Thursday, September 7, 2017

We Can Finish Hard Things

Elder Lynn G. Robbins addressed employees at BYU-Idaho yesterday. I was inspired and grateful for the message he shared. There is a significant trend in higher education, and in other post-high school opportunities, showing remarkable and growing drop out rates. In addition, many institutions are also seeing a rise in mental illness, particularly fear of failure/anxiety.

Elder Robbins focused on the Christ-like virtue of resilience. Some refer to this as 'grit,' or the ability to bounce back. We watched this awesome TED talk by Angelee Duckworth that started the conversation.

Following the clip, he posed several questions, including:
  • How can we, as teachers/ those who support students, stress the importance of giving something new a chance, or something old another chance?
  • How can we teach them about follow through on commitments and the joy this integrity brings?
  • How can we separate the behavior from the person, so we can truly minister with no barriers?
He said that often we hear the popular phrase, you can do hard things. He thinks this is a great phrase. However, in this idea of resilience and grit, he suggests that we need to encourage others that they can finish hard things.

He then shared the following paraphrased story: Once upon a time, there was a man stuck
in the middle of the ocean. He was in a rowboat, had plenty of supplies, and ores to paddle. At first, there was hope that he would not be stuck in the middle of the ocean, so he rowed and rowed. After a while, he stopped rowing. He had given up; it was too difficult. What was his purpose anyway. All that he hoped to achieve drifted.

But then, the man spotted land. Do you think he picked up his ores and started rowing again? YES! 

It is often that we are headed on a journey and hit a major roadblock or something we need to overcome. When we lose sight of that vision (island) it is harder for us to be resilient and carry on. Elder Robbins suggests that we have the opportunity to restore vision to those who are up against a rock and a hard place.

To provoke thought and discussion, he asked: what is the ONE perfect parent doing for us to help us become more resilient?  What else can we do to help raise children or teach our students grit? Below are some suggestions from the employees at BYU-Idaho.
  1. Allow them to see and understand natural consequences of their actions.
  2. Teach reverence and humility toward God and the gospel. 
    • For example, Nephi wasn't trying to 'run the show' as they made their way through the wilderness, but he was humble enough to know that God wouldn't let him starve. This allowed him to persevere when things got tough.
  3. Teach patience and respect toward our children and recognize that they were adults before they came to earth - see our children as they really are - sons/daughters of God also on this journey.
  4. The only way to learn how to ride a horse is to get back on when you are bucked from it - finish the ride.
  5. When we focus too much on the do's and don't's we stop focusing on the 'become'. 
    • He gave an example of a close friend who wouldn't let the baby feed themselves as a baby because it was messy. As the baby grew older, the baby (now toddler) demanded that his parents feed him, because that was the only thing he knew. When we are focusing on the do, we are not focusing on the be - letting them do hard things so they know they can finish, and loving them enough to tolerate messes at the high chair.
  6. Praise their diligence and hard work. If you say things like 'you are smart' they may not know HOW they are smart. But when you praise their diligence and hard work, hey can make the connection.
  7. Teach that if they start something, they need to finish it
  8. It is not a reflection of parenting if your children fail - it is a natural consequence of agency. Our Heavenly Father does not base his success on if we fail. He know that we grow as a result of our suffering.
  9. Teach them how to fall well. When you teach failure as an opportunity, teaching them HOW to take it is just as important.
  10. Communicate their potential to them and remind them of who they really are and what they are capable of.
  11. Encourage them to take risks even if they might fail.
  12. Let their hands go so they can learn.
  13. Express confidence in their ability and show them by example. Praise them for their efforts.
Our Heavenly Father never forces us to do anything. He will not give us a decision to make if it is not in our power to decide. He will inspire us at the crossroads when we are living worthy of the Holy Ghost and seeking direction.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mommy Tales: Being Nice to Myself

Church today was particularly difficult with Little Bundle. First, we are traveling and his sleeping habits have been off. We are sharing a room right now, and I think my snoring is keeping him up. He has been tossing and turning a lot more than usual.

After getting him ready, and getting ready myself, I packed my purse with all Little Bundle's needs, and started walking to church. I wasn't sure how long it would take us to get there, but it sure wasn't the 20 minutes I had planned. We arrived to our 9:00 a.m. church at 8:40. I walked in and the lights in the church were not even on yet. I didn't want to take Little Bundle in the chapel since we would be there for an hour. I walked around, went to the drinking fountain, but it got to a point where I just needed to set up shop in the chapel.

I always choose a pew with a wall. That way, there is only one escape route for Little Bundle. Guarding two by myself has always presented a challenge. How grateful I am, as a mom, to have a wall. It makes it seem like I am in more control somehow....even if I'm not.

On any given Sunday, I have a stash of bread and goldfish. The bread is for when the sacrament comes around so there is no fighting with the tray. The goldfish is for any other time I feel he needs a distraction. Today, Little Bundle spotted the bread right away. Before the opening services even started, he was halfway done with the bread. I was silently praying that he would be able to make it through sacrament meeting without too much fuss.

Minute 10 came and we were still on opening exercises. I knew I needed to be prepared to leave, something I haven't needed to do in the past. It has only been lately, as Little Bundle has become more mobile, that I have struggled. Helping distract him as much as I could, he had eaten his goldfish, proceeded to spit them out and create a mess with them on the seat. After cleaning up after him, he had enough and started to wail during the sacrament. I picked him up and started to go out, having not partaken of the water. I noticed that the water had been passed in the foyer, so I stood at the door as Little Bundle whimpered. 

I wasn't embarrassed, but felt bad for those who really came prepared to ponder and listen. I also didn't know how appropriate it was for me to stand at the door since the doors are often a space for the priesthood to protect during this sacred time. 

Side Note: I am trying to overcome this, but I often feel that when people glance my direction when Little Bundle starts to get fussy, they are really saying, Don't you know it is rude to keep a unruly child here....I am trying to feel the Spirit and you and your child are distracting me.

Maybe all mom's feel like this, but I really don't think Little Bundle is SO unruly that I have to take him out. I am at church to learn too, and will take him out, or stand up by the door if I need to.....I digress.

I received the water, gratefully, and made my way back to the pew. Afterward, Little Bundle was great for 10 more minutes. As he started to fuss again, I held him, reading silently to him. Then, I felt wetness. He peed through his clothes.

At this point, I knew it was time to leave. I didn't have an extra change of clothes (the first time I didn't bring any since he was born). I realized the irony, made my way to bathroom, changed his diaper as he cooed in the echoing-tiled restroom, and made my way to my stroller. He was naked, all except the diaper. 

As I left, I felt like I had to justify my son's nakedness in the church. I explained this to one mother in the foyer, and concluded I am not winning at mothering today.   

On our walk back to my brother's apartment, I thought about my last comment. How easy was it to blame myself and lack of mothering skills or parenting abilities? It was too easy. At the time, I didn't feel defeated in any way. I wasn't mad, or annoyed at Little Bundle. My leaving had nothing to do with me being a bad mom, it had to do with not bringing a naked baby back into sacrament meeting

I had the opportunity to partake of the sacrament, and renew my covenants. I went to church, even though I was on vacation. I went with a baby who was sleepy from the beginning. I whispered to Little Bundle about the reason we were there (a new tradition I started with him 3 weeks ago). I enjoy being obedient - it brings me peace. 

I showed up. 

I hope that not too many of you, my readers, get down if things don't go as smoothly as you anticipate. I often see phrases like "mommy fail" or "#notwinningatmom" or the ever sarcastic "#winningatmotherhood" floating on social media. 

Even if you are not being serious when you post those types of phrases, take caution that you don't start believing what you are saying

Showing up is all it takes to defeat those negative thoughts. It is high time we start being nicer to ourselves......starting, now.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I Cry Every Time My Mom Leaves

My babysitter was unable to watch Little Bundle, and we needed to find someone to watch him for two weeks. I called my mom and she gladly volunteered. She flew here from California and not only took care of Little Bundle, but took care of me in ways she doesn't know. 

In trying to navigate my relationship with My Sweetheart, my heart is often left sore. It is hard when one moment of darkness in our relationship - because of My Sweetheart's depression - feels like a lifetime. 
Mothers and Daughters by Alina Chau

I am frequently left alone to figure out my role, separate his reactions and mood from anything I may or may not have done, and try to stay positive for me and for Little Bundle. It is hard, and most moments I fail to find beauty or joy in the journey. I hate what depression does to him. I hate, also, how I react to his depression.

But then my mom comes to town. She is so gracious, amazing, and wonderful. I ended up getting really sick while she was here, and she took care of Little Bundle, My Sweetheart, me, and housework, allowing me time to rest so I could heal in more ways than one. She gave me strength just by being here. 

I never feel a lack of being wanted or needed when I am with her. I always feel loved and cared for. Her service helps me through the dark moments of my marriage - and remember who I really am, where I come from, and the strong woman I have become.

In those dark moments, I tend to forget those things about myself. Yet, having someone I am close with, who knows the real me, and gets me, helps me overcome the dark moments and remember.

And so, I cry every time my mom leaves. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fear Not, Do Not Fear - 365 times in the scriptures

Education Week, BYU-Idaho
Godfidence: Facing Fear and Finding Freedom
Eric Richards

Some would argue that what made the works of Edgar Allan Poe so well known and albeit, spooky, was the fact that he played on the common fears of society at the time. It is interesting that a lot of these fears that were common in his time, are still common today.

The talk started by outlining the top common fears of society including: fear of spiders, snakes, small spaces, clowns, and heights. In this discussion, it was easy for me to see the role of "fear" and how it can prevent growth, overwhelm our faculties, and potentially take us captive.

Brother Richards shared some interesting stats about fear in the scriptures, including that the words "fear not" are mentioned 365 times in the scriptures; one for each day of the year. (I loved this insight!)

There are three insights from the talk that resonated with me including:
  • God is good: a light-hearted tale
  • Anchoring the boat: minimal drift
  • But if not: I will still have faith
God is Good: a light-hearted tale
Painting by Robert Barrett
Brother Richards tells the tale of a young man sitting on a bench reading the scriptures. After every verse, he would declare, "Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! God is Good!" He was so vocal many would stop and look over to see what all the commotion was. 

Amidst his declarations, a well-known, scholarly gentleman stopped by to understand his enthusiasm and demonstrate his scholarly know-how.

Scholar: What scripture are you reading young man, and why the declaration?

Young Man: I just got to the part where Moses is leading his people out of captivity, and parts the Red Sea. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise Jesus! God is Good!

Scholar: I hate to tell you this, but perhaps I should. Historians, archaeologists, geologists, and other theologians have recently discovered that about that time there was a huge drought, which means that the Red Sea was only about 6 inches.

The Young Man was down trodden, thanked the scholar for his insight. The scholar left the young man, and quite proud of himself for fixing the presumed error of a 'miraculous' event, as proved by science. 

All of a sudden, he hears the young man proclaim "Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Good is Good."

Rushing back over, the scholarly gentleman inquires why, when after he corrected the young man the first time, was he now proclaiming praise.

Young Man: I just got to the verse where the Pharoah's soldiers reached the river. If what you said was correct, the Pharoah's soldiers all drowned in 6 inches of water! What a miracle! Praise Jesus.

I loved how this story demonstrates that even amidst the know-hows or naysayers of the world, that we can still be fearless because we know that God is Good. When we have a knowledge of this, even a slight knowledge, it will work in our favor.

One thing Brother Erickson said was that fearlessness is NOT the absence of fear - it is living a life of faith, in spite of fear. Choosing to cling to the promises we have made to God (our covenants) despite the situation at hand, has the potential to influence how we choose to walk. And when we walk in faith, we will have more courage than we thought.

Anchoring the Boat: Minimal Drift

Brother Richards has a lineage of what he calls the Island people. He said that the new Disney movie, Moana, had a profound impact on him, because he comes from that lineage. The next story was about this idea of 'anchoring the boats.' I pictured Moana the whole time he spoke.

In the past, when the island people worked at sea for a living, the chiefs and other experienced sailors would teach the youth about the importance of anchoring their boats. They explained that a sailor must anchor their boats to avoid losing their boats. The anchor allowed for minimum drift and was still able to function because it hadn't been tossed to and fro with the natural elements of the sea. Anchoring in a swift amount of time was crucial when sailors would see storms coming in.

To practice this feet, the young sailors would throw out their anchors, and when the anchor didn't hit the bedrock, the would pull it up, sail a distance, and scout for the perfect place to anchor.

The experienced sailors would shake their heads against this practice. What the young men couldn't see from the shore was 1. How far off they traveled to find the perfect place to anchor 2. Exposure to other dangers in the water in areas that are not as well known, and 3. How time got away from them, the storms approaching faster, as they scouted for the perfect place to anchor.

They missed the importance of the exercise.

What they were taught is that when they need to anchor 'now', they need to anchor in the spot indicated. If they run out of rope, the pull the anchor up, add more line, and try to anchor once more.

The point I loved was when we are anchored to Christ, yes, there could be drift - that is part of being mortal, but we will not drift too far. In addition, we cannot look for other places to anchor. We must anchor where we stand now....not hoping for a proverbial perfect location. The location is set and it is perfect.

But If Not: I Will Still Have Faith 

Brother Richards spoke of many stories in the scriptures and in church history that speak of courage, and strength to do the right thing. My favorite story of the event was the answer that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego gave when King Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to worship the golden idol and deny their God. As the story continues, they refuse to worship a false idol, and the King threatens that he will throw them into a fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:17-18 states:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up

My favorite thing: our God is a God of all power. He CAN certainly deliver us. But, if he doesn't, we will still believe in God. I love it. What conviction. What courage. 


From Ruth Fazal's album cover: Deeper by Oliver Pengilley
When I am ready to take up my anchor and start to doubt His word or His promises, or start to doubt myself, I also need to remember that Heavenly Father has asked me, and all of us to take Him to the place where I started to doubt, or lost trust - take Him to the place where I/you were bullied, abused, mistreated - let Him in on the process of those feelings, memories, emotions. ...and trust that He has the ability to heal.

Psalms 118 was not placed in the DEAD CENTER of the Bible for now reason. There are 594 chapters before and 594 chapters after. It is the 1188 Psalm (118 verse 8) that states: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." When I put my confidence in him, my fears become a little more manageable.
Even when I am feeling tossed by the wind, or struggling to help a teething 1 year old, or making it through a 'relapse' of a loved one, or feeling undervalued, all I need to do is remember: God is a God of ALL power. He has the ability to deliver me. BUT IF NOT - I still believe in God.

That, my friends is the ability to defeat fear. That is courage!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Offering a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit to Jesus Christ

I am currently attending Education Week at BYU-Idaho. Even if I hadn't signed up for all of Education Week, the opening lecture from Gerald Lund was enough to make this experience worth it.

The entirety of the talk was based around the approach that we hardly consider when speaking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Typically, when we discuss or think about the Atonement we consider two perspectives:

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Son of God OR The Atonement of Jesus Christ, as it applies to humanity (to me).

The approach Brother Lund took was The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the mortal man, or the Son of Mary.

There were five aspects we discussed about Jesus Christ, the mortal man and the symbolism embedded with what, as a mortal, He experienced, including:
  • Knowest thou the condescension of God
  • I, God, have suffered thees things for all
  • Abba, Father
  • A broken heart and a contrite spirit
  • Ye must be born again
There were so many beautiful things we discussed, but the one that resonated and stuck out to me the most was this idea of what it meant to Jesus Christ as he experienced a broken heart and what it means to truly be born again. I will only discuss the first one in this particular post.

Broken Heart
The act of crucifying as a form of capitol punishment was developed by the Assyrians, but 'perfected' by the Romans. Where crucifixion was used as a means to an end, the Romans designed it to prolong, instead of hasten death. It was not unusual for a victim to live up to 5-6 days.

I came home and researched the physiology of a crucifixion, and what it would do the human body. I found an article entitled, The Science of the Crucifixion by Cathleen Shrier Ph.D. with Azusa Pacific University.

The article states:

"Normally, to breathe in, the diaphragm (the large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity) must move down. This enlarges the chest cavity and air automatically moves into the lungs (inhalation). To exhale, the diaphragm rises up, which compresses the air in the lungs and forces the air out (exhalation). As Jesus hangs on the cross, the weight of His body pulls down on the diaphragm and the air moves into His lungs and remains there. Jesus must push up on His nailed feet (causing more pain) to exhale."

"The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim.5 The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture.6"

While gruesome and completely horrific, these facts are important to note as Brother Lund described the physiological state of Jesus Christ as his mortal body experienced a crucifixion done by the Romans, and as supported by the article above.

In John 19:34 as the Romans went to check to make sure Jesus Christ was really dead, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." 

We can gather at this point that Jesus Christ could have died from a heart attack, as alluded to in the article above. As James E. Talmage states in Jesus the Christ, "Great mental stress, poignant emotion either of grief or joy, and intense spiritual struggle are among the recognized causes of heart rupture. The present writer believes that the Lord Jesus died of a broken heart."

John 13:15 says " For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.It makes so much more sense to me why, when we covenant with our Heavenly Father that we too must offer up a broken heart."

And as we are commanded to do what He has done, He asks us to offer Him a broken heart and contrite spirit that we may live again (Doctrine and Covenants 59:8).

This idea of a broken heart is tied to the covenants we make at baptism. When I go into 'being born again', I will share how I made some of these connections for the first time. I can say that I now have a more profound attention and respect for the sacrament I am offered every Sunday - which provides an opportunity for me to renew my covenants by taking the figurative blood and body of Jesus Christ with the bread and water.

Painting by Elizabeth Wang
Even in the Darkness of our Sufferings
Jesus is With Us
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has always been hard for me to hear. I always skipped the details, or left the room if they were discussed because I couldn't bear to hear about the cruelty. Today, I listened with different ears.

And, as I did, one thing became abundantly clear: I know without a doubt that my brother, Jesus Christ loves me beyond what I am capable of understanding. This love that He has for me is unique, personal, and intimate. He has a deep personal love for all of His children, which is also unique, personal and intimate with each of them.

My love for the Savior and what He for me as the a Son of God, and as a mortal man, has exponentially increased since this morning. I left feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.