than me most of the time.

Who is more stubborn?  Oooh, tough call.  We're both incredibly stubborn, but I do hide my stubbornness better.  Does that count for anything?

Who asked who out?  He asked me out.  HE pursued ME. Don't let him tell you anything else, because that's the truth.

Who proposed?  He did.  I wouldn't marry a guy if I had to propose.  

Who has more friends? Its a toss up.

Who is more sensitive? Me

Who has more siblings? He does by one.

Who wears the pants in the relationship?  Its pretty darned equal.

Who are you tagging?  Anyone who has not been tagged.

What we don't see.

Its hard to know what really goes on in someone's life or heart.  I think we would all be shocked to discover how often we misjudge, or how much we assume, even about those whom we see and speak with frequently.  And, sadly, sometimes we don't realize how much someone means to us until we have seen them hurt or have been hurt by them.  I know how much of my own heart I keep hidden from everyone but my husband, and so its always a bit shameful to me when I learn that I have over-assumed--when I have found that I thought I understood better than I did and made judgments accordingly.  How terrible and how marvelous people can be.  I felt like it was appropriate to share this again.


(c) 1952 Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself to others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, 
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God. . . .
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

"Look unto me in every thought. Doubt not, fear not."   ~D&C 6:36

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." ~John 16:33

Monday, February 4, 2008

Superbowl and scrubdown

It was popcorn balls instead of hot wings and pink plastic mini patio chairs instead of Lazy Boys, but Keilana and Dylan did enjoy the Superbowl (the beginning of it anyway).