May 31, 2017

I May Have Exaggerated My Life

Our world moves pretty fast from the moment we leave the safety of the family cocoon and enter the world where everyone is in competition to become better, higher, faster, farther and more.

Now surely some of this is necessary to our growth and development for in our personal desire to grow, we need the impetus to get off our backsides and actual DO something. Otherwise, we will simply sit and rot.

But when we think about our life, the events that are of substance and style versus those that are just what we wished we might have done, sometimes we blur those lines and take the wishes and make them a memory that never had substance to back the dream.

Lying, prevaricating, selective memory, gray area, define what is is... it doesn’t matter the terms we apply to it, when truth is only a tiny part of the story, then the story is a lie.

We tell tales small and tall, we speak to others seeing ourselves as big as we wish we were, and hope that most folks can see the fun in our tales for just what it is – fun. But sometimes, they can’t.

And that is when the harm happens. They honestly deeply believe what we have said. They want to believe we did great things and look up to us for the stories we’ve shared.

But before almighty God, they didn’t happen in the way we told them.

So then what?

If we are politicians, we say “I misspoke” and send out a weak mea culpa on social media and all is forgiven and forgotten unless it is an election year and it can be used in some way to wound and destroy.

But if we are to be Children of God, truly honesty and deeply sincere Children of God, we can’t live like politicians choose to live.

We who desire to be called by the Good Shepherd by our names must be worthy of being part of the flock.

So today, I confess, I may have exaggerated my life. I may have indeed wanted to appear better than I am, to accentuate both what I did in reality do and what I deeply wish I’d done instead of allowing everyone to see me for who I truly am.

Broken, mortal, flawed and in need of love and friendship anyway.

Because I know I am not alone, I also reach out to those who have likewise shared the tall tales and the worn stories of both truth and truth mingled with a healthy dose of fiction.

We can be honest enough to say that we might have taken liberties with reality in order to seem like more than we are in the mirror by ourselves.

We can be truthful enough to say that we have seen both our strengths and weaknesses in full measure and try our best to live up to who we are – and more importantly, whom we are not.

So today, I confess, I may have exaggerated my life. I’m not larger than life. I’m barely life-sized. And I hope that will be enough to get along with for now.

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.