Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Blessings of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel



Last week in Sunday School we talked about the Abrahamic covenant, the promises that God makes to Abraham about his posterity in Genesis 17. We know that God does not just make covenants with men but that he also makes them with women and as we talked I couldn't help but wonder where Sarah was when all this was going on. Later that afternoon I went home and started to read Genesis 17 closer and I was so excited to realized that the covenant God is making is not just with Abraham but it is also with Sarah.

Here is what God tells Abraham:
  • He changes his name from Abram to Abraham (17:5);
  • Promises him that he will be exceedingly fruitful (17:6);
  • That he will "make nations of thee" (17:6);
  • That "Kings shall come out of thee"(17:6);
  • It will be an everlasting covenant with his posterity (17:7);
  • His posterity will be given the land of Canaan (17:8);
  • Every man child must be circumcised (17:10-14).
After establishing this with Abraham the Lord then speaks about his promises to Sarah and they are remarkably similar. The Lord:
  • Changes her name from Sarai to Sarah (17:15);
  • Blesses her and promises that she will bear a son (17:16);
  • That she shall be a "mother of nations" (17:16);
  • That "Kings shall be of her" (17:16);
  • The covenant will be with her posterity(17:19).
The only two things that are realy different about the promises God makes with Abraham and the ones he makes with Sarah is that with Abraham he promises lands of inheritance (which has to do with his role as patriarch) and he establishes the law of circumcision with him, which is obviously only something that concerns men. Besides those two things the promises that God makes to Abraham and to Sarah are pretty much identical.

Having a better understanding of Sarah's part in the Abrahamic covenant sheds new light on the story of Hagar and Sarah and Ishmael and Issac. Even though Ishmael was Abraham's first born he could not be heir to the covenant blessings because he was not Sarah's son. God has covenanted with Sarah that the blessings of the priesthood would come through her; she was heir to all the blessings just like Abraham was.

It is really powerful to me to realize that the Abrahamic covenant wasn't just with Abraham but also with Sarah. This really makes a lot of sense because the covenant that God made with Abraham and Sarah was called the "everlasting covenant" and promised eternal increase. Today in the LDS church we believe that couples whose marriages are sealed in the temple are partaking of the "new and everlasting covenant" (which is outline in D&C 132) and that one of the promises is eternal increase, or eternal posterity. The covenant today is "new" because we are in a new dispensation and because the covenant no longer involves circumcision ( which is no longer needed because of the resurrection of Christ). God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and it makes sense to me that if today the "everlasting covenant" is made with couples then in Abram and Sarah's day it also would have been made with couples. The promises of Abraham, Issac and Jacob are also the promises of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Fathers



A few years ago I was transcribing my grandmother's journal (she passed away when I was 13) and I found this cartoon stuck in it. I'm not a huge Star Wars fan but for some reason I love this cartoon. I think it is because it just seems to sum up my Grandpa so well-- he was a big Star Trek and Star Wars "nerd" and I remember his library being full of memorabilia . I just thought I'd share it and wish all the wonderful men in my life a Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to Catch a "Feminist" Husband

About two months ago I received an email from one of my readers asking me this question and I thought that since Father's Day is coming up now would be a good time to answer it. She said,
“What makes a great feminist husband? What I mean by this, is that I see so much of myself in your passion, interest in women, desire for equality, and embracing of birthing. And to be 100% honest, I don't find a whole ton of guys who seem "thrilled" to be in love with someone who feels this way and truly understands the divine role of women. In an attempt to date in ways that avoid the same decisions I made last time that eventually led to divorce, I've been thinking a lot about the qualities of a man that support the kind of woman I am. How did you pick up on these with your husband? Since you were hesitant about "losing" your individuality, your husband obviously must have done something to help you feel comfortable on a path with him.

You talk so much and so beautifully on womanhood, and I know that it must take a supportive and understanding man to complement that. I find that many guys I meet in the LDS world will run at the idea of a feminist, a woman who is strong and who questions, who is smart, or who embraces her body and the personal child birthing experience. Please don't take this the wrong way; I have also met many wonderful men who are supportive of their wonderful wives. But it just seems like I'm not going about the right ways to figure out who they are or find out how that translates to the dating scene.”
I am flattered that she’d think to ask me this question and will do my best to answer it. Yet I feel like I should clarify two things before I start. First, if you aren’t familiar with my thoughts on feminism it might be helpful for you to read that just so we all know the sort of “feminism” I am referring to. Second, I should probably make it clear that I am most certainly NOT an expert on dating… at all. I didn’t date a whole lot growing up and my husband was my first and only boyfriend. So my range of experience is very limited and really the only man I have to use as an example is Jon, my husband. We aren’t perfect by any means but since you’ve asked for my experience I’ll share it and hope that you can glean something out of it.

I've been pondering on it for awhile and I think there are four characteristics that my husband had as a young man that most attracted my “feminist” heart to him (besides being so handsome) and solidified my trust in him.


1) He had a rock solid testimony of the gospel.

When we were dating I went with Jon to a homecoming party for one of his mission presidents and his wife. In her talk the mission president’s wife said that she was often asked by young sister missionaries how to “marry a mission president”. She said she always responded by saying that she didn’t marry a mission president; she married a young man with a good heart who loved the Lord more than her. She encouraged all the young women in the audience to make that their number one criteria when looking for a husband-- not looks, not intellect, not money, not ambition-- but a good heart with more love in it for the Lord than anything else.

Her advice really sunk deep into my heart and sitting in that church chapel with Jon holding my hand I KNEW that I was holding a man who had a good heart. Yet over the next several months as we began to date seriously I really began to examine that heart and to see what it was made out of at its core. I discovered that he wasn’t perfect but that he had a testimony of the gospel that was rock solid (more so than mine), that he honored his priesthood, that he was always honest, that reading his scriptures and going to church were priorities in his life, that he attended the temple faithfully, that he never spoke unkindly of others, that he loved his family and adored children, that he was reliable and respected by his employers, and that he loved to serve others.

His heart was good and knowing it made me want to be better. In fact, after five years of marriage I am still surprised by the depth of his heart and he still inspires me to better. And you want to know the best part? If you were to ask him about me, he’d feel the same way! Don’t get me wrong, we drive each other crazy lots of the time but usually we try to look on each other’s hearts-- because we know that at their core they are good.

2) His Mother has a testimony of womanhood and knows who she is.

When I asked Jon about what things a girl should look for in a “Feminist” husband he immediately replied… “His mom, does she know who she is and what it means to be a woman. If she does then she will have instilled in him a testimony of womanhood. Also, look at how his Dad treats his mom and his sisters."

I think his advice is really good and looking back I think that Jon’s family was one of the things that calmed my fears about getting married the most. His family isn’t perfect (none are) but he has wonderful parents and they have a really good relationship based on respect, love, trust, cooperation, and faith in the Lord. I knew that Jon wanted the type of relationship his father and mother had and that went a long way towards helping me trust him. His parents have been really good role models for us and I think that seeing them work, struggle, grow, and learn together has taught us a lot of good skills.

Family habits and traditions, good and bad, are hard to get rid of and if the man you are dating already has a family who has righteous traditions, good gender relationships (between husband and wife, father and daughter, mother and son, and brother and sister) and healthy communication skills then I think it is just a sign that you will be one step ahead of the game. If the family has messed up gender relationships, inappropriate or inadequate communication, unrighteous traditions or things like abuse or divorce then it will give you an idea of what things you will have to work on or build from the ground up. I am a firm believer that people can overcome bad family situations but it requires a patient and loving spouse. I know that for Jon and I dealing with my own parent’s divorce (even though it happened before we got married) and the multiple families that have been created as a result is a real challenge in our marriage. Even if you think you are “over” it or that you aren’t going to do the same things your parents did family habits and mistakes don’t go away easily and you just have to be prepared to work on them together as a couple.


3) He was slow to initiate physical relationship


When I say that Jon was slow… he was S-L-O-W. We’d been really good friends for almost a year and “exclusive” for about two months and he still hadn’t kissed me! One afternoon I was complaining about this to one of my friends and was so taken back when her normally goofy boyfriend (who was listening in) became really serious and stopped me in the middle of my sentence to say, “Wow, Heather. Any guy who is slow in being physical is one worth hanging on to. He must respect you a lot.” That stopped me dead in my tracks and gave me a whole new perspective of things. Later as I came to know Jon better I learned that getting to know ME—my heart, my mind, my soul—was more important to him than getting to know my lips. He waited until he had my trust before he began a physical relationship. Even though it drove me crazy at the time—I was pretty much begging him to kiss me--- I am so glad that he had the wisdom to know that at its heart intimacy is about trust.

It is so important to build a real foundation of emotional and spiritual trust in someone before you get physically intimate with them. In fact, I’d venture to say that the whole focus of an engagement should be focused on creating trust—to learn how to set boundaries with one another, to communicate well, and to gain confidence in the other persons judgment. Jon and I had a 6 month engagement (which is the LDS culture is about 2 or 3 times longer than normal!) but I really needed ALL that time. I had a lot of trust and commitment issues to work through because of my parents divorce and I needed to know that Jon was who I thought he was and that he would be there for me… always.


4) He was willing to help me discover my divine nature

One night when we were engaged Jon and I were walking home and I was rambling about something to do with women and gender relationships. At one point I told Jon that I had no idea who I was or what it really meant to be a woman. I stopped, looked him in the eyes and asked him if he’d help me figure it out. At first he was a bit taken back --I have a tendency to do that to him, especially when I’m talking about women’s issues—but then he got the sweetest smile on his face and promised that he would. A few weeks later (I’ve learned that unlike me he doesn’t spew things out but ponders on them for awhile) he asked me if I’d help him understand who he was and what it really meant to be a man. I promised.

I don’t think you have to figure everything out before you get married because marriage is a lot about growing together until you are one. Becoming “one” requires that a man come to understand what it means to be a woman and a woman come to understand what it means to be a man—and to love and support each other’s divine nature. A good illustration of this are the havdalah candles that Jews use in their worship services


The candle is really two candles wrapped together until eventually they merge and have one wick. I love to think about Jon and I being like this candle. We are two very different people but we are both committed to a higher goal than just ourselves—creating our eternal family—and as a result we are growing together closer and closer. I know that sometimes Jon thinks my ideas and interests are crazy, but he is always willing to keep an open heart and try to understand me, and I found that eventually he usually does. Our two identities will always be separate but little by little we are becoming “one” in purpose and understanding. We still have a long ways to go but at least we know what we are working towards.

Those are my four things, I don’t know if any of it helps! All I have to draw from is my own experience, which is limited and biased. Yet, I think that when it comes right down to it that I will just re- echo the mission president’s wife and say that the most important thing is to find a man with a good heart who loves the Lord more than anything else. Because if he is strong in the basics of the gospel and has a teachable heart then, if he doesn’t already have one, he will gain a testimony of the divinity of womanhood and be able to see eternal truths rather than fixate on cultural traditions.

I know that finding an eternal companion is really hard, but be patient. Sometimes the "wrong" people you date give you the experience and the wisdom to be ready for the "right" man when he crosses your path. Keep your heart open and… eventually… he will come along. All the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Free Relaxation MP3 for Everyone!

So we are getting exciting close to getting the first draft of our book "The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth" completed! It has been two years in the making and it is so exciting to see it coming together. We are aiming to have the book out before Christmas! Yippee!

One of the other authors on the book just made a professional relaxation MP3, it isn't specific to childbirth, but is aimed at helping in general relaxation and well being. She is really talented at what she does and her relaxations are really fantastic. She will be selling her recordings through itunes but if you would like a FREE copy of the MP3 you can get one by signing up for our email newsletters. Then in a few weeks she will email you a FREE copy of the MP3!

It will only take you about 10 seconds. Promise.

Even if you aren't interested in pregnancy and childbirth it would still be worth it to sign up

because you get something free!

That is a good deal.

Oh, and also if you have been thinking about sending us a birth story and haven't done it yet this is your absolute last chance. Our deadline for drafts is the end of the week. Up until then you can email your story to thegiftofgivinglife@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good News Moment

Brought to you by my Rosie




We are really excited about this new baby coming! Yet no one is really more excited about this baby than Rose. She and this baby have a special connection. Several months ago, before I even knew I was pregnant, at dinner she got a big smile on her face, pointed over my shoulder and started to say "baby, baby, baby, baby" over and over again. She was obviously looking at someone but there was no one there. Then even before we told the kids that we were having another baby Rose would come up to me several times a day, lift up my shirt, pat my tummy and say "baby". It totally floored me because 1) how did she KNOW that I was having baby when we hadn't breathed a word of it to the kids and 2) how does a 22-month-old know that babies grew inside women's stomachs (well the general area)? She really seems to be able to sense this little baby's spirit strongly and it has been such a blessing to me. At Christmas time I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks and so this whole pregnancy I've been terrified of loosing this baby too. Yet, knowing that Rose can see and feel someone in our home has given me such peace. It amazes me how close to the veil and the spirit little children are... it is too bad we seem to lose that as we grow older.

My husband's family always chooses "womb names" for babies before they are born and we've named this baby "Apricot". We aren't going to find out the gender this time either. We've known with both of our others but I figure that since we already have a boy and girl I am prepared either way. I've had several doula clients and friends not find out the gender and it is so much fun to see them discover it at the birth. It really is special and I'd sort of like to try it that way this time.

I'm about 16 weeks along am and starting to feel much better, even though I am so tired! I've been telling my husband that I haven't been very "productive" these days but that I am being very "reproductive"! It just boggles my mind to think that my body is working hard to assemble the most complex of all organisms on this earth-- another human soul-- without my mind even being aware of it. It is such a miracle.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Deep Beauty

I've been really intrigued by the "Beauty Redefined" project that two LDS twin sisters have been organizing. Starting this month billboards are going to be going up all over Utah with positive messages about women and body image. (Oh, how I hope and pray that at least ONE of them is right next to the half dozen billboards on I-15 for breast enhancements and liposuction!) I am really inspired with what these girls are doing and hope that this movement and project catches on. If you are interested you can go here to read what some of their billboards are going to say. I especially like the one "When beauty hurts, we're doing it wrong"!

Their project has got me thinking a lot about beauty and what it truly means to be "beautiful." I remember when I was younger I was a bit discouraged by the fact that most of the important women in the scriptures are always described as being very physically attractive. For example, in his vision of Mary, the Mother of Christ Nephi describes her as "exceedingly fair" (1 Nephi 11:13), Rachel is described as being "beautiful and well favored" (Genesis 29:17), Esther is "fair and beautiful" (Esther 2:7) Abigail is of a "beautiful countenance" (1 Sam. 25:3) and Sarah is apparently so beautiful that even at 90-years-old she causes the King of the Philistines to fall in love with her (Genesis 20). In my teenage mind it seemed to me that only really beautiful girls were the ones "chosen" by God to do the important things in the scriptures. The plain ones, like Leah who is described as "tender eyed" ( which may have indicated she was crossed eyed or had another eye problem, Genesis 29:17), tended to take the back seat in the stories and had it sort of rough. I thought that being beautiful-- physically-- was a virtue in and of itself and that if you were beautiful then it somehow meant you were worth more to God.

Yet over the years as I've studied these women's lives more closely I've come to see that when the scriptures talk about "beauty" they aren't usually referring to physical attractiveness but rather a beauty that comes from being close to God. I think Sarah's story is a good illustration of this. In Genesis 20 we read about how Abraham and Sarah travel towards the land of the Philistines and how once again Abraham asks Sarah to say that she is his sister instead of his wife in order to protect his life. Yet, just like had happened before with the King of Egypt 40 or so years earlier, Abimelech the king of the Philistines sees Sarah and desires her. She is taken into the King's house and it is only through a remarkable dream that Abimelech is told that Sarah is Abraham's wife and therefore doesn't go in unto her. Now I've seen some very beautiful elderly women in my life but I still find it hard to imagine how Sarah, at 90-years- old, could be physically attractive enough that a King would whisk her away from her family. Granted, Sarah did live will into her 100's and so 90 was probably more "young" back then than it is now, but even she freely describes herself as an old woman.

Link

The beauty that Abimelech saw in Sarah, and which made him desire her, was probably not physical attractiveness but rather what Elaine S. Dalton calls "deep beauty"-- a beauty that comes from the inside out. Dalton in her 2010 address said:
“deep beauty”... It is the kind of beauty that cannot be painted on, surgically created, or purchased. It is the kind of beauty that doesn’t wash off. It is spiritual attractiveness. Deep beauty springs from virtue. It is the beauty of being chaste and morally clean... When you are virtuous, chaste, and morally clean, your inner beauty glows in your eyes and in your face... We have been taught that “the gift of the Holy Ghost … quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections. … It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features.” Now, that is a great beauty secret! That is the beauty... that really matters and the only kind of beauty that lasts. "
Sarah had deep beauty. Mary had deep beauty, as did Rachel, Esther and Abigail. These women may have been beautiful physically by the standards of their time yet I think what made these women go down in the history books as "beautiful" was because they were close to God, they lived virtuous lives, and they knew who they were and what their missions were on earth. That is a type of beauty that can't be bought at the store or the doctor's office and therefore is precious above all else.

Yet you want to know the most wonderful part about "deep beauty"? You don't have to be rich to afford it, you don't have to have the right body size or hair color, you don't have to be free from disease or imperfections, and you don't have to have certain clothes or make-up. All it requires is drawing near to the heavenly parents who created you and becoming more like them... and that is something that is within every woman's reach.

Hmm... do you think that maybe I could fit all that on a billboard?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Winner of Free Admission to LDS Holistic Living Conference

The random number generator selected

Chelsey Merkley

as the winner of the free admission to the LDS Holistic Living Conference!

Congrats!

I really wish I could every one of you who wanted it free admission but alas, I can not.

Just as a reminder here is the information about the conference


The Holistic LDS Living Conference's mission is to help all people draw closer to Christ by discovering His hidden treasures of knowledge for the health and healing of the mind, body and spirit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

8:30 am—6:00 pm

(vendor area open until 7:00 pm)

Paradigm High School

11577 S 3600 W

South Jordan, Utah 84095

Hope to see you there!