Thursday, December 18, 2014

If All Men were like Joseph

I know that this is a blog on the women in the scriptures, but there is one man from the scriptures I have been thinking a lot about this Christmas.


Joseph, the husband of Mary.

It sometimes seems like Joseph gets swept aside in the story of the Nativity. Mary and Jesus are the main characters, and Joseph seems to have gotten the supporting role. Yet, as I have studied Mary this last year, and Jesus Christ's interactions with women, the more my appreciation for Joseph has grown. He exemplifies every good trait that you could want in a husband, a father, and in a man. I know so many good, good men who are a lot of like Joseph, but I also know that there are so many women in the world who suffer because of the bad choices of men. So as I've thought about Joseph I've found myself wishing that ALL men were like him and here is why.

If all men were like Joseph:

There would be mercy for women

The first place we are introduced to Joseph is in Matthew 1: 18-19 when, after finding out that Mary-- his betrothed-- was pregnant he decided to "put her away (divorce her) privily" because he was "not willing to make her a publick example." Being betrothed was a covenant relationship and even though Mary and Joseph did not yet live together as husband and wife, her getting pregnant was the equivalent of adultery. In Leviticus 20: 10 it says,

"And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death

Justice under the Mosaic law demanded that Mary be killed, but Joseph was merciful. Which is astounding considering that he must have felt all the feelings of someone whose husband or wife was unfaithful to them-- anger, betrayal, hurt, confusion, and a loss of his dreams for the future. It is amazing to me that in the face of such emotions he didn't let vengeance or anger rule him, but chose the higher road of understanding and forgiveness. He showed mercy and kindness to Mary, even when he was hurt and upset. 



Women would never be abandoned 

It is powerful to me that after Joseph's visit from the angel, telling him that Mary's child was indeed the Son of God, that he had the courage to take her as his wife. In the eyes of his family and his community his actions would have looked an awful lot like a confession that HE was the one who had gotten Mary pregnant. In fact, later in Jesus's life the Pharisees slung these words at him, "We be not born of fornication." (John 8:41) These words indicate that many people probably believed that Joseph and Mary had fornicated (had sex before marriage), which was far from the truth.  Yet, it is amazing to me that Joseph was willing to take the blame for something he didn't do, and carry that label and accusation for the rest of his life.  He didn't let Mary carry her burden alone, he carried it with her.

 
Women's bodies would be respected

"And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son." (Matt. 1:25)

It is just one sentence but I think it speak volumes about Joseph. We don't know how far along Mary was when they were married but it seems that they were living together as husband and wife when  Mary delivered Jesus. Yet, even though they were a married couple Joseph "knew her not", meaning he wasn't sexually intimate with her, until after her son was born. I don't want to get into a debate about whether or not you should have sex when you are pregnant, but I do want to point out that this simple statement shows us that Joseph had respect for Mary's body. He didn't try to force himself on her or try to satisfy his own lusts. He was willing to wait, to abstain (even in marriage) and to let Mary be queen of her own body. And that is impressive.

All children would have fathers

A few days ago I read a post about the significance of swaddling bands, and was really impressed by the symbolism those bands had. One of the symbols of swaddling bands was that the baby was legitimate, and that the father claimed the child as his own. Jesus wearing swaddling bands means that Joseph claimed him as his son. Like I mentioned before this meant that Joseph likely took the blame for something he didn't do (getting Mary pregnant) but it also meant that Jesus would not have to grow up with stigma of being an illegitimate child. He would  have been raised by a father who wanted him, stood by him, and was there to support his mother. Joseph, even though he wasn't Jesus's father in the flesh, was the type of father that every child deserves to have.
 
Women and children would be protected from danger

After the visit of wise men Joseph again received a visit from an angel telling him that Jesus was not safe and that he should take him to Egypt. Even though this would not have been an easy trip to make Joseph didn't seem to have hesitated at all. He quickly prepared for the journey (which could have been financed by the gifts the wise men brought?) and fled with  Mary and Jesus to Egypt. He would have had to leave behind what ever carpentry practice he had built up, any home he had started to construct, as well as his friends and his family. Yet, he was willing to make sacrifices to protect his family and he wasn't afraid to follow commandments without completely understanding why. His courage and faith ensured that Jesus survived, and they were spared the horror that swept through Judea when Herod had all the babies under two murdered.




Families would be guided by the spirit


After being in Egypt for awhile Joseph again had a dream in which he was told that it was safe to return home to Judea. Yet, as he was returning to Israel he heard that Herod's son was now ruling in his stead and was afraid to return to Bethlehem. As they were traveling he also had a dream that warned him not to go back to Judea but to go to Galilee. Joseph and Mary ended up moving back to Nazareth (where they were both from) and in doing so fulfilled a prophecy that said the Messiah would "be called a Nazarene." (Matt. 2:23) Joseph was a man who was able to receive revelation, for his family and for himself, and trusted the guidance he received from the spirit.

Marriages would be partnerships 


The last time we hear of Joseph is in Luke 2: 42- 52 when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem. Luke tells us that "Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew it not... but when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him." Throughout the whole story the plural "they" is used. It is just one word, but I love it because it gives us an example of how Mary and Joseph worked together in their marriage and their parenthood.  Even though we don't have any examples of Joseph changing diapers or getting up with the baby during the night, I think this story gives us an idea of how they may have worked together to raise and take care of their family. Due to their culture and time period they may not have been "equal" partners as we might think of a married couples today being, but I do think they were unified and both righteously striving towards the same goals. 


As I think about the type of man the Joseph was I can see why God chose him to be the earthly father of Jesus. Many of the things that Jesus taught about women, and that He demonstrate throughout his life, were also demonstrated by Joseph in his love and concern for Mary. That is a powerful example.

So I hope as you tell the Nativity story this Christmas that you won't rush over Joseph's part. His love, compassion, mercy and wisdom made Mary and Jesus's divine work possible. Without him there wouldn't have been a Nativity story to tell, and well,  if all men were like him... the world would be a much better place.







Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where was Jesus Really Born?


This Christmas season my heart is a jumble of so many thoughts about Mary. I've spent the last year writing about her, dreaming about her, thinking about her, and pondering on all the women and men she would have known in mortality. The more I learn about her the more astounded I am by the woman she was.

Yet, there is something small I learned this year as I was studying Mary that really impressed me. It has to do with the story of the Nativity. In Luke 2: 6-7 it reads:
"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

It is the word that is translated as "inn"  that interested me. The word in Greek is "kataluma" and it has several meanings and usages including, " an inn, a lodging place, an eating room, and a dining room" (source). This means that the "inn" may have referred to a public lodging house, but it also could have been a guestroom in a private residence. In fact, many house did have a guestroom, which often was the upper room of the house.  This was the room of the house that was literally above the rest of the house and was usually reserved for guests or important meetings.

Most interestingly, is that the ONLY other place that the word "kataluma" is used in the New Testament is to refer to the "upper room" that Jesus and His apostles met in for the Last Supper. In Mark 14: 14 (and also in Luke 22:11) the word "kataluma" is used when Jesus instructs the apostles to secure a room for the passover. It reads,

"13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. 

 14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber [kataluma], where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

 15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us."

In this usage "kataluma" is clearly the guestroom of the house, which makes me suspect that the same was probably true of the "kataluma" where there was no room for Mary and Joseph.

I found a great website of a re-constructed New Testament house that can help you understand it better. Many New Testament houses would probably have looked something like this.



The bedrooms and living quarters (including the guestroom or "kataluma") would have been on the upper levels. The kitchen was often outside and the bottom floor of the house (what in this picture is the stone archway) would have been something  similar to our modern day garages, where things would have been stored. Instead of a car inside though,  it would have been the donkey and the cart. Other animals, like chickens, sheep, and goats would also have been kept on this lower level of the house.

It is interesting when we look at New Testament house like this, and remember that Joseph would have had a lot of family in (and traveling to) Bethlehem, how our idea of Mary and Joseph rushing through crowded streets trying to find a place to stay might not be exactly correct. First of all the text tells us that "while they were there" Mary went into labor, which makes it sound like they had been in Bethlehem for awhile, not rushing to find a place to stay.

Second, I think given the culture of the time it makes more sense to think that Mary and Joseph, who probably would  have made the 67 mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the company of family, were welcomed into the home of one of Joseph's relatives rather than a public house. Then perhaps, because the house was overflowing with extended family, there was no room for them in the  "kataluma", they were obliged to sleep in the lower level of the house, with the animals. We might even speculate that Joseph's relatives could  have been trying to give Mary more privacy by having her labor and birth in the "stable", where she would have had much more room to move around than else where in the crowded house.

It is impossible for us to know what really happened the night Jesus was born but I like this version of the Nativity much better than I do the way we traditionally tell it. Traditionally we make it sound like the Inn Keeper (who isn't mentioned in the text) was a bad guy who forced a pregnant woman to give birth in a degrading and desperate situation. 

It changes things for me when I think about Mary giving birth to baby Jesus in a home, surrounded by family and people to give her support. She still would have given birth in less than ideal conditions and in very humble circumstances, but thinking of it this way helps me imagine what an incredible, beautiful birth it must have been to witness.


Regardless of where Jesus was actually born it still impresses me that the only two places the word "kataluma" is used in the New Testament are in the stories of the preparation for Jesus's birth and in the story of Jesus's preparation for the sacrament.

There was no place for Him in the "kataluma" when He was born. Yet, thirty-three years later it would be in a "kataluma" where He would first institute the sacred work of the sacrament-- the emblems of His body and His blood that make it possible for us to be re-born into God's kingdom.


I'm still trying to get my mind and heart around what exactly that means. But somehow that word "kataluma" links the event of Christ's birth to the event of the sacrament, atonement and resurrection-- two miraculous birth stories. And it reminds me that this Christmas season is celebrating the birth of the One perfect man, the One whose life made all lives worth living. The One, who through His birth, His death, and His re-birth, made it possible for us to never die... and that is definitely worth celebrating.

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bless this Mess {Christmas Ideas}

Several months ago I started following Bless this Mess Please on Instagram and fell in love with her. I usually don't read food blogs (cooking is something I put minimal effort into) but I love Melissa's Instagram feed and the glimpses into her small town, wanna-be farm life. I'd only been following her for a few days before I knew that we were kindred spirits and, if we didn't live a 1,000 miles away from each other, probably would be good friends.

Anyway, I asked her if she would review my book on her blog and she kindly agreed. Then she offered an exchange. She'd review my book if I reviewed some of the Christmas things she has been making for her Etsy store. Sounded good to me!

Right before we left for Thanksgiving I got this in the mail.



My kids were really excited about it and promptly dumped the whole thing on the ground. Then they spent about a half hour trying to figure out how to get it together, and since I'd had no idea what it looked like when it arrived I didn't know how it was suppose to go together. Luckily I looked it up in Melissa's Etsy store and saw how it was suppose to go together. Now that we know how it goes together it doesn't take us long to put it back together (thought it is still a fun challenge for the kiddos).

Melissa hand makes these and I was really impressed by the quality of the shapes and the beauty of the wood. The lightness of the wood surprised me because it looks like it should be heavier than it is, but I guess that is just how cedar wood is. I've seen these types of nativities before, but this one is one of the best I have ever seen! All the objects are laser cut and are just beautifully done. I like how they are darker on the edges so that when you stand them up they look really nice. If you collect nativities (or know someone who does) this would be an awesome one to add to your collection. I love the painted one she has as well.

She also sent me this beautiful nativity ornament. It is beautifully carved and I'm loving it immensely. She is really talented.


If you are looking for a good gift for family or friends, or just to add to your Christmas decorations, I'd recommend giving Melissa's Etsy shop a look. If you want to give a meaningful and unique gift she has plenty of good ideas!

Thanks Melissa! And Merry Christmas!






Friday, November 21, 2014

Win A FREE Subscription to LDS Living Magazine

I have an early Christmas gift for you!

I was contacted by LDS Living Magazine a few weeks ago. I have never had a subscription to this magazine, but my Dentist in Utah always had it in his waiting room and it was my favorite thing to read. It isn't a magazine that focuses so much on LDS doctrine, but more LDS culture and perspectives. It is a fun magazine and has a good mixture of practical ideas, inspirational stories, and even sometimes tackles hard topics.



They have a promotion going right now that if you subscribe anytime between now and the end of the year, you can get a whole year’s subscription for only $12.00! Giving magazine subscriptions for gifts is a really fun idea. A few years ago we got a subscription to National Geographic as a gift and it was the best. A monthly (or bi-monthly in this case) reminder that someone loved us. 

But now the best part! 

LDS Living Magazine wants to giveaway a year subscription to their magazine to one of my readers for FREE. If you are interested in entering please use the form below. The giveaway will be open for a week.

Merry {early}Christmas to one lucky reader!



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God Knows the Desires of your Heart... Promise

I was scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed tonight when I happened on this news article posted by a friend and my heart skipped a beat.



I hungrily read through the article, which talks about how CES (the Church Educational System for the LDS Church) just recently changed its policy and will now hire female teachers with children. By the time I reached the end of the article I didn't know if I should do a cartwheel out of joy, or curl up on the couch and bawl.

You see, eight years ago I was a newly married college student at BYU. Jon was still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life and so he figured he'd give the idea of teaching seminary a go. Together we signed up for the first Seminary Teacher Training class. While Jon enjoyed the class it quickly became apparent to him that being a Seminary teacher wasn't what he wanted to do (there was no way he'd be able to wear a suit and tie every day). Me on the other hand, I was enthralled. I discovered that I LOVED teaching, and that I was really good at it. When the class ended I signed up for the second Seminary teaching class and loved that one as well. I got to do  two weeks of student teaching in a Jr. High and absolutely loved it. I couldn't think of anything better than having a job where you got PAID to study and teach the scriptures.

The teacher had let us know, early on in the class, that CES's current policy was that they didn't hire women who had school aged children. I could tell he felt really uncomfortable telling us this, but he didn't try to make up any excuses or explain why the policy was like this-- which I appreciated. He simply told us that in the history of CES the policy had changed multiple times, but that right now that is what the policy was-- it was what it was.

This was hard news for me to swallow.

By that time Jon and I were already wanting children, but I'd had some health challenges and a baby wasn't coming as easily as we'd hoped. I didn't know what the future held for me and so I continued with the classes, having faith that if this was the right thing for me to do it would all work out. The process of getting hired as a full-time CES teacher is challenging and lengthy. It requires a year long student teaching in a classroom and an interview with a General Authority. There are hundreds of students who apply for the student teaching positions, and very few who actually get selected for the opportunity to do one. So, when our teacher had us fill out a sheet asking us if we were interested in pursing that path, I filled in the boxes saying "Yes" I wanted to be considered for a student teaching position, but I wasn't really expecting anything to come of it.

The semester ended and Jon and I graduated together. Not long after, Jon and I found out that we were expecting Asher, our first baby. I was thrilled. God had worked a miracle in my heart during the months that I'd struggled to conceive and I knew there was nothing that I could do with my life that was more important than being a mother. It had never been in my life plan, but God had let me know that He wanted me to stay-at-home with my children. This wasn't an easy thing for me to accept. I argued with Him that there were too many things I wanted to do, and that I would be completely wasted if I stayed at home with babies. Yet, even as I argued I felt His firm and gentle reassurance that He knew the desires of my heart and that He would give me opportunities to do everything I dreamed of.

So I trusted Him. I stopped sending in applications to Graduate schools (it helped that I completely bombed the GRE) and started to settle into the idea of being a stay-at-home mom.

A few months after graduation I got a call from my Seminary Training teacher at BYU letting me know that I'd been selected for the year long seminary teaching position. I was thrilled and really wanted to accept the opportunity. Yet, I also knew that I was pregnant and that once I had my son I would no longer be qualified to be considered for a full-time CES position. It didn't seem right to me to accept the opportunity knowing that I wouldn't be hired, when someone else (who really could be hired) might benefit more from the opportunity. I explained this to my teacher and he, very kindly, said he understood and wished me the very best.

I remember hanging up that phone and feeling a strange mixture of sadness and happiness. There was a part of me that was really sad, because I'd just had to pass up a shot at my dream job because I was pregnant. I knew that a chance like the one I'd just turned down didn't come around very often. Yet, there was a part of me that was happy because I knew-- deep deep in my soul-- that I was suppose to stay home with my children and that home was were God wanted and needed me.

It wasn't long after I passed up the Seminary teaching job that I got the prompting and inspiration to start this blog about the women in the scriptures. I felt inadequate to tackle such a huge topic, but I'd learned in my Seminary teaching classes that I was good at teaching. I figured I could just teach online what I'd learned in my personal scripture study and bear my testimony, just like I would have in a real class. This blog started out really small and simple, but has grown into something I never ever dreamed it would. I have "met" people from all over the world, have seen my words change and influence people, and have gained insights and knowledge that I know came directly from Heavenly Father. The Lord has done more with me than I ever imagined he would, and it has been incredible.

But as I read through that news article tonight there was a part of me crying and questioning, "But couldn't I have had them both?" I feel a bit like I did when I heard the news about the missionary age being lowered, sad for what could have been, but happy that other women will have opportunities I didn't get.

But then, I think about where my life has taken me and I wouldn't trade it for anything. The Lord knew the desires of my heart and made them happen in a way much better than I could have ever dreamed. He knew what I wanted better than I knew what I wanted.

But do you know the best part?

I moved to Iowa and got called to teach Seminary. When I got the phone call from the High Councilman extending the call I was speechless, literally. After I hung up the phone I just sat on my bed stunned, and felt a wave of the spirit sweep over me, like God was saying "See, didn't I tell you?" Receiving that calling felt like a great big giant hug from my Heavenly Father; a testament to me that He knew the sacrifices I had made to do what He said. A testament to me that He knew my heart, that He cared about my dreams, and He would make them come true.

I know that God is aware of each of us. Even in the times when things don't seem fair, or life doesn't turn out how we imagined, I just want you to know that He sees you. He hears your prayers and knows the desires of your heart and, often in ways you never dreamed of,  He will make them happen... promise.






Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Release and Launch Party Events! Woo hoo, woo hoo!

"Walking with the Women of the New Testament" is officially released!

{Big cheer... followed by a sigh of relief... and then another big cheer}

Many of the people who pre-ordered the book have already gotten their copies and I have been hearing such good feedback about it. Which makes me so happy. My good friend texted me a few days ago and told me that she bawled through the introduction, which was just about the best compliment I could have ever gotten!

I am so happy with how it turned out, and am so excited for people to read it and learn about the amazing women of the New Testament. Mandy and I put together this trailer for the book and it gives you a bit of a sneak peak inside the book. Mandy really did such an incredible job with the artwork.



I also want to invite you to our book launch party!

 I will be in Utah for Thanksgiving and so Mandy and I will be hosting a party in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah to celebrate our book and you are all invited.  It will be on Saturday, November 29th from 6- 9PM, and if you are interested in coming you can see all the details on our Facebook event page.

I will also be doing a book signing and hosting a discussion about the women of the New Testament  at Zion's Books in Provo, Utah on Tuesday, November 25th at 7PM. You can follow their Facebook page for the forthcoming details. 

Also, my book blog tour will be November 16th- November 30th and I will be sharing the links on my Facebook page so that you can join in the excitement. I am really excited-- and terrified-- to hear what people think about it.

Mostly, I am so excited for you to read my book, and if you can make it to one of the events I'd love to meet you and sign it  for you! 



Monday, November 3, 2014

FREE Study Guide for Women in the New Testament!

I am very excited to share the project that I have been working on the last few months. I've wanted to do something like this for a long time and I am so excited it is ready!

I've put together study guides to go along with my new book, "Walking with the Women of the New Testament." I had the help of Heidi from A Lively Hope and they turned out wonderful.

http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Testament-Journal-Journals-Volume/dp/1502920964/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1415063744&sr=8-3-fkmr0&keywords=walking+with+the+women+of+the+new+testament+study+guide
Click on picture to order a copy
http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Women-Testament-Study-Volume/dp/1503065219/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415063744&sr=8-1&keywords=walking+with+the+women+of+the+new+testament+study+guide
Click on picture to order a copy

 Each study guide contains three pages about each woman (or group of women) in the New Testament. The first page lists the scripture references and space for you to record what you learn while you read. The second page provides lots of room for you to record other thoughts and questions you had or things you learned as you studied. On the third page I have provided questions for additional study, prompts and study suggestions that should help you make your study of these women more effective and meaningful.  Here are the study pages for Mary, the mother of Jesus.



There were too many women to put them all into one study guide so I broke it up into two. Volume one covers all the women in the four Gospels (Matthew- John) and Volume 2 covers all the women in the epistles (Acts- Revelations). They are both about 100 pages long.

Each study guide also contains additional study pages in the back that you can photo copy and paste into your study guide as you study individual women. There are pages for you to do a compare and contrast, a character/topic sketch, a storyboard, a timeline, and blank map pages. I have also included a bookmark with study prompts that you can print off and put in your scriptures (if you make it smaller) or in your study guide. Here is just a sample of some of the additional pages.






I am really excited about these and so excited for people to starting using them and getting to know these New Testament women for themselves. I won't lie and say I don't want you to buy my book and read my thoughts, because I do. Yet, even more than that I want you to open up your scriptures and come to know these women like I know them... as good friends and as your sisters in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So I hope you will take advantage of all the work I have done and begin your own study.

The study guides are available in print form for $9.99 through Amazon  (volume 1 here) (volume 2 here). Or you can also download them as  PDFs and print them off yourself for $4.99 (volume 1 here) (volume 2 here). Just a note: the covers for the PDF version are different than the printed version.

But here is the best part!

If you sign-up for my newsletter (see the box on the right side bar of my blog) I will send you a FREE copy of the first study guide -- the one that covers the women in the gospels-- for you to download and print off.

So go sign up right now! 

The study guides are designed to work in conjunction with my book, but if you don't have it you will still be able to use it. Though, if you have my book I think you will find it enhances your study. I also hope that after you finish the women in the gospels you won't stop there but will keep going and study the women in the epistles too.

I'd also really appreciate people spreading the word about these study guides as well. This next year in Sunday School we will be studying the New Testament. I am hoping that if more people (women and men) have spent time studying the women in the New Testament that there will be more conversations all over the church about Christ's teaching for and about women, and about women's roles and responsibilities in the early Christian church.

The New Testament teaches many important truths about women and our role in Christ's work, and I think that this knowledge is one that both men and women in the church desperately need right now. There is so much that is made clear when you study the scriptures with your eyes open to the women within their pages. I am hoping that my book and these study guides will help open up people's eyes and help them learn to SEE women, because they are there, and their stories are so relevant to our day.

So, go sign up for my newsletter, order your a copies of the study guides, and then share the word. Let's get these women's stories shouted from the rooftops this year!





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Summer of My Life


This afternoon I sat on the porch and watched the leaves fall off our maple tree. I basked in the crisp sunshine that warmed my face and took a deep breath of that smell.. the fall smell...and I felt joy rising inside my heart. I sat with my face to the sun and just drank it in, feeling how good it was to be alive.

My moment of contemplation was penetrated by three happy voices coming from the garden. I looked over and saw two children with enormous shovels trying to dig up the last of this years carrot harvest, and a baby without shoes eating old green tomatoes off the vine.

I laughed and realized that my life is never dull. Even in the moments when I try to slow down there is always work to be done, always someone, always something.

As I sat there and watched the leaves fall on the heads of my happy carrot diggers, it struck me that if my whole life were broken up into four seasons, that right now would be the summer of my life.

The hot, messy, busy, wild days of summer.

Summer is a time for playing, for discovering, and for spending time together. A time for  cultivating, weeding, pruning, shaping. It is a time for investing hard work into the things you cherish and want to grow.... and I am growing a family.

A beautiful, beautiful family.


And even though sometimes the heat of this season of my life can be unbearable and the work exhausting. It really is so much fun.  Right now I am my children's best friend and every day they take me along on their adventures. Even on the days when I'd rather be left behind, they carry me along and show me the world through their eyes. A world where everything  and anything is possible.

Yet watching the leaves fall reminded me that it won't always be like this. That sometime, in the coming- much-too-quickly- future, my season of life will change. That the hard work and play of summer will come to a close,  and it will be Fall,  the season of harvest. A time when my seeds will have all been sown, my plants will have grown and my work will change. I imagine that  this season--the fall of my life-- will also be a richly rewarding; a time of harvesting, preserving, gathering, and preparing for the future. I am sure it will be just as busy, but in a different way, and it is something I look forward to.

But for right now, my day of harvest is still a ways down the road. I am in the thick of the long summer days. Though, every once in awhile, I get a glimpse of blossoms and buds beginning to bloom in these little souls, and there is nothing more beautiful. 

 

Yes it is busy, messy, and exhausting, but it is also deeply rewarding and filled with so much joy.  And I know that just as summer passes to fall, this season won't last forever and that someday I will want it back again...so I might as well enjoy it. 

The summertime of my life. 
 



Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Things for Friday, Quilt, Farm, Car, Blog and Book Edition

                          -1- 

I just had to show off what I (almost) finished this week!


I started this quilt for Rose about three years ago, and finally finished it. The edge just needs to be bound, and I am taking it over this afternoon to a lady in our Ward who is going to teach me how to do it. I used an old bedspread for the backing and padding and so it might be a little tricky to bind, but hopefully it will turn out nice. 

This was my first quilt and so it was a learning experience. I built the quilt top only to discover I didn't like it and so took it all apart and re-made it. I also learned a lot about hand quilting ( which I really love to do) and discovered that if you stick the quilt frame in your scary dark basement you will never go down there to work on it and it will sit for a year. It is much better to set it up in your living room for a month and have everyone trip over it because then you actually get it done! 


I'm happy with how it turned out. It is a bit wild because I used scraps, but I like it that way. Each piece of material has a story-- a part of the first skirt I ever sewed, a piece of a bridesmaids dress, material from some of Rose's Halloween costumes, leftovers from the ring sling I sewed when I was pregnant with her, pieces of pajama pants, and other scraps that I have been toting around for years. 


I hope that one day she appreciates it and knows that every stitch was put in with love.... and there were a lot of stitches!

-2-

When we went on our trip to Utah/Idaho this summer I downloaded a few new (free... I'm cheap) apps for Asher to play on the way. On a whim I got a game called Hay Day which allows you create your own farm where you can raise animals, grow crops, make cheese, bread, popcorn and just about anything else you can think of. The game relies heavily on in-app purchases but I have the option turned off on my iPad and so Asher just has to earn all the points instead of buying them. He really likes the game and a few weeks ago I sat down with him to watch him show me something.

And I got hooked... bad. 

Which is so embarrassing because I remember DISTINCTLY the moment several years ago when I saw that one of my Facebook friends was playing Farmville. I remember saying to myself, "What sort of lame-o person spends their time PRETENDING to be a farmer. What a waste of time."  Just more evidence that I should never ever judge another person because invariably I end up doing the exact same thing.

You think I'd learn.

The only good thing about it is that Asher and I have totally bonded over this silly game. We are a team and the farm is our project. Tonight at dinner Asher was telling me all about the new candy maker machine we almost have enough coins for and I was telling him we need to make sure we find nails to make our barn bigger.

Yep... Nerdy with a capital "N".

-3-

This is an old story but I want to document it here for posterity.

Back in August I went with Jon to a Stake youth activity at a nearby reservoir so that I could meet some of my online Seminary students. Jon drove the young men in the Suburban and since we didn't all fit,  I took Jon's old beat-up 1980 Ford Ranger.

Do your remember Fred, the rusty old truck from the movie Cars? That is exactly what Jon's car looks like... rust and all. No joke.


It is a good truck but I am always embarrassed to drive it. The worst was when last winter Jon put an old washing machine in the back of it to give it more weight on the snowy roads. I'd driven it to the adult session of Stake Conference by myself (Jon stayed home with the kids) and since I'd arrived early I parked near the front doors of the building. After the meeting was over I was leaving with some friends and just about died when I walked out of the building and saw that Jon's truck-- with the old washing machine in the back-- was in grand display for everyone to see. There amid all the nice-- not rusty and crusty-- cars it looked liked something from Beverly Hillbillies. It took some real pride swallowing for me to walk over and get into that thing! 

Anyway, I digress.

So, we were getting ready to go home from the youth activity and I was parked on the curb waiting for Jon to round up all the young men. It was hot so I had the window down (of course the air conditioning doesn't work) when a teenage boy and his little brother stopped in front of me. The teenager was looking admiringly at the truck and came over to me with a big smile on his face and said, "1980 Ford Ranger, right?"

I smiled and he enthusiastically continued, "Oh, these are the best trucks. I just bought one awhile ago, but mine is black,  and we (pointing to his brother) have been restoring it. They have great engines. Oh, wow are these the original side view mirrors? You know you can fix this with super glue. Just put a little bit here. Really, this is a great car you have all the original parts. So lucky. I've been looking all over for some. I'm so glad I saw you today. It is so awesome to see a car like this on the road. They are just the best."

He continued to gush admiration for Jon's car, as I started unbelieving at him and wondered if we were looking at the same car. When Jon's young men finally loaded in I thanked him and wished him the best of luck with his restoration.

Then I smiled the whole way home, remembering the words of my young women's teacher. She was an older woman who, from her youth, had owned a beautiful baby blue Cadillac convertible. We were riding it in one night and we laughed that she was getting lots of attention from the men parked with us at the traffic light. "Girls, when I was young I use to think they were looking at me... but now I know they are just looking at the car."

It made me laugh to think that I now know what she was talking about. Still, who would have ever thought I'd get attention for driving a rusty, crusty falling apart in pieces pickup truck?!!

- 4 - 

I've had a few posts over on The Gift of Giving Life  recently and wanted to post them in case you missed them. First, I reviewed a book called "Delivered" by J. L. Van Leuven which is a fictional account of the midwife who attended the birth of Christ.  Here is a bit of what I said:

"I loved the idea and message that this book sent… that God is aware of each of us and that he prepares us for our missions in life in ways that we don’t always understand. I also loved the idea of imagining what Mary’s birth experience would have been like. I wouldn’t have ever imagined it like it happened in the book, but I enjoyed the author’s perspective and ideas. The truth is that we don’t really know what happened and so anything is possible. I loved imagining."

It is a fun read and you can read my whole review here and order the book on Amazon. 

Second, I wrote my thoughts about Elder Eyring's conference talk. Remember how he got SUPER emotional when speaking about his mother? His emotion really touched me as did his comparison to his mother's ability to receive revelation to that of a patriarch. It reminded me of an awesome story about Rebekah, the mother of Esau and Jacob. If you'd like to to read the story you can see my post here called "The Power of a Mother's Blessing".


-5- 

And last, but not least. Look at the picture my editor sent me two days ago.


It is a REAL book!!!

I got a confirmation tonight that says that my copies are in the mail to me-- right now--- and should be here in the next few days.

Just thinking about that makes me ecstatic and terrified all at the same time. I am SO excited to see this book and have it in my hands, but I am also nervous to see it. Up to now this book has only lived in my head and my heart and so I feel like an expectant mother, getting the courage to let go and let my baby be born. What if it is ugly, what if it isn't perfect, what if everyone hates it, what if, what if, what if....

Which really are silly worries because I think it turned out amazing.

 I am super ready to see it!

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Best Financial Advice


I feel spiritually filled after General Conference this last week. I don't think I even realized how much I needed that spiritual nourishment until it was over and I felt so much better.

There were so many wonderful talks and I could probably write a post about most of them, but I was especially touched by Elder Holland's talk on caring for the poor and needy. During his talk I felt prompted that I needed to share my thoughts about fasting and fast offerings.

Elder Holland spoke about our duty to care for those who are poor or struggling. At the end of his talk he spoke about the law of the fast and how our fast offerings are used to bless the poor and the needy in our congregations. He said,
"You will recognize that I speak here of difficult societal needs that go well beyond members of the Church. Fortunately the Lord’s way of assisting our own is easier: all who are physically able are to observe the law of the fast. Isaiah wrote:  “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? …  “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him … ? [that thou] undo the heavy burdens, and … let the oppressed go free … ?”  
I know that for a long time I didn't understand the connection between fasting and taking care of the poor. Then one day in college I was struggling with a problem and I desperately needed help from God. I decided that I was going to fast until I got an answer. Two and a half days later I ended my fast, and not only did I have my answer, but I also had a new understanding of fasting. At the time I was taking a class on International Development and we had been talking about global solutions to poverty. As I sat in class my hungry tummy rumbled and the thought came to me, "Would you be willing to go hungry so that some who was starving could eat?"

It was then that the connection between fasting and caring for the poor became clear to me. I realized that my going without food wasn't just about mastering my physical body or personal suffering. I was voluntarily sacrificing what I had, and what I wanted, on behalf of another. I was going hungry so that someone else could have food to eat. I was suffering so that someone else didn't have to. That was a powerful realization for me and forever changed how I viewed fasting. 

Fasting is a Christ-like sacrifice that not only blesses the lives of those who are in need but also allows God to open up the windows of heaven and bless you. Elder Holland bore testimony of this in his talk when he said: 
"I bear witness of the miracles, both spiritual and temporal, that come to those who live the law of the fast. I bear witness of the miracles that have come to me. Truly, as Isaiah recorded, I have cried out in the fast more than once, and truly God has responded, “Here I am.” Cherish that sacred privilege at least monthly, and be as generous as circumstances permit in your fast offering and other humanitarian, educational, and missionary contributions. I promise that God will be generous to you, and those who find relief at your hand will call your name blessed forever.  
I just want to add my own testimony to what Elder Holland said. I know that when we sacrifice for others and when we give generously to the Lord he blesses us. 

Several years ago Jon and I were struggling financially. Jon was in the last semesters of his graduate program and he no longer qualified for financial aid. We found ourselves emptying our savings in order to pay for his last year of tuition. We  had enough for our needs but were just squeaking by. It was a challenging time. 

Every morning and night when we would pray Jon would ask the Lord, "that we might have enough to meet all our debts and obligations."  Each time he would pray this I would get the prompting, "You need to increase your fast offering", but I would quickly push it aside because it seemed ridiculous. We were already paying a generous fast offering each month. In fact, I'd been thinking about decreasing our fast offering. Increasing it seemed like a bad idea. I was sure that if we did that we'd probably be the ones who would NEED the fast offering assistance from the bishop. 

Yet, the feeling persisted. So one day, when Jon and I were going through finances again, I told him I thought that the Lord wanted us to increase our fast offering. My husband is a man of great faith, and so he didn't even blink twice before he agreed with me. "Done",  he said, "Lets double it". 

At that point I was certain we were doomed. It seemed like a stupid thing to do. I wasn't sure how we were going to pay for everything 

It was scary, it seemed crazy, and probably went against sound financial planing... but we doubled our fast offering. 

And can I tell you what happened.

We never ran out. 

Some how there was always enough money. Enough money for food, enough money for gas, enough for our mortgage, enough to have a baby and pay the midwife, enough to finish school and somehow... even enough for our wants (like the time I won a brand new iPad at a raffle). 

The Lord took care of us. 

And not only that-- He was generous to us--- and I firmly believe it was because we were willing to be generous with Him and increased our fast offering at a time when it was really hard to do. 

I know my testimony is simple. But I wanted to add my voice to that of Elder Holland's, because I too have seen miracles come through fasting and paying a generous fast offering. I've come to see that if a fast doesn't push you physically and the fast offering doesn't stretch you financially, it really isn't worth that much. 

It is the times when you really take the Lord at His word and do all that you can when He really is able to open the windows of heaven for you and pour out the blessings. When you are generous with God He is generous with you.

What have your experiences been with fasting and fast offerings? What blessings have you received from the law of the fast?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Miriam: Leprosy and a Bad Case of Spiritual Ego


I  have written, and re-written, the second half of Miriam's story a dozen times (read the first part here). It was hard for me to write. Mostly because the topic is so close to my heart.

Over the last few years my heart has broken as I have watched people I know and love, and even people I don't know, make choices that have caused them to be excommunicated, disfellowshipped, or to voluntarily leave the LDS church. I have grieved and pondered over their situations. My heart breaks for them because some of them don't fully understand what they have lost, or what they have done. As I thought about them the story of Miriam kept surfacing and re-surfacing in my mind. So several weeks ago I opened my scriptures and re-read the story of Miriam, as told in Numbers 12, and I was astounded at how applicable the story was to their situations. It just reminded me that we are NOT the first generation to ask the hard questions. People of every dispensation have struggled with all of the same spiritual questions and doubts that we still have today. We are not unique by any means.

Questions, Spiritual Ego and Apostasy

In Numbers 12 it tells how Miriam, and her brother Aaron,  both spoke out publicly against Moses for his marriage of an Ethiopian woman. This Ethiopian woman has a fascinating story (and will have her own post very soon) and there are several possible reasons for why Miriam and Aaron confronted him about her. I won't go into all of them in this post, but suffice it to say that the real issue wasn't his marriage but deeper doubts that Miriam and Aaron had about his role as the prophet and his ability to receive revelation from God.

Miriam and Aaron had both been blessed with spiritual gifts, specifically the gift of prophecy. In fact, Miriam's gift was so powerful that she was known as "the prophetess".  She had the ability to speak with power and with authority. So when Moses did and taught something that she didn't like she questioned his ability to receive revelation, saying, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?" (Numbers 12:2)



Miriam's question wasn't wrong-- it was a good question about the way in which God was operating His kingdom on the earth. Later on we see that her process of questioning opened up an important dialogue with God about the role and responsibilities of the prophet. It was because of her question that the Lord was able to give the Children of Israel more understanding about how the priesthood and God's kingdom operates.  The question isn't what was the problem. The problem was that Miriam had, at at her core, what I have heard called  "spiritual ego". I loved how this woman explained what "spiritual ego" is:
What exactly is the spiritual ego...[it ]is borne the first moment... that a profound spiritual realization has been made. It is that part of self that feels it has accomplished something very special and it causes us to feel superior in relations to others because we believe we have made a realization that sets us apart from the masses. If we find ourselves at any point along the path of spiritual growth and expanding consciousness, feeling that we’ve arrived, conquered, or accomplished something really spiritually superior, and that this accomplishment puts us above others in any way, we can rest assured, we’ve activated the spiritual ego.
When we have spiritual ego we have an over inflated sense of our own spiritual ability and understanding. We begin to think that we are somehow unique, that God has told us or given us something that others don't have. When we have spiritual ego we don't ask questions sincerely desiring an answer or direction. Instead we ask a question, already thinking that we know what the answer should be. The problem is that, when the answer comes and it isn't what you were expecting, it can be really hard to humble yourself and accept counsel. As a result it is usually spiritual ego that causes people to apostatize or leave the church.

For example, this is a quote by Brigham Young about the causes of apostasy and it is uncanny how much of it can be seen in Miriam and Aaron's actions.  He said:
Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction...When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy...

 Brigham Young continued:
Many imbibe [conceive] the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground... Such a person will make false prophecies, yet he will do it by the spirit of prophecy; he will feel that he is a prophet and can prophesy, but he does it by another spirit and power than that which was given him of the Lord. He uses the gift as much as you and I use ours... (source)

Can you see Miriam and Aaron in what Brigham Young was saying?

They, whether they realized it or not,  had a bad case of  spiritual ego. The type of pride that, if goes unchecked, results in apostasy.

Compare this to Moses whom it says in Numbers 12:3, "was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." Moses, who was the prophet of the Lord, was devoid of all spiritual ego. He was humble, contrite, and teachable. He had seen a vision of all of God's creations and knew, "that man is nothing"(Moses 1:10). He understood, he saw and as a result he was meek and humble. Directly the opposite of the attitude Miriam and Aaron had.

It was a result of their pride that God called Aaron and Miriam to the Tabernacle. He explained to them about the difference between possessing the spiritual gift of prophecy-- which both Aaron and Miriam had-- and the calling of the prophet-- which only Moses had. He told them,
"If there be a prophet [ one who has the gift of prophecy] among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream." 
This must have been something that both Aaron and Miriam could relate too. Perhaps they had seen the Lord in a dream or had strong spiritual promptings that had led them to believe that they had more authority and understanding than they really did.

Then the Lord clarified that Moses was not this type of prophet; he was the Prophet who had been  called and chosen by God to lead His people and that,
"..with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold" (Numbers 12:8). 
With these words the Lord was clarifying how His priesthood power worked, and who held the right to receive revelation for the church. Making clear that it was not Miriam or Aaron who held these keys and this power.




Leprosy and Living Death

After speaking with the Lord in the tabernacle Miriam was struck with leprosy. It is interesting to me that it is Miriam, and not Aaron, who ended up with leprosy. At first this seems supremely unfair, because even Aaron admits that, "we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned." (Number 12:11)

If they are both at fault, if they both asked the question, then how come it was only Miriam who was cursed with leprosy?

The text in Numbers 12:1 can give us some clues. First, in Hebrew the verb that is translated as "spake against" is in the feminine tense indicating that Miriam was the main speaker. Second, Miriam's name is listed before Aaron's in the story indicating that, while Aaron certainly was involved, it was primarily Miriam who instigated and lead the opposition to Moses.

The curse of leprosy is a very interesting consequence for Miriam's actions. The law of Moses consisted of many physical rules, which while they did often have health benefits, were primarily designed to bear witness of the need for Jesus Christ. Leprosy was no exception, and Miriam's bout with leprosy was designed to be a physical symbol of her a spiritual ailment.

Let me explain.

Leprosy in the Bible included a wide variety of skin aliments. Among them was what we know as leprosy today, a  highly contagious bacterial disease that results in nerve damage, especially in the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. As a result of this nerve damage many people with leprosy are unable to feel pain and often loose parts of their hands, feet, and other extremities due to repeated injuries.It is also possible for the infection to lie dormant for anywhere from 5 to 20 years before symptoms begin to manifest. In Bible times leprosy was thought to be a curse from God because no one knew how you got it, it spread from person to person, and there was no cure for it. Even today, though scientists are able to treat and cure leprosy, they are still unsure about how it is spread.

Understanding the nature of leprosy makes it easy to see why ancient people were terrified of the disease and often required lepers to live outside of cities and limited their contact with others. In fact, in the Old Testament the Law of Moses gives a detailed set of rules concerning how leprosy should be dealt with among the Children of Israel. Leviticus 13:45-46 instructs that a leper's,

 "...clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip (ie, cover his mouth) and shall cry Unclean, Unclean... and he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his inhabitation be."  

 There were also complex rules for determining if a person, a piece of clothing and even a house were infected with leprosy (See Lev. 13- 14).

It is interesting that when you study leprosy in the Bible that it speaks of people being "cleansed" from leprosy and not "healed." (see Matt. 8:3; Mark 1:42; Lev. 14:7). This is because among the  Israelites someone having leprosy was considered "unclean". This word in Hebrew is tuma and it doesn't mean  "dirty" or "contaminated".

It is complex word  that can't be directly translated into English, but in the simplest explanation-- it is the spiritual state that results from coming in contact with something that has lost its spiritual power. A dead body is the highest form of  tuma (or "uncleanliness") because it has the greatest spiritual potential and thus the greatest "spiritual vacuum" when that life departs. In a similar way a woman is considered tuma after giving birth because while pregnant she is filled with a high level of spiritual power, but when her child is born that power departs. Having leprosy also made someone tuma (unclean) because there was no cure for it and in the eyes of the camp the person was a good as dead. In fact leprosy was sometimes called "living death".


Miriam was cursed with leprosy-- living death-- because her spiritual ego had caused her to doubt and fight against God. As a result she had become tuma, "unclean", meaning that she had  lost her spiritual power. Her outward condition of leprosy was a sign of the inward condition of her soul. She had "spiritual leprosy", the eating away of the spirit that comes through apostasy and sin. Just like physical leprosy kills nerves and destroys your ability to feel, spiritual leprosy  destroys the soul's power and results in a decrease of the ability to feel or to perceive the promptings of the spirit. Brigham Young taught,
"Let a man or woman who has received much of the power of God, visions and revelations, turn away from the holy commandments of the Lord, and it seems that their senses are taken from them, their understanding and judgment in righteousness are taken away, they go into darkness, and become like a blind person who gropes by the wall [see Isaiah 59:9–10;Deuteronomy 28:29] (source).

Also, just like physical leprosy, apostasy or spiritual leprosy is highly contagious. It doesn't take much contact with someone who is infected to spread germs of discontent, anger, fear, doubt, and sin. And just like physical leprosy those germs might lay dormant for years until a person realizes they have been infected. The ancient Israelites dealt with leprosy by closely monitoring people for the disease, going through complicated procedures to diagnosis it, and when a case was confirmed separating the person from the rest of the camp. 

Today, excommunication and dis-fellowship are our modern day tools for coping with outbreaks of "spiritual leprosy" among our congregations.  Just like the Israelites of old we closely examine people for the signs of spiritual leprosy and go through complex procedures to diagnosis the disease (in fact, priesthood authorities dealing with cases of apostasy might find the procedures in Leviticus 13 and 14 to be helpful). We also do everything within our power to help cure or help the infected person.  Yet, when there is a real case of leprosy-- apostasy-- it is imperative for the health of everyone to separate that person from the rest of the  group.  The key thing to remember though is that this separation is NOT done out of anger, hatred, or even fear. It is done with the hope that 1) the infected person will be healed and return or 2) wallow in misery as the disease eats away at them until they die. 

But preferably the first one. 

In fact, when Moses and Aaron found out that Miriam had leprosy (both physical and spiritual) they mourned and begged God on her behalf saying, 
"Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb...Heal her now, O God" (Numbers 12:12)
But even after their pleading the Lord  tells them that Miriam must be taken without the camp for seven days. The Lord reminds them that she is sick with leprosy-- both physically and spiritually--and the only way for her to get better is to go through the processes that God has set up to "cleanse" those whose souls have been eaten away at by sin. God reminds them that if she isn't separated, if she isn't "excommunicated",  she will never be able to be healed and go through the process to become whole.

So, in what must have been a tragically sad procession, Miriam was taken without the camp and left for seven days and "and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again."

Now this is where Miriam's story really gets powerful. 

Look at that last phrase. It says,"the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again." 

First, it tells us that the children of Israel didn't give up hope on Miriam. They had faith that she would be healed of her leprosy-- both spiritual and physical- and that she would return to them. They shut her out of their community but they didn't walk away from her. They waited for her, they prayed for her, and they had faith that she could be healed. This is a powerful reminder to me that we should never give up or walk away from those who been excommunicated, disfellowshipped, or who have left the church voluntarily. We still need to be smart-- meaning we might need to separate ourselves emotionally or intellectually from them so that we don't also get infected-- but we don't need to give up on them. We can pray for them, we can have the compassion for them, and we can have faith that they will be healed.

Because unlike the physical leprosy of the Bible, spiritual leprosy does have a cure--and that is the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Second,  that last line in Numbers 12 is powerful because it says that, "Miriam was brought in again." She had preached things that were not true, she had challenged the priesthood authority of the prophet, she had been full of spiritual ego and pride, she had fought against God and His prophet, she had lost her spiritual power, and she had been shut out of the presence of God and her people. 

But Miriam came back.

And that is powerful.

Here was a woman whose spiritual gifts and spiritual power had been formidable, but who through pride and spiritual ego had allowed herself to be deceived. In such situation it would have been easy for her to succumb to her ailments, to rely on her pride and her own understanding and forsake her covenants, her God and her people. 

Yet Miriam is a powerful example because she refused to let her leprosy over take her body and her soul. She was willing to humble herself, accept guidance from the Lord, and go through the process that God had outlined for becoming clean-- whole-- and full of God's power again. In fact, the number that symbolizes wholeness or completeness in the scriptures is the number seven. So it seems fitting that Miriam was without the  camp for seven days, a time during which she repented and became whole-- physically and spiritually-- once again.

After she returned to the camp the only other mention we have of Miriam is that she died in a place called Kedesh, and that the children of Israel buried her there (Numbers 20:1). We don't know if after Miriam's return to the camp she regained her position of leadership among the children of Israel, but I'd like to think she did. God teaches us that,
"Behold, he [she] who has repented of his [her] sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." (D&C 58:42)  
Even today people who come back after excommunication have their records washed clean, with no mention of excommunication on them. So perhaps the same was true for Miriam. Regardless, what we do know is after she came back she traveled with her people and dwelt with them again until the day of her death. 

This is why Miriam's story has been running through my mind as I've thought about those people I know who have fallen away from the church. My heart aches for them as I see the spiritual leprosy eat away at their souls-- often so gradually that they don't even realize what has happened to them. It can be hard to bear.

Yet like the children of Israel I am not going to walk away and leave them behind.

I am going to wait.

Filling my heart with prayers and living with hope and anticipation for that day when-- just like Miriam did-- they come back and claim their spiritual power...again.




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Link and Mingle!



I'm excited to be hosting Link and Mingle today with my friend Shaylee Ann! 

The rules for this are very simple. 

Just use the linky tools below to link up to your blog (you don't have to have a specific post) , your website, your Facebook page, Instagram or Pinterest account... pretty much any social media site that you would like to connect with more people on. 

That is it. 

The point of Link and Mingle is simply to meet new people and have new people find you. 

A win-win situation. 

I am excited about this and would love to have you link up! 


Meet this week's hosts:


&


[ if you are interested in co-hosting this link-up permanently or temporarily, please email mannerofjoy@gmail.com or leave a comment below ]

 · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
 
Copy the code beneath the button to share the Link & Mingle on your site:

Link & Mingle




[ hashtag is"#link&mingle" if you link up! ]


Now follow your hosts, add your links, and meet new friends!