Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I try to avoid frustrated rants for the most part (unless they're about insane days with my kids), because there's enough negativity out there, so I try to avoid negative subjects unless there is something constructive or positive to be learned from them.  This is just something I cannot understand and wish someone could explain to me.

So I'm gonna be a bit of a hypocrite and dive in here.  I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I try not to assume I know or understand them well enough to pass a lot of judgments.  I fail from time to time, but that is something I have always tried very hard to be good about (except in conversations with my husband, where I let the frustrations flow to get it out of my system so I can start thinking positive things about people again).  I am more than happy most of the time to be patient with people's faults or even just annoying habits or personality traits, because I hope that most people would be forgiving of mine.  But I must finally admit that I begin to lose my patience very quickly with people who, over time, consistently display selfish behavior.  It makes me crazy.

As anyone who has spent any time around small children can tell you, the only person whose needs and desires that a toddler has any concept of are his own.  As children grow up, they learn to share and take turns and say and do all the right things to be "polite", but the fact is that most human beings remain incredibly self-focused all the way through adolescence and often well into young adulthood.  Frequently it continues until someone gets married or even until they have children (there are cases where it doesn't even end there, and that's particularly aggravating).  This is, I believe, one of the primary reasons that the Lord has continually counseled young people not to put off marriage or children.  Though not true of everyone, it is certainly true for most people that the longer you are responsible for only yourself, the more self-focused you become, and the harder breaking the habit of selfishness becomes.

Now, don't get me wrong, I can certainly be selfish--hugely selfish at times, in fact.  But it is not generally one of my bigger challenges.  That's not because I'm any great paragon of virtue, as anyone who has ever had the trial of living with me can tell you.  Its simply that I have had semi-unique circumstances throughout most of my life that have helped me to focus more on those around me than on myself.  I was born a twin, and from a very young age, I liked to "take care of" him.  A lot of the reason behind that was that I hated being the center of attention as a child because I was shy and ever so self-conscious, and so focusing on him made me think less about myself and consequently make me feel less anxious.  But as we grew up, I was always finding people to take care of in one way or another.  As a teenager there were times when I felt like I was living in two different worlds and focusing on the needs of others was necessary for mental and emotional health.  Then I married young and had husband's needs and desires to consider before becoming a mother 10 months later and then having children to focus on.  I've just always been blessed enough to have people in my life who could use a little nurturing or attention, which saved me from ever focusing too much on myself.

So I don't have a lot of empathy for people who are selfish and consequently not much compassion.  The more selfish someone is, the more they irritate me, almost the same way a yippy chihuahua does.  I know, that's terrible.  Most of the selfish people I know are also those who are most easily offended, and having to tip toe around them makes me crazy.  I hate having to listen to every word of every sentence of everything they want to talk about no matter if I find it the least bit interesting.  I hate the cluelessness that selfish people tend to have about themselves--and I always find that ironic, that they spend more time than most people focused on themselves, and yet often know themselves the least.  I can't stand the grandiose sense of self-importance, or just the utter ignorance about how many of their actions and words affect people around them.

But what really upsets me, what at once both infuriates and depresses me, is how some people can sometimes be so selfish that they can create an elaborate delusion about who they really are, of what their actions and life have meant to them and those around them.  It makes me sick to my stomach when someone is so selfish that they create for themselves an alternate reality so that they can see everything the way they want to, not be bothered with things as they really are.  That kind of selfishness whittles away at every meaningful relationship in your life until eventually there's nothing left.  I can't understand being so selfish you'd rather be alone than be wrong.  

I have spent all of my life surrounded, in one way or another, by a loving support system.  I grew up with a wonderful family who I both love and like and incredible friends who are still an important part of my life.  In Hawaii, I had an awesome ward I would've lived in for the rest of my life if those circumstances weren't impossible.  I have great in-laws and wonderful friends here who offer me a lot of support.  If I screwed up, I would do anything I could to make it right so that I didn't lose any one of them.  I can't imagine holding on to my pride and losing all of them.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Yesterday, I was talking to my mother-in-law online and she mentioned that they were going to the temple in the evening. I said I wished I was going with them and she said, "You could!!"  Doug couldn't get off work early enough to come with us, so I drove to Tulare and rode up to Fresno with my mother and father in law and another couple from their ward.

We only did initiatories and sealings.  I hadn't done initiatories since my own Endowment, so it was a nice refresher.  I have been surprised much over the last almost five years since going to the temple how much not just what I think has changed, but how I think.  Its been difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why that is as I have gone and done more Endowment sessions, since much of what is presented in the Endowment is not new information.  Perhaps I see it differently than I once did, but the knowledge itself isn't terribly different than what I knew before.  Hearing the promises of the initiatory ordinances made it suddenly clear why the way I think has changed so very much.  

All of the names that we did work for, both in the initiatory ordinances and the sealing ordinances, were names Katy had found in her genealogy.  One of the women I did work for was a Hyde--Doug's middle name.  It was kind of fun to feel some connection to the people I was serving.  When we went into the sealing room, Katy and Chuck started out doing the few couple sealings she had found that needed to be done.  When it was time to begin sealing children to parents, the sealer asked if "that pretty young lady you were sitting next to" was a member of their family.  Katy said, "Yes, she's our daughter-in-law".  I went up to sit in place of the daughters as we sealed all these women to their parents, and I thought about the difference between what the state defines as a family member, and what "family" really means to me.  In the eyes of the law, Katy is my mother-in-law and Chuck is my stepfather-in-law--not necessarily very strong bonds.  But Katy is sealed to Chuck, and to Doug, and I am sealed to Doug.  We are all caught together in a big, beautiful and eternal web.  We were offering that same comfort and blessing to generations of others--binding them together in the glorious celestial threads that hold us all together forever.  

The people we were acting in behalf of weren't just a random pile that the temple had assigned us--they were Katy's family, and by extension, my own.  I was performing a service that, in effect, widened my own family circle.  It is true that every act of service we perform eventually blesses us as well as those we serve, but nowhere is the blessing so immediate as in temple service.  There are still some missing links in our chain, but hopefully eventually those will be filled as well.  The promises, protections and rewards of an eternal sealing--husband to wife and parent to child--are pretty much too incredible to fully comprehend.  Every time that I do sealings, I'm grateful that my children were born into this world under the protection of that covenant and I'm grateful that so many people are working so hard to find the names of those who weren't so that the work can be done and that blessing can be extended to every family.  Because forever is an awfully long time to be alone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why "Hinges"?

Ok, so I've had a few people ask me why I titles my blog "Hinges" because they thought it was kind of odd and random and didn't really get it.  So I will take a minute to explain.

I actually borrowed the idea from an analogy that President Gordon B. Hinkley used several times in talks and firesides when he was a General Authority.  He said:

"I approached a large farm gate one day.  I lifted the latch and opened the gate.  The movement at the hinges was so slight as to be scarcely discernible.  But the other end of the gate cut a great arc sixteen feet in radius.  Looking at the movement of the hinges alone, one would never dream of the magnified action that came as a result of that tiny movement.

"So it is with the decisions in our lives.  Some small thought, some small word, some small action can lead to tremendous consequences."

There have been big events in my life--leaving for college, getting married, giving birth to children, mourning the deaths of loved ones, etc.--but the substance of my life is all the small moments in between.  Getting married, for example, was a hugely momentous thing.  But what has made marriage something phenomenal was not a beautiful, perfectly decorated wedding or feats of romantic fantasy.  What has made Doug and I the people we are as individuals and the couple we are as one are all the tiny little moments that pass each day--a brief phone call at work to tell him about something funny the 2 year old did, a never-neglected kiss as he walks out the door, a tender, understanding glance from across the room that no one else even noticed.

And so I thought it a fitting title for a blog that contains mostly picture and thoughts about the seemingly little things in life--moments spent laughing with my children or talking with my husband.  A log of thoughts and activities that I don't imagine are terribly exciting or interesting to anyone else, but create minute by minute, day by day, the hinges on which my life swings.  Tiny little movements that determine the arc of my life, who I am.  All the little stuff that matters to me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Our little bundles of joy!

See how pretty they are? Don't you want to take one home with you?  They're gorgeous cats. . .granted, its a little hard to tell when they're all crammed behind my washing machine and you're looking through spiderwebs, but still.

A Tale of Six Kitties

The couple that we bought our house from are very nice people who had four adorable children when they lived here.  There was a stray white cat who wandered around the bushes outside.  Just a few months before they moved, she was obviously pregnant and they kept leaving food out for her, closer and closer to the garage, hoping that she might come have her babies in there where it was warm and safe.  Alas, they never succeeded.

We would see this cat occasionally on our way to our car (and Dylan would squeal with delight and chase her), but she was always shy and wouldn't come close.  Last November, we gave away our great big dog and since then the little white cat has been venturing regularly into our backyard.  So we have fed her three or four times and she has ever so gradually become more friendly.  

Then I thought perhaps the extra meals at our house were too generous, as she seemed to be getting fat.  It didn't take us long to realize that she wasn't fat, but was in fact pregnant again.  She was even letting Dylan pick her up at this point, though I'm not sure if that was because of increased friendliness of decreased ability to make a quick getaway due to her large pregnant tummy.

A few days ago, I saw her in the backyard, meowing and begging, obviously no longer pregnant and then that night I could hear new kittens meowing outside.  While my kids were napping I went outside to see if I could find them, but was unsuccessful.

So yesterday, I left the back door (that opens into our garage) open so that Keilana could ride her tricycle on the back patio while I cleaned the kitchen.  I opened the door from the house to the garage, and saw the cat running out of our garage--venturing inside was new for her.  I didn't think much of it at the time.

Last night I was in skirt and dress shirt and heels, headed out the door for a meeting when, passing through the garage, I heard the distinct meowing of young kittens.  I followed the sound until I found them--a pile of at least five very young kittens--behind my washing machine.  She had moved her entire litter into the comfortable warmth of my garage.

So would anyone like a cat?  They are only a few days old, so it will be several weeks before they're ready to go anywhere.  I don't know the genders yet, but almost all of them are white with orange patches, and there is at least one calico (though I may keep her for myself).  But the other four (or five or six, I'm not completely certain yet) must find homes eventually.  Please take one!!  

Either that or I'll just show up at church with a box full of kittens and have all the little kids fall in love with them and thus make their parents look like jerks if they don't take one.  Mwhahaha! I'm so crafty.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Let there be peace on earth. . .

and let it begin with me.

This is the last paragraph of a talk I gave back in January.  I was glad I came across today, because I very much needed the reminder today. 

"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 asked nothing of us where He has not first 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 authority to do.  He asked that they be shown mercy.  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 and an enemy to us.  To be sure, that is not an easy thing, but it is possible. . . .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 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."

Frustration can be harmless, but so destructive when it leads to anger.   There are productive, healthy angers, but 9 times out of 10 anger is an ugly, useless thing.  This is my new mantra.
"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."  Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and. . . . . . . . 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sweetbriar Fountains

For those of you who don't know, there's a beautiful public plaza just about a block and half behind our house that includes a bunch of fountains the kids can play in.  We're really grateful for that, especially since it hit the mid 80s and even the 90s this week!  Just a few highlights.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Fresh Perspective

I went to Deseret Book's Time Out for Women series in Fresno this weekend. Don't have time for a whole blog right now (I'll get to it later), but one of the speakers talked about that nagging feeling mother's get (she called it "motherguilt") that you're never doing enough and that everything that goes wrong is somehow your fault.  How true!! She gave a little version of Matthew 25:35-36 & 40 that she recites to herself when that feeling gets her down.

I was an hungred. . . .and you woke up in the middle of the night to nurse me.
I was thirsty. . . .and you dropped everything to give me a sippy cup of milk.
I was naked. . . .and you did mountains and mountains of laundry so I had fresh clean clothes to wear.
I was sick. . .and you sat by my bed all night.
I was a prisoner. . .and you passed through the valley of the shadow of death to give me a body and bring me into this world.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the [littlest] of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

At the end of the day, I have never finished everything on my to do list and sometimes feel like I haven't been the servant I ought to be.  I was grateful to be reminded that while all the rest of the service I do or am capable of is vastly important, none of it is ever more important than the service given and the lessons taught within the walls of my own home.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

When you dream, dream BIG

I went to a training for McDermont last night.  Brad (the city's recreation director, and co-director of McDermont) and Louis (a former Disney employee and city consultant) gave a four hour training that was essentially telling the McDermont story and trying to inspire the new hires to have the same kind of passion about the place that everyone else involved does.

I already know the McDermont story (to this point), but hearing  Brad and Louie talk brought back some great memories for me, and the reactions on the faces of the rest of the people in the room reminded me that even though Doug and I talk a lot about this project he's working on and what a massive undertaking it is, very few people truly understand the depth and scope of what this little crew of dreamers is doing--what they have already accomplished.

The McDermont Packing Co was founded in Lindsay around the turn of the century, with the owner giving the company his own last name.  It was run by him, then his son and grandson, until they sold it to another company (perhaps Sunkist, but I can't remember for sure) in the late 60s.  The packing shed was active, all the while packing oranges and/or lemons, until the early 1990s, when the company moved to another packing facility in town.  Then the building sat empty and pretty much abandoned for over a decade.

Now, where do we come into the picture?  Well, in the spring of 2004 when I was *very* "heavy with child", almost on a whim Doug decided to apply to California State Polytechnic University.  They have one of the most respected City and Regional Planning departments in the country, and we thought perhaps he could get a master's degree there in order to pursue a career in that field.  When he decided to apply, one of the people he asked to write a letter of recommendation for him was Scot Townsend, a friend from the stake who was the successful city manager of Lindsay.   The letters must've been good, because Doug was accepted to Cal Poly and that summer when we returned to California, Scot offered Doug an internship at the City to help him get his feet wet before he took off for grad school.

Now it just so happened that  that same summer, a delegation from the city of Lindsay which included (among others)  Scot and the city council was invited to Manhattan, just before Doug and I left for San Luis Obispo to start at Cal Poly.  Brad, the aforementioned city recreation director, told them, "You've got to check out Chelsea Piers while you're there."  So they did--a huge sports and recreation center created from long-abandoned old passenger piers.  One of the city councilman, Esteban "Steve" Velasquez, said, "We need a Chelsea Pier in Lindsay." Quite some time later, Steve and Scot were in a car together and drove pass the vacant McDermont Fruit Company packing shed and Steve said, "That could be our Chelsea Piers."

As soon as he said it, the wheels in Scot's head started turning.  He is an intense man of many ideas and high ideals, so when he starts on an idea, he has trouble sleeping, which was certainly the case this night.  So he got up and drove into town.   Flashlight in hand, he broke through the fence around the building and crawled inside to have a look around (the city manager breaking into buildings at night, you say?  Yes, but its a small town and the police chief happened to be one of his best friends).  The next morning he came back and brought along Brad and Burt Garzelli (the police chief)  Walking around in the first building, Scot said, "Basketball courts." Garzelli announced, "We need a cat walk up here!"   The three of them walked down to the basement, then just an empty concrete room of about 10,000 square feet where they used to gas fruit, and someone said, "Lazer tag!"   The ideas were beginning to take shape already, day later.

Doug had been working for Lindsay remotely from San Luis Obispo throughout the school year on different tasks, most of them more closely related to his training in Planning.  But as he attended school, one of the things that he was learning that would prove in the long run to be most vital, both to him and the City of Lindsay, was a computer modeling program called Sketch Up.  When we returned to the Central Valley for the summer and Doug became a full time intern again in between school years, Scot started telling him about their plans for McDermont.  The city was acquiring the two buildings--one a warehouse-like place, the other a more traditional building that had been used for sorting and packaging.  Before we took off for SLO for the second year of Doug's program, Scot started throwing a little more Doug's way as far as McDermont-related tasks,  as everyone was trying hard to figure out how to make this great idea a reality.

During our second year at Poly, Doug spent a good deal of time on Sketch Up creating a virtual model of what McDermont could be as a recreation complex, and we all hoped would be. At that point it consisted only of the first two original buildings and was a really cool idea.

When we moved to Lindsay the next spring and Doug took a permanent job with the city as an assistant city manager, he took me through McDermont for the first time.  At that point, the first building looked like the shell of what was once a warehouse rather than a warehouse--dirty and in disrepair.  It was empty, with a concrete floor typical of other packing houses.  There were no windows of any kind, and no walls to speak of at all on the east side of the building.  The packing shed was dilapidated, looking very much like what it was--a 100 year old building that had been completely neglected for 10 years.  But I had an advantage most people didn't--I walked in for the first time with the images of the virtual model in my mind, so I could see it for what it could be.

As the plans progressed, it was incredible to watch these building begin to transform.  After weeks of sanding, bleaching and varnishing, a gorgeous original hardwood floor gleamed in the packinghouse, where at first I hadn't even noticed the floor because it was so filthy.  The shell of a warehouse I had initially seen quickly became sport courts I wanted to get out and play a game of volleyball on.  That catwalk that Burt mentioned the very first day started to go up.

But then came the third building. Originally, it was going to be a small building, just big enough for a weight room, boxing ring and small gym.  But the ideas kept coming, and the plans kept growing.  Scot essentially told Doug, "I want you to design me a building".  And he did.  More than 100,000 square feet, nearly five stories high.  Its almost done now.  There is a soft opening on April 18, when the arcade in the second building will be complete, and then a Grand Opening on June 21 when the whole thing--all 172,000 square feet of family fun--will be open to the public.  It has been quite a ride, watching it all happen.  Doug was doing more and more to get it rolling and, having essentially been the primary designer, knew the building better than just about anyone, so last summer Scot moved him from assistant city manager to co-director of McDermont.  Now that third building is what takes what could be a nice, oversized community center or county wide rec center and turns it into a magical place that will hopefully become a regional destination.

From an economic development standpoint, its been a nontraditional path to say the least.  I've gone with Doug to trade shows and to receptions at conferences, and seen the looks on people's faces when they hear about the place.  "You're building a 172,000 square foot sports and recreation center in a poor town of 12,000 people, not even all that close to any major metropolitan areas?"  They always have this look of smug amusement, like they're thinking, "Wow, its sweet that your so ambitious.  Too bad reality's gonna knock you on your butt."  But all it ever takes to change anyone's mind is to get them here.  To walk them through the buildings, show them the models, and they catch the vision and they want to be a part of it. 

Its easy, especially now in the very, very busy months leading up to the grand opening, to get lost in the stress of it all--not only buildings to be built, but equipment to be ordered, software to be developed, staff to be hired and trained, technology to learn, promotions to do,  nut and bolts to fine tune everywhere.  Yet its so much bigger than all that.  Its creating something that no one else anywhere in the world has quite done yet.  Its new, it ambitious and its beautiful.  People are starting to take notice, not just around the county, but around the country.  This isn't just a project to the people involved.  Everyone of them knows in his or her heart that if it succeeds, they will have done something no else has ever done and that many would've said was impossible.  But they've found ways, through all the bumps and hiccups and twists and turns, to make it a reality.  And they believe it will be successful.  Its (so far) a 14 or 15 million dollar project, and when those doors open on June 21, its all paid for.  Redevelopment funds, grants, etc., have helped them create something spectacular without a huge debt looming over them on day one.

Everyone involved knows that this is something so much more than a rec center.  Its about watching a community reinvent itself and thrive, for one thing.  Lindsay is a small town whose economy, until now, has relied heavily on the citrus crop and has, over the years, suffered three nearly catastrophic freezes.  Each time, everyone said it would kill the town.  Each time, the town has come back up to its feet.  Here is something that diversifies the economy in our small town, while at the same time honoring and embracing the heritage we have--everything in the decorating, theming and construction of the facility revolves around the citrus packing plant idea.  We want to make Lindsay better without losing sight of what made us great.  

And its a place where families can come together, and be active and have a good time.  Families are thirsty for that.  They can come and climb the rock wall, challenge each other on the Flowrider, play a soccer game, chase each other around the 10,000 square foot lazer tag basement.  They can have their birthday parties there, inside the trunk of a five story giant sequoia tree.  They can come watch a boxing match or work out at the gym.  Come hit a bucket of balls at the driving range or the batting cages.  The range of activities and cool "stuff" is incredible.  And they will make sure that the employees are the kind of people who make your visit worthwhile and make you want to come again.

A huge inspiration for everyone involved has been Walt Disney.  The man was a true innovator in so many ways.  If you don't know much about him, you should read up on him, because he was just incredible in his drive and ambition and vision--whether it was in animation, film, sound, theme parks or what have you.  He was a just magnificently talented in seeing possibilities that others often could not see.  Every time I see someone make that face that says, "You're cute, but nuts," because a small town in central California is a bad place for a 3 acre, one of a kind fun and entertainment center, I remember that pretty much everyone thought the an orange grove in the tiny town of Anaheim was a horribly ridiculous place for a theme park (an idea that was in itself pretty new) and that 40 acres of swamp land in Florida was even worse.  But you know what?  Not only have those places survived, they have become the two of the most popular destinations in the world.  Now, we're no Disneyland, that's for sure, but Disney definitely got one thing right: sometimes, dreams do come true.  If you're willing to put enough faith and hard work into an idea, you can make it a reality.  I understand a little better now one of the most famous things Walt Disney said:  "Its kind of fun to do the impossible."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tender Mercies

I was reminded very strongly this morning one of the reasons why running into Elder Holland in the SLC airport that evening last summer was so meaningful for me.

In April of 2005, Elder Bednar gave a wonderful talk entitled "The Tender Mercies of the Lord". I had the privilege of hearing the substance of that talk a few months earlier in January when Elder Bednar came to rearrange our stake presidency.  I always try to be aware of and grateful for my blessings, because I think the gratitude is the path to a plethora of other virtues and makes life infinitely more enjoyable.  But there are particular types of blessings that tend to fall into the "tender mercies" category for me, and I think the best way to put it would be blessings that are a divine comfort or reassurance.  

The first time I heard the talk, my mind wandered back to an event about two and a half months earlier.  My Grandma had passed away the previous November, a loss that was hard to take.  She was a huge, huge part of my childhood--my escape from the madness of a busy house full of kids and foster kids, a place of cookies and doughnuts and overcooked hamburgers.  She was one of my closest friends throughout my childhood and adolescence, and just the physical separation from her for the previous two years was difficult.  To have her actually gone was quite a heartache.  But then, two nights after she died, my mom was on her way to her sister's house at about 10 at night to take care of some of the necessary arrangements when she called me and said, "Becky! Tell everybody to get the kids up.  The Northern Lights are out, and they're incredible!"  My grandma LOVED the Northern Lights.  My mom had many memories from her childhood (and I had just a few from mine) of being pulled from a warm bed and hauled outside to witness this particular natural phenomenon.  It was as if Grandma lit up the sky to remind us all, "I'm still here."  It could have been mere coincidence that Aurora Borealis was in full splendor that particular evening, but I don't think so.  It was a tender mercy of the Lord to comfort us in our grief. 

Meeting Elder Holland that night was part of a tender mercy from the Lord, as well.  I was particularly frustrated and depressed that evening over the thought of bad fathers, who fail or hurt their children--over Priesthood holders who did not honor that authority they had been granted, or who even misused it.  When I was feeling pretty hurt and cynical, in walked a man who reminded me that the world was full of good men who honored their priesthood, who loved and cherished their wives and who were good and faithful stewards over their children. How grateful I was to have such a powerful example of that kind of righteousness right in front of me.  

But it didn't end there.  Just a short time later, Doug's flight came in.  Most of the week I had been sick, without a husband around to help, with two small children who had also been sick and were off their schedules.  He came down the escalator and our little three year old went running into his arms, screeching happily, "Daddy!"  He was so happy to see us and we were so happy to see him that all thoughts of poor fathers left me, as I focused on the good father standing with me.  One of the tender mercies of the Lord in my life is a man who is a good husband and a good father.  Oh sure, he's no Jeffery Holland or Thomas Monson or Henry Eyring (and probably never will be:) ), but he's a good man who takes his responsibilities as husband, father and Priesthood holder very seriously.  He sometimes tells me that he feels like a second class citizen in our marriage because everyone's always telling him how wonderful his wife is, and his retort is at least he gets some credit for having the wisdom to marry me, but his strengths are so impressive to me.  If only he knew how often I felt like I was the one left behind! :)  

I am grateful that I am always reminded of what is important and good in my life at exactly the right moment.  When I look back on the times in my life that have been the most stressful, or dark, or difficult, I don't remember them with regret.  I actually remember them primarily with fondness and gratitude, because what sticks out the most in my mind isn't the darkness, it always the light that has been shone into my darkness right when I needed it most.  That's what I remember.  The tender mercies of the Lord are everywhere.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why We Do What We Do

Every April and every October, our church holds a general conference where the entire membership of the church around the world is able to listen to our leaders (we call them General Authorities--prophets, apostles, etc) speak on our doctrine and beliefs. It is an opportunity I am always grateful for. Today during the Sunday afternoon session of conference, I was very impressed with Elder Holland's talk. There is something so marvelous about these men and their wives and families--we do believe them to be righteous leaders, divinely called and appointed. But we do not claim that they are infallible, nor are they exempt, despite the might responsibility that they bear, from the day to day responsibilities that the rest of us have.
I met Elder Holland once. Last summer, when we were in Utah for Doug's little sister's wedding, I was standing in the Salt Lake airport with my brother-in-law waiting for Doug's plane to get in when a man in a suit grabbed Brad's hand as he was walking by and shook it, saying, "How are you today?" Its a small world in Mormondom, so I assumed it was someone from Utah who had recognized Brad. As he walked away, I took a second look and realized that it was Jeffrey R. Holland--an apostle. In structure, organization and I guess you could say hierarchy, the LDS church is matched only by the Catholic Church, and I thought about that as I observed the quiet manner in which he went about his task. This is a man who is believed by Mormons to be one of the most righteous and powerful men on the earth at this time. But he traveled with no bodyguards, assistants or contingency of any kind. He was dressed in a simple dark suit--it was early evening and he had probably just come from his office. He was greeted by an occasional passerby who generally would just shake his hand and say, "Thank you" before continuing on his or her way. He was in the airport to pick up his son-in-law---he needed a ride, and Elder Holland was the member of the family who happened to be able to get to the airport at the correct time. The simple humility of his manner was striking, but not at all in conflict with his powerful countenance. My brief encounter with him left a deep impression on me that this was indeed a mighty man of God--and yet here he was, alone at the airport just picking up a family member.

Mormons are often an enigma for others. We believe there to be only one true Priesthood authority, that must come from Christ himself in an unbroken line of authority, and yet we give that authority to men more freely and universally than any other faith. The Church is very structured and rigid in its organization, and yet fluid--I have known of more than one man who went from Bishop to Nursery Leader and a few women who have gone from Stake Relief Society Presidencies to youth sunday school teachers. We believe in God appearing to man in the modern day--in the flesh--and we believe in angels, ongoing revelation and all kinds of fantastic manifestations in our day and age. Yet many of our highest ranking Church officers have been well respected scientists who value highly logic, reason, research and the observable facts of this world.

It is often other Christians who find us the most troubling. We reject the Nicene creed and instead claim that God himself and Jesus Christ appeared, as separate, individual and very physical beings to a 14 year old boy. They are one, but in purpose, knowledge and love--not one in body. The Trinity that we believe in consists of three separate, distinct, unique individuals. We claim not only that God does still speak to man, but that he speaks to our prophet, the mouthpiece to all mankind for God.

That last one is often a sore spot with Christians of other faiths, and Elder Holland talked a great deal today about the misunderstandings and misconceptions that exist about the Book of Mormon. He said something along the lines of the Book of Mormon existing not to tear down the Bible, but to reaffirm its truthfulness. I couldn't agree more. The deeper I dig in to the Book of Mormon, the more I find myself cross referencing to the New Testament and the prophecies of Isaiah, and my love for the Bible only increases. Many Christians believe that revelation stopped with the Bible.

I don't. I believe very strongly in ongoing revelation, on a personal level and on a worldwide level. I have friends that sometimes ask my advice about relationships, or deciding to have a baby, or financial decisions or what have you, because I have previously been in a similar situation. All I can ever say is, "Have you prayed about it?" I believe that the Holy Ghost can bear witness to just about anyone, regardless of their particular faith, but I also believe that if you make certain covenants with the Lord and then strive to live righteously you can have the Spirit of God as a constant companion in your life. I don't know how anyone ever makes a meaningful decision without the comforting confirmation of the Holy Ghost.

I love my husband. I have never doubted that I was with the right person. But I didn't marry Doug because I was in love with him. I started dating him because I liked him, and somewhere along the way I fell in love with him, but I was 18 and scared to death of the thought of marrying the wrong person just because I fell in love. I never would've put one arm into that wedding dress if I hadn't had an overwhelming witness from the Lord that marrying him was the right thing to do. Being in love with him just made it an easy prompting to follow.

But every major decision in life is like that. Should we take a job? Let's pray about it and see what the Lord says. If its time to have a baby, I know because I start getting promptings to move in the direction (and if I put them off too long I also start hearing phantom baby cries and feeling like I've left the baby even if there is no baby to leave, but that's just because I'm crazy). If we need to make a major purchase, like a house or a car, I can't move forward until I feel like the Lord has said, "Ok". When Doug and I were asked to speak at Conner's funeral, everyone was highly complimentary of the talks that we gave and were moved very much by them. There was a great deal of emotion involved in that (and the spiritual and emotional are closely connected), but the only reason that we were able to carry out those assignments successfully is because we fasted and prayed that we might have the Spirit with us, might be given the words to say that would invite the Spirit and touch people's hearts. I know that to a lot of people, that makes me sound downright insane. I know others dismiss it as me mistaking my emotions or thoughts for something more. I learned long ago that when people think that, I don't care.

I know that the feeling of confirmation I get is vastly different from any other feeling I know. It employs my emotions and my intellect, and yet it is not quite a part of either--it is a distinct and different feeling. I remember someone saying once that trying to describe that feeling to someone who has never known it is like trying to explain the taste of salt without using the word "salty" or an example with anything that has salt in it. I use my reason and intellect and emotions to get to that point, but ultimately that final confirmation, that solidifying witness, is something very different indeed.

Why do Mormons do the things we do? Often it is simply because the Lord has told us it is right, and that's enough. How do you explain that to someone who thinks that revelation is dead, or to someone who thinks that if you claim to hear God speak you must be schizophrenic? I have even known my fair share of LDS people who have held to the Gospel fairly consistently but who have, ultimately, had primarily intellectual or emotional testimonies. I have loved many of them dearly, but their roots in the Gospel are unfortunately somewhat shallow, and they are easily swept away in the first strong wind that hits them. Or, probably more commonly, they remain standing, but never do much growing. I know its true because I have heard God whisper it to my heart. So I don't care if anyone thinks I'm crazy.

If I know that simple, flawed, stubborn me can receive revelation for myself, it is not difficult for me to believe that men who give their lives to service in love, to obedience, to raising righteous families and following the Savior's example of humility and brotherly kindness can receive revelation for the whole world. Indeed, I believe they do. And I'm grateful I had an opportunity to be reminded of that today.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Eye Owie

Ok, since I posted the pics of our trip to the beach, I've had lots of people send me comments/emails/text messages asking what on earth happened to poor Dylan's eye.  Last Wednesday, I was teaching one of my young women some basics about photography so she could do a photo project for one of her Personal Progress projects. We took my kids to the park so she could take some pictures of them to practice people pictures.  Dylan loves the park, so as Susie was unbuckling his carseat, he was shaking with excitement and as soon as the top buckle was undone he leapt out of his seat before anyone had a chance to think or react.  Splat! right onto the asphalt went my baby boy.  This is what it looked like that afternoon.  It actually looked worse the next day, all swollen and scabbed over and discolored.