Friday, December 31, 2010

Re-Issuing the Challenge

Last year at this time I issued my "Women in the Scriptures Challenge." I've decided I am going to re- issue the challenge again this year. In fact I think it will be ongoing challenge always on this blog. So if you haven't completed it yet-- don't give up-- you have another year, or another or another.

If you've already completed the challenge, either the full or the half, you get a gold star to put on your blog! Lucky. I'd also LOVE to know about how the experience was for you, what you learned or what you discovered. PLEASE use the linky at the bottom of the page to link to a post you've written about your experience and insights. You might just inspire someone else to take the challenge.

Women in the Scriptures

I am going to put a link to this post on my side bar and whenever you finish the challenge you can come back and grab this button and link up to your experience. I'd love to have a collection of lots of different women's testimonies and experiences with the women in the scriptures.

Also, by request of someone who has a dark background on their blog, I've made a light colored button for the Women in the Scriptures Challenge. You can use this one or the old one which ever works best of you.

Women in the Scriptures

I know that many of you have committed to doing the challenge this year and I am really anxious to hear your experiences! You can even do the challenge two or three times if you want. Trust me, it never gets old.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year Miracles

I don't really like making New Year resolutions. 

Unless they are something I've already been working on I never remember to do them. They just don't work for me.

Instead my husband and I write down New Year miracles. Each New Year we write down three or four things that we'd like to see happen during the next year. They are always things that at the time seem utterly and completely impossible, things that if they really were to happen would indeed be miracles. Sometimes we ask for miracles for ourselves but usually we ask for miracles to happen to people we care deeply about. Since they are things near and dear to our heart it isn't hard to think about them often and to offer up silent and vocal prayers for them throughout the year.

Last year I wrote down four miracles, things that I was sure weren't going to happen that year but which my heart yearned for desperately. I can bear strong testimony that God is still a God of miracles because one of my"impossible" things was answered directly this year, another was answered in a round about way, and one the miracles I prayed for two years ago was answered this year. I've noticed that sometimes God doesn't always perform the miracle in the year I pray for it but I've come to trust in God's timing and wisdom. I know that the other two miracles I prayed for in 2010 will someday be answered in His own time and His own way.

Perhaps these "impossible" things would still would have happened if I hadn't been praying for them to happen, but then they wouldn't have been miracles. Miracles are things that need to be asked for... they take faith. Jesus never performed a miracle unless someone specifically sought him out and asked for it. They demonstrated their faith in His power by being humble enough to ask Him for the miracle they wanted, whether it was for themselves or someone they loved. If we want to see miracles we have to have the faith to ask for them.

I am asking for some pretty impossible things this year. Part of my heart doubts that there is anyway they will be able to happen, but the other part of my heart is full of faith in God. I know that with Him nothing is impossible... even miracles.

Update: I recently shared this tradition with a friend and she directed me to an incredible story written by Boyd K. Packer in which he and his wife had a similar experience making New Year "miracles". I didn't know about this story when Jon and I start our tradition and it just strengthens my testimony of miracles.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Baby Changes Everything

My little boy turned three this week.

Time has gone by so quickly.

I remember that a few weeks before he was born I spent the afternoon dipping chocolates with my Grandma. As we cooked she she shared with me her thoughts about my own father's birth who was born just a few days before Christmas. She explained to me what a great blessing it is to give birth to a child at Christmas time. She said that for her it brought new meaning to Christmas and turned her heart towards Mary and Christ. It made giving birth mean so much more to her. I pondered a lot about my Grandmother's words the last few weeks of my pregnancy and tried to imagine what Mary must have experienced as she waited to give birth to her baby boy. Mostly I was in awe that Mary went ANYWHERE on a donkey at nine months pregnant! She was a hero in my eyes just for that.

Then later as I sat nursing my new born son, wrapped in a swaddled blanket, staring into my Christmas tree my heart really began to turn to Mary. I felt such a kinship with her and my heart overflowed with gratitude at her sacrifice. I could only imagine how her heart rejoiced as she held her son, knowing who he was, and how it must have ached, knowing what he would face. It humbled me so much to think how, from the moment she chose to become the mother of the son of God, her life was never normal and it was never easy. She sacrificed so much for so many.

In the three years since my son's birth I've continued to ponder on Mary and I've learned that each and every conception is a gift from God and is, in essence, no less miraculous than Mary's immaculate conception. I've seen that God is as interested in the birth of the child born to a prostitute mother in Asia, the child of rich European parents, the child born to an HIV mother in Africa, and the birth of my child as He was the birth of the Christ child. It is a beautiful testament to the nature of God to realize that the "worth of souls is great in the sight of God" and that all of God's children are just as precious to Him as the his Only Begotten. He even promises us that if we are worthy we will be made perfect and will inherit the same glory and power that Christ has received. In this sense each and every birth is the birth of the Christ child and each and every woman is a Mary, a chosen vessel of the Lord.

A few weeks ago I heard this song on the radio when I was driving home and it made me cry so hard I had to pull over. I hope you will take the time to watch this beautiful video. Listen carefully to the words. They are so powerful.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas

and don't forget

one life

one woman, one baby

changed everything.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fasting While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

I have a confession to make.

It has been a long time since I've fasted.

I actually have a really strong testimony of fasting but over the last three and half years there has been a grand total of two months when I was either not pregnant or not breastfeeding. I know that there are women who still fast when they are pregnant and breastfeeding but physically I can't seem to do it. When I am pregnant I get "morning sickness" (ie. all day sickness) if I don't keep something in my stomach and so a complete fast is out of the question. Then when I am breastfeeding I seem to need even MORE calories than I did when I was pregnant. I tried once to do a half day fast when I was breastfeeding and after a couple of hours I felt really faint and had to eat something.

I have to admit that for the first little while I was kind of happy to have a valid excuse to skip out on fasting. I didn't really feel like I was missing out on anything and that God understood why I couldn't. Yet lately I've really been yearning for the opportunity to fast. I know call me crazy. There is such a beautiful power that comes with fasting. It takes your prayers to a whole different level and brings you a bit closer to the Savior. After four years I really miss being able to utilize the power of the fast like I once was able to, especially when trials seem to be pouring out on my family and those I love.

So I'm wondering. How do you (or a woman you know) find ways to fast when you are pregnant or breastfeeding? Of if you have another medical reason, besides pregnancy and breastfeeding, that makes fasting impossible for you how do you find ways to keep the spirit of the fast?

I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nephite Women of Sherrizah and Lamanite Women taken Prisoner in Morinatum

Mormon's Farewell by Arnold Frieberg

Moroni 9: 7- 20

Background: Around 400 AD

The Lamanites and Nephites were in the midst of a long and violent battle. Wickedness and cruelty was rampant on both sides of the lines. Mormon was leading the Nephite armies but knew that because of their wickedness the situation was hopeless. In a letter that he wrote to his son Moroni he said, "they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually. And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God." (Moroni 9:5-6) The information he passes on to his son about the suffering of the Lamanite and Nephite women was told him by a man named Amoron (Moroni 9: 7).

Facts About Them:

  • The Lamanties captured men, women and children from the tower of Sherrizah. They killed all the husbands and the fathers and then fed “the women upon the flesh of their husbands, an the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them.” (vs 7-9);
  • “Not withstanding this great abomination of the Lamanties” the Nephites in Moriantum had taken many of the daughters of the Lamanties prisoner and “after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all thins, which is chastity and virtue—and after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodes even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.”(vs. 9-10);
  • There were many Nephite widows and daughters who were left in Sherrizah. They didn't have any provision because anything that was left was carried away by the army of Zenephi. Most of the remaining women were left "to wander whithersoever they can for food; and many old women do faint by the way and die." (vs.16);
  • Moroni laments that his own army is weak and that there are Lamanite armies between him and Sherrizah (vs. 17);
  • In speaking of the Nephites Moroni laments that, "they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young... and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written" (vs. 19).

Speculations about them:

  • Moroni doesn't clarify who the army of Zenephi is that carries away the provisions from the tower of Sherrizah. Yet since he differentiates them from the Lamanties (and indicated the Nephite men are wicked) it is probable that Zenephi was another of the Nephite captains and that it was Nephite men who took the remaining food for themselves and left the Nephite women to fend for themselves and starve to death.
  • We don't know where Mormon and Moroni's wives and children are at this time. We never hear anything about them and it makes me wonder if perhaps if they might have been among these women.

My Thoughts:

When I was at BYU I took the most amazing course my last semester there. It was called "The International Political Economy of Women" taught by Valerie Hudson and Donna Lee Bowen. It sounds like a big fancy name for a class but if you ever have the possibility to take it or hear one of these women speak I would recommend you jump at it in an instant. The whole semester was spent talking in depth about the issues that women face in the world-- from breastfeeding, female genital mutilation, the glass ceiling, prostitution, slavery, bride burning, dowries, child birth, rape, religious oppression, war, peacemaking, veils, pay inequities, women's education, domestic violence, and every other issue you can think of concerning women. Through the semester they painted for us very vivid and real picture of the situation of women in the world.

It was sad,

really, really, really


There were times when I would go home after class and bawl. I felt so much sorrow, anger and confusion about why, if men and women are really equal before God, that women seem to suffer so much more inequality and violence. I felt totally overwhelmed by the situation of women in the world. There was too much that needed to be done, too much sorrow, to much inequality, too much hatred, and too much violence. How could anyone ever hope to make any sort of difference? My heart was really weighed down by these questions. The situation really seemed hopeless.

Then, the last few weeks of the semester the professor's laid aside the newspapers, the videos, the books, and the statistics and they opened the scriptures. The things they taught me those few weeks healed my heart, opened my understanding and gave me hope. (If you'd like a taste of it I'd recommend "Women in Eternity, Women in Zion" by Valerie Hudson) One of the most powerful things they taught was the story of the women in Moroni 9. At the end of the chapter, after Moroni has told his son all the horrible things that have happened to the Lamanite and the Nephite women he laments that the people have become so wicked that he "cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me." Then he says this:

My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever. (Moroni 9:25)"

Dr. Hudson then told about how during a dark period of her life, when she was weighed down with sorrow and grief over the situation of women in the world, she read this verse and felt like a light had penetrated through her grief and her confusion. She realized that no matter how bad things were for women she didn't need to be weighed down with anger or sorrow. Her heart clung to Mormon's promise. Christ was personally aware of the sorrow and the suffering of each woman and no sorrow and no injustice would be forgotten. She could take joy in knowing that all women everywhere have the most powerful and compassionate advocate. She knew that Christ loved women and from that moment on her heart no longer felt weighed down but she found hope, joy, and courage in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mormon's example of clinging to Christ and the truth, even amidst so much wickedness, unrighteous dominion and misunderstanding, has also been such a powerful example for me. I think it is easy when we view the inequalities and suffering of women in the world to let ourselves go to a place of sorrow, anger, and confusion. I know there are times when I feel like I am "weighed down to death" by sorrow for women's situation in the world and there are times when I feel like I have so many more questions than I have answers. There are times when my pillow is soaked through with tears and prayers for understanding. Answers don't 't always come easily but piece by piece, truth by truth, scripture by scripture, the Lord has always answered my petitions, given me peace, expanded my understanding, and let me be an instrument in his hands. I know first hand that Mormon's promise is true, that Christ will lift us up from our sorrow and our grief and causes "the hope of his glory and of eternal life, [to] rest in your mind forever."

The quote on the the banner of this blog is "The greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ." I can't repeat enough how true this statement is. There is no force in the world that will do more good in the lives of women then the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the greatest advocate that women will ever have. He is our older brother, our advocate, and our redeemer. He understands completely all the pains, sorrows, questions and inequalities that women suffer in this world. Satan would have us fill our hearts with sorrow, anger and confusion. Christ on the other hand wants to fill our hearts with peace, understanding and joy. Like Mormon, when we are faced with wickedness, violence, inequality, and unrighteous dominion we have two choices. One, we can either be angry, hurt, sorrowful and confused or two, we can fix our hearts and minds upon Christ and have faith in His ways. We may not always understand why things are they way they are, or why people have to experience the trials they do, but we can know for certain that if we cling to Christ and his promises everything will be made clear and the justice will be done.

The greatest force for good and change in this world is love

and Christ is the source

of that love.

Questions to Think About:

  • Why would they have been in the tower of Sherrizah? Was it a stronghold? Were they making a last stand like at Masada? Mormon says that he tried to get to Sherrizah but his army was weak and the Lamanties stood between him
  • How did those women comfort their children and still be mothers in such horrible circumstances? How did they survive?
  • What similarities to you see in these women's stories to that of the concubine in Judges 19?
  • How have you seen the gospel of Jesus Christ improve women's lives? How about your own life?
  • How do you deal with feelings of sorrow, anger or confusion over women's roles and experiences in the world, within your church, or within your family?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Canning Jars and Charity

I just went down to my pantry to get something for lunch and a quick count revealed that I currently have:

6 quarts of grape juice

8 quarts of grape jelly

25 quarts of apple sauce

10 quarts and 5 pints of green beans

10 quarts and 8 pints of salsa

4 quarts of tomato sauce

18 quarts of dill and bread and butter pickles

sitting on my pantry shelf.

When I started the summer I had 200 empty canning jars on my shelf. I used up every single one this summer. Our fruit trees did really well this year, as did our garden and my uncle's garden. We had produce, especially cucumbers, coming out of our ears this summer. For some reason knowing the work and labor that went into each jar always gives me an sense of indescribable joy. Yet because I know how much work each one of those jars took I also mourn the loss of one of those jars every time we eat. I tend to guard those jars passionately making sure that nothing I worked to preserve is wasted or unappreciated.

As I was counting my jars I realized that there were only 94 jars on my shelf. I think my family has probably eaten the contents of about 20 other those jars since the start of fall. So that means there are 86 jars missing from the 200 I started with.

Where did those 86 jars go?

As I thought back on my summer I realized that every time I made a new batch of pickles, salsa or apple sauce I gave it away to friends and family almost as fast as I made it. I was so proud of what I had done that I wanted to share it. I felt so blessed to have so much abundance and it gave me joy to share the work of my hands. With each jar I sent out I was sending out a little piece of myself. It surprises me now to realize that, without me evening being aware of it, I gave away-- so easily-- 86 precious jars.

As I glanced around my pantry I started to worry that I had given away too many and that I wouldn't have enough jars for next year's harvest. Yet when I looked at the other side of my pantry where I keep my empty bottles I realized that it was filled with empty jars.

Where did they come from?

Then my mind wandered back through the summer and I remembered the friends and neighbors who had brought me over the produce of their gardens and shared with me their jam, their salsa, their applesauce, their pear butter, and their juice. It is sort of unwritten "code" that if a person gives you something in a mason jar you don't have to return the jar. It is yours to fill anyway you choose and to pass on to someone else. These people had freely given me the labor of their own hands in jars they didn't expect to be returned. Those jars now filled my pantry. Waiting to be filled with next year's harvest. I marveled that somehow I had ended the season with more jars than I had started with... even though I'd given 86 of them away.

I've learned there is great charity in canning jars. Each jar given away is a gift of labor and love, with no expectation of return. I think they exemplify the teachings of Christ. As Christmas approaches it is a beautiful reminder to me that when we give from our hearts, with no expectations, we always receive more than we started with. Love multiples in small little ways, day upon day, jar upon jar, until one day we look around our pantry and realize it is full.

God has a strange way of doing math. It seems the more you give the more you receive. It doesn't really add up at all, but I'm not complaining.