Showing posts with label trials. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trials. Show all posts

Monday, November 6, 2017

Somewhere Between Eden and Gethsemane

        A garden, by definition, is either a cultivated plot of ground or a gathering place such as a park which is generally adorned with plants and trees.  I guess I have never considered the definition until quite recently.  We had our Stake Conference this weekend, and one of the speakers mentioned two specific gardens found in the scriptures and discussed the symbolic differences between them.

          The Garden of Eden, as mentioned in Geneses,          is outlined as a paradise.  We see paintings of fruit and vegetation, peace and waterfalls, a beautiful place where everything is tranquil.  I guess it represents a kind of perfection.

          The Garden of Gethsemane, as portrayed by each of the gospels, does not have the same appeal.  Paintings often depict a drab setting with perhaps a few barren-looking trees, a hard rock or boulder, uncultivated dirt - it appears to be the opposite of the Garden of Eden.  There is no tranquility.  It represents hardships.  It represents trials.  There is sadness in Gethsemane and it takes faith to endure just being there.

          My youngest son seems to live in Eden for the most part.  He allows discouraging thoughts to roll off his back.   He tries to coax others to come into Eden by waving to them and showing them what the garden has to offer. Sometimes I have questioned whether he has been to  Gethsemane.  I know he's seen it. I don't know he's willing to leave his comfort zone to physically pull others out of Gethsemane.  I could be wrong.

          My middle son fluctuates between the two gardens.  He seems happy and content with one, but then something will set him off and he will mope around in the other.  And then there's my eldest who unfortunately has spent too many years in the Garden of Gethsemane and continues to delve deeper into the garden instead of trying to get out.

          Often his way of thinking (or lack thereof) remind me of John Steinbeck's character "Lennie Small" from Of Mice and Men.  Lennie is sweet for the most part, is seen as uneducated and slow-minded.  He doesn't mean to be harmful to anyone, but sometimes he gets frustrated and defensive when he is unable to communicate his thoughts to others.  I don't think that Biff is quite that far gone, but he tends to forget things he once believed. 
        Often our conversations are (and have been) like beating our heads against a brick wall.  I do believe that he would become bored with Eden in a matter of time, but I don't enjoy watching him struggling in Gethsemane, and I don't know how to help him.  Nor do I know how to comfort his mother-in-law who has visited Gethsemane more times than I have.

          I understand the need for trials.  I understand the need  for peace.  I'd like to see all of my children find their common ground between the two gardens.  I'd like that for everyone.

Friday, October 6, 2017

From What I Recall . . .

            I think my favorite talk for this past conference was this one given by Elder Ronald A. Rasband.   

He talked about a subject that I have touched on my blog before.  I was reminded of a post I created just over a year and a half ago.  I had briefly discussed Wendy Ulrich's book "Habits of Happiness".  The particular subject was "Don't try to get  Help from your Problems" - in other words, ask God to help you make your weaknesses become strengths - rely upon Him as the path you thought you may have chosen isn't necessarily the right one for you.


            It is interesting that so many of us can listen to or read the same exact talk and walk away from it with a different interpretation than another might - just as with the parables the Savior would deliver to those who would listen and those who were in tune (or are in tune) with the spirit will take from it what is needed in our life at that moment.

            I know there have been many unwilling to accept that the course of the path they travel is perhaps the best plan for them - or perhaps they are supposed to meet or influence others that they might not if circumstances were different.  Sometimes we feel that a situation might be better if we hadn't been at "the wrong place at the wrong time" but how do we know it was wrong.  Maybe it was a part of Heavenly Father's plan all along.  Maybe we had to overcome challenges to learn humility or some other lesson.  Maybe we need to set an example for somebody else.  

            In this post I compared Merida (from "Brave") and her desires to what was expected, what was desired, and how the course hadn't even been close to what had been expected - but had helped her to grow nonetheless. 


            Although Elder John D. Pingree's talk (here) seemed more aimed toward missionary work, it also reminded me of the examples that I used just trying to make it through our everyday lives and how to incorporate these four steps into helping others through service and talents and allowing ourselves to grow from our trials and use that to help others also.



Monday, January 26, 2015

If you can’t question your religion, Why Are You In It?

         I don’t know if I had met Kelly prior to the being called to serve on the activities committee.  The first activity I remember being involved with was a “food storage/budgeting made-fun activity” Kelly played Betty Barker and I became the emcee who drew the names of contestants and invited them to “come on down”.

         Even then she was struggling with the Church and her family life – desiring to connect the two but feeling torn with her beliefs.  Her husband showed no sign of ever wanting to be involved with the Church or even anybody who belonged to it.  Perhaps Kelly wasn’t even active when they met but gradually came around with a desire for having God and direction in her life – perhaps not necessarily the “Mormon Church”

         That was five years ago.  And she continues to battle with herself and her maintaining a comfortable relationship and self worth which she is not finding in the Church.  I understand.  Perhaps not completely.  But I do understand why she would leave – although she hasn’t withdrawn completely.

         Her husband still gives her no support as far as showing any interest in church or church members.  I didn’t even know what he looked like until the other night when I glanced at him through the window.  He had heard we were coming and made his “get-away” before we were even out of the car.

         Kelly’s last calling had been a counselor in the primary.  Not where she wanted to be, but accepted the calling believing it would keep her on the path to and at that the Church is where she needed to be – until she was asked to create the program for the 2014 “Families are Forever” theme.  That became the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It wasn’t in her heart to create a program that she herself felt discriminated against.

         Actually, I had wondered how the majority felt as many of the primary children are from broken homes, inactive or part member families, many with barriers that seem to prevent the traditional “families are forever” theme. 

         Elenore sat on the stand near the pulpit, to help the children with the lines they might have forgotten. I wondered if the program had been difficult for her as she and her husband had divorced long before I had even met her. She’d gone back to her maiden name rather than identifying herself with her married name.  She has custody of their two children, but he has visitation rights.

         I hadn’t even paid attention to Kelly’s absence as I watched various children get up and recite lines that just didn’t seem to fit in their current living environment.  How many of them believed in the words that they said?  How many struggled through that program?  I did.

         Kelly’s youngest son and Jenna have often played together.  Kelly had told me about sending her son to a water park all summer.  I had been dragging Jenna to Kearns with me last summer.  Perhaps “drag” is not the correct word as she really did enjoy being with her cousins.  But I know she would have loved spending summer at a water park if given the opportunity. 

         I had asked Kelly if Spencer would be returning to the water park this summer and thought I would look into a pass for Jenna.  I thought we had talked just last month, but then she disappeared.

         I was substitute teaching the last three weeks of December.  I think there were five or six names on the role in Jenna’s class, but it was usually just Elenore’s son and Jenna.  Spencer wasn’t there during the three weeks I had taught.  I sent Kelly a message to inquire if she and her family had been out of town for the holidays.  Turns out she is actually attending another church – one that doesn’t push the “Families are Forever” theme.  One that doesn’t make her feel discriminated against.

         I had the same struggles when I was single for so long – not as long as several sisters in the current ward I belong to.  I was married at 39.  There are several sisters in my ward who are much older that have not had opportunity to marry – or perhaps they have and it just didn’t feel right with choice of partner.  I don’t know.  I know that there are several who feel discriminated against when lessons are given on eternal marriage or husband/wives relationships.  It’s hurtful to hear when that very thing doesn’t seem to exist in the earthly future.

         I recently read that divorce is 50/50 but that a marriage needs to be 100/100.  And there are some couples that each give 100% and then there are other couples in which one does all the giving while the other does all the taking.  I can only control what I give, but I cannot control what another might contribute.  Roland contributes 100% - perhaps more.  But not everybody has that.  Not everybody has the support from family members.  Not everybody gives 100%.

         Hannah moved into the ward about a year after we did.  For the longest time I believed that she was a single parent as I never saw her with a spouse.  She was diligent about coming to meetings and activities though it was challenging at times.  It wasn’t known to all that there were struggles, for Hannah wore a smile on her face and pressed on.  One day she announced that there were struggles and coming to church wasn’t easy. Her husband didn’t wish to attend church with her.

         When Asher (her son) got closer to turning eight, he begged his dad to please come back to Church so that he could baptize him.  Thus after eight or nine years of attending Church on her own, Hannah’s husband finally came around.  He is the one who baptized Asher.  Endurance.

         So where is Kelly’s reward when she has seemingly had to endure even longer?  Why are there some whose trials seem to outlast their faith while others seem to be rewarded in just a matter of minutes?  How many of us feel that we have been or are being dealt with unfairly?  For how long must we endure?

         One of my biggest hang-ups in this “pushing family” church is the discrimination that seemingly takes place at the temple.  The sealing ceremony in which only the worthy temple recommends holders can participate.  All loved ones who are not temple recommend holders are allowed to wait in the lobby but cannot witness the special event because they don’t have recommends.  They have been labeled “unworthy” How do you explain that? 

         I was married civilly over three years before I was sealed.  The civil marriage was a lot more personable.  I enjoyed having guests at my wedding that otherwise couldn’t come to see Roland and I exchange vows.  I don’t like to feel excluded because I don’t have a recommend (or didn’t; not when Patrick married.  Not when my cousin married her first husband) and I don’t wish for others to feel that way.

         What does a “Forever Family” mean in my case?  That the boys will go with Roland and their mom?  That Jenna will go with Roland and me?  And what’s to become of Roland’s oldest two girls?  They were born under the covenant?  But do they sense that now?  Do they even know what that means?

         The boys are adults with spouses (soon families) of their own.   How does that work?  Are they always going to reside with us in the hereafter or will they go with their wives’ families?  I don’t think our concept of “Families are forever” will be the same as what we may build up in our minds.  We are required to have faith that it will all work out.  God’s kind and men’s kind are very often not the same.

            Denise shared her testimony after her forty plus years of struggles – though not with the Church.  She had been baptized when she was 19.  The ward bishop had called her into his office to call her as a primary teacher.  But there was a condition that came with accepting the call.  She would have to stop dating her boyfriend.  It wasn’t because even because he wasn’t a member, but apparently the bishop objected to his race.  I don’t know if she saw that as discrimination coming from the Church or just that particular leader.  It wasn’t right that he had told her that.  She left the Church and did not return until over forty years later.

            The elder missionaries showed up on her doorstep shortly after she lost her dad.  She was in a state of depression.  She had answered the door in her pajamas and commented that one elder in particular was dead set about helping her.  She said she needed her dishes done but didn’t have any soap.  The elders dismissed themselves but said they would return.

            When the elders returned, they brought back some dish soap along with a missionary couple.  While the elders did dishes, Denise sat in the other room with the elderly couple and asked about her father.  It was a very good visit and an indication for her to return to the Church in which she had been baptized a member over four decades earlier.

            We all have our trials.  We all have our disappointments.  Endurance is not an easy thing.  For many, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  For many there is no life.  They have given up home.  Some hang on by a thread searching for a glimmer of hope.  May each of us find the strength needed to endure than we may find peace?  That is my hope. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda . . . Time Machine

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weaknesses that they may be humble; . . .” Ether 12:27

How many of us wish we had a time machine that we might have opportunity for do over.  If only I had made a different choice.  If only I had spent more time (and probably money) perhaps we could have found our runaway dog.  I wish I had been a more positive influence when Roland’s girls came to visit.  I wish I hadn’t left Jenna in all day kindergarten after we moved.

Regrets are demons if we allow ourselves to dwell on what could have been instead of just moving on.  Perhaps we may learn from or see growth from what it is we think we’d like to change.  Allow me to use Jenna’s kindergarten experience as an example.

The school by our first house offered two all-day kindergarten classes.  There were few parents who desired just half day.  The instructors were able to devote more time to their students and the children learned more than they would have in half day.  That is what I was used to.  That is what I wanted to continue with.

But we didn’t necessarily have that option at the second school.  The all day kindergarten program was definitely NOT the same.  I didn’t know that.  Either it hadn’t been explained to me or I just wasn’t listening or I hadn’t understood.  Nor had I prayed about my decision to put her in all day kindergarten.  But even if I had, would the results have been any different?

Jenna LOVED her first school and she tried loving her second.  But she was as a disadvantage as she was so much smarter than the other children who didn’t know how to accept Jenna.  I don’t think they were mean to her necessarily, but they certainly weren’t friendly.  Jenna felt so alone – which she would have in half day as well, but it would have been fewer hours at school and more time with me teaching her at home.

I’ve known all along that it was/is stupid to have this regret.  It has already happened.  I can’t change it.  And yet I realize that without the tragedy of how Jenna and I each felt about her education (or rather lack of) that we would most likely not be where we are today.  For without that experience I may not have searched so hard to find another school.  Nor would I have even considered another school if we were still living in our first house. She’s had many awesome opportunities with her current school that she would have missed out on with the other two. I think it was worth the four month struggle we both faced after we moved.  But it’s taken me a long time to figure it out.

Whenever I think of the apostle Peter, I wonder if he had regrets.  He made some huge errors that are recorded for the entire world to read about.  And yet, how much stronger and diligent was he at fulfilling his mission?  Did he not turn his human weaknesses into strengths?  Was he not a stronger leader after the resurrection than before Christ was crucified?

There are no time machines.  We can’t change the past.  Regret will only get in the way of our growth and happiness.  We need to move on.  We need to find our strengths.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Postcomment for Jake Abhau: - A Mormon Dad of a Gay Teen

While I was reading  this post, my mind flooded with ideas for a comment I might leave – but there were too many thoughts racing through my mind that my fingers couldn’t keep up with what I thought I wanted to say – so while trying to condense my comment (so that it did not come out to be longer than the Jake’s post) I made errors with spelling and smooth transitions.  My comment sounded disjointed and stupid – to me anyway. 

Perhaps not all of it sounded unpolished and sloppy.  My thoughts were flying faster than I could get the words out. When I reread through the first comment that I left, I realize I should have just stopped at the second paragraph. I copied the first two paragraphs and deleted my original comment and tried again – with just the two paragraphs and a link for my brother’s blog. I’d like to share my ideas and hope that they are valid and helpful.  But I don’t want to sound preachy.

Some of the thoughts that went through my mind were words I had already written in such posts found here, here and here among several others.  I had also thought about the lesson given in Relief Society, several of Corey’s posts, and a talk I had given in Sacrament meeting.

The lesson in Relief Society was chapter 15 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow in which we learn that sometimes things don’t go as we had planned but that we need to make the best of it and realize that perhaps that was part of the plan all along – that Pres. Snow was destined to be in Malta rather than India, that we ourselves may have another mission that doesn’t seem compatible with what we’ve been taught all of our lives.

Corey had been taught to go on a mission, get married in the temple, honor his priesthood, etc. etc.  But that isn’t the path he chose for himself – nevertheless believed it was expected.  And then God allowed for Corey and Joh to cross paths.  Corey is now on a mission through his blog.  He has a strong testimony of the Church gospel.  But he also values gay awareness. 

My belief is that his calling right now is to assist in bridging that gap between the LDS Church and the LGBT community.  But his records had to be removed from the Church in order to get the following that he did (and continues to get) And I think he has done an amazing job – though that was not his intent.  Corey is a happy and complete person – neither of which existed before he came out – before he found Joh.

I gave a talk in Church.  The subject I had been given was on forgiveness.  I didn’t want to come right out and say, “Corey, I’ve been assigned a talk.  Allow me to be your proxy; you write the talk and I will give it.” Though that is what I wanted to do.  I emailed the three paragraphs which I had been given and told him that I needed to make a talk out of it and was looking for his ideas – which he shared.  But not a complete talk’s worth.

Ironically about half of my talk came from some of the posts that he had created about a friend who had been sent to prison.  So unbeknownst to him, I actually did make most of it his talk rather than my own.  Just because he’s been excommunicated doesn’t mean his relationship with God is over.  Quite the contrary.  It has gotten stronger.

We don’t always understand why we’ve been given certain trials.  We don’t often understand why God would give a commandment (“Thou shalt not kill” for example) that we accept and imbed into our brains and strongly agree with and then tells someone (Nephi, for example) “Kill Laban” and we’re like “What?”

There are some people who I believe have been chosen – yes “chosen” to marry outside of their faith or not serve a mission or leave the Church to build strength in either their own character or become an example for others to follow.  I truly believe that. 

I do have a testimony of this church gospel.  I do.  But I have strayed from the strict teachings I grew up with and have ventured outside the box into a world where I want to understand others – what their viewpoints are.  And I’m seeing the flaws of men – mankind who are church goers – some are Pharisees, some try their hardest to fit into the perfect Mormon mold, and others explore.  There are some mighty strong members who have strayed and returned – and then there are others (like my brother) who remain strong but cannot return – at least for the time being.

I think so many of us feel discrimination at one time or another.  And yet Jesus did not or does not discriminate.  So why is it we may feel that when we are attending His Church?  Because there is still leadership run by imperfect men.  None of us is perfect.  We're not expected to be perfect in this earth life - just to stay on the path that will lead to perfection. God isn't going to discriminate because Jordan is gay - just as he will not discriminate against my bother. It's his mission. You can see it in his blog.

I hope that Jake does not give up on the Church.  But I do understand where he is coming from.  The Church teaches values.  It builds foundation. But it is hard to live the concept of “Families are Forever” and then have imperfect leaders tell us that unless we repent of the unrepentable that we can’t be together forever.  We have to have hope and faith and realize that God’s love and perfection is so much mightier than any man’s.