Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Spiritual Way to Celebrate My Children's BIRTHdays

Today my Five Things for Friday post is a bit different. I wrote this post for The Gift of Giving Life blog  but I wanted to share it here so that I could have this sweet experience saved on my personal blog. It is also a little selfish because I also really want to hear your comments!

I have always loved birthdays.

The parties, the balloons, the cake, the presents, the attention.

Birthday's have always been a big deal in my family and celebrating them is a lot of fun.

Yet it wasn't until my oldest son celebrated his first birthday that it dawned on me that a birthday celebrates a BIRTH.

I think up until then all I'd really thought about was that my birthday was the day that I was born but I'd never thought about what that really entailed-- that on that day my mother travailed and shed her blood to bring me into mortality.

That is a gift I will never be able to repay. 

On each of my children's birthdays I can't help but reflect on what I went through to give them life and the immense about of joy that accompanied their arrival. Their birthdays have become very special days for me and I see the purpose of celebrating a birthday so much differently than I did before. It has made me yearn for some birthday traditions that focus a bit more on the special and spiritual significance of the day rather than just the cake, presents and balloons.

My daughter just turned three a few days ago and I thought I'd share something that we did this year that was really special, and which I hope will become a new tradition in our family.

For the last few months I have been researching the Montessori Method of education and during my reading I came across what Montessori schools traditionally do to celebrate the birthday's of their students. First a circle (or an ellipse) is drawn on the ground with chalk or tape, and a candle is placed in the center of the circle to represent the sun. The birthday child is handed a globe (or a ball that looked like the earth) and asked to stand at the head of the circle. It is explained to the children that that the earth orbits around the sun and that one time around the sun makes up a year. Then the birthday child walks slowly around the circle, holding the globe, as many years old that they are. While they walk a parent or loved one tells the child's life story (sometimes showing pictures) and focuses on the milestones and achievements the child has made during each year of their life. When they stop on the year they are old they then get to blow out the candle in the middle. For older children, a sibling or a friend can sometimes be the child's "moon" and orbit around them as they walk. (If you would like to see videos of some of these celebrations follow this link).

When I read about this idea I knew that I wanted to try it with my children, it is such a unique and fun way to honor their little lives!

So when she woke up on her birthday I told her that I had a special surprise for her and that morning. Before our family scripture study I outlined an ellipse (a sad looking one) on the floor with tape. We gathered around the circle as a family and lit the candle. It really brought a beautiful peaceful feel into the room and as I held my precious little girl in my lap I told her the story of the day she was born. Her face just lit up and snuggled deep into my shoulder. Then I handed her the globe and she walked, a little hesitantly, around the ellipse.

 
 


As she walked her dad and brother told things they remembered about her when she was a baby-- how she always laughed, how she put her toes on her highchair, how she was afraid of the chickens-- and when she had walked around three times she stopped and we each told her something that we loved about her. She was glowing and when I went to go take the tape off the floor she wouldn't let me. "This is my special surprise mom," she told me-- and anyone else who came to the house that day.

  

I loved this tradition and I am hoping that it is one my family won't mind keeping. Those few minutes with my little girl were the highlight of her birthday. I have no doubt that she knew that she was loved and treasured.



I thought of a few more traditions that could be done to focus on the spiritual aspects of a birthday and truly honor the life of a child. Some of these I did this year and others I'd like to try over the next few years:
  • Print off pictures of them from the past year and put them in a special scrapbook or photo album. Take a moment to sit down with your child and talk about how proud you are of who they are becoming. If you do this for several years you can go back and look at pictures from past years and reflect on special events and fun stories.
  • Pray with them. Find a quiet moment where just you and our child can pray together. Express gratitude to God for their life, their unique gifts and for the privilege of being their parent. Ask for special blessings that you would like for your child to receive or develop over the next year. If it feels right invite the child to say their own prayer after you are done.
  • Tell them a magical story of their birth. All children love to hear about when they were born. How much you tell and what language you use will depend upon your child's age and how much they are ready for, but try to convey how much they were wanted and loved. My husband's family has the tradition of telling a person's birth story on their birthday before they eat dinner and it has become one of my favorite traditions. Sometimes, since everyone has heard the birth stories so often, they make the person who knows it the least (like a young child or a guest) tell it-- and there have been some really fun, embellished stories over the years! If your child's birth experience was hard or traumatic don't shy away from the truth, but try not to make the child feel like they are to blame or that their birth was not as good as another child's. Try to focus on the miracles that happened and joy that you felt when they were born. Every child deserves to feel that their birth was magical.
  • Create a special mother-child or father-child tradition where they get special one-on-one time with a parent. For example, my little girl wanted her toe nails painted with glitter on her birthday and it was really fun to have that time together just her and I. Afterward I thought how fun it would be if we went and got our toes painted together every year on her birthday. I don't know that we will, but I loved the idea of having something that was just for the two of us.
  • Give your mother a gift on your birthday to acknowledge her sacrifice in giving you life. This is one that I just recently heard about and I LOVE it. I think it is one though that might be more meaningful if instituted by the child (or the father) rather than the mom... hint, hint hint.
These are just a few ideas that I came up with but I know that there are so many more! There is really no end to what traditions you can do with your children to remind them of the special gift that their life is-- especially when you turn to the Lord for ideas.
 
So I am curious... what special birthday traditions does your family have that help remind you of the beauty and joy of each person's life? 

If you feel the need to leave a very long comment I have included a linky at the bottom so you can share your own posts about birthday traditions (which I would LOVE to read) or you can still link to your own  Five Thing for Friday post!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Five Things for Friday, 46th Edition

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During Family Home Evening on Monday night we drew some pictures for our lesson and Jon suggested that we could mail them to his brother who is serving a mission. Asher was excited about that but Rose announced that she wanted to mail her picture to Heavenly Father. When they were done with their pictures they both ran out and put them in the mail box, no envelope or anything... just stuck them in and closed the door. I meant to go back out later that night and get the pictures out of the mail box but I forgot. So the next day when I went to go get the mail I found all their pictures still sitting in the mail box. I took those pictures out and had a good chuckle about it. I am sure that it must have made our mail carrier smile.

Then yesterday I went out to check the mail and when I  opened the mail box. I saw this.


Asher must have drawn another picture and come out on his own and put it in the mail box. It was really sweet, and it just touched my heart. He has been doing so many little acts of kindness lately, without any encouragement. A few weeks ago I heard him come in the house and I asked him what he had been doing. He told me that he had taken our neighbors a present.

"Really?" I asked a little worried about what this present might have been.

"Yeah, I drew them a picture and put it in a box with some leaves."

"Where did you leave it."

"On their front porch. Then when they come out they will see it and be happy."

He melted my heart. He took his "gift" over to the elderly couple who lives by us, whom we haven't met yet, and I am sure they were probably really confused when they opened up their door! I really should go over and introduce myself and explain to them that if they find anymore boxes of leaves with a picture inside that it is probably from my little boy with such a big heart.

-2- 

This weekend the University of Utah is hosting a wonderful conference called "Women and the LDS Church: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives". It is sponsored by the LDS Church History Library and has a really impressive line up of speakers. Tonight at the SLC Library the keynote speaker will be Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a professor of History at Harvard and a brilliant feminist writer. She will also be participating in a panel discussion on the history of LDS women on Saturday morning. And they are having several other panel discussions throughout the day which should be amazing. The conference is  free so if you are free tomorrow and close to SLC it would be worth your time!

-3-

Also if you live in the SLC area I'd thought I'd let you know that The Nashville Tribute Band is having their 3rd Annual Concert at the Sandy Amphitheater on Saturday night. I think that there are still tickets available! Also if you don't live in the SLC area, check out their list of events they will be having several other concerts this month and there might be one close by!


-4-

 Does anyone know of a good curriculum that is designed to teach children virtues and Christ-like attributes? As I have been praying about what the Lord wants me to be  teaching my children  I keep feeling impressed that I really need to be focusing on developing their spirits more than their minds right now. I have tried using the LDS Primary manuals, but they aren't exactly what I want.  I would love to find a curriculum that focuses on developing one specific virtue each month and has bible stories, activities and story books that reinforce that virtue. I have started to put together my own but it is a lot of work! I was just wondering if anyone knew of anything else out there that is already put together. Free would be best, but at this point I might be willing to buy something too!

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If you haven't ordered a copy of our book "The Gift of Giving Life" yet (or if you wanted to get more copies) now would be a great time to do it. We are offering two free gifts for those who order the book through our website! We make about twice as much money of the book when people buy it through our website versus Amazon and even though we aren't in this to make money we do need to pay ourselves back for the money we invested to get it published.

So if you buy the book from this link you will get 2 free gifts.
  1. The Top Three Tips to Enjoy Your Birth a 30 page e-book written by Sheridan
  2. I am Happy, I am Good Affirmations for Kids MP3 created by Felice
 My kids and I have been listening to Felice's affirmation CD and it is wonderful. They really love it. We have also been doing the "I am Happy, I am Good Meditation" (I posted it below) every day and they love it. It isn't uncommon to hear one of my children now walking around the house bouncing their fingers and singing "I am good, I am good, I am good." So what I am trying to say is that these are really great gifts! So if you have been thinking about ordering the book, now would be a good time to!



Have a Happy and Good Weekend! 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, August 22, 2012

LDS Booksellers Convention 2012

I promised that I would share some pictures from the LDS Booksellers Convention I attended two weeks ago. Felice Austin and I went to promote our new book "The Gift of Giving Life:Re-discovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth" and to try to woo some bookstores into carrying it.  We were pretty successful.  We sold multiple copies to about a dozen or so independent book stores and caught the interest of all the big ones! Hopefully within the next month or so you should see it popping up in Deseret Book stores and in some of the other independent LDS booksellers. We should have a list on our website in the next little while with a list of which stores are carrying the book, so that if you want to get it for a gift for a last minute baby shower you could just go pick one up! There is also a good chance that I and the other authors will be doing some book signings at Deseret Book and other LDS book stores around the country in the next few months, so keep your eyes open!


The best thing about going to this conference was that we had all the right people in the right place. It was definitely worth the money we spent on the booth in order to make the contacts we did. The fact that now most of the major LDS booksellers in the US (and Honduras!) are aware of our book was invaluable. Felice and I did a meditation for prosperity each morning before the conference and it totally worked. So many times during the two day event we just felt like the Lord was pouring out blessings on us-- mostly in the form of good contacts and information. We learned so much about publishing and bookselling that we didn't know and it was awesome.

Me giving "the pitch" to an interested bookseller

We really threw our booth together last minute (thanks to our co-author Sheridan) but it turned out beautiful. Everyone loved the fresh flowers and the bright colors. Felice and I were an awesome team. Felice was an expert at "roping" people into our booth to talk to us and then I would sell them on the book. Someone even claimed that Felice was using a Jedi Mind Trick on him (Felice: " You look like you want to talk to us." Him: "You know I want to talk to you") because she was that good. Between the two of us I felt like we really made a splash and represented our book and our message well.

Felice Austin and I at our beautiful booth

By the end of the second day my legs were killing me!
 The other best part of the conference were the other vendors that we met, especially the beautiful woman who had the booth next to us.

Felice, Michelle (our next door neighbor booth) and I
Michelle owns a company called Personal Ponderings that makes and sells scripture journals, as well as literary and personal journals. I was so impressed with her journals and she gave me one to review on my blog. I will be sharing more about her journals in a few days, but in the meantime if you are interested in scripture journaling I'd check out her website. She was such an amazing woman and we really had such a good time being next to each other. I feel like that was just another one of our prosperity blessings.


 I also got the chance to meet Katherine Nelson, whose new album I recently reviewed and who wrote a post for me about her experiences portraying Emma Smith. She was at her recording labels booth to sign and give away copies of her CD to booksellers. We have exchanged several emails over the last few months and so it was so good to finally meet her. She was even more beautiful and gracious in real life than I expected.

Oh, and I have to tell you about the absolutely best part of the whole conference. When I was doing the speed dating event I felt really good about how I did, but I felt like I had blown one table because as soon as I started talking about the book this young woman and the woman next to her started to cry. The older woman even put her arm around the younger woman and I just felt awful. I was sure that this young woman had just had a miscarriage or had just found out she could never have children and here I was with a birth book. It was really awkward and I stumbled through my words at that table. I was sure I had totally offended her. Yet, later at the conference that older lady approached me, and thanked me. She told me that her daughter was young, pregnant and not married and that she had been struggling spiritually for a long time. She said that the reason they had started to cry was because as soon I pulled the book out they had both  felt the spirit so strongly. She said it had been a long time since her daughter had felt the spirit and she knew that this book was a gift from Heavenly Father for her. She said she wanted me to have the statue to remind me that God had sent her manna from heaven in the form of our book.

 

It was such an incredible experience and as I watched this young girl just radiate joy as she took our book it just made me realize that somehow I had gotten to be an instrument in God's hands to remind her that she was loved and that God was aware of her and her unborn baby. I will be forever grateful for that experience, and it is so sweet to have this beautiful reminder of this little miracle in my home.

All in all the conference was such a good experience. It was two long exhausting days (and I missed my babies) but I am so glad that we did it.  I am also so glad that Felice was there with me. I sure love that lady and it was wonderful to get to spend more time with her. It is amazing how she feels more like a sister now than a friend. I guess emailing someone multiple times every day for three years will do that to you.


 I just love this picture that Felice snapped of us unwinding in my front yard after the first day of the conference. We were so exhausted that first night that we literally just came home and laid on the floor in my basement for about an hour. We had given it our all and just had nothing else! It actually really made me feel more sympathy for my husband and how hard it must be for him to come home and jump right into family life after having been away all day. I think it was also really good for me to have a few days away from my kids because it reminded me that I really would rather be with them all day than working somewhere else. Which is something I NEVER EVER thought I would say before I had kids, but these two days away just reminded me that right now I really have the best job in the world!

Thank you to everyone who has helped our book be a success! It has only been out for about 3 months and we have almost sold 700 copies already! It is just so amazing to see how the Lord has used it to bless women's lives and healed their hearts. If you haven't seen our book yet keep your eyes open for it-- it should be in a book store near you really soon!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Hagar

"God Liveth and Seeth Me" by Elspeth Young


Genesis 16; 21:9-21; 25:12
Galatians 4:22-31
D&C 132: 34, 65

Background:

After many years in the wilderness, including a brief sojourn in Egypt (Gen. 12), Abram and Sarai were still childless. In Genesis 15 the Lord came to Abram and told him "Fear not, Abram: I am they shield and thy exceeding great reward." Abram took that opportunity to discuss with the Lord his greatest concern, which was that he had no children, no heir. The Lord then revealed to Abram that he would indeed bear children and that his posterity would be as numerous as the stars. He also covenanted with Abram that his seed would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:18-21) . It is after this conversation with the Lord that Sarai gave her maid, Hagar, to Abram as a wife (Gen. 16). It is also important to note that the promise the Lord made here with Abram is not the Abrahamic Covenant. That covenant is made with Abram and Sarai in Genesis 17-- after Hagar has born Ishmael.

Facts About Her:
  • She was Sarah's Egyptian handmaiden and her name means "stranger" in Hebrew; 
  • When Sarah saw that she was unable to bear children she gave Hagar to Abraham as a wife so that she could, "obtain children by her" (Gen. 16: 2-3);
  • When Hagar realized that she had conceived she "despised" her mistress and the relationship between her and Sarai became difficult. When Sarai lamented to Abram he told her  that she could do to Hagar "as it pleathest thee".  As a result Sarah was so hard on Hagar that she fled from her mistress (Gen. 16:6);
  • An angel of the Lord found Hagar by a fountain of water in the wilderness of Shur. He asked her, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence cameth thou? and wither wilt thou go?" She explained to him that she was fleeing from her mistress and the angel told her, "Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under hands." And then the angel promised her that if she would then " I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude." The angel also reveled to her that she was carrying a boy child and that she should name him Ishmael (which means "God hears") because God had heard her affliction (Gen. 16: 8-11). The angel also revealed to her that Ishmael would be a "wild (nomadic) man" and that "his hand will be against every man" but that he would dwell in the presence of his brethren (Gen 16: 12);
  • Hagar then gave God a name. She called Him "Thou God seest me". After her visitation she couldn't  believe that she had actually seen God and lived, thus her statement "Have I also here looked after him that seeth me" (Gen 16: 13);
  • Hagar returned to Sarai and when  Abram was 86-years-old (and Sarai was 76) Hagar bore him a son whom he named Ishmael (Gen. 1616).
  • Issac, Sarai's (now Sarah) son, was born when Ishmael was about 14-years-old (Gen 17:25). On the day that Issac was weaned Abram (now Abraham) held a feast. During the feast Sarah saw Ishmael "mocking" and she told Abraham, " Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son." (Gen 21: 8-10);
  • Abraham did not want to cast Hagar and Ishmael out but God reassured him that it would be okay and that He would "make a nation" from Hagar (Gen. 21: 12-14). Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael with bread and water out into the wilderness of Beer-sheba (Gen. 21: 14); 
  • While in the wilderness Hagar and Ishmael ran out of water and were about to die. Hagar "cast the child (who was at least 15 ) under one of the shrubs" and went away praying to God that she would not have to see him die. While she was praying an angel of the Lord called to her out of Heaven and told her, "What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation." (Gen. 21: 17-18)    
  • God opened Hagar's eyes and she saw a well of water where she and her son drank and lived (Gen. 21: 19-20). 
  • She and Ishmael dwelt in the land of Paran, where Ishmael was an archer (Gen 21:21); 
  • When Ishmael was ready to be married she chose a wife for him from the land of Egypt (Gen 21:21); 
  • She had 12 grandsons who were "twelve princes according to their nations" (Gen. 25:16). Their names were Nebajoth, Kedar, Adbeel,  Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah (Gen. 25:13-15).

Speculations About Her:

  • In Genesis 12: 16 we are told that while Abram and Sarai were living in Egypt  Pharaoh took Sarai into his household (not knowing she was Abram's wife) and paid him a bride price of "sheep and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses and camels" for her. It is likely that Hagar was one of the maidservants given to Sarai by the Pharaoh and that when Abram and Sarai left Egypt she was taken with them into the land of Canaan, where she would have dwelt with them ten years before being given to Abram as his wife (Gen 16:3). 

  • We are told that when Hagar runs away from Sarai the angel of the Lord finds her " by the fountain in the way to Shur" (Gen. 16: 7). The wilderness of Shur was directly between Canaan and Egypt (the top of modern day Saudi Arabia) and so it is supposed that she was trying to run home.
  • The Book of Jasher, an apocryphal text, gives a few more details about Hagar and Sarai. First  16: 25 gives us a better glimpse of the remarkable woman that Hagar was, "For Hagar learned all the ways of Sarai as Sarai taught her, she was not in any way deficient in following her good ways." Sarai must have chosen her to bear children for her because she loved her and because Hagar was strong in character and faith.  Yet once Hagar conceived both women let some pride and judgment enter their heats. Jasher 16: 29-30 gives us more insight it says, "And when Hagar saw that she had conceived she rejoiced greatly, and her mistress was despised in her eyes, and she said within herself, This can only be that I am better before God than Sarai my mistress, for all the days that my mistress has been with my lord, she did not conceive, but me the Lord has caused in so short a time to conceive by him. And when Sarai saw that Hagar had conceived by Abram, Sarai was jealous of her handmaid, and Sarai said within herself, This is surely nothing else but that she must be better than I am." It is sad to think that these two women, who probably respected and cared for each other before, destroyed their relationship because they began judging each other based on their ability to bear children. 
  • In Islam, which believes that Ishmael was the chosen son and not Issac, Hagar is highly revered.  The prophet Muhammad is thought to have been born through the lineage of Ishmael.  She is not mentioned by name in the Qur'an but there are several Islamic traditions about Hagar. One claims that she was the daughter of an King who was captured and taken as a slave in Egypt where she was made head of all the females slaves. When she converted to Abraham's faith she was given to him as a wife. Another Islamic tradition claims that Hagar was the daughter of Pharaoh who gave her as a wife to Abraham, because he thought that Sarah was his sister (source). Then later when Hagar's conception caused trouble between her and Sarah Abraham "resettled" Hagar and Ishmael in Paran-aram. Islam believes that God command Abraham to leave Hagar and Ishmael in the desert in order to test their obedience to His commandments. The tradition continues that when Hagar ran out of water and  Ishmael (an infant) began to die she ran back and forth  seven times between to hills in search of water. On the seventh time Ishmael hit the ground with his heel and water sprung out of the ground. Today Muslim's believe that Zamzam Well (not far from Mecca) is the place where this occurred and stopping at it and running seven times back and forth between the hills is a part of the pilgrimage that all Muslims make at Mecca (source)
  • Even though Genesis 21: 16 says that Hagar cast "the child under one of the shrubs", refering to Ishmael, it is likey that Ishmael was a teenager by that point. We know that Ishamel was circumsized when he was 13 years-old (Gen 17:25) and that Issac was born one year after that. He wasn't cast out from Abraham's household until Issac was weaned which would have been when Issac was about 4 years-old, making Ishmael at least 16 or 17 years-old by that point.

My Thoughts:

Hagar is a woman in the scriptures that I think is often vilified unfairly.  We tend to see her as the black sheep of Abraham's family, the outsider whose unwanted baby just caused trouble for the chosen baby.

Yet nothing can be further from the truth.

Hagar was a valiant woman who seems to hold a special place in God's heart. Not only does He personally speak with her twice, but He also blesses her with a great and noble posterity. In fact, if you read Hagar's story closely you will see that He promises her many of the same things that He does Abraham and Sarah-- eternal posterity and increase. Just understanding that alone, gives you an idea about what a remarkable and faithful woman Hagar must have been.

One thing that I find significant is that both times Hagar speaks with God it is at a well. The first time Hagar can see the well and it is full of water. She is at a point in her life where she is literally overflowing with blessings. Her marriage to Abraham and the fact that she is carrying his firstborn child has dramatically altered her social status. It is important to remember that Hagar was a slave, and had been most of her life, she had little to no control over anything in her life, not even her body. Sarah chose her to "build up "posterity to her and so she became Abraham's wife. It would be nice to think that she had a say in that choice, but she may not have. When she conceived she gained a little more control over her life because she is no longer just a slave, she was carrying a much wanted child inside of her. A child who, as the Lord later tells her, would become a great man and would make Hagar the mother of a great nation.

The Lord has really blessed Hagar, in so many ways, but she can't see that. Her well is filled with water but all she can dwell on are her trials; trials which are really of her own making.   Even though she had little control of her situation it was the way she chose to react to it that was making her miserable. She chose to be proud and unkind to Sarai, which  lead to her harsh treatment and her consequent despair.

When the Lord visits her he addresses her as "Hagar,  Sarai's maid" gently reminding her that even though she has a name an identity of her own she is still obligated to serve Sarai. He also tells her that she should "return to thy mistress and submit thyself under hand." He doesn't say, "Go back only if Sarai is kinder, only if she says she is sorry, or only if things get better for you." He simply tells her that she needs to go back, that what He was planned for her is much greater than her pride or even her freedom.

He then gives her a deeply personal revelation about the child she is carrying, including his gender, his name, his future mission in life and a glimpse of the great nation that will spring from him. In her book "Forgotten Women of God" Diana Webb writes this about Hagar: 
"Since there are so few annunciation scenes in the scripture, and since each is so significant, we can see what a great honor God pays to Hagar in Genesis 16. He has been especially mindful of her afflictions, and he tells her so. Hagar is a different woman from the one who has fled into the wilderness. She now knows that a power higher than herself notices her and that knowledge transforms her. She is now free in a way that returning to slavery can never eradicate. She is important to God, and that gives her a new sense of self-worth... Hagar has learned that God has a plan for her... She will tell her story to Abram and Sari and teach them things about God that they need to know: That God does indeed hear the cries of the suffering, the downcast, and the abandoned; that every human soul has dignity and worth. Hagar's new knowledge is empowering. If God is with her, she can survive anything." pg. 141-142
After this revelation Hagar knows God; and she then does something that no one else in the scriptures ever does. While others, like Jacob and Abraham name the place where they saw God, Hagar dared to give God himself a name. She called Him, "The God that sees me", a testimony that she now knows  that God is aware of her, that He hears her cries, and that He can literally see her. That knowledge  that changes everything for Hagar and she returns to Sarai with a new understanding of her purpose in life. 

Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680)

The second time Hagar speaks with God her situation is much different. She has spent more than fourteen years with Abraham and Sarah, supposedly at peace with her situation, and has seen her son Ishmael grow into a young man. Then suddenly she is cast out from her home, not because of anything  that she has done but because Ishmael is perceived as a threat to Issac. Abraham is reluctant to send her and Ishmael away but God assures Him that He will take care of them. He has been mindful of Hagar's situation thus far and He is not going to desert her.

Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael with water and provisions but eventually they run out of water. When Hagar and Ishmael finally collapse from dehydration it is apparent that she believes she and her son are going to die. She can do little more than sit down and weep. Her situation looks desperate and bleak. She has lost everything, her home, her husband, and her comfort and security. She had endured fourteen years with Abraham and Sarah now only to have all the promises God made her die. One can only imagine that she felt utterly and completely alone as she prepared to die. This time not only can she not see the well, she doesn't think there even is a well.

Yet as she weeps God again visits her and this time he "opens up her eyes and she saw a well of water" (Gen 21:19). The water has been just below her the whole time, but she couldn't see it.  It is a beautiful way for God to remind Hagar that He is indeed the "God who sees me" and that, even when it appears that there are no blessings to be had anywhere, that He knows what blessings await her.

Hagar's story has brought me a lot of peace in my life. I've found that in some of my hardest moments, the times when I feel like there is not a blessing to be found anywhere, that I have found myself repeatedly praying to God calling Him, like Hagar did, 'The God who sees me." God is referred to by many different names throughout the Bible, yet I think that name is my personal favorite. It brings me so much peace and reminds me that there is a God  who knows what I am suffering-- even when no one else does. A God who hears my prayers and who can see the blessings that I am blinded to, either because they are so abundant or because they are yet to be.

Hagar's story is also a testament that God sees the suffering of women everywhere. There is not a woman on this earth who cries out in pain, disappointment, fear, or despair whose voice He does not hear and whose trials He does not see. They may not know Him, or even believe in Him, but they are His daughters-- his precious daughters-- and He will never leave them alone. God has a plan for each and every one of children. Trusting in Him, and having faith that we can not comprehend or understand all that God does, makes any amount of frustration, sorrow, disappointment, or pain bearable.

Just because we can't see the well of water, doesn't mean it isn't there.

We just need to have our spiritual eyes opened and have faith that God sees.


Questions to Think About:
  • How do you know that God sees you? What  experiences have you had in your life when you felt His presence and love for you? 
  • Why do you think that the Lord allowed, and even encouraged, Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out? What were the consequences, good and bad, that came from that act?  
  • Can you see the blessings that God has for you? Are you having a trial of a full well or one of well you can't see? What blessings does He have for you that are lying just below the surface?
  • Why is it that Hagar is often vilified by Jews and Christians but revered by Muslims? Why this disconnect? How could better coming to understand Hagar's story help heal the schism between Christianity and Islam? 
  • In Genesis 16:2 it says, "Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai." And in D&C 132:34, "God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises." What additional insight do these to scriptures give us as to why Sarah might have given Hagar to Abraham and why he "hearkened" to her? (This really could be a post of it is own, but I just thought I'd get you thinking :) 
  • How might Hagar's story have had special significance for the women throughout the Bible and in early Latter-day Saint history who accepted the trial of being in a polygamous marriage?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Five Things for Friday, 45th Edition

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I can't believe that the summer is almost over! How did that happen?

I remember when I was little it seemed like summer dragged on forever, and now as an adult it just seems to fly by in a haze. Maybe I need to do a bit more tree house building, reading, and exploring the field like I use to do :)

One of the highlights of my summer was my sister-in-law's wedding. Weddings are just so much fun, and I think are even more fun when you have little kids involved in them.

Rose spent most of the time climbing the railing, along with all the other yahoos. 


Abe was tired but a trooper and looked so cute in his little tie!


These two are just handsome. Oh, be still my heart.


And this was about all I could get Asher to slow down enough to take a (blurry) picture with me. 

 

I also have to share this picture of the desert table at the reception. My mother-in-law made these vases out of light bulbs and then hung them from the tree with fishing line. They were incredible and I'd never seen anything like them. Turns out that if pull the guts out of the light bulb and then swish  sugar around inside it dissolves the white coating and makes them clear. I am making the picture really big so that you can get a better idea about what they are. They were stunning. 

 
I told her to save them because in the future it will be harder to find these type of light bulbs, and I don't think the twisty type would give the same effect! 
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I haven't seen the new Pixar movie "Brave" yet  (so I really can't say anything either way) but I found this post about the movie fascinating. I was especially interested this part of what the authors had to say,

"Merida may not have been a particularly brave new kind of princess, but we believe that “Brave” presented the newest and bravest fairytale world in Disney princess history. Castles and tiaras notwithstanding, this brave new world is actually a lot more like ours, for two reasons.

For one thing, this fairytale kingdom is not a medieval patriarchy: It’s a modern matriarchy. Despite whatever clich├ęs and tropes you might have been expecting (as we were), this is not actually another story about a progressive, free-spirited heroine kicking against old fogey men’s ideas about woman’s role. It’s a story of 3rd wave feminism kicking against 2nd wave feminism: the daughter’s rebellious, no-cause-but-myself girl-power versus her mother’s more self-sacrificing, cause-driven, authoritative woman-power; a girl who would rather be a bohemian than undergo training to be an educated, powerful future ruler.

The second reason is the realistic outgrowth of the first. True to a real feminist society, there are no real men in this movie.


Merida’s father and the rest of the clan leaders are rowdy, buffoonish children who have to be shushed, scolded, and dragged around by the ears by the queen. The suitors are all such that Merida’s clearly better off without one. And that makes her the first Disney princess who doesn’t want a prince, and who doesn’t get one." Read the rest

Like I said I haven't seen the movie yet but when I saw the previews several months ago I was really  disappointed. The story looks fun and engaging but I could tell that they were going to miss, by a long shot, creating the type of "princess" who will really be empowering to little girls and to women. I hope I am wrong (that would be great) and I'd encourage you to read the rest of the post, it is fascinating!

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Speaking of empowering women, I have really been struggling with Rose lately. She is super, super jealous of Abraham and is constantly acting out. She is always hitting him and trying to sit on him. She is always pulling his legs and telling me, " I don't like my baby." When I nurse him she comes up and tells me "I want to punch the baby in the face" and then "I punch mommy in the face".

Yikes! My sweet little girl, what has happened?

She has also been acting like a baby constantly lately. She crawls around on the floor and talks in baby talk all the time. She is always telling me that she "is the baby." I know that this is her way of telling me she is feeling left out and that she is jealous of all the attention that Abe gets from me. My mother-in-law suggested I find ways to include her in taking care of Abe and give her "big girl" jobs to do. I've been trying but I am still really struggling with her.

Any ideas!?


-4-

Our neighbors are Chinese and are just about some of the sweetest people I've ever met.  Their little girl comes over to play at our house a lot and has been really patient with the fact that my kids call her "Yoshi", which is not even close to her real name! I guess it is the only Asian sounding word they know?

Anyway.

This family owns a Chinese Restaurant in Woods Cross (just north of SLC) called Boba World. They  are from Shanghai and so the cuisine is traditional Shanghai food. They invited Jon and I to come eat there a few weeks ago, and so to be polite we went. I am usually not a big fan of Chinese food, especially if the restaurant is in a strip mall like this one is, but this food was fantastic. Really fantastic,  and I'm not just saying that because I know them. It was some of the best ethnic food I've ever had. We ordered a traditional dish called "Potatoes and Green Beans" and don't be deceived by that simple name. It was so good and has been added to my top 20 favorite dishes. Oh just thinking about it makes me hungry!

 I just wanted to put a plug out there for their restaurant, because it is so good, and because they are some of the hardest working people I've ever met in my life.  I'd love for their business to be successful and with such a good food I think it probably will be. I wouldn't be surprised if in several years he has a big beautiful restaurant-- if you read the reviews online they are are even more glowing than I am about this place.  If you live near Bountiful go check it out:

750 S 512 W
Ste 3

Woods Cross, UT 84010

You won't regret it! 

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The kids and I went to Temple Square this week and we really had such a beautiful day. It was amazed at how many opportunities I had to bear my testimony to them of the temple and of the restoration of the gospel. I took lots of pictures because everywhere we went Rose said, "Take a picture of me here mommy."






Rose has the goofiest smile now a days! It is always fun to take pictures of her because you never know what you will get.



It was so sweet to be here with my kids. We are going to the open house for the Brigham City Temple soon and they are both so excited about going inside a temple.  When I told Rose that we were going she got so excited and said, "But mom, you told me I couldn't go to the temple till I got married! And now I get to go." She looked like she had won the lottery. 

I am hope she always keeps that feeling about the temple.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy what is left of the summer!

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Women's Bodies and Shame?

Warning: This post talks about women's locker rooms and is pretty "girly"--- men you have been forewarned  and I won't be offended if you skip this one :)


Jon and I have been taking our kids swimming a lot the last few months. Several months ago we had an interesting conversation about the differences between men and women's locker rooms.

Apparently ladies, for all of you who don't know, men don't cover up in locker rooms. It is totally acceptable to walk around in the buff-- young and old.  They don't have curtains around the shower, it is just a "tree" that everyone stands around and showers. They rarely have dressing rooms and even if they did, according to Jon, no one would use them.

This information surprised me and made me wonder if, at almost three years old, Rose isn't getting too old to go to the men's locker room!  It is so interesting to me that it is  so different from the women's locker room where there are curtains around every shower and even separate changing rooms to go into. The only people who I have ever seen strutting around in the nude are old ladies, which use to horrify us during Jr. High swim team! In fact, because of all my years on swim team  I have learned all the tricks to discretely and "modestly" disrobe in a crowd, but I still don't think I'd ever just walk around totally in the buff. In High School there were often lines of girls waiting to use the bathrooms to  change for gym, because you'd never just strip, even if it meant you'd be late for class.

Even as a grown women many of us don't even feel comfortable breastfeeding in a completely female environment (say the Mother's Lounge at church) without a blanket!  And don't get me wrong, I am not condemning anyone here because I often do the same thing.

It just makes me wonder, where does all this embarrassment and shame about our bodies come from? And why don't men seem to have inherited it?

Several months ago we were at small public swimming and since there were no changing rooms in the women's locker room, and I didn't want to try to manage a crawling baby in a bathroom, I used some of my discreet disrobing techniques to change into my swimming suit. As I was changing I noticed a girl, about 10 or 11, watching me but trying hard to make it look like she wasn't. It didn't bother me because I got the impression from her that she hadn't ever seen an adult woman naked before (which I really wasn't) and that she was just curious.

As I thought about this later it really hit me hard; here was a young girl, on the  verge of becoming a woman herself, who probably had no real idea about what her body should look like. In our pornography ridden culture it is very likely that by this time in her life she had seen at least one or two pictures or videos of naked, or mostly naked, women. (In fact, I know that all she has to do is drive down the interstate and she'd see at least three). How sad it was to think that most of the examples this young girl may have gotten  about what her budding female body should look like (and behave like) came from women whose bodies had been photo-shopped and used to sell cars.

This experience really got me thinking about the shame and the embarrassment that surrounds women's bodies. Is the reason that so few of us feel comfortable in our own skin is because all we have to compare ourselves to is the media's unrealistic portrayls of women? In a culture where little value or respect is given to women's bodies-- using them to sell everything from milk to houses-- have we inherited and internalized more shame then we realize?

Have we taken the concept of "modesty" so far that we are giving our daughters unrealistic perceptions about what a real woman's body looks like? Does the preschool maxim "girls can see girls and boys can see boys" not apply after you reach puberty?

And if so, why haven't the men gotten the same message? 

I realize that my experience may be different than other women's and I know for sure that things vary differently from culture to culture. There is a passage in on of my favorite books, "Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood" where Fatima Mernissi recounts how, from the time she was a little girl, she and her mother, aunts, cousins and grandmothers, would prepare to go to the traditional bathhouse (called a hammam). She writes: 

"Our tradidional hammam ritual involved a "before", a "during" and an "after" phase. The phase before the hammam took place in the central courtyard, and that was where you made yourselves ugly by covering your face and hair with all those unbecoming mixes. The second phase took place in our neighboring hammam itself, not far from our house, and that was where you undressed and stepped into a series of three cocoon-like chambers filled with steamy heat. Some women got completely undressed, other put a scarf around their hips, while the eccentrics kept their sarwals on, which made them look like extra-terrestrials after the fabric had gotten wet. The eccentrics who entered the hammam with sarwals on would be the target of all sorts of jokes and sarcastic remarks, such as "Why don't you veil, too, while you're at it."  (pg. 224)

This excerpt from the book fascinates me because it gives a glimpse into a different female culture and way of life than I have ever experienced. I am probably certain that if I was thrown into a hammam I might just be one of the eccentrics in my sarwal. Yet, I can't help but wonder how, if from my very earliest experiences, I had been surrounded by a wide variety of real, living, breathing examples of women's bodies-- young, old, fat, thin, firm or  stretched-- that I might have had a much different feelings about my body as a young woman... and even as a grown woman.

Would I have felt more comfortable with the way I was developing? Would I be more accepting of the way my body has changed as a I've grown and born children? Would I be less deceived by the world portrayals of womanhood?

Perhaps.

Either way, these experiences have definitely got me thinking about how I'd like to teach my daughter about what women's bodies really look like. I don't want her to inherit a lot of the shame and embarrassment that I did about my body. I want her to know that real, living, breathing women's bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes and that her body will change throughout her life. I want her to know that the  that no matter what her body looks like it is beautiful and divine.

Please don't get wrong on this. I am NOT saying that we ought to all strut around stark naked in the locker room so our girls get realistic expectations. I don't think I could do that.  But I do think that we do need to do a better job at giving our young women more real examples about what real women's bodies look like.

I am new at this motherhood thing and so I am curious to know  how you have taught your daughters to love and respect their bodies?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Speed Dating

Speed dating.

That is what I have been up to lately.

This week I am participating in the LDS Booksellers Convention in Salt Lake City, promoting our book "The Gift of Giving Life:Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth."

Yesterday they had a "speed dating" event where authors, artists and musicians had three minutes to "pitch" their product to bookstore owners and buyers. For all of you who aren't familiar with the term "speed dating" it is a type of matchmaking event where participants meet for several minutes each before moving on to another participant, ultimately making a list of those they are interested in dating. I have never done a real speed dating event, luckily I was married before they came into existence, and so I didn't really know what to expect from a booksellers speed dating event.


I wont lie, I was really nervous. My co-authors helped me craft a really good presentation, but since none of them were able to come it was just little old me doing it all. I went around to 16 tables and had three minutes to try to interest buyers, usually there were four or five at a table, in the book. Then they would ring a bell and I'd move to the next table. It actually went really well and after about the third table I stopped feeling nervous. Though I will say that by the last table my tongue was bit tied and I was tired!

All in all, I think there was a lot of interest in the book and I am hopeful that soon it will be showing up in bookstores near you!

We are having a booth at the convention on Thursday and Friday where stores can place offers and I sure hope that some do! Okay, not just some... lots!

Life has been really busy getting ready for the conference and the speed dating and so I am sorry it has been quiet around here. There probably won't be a Five Thing for Friday this week either, sorry, because I am feeling a bit swamped. But if you happen to be going to the LDS Booksellers Convention I would love to have you stop by our booth!

I am actually super excited about the convention because when I was setting up last night I saw lots of interesting booths. I will get a sneak peak at all the new LDS books and music that are coming out this year. Not to mention meet some awesome authors, artists and musicians. So that should be fun.

Don't worry I'll try to take some pictures!