Sunday, December 27, 2015

The First Noelle

Even though it is almost a week late, I'm pleased to introduce: 

Noelle Evalynne Farrell

Born on December 19, 2015 
at 11:17 AM

7lbs 15 oz and 20 3/4 inches long


About her name: 
Noelle for being a Christmas time baby
Evalynne for being born on her Grandpa Evan's birthday
and Farrell... because she's one of us. 

All the Farrell kids, plus their cousin River

This might just be my new favorite picture of Jon.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Five Things for Friday, Insomnia Edition


Technically it isn't Friday anymore but I'm having  trouble sleeping. I figured I might as well use my time well instead of laying in bed staring at the wall. I've never had pregnancy insomnia but the last few nights I've found it hard to stay asleep. Part of it might be that I am 38 weeks pregnant and there just aren't any comfortable sleeping positions when you are that big. The other part of it might be that I have been nervous all week that this baby would choose to come today, on Saturday, the only day that I don't want him to come.

My oldest, Asher, is getting baptized this afternoon and we have family traveling down for it. I'd hate to have this baby right when they were all here to celebrate for Asher.  I've stayed awake worrying about it and wondering if every little contraction is "real" or not. I think I've sort of made myself paranoid, especially because I've had some strong contractions this morning. I know babies don't usually come when you want them to, but I'm all for positive thinking right now.

In other news, we arrived in Utah safe and sound, and with no baby, about a week ago. It feels good to be here and I am feeling much better than I was a month ago. It turns out that my iron levels were super low and that I was severely anemic (my hemoglobin was at an 8.6). It was actually a big relief to find out that I was anemic. For awhile I really thought I was just going crazy, I was so tired and depressed. It was a relief to know that there was something wrong with me and that it could be fixed.

I've been taking mega-doses of iron the last month (about 160 mg a day) along with vitamin C and folic acid, to help it absorb. It took a few weeks to really kick in but now I am feeling much better. I'm still tired, but I at least now I have energy and things don't seem so overwhelming. I've been laughing more, doing activities with my kids, and actually feel excited about having a baby. It has been amazing to see that as my iron levels have risen (they went up to 10.3 in two weeks!) that my moral has risen as well. I feel more like myself and less like a walking zombie .

A week or so ago I was watching a beautiful birth video (which Tabitha loved) and I realized that I am kind of excited to give birth again. Giving birth is an extreme sport. It is the most physically challenging thing I have ever done, and even though I know I won't enjoy it when I am going through it, I am looking forward to it like I would a race or another type of challenge. There is something amazing in watching my body do the impossible. Not to mention that there is NO better feeling in the world than to feel a baby flow out of you and into your arms. It is the ultimate trophy.

Also, I remembered that I LOVE the newborn stage, sleep deprivation and everything. I love how new and tiny they are, how relativity simple their needs are to meet and take care of, the new baby smell, the way they stay curled up when you hold them, soaking in a spirit fresh from heaven, and getting to meet a new unique, person.

I am really excited for that.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Study Guide for Women in the Book of Mormon!

I'm very excited to introduce my latest project... a study guide for the women in The Book of Mormon! Which is now available on Amazon or as a download.

There are only six named women in The Book of Mormon, three that are unique to The Book of Mormon (Sariah, Abish and Isabel) and three Bible women (Eve, Sarah, Mary). Yet if you take the time to look for them there are dozens of un-named women whose stories are told in The Book of Mormon, many of them in detail. 

This study guide is designed to help you learn to "see" the women in The Book or Mormon and undertake a personal study of their lives. It contains scripture references and journaling pages for all 53 women, or groups of women, included in The Book of Mormon. In addition there are questions, prompts, and study aids for each woman's story that will help you go more in-depth and make your study meaningful.

This study guide is similar to the ones I made for the women of the New Testament (which you can order here and here). Each of the women, or groups of women, has several pages to help you study her (or their) story in-depth. There are also character sketch, compare and contrast pages, and other types of study pages you can use to study each woman (which you can see in the "look inside" feature on Amazon).

Even though there aren't many outside resources available to study The Book of Mormon it is amazing how much you can learn by taking the time to slow down and ponder on the history, the context and the meaning of each woman's story. This study guide is designed to help you slow down, ponder, apply, and read The Book of Mormon with new eyes. 

Here are the pages for Sariah, the first woman mentioned in The Book of Mormon. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Most Creative Years of My Life

I am not very creative when I am pregnant.

I realized this about myself several babies back. I've learned that my usual enthusiasm and passion for writing exponentially decreases in proportion to the size of my belly. It isn't just that I am more tired or busy, though I am sure those things factor in. It is more that I only have a certain amount of creative power stored up in my soul and that, without even being consciously aware of it, most of that power is being greedily channeled towards the little person growing inside of me. 

I know that after this baby is born and my soul is no longer focused on creating another human being, that all that creative power will flow into other channels, but right now the writer in me feels robbed. The part of me that needs and yearns to write, to create with words on the page, can't help but feel jealous. Jealous that the other part of me, the part the needs and yearns to create a new life, has the monopoly on my creative power. When I think about all the things I would like to be writing, and all the ideas that won't quite come together, I can't help but feel a bit resentful that my creativity is being sucked up by all these little people who monopolize my body, my time, and my energy. 

And then... I look at these four little people I have created with my body, nourished with my breasts, infused with my love, taught with my passion, and shaped with daily acts of charity and I realize that they are my masterpieces. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Names of Christ Advent Devotional {Giveaway!}

My friend Heidi at A Lively Hope put together this beautiful Names of Christ Advent Devotional. For each day leading up to Christmas she has created a stunning hand drawn ornament that corresponds to one of the names of Christ. Each day of advent you read a short excerpt of scripture that highlights a different name of Jesus Christ and then color and cut out the corresponding ornament to hang on your Christmas tree or another special place. She has also included discussion questions for each day to help you have a meaningful study of each of Christ's names.

Some of the names that are included in the devotional are: 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from The Book of Mormon {Giveaway!}

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding's book Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible. The book, which is designed for young children, featured more than a dozen women from the Old and New Testament. McArthur told me that they had hopes that Deseret Book would publish a second book on Women of the Book of Mormon. She said at first the editors at Deseret Book didn't think there were enough women to do another book. Yet, thanks in part to my blog, she said they were able to show them that there are more than plenty of women to write about in the Book of Mormon. I was thrilled when they emailed me earlier this year letting me know that the book was in the works and that it would be out by Christmas.

So it is with great excitement that I am sharing with you today Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from The Book of Mormon!

The book follows the same basic layout and format as the first book did (you can see it in my first review). I really like how they put the emphasis on asking questions and "likening" these women to yourself. It is also wonderful to see the stories of so many Book of Mormon women told. I am sure that to most young girls (and even older women) that many of these women's stories will be unknown.

The art is similar to the first book with beautiful illustrations by Kathleen Peterson. Personally, I was excited about the art work because it is just about impossible to find images of many of the women in the Book of Mormon. No one has ever taken time to paint many of them, and so I was thrilled that Kathleen Peterson did several of the lesser known women.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Five Things for Friday-- World Congress of Families Edition


Wow, what a week it has been! It has been so full and I have to admit I am terribly homesick for my kiddos, my husband, and my normal life. Which is good, right?

In fact, when my kids dropped me off at the airport they were hanging all over me, smothering me in hugs and kisses to the point that that I had to push them away in order to even get out of the car. As I got my bags out I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm going to be glad to have a break from them!", but by the time I'd gotten through security and sat down in the terminal to wait to board the plane I realized I already missed them.

Though I do have to say that staying at the Grand America for a whole week has really had some perks. I've never stayed in a hotel this fancy before and it kind of makes me feel like a movie star... a big round pregnant movie star... but a movie star none the less. I think the highlight of the week was when my friend Becky came up to visit and to cut and highlight my hair. When she got to the hotel she realized that she didn't have enough foil to highlight all my hair and so we called the hotel room service to see if they had some aluminum foil we could use. They said they did and that they would send some up in about 10 or 15 minutes. Three minutes later Becky answered the door (I had foil in my hair) and there was a waiter holding a large silver platter, covered with a white napkin, with three pieces of aluminum foil sitting on it. Talk about fancy!  Becky was kind of in awe when she came back in and said that moment had just been the pinnacle of her hair styling career-- to have aluminum foil delivered to her on a silver platter!


The World Congress of Families has been a very interesting, eye opening experience for me. It has been such a mix of people and viewpoints and has really pushed me to figure out what I believe and what I stand for. It has been way more conservative than I expected it to be which has been interesting. I consider myself to be a moderate and I've been to lots of liberal and secular conferences before but  I've never been around a super conservative crowd before.  I feel like I got quite the education this week!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Five Things for Friday: Overwhelmed and Surviving Edition

My good friend Lani brought it to my attention a few weeks ago that it has been a LONG time since I did a Five Things for Friday post. I don't know that I have a very good excuse, except that my life has been full to the brim and lately all I want to do when I have a spare moment is to nap rather than write... or clean my house... or do the laundry.... or any thing else productive. But I'm feeling motivated tonight so I figured I'd give you an update.


I am 30 weeks pregnant already!

Physically I am feeling pretty good. I'm tired, have varicose veins that bulge and ache, heartburn, and hips that are starting to fall apart, but I also have a wiggly baby inside of me that sort of makes it all worth it. Emotionally though, I've been much more a mess this pregnancy than I ever have been before. I don't think I'm depressed or anxious, but I am very easily overwhelmed and my emotions are right at the surface. My family has been really patient with me.

It has also been hard because I've had a hard time deciding on a care provider and where we are going to have the baby.  Jon and I have been praying and debating about it for a few months but we finally decided that we are going to go back to Utah for Christmas and then just stay and have the baby there. Mostly it is because it is the path that just feels the best, but it is also because there just aren't very many great birth choices where we live. The law in Iowa will only allow Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) to deliver babies at home, as opposed to most other states where Certified Midwives, can also do home births. There are three CNMs in Des Moines who do home births, but only one who will travel to where I live. I had her for Tabitha's birth and have been seeing her again this time. She is a good midwife but she lives about 2 hours away from me. My labors are usually quick (about 3 hours) and this baby will be born in December, which means that if there is bad weather it is very likely she won't make it in time for the birth.

Realizing this I seriously  considered doing a hospital birth this time and interviewed the midwives at the hospital near us. One of the midwives in the group was a home birth midwife before she moved to Iowa and so I set up an appointment with her, knowing she'd understand where I was coming from. I was ready to jump into a hospital birth, but she was really honest with me. "I know what type of maternity care you've had in the past," she told me, "and I know what type of care you want, and I know you won't get that quality or type of care here." I was a bit discouraged after that, but was grateful that she'd been so straight forward with me. She was actually the one who suggested I think about traveling somewhere else for the birth, because there really just aren't many choices in our area.

So, I've been weighing my options for the last few months and even though going to Utah doesn't make the most logical or financial sense, all my other options make me feel uneasy inside whereas this path feels right. So I think I'll follow it. The midwife who attended Asher, Rose, and Abe's births has agreed to take me as a transfer and my in-laws are thrilled about us coming for a whole month (or a bit more). They even said we could have the baby at their house, though I'm thinking that we might go to our midwives's birthing center as their house might be full for Christmas... but I guess we'll just see.

My husband got permission from his company to work remotely and since we home school there is no rush to get back at a certain time. The only problem will be if this baby decides to come two weeks early or two weeks late. If he comes too much after Christmas I think I'll be dying and if he comes two weeks early we might have a baby somewhere along 1-80, which would be less than ideal. Yet, I'm optimistic that everything will work out how it is suppose to. Now the trick is to just hang in there the next two months!


Home school this year has been rough... really rough. A few weeks ago someone asked Asher how school was going and he replied, "Oh, fine... but my mom just cries alot." 

Which is pretty much the truth.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Meaning of Marriage

This is part 7 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life"

“When has marriage ever been about having children?”

 These words, spoken over the radio, stopped me mid-stir. I was making dinner for my family and listening to the news on NPR. The news coverage was about the legal battles that had been going on in California over the gay marriage issue. This man, who was preparing to be married to his male partner, had just given a long list of reasons why there were no reasons that anyone should be opposed to same-sex marriage. When asked by the reporter about the rights of children the man ended his argument with those words,

“When has marriage ever been about having children?”

His words rocked me to my soul and I realized something that completely changed my perspective on same-sex marriage.  I think, like many of my faithful Christian friends and acquaintances, I had been confused about why the LDS Church (and other Christian churches) has taken such a strong stance in opposition to same-sex marriage. It seemed to me that two adults should have the same right as any other adults to live however they felt made them happy. Why do we need to take a stand against that?

Yet in those moments in my kitchen I had a wash of understanding and clarity and I saw that much of my confusion came because we, as a society, have lost an understanding of what a marriage really is about.

To most Americans the word "marriage" now means something like this:
“The commitment of two consenting adults [insert gender-specification if you are conservative; exclude gender-specification if you are liberal] to cohabitate under the sanction of legal and/or religious institutions.” 
When one views the marriage relationship like this, as merely a loose contract between two adults who love one another and want to commit to each other then it does get confusing about why a church, or even God, would be opposed to such a thing. I mean if a same-sex couple loved and cared for each other as much, or more, than a hetero-sexual couple what could be the problem? It doesn’t really affect anyone but them, right?

Yet I think what I understood that day in my kitchen was that marriage is about so much more than love, sex, or even commitment. Marriage, as it has manifested itself is all successful societies,  is about two things: unity between men and women and the creation of new human life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tamar: What's a Girl to Do?

This is part 6 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life" 

Tamar is one of the most misunderstood women in the scriptures and I think she is often portrayed incorrectly and unfairly. This is because her story is, admittedly, very confusing. Yet I hope that as we discuss her story you will better understand this amazing woman, whose example of having her heart open to life made it possible for ancient promises to be fulfilled.

Her story starts with Judah (one of the 12 sons of Jacob and the son of Leah) who married the daughter of a Canaanite named Shuah. This woman bore Judah three sons named Er, Onan, and Shelah. When Er was grown Tamar was given to him as a wife. We don’t know how long Tamar and Er were married but they had no children. Eventually the Lord slew Er because he, “was wicked in the sight of the Lord” (Gen. 38:7). Er’s death put Tamar in a hard situation. She became a widow, which meant a drop in her social status, and the loss of the security and prosperity she expected when she married a firstborn son.

In ancient times many cultures had a practice, which later became known as Levitirate marriage, where if a man died without any children it was the responsibility of one of his brothers to marry his widow and conceive a child with her. It didn’t matter if he was already married because the child she conceived would not legally be his but would belong to the deceased brother, continue on his deceased brother’s name, and inherit the deceased brother’s property. This custom was for the benefit of the widowed woman and it was her right to demand it from her brother-in-laws. They could refuse her, but doing so was viewed as selfish and often resulted in public humiliation. If all the brothers refused the widow’s demand, of if there were no brother-in-laws, then it was the duty of her father-in-law to provide her with a child. Later, under the Mosaic law the Lord would forbid sexual interactions between daughter-in-laws and father-in-laws (Leviticus 18), but at the time of Tamar’s story there was no such provision.

As was custom Judah arranged for his next son, Onan, to provide Tamar with a child. Yet as Genesis 38:9 says, “Onan knew that the seed should not be his”. Onan knew that if Tamar remained childless then all of Er’s inheritance as the firstborn son—a double portion—would come to him. So when he was with Tamar he “spilled his seed on the ground, lest he should give it to his brother.” Onan was willing, and perhaps more than happy, to use Tamar for his sexual pleasure but when it came to actually creating life with her-- life that might make his financial situation harder-- he was unwilling. One can only imagine the hard place that Tamar found herself in; being used to gratify the lust of a man who was unwilling to allow for the life that might be created as a result.

We don’t know how long Onan treated her like this, but it may have been a long time. Eventually, though it seems that the Lord heard her cries because Genesis 38:10 says, “That the thing which he [Onan] did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.” The “also” in this verse is interesting because it references the fact that the Lord also slew Tamar’s first husband, Er for wickedness. We don’t know what type of wickedness Er was doing but, if like his brother, he was also using his sexual power inappropriately it just makes your heart ache for poor Tamar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A "Brief" History of Eugenics

This is part 5 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life"

“It is common to think of our time as standing at the apex of civilization, from which the deficiencies of preceding ages may patronizingly be viewed in the light of what is assumed to be “progress”. The reality is that in the long perspective of history the present century will not hold an admirable position, unless the second half is to redeem its first… If we can not eliminate the causes and prevent the repetition of these barbaric events, it is not an irresponsible prophecy to say that this twentieth century may yet succeed in bringing about the doom of civilization.”

-US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in his opening statements as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials ("Better for all the World" , pg. 305)

The word eugenics is one that has almost disappeared from our modern vernacular. You might be hard pressed today to find a group of people who know what it means and who understand the extent of its embarrassing and scary history. Yet, about 100 years ago the word was a household term and was tossed around with the ease that we might talk about “sustainable development” or “genetic engineering”. Literally the word means “good genes” (eu= good, genic= genes) and starting in the mid-1800’s the word was used to describe a philosophy that advocated for improving the human population through breeding in order to increase the occurrence of desirable characteristics.

The idea of eugenics, as we know it today, began to form around the time that Darwin’s theory of evolution was beginning to become widely accepted by the scientific community. The study of genetics and heredity was flourishing and scientists could see no reason why if you could engineer a plant or breed a horse to have certain characteristics, then why you shouldn’t do the same with humans. Scientists of the day observed that things like eye and hair color, facial features, and even health conditions were all things that could be passed on through heredity. Through their observations they concluded that other less desirable traits-- things like poverty, criminal behavior, laziness, and feeblemindedness (a person with a low IQ)-- were also hereditary and could be "bred" out of a society.

Around the turn of the century social society reformers latched onto the idea of eugenics as way to improve social conditions and reduce crime and poverty. Most Americans were supportive of the practice of eugenics and viewed it as a way to increase the nation’s strength and superiority in the world. President Theodore Roosevelt was a strong supporter of eugenics. He said,
“ Some day we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.” ("Better for all the World" , pg. 6) 
By early 1900’s the United States had even established the Federal Eugenics Records. The purpose of this office was to collect and record hereditary data for all citizens of the United States to be used to identify and control those citizens of the “wrong type” from reproducing themselves and thereby taking away valuable resources from the “right type” of citizens-- those who were economically and socially productive.

.US eugenics advocacy poster from the Philadelphia Sesqui-Centennial Exhibition, 1926

The other main purpose of the Eugenics Records Office was to help states and counties identify and control their populations of “undesirable” citizens. One of the main ways that this was done was by the forced imprisonment and sterilization of men and women who were deemed “unfit” to be parents or who possessed characteristics, such as a low IQ, mental illness, laziness, or fecundity (high fertility), that were viewed as socially undesirable. Indiana implemented the first sterilization law in history in 1907. California’s law passed in 1909 and sterilized 2,500 people in 10 years. Fifteen other states had similar laws before 1927.  In 1926 the US Supreme Court even ruled that it was constitutional to forcibly sterilize such citizens, without their or their family’s consent, because it was in the best interest of the nation to make sure they didn’t reproduce. By the 1930’s Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Japan had passed laws similar to the US’s eugenic sterilization laws ("Better for all the World" , pg. 228)

Eugenics was widely accepted and viewed as the most innovative scientific approach to improving social conditions. Havelock Ellis, who was a strong supporter of eugenics and a close "friend" of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, wrote,
“The superficially sympathetic man flings a coin to the beggar. The more deeply sympathetic man builds an almshouse for him so that he need no longer beg; but perhaps the most radically sympathetic of all is the man who arranges that the beggar shall not be born.” ("Better for all the World" , pg. 143)
The idea of eugenics and forced sterilization as a method of social reform and progress was so common and acceptable that in the United States it was common to see educational displays at State and County fairs promoting the principles of eugenics and heredity. Many counties also hosted “Fitter Family” competitions showcasing families who embodied the “right sort” of eugenic principles and characteristics.

Eugenics display at the Kansas State Fair in 1920.

"Better Baby" Contest at the Indiana State Fair in 1931

"Best Couple"  from the Fitter Family Contest at the Texas Sate Fair in 1925 (Click to see larger)
Even Latter-day Saints were not immune from buying into the idea of eugenics. For example in 1928 an article called “ Intellectual Responsibilities of Mothers” was published in the Relief Society Magazine. In it the author, Heloise Day Merkley, wrote about the responsibility women had to develop their intellect and their minds. This is the advice she gave to young women looking for husbands:
“The eugenist lays great stress upon the heredity of the child. He tells the girl that the surest way in which she can help her children intellectually is by choosing for them a father with the proper intellectual equipment, and from an intellectual family…it is important to choose the best possible mate if you would fulfill your intellectual responsibility to your children as their mother. But how many girls know anything about eugenics and heredity? Or, if they know, how many think seriously of such things when they decide to marry? Moonlight often plays a more important part in the choice than does eugenics.” (“Motherhood: A Partnership with God.” Compiled by Harold Lundstrom. Bookcraft, Inc. Salt Lake City, Utah. 1956. Pg. 75)
Yet despite the wide support and enthusiasm for eugenics in the United States and around the world the word and its history are rarely discussed. This is because the “scientific” study and practice of eugenics, when carried to its natural end, resulted in one of the most horrific events of the 20th century.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

No Respecter of Persons

This is part 4 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life".
 A version of this post was first posted on The Gift of Giving Life 

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” Acts 10:34

Before my youngest son was born my husband and I decided not to find out what gender he was. With our other two children we found out the gender at 20 weeks but this time, because we already had a boy and a girl, we figured that it would be a fun surprise. I was really fine with not knowing the gender until I hit 24 weeks. I was having a hard time feeling like this baby was “real” and I didn’t feel like I could bond with it at all. I constantly worried that I might not be able to love this child.

When I was about 31 weeks pregnant I spent the afternoon crying into my pillow. I poured out my fears to God and asked him if He would please let me know what the gender of my baby was. I told Him that if I just knew if it was a boy or if it was a girl then I would finally be able to love the baby, that I would be able to envision a place for it in my family, and I would be able to open my heart. I cried and I cried and when I was finally done I waited for an answer, for a vision, for a feeling, for… anything.

But nothing came.

I got up off my knees and started down the stairs feeling empty and sad. Then as my foot hit the bottom stair I felt a wave of peace envelop me and these words penetrated my soul, “ God is no respecter of persons… he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female…all are alike unto God.” (Acts 10:34 and 2 Nephi 26:33)

Those words took my breath away and as I stood on the bottom step, stunned. The spirit washed over me in waves and I knew that it didn’t matter if this baby I was carrying was a boy or a girl. I felt the distinct impression that in God’s eyes the worth of the baby I was carrying wouldn’t change if it was male or female.

All souls were the same to Him.

At that moment at the bottom of the stairs I felt, so clearly, the immensity of God’s love for ALL of his children. It overpowered me and from that moment on I chose to open my heart to this baby, no matter how it came—male, female, healthy, or sick.

Yet over the next several months I began to see that the world around me didn’t see things the same way. It was very obvious when reading the newspaper or listening to the conversations going on around me that the world was a “respecter of persons”. So often I heard things that made my heart ache.

One afternoon I read an article about how there are over 90 million females “missing” from the current expected populations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan because the sex-selective abortion of female fetuses is so common. In fact, in some countries it is actually illegal for a nurse or doctor to tell prospective parents the sex of their fetus after an ultrasound because abortion of females is so prevalent. Some of these countries are now facing major shortages of marriageable aged women.

This information made my heart ache. Yet the more I thought about it the more I realized, that with my obsessive need to know the gender of my baby in order to “love” it, I wasn’t all that different from those Chinese and Indian parents. Somewhere inside of me I placed value on gender and health and I was determining the worth of person based on what they could do and not who they were.

It is easy to look at parents in China and India with condemning eyes and wonder how a society could be so unequal that they would systematically deny life to a portion of their civilization. Yet I was appalled to learn that in the United States the abortion rate for fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome is 90%, fetuses with spina bifida is around 50% and, in general, abortion rates for fetuses with any sort of malformation or genetic disease is on rise. Our society’s attitude towards the disabled isn’t all that different from the attitudes of societies who selectively abort females.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Culture of Light or a Culture of Darkness?

This is part 3 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life." 

In one of my favorite books “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, the author asks his reader to imagine what would happen if a man haphazardly built an aircraft, based on his own preferences and completely ignored the principles of gravity and aerodynamics. He might spend years constructing it, labor studiously over it, and invest billions of dollars into building a beautiful aircraft. Yet if, in all his planning, he neglects to follow the laws of gravity and aerodynamics it will never fly. As Quinn writes:
As the flight begins, all is well. Our would-be airman has been pushed off the edge of the cliff and is pedaling away and the wings of his craft are flapping like crazy. He’s feeling wonderful, ecstatic…What he doesn’t realize, however, is that this craft is aerodynamically incapable of flight. It simply isn’t in compliance with the laws that make flight possible—but he would laugh if you told him this. He’s never heard of such laws, knows nothing about them. He would point at those flapping wings and say, “See, just like a bird!” Nevertheless, whatever he thinks he is not in flight… he’s in free fall.

Fortunately—or rather, unfortunately for our airman—he chose a very high cliff to launch his craft from. His disillusionment is a long way off in time and space…. From his great height he can see for miles around, and one thing puzzles him: The floor of the valley is dotted with craft just like his—not crashed, simply abandoned... “Why”, he wonders, “aren’t these craft in the air instead of sitting on the ground? What sort of fools would abandoned their aircraft when they could be enjoying the freedom of the air?”
… But then he looks down again, and what he sees really disturbs him. The law of gravity is catching up to him at the rate of thirty-two feet per second—at an accelerating rate… He is disturbed but far from desperate. “I just have to keep going.” And so he starts pedaling with all his might. Which of course does him no good at all, because his craft simply isn’t in accord with the laws of aerodynamics. Even if he had the power of a thousand men in his legs- ten thousand, a million—that craft is never going to achieve flight. The craft is doomed—and so is he unless he abandons it. (Ishmael, pg. 106-107).
Quinn gives this analogy of the doomed airman to illustrate the point that there are natural consequences for not following divine and moral laws, just like there are natural consequences for not following the laws of aerodynamics. His point is that all civilizations (including animal civilizations) must obey divinely prescribed laws if they are to survive and thrive. If they ignore or disobey these laws then they are doomed to destruction, unless they abandon their course and change their behaviors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Women who Delivered Moses

This is part 2 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life” 

The story of Moses is one of my favorites, mostly because his story is filled with incredible women. We are introduced to many of these women at the start of Moses's life and are shown several wonderful examples of women and men who, even though they lived in difficult times, had hearts open to life. In fact, it is through several sets of very personal individual choices that God was able to raise up a deliverer, Moses, and prepare the children of Israel to break away from a culture of oppression, slavery and darkness and restore them to the light, power and glory promised them by their Father Abraham. I think the story of Moses is an important one for modern day women and men, because it shows us first hand the power and blessings that come from cultivating hearts and lifestyles that are open to life, no matter what our circumstances or our challenges.

The first woman to advocate for Moses’ life was his sister, Miriam. The apocryphal book of Jasher states that when Pharaoh decreed that all male Hebrew children were to be thrown in the river that some men sent their wives away from them, so that they would not get pregnant, while other men kept their wives at home. According to the book of Jasher, Jochebed (the mother of Moses, Miriam and Aaron) was sent away from her husband, Amram, for three years. Yet, one day Amram saw that,
  “…at that time the spirit of God was upon Miriam the daughter of Amram the sister of Aaron, and she went forth and prophesied about the house, saying, Behold a son will be born unto us from my father and mother this time, and he will save Israel from the hands of Egypt. And when Amram heard the words of his daughter, he went and took his wife back to the house, after he had driven her away at the time when Pharaoh ordered every male child of the house of Jacob to be thrown into the water.” (Jasher 68:1-2
Miriam is our first example of a heart open to life. She didn't yet have children of her own, and probably wasn't even in a position to have them, and still her heart was "turned" to those spirits waiting in heaven. Later in life Miriam would be called a "prophetess” and would be a great spiritual leader in Israel. It seems that from a young age she seems to have had her heart and her mind set on things of the spirit, and so it was through her that God first planted the seeds that would later become the means of delivering Israel from slavery. I think her example is a powerful one because it shows that God speaks to young women, and that it is never too young to cultivate a heart open to life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

When it Comes to Having Children-- It is all about your Heart

This is  part 1 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life."

The Ancient Egyptians believed that after you died you would be taken before the God Anubis (pictured above with the jackal head) and your heart would be weighed against the feather of truth. If your heart was found to be lighter than the feather of truth it meant that your heart was good and you could pass on to your eternal inheritance. However, if your heart was found to be heavier than the feather of truth it meant your heart was not as it should be and you would be eaten by the Devourer, a part-lion, part-hippopotamus, and part-crocodile monster (pictured just below the right scale).

I have been thinking a lot about this Egyptian belief because, while obviously a bit absurd, the basic idea is grounded in truth. In D&;C 64:22 the Lord says,
“…I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men” 

and D&;C 137:9 He says,

“For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” 

In fact, there are over 1,500 references to the “word” heart in the scriptures, many of them having to do with how our heart determines our relationship with God and whether we receive a blessing or a curse—or as the Egyptians would say-- whether we pass the test and gain eternity or are devoured by an evil hippopotamus.

There is one scripture dealing with hearts that I find especially interesting. It is found in Malachi 4: 5-6:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
When I read this scripture it always impresses me that Elijah’s job is to “turn” or in other words to “re-direct”, the hearts of the people to focus on the things that are most important to God. Elijah’s power is very specific and it is two fold: first, to open up our hearts with love for our fathers, those who went before us, and secondly, to open our hearts to our children, those spirits yet unborn.

Over the last several years I’ve been thinking a lot about this scripture and its ramifications for family planning and the creation of life. It mostly sprang from a desire to understand what the Lord wanted me to be doing in that area of my life. As I have thought about this (alot) I’ve noticed that in response to questions about family planning people often say, usually defensively, “Why do they care how many children I have or don’t have. It is none of their business.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Every Baby Comes with a Loaf of Bread Under its Arm

So I have happy news to share today! 

Farrell baby #5, who has been given the womb name of "Baby Otto", will be joining our family around the end of December! 

I'll freely admit that there are days when I think I must be crazy for having another baby, but I can't deny that this baby has been following me around for awhile. 

When I was pregnant with Tabitha Jon and I had the constant feeling that we were missing someone. When people asked how many children we had we would always say "four" but then have to quickly explain that one was on the way. We just felt like she was already a part of our family. We expected the "missing someone" feeling to go away when she was born, but it didn't. It just got stronger. So much that it was almost a daily occurrence to have one of us look around and ask who was missing. We even started to refer to "the baby" as a constant presence in our house, and our head count didn't feel complete until one of us would smile and say, "Oh, yeah we're missing the baby."  

Tabitha's pregnancy had been hard on me emotionally and physically and it scared me to think of having to go through it again. Also the idea of having another baby when I felt like I was barely keeping the four I had clothed, fed, and restrained from killing each other made me want to cry. I knew that there was another spirit ready and waiting to come to our family, but I wasn't ready to even think about another baby. In my heart I kept telling the baby to be patient with me, that I was willing to bring him to the world but that I was scared.  

Then several months ago Jon and I both realized, about the same time, that we hadn't "felt the baby" for awhile, and all of a sudden my heart changed. I realized that I wanted this baby. That I wanted that person to come to our family and that I wanted to be their mother. I was still scared, but the idea of missing out on this person, to have them go to another family and a different mother because I wasn't willing,  made my heart ache deep inside. 

I was too scared to actually "try" to have a baby, but I figured if it just happened then it would be too late to back out. I have been tracking my cycles with the Creighton Method for several years now and so I usually know when I am fertile and when I am not (it is an awesome natural family planning method by the way). When you are aware of your fertility signs it is hard to be "surprised" by a pregnancy or to "just let things happen" and so I tried to ignore them the best I could, but I still figured I was pretty safe. 

Then at the start of April I started to feel sick and for almost a whole week I thought I had the flu. When the second week started, and I didn't feel any better, I realized that this baby hadn't wasted much time in deciding to come. I'll admit that at first I cried alot and felt really overwhelmed. I REALLY didn't want to be pregnant again and was worried about how I'd handle another baby. It helped alot that when we told the kids they were really excited. Seeing their enthusiasm and imagining another little face added in among them brought me a lot of joy, and really helped ease my fears. I don't regret having any of my children and I knew that I wouldn't regret this one either. 

I am about 20 weeks already and I'm starting to feel really, really excited for this little person to come to my home. There is an old Spanish saying that "every baby comes with a loaf of bread under its arm." On the surface I think this saying is referring to the fact that there is always room enough for one more, and that life will always find a way to go on. Yet on a deeper level I think that what this saying means, at least to me, is that every baby who comes to the earth brings blessings, spiritual and temporal, for the mother, the father, the family, the community, and the world. 

Already I can feel the blessings this little person is bringing with them. I have felt my soul expand and my capacity to love and to submit to God's will increase. This baby has stretched and healed a part of me I didn't even know existed. It is amazing how much I love him/her already. I still have my moments (sometimes days) when I wonder if I am crazy and how a girl who never wanted kids will soon have 5 of them. But then again, I'm also starting to realize that I'm not in charge. 

God is... and when He sends down bread from heaven, who am I to say no? 

My  arms are open, my heart is expanding, and I am excited to get the best type of Christmas gift. My kids are convinced that this baby is a boy because so far our family has followed a boy-girl-boy-girl pattern, but I guess we'll just have to see. I don't have any premonition about the gender this time. Part of me hopes that it is my Luke, because I'd really like to meet him. But then the other part of me has fallen in love with the name Noelle for a little girl born at Christmas time. So either way, I think I'll be happy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Building Solomon's Temple

I once had a friend post the question, "What is your greatest pet peeve?" on her Facebook page. Most of the responses were the type you'd expect-- people who don't park straight, people who leave their shopping carts in the parking lot, putting the toilet paper roll on upside down, people who put the eggs back in the carton after cracking them, or in my case sleeping with wrinkles in my sheets... oh I hate that!

One person though left a comment that has given me a lot of thought since. She said her biggest pet peeve was parents who indoctrinate their children with their personal religious and belief system before they are old enough to be able to decide for themselves what they think is true. She was very passionate about this and felt that children should be given the opportunity to explore lots of different religious beliefs and traditions and not be brainwashed into thinking one was right or better than another. She felt that parents who did this were irresponsible and were denying their children opportunity for authentic thought and decision making. 

In some ways I agreed with her. I think it is important for kids (and adults for that matter) to be familiar with lots of different religious beliefs and to explore their own personal faith independently of what their parents or their family believes or has taught them. The last thing that I want as a parent is children who are "brainwashed" into following something they don't have passion for or a testimony of. I want my children to have a variety of spiritual experiences and a broad understanding of the ways in which God can, and is, worshiped. 

Yet on the other hand I also had to disagree with her. I don't think that it is wrong for parents to indoctrinate, teach, instill, train, influence, school, implant, and drill core beliefs, values and teachings until they go blue in the face. There are few things more important for a parent to do then to be active in shaping the character, values, and dreams of the future generation. I think that what the woman on Facebook was forgetting is that children don't live in a bubble and that they are always being indoctrinated and influenced by something or someone. It isn't irresponsible to make choices about which messages you want to be the loudest in your children's lives. 

These thoughts really surfaced the other night when I was reading in 1 Chronicles about the preparations King David made before his death. I knew that, even though he wanted to, David wasn't allowed by the Lord to build a temple and that it was his son Solomon who built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. I'd always just assumed that Solomon was just a very good son who shared his father's vision and wanted to build what he was never able to. What I didn't realize is how much David did before his death to ensure that the temple would be built and that Solomon and his kingdom would be successful. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Reason You Love Jane Austen-- and I Bet You didn't Even Know it

My junior year of college I signed up for a women's literature class as part of my Women's Studies minor at BYU. Shortly before the class began they notified us that there would be an instructor change, but since I didn't know either instructor I didn't think much of it. When I went to go buy my books for the class I noticed that there were two very different sets of books on the shelf. The first set was composed mostly of Jane Austen novels and several other books from the same time period, all by women authors.

The second set, which were the ones I needed for my class, looked way more interesting to me. There were books on Jungian psychology, Native American women's memoirs, poetry, and titles like "The Goddess Within". I secretly congratulated myself on somehow avoiding the women's literature class that would have just read Jane Austen novels all semester. I couldn't see how there would have been anything interesting, feminist, or important to say about women from those books. Weren't they just love stories?

My women's literature class turned out to be one of my favorite classes of my college experience, and so many of the things we talked about shaped how I see the world and women's experiences. In fact, I think that it was that class that really gave me the courage to get married even though my parents had recently divorced and I was terrified of the idea. In many ways I think that the instructor change for that class may have been a tender mercy in my life.

Yet recently I've been wishing that I could go back to school and take women's literature again but from the other professor, the one who assigned all the Jane Austen books. I would be so interested to know what she had to say and what themes and ideas we would have discussed. This is because a few months ago I watched this lecture by Christina Hoff Sommers about the history of feminism. In her lecture she talks about how there are, and always have been, two different types of feminism. This video will give you the very condensed message of her lecture.

The first type of feminism is what has historically been called "maternal feminism" and is the type of feminism that many of our great grandmothers believed in. In the late 19th century women in Europe and the United States began mobilizing to help reform society and to secure women the right to vote. Women like Hannah More in England, Francis Willard in the United States, and Nellie McClung of Canada rallied women to become involved in improving their communities and seeking the right to vote.

These maternal feminists believed that women were innately different from men, but believed women possessed a divine feminine nature that had great potential to shape the world. They saw women’s involvement in society as a natural and important extension of a woman’s innate capacity for nurturing and motherhood. Maternal feminism was widely popular in both Europe and the United States and was able to mobilize a huge group of women. It was maternal feminists who were the main force behind things like the temperance movement, women's suffrage, unions, and the huge societal reforms of the early 1900's, which included everything from improving orphanages to reforming prisons. We sometimes refer to these women as the "first wave" of feminism. For many of these women they saw political and social involvement as part of their God given responsibilities as women and mothers. As Nellie McClung, a Canadian women’s rights leader wrote,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Favorite Story about My Dad

Last Sunday was Father's Day here in the United States and since it always seems like I am three steps behind in life, I am once again going to post a belated Father's Day post. I have lots of good stories about my Dad but my very favorite story happened when I was about 15-years-old and was attending my fourth year of girl's camp. Our Ward always attended a Stake Camp at a church owned camp called Darby, nestled at the base of the Teton Mountains in Idaho. It is a beautiful camp and I have many, many happy memories from my years there. One of the best parts about the camp was that it was really close to some incredible hiking places and we got to go on some really great hikes. My Dad loves to hike and so he would always volunteer to come up to camp on hiking day and help guide some of the hikes. I don't know if he has ever realized how much that meant to me, but for me the best part of girl's camp was always hiking with my Dad.

The hike that all the girls aimed for was to hike Table Rock in their fourth year. This was the hardest hike and was nearly 12 miles long and gained 4,000 feet in elevation as you went up. It was a strenuous hike that put you at the top of a large, flat rock right in between the Teton Mountains. For three years I'd watched the older girls make the hike and come back exhausted, but exhilarated by the incredible view and the shear accomplishment of tackling a mountain. I was very much looking forward to climbing Table Rock and was excited to do it with my Dad.

Table Rock Mountain is the flat plateau
He'd arranged to come up the night before the hike, but something (I can't remember what) prevented him so he sent word he would be there in the morning at 7 AM to meet us for the hike. That night we had our hiking meeting and I was horrified to learn that we'd be leaving at 5 AM the next morning and not 7 AM like my Dad was planning on. It was too late to get word to my Dad and since this was before the days when cell phones were popular there really was no way to reach him the next morning. The leaders decided they would just have to go ahead without him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eve: In the Beginning {Book Review}

Way back in February I was asked if I'd be willing to review H.B. Moore's new book, "Eve: In the Beginning." It has taken me such a long time to get around to it that I sort of feel bad, but I figure that it is better late than never. I think it took me such a long time to read it because they sent me an ebook version of the story and I really don't like reading ebooks... at all. In fact, I've decided that I probably shouldn't agree to do book reviews unless they send me a hard copy, or it will take me nearly six months to get it done!

Okay with that out of the way... on to the review.

Moore's book is a retelling of the Adam and Eve story, alternating between both of their viewpoints. It follows them from the Garden of Eden into the Fallen World up until they have their first son Cain. I enjoyed how Moore portrayed Eve and thought she did a good job of helping readers understand the struggles that Adam and Eve would have gone through, especially after their fall from the Garden of Eden. In fact, I think that I liked the second half of the book, the part after they leave the Garden of Eden, best. Mostly because I think it if fun to think about how life would have been for Adam and Eve as the first people on the earth, and how they would have had to figure things out for themselves. I also enjoyed Moore's depiction of Satan and especially with Eve's struggle with Him, I think Moore really did a good job on that part.

In the preface of the book Moore states that she drew from several different religious traditions to write the story, and that it doesn't profess the beliefs of any one faith. I could see that in her book because a lot of what she writes is speculation, myth, or personal ideas about our First Parents. But I also felt like her perspective was overwhelmingly an LDS perspective on Eve, the Garden and the Fall. In fact, there were times when reading the book felt like watching parts of the temple videos. She didn't share anything inappropriate but I felt the whole time I was reading it that everything was pretty familiar, and that I'd already heard the same story, told the same way before.

Even so, I think that the LDS perspective on Eve is one of the greatest strengths of the book and is what could make it AWESOME for people who are not LDS to read. In fact, I think that this book would be a great gift to give to someone from a different religious background because it presents Eve in such a different, positive light, than how most religions usually portray her, and does it in a fun engaging way. 

Overall I enjoyed the book and really liked Moore's insights and thoughts about Adam and Eve and the Fall. I think she did a good job and really made them come alive.  It did take me a long time to read which I think was one, because the books moved a bit slow (at least for me) and because I was reading it as an ebook, which I don't enjoy. But this would make a good summer read, and a good gift for someone in your life who needs a new, and in my opinion, better perspective on Eve and the Fall.

You can read more reviews and purchase "Eve: In the Beginning" on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Divorce is as Hard as Death

Eleven years ago my aunt died. She was an incredible person-- beautiful, vivacious, kind. Her death was completely unexpected and it was a tragic shock for her three daughters and for our entire extended family. When my Dad called to tell me she had died I was at work, and since I was living near my aunt and uncle's I headed straight to their home after I got off. When I got there the room was dim and full of people mourning and comforting my uncle and his daughters. For a long time I sat with my arm around my cousin (we are about the same age) as we mourned the loss of a great woman. We shared stories about her, we looked at pictures, and we cried together until our faces were raw . It was a sad night but there was something sacred and holy about it as well.

Three days after my aunt's funeral I got another phone call from my dad, this time much more frantic and upset, telling me that he had come home to find a moving truck emptying our house of all the furniture and a note saying that my mother was leaving him. She'd taken my two sisters and he didn't know where they were. In those moments as I cried with my father on the phone it felt like the world had come crashing down. My mother had been struggling with mental health issues for years, but things had been going better and I hadn't been expecting this.

I went through the rest of the day in a daze and that night I headed to my grandmother's house in Salt Lake City to spend the night before driving home to Idaho to be with my Dad. I've never felt more alone than I did that night. I laid on the couch in my Grandmother's parlor and my wonderful, saint of an aunt held my head in her lap as I bawled. She didn't say much but just stroked my hair as my heart bled out through my eyes. 

I arrived home to find our house almost completely empty and life as I had known it for twenty years over-- just like that.

No funeral, no flowers, no cards, no meals from neighbors. No crowd gathered in my home to comfort and mourn with me. No happy stories to remember, no eulogies, or assurances that we would be a family forever. No grave to commemorate what once was. Just a lot of hurt feelings, unkind words, confusion, and anger.

Me and my siblings when I was about 12. I'm the one hiding behind the car on the left.

It has been more than 11 years now that my parents have been divorced. It has been a hard 11 years, with lots of additional struggles and heartaches. Both my parents are remarried, which has brought some big ups and downs, and we have all worked hard to make things work.

I've been thinking about writing this post for several years now, but have always chickened out. It is still a topic and a wound that is easily re-opened. Yet, I've been feeling strongly that I just needed to  acknowledge for a moment that divorce is every bit as hard as a death.

I think because the death of my aunt and my parents divorce happened so close together I really realized how similar they were. I realize that loosing ones mother and having your parents get divorced isn't exactly a straight across trade, but I think that in many ways the feelings are really quite similar. In each situation a family goes through an irreparable loss, they have lost something or someone that will never be able to be fixed or replaced. A divorce is a death of a family, of dreams, promises, and plans and I think it can hurt just as much as loosing a loved one.

In fact, I wish that as a society we treated divorce more like we do a death. That instead of trying to sweep the broken pieces aside in embarrassment and anger, that we took more time to mourn. Time to acknowledge a loss of dreams and expectations, time to acknowledge the hurt that everyone is going through. More time focusing on the good in people rather than the bad, more time speaking kind words rather than mean ones, and more time remembering the happy memories rather than all the bad things that were done and said.

Yet, I think the problem is that too often divorce is so seeped in anger, on both sides, that it doesn't allow room for real love, compassion, or kindness. It seems to me that when someone dies it is easy to forget, or minimize the bad. The person is gone, and so why hold on to  hard feelings? It is easy to focus on the positive aspects of a person when they die, but with divorce it is just the opposite. Both sides have to justify who is right and who is wrong and so every mean and unkind things that can be thought of is dug up and thrown around. I think the anger prevents healing and is the real tragedy of divorce, because anger always destroys.

As I have thought about it over the years I've decided it would be kind of nice if we could hold funeral services for and even dedicate "graves" to broken families. That it would be healing to have a place where you could consciously let go of what was broken and gone, a place where you could (symbolically) bury what had been and now  never will be again, while still holding on to all the good parts--  the memories, the joys, the pictures, the happiness, and all the things that made you a family before.

Because here is what I have learned in 11 years, that love is more powerful than anger. Anger always destroys and it never makes anything better. Holding on to anger is like drinking poison hoping that it will hurt someone else, when the reality is that it just eats at you from the inside out. I've learned that loving people, even when they are completely unlovable, can work miracles. That when we choose to love Christ can do amazing things and make hopeless situations better. I have seen first hand how anger can destroy and I have seen first hand how love can heal, and I promise you love is always the better choice, especially when it is the harder one.

So I guess here is the bottom line of this post; that if you, someone you love, or even someone you barely know has gone or is going through a divorce love them like you would if they were going through a death. Don't leave them alone, cry with them, feed them, comfort them, and don't judge them. I've learned that there is always a grain of truth on BOTH sides of the story, and that both sides can be right. It is always better to just love people, rather than try to decide who is to blame more than who. Love everyone, no matter what they have done, because the alternative is to be angry and victimized which really stinks ... trust me on that one.

I know that for me it has helped to think of my parent's divorce as a death, to allow myself to grieve, to ache, to cry, and to mourn for what was and what could have been. To acknowledge that I've experienced a huge loss, something that only Christ and His miraculous atonement can make better. I have also learned that love is always a choice and just because someone has hurt you it doesn't mean you have to stop loving them. Let them hurt you again-- no-- but love them for who they were, who they are, and who they can become--yes.

Divorce really is as hard as death, but just like love can heal the sting of death, love can also heal the sting of divorce. In fact, I am coming to see that Christ's love can fix just about anything, no matter how broken and shattered.

Eleven years down the road, I still miss the family that could have been but I can see how God has taken the pieces and created something beautiful. It hasn't been (and still isn't) an easy process but I am learning to trust Him, to let go of my expectations and trust that He is the master builder and the master healer. My family doesn't look anything like I once thought it would, but you know what, we have come a long, long way together and I can see that Christ is shaping us into something broken, but still beautiful.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Climb Up Jacob's Ladder

Several weeks ago I was asked to write about my personal journey with the temple, about how I felt the first time I went, how I have learned and progressed in my understanding and appreciation of the temple, and how I have handled questions or concerns about temple worship. This was really a beautiful thing for me to reflect on and I am excited to share my experience. I hope that you will realize that this is my personal experience and that everyone's temple experience and journey is going to be different and unique. I hope that by sharing mine you can feel my testimony of the temple and know that it is okay to not have all the answers. If you would like to more know about temples this is a wonderful introduction.

I went to the temple the first time when I was 12, to do baptisms for the dead. I remember walking into the Idaho Falls Temple and being astonished that not everything was white! I'd always assumed the temple would be completely white inside, just like it was on the outside. It surprised me to see paintings, murals, green carpet, and brown seats instead of the pure white I was certain I would find. Even though the temple was beautiful, it was very different from what I'd been expecting. I think it was then that I first realized that the temple would probably not ever be what I had imagined, but that it would most likely be for the better.

I had some powerful spiritual experiences as a youth during those baptismal temple trips that really helped me gain a testimony of the temple. I remember one time in particular when, as I was waiting for my turn to be baptized, that I felt the spirit of one of the women whose name I was going to do. I felt her like she was standing next to me and it was an incredible feeling. I realized that what I was doing, what I was participating in-- was real-- and that there were things happening in the temple that I could not see.

Over the next decade of my life I continued to attend the temple to do baptisms for the dead, was faithful about personal prayer and daily scripture study, and was active in all my church responsibilities. Yet as I neared my 20th birthday I began to have a hunger, a spiritual hunger, like I had never experienced before. I had so many questions and I felt like no one had the answers. I struggled with questions with women and the church, women and the priesthood, women in the scriptures, women in the world, women in politics, and just about every other topic you can think of to stew and worry over women. I'd done a lot of searching, studying, pondering, praying and crying about it but I felt like I was just not understanding things how I wanted. People kept telling me to put my questions on a "shelf" to wait patiently to have answered in heaven, but the problem was that my shelf was getting too heavy. I had so many questions.

I remember one night having a heartfelt discussion with my dad about the gospel, particularly about the story of Adam and Eve. The conversation ended with me exclaiming "Dad, I just feel like I am beating my head on a brick wall! There has to be more to understand and I just feel like I can't get at it. It is so frustrating." He, oh so sweetly, looked at me and just said, " Heather you are going to love the temple." In fact, the answer that I got to most of my questions, over and over again was, "You are going to love the temple."

And I did, but maybe not in the way that everyone expected I would.