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Love is a sacrifice


Marc Chagall (Russian-born French painter, 1887-1985), “Abraham Slaying Isaac.”

We talked about Genesis 22 in Sunday School at church today: a familiar Bible story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If you grew up in the LDS Church, this lesson is typically the same: you talk about how Abraham waited decades for this son; how God had promised him seed, numbering as great as the sands and stars; how he and Sarah cherished Isaac; how Abraham’s own father tried to sacrifice him when he was young; how Isaac was probably old enough that he was stronger than his father; how the experience is a type of the Atonement and God’s sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all of us.

We touched on that today, then went on to have a different conversation, which I won’t run through, but will instead share a thought I had at the end of class and wanted to put together in a coherent idea. Here goes. I can’t promise it’s totally coherent, though.

Sarah.

Sarah is part of this story, too. The style of the Bible text is minimalistic, played down, and unembellished writing. We’re used to the sensationalized news stories thrown at us over the internet today. Reading the Bible requires a lot of guessing about what goes on that isn’t explicitly shared. Sarah is part of that guessing.

She isn’t mentioned directly in any verse in chapter 22. You might guess some things such as did she know or did they sneak out, if “Abraham rose up early in the morning…”?

But Sarah is mentioned in Chapter 23. She’s the first two verses of that chapter: “And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. and Sarah died in Kirjath-arba… and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.”

Keep that thought in mind. Immediately after the record of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, Sarah dies.

Now to another thought about the LDS belief of what we have to do to be exalted: it takes fulfilling certain requirements. God expects us to earn the highest exaltation. When the disciples asked Jesus what the most important laws or commandments were, what did He say?

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”

We’re commanded to love.

Love is a sacrifice.

Sarah’s sacrifice was her love: a mother who loved her son.

You have to be vulnerable to love because it is wrought with uncertainty. Will our love be reciprocated? What if those we love choose to hurt us? What if others hurt those we love? What if we lose those we love? What if we can’t help those we love? What if those we loved can’t be helped by anybody?

When we follow the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors, we sacrifice. A lot.

Part of our discussion in the class was to talk about and share personal sacrifices and how they had changed us. I couldn’t think of a good example for my own life. One parent talked about the death of a child. Another talked about an accident that left her son handicapped. Several talked about the sacrifice of time and leaving loved ones in order to serve missions. What could be my example to share?

I didn’t raise my hand, but by the very end of the class, I had thought of this. My sacrifice has been to love. We’ve all sacrificed in this way. It’s brought the greatest heartache, but it’s also brought the greatest joy.

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When an Archbishop wonders about God, it’s the doubt of the century


I am a professional writer.

There. I said it. I really, truly, am paid for my writing. You may be stunned, too, because who gets paid for their hobby? This girl!

I remember, years ago, telling a boss at work that getting a degree in technical writing was hopefully setting me up for one day being a freelance writer around the schedules of small kids. That was an idea, but when Dom was born, the thought of ditching the well-paid, full-time job, while Nathan was in school, was far too risky. Turns out, writing isn’t lucrative. Unless you’re the next Stephenie Meyer.

I’m not.

I get excited about any of the times where I successfully land a contract with somebody or some company that will pay me real money for my writing. Many of the contracts I’ve had have been for more technical work so a few months ago, it was the first time that I scored some work where I was truly excited about the writing.

I was over the moon.

I had the chance to write whatever I wanted to about: faith and doubt.

That’s a pretty open topic. I mean, if your Mormon Bishop assigned that to you as your church talk, where would you go with it? What apostle would you quote?

This wasn’t a church talk assignment, though, but writing for a faith-based website. I started writing up my ideas on some graph paper one day and there was so much good stuff! As I was writing (with a pen, oooo), my thoughts and ideas took me down a specific direction that I had NEVER thought about before. It was a different angle, another perspective for me, from the familiar story of Peter walking on the water.

So I worked on this blog post for several weeks. I submitted it. They approved it. They paid me. They posted it.

This. This is one of those posts that shows a little bit about my thoughts in regards to my spiritual life. Read it. Share it. (Because, if they see that my post is read by lots of folks, maybe they’ll pay me to write again!)

I’m a professional writer.

And sometimes, I get to write about something that really resonates with my soul.

Today’s win over anxiety


Dom is a Sunbeam: the youngest class of kids in Primary at church. He’s had the opportunity to share a scripture and a turn to say a prayer. All the kids take turns with these things and the adults sitting with the classes quietly laugh when the little kids muddle up words like the time a Sunbeam named Conrad loudly stated into the microphone: “The church of Jesus Christ has been destroyed!”

Restoration, be damned.

Anyway, Dom collapsed into tears the Sunday when Nathan tried to help him say the prayer. Nathan said it instead. When the turn to say a scripture came up, a few months later, I tried to prep him. If he’s like me, he hates saying prayers in front of others anyway. The stress of being on the spot for saying the right words while speaking to God on behalf of those around: GAH!

So I’ll help him to memorize the scripture. Arm him with confidence so he’s not as scared.

I sat with him in Primary that Sunday afternoon waiting for the scripture recitation part of the church routine. We stood up, took one step towards the microphone, and he melted into tears. Too scared.

Today was the first day of the Primary program practice. All year, the kids have learned the songs, last week they each got parts to say, and now they practice their performance in the chapel leading up to their sacrament meeting.

I read Dom’s part with him this morning while we sat at the table with Gabbi, eating out gourmet hot dog lunch. We repeated it over and over. We pretended to say it into microphones, shouting because our voices are amplified, duh. Gabbi joined in and shouted into her fist. Then we practiced saying the part with our eyes squeezed shut in case we felt scared.

Then it was off to church. Dom was nervous. He told me he was scared. He didn’t want people to see him. Or to laugh at him. I didn’t blame him. I still get stupid nervous when asked to speak in church. Currently, I lead the music in sacrament meeting and, really, I DISLIKE being in front of the entire congregation.

At the end of church, I asked Dom how their practice went.

He proudly stated, “I did my part without help!”

“You did? In the microphone?”

“Yes.” Big grin.

Wow. We high fived.

If my little three-year old can be brave like that, I can, too. Next time someone asks me to pray, I’ll say okay. At least I can do it with my eyes shut.

We traveled with two small children and lived to tell about it


south-padre-islandWe just returned from a week in Texas. We swam in the Gulf. We played in the sand. We ate Mexican, BBQ, and burgers. We visited friends and family. And we managed all of this with two small children. Oh, and there was that part about spending a full day traveling to get down there and a full day traveling to get back. A few things I learned about traveling with a three-year old and one-year old:

  • Expect your one-year old to curl up sweetly in your lap and nap the entire flight to Houston
  • Expect her to simply smile at other passengers.
  • Expect no poopy diapers
  • Expect a relaxing time picking a place to eat while waiting for the next flight in the Houston airport
  • Expect that your one-year old will sleep sweetly in a storage closet at the beach house
  • Expect that your three-year old will be kind and not try to abuse others
  • Be happy that your three-year old has his Kindle to play on the flights
  • Be happy that you filled a backpack full of snacks and books
  • Be happy that your three-year old never has accidents
  • Be happy that your three-year old slept sweetly at his grandparents’ and with cousins at the beach house
  • Be happy that the water temperature was as mild as the sun
  • Be happy that the sand was perfect for building castles, moats, and crocodiles
  • Be happy that grandparents hooked us up with places to stay, driving us around, food to eat, diapers, wipes, toiletries, even a little potty for the one-year old
  • Be happy that your kids visited their great grandparents while they’re still happy to see them
  • Be happy about all of the delicious food (because Texas and Mexican combined)
  • Expect your one-year old to slip back into your daily routine once you’re back home
  • Be happy that you don’t have to sit in a cramped airplane again for another year or two

Now, I get to enjoy the memories and pictures of our vacation. It’s exhausting to take small children far from home so coming home means recovery, but the trade off was worth it. They’ve been to the beach and loved it. They spent time with family and didn’t want to leave them. And in the end, none of the other passengers said anything rude to our faces and a few nice folks even told us our children were good travelers. Kind people.

Behold the beauty of the FEASTMASTER


feastmaster

When we purchased our home two years ago, there was this random patio in the backyard that the previous owners didn’t seem to use for things other than random-crap-from-the-yard-and-house. Nathan “hired” the Young Men from our Salt Lake ward to clear out the things left behind. They devoured their pizza dinner. In that patio was this old, built-in grill, that looked like it had been untouched for at least a decade. I took a few pictures of it and showed some of the guys at work who thought, yeah, that could be saved. Sure, why not? I asked Reddit for advice (because that’s my go-to advice group), and got some direction for this DIY attempt. I had never done anything like this before, let alone used a wire wheel (because POWER TOOLS!!!), so I was embarking on some new territory.

Nothing progressed during the first year of home ownership, because duh: pregnancy. Eventually, though, I was able to find time in between diaper changes and feeding children to work on the FEASTMASTER.

How cool is that name? How sad are you that Feastmasters are no longer sold at the nearest Lowe’s? Have you ever seen the movie, Beastmaster? Tangent…

Anyway, I finished. I actually finished a project. Or at least, mostly finished. The vent still needs some high-heat paint as well, but check it out. I posted all of the images to an imgur album. WordPress doesn’t embed the album so I have to individually embed each picture, but let’s not get into the technical mumbo jumbo. I already shared this via instagram because I was pretty excited about how it turned out.

And remember how I finished a project? BAM! Go me!

Time for some grillin’!

Sending mixed messages about kindness


nice_kids

“Are you being kind and gentle?”

I ask Dom this question often. I ask it every time he is within the same breathing area as Pogi. That cat may allow Dom to do whatever, but then that means Dom does whatever. Poor cat.

I also ask Dom if he’s being kind and gentle with his baby sister, because: baby.

Why do toddlers have some intense desire to press on and/or hit the baby in the head? Soft spots are particularly attractive.

I want my children to be kind. I really do. I often think of my friend, Lizzie, who I met through soccer and went to school with. Sometimes, it’s rare to find kindness in sports. And in middle school. And in high school. Kids can be cruel in their quest to be cool.

Lizzie was always kind: as our goalie, on the basketball court, in the common area during lunch. I want my kids to be like that and it’s probably a trait learned by example. I should probably have them hang out with Lizzie and her kids all of the time.

Instead, they are home with me.

I found this article and it hit home: “Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind.

Things I am doing wrong:

  1. Because I want to win the game, even when I’m playing with my toddler and it’s Richard Scarry’s Busytown game (which he loves and requests to play multiple times a week). BTW, you can’t win that game because in the end, everybody rides the ferry together to the pigs’ picnic on Picnic Island. We all win. Have a trophy.
  2. It’s faster to just clean things up myself. The times when I want Dom to clean up his own toys, I find that I am very good at standing with one hand on my hip, pointing with the other hand, “pick that up, then that, then that… do you want to earn a quarter or not?” Finger wag.
  3. Do they let you take a toddler and infant to help you serve lunch at a soup kitchen? Does anybody do regular service projects with small children? Yes. You do. You are better than me and I commend you.
  4. Not yelling. Who is my kid learning his temper from? Me, of course! I put myself in timeout today at lunch. I probably just need more chocolate, right? Chocolate solves everything…?

But really, the Harvard psychologist offered good tips that I do want to work on, in all sincerity:

  1. Emphasize caring over competing.
  2. Expect kids to help and reward uncommon acts of caregiving.
  3. Say thanks to others we interact with, like the person checking out our groceries.
  4. Do community service.
  5. Improve my own temper so that I can help my kids with handling their feelings.

How do you help your kids be kind and gentle? (Besides hanging out with Lizzie whenever possible.)

thinking about mother-daughter relationships


ReedWomenEver since I was little, I imagined myself as a mother of sons. I suppose growing up with 5 brothers and only one sister played into this. Perhaps it was influenced by my tomboy leanings, my love of sports, and my preference for playing with GIJoes over Barbie’s (though I had both). Whatever the reason, I was surprised when I was told, during my 2nd pregnancy, that I was going to have a girl.

I thought of all of the boxes of boys clothes in storage that I wouldn’t be able to use.

I thought of this expectation since my childhood that I would rear up a brood of boys.

I also thought about how my childhood self wanted six kids. Silly little me.

My husband and I talked long before having another kid about what size our family should be and we knew: two would be enough. Two would be perfect. And so I assumed that I would inform my childhood self that we would be raising two boys, not six.

But now we have pink clothes and hair bows and dresses.

And for weeks after Gabbi was born, I continued to make comments about how I wasn’t prepared to raise a girl because I didn’t want to raise a daughter like me.

Until one day I realized: this comment said A LOT about what I thought about my relationship with my mother.

As I said it in the past, I thought I was communicating faults about MYSELF and my shortcomings as a daughter. But you can’t talk about a relationship and only “blame” one person in it.

And that’s when I realized that it’s not true. At all. I really WOULD want to raise me because if my daughter and I had the same relationship that my mother and I have, I would love that.

My mom is incredible. People say that about their moms and I’m sure they have great women who raised them. But they don’t have my mom.

Mom taught me to love music. I begged and begged her to teach me violin when I was little. I was jealous that my younger sister could take her violin anywhere in the house to practice. I couldn’t take the baby grand piano up the stairs and into our room to work on my latest sonatina assignment. But Mom kept me at the piano, for 14 years, in spite of the violin-lessons-begging, or the constantly increasing demand from sports teams, and other time commitments. I remember practicing in the front room, Mom was doing dishes in the kitchen, and I couldn’t figure out the right note so I kept playing the run incorrectly. I knew it sounded wrong, but I was terrible at reading music. Eventually, Mom came to the rescue, shouting from the soapy sink: “It’s an A flat, sweetheart!” Oh. That sounded better.

Mom taught me to drive. She helped me get my license and I was off, a sophomore in high school, carpooling my siblings and friends to classes each day. But she wanted me to learn to drive a stick, too, so one afternoon, she got into my brother’s old Volvo with me and explained how it worked. We pulled away from the house, jerking and dying, starting again, until I screamed and cried, two short turns away from home, getting out of the car and walking back to the house. She drove the car back home. Years later, I remembered her lessons as I sat in my friend, Byr’s, little Hyundai, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and she had me drive her stick. Oh. I already knew all this. I remembered from Mom. But I didn’t yell at Byr. Because she wasn’t my mom.

Mom taught me to love reading. I devoured books as a kid. When I came down with mono and spent a month home in fourth grade, I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia sitting in the branches of the chestnut tree. I learned to love reading because I saw Mom reading all of the time. She read all of the books we had to read for school. She read books she wanted to read for herself. She reread books (Pride and Prejudice). And she gave me books as gifts. I loved those birthday and Christmas presents.

Meredith_violinSometimes, I get to play the piano for my Mom. I mentioned this in a previous post, about how much I love bringing her to church with me to play. She’s the real deal and her violin resumé is simply impressive, so people don’t know what’s coming. I love to glance out at the audience, as soon as we’ve finished, and see their expressions. They’ve been moved by the beauty of music. It’s full of the spirit and listening to my Mom play, I hear (and feel) her testimony loud and clear. It’s powerful. And I get to sit behind her, at the piano, and play the background music to that. Each time, I think of my piano as a church-goer in the audience, moved by the spirit and her testimony, shouting, “Amen! Hallelujah! Oh Lordy, it’s true!” And I try to remember to lift the pedal a lot so I don’t muddle the sounds. (Piano strings pick up the violin notes, too, so lift the pedal!) When I still lived at home, I used to randomly ask her to come and play with me. Convenient beauty.

I hope that my daughter is like me. I hope that I am like my mom. I hope that we have a similar relationship. We should be so lucky.