Sunday, April 21, 2013

Healing joy

Lesson learned:

True joy in healing comes not through careful inspection of our wounds, but in finding something beautiful enough to distract us while the new skin forms.

Late night childish words:

I measure my happiness by dropper-fulls
And how well I use my thumbs;
By ease of sharing deepest thoughts
Without ever feeling dumb.

The joy of playing childhood games
Replaces clutched anxiety
As confidence is shown and felt
In place of notoriety.

I may not analyze each moment
Or always show my wit
But there's peace in never questioning
If there's room for two to fit.

A grateful independence
Shines in her gleaming eyes
As encouragement and praise
Still take her by surprise.

The unexpected chivalry
The candor in your smile
The silly grin that draws her in
And makes her feel worthwhile.

Distraction draws out venom
And facilitates forgiveness
As patience plays of petrichor
And marvels in its stillness.

You may not ever truly know
The pain behind those eyes
For she's learning now of blessed peace
That in fulfillment lies.

There's always been a measure
Of clinging to the past
But now that faith means hoping on
Her heart can heal at last.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Life is full of resting points
to sit, and laugh, and play
where hearts and lives come to a halt
and focus on today.

But rest, by definition
is a time between transition
where moving, growing, stretching
find a refuge from revision.

The rest of life we find ourselves
traveling on bridges
running, walking, crawling by
on alveolar ridges.

And yet too oft we find ourselves
content with our stagnation,
instead of pushing onward
finding growth in agitation.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Faith in Practical Empathy

Liminal space expands
Between compassion and despair
Engulfing all who venture close:
The hopeful, who will dare
To bring their joy to those who mourn;
Yet, finding grief a sin
They languish over ignorance
And irony sets in.

For peace can often masquerade
As unconcerned assurance;
A gentle balm that soothes the soul
And strengthens ones endurance.
Contrasting those perceived assumptions
A calm there is to find
In knowing what will lie ahead
And leaving past behind.

For though the mandate rests here still
To mourn with those who weep
The faithful know: while weeping lasts
There are yet those who sleep
Soundly still in tidy cots
Amidst the raging tempest
Who understand, as in times past
That clothes aren't always rent, lest
The promises of deity be trampled underfoot-
For the peace commanded from the decks must in our souls take root.

On finding hope in dark times

I believe that there is so much in this world worth living for.  There is so much beauty, love, and hope.  So many reasons to laugh and smile.  We cannot deny that we live in a world that is sometimes unsafe.  It is a sad truth that people at times use their agency to hurt others.  But there are always people- in fact, there are always MORE people- who are using their agency to create beauty.  The more we look for, observe, and become like those people, the helpers, the more beautiful our world will become.  Let us acknowledge the evil, but promote the light.

As President Uchtdorf says:
"Understand and accept that darkness exists, but choose not to dwell there."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 2013 General Conference

Last weekend was the 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    It was a remarkable event historically as well as personally.  Having made some huge life-shifts in the past month, I came into conference with some very specific questions for which I was seeking answers.  The following are some of the talks, quotes, and ideas that most deeply touched my soul.

Elder Boyd K. Packer on protecting the family:
Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton, a recently released Young Women's General President, bore this powerful testimony:
Today as a daughter of God, I stand as a witness that He lives. Jesus is the Christ. He is our Redeemer. It is through His infinite atoning sacrifice that I will one day return to live with Him—proven, pure, and sealed in an eternal family. I shall ever praise Him for the privilege of being a woman, a wife, and a mother. I testify that we are led by a prophet of God, President Thomas S. Monson, and I am grateful for righteous men, whose priesthood power blesses my life. And I shall ever be grateful for the strength I receive through the enabling power of the Savior’s infinite Atonement as I continue to strive to “act well [my] part.”

Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy delivered a beautiful talk on forgiveness- and one I desperately needed to hear.  I was struck by the truth that the Savior is not only willing to forgive us, but he wants to.  He is pleading with us to be repentant and to seek his forgiveness so that he can welcome us back with open arms.  Similarly, if we are to help others reach their true potential, indeed if we are to truly love them, we must desire to forgive those who have wronged us.  Our desire for their well-being and eternal progression must be greater than the urge to harbor hurt.

Elder M. Russell Ballard eloquently stated the gospel's stance on men and women's roles, particularly in relation to the Priesthood.  I stand behind Elder Ballard 100% :

In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family.

Elder Quentin L. Cook's talk was on the power of personal peace, and I loved this quote he shared by Ugo Betti:
To believe in God is to know that all the rules will be fair, and that there will be wonderful surprises.

In a discourse on the importance of doing things in the Lord's way, Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the Seventy told this wonderful story:
For 16 years I served in the presidency of the Houston Texas North Stake. Many moved to our area during those years. We would often receive a phone call announcing someone moving in and asking which was the best ward. Only once in 16 years did I receive a call asking, “Which ward needs a good family? Where can we help?”  I sincerely hope that I can learn to ask where Father needs me.

On Sunday morning, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave my favorite talk from all of conference.  I have been struggling a lot recently with my obsession with pain, and learning how to live and be happy and joyful amid a world of struggles and heartache.  The main message I took from Uchrdorf's talk was this:
Understand and accept that darkness exists, but choose not to dwell there.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton gave some prophetic advice about good marriages, and I particularly appreciated these thoughts:

I have observed that in wonderful, happy marriages, husbands and wives treat each other as equal partners. Practices from any place or any time in which husbands have dominated wives or treated them in any way as second-class partners in marriage are not in keeping with divine law and should be replaced by correct principles and patterns of behavior.
Husbands and wives in great marriages make decisions unanimously, with each of them acting as a full participant and entitled to an equal voice and vote. They focus first on the home and on helping each other with their shared responsibilities. Their marriages are based on cooperation, not negotiation. Their dinner hour and the family time that follows become the center of their day and the object of their best efforts. They turn off electronics and forgo personal entertainment in order to help with household duties. To the extent possible, they read with their children every night and both participate in putting the little ones to bed. They retire to their bed together. As their duties and circumstances permit, husbands and wives work side by side in doing the most important work there is—the work we do in our own homes.

And from our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, the importance of strict obedience:
My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them."

One of the most bold and profound talks was given by Elder Jefferey R. Holland on the importance of Faith. It was Powerful.
What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine. I know this work is God’s very truth, and I know that only at our peril would we allow doubt or devils to sway us from its path. Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks shared a story that struck me very deeply:
As part of loving one another, Jesus taught that when we are wronged by persons, we should forgive them (see Matthew 18:21–35; Mark 11:25–26; Luke 6:37). While many struggle with this difficult commandment, we all know of inspiring examples of Latter-day Saints who have given loving forgiveness, even for the most serious wrongs. For example, Chris Williams drew upon his faith in Jesus Christ to forgive the drunken driver who caused the death of his wife and two of their children. Only two days after the tragedy and still deeply distraught, this forgiving man, then serving as one of our bishops, said, “As a disciple of Christ, I had no other choice.

This sage wisdom about peace in the home from Elder Enrique R. Fallabella:
“In order to contend, you need two people, and I will never be one of them.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson offered a powerful sermon on redemption, in which he shared this thought that touched me:

While the most important aspects of redemption have to do with repentance and forgiveness, there is a very significant temporal aspect as well. Jesus is said to have gone about doing good (see Acts 10:38), which included healing the sick and infirm, supplying food to hungry multitudes, and teaching a more excellent way. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). So may we, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, go about doing good in the redemptive pattern of the Master.
This kind of redemptive work means helping people with their problems. It means befriending the poor and the weak, alleviating suffering, righting wrongs, defending truth, strengthening the rising generation, and achieving security and happiness at home. Much of our redemptive work on earth is to help others grow and achieve their just hopes and aspirations.

I thoroughly enjoyed conference, and I'm so excited for the learning and growing I have to do over the next 6 months. :-)

Friday, April 5, 2013

A few thoughts on Love (on any other topic this would be called a rant)

There is a pervasive and fallacious belief in society that love is fleeting, that love is merely a desire or emotion felt at one period of time, subject to change and alteration.  This is a viewpoint I have seen expressed by many people, some very close to me, and I believe it is destructive to the true and beautiful nature of love.

Love is not merely an emotion.  Rather, it is a choice- a conscious commitment to look deeply enough into the soul of another human being, to try and understand their most raw selves, that you begin to see their true nature.  As sung in Les Miserables "To love another person is to see the face of God".  It truly is.  The ability to love is a divine gift bestowed upon feeble, imperfect people in order that we may, through unified efforts, come to know God.

One does not simply stop loving.  If you truly love someone- a sister or brother, a parent, a child, a friend, or a lover- you can't just stop.  Love, while the most fundamental force of mortality, is not the only one.  And love often causes people to do things that seem contrary to modern society's idea of passionate, romanticized love.  An unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption is typically viewed as caring deeply for the infant, so deeply, in fact, that she is willing to make great sacrifices to do what is best for the child.  And the brother who seemingly humiliates his sister to save her from a precarious circumstance is clearly seen to be exercising his brotherly love by protecting her best interests.  And yet, the lover who lets go, for one of the hundreds of good reasons one may have, is villainized.

You never stop loving someone.  The heart isn't a finite amount of space that is taken up by each person for whom we care.  Instead, [insert Michael's logical fallacy here] the more we love, the greater our capacity to love.  The ability to love is less like a substance and more like a muscle- the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes.  The more people we learn to care for, and the more deeply we learn to care, the more we are blessed with the ability to understand the children of God and to have compassion, empathy, and charity.

Loving is never wrong.  Even when in loving we are hurt, abused, or used, the exercise of our God-given ability to love will never count against us in eternity.  We can do things in the name of love, things that violate commandments and wound the tender souls of those who have so trustingly allowed us access to their hearts, but these are merely attempts to justify inappropriate behavior in the name of virtue.  True love never compromises the virtue, safety, or spiritual well-being of another person.  And true love never ceases, but always grows.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

television shift

I was reading an article on how to decrease the amount of TV in your life today, and I had a shocking realization: In the past month, I've watched almost no television.

And guess what?  I don't miss it.  I feel stronger and healthier, have less headaches, sleep better, spend more quality time with people I love, and get more done.

Why? Because when my life is full of good things, I don't turn to television as a way to dull out the meaninglessness.  When I have meaningful experiences awaiting me, sitting in front of a screen doesn't hold the same enticement.

And look at all the new things I've had time for in the past month!
-pi parties
-country Dancing
-MOA visits
-long strolls
-BYU Easter conference
-figure Skating
-consistent scripture study
-discussions about ideas
-classical music
-international cinema
-magic shows
-weekly temple visits
-card and board games
-journal writing
-service opportunities

There is so much more to life than watching other people live it.  And I'm so grateful I'm remembering that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sometimes I sit on my bed and look up, fully aware that God is looking down in pleasant amusement at my confusion and admitted insanity due to this thing I call my life.