Tuesday, February 28

Our Love Story (part 1)

     So I have to start this story from the beginning.  The first time I ever saw my husband was in a dream when I was seventeen years old.  I saw several faces in that dream, but the one that stood out to me most was a man with several smile lines, glasses and a hat.  I wanted to know what all those lines were about...and what was hiding behind those glasses and under the hat.  It sparked my curiosity.  The other faces were different from one another, but rather generic in comparison.  He was a mystery that I would discover in the years to come.

     With that said, forward to age twenty.  I was living in Colorado with my parents while attending a community college and working part time at a deli, and babysitting/cleaning.  I had been attending a single's ward in Boulder, Colorado for over a year ~and while it was fun, my dating life was seriously lacking.  I had heard of Fort Collins up north-a college town which had three single's wards and had a reputation for being the party town.
  I decided I should check it out.  It was a forty-five minute drive from where I was living at the time, but I was in serious need of change.  So I drove that first Sunday to the institute building where they held their meetings.  I stepped one foot into the Sacrament Meeting room, and it hit me like a ton of bricks-the thought "My husband is here."  I just knew.

With that as my first impression, you can imagine how thrilled I was.  I decided that I was going to be really social and get to know as many people as I could so I'd be sure not to miss him.  I didn't realize at the time that I began attending a different ward from his.
Pretty soon, I had a few great friends and was having the time of my life attending as many activities and social events as I could.  When I got a chance to sit down and speak with the Bishop, he informed me that my boundaries were not in that particular ward...
My first thoughts were, "But... I'm just beginning to feel like I belong (not something I've come by too often in my life)...are you sure I can't just continue going here?"

As I was to learn, fate had other plans.

I decided it would be okay to check out this other ward, but if I didn't care for it, I'd just attend my first choice.  I immediately loved the Bishop of that ward, and his counselors.  Upon my first interview, the second counselor said he was blown away by me, and that I may have a difficult time finding someone worthy of me...that of course made me feel accepted and loved~and besides, I had eyed some pretty good-looking guys in this new ward.

  Meanwhile, there was this guy named Dan who was a first Lieutenant in the Air Force- active duty.  He was busy working on his master's and working full time in missile control.  He happened to be the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School teacher as well.  As far as his dating life, it was pretty non existent with his schedule.  He tells me he was mostly just content with where he was in life, but that in his heart, he was open to the idea of marriage if the Lord had someone in mind for him.  In no rush, and not really looking.  He remembers seeing me for the first several times and thinking, "Wow.  Tall, athletic build, beautiful, long blonde hair."  Pretty much just his type (he's always had a thing for blondes).  Unfortunately, he had no time for dating right then, so he decided that once he had finished up the semester, he would ask me out.

The first few weeks, I went to the Gospel Essentials Sunday school class because the guy teaching there was a 'class clown' and I thought it would be fun - and it was.  But I wanted to explore some more before settling. I found myself wandering into the other larger class and after finding a place to sit, a little self-conscious as I've always been - hoping no guys would be looking at me, I peered up at the teacher whom I knew virtually nothing about.  My first impressions were that he was a nerd and I couldn't read him at all...there was so much to him.  That sparked my interest.

 I quickly recognized Brother Wheeler's passion for teaching, and was pleasantly surprised to hear how knowledgable he was.  As the lesson went on, I remember thinking, "Who IS this guy?!  And what is he doing in a Single's ward?"  With his wit, confidence, testimony and maturity, I thought for sure he was married with kids.  His skill was to me, comparable to my most favored education week teachers growing up.

After that first lesson, I waited for him out in the hall.  A few people had the same idea as me, and each took their turn talking to him for a minute.  I waited against the wall, patiently, quietly, watching his interaction, thinking how much I already respected and admired this man whom I had seen for the first time that I remember (and who honestly seemed way out of my league).  When it was my turn, I went over and told him how much I enjoyed the lesson, and that I thought he did an amazing job.  He says I was flirting.  I say, I didn't know how to flirt, I was just being honest.

Sunday, February 26

FInally some pictures!

My blog has been a bit boring lately.  So I've finally taken some pictures to spice it up a little.
Today was a GREAT Sunday.  I enjoyed every second of it.  What makes it the greatest is my husband.  He makes all the difference in the level of unity I feel in our home.  We're really starting to feel like a family!
The kids took a bath in my big bath (the only one we have) that can fit all four of them at once.  They love it.

We sorted out finances and figured what to do with our tax refund.  We are going to pay the midwives and get our back yard started.  It's a great back yard.  Just full of stickers, rocks and weeds.  But plenty big for the kids to have lots of fun in once we clear all that out and get some grass and rocks put down.
Dan and I are loving teaching primary.  Our kids were adorable during the 'Choose the Right moment'.  A couple of them got up.  The girl said, "Um, I chose the right yesterday."  The primary president asked if she could remember what she did.  She thought, and was getting more nervous and feeling under pressure.  "Um...I don't know(?)"  She seemed nearly in tears by then.  So cute.  Then a boy got up and began scratching his head making his "thinking face" that we often see in class.  He is the class clown.  He finally shared a story about playing with his baby brother by throwing all the toys in the kitchen for him, and when his Mom asked him to clean it up, he did.  I giggled mostly out of pride for our kids.  They have a way of getting into your heart quickly.  I know Daniel enjoys it just as much as I do, and I'm really thankful to have his companionship there.  We are learning team work, and how to really listen and flow with each other which is proving to be very fulfilling for me.  I love that man more and more as I get to peel away the layers over the years.

Some nail art for randomness...

I made new 'Library bags' last week for my kids and myself.  Here are some pictures of those.
Life is great over all.  I'm in my second trimester and feeling happy and blessed.

Monday, February 6

Confusing Times

Once again, my heart and mind are turned to those who have left the Church.

One similar and resounding theme among them, is that they felt betrayed or held from all of the truth, whether it be in history or in doctrine.

Phases of Relationships
  So, in relationships we all experience different stages.  In relation to the church, to God, we go through the same stages.
The first is the honeymoon phase.  I went through this ages fourteen to twenty, I was on fire.  Loved studying my scriptures and praying. The spirit was abundant in my daily life, and I wanted to do everything I could to serve the Lord.  He held my hand and let me know He was near and that He loved me.  Then into my twenties, I felt like that left quite a bit.  I wasn't as intense in my study and prayers and they became less frequent, but I still did what I could.  It was time for me to grow and learn who I really was weaknesses and all and learn to be okay with that, to forgive and still love me.  So I fought it sometimes, it was hard work.  That is the storming phase.  I believe that now I still rebel off and on and go through waves of spirituality and waves of distance.  The waves are longer or shorter depending on the personality.  Mine are relatively short.  This is a process that introduces me into the next phase which is the "norming"~ I really learn to grow with God, to grow up-to walk to newer heights.  I have found that after the honeymoon phase of our testimonies, when it dies down and He leaves us to ourselves a little more to choose and learn from our mistakes, is often the time that people leave because they simply are not feeling it as much.  Returned missionaries probably feel this transition to the extreme, and often it is too much to handle-if they are not rooted firmly in gospel soil.  Some go through a messy divorce from the church and deny the existence of God or the other person in their relationship.  Some people distance themselves, but still hold positive and logical feelings about the situation and other person.  And some still love God and believe in Him, but decide that the relationship to the church is not for them.

   In the Church, the basic lessons given, are geared toward the weakest saint, meaning those who are just learning and perhaps have joined recently, or have not been very active and are in spiritual knowledge equivalent to a baby.  After fifteen years of really being active and dedicated in my faith and desire for greater knowledge, I'd say I'm at the level of a small child now, maybe just a toddler...learning to walk efficiently on my own.  These things take time and effort.  And many of us don't progress beyond needing the "milk" of the gospel. Whether or not we are ready for the "meat" we still need the milk to keep us nourished and full of energy and motivation. The meat is more filling and lasts longer...but is not as easy to digest (there are also greater consequences in it's consumption-to our detriment or benefit).  And that's why we have so many reminders of the basic principles of the Gospel.  It is a need in each of us, young and old, and has been set up that way by a loving Father in Heaven who anticipates his children's needs as a whole, as well as the individual.
  Imagine how many new members would get overwhelmed and discouraged if only the deeper doctrines and studies were taught.  It has to do with both charity on our part toward our brothers and sisters (whose souls are all precious), and the need for each of us to gain a sturdy foundation in the basic principles of the gospel (also charity from our wise Father) before we are ready to move on.
  The more we understand (the more we have really sought out and come to know and live) a certain principle, the more that is required at our hands by our Master teacher to live up to that principle.  If we choose to continue working in that area, our knowledge and joy in that thing is deepened and reaffirmed  (just as an older child is expected to take more responsibility and action in the home) those who are more developed in their spirituality are required to seek out those things, and to be active and diligent in applying them.
  It is interesting that those who seem to have known so much-could feel betrayed or babied in this scenario.  Perhaps they expected more work to be done by the church?  I would honestly love it if we had regular institute classes all over the globe to touch on all sorts of the deeper parts of the gospel. There are resources, they are just a little harder to find...and for a reason.  Casting pearls before swine is not wise.  These treasures of knowledge are hidden for a purpose.  Those things we come to know, we will be held accountable for at judgement.  He doesn't want to give us knowledge that we aren't ready to live-that would be to our own condemnation. Plus, if the basic teachings were geared to each individual, the Church would not flourish as quickly or as efficiently.  We are all so different!  The Gospel has always been about free agency-and personal accountability.  There are laws and consequences predicated.  We only ever get out of it as much as we put in.  And there are many gray areas that are not even touched upon so that we have room to explore and gain line upon line, precept on precept.  Part of the beauty of the Gospel!  There is ALWAYS more to learn.

DIFFERENT GOSPELS ~ where is my loyalty?
I have loved learning from and listening to my husband.  He is incredibly well studied in the history and doctrine in our church as well as other churches.  He has figured out far more than I think the average active member.  His intelligence, coupled with an open and meek heart have allowed for him to come to the conclusion that there is nothing out there better than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Not the gospel of "Be true to yourself"  "Be a law unto yourself" "Do what makes you happy", nor the gospel of liberalism, feminism or fundamentalism.  There are many gospels that are not necessarily organized religion.

It takes a LOT of work to actively acquire a testimony of eternal truths.    It is through that work that we gain lasting strength and steady knowledge.  And maybe that is why many of us go through waves of spirituality...it is exhausting-sometimes we just need a break!
“All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, … shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:18, 19)
I understand many things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But there is much more that I don't yet understand.  The more I understand, the more I realize there is yet to learn.  There are also snippets of our culture, and generational beliefs that sneak in to disrupt the simplicity of the gospel.  That's where the work comes in.  And we are given the tools that we need in order to uproot these false ideas.

Everyone is blessed with strengths and gifts too.  I was blessed with the knowledge that Jesus Christ lives.  I was not blessed with the gift of faith (anxiety/worry were more my forte).  However, through my parent's examples, there was planted in me a great desire to have that gift or at least to build upon what I had.  So it wouldn't necessarily work to say "Oh, well it came easy to you to have faith  and to just go along with it."  It has not.  I have been through enough even within the Church to justify going down the same path as many of you.  Leaders are not perfect.  Members of the Church are not perfect.  But the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the way the Church is organized and set up is perfect and is divine.  Our prophet is not perfect.  But he is doing the best he possibly can in his calling.  And that qualifies him for the work.  I know he is called of God.  And whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.

For many years, I worked and prayed to understand, and for my faith to be increased.  In answer to my prayers, I was given years of 'training'- the worst of trials (to name a few, extreme postpartum depression, little to no support from my ward, husband or friends with three little ones to care for, loss of family and friend relationships through a belief that differed from theirs, worthiness being questioned by a leader who made a mistake in judgement, persecution, serious inner turmoil, doubting who I was, or why I existed).  I have come through the darkest of times, hanging onto my life(I had allowed self-doubt and blinders about my own worth and who I am to rule much of my thoughts for too long; powerful lies, and that power I gave to the devil backed me into a corner until I felt the only way to escape would be to end my life).  And yes, I am taking personal responsibility for getting to that point where I felt powerless. But it has been through those trials, that finally, a sure knowledge has come and I have to say that my faith has been increased three times. "
I know that Jesus Christ lives! The Atonement is real.  The Book of Mormon and Bible are full of truth and contain the words of God.  They testify of each other because they testify of the same Jesus Christ, the same Gospel that He taught.  
I know God lives.  I know we can live eternally with our families and Him IF we choose to obey all of his commandments, and to live up to the covenants we have made with Him.  These things I know.  Other things, I believe with all my heart.
We who have been given these things and have truly received and understood them (although our understanding is not perfect) are absolutely held to a higher standard. 
 And the devil works harder on those who have this knowledge.  He is the master deceiver.  He plants doubts and lies into our minds, and the more we choose to pay heed to them, the louder they get (just as the truth about me was unable to be heard because of lies I chose to let stay for many years).  If we are willing to work for it,  truth is our sword against the adversary.  Our shield is that of faith.  And with the two, we can fight.  There are other parts to this armor of God I speak of that are very important.  But those two are absolutely essential to our spiritual survival.  See Ephesians 6:11-17.  

I do not believe that those who have left the church really understood many of these things.  And if they did, they either allowed doubts to get root as much if not more than the truth, or they neglected to nourish that testimony. It takes great care for a beautiful seed to grow and flourish.  Studying scriptures, attending the temple regularly, staying close to the spirit through prayer, being active in church and callings, surrounding yourself with believers, but loving and sharing freely with unbelievers.  Living your life for Jesus Christ.  And the greatest tool to growing a strong testimony is FAITH.  Without it, it cannot happen.  It is the first principle of the gospel it is a principle of constant action.  And it is the one that is probably ignored the most...neglected.

  I am choosing to be a disturber to the devil's kingdom.  Because I know that in the end, Jesus Christ always trumps the devil.  I think some people out of fear, have not chosen a side to fight on-and perhaps that is why they have so much inner turmoil.  Jesus Christ's way is faith.  The devil's way is fear and confusion.  Fear binds and confusion blinds.  It limits our choices.  If we choose to pay heed to it for a long time, then that light and understanding we once received will become less and less until it is gone.  Satan is the minimizer, decreaser, deceiver, deflater.  Everything in opposition to a loving Father in Heaven who only cares for our happiness and well-being as His children.
  Faith is power.  Faith increases our awareness of our purpose.  It opens up possibilities and choices.  It sets us free from our natural selves and allows us to overcome temporal things.  Jesus Christ is the source of my faith. He is my ticket to eternal happiness and glory.  And I am willing to fight for Him and for me and my family, and for all those I love.  That is why I work so hard to understand this strange phenomenon of dear friends and family members loosing the faith they once had.  I fight for them too.  And my hope is that one day something I say will strike a chord and help them to understand clearly why Jesus Christ and His Gospel is the only way to gain eternal glory and lasting happiness.

This is where I stand.

Stellaluna and Cardboard Butterflies

  My thoughts have been turned to a famous LDS blogger.  Josh Weed is his name. He had come out with a post about four years ago decla...