Monday, May 21, 2012

Dwelling in a Tent

Lately I am feeling a bit like I imagine Sarah felt when she and Abraham left their home in Haran to go into the wilderness of Canaan, to".. the land that I will shew thee" (Genesis 12:1).

Or how Sariah must have felt when Lehi asked her to leave the comfort and the beauty of her home in Jerusalem for the unknown of the Arabian desert.

We just moved and are sort of homeless at the moment, bouncing back and forth between family until we can figure out where we need to be. Jon and I have been having a bit of an existential crisis; re-evaluating our goals and priorities in life and trying to figure out just exactly how and where we want to raise our family and serve the Lord. Even though Jon has a good job in Salt Lake City he may (in the next several months) have the possibility of accepting a job that would require our family to live further away from family and possibly in some very remote parts of the United States, but which would have the possibility of doing some really incredible service work for some of the poorest citizens in the US.  I desperately would like to set down some roots, sink them deep into the ground, but I can't help but feel the Lord might have something else planned for us. It makes me feel all topsy turvey inside.

Stepping out into the unknown is scary, and I have been re-reading the stories of Sarah and Sariah to get a better understanding of how they had the faith to do what they did.

As I re-read the story of Lehi and Sariah leaving Jerusalem I was really struck by this verse in 1 Nephi 2:15 in which Nephi simply states, "And my father dwelt in a tent." This verse is often used light heartily as the shortest verse in the Book of Mormon, yet this one little verse is packed full of meaning.  It indicates that Nephi and his family had finally made a choice. They had officially given up their affluent, city dwelling, stable life style for the difficultly and uncertainty of being guided by the Lord in the desert. That couldn't have been an easy to choice to make, or an easy road to follow. Yet look at the incredible things that came as a result of that one choice!

I think what I am coming to learn, slowly, is that the Lord expects each of us to "dwell in a tent", in a figurative way.  Even though ancient peoples often pitched their tents for long periods of time, tents (unlike houses) are not permanent structures and can (and were) taken down in order to move on to a richer part of land, escape conflict, or simply because the Lord commanded it. Today those who"dwell in a tent" are those whose hearts are open to the Lord and are are willing to go where He wants them to go-- instead of being tied down by their houses, their riches, or their desire for comfort. To  truly be an instrument in the hands of the Lord, like Sarah and Abraham or Lehi and Sariah, we must be willing to leave everything behind  if it is required of us and go where the Lord directs.

That is hard.

Really hard.

Yet Sarah did it.

And so did Sariah-- though I really can't blame her for having her moments of murmuring.

Last week as Jon and I drove away from our little house it dawned on me that, once you take all the people who are dear to you out of it, a house is really nothing more than a big box to store stuff in. When we die we will take nothing of this life with us except for our bodies and our intelligence, everything else will be left behind. And truly, the more I think about it, the more I see that each and every one of us on this earth  are already "dwelling in a tent".  None of us are permanent fixtures on this earth, we are all "strangers in a strange land" (Exodus 2:22) who are just passing through on our way towards our eternal home-- our promised land.

When I think about it that way I see just how silly it is to put our faith  in material things, like our homes and our possessions. Yet it is so easy to do. I am so grateful that the Lord let me see my little house for what it really was-- just a tent-- one of many of the stops Jon and I will take before we get to where our real home is.

Even so, I will always be grateful that Jon and I had the chance to pitch our tent in such a wonderful part of the world for a time. Even though it hurts, so much, to take out those stakes, fold up my blankets, load my camels, and move on-- not really knowing where we are going-- I have  faith that the Lord will lead us to another fertile part of the wilderness. Where we can again pitch our tent -- whether it be for a few months, a year, 25, or 50 -- to help build His kingdom until we are called to move on... or are taken home to the land where we truly belong.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Five Things for Friday: MIA Edition

It has been a few weeks since I have had consistent Internet access and so I feel like I have been really MIA (missing in action) for awhile. I thought that for this post I'd just post pictures that might give you an idea of what I have been up to.




 Trying out his "batwings". Does anyone know why Masters robes are so ridiculous looking? They are bizarre.


Another classic family picture. I think it might be a LONG LONG time before we get one that isn't chaos-- beautiful chaos-- but chaos nonetheless! 

Just trying it on for size.



I feel so blessed we have been able to sell our house so quickly, and to such a wonderful couple. It has really been an answer to prayers. But it has been SO HARD to leave our house behind. The house is almost 100 years old and Jon and I poured our blood, sweat and hearts into remodeling it. We took something old and ugly and made it  beautiful and charming and have loved (almost) every moment of doing it.

I bawled like a baby as we were driving away. We were so happy there and it is hard to believe we will be as happy anywhere else. Two of our children were born in that house and  it is SO hard to leave that behind. I have been sort of emotional this last week but I am doing better now, as long as I don't think too much about it. 



We flew with Jon's family to go visit his uncle and aunt in Oregon. It was the kids first time on an airplane and they loved it-- as you can tell by Rose's face. 


In fact, when I asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was they both, without hesitation, said it was the plane ride! 

My favorite part was catching this 20lb beauty. 

Apparently I need to learn how to hold a fish, this was awkward... and slimy.


My other favorite part of the trip was driving around in our rental car minivan, which I affectionately dubbed our "swagger wagon."

It was a brand new, top of the line, Town and Country minivan with leather seats, three TVs built in, and more gizmos then we could figure out what do with. It was awesome and-- even though I once swore a blood oath I would never drive a minivan-- at this point in my life I would take even an ugly one in a heartbeat. Cramming three kids into their car seats in the back of our little Pontiac Sunfire (whose air conditioning just went out) is getting old. Hopefully with Jon's new job it won't take us too long to save up for one-- probably with much less "bling" than the rental car, but it was fun to dream.
 Sort of like test driving a BMW or Lamborghini... but "parents of lots of small children" style :)


Right now we are sort of homeless and are living with family till we find a place to be. I hate not having things figured out, but I just have to keep reminding myself that where ever Jon and the kids are-- that is all the "home" we need. Besides, this guy just makes everything better.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to check out The Gift of Giving Life book tour that will be going on the next few weeks! We have been getting some great feedback on the book... which is exciting!

If you want to link to your own "Five Things for Friday" post you can use the tool below to add your link. 1) Please link to the URL of your blog post and not your main blog and 2) Please include a link back here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Half Way through the Dress Dare

I can't believe the month of May is already half way over. It has gone by so quickly, but then again my life has been pretty fast paced lately.

I just thought I'd check in and see if anyone else is still hanging in with the dress dare and is still wearing skirts and dresses!

I have been doing pretty good at the dare. I've worn a skirt or dress everyday this month so far. The only times I've worn pants have been to weed the yard and when we went salmon fishing in Oregon last week-- I figured those counted as "sports" in my book.

I've learned several things so far about myself and about dress wearing the last few weeks:

  •  I don't like having to wear a skirt. In the weeks leading up to this dress dare I was already wearing skirts and dresses several times a week and I was loving it. In fact, I didn't have any desire to wear pants or shorts at all. Yet as soon as I made it a rule that I couldn't wear pants I started to resent wearing skirts. I've found myself cursing my skirts this week and wishing I could wear pants. I think what discovered is that I like having the choice. While I think that after this I will wear skirts much more than I did before, I like knowing that if I wanted I could wear pants. Besides there are times when wearing pants is really just easier. For example, I thought it would be fun to wear a big flowing skirt on the beach while we were in Oregon. Wrong. I ended up having to safety pin it together in about 10 places and even then it still wanted to fly above my head. That was when I was cursing this dress dare the most. 
  • When I wear a skirt everyday it makes getting dressed for church different. Before when I got dressed for church any old skirt would do-- denim, casual, fancy, frilly-- it didn't matter what type it was because a skirt was a skirt. Now that I am wearing skirts  I've divided them into "day dresses" and "church dresses". I selected my nicest and fanciest skirts and dresses and set them apart as my church dresses and wear my more causal ones during the week. As a result I've found that I have been much more dressed up and "formal" at church than I was before. I like it a lot. It really makes me feel like I am putting on my "Sunday Best" and I think it has helped me keep the Sabbath day better than I did before.
  • The fuller the skirt the more comfortable and easier it is to wear. I now completely understand why women wore full length dresses. When your dress is long enough, and the skirt isn't very tight, you have a HUGE range of motion. You can sit cross legged, climb trees, chase around little kids on the floor and just about everything else you want to do (except for walking on the beach in the wind) without  reducing your range of motion or worry about being immodest. I am finding that some of my favorite skirts are the ones that hit me about mid-calf and have full wide skirts.  They are pretty much like wearing pants, except much more comfy. 
  • I haven't ONCE been asked why I was wearing a skirt. I have found this odd, my only explanations are that 1) maybe no one notices, 2) everyone reads my blog ( I wish!) and so they know what I am up to, or 3) they already know that I am a bit of an odd fish and just chalk it up as one of my strange qualities.

Overall, I am still finding that I like wearing skirts and that I like how they make me feel. There is something about doing more "manly" things-- say, mowing the lawn or loading couches into a moving van-- in a skirt that brings me a lot of joy. But then again I am an odd fish.

I am still pondering and researching on the questions I had but I will share those insights later. In the meantime I'd love to hear how the dress dare is going for you! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Celebrating our Heavenly Mother on Mother's Day

The last two weeks have been wild and crazy. We have been in the process of graduating, selling and moving from our house, searching for a place to live, going on vacation, teaching my sister-in-law the temple preparation classes, and helping to get my brother-in-law ready for his mission to Taiwan. Not to mention publishing a book and a thesis in that time and chasing around three little children.Yikes.

I haven't had much time at the computer and so when I finally got a chance to sit down yesterday afternoon I was so excited to see that this article "A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven" by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido has finally been published in the BYU Studies Journal! About a year ago one of my professors from BYU shared a preliminary draft with me and told me that this paper was in the works. I was very moved the first time I read it and have been thinking a lot about this paper in the year since. I am so glad that it is finally available for others to read.

I think that in her review of the paper Valerie Hudson Cassler does a much better job explaining what this paper is all about. She says,

The article’s primary contribution is an inventory of every saying by Church leaders from the founding to the present concerning our Heavenly Mother.  That the Latter-day Saint Church alone among all the Christianities asserts that just as we have a Father in Heaven, so we also have a Mother in Heaven, is well known.  Latter-day Saints do not believe that God is an old bachelor—we believe that all divinity is both male and female, such that our Heavenly Father could not be a god unless there was an equally yoked Heavenly Mother by his side who was also a god. However, it is also true that you will not find Latter-day Saints saying much about their Heavenly Mother besides acknowledging her existence.  Indeed, in LDS culture, you will sense that Latter-day Saints feel they are expected not to speak of her.

...Paulsen and Pulido persuasively argue that the conventional LDS cultural notion that we are not to speak of Heavenly Mother is, in fact, wrong.  They are quick to add that speaking of Heavenly Mother should not be taken to include acts such as praying to Heavenly Mother.  Nevertheless, Paulsen and Pulido have “restored the paths to walk in”—that is, by the very act of publishing this article in BYU Studies, they have opened a door for the membership of the Church to speak openly of their belief in a Heavenly Mother, and to assert that silence about Heavenly Mother is not “sacred,” but a cultural artifact which is not supported by the General Authorities of the Church. 

... Before delving into the arguments made by Paulsen and Pulido, we must mention at the outset of this review that an important reason this article is path-breaking is because of the venue in which it was published.  BYU Studies, for those who are not acquainted with that journal, is an official publication of Brigham Young University, and its board includes general authorities of the Church.  In other words, it is in a league of its own, certainly no Sunstone or Dialogue, being scrupulously orthodox and formally affiliated with a Church institution, but also a different creature than the Ensign, being a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. 

Personally I have never felt  or been taught that it was wrong to talk about our Mother in Heaven, but maybe that was because of how I was raised. I remember being really astonished the first time that someone "called me out" for speaking too freely about her. I was even more surprised to discover that some of my faithful LDS friends had feeling of sadness or anger because they felt that she was "off limits" or "absent" from church teachings or from individual worship. I am so grateful for this article, sanctioned by General Authorities, that dispels that myth. It breaks my heart to think that there are women who have been feeling pain over a culturally constructed "silence" about their Mother in Heaven.

Our Mother in Heaven is not off limits, she is an important part of Later-day Saint doctrine and worship and it is proper and fitting that we should talk about her. I think that if there is any "danger" in talking about our Mother in Heaven it is temptation to speculate about her things that have not been revealed. We have been counseled not to pray to Her because we must follow the guidelines that God has laid out, and which Christ modeled, for proper worship. Nowhere in the scriptures does Christ, or anyone else, pray to our Mother in Heaven and so neither do we. In fact, the scriptures are abundantly abundant of examples of individuals and societies that have fallen into wickedness and destruction through the practice of idolatry-- which almost always included advanced forms of goddess worship.So while we are not separated or forbidden from knowing our Mother in Heaven we do need to make sure we are worshiping in the proper way that God has specified. Personally I wish that we knew more about her (and I am sure one day we will) but in the mean time we should not speculate on things that have not been revealed.

The wonderful thing about this paper is that the authors compile a beautiful list of everything that we do know about her. Happily, it was much more than I thought! They said,

In this paper we have briefly shown that historically there has been substantial discussion and elaboration on the roles and divinity of our Heavenly Mother, challenging academics’ claims that general authorities and other church leaders have limited Heavenly Mother’s role to reproduction. It also refutes the suspicion that they have advocated a position of sacred silence about her. We have found no record of a general authority advising us to be silent about our Heavenly Mother; indeed, as we have amply demonstrated, many general authorities have openly taught about her.

Additionally, while some have claimed that historically Heavenly Mother’s role has been marginalized or trivialized, we feel that honest consideration of the actual historical data provides a much more elevated view of Heavenly Mother. The Heavenly Mother portrayed in the teachings we examined is indeed a procreator and parent, as well as a divine person, a co-creator, a co-director of the Plan of Salvation, and a guide in both this life and the next.  Certainly, consideration of these points reinforces several important doctrines that we unquestioningly embrace, including divine embodiment, eternal families, divine relations, the deification of women, the eternal nature and value of gender, and the shared lineage of Gods and humans.  Far from degrading either the Heavenly Feminine or the earthly feminine, we feel that these teachings exalt both.  

I also especially loved this quote included in the paper by President Rudger Clawson (Quorum of the Twelve, 10 Oct. 1989 – 21 Jun. 1943) who said,

 “It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections.”  Rather, “we honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal prototype.”

So today as you honor and celebrate your earthly mothers don't forget to honor and celebrate your Divine Mother. She loves us, as much as our Father in Heaven does, and all mothers-- all women-- have been created in her image. That knowledge is incredible and  is definitely something worth celebrating on Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dress Dare

A year ago one of my blogging friends  posted that she was doing the "Dress Dare" hosted by the young Catholic women who blog at "Defining Beauty". Here is the details of their dare.

Here we go!

The Official Rules are:

Wear dresses and skirts throughout the month of May.

Exceptions:  Snoozing {zzz} and Exercising.

Honor Mary, grow closer to Jesus.

Be beautiful--- be YOU!

My first reaction to the dare was NO WAY HOSEA!

I couldn't fathom how anyone could wear a dress every day, for a whole month. It seemed a little crazy to me and not a bit of fun.  I found myself thinking, "Come on this is the 21st century! Didn't our great-grandmothers fight so that we wouldn't have to wear dresses? Why would you revert back?" 

Then after Abe was born I found myself wearing lots of skirts (because none of my pants fit) and much to my surprise I discovered that I really loved wearing skirts. They made me feel different-- in a good way-- and now, even though my pants fit again, I find I am still wearing skirts more than I used to.

In the last few months I have been thinking about this scripture in Deuteronomy 22:5, in which Moses gives instructions to the children of Israel.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

I don't really understand  the whole context of why or where this counsel was given, but I am intrigued by the fact that it was given. I not even sure if the counsel is talking about dresses or not because people dressed differently back then. Yet I have been impressed that this was something a prophet of God felt compelled to counsel his people about. And obviously even back in Moses time it appears there was some cross dressing going on! I'd like to understand if there is something more to this scripture that I don't understand.

Is there spiritual significance in having men and women dress differently?

What are the consequences when men and women begin to dress the same, or to switch traditional clothing?

Have women lost something, something I can't even put my finger on, because we don't wear dresses any more?   

These are questions I'd like better answers to.

So this May I am going to take the Dress Dare and wear a skirt every day this month (except for today because I forgot that it was May 1st and I am wearing jeans, oops:) only making exceptions for sleeping and sports.

It is sort of an experiment.

First, I want to see if I can actually do it and second, I hope to figure out a little bit more about what that scripture in Deuteronomy means to me and try to find answers to my questions.

Besides, every time I wear a dress Rose tells me I am " pretty princess"-- so I'll have some good moral support

Anyone else up for the challenge?