October 22, 2016

Time Out For Women

Having someone who is your best friend is a rare commodity. I am blessed with two, other than immediate siblings, who I swear are sisters from another mother.

They are both incredible women in their own right, but their separate life experiences have taught me much.

I had the extreme blessing of being able to attend "Time Out For Women", which is a spiritual retreat of sorts that is hosted by the fine people at Deseret Book Company. This year, they selected the Birmingham area for the event.

Filled with music from David Archuleta and Calee Reed, chock full of wisdom and inspiration from the words of  Eric Huntsman, Laurel C. Day, Elaine Dalton, Wendy Ulrich, Lisa Clark and Brad Wilcox, the event is an opportunity to step away from the day to day and enjoy the break in routine and fill up the personal tank that so often is drained to the bottom with more demands than a single person can reasonably be expected to adequately fill.

It's also a time to laugh, to cry, to ponder, and to be refreshed. Plus we can shop, we can sing along, we can make notes and feel a sense of strengthening that isn't just a Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of help.

A few things stuck out in my mind as I was listening to the speakers and music.

One, God IS mindful even when we don't see His hands moving in our lives. We were instead reminded to just look for His fingerprints in those times.

Two, there is a connection that binds earth and heaven through music. Our souls can be reached by the strains of heavenly music given to those on earth in a way seldom possible through any other means. It is a divine gift and a spiritual portal.

Three, being broken doesn't equate to being useless or forgotten. That's a world view that doesn't match God's view.

Calee Reed said "God maybe views brokenness as a good thing, a useful thing. If we trust God enough to give Him those broken pieces, He will make of them something beautiful".

I really like that. Being a bullheaded person, the willingness to accept the help Father so freely offers seems a lot like eating my spinach because it's good for me or making sure I brush and floss after every meal. Sure, I do it because it's good for me, but sometimes my heart is so broken by life that I forget the whole purpose of giving Him the offering of my broken heart. It's not about what a mess I am, it's about what a skillful and loving Artisan God is! He sees the brokenness. He understands. He loves me! And He, through Jesus Christ's Atonement, can bring those shattered remnants and fragmented shards of what my life has become and through His anointing make them into an ornate and wondrous thing that is still useful, still purposeful and still worthy in His kingdom.

Learning that broken pieces are still useful when we willingly offer them means no one is going to waste who puts their faith and trust in the hands of the Master Craftsman.

I also learned how very thankful I am for my life. Not just the photo ready parts but the rough places that remind me to be on my knees in gratitude for the smooth places. Thankful for the blessing of being able to be educated despite me being a female. Thankful for being able to read, to write and to have the technology to do for myself, my family and the broader world around me. Thankful to have the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the friendships of members near and far.

Mostly, I'm thankful that my best friend Sherri sacrificed time, money and herself to come and spend the extended weekend with me and catch up on life.

It reminded me that there are blessings of every stripe and having friends in the gospel and for such a long stretch of time is truly a pearl of great price.

August 24, 2016

Comics and life

Many times, when I'm trying to sort out facets of my life, I have found a comic strip or two that fits the bill in a hilarious "that's totally me!" sort of way. Case in point today comes from "The Barn" by Ralph Hagen. It's one of my favorite comics anyway because I like cows, I like sheep, I like frogs and I like barns.

Other times, my funny bone is tickled by a comic that is pointed in a slightly different direction. This particular comic made me snort milk out of my nose so I saved it in my file. I'm not sure if that is a revealed character weakness or just additional humor for you to know that bit of trivial information, but there you go. Scott Hilburn came up with this little gem:

There are also times where the political world grabs my attention and I have saved a few choice comics from that three ring circus to remind me that no one in governmental power is really sane. I used to collect print comic strips and paste them into a scrapbook but went digital years ago because I ran out of glue. Bada boom ching!

Either way you care to frame it up, my sense of humor might well be the best consideration for an epitaph when my time comes. 

Not like I'm standing on a greasy black banana peel next to an open crater or anything... just saying my personal tastes in comedy might tell about me more effectively than a dry "perfection" eulogy.

Anyway, make time to laugh today. It's important because laughter keeps us young and it's the best sound in the world!

June 3, 2016

Thorns amongst the roses

Of late, I have been noticing more of the briar patches of life and the thorns that cause so much hurt in tender places.

Recently, I had a splinter or thorn in my foot. Unsure of what it was and pretty much not caring what was causing the pain, I was focused solely upon my foot's sole and the object of my suffering and how expeditiously I could remove it from further offending my person.

Rather in a contorted fashion, I hauled my foot up and twisted myself into a pretzel like position to more fully view the wounded area and determine the best way to get the painful alien from its uncomfortable locale.

As a disclaimer, I am not a limber as I once was. The joints are more prone to creaking and cracking than in previous days. So getting arranged to handle the situation required both patience and some pain. So much so that I temporarily forget about the pain in the sole of my foot.

Through various objects and some toenail clippers, I was able to open up a passage, and then, with tweezers grasp and remove the sharp little devil tormenting me. Only after application of soap and water and peroxide did I allow my body to unfold from the closed jackknife position I had assumed to treat the wound.

Still not sure where or how I managed to pick up the item that caused the discomfort. But since I walk around barefooted quite a bit, the risk is always present that there will come another day that my carcasses is perforated and punctured by another thorn in the flesh.

Contrasting this with spiritual things in my mind, I pictured the lesson of "Putting on the Whole Armour of God" that I've heard since infancy. Each carefully mentioned piece of the armour has a purpose and a duty to perform to prevent harm from coming to the wearer. Careless or inappropriate application of that armour doesn't necessarily prevent harm and can actually cause pain as it isn't affixed properly to protect the wearer.

David refused the armour of King Saul because it had not been made to suit his person and would actually shackle him in the battle yet to come with his personal Goliath.

Like our battles against thorns in our flesh, or our personal Goliath(s) in our respective lives, we must be armoured up or else we can be pierced by things both great and small.

Sometimes, the nick or wound happens in an instant and seems quite insignificant in comparison to great gaping holes. A tiny cut and a few droplets of blood don't appear to be that big a deal in the battle we face.

But each little opening allows the blood to flow drop by drop, weakening us and our resolve to continue in the battles fray. Much as it is dangerous, it can also become deadly as the tactic of "death by a thousand cuts" is one of Satan's favored ways to give us thorns in the flesh that can cause great harm without the interposition of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The thorns may well have to be dealt with throughout a lifetime, but without the Savior's divine love, mercy and grace spent in our behalf, we cannot manage to win the battle alone.

We gather thorns in life. We cannot appreciate the roses or berries of life absent those thorns. They are small but indispensable moment of instruction and honest self-assessment. Is the thorn because we acted in haste and brought harm to our person, body and soul? Or is the thorn simply part of the refiner's fire that is the mortal crucible of enduring to the end?

Some answers may not even come in this life regardless of faithful prayers and righteous living. This life is about both knowledge AND faith. We don't know everything and in fact, as the Apostle Paul, may have to continue acting in faith alone waiting on the hand of the Lord for our answers which may or may not be forthcoming.

So we press forward in faith not knowing how to do it alone.

We were NEVER meant to know everything and to self-atone.

We were meant to have the Savior and to get into harness with Him so that we gain all of his positive and loving attributes to lend strength to our own positive strengths and loving attributes, talents and native God-given abilities.

We are joined through covenant and can be made more than just the bearer of thorns in the flesh, but instead, someone seeking help to remove the thorns either in this life or in the next.

It is through Christ that our eyes are lifted beyond the thorns to behold and to learn to love the Rose of Sharon, the One who bore our pains, who endured the shame, the suffering and the loneliness of life for us and with us.

May 11, 2016

A Round of Bonus Aerobics

Today, we awoke to 69 degrees, sunny skies and the opportunity to get outside for our exercise. Jared, of course, is the coxswain to my oarsman duties of rowing his ship of state wherever we go. Punctuating the air with his encouragement, yelling, and even helping grunt as I push uphill on our more challenging route, he makes a fine coach. Well, unless he is laughing at my wheezing, in which case he's just being a stinker.

We got onto the back part of the route with the steepest hill and I managed to summit the crest of the hill and had to take a bit of a breather for a drink from my water bottle, plus my phone was ringing. Thomas called in since he's back on the road today so we chatted awhile as I pushed and pulled and in all other ways played my role as a modern day pioneer with Jared in the handcart.

It was so nice to hear the birds, see them flitting around, watch the squirrels romp all over the yards and in the tree limbs! So nice to have pretty weather! Finally arriving back at the house, I realized I needed to make a pit stop in the room of requirement - and do so post haste.

I just have to tell you, being covered head to toe in stinky, humid, nasty sweat makes that all important pit stop a wee bit of a challenge. The "wee" pun not intended.

As a disclaimer, I am not yet done with today's planned exercises, so I wasn't intending to hit the showers quite yet, so the sweat soaked body and sweat soaked clothing was gonna be interesting. Have you ever tried to remove and then put back on the soaking wet skivvies and gym clothes that still will be pressed into service for the remainder of your exercise venture? Think wet swimsuit but more of the fabric to hassle with while performing unheard of yoga moves that even the most ardent yoga master would have trouble bringing in for a landing.

I am reasonably sure that the gyrations and jerking and twisting counted as some kind of Pilates inspired, yoga pose filled, demonic routine that only the sweaty can truly appreciate. At one point in the bonus round, I was attempting to put the waistband of the undies where they truly belong and realized that approximately half of said undies was firmly tucked into the fold below one butt cheek and refusing strenuously to budge from their comfortable, warm, and moist resting place.

The other side which I had gleefully and with extreme prejudice jerked up into the correct location now has a slight tear at the stitching in the elastic waistband where my apparent strong arm tactics had rendered them unable to withstand the muscled might of a half nekkid woman attempting to clothe herself from the prying eyes and laughing throats of my son Jared and the greater world at large, which in this case would be the construction workers who entertain themselves by looking through my windows. No one needs to see this... Trust me!

FINALLY... After a full round of tugging, pulling, rotating, contortion filled movement, I emerged sweatier but victorious in the battle of the bathroom! I am absolutely sure this should qualify as a gold medal event in the Olympic games.

I have to say though that sometimes it's best to exercise alone at home because in a gym bathroom making all of those kinds of noises, slamming around with motions and then finally the shouted exultations of "at last, success!" would lead people to consider my mental status and prompt them to call the very nice and soothing people in the white coats who offer a fitting for a new jacket with extra long sleeves. "Hey," I gesture ever so politely, "It's not my color, peeps, so I think I'll pass."

So far, Jared has resisted the temptation to call out for the National Guard to save him from his crazy Momma, but the day is yet young.

God bless all those who attempt to improve their health and may their "Bonus round of aerobics" be as thrilling and fulfilling as mine was!