Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hannah's Vow

"Samuel Dedicated by Hannah" by Frank Topham
I have been reading the Old Testament again, this time to mark the women in it and because Cedar Fort asked me to do a book on the women of the Old Testament. It won't be out for several years still, but I figured I'd better start studying. The last several weeks I have been in the book of 1 Samuel, which begins with the story of Hannah. 

I've always loved Hannah's story and have been impressed not only with her faith and her integrity, but also with her relationship with her husband Elkanah. He is exceptionally good and compassionate to Hannah in her trial, telling her,  "Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons? "  (1 Sam. 1:8) Those words indicate to me that Elkanah was trying to remind Hannah that her worth as a woman was not dependent upon her ability to bear children and that she had innate worth, no matter what her situation. In addition Elkanah was unwavering in his support of Hannah's promise to the Lord to dedicate their son Samuel to the Lord's service in the temple.

As I studied Hannah's story this time I made a connection I hadn't made before about  the type of vow that Hannah made to God, and how Elkanah's support was crucial in her being able to fulfill it. In Numbers 30 it outlines the Mosaic law pertaining to vows made to the Lord. Both men and women were allowed to make vows, or personal covenants to God, but the situations were a bit different for women than for men. For men the law stated,
"If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." (Numbers 30:2)

For women the law was very similar but gave several exceptions. For example if a woman was in her youth, and still in her father's house, she could swear a vow but she would only be held to it if her father allowed her to keep her vow. In Numbers 30:3-4 it says,

"And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.
But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her."

If a woman was married the law was similar. She could make a vow, but the Lord would only hold her to it if her husband supported her in her vow. Numbers 30: 6-8

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Life is Full of Typos

It won't come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly that typos are my tragic flaw. I try my hardest to proofread and re-read my writing, but no matter how hard I try there are always typos. Most of the time I just don't see them at all, even if I read my writing out loud I still miss things. Later when they are pointed out to me it often astounds me how I could have missed something so obvious. 

I am acutely aware of my weakness, and lately I have been paralyzed by it. It has been excruciating for me to write anything, even just an email or a Facebook update, because I am afraid I will make a mistake. I'm to the point where I have been so worried about it that I don't want to write anything. I don't care so much about the mistakes, but it is hard knowing that other people do. 

I appreciate it when people point out my typos and my mistakes so I can become better, but the truth is that it is always hard. Kind of like when your friend tells you that you've had your dress tucked into your underwear all day. You're grateful to fix it, but also mortified it was there in the first place. It would be nice if I could just avoid those type of situations... but I never seem to be able to. 

Just to illustrate, several weeks ago when I wrote my post about women and the priesthood I proofread it several times and was confident it was good. I posted it and then immediately realized that I had misspelled "priesthood"  in the title of the post. I quickly fixed it, but since I had already posted it, the title was still spelled wrong in the link. This meant that whenever it was shared via social media the title was displayed showing the misspelled word, even though I'd already corrected it. I am not tech savvy enough to know how to change the url link and so I figured that people would jut have to bear with it. Later it made me smile because it seemed fitting that the ONE post I have ever written that has gone "viral" was a post where I'd misspelled a word in the title. 

I think it was God's way of keeping me humble. 

I have been thinking a lot about this flaw of mine lately and how it seems to be a good analogy for my life. In fact my husband says that typos are an innate part of my personality. According to him, one the things that he loves about me is that I don't notice typos-- not in my work and not in other people's work. "You see things," he told me, "especially people, for who they are as a whole and don't care so much about the mistakes. What you care about is if the heart of something, in writing and in people, is genuine, true, and good; if it is you don't care about the typos." 

I'd like to think that this was true, and that what I perceive as one of my greatest character flaws could also be one of my greatest strengths. It is much better than thinking I am just an airhead who can't spell.

Yet as I've thought about my husband's words,  I've realized that we all have our "typos", our mistakes, our tragic flaws, our weaknesses. It is so easy to feel paralyzed by them and to let fear and shame run your life. What I am beginning to understand is that mistakes are not always as bad as we, and others, sometimes make them out to be. Remember when God told Ether, 
"I give unto men weakness that they may be humble... for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

I know that those words are true, and that often it is our tragic flaws, the weaknesses we continually struggle with, that are (and can be) our greatest strengths. Because it is our weaknesses and our mistakes that give us perspective, experience and understanding. It is our weaknesses that fill us with compassion for others, keep our hearts soft and humble, and help us see the world through a different lenses.

 I know that each of us struggle with our own weaknesses and our lives are full of typos. Yet, no matter what our challenges  are I think it is so important to remember to always be kind with ourselves, and with others. Our weaknesses are an important part of us but they don't define who we are or what we can become.

So here's the deal I want to make with you: I promise not to judge your typos,  if you won't judge mine. 

Though, please, if I have my dress tucked into my underwear, I still hope you'll find a nice way to tell me. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Vintage Bible Flannel Board Figures {Guess the Women} Win them ALL!

Awhile ago our church library was cleaning out its shelves and during the process I inherited all the old flannel board story figures. There were over 30 stories from the Bible, The Book of Mormon, Church History, and a few random ones. No one else in our ward was interested in them but I considered it a real treasure!

The figures all are mixed together and I don't have the original stories to go with them, so sometimes figuring out which story is which has been a really funny experience. In fact, my kids favorite game to play with them is to have each person randomly select four or five figures and make up a story with them. We've had some pretty wild stories!

I've been spring cleaning and have decided that even though we've had fun with these, that I am ready to part with them. So I'd like to give ALL of them away to one of my readers, someone who will appreciate them and put them to good use. To determine who this lucky person is I am going to have a bit of a contest. 

I was happily surprised with how many stories about women the flannel board stories included! There were way more than I expected. So my contest is to see who can correctly identify the MOST women out of some of the figures from the stories. I'll be honest and say that some of them I am not 100% sure on, so there is certainly some wiggle room and if you feel the need to explain or defend your answer then certainly do... it might help. 

To be fair don't read any of the other entries before you post your own (this is on your honor). The stories are from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. The person who gets the most correct will win the flannel stories. Good luck!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Through Inspiration: LDS Hymns Composed By Women by Kirsten Metcalf

Music is an important and sacred part of worship. The scriptures tell us to “praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving” (D&C 136:28). Several Church leaders have also expressed their love of music and the power music has over us. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. once said, “We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”

Church hymns are known to invite the spirit into our Church meetings and activities and into our homes when we sing and play them. These hymns, written by several of God’s servants, help convert people to certain gospel principles and foster spiritual growth. Several inspired women wrote many of the hymns we love and sing often today.

Eliza R. Snow — “O My Father”

Eliza Roxcy Snow was the older sister of President Lorenzo Snow. She was a brilliant student and was quite famous for her poems by the time she joined the Church in 1835.

Eliza once said, “To be able to do Father’s will is what I wish to live for.” And that she did throughout her life by holding different Church positions and through her uplifting and hopeful poems and songs she wrote. Eliza served as the second general president of the Relief Society (1866-1887) and was also the first president of Deseret Hospital.

Besides being a general president of the Relief Society, she is most known as being “Zion’s Poetess.” She published volumes of hymns, tune books, and poetry, and even wrote more than 500 poems. She spent much of her lifetime writing and had many of her poems set to music. Many of her songs, because they spoke of peace and hope, brought comfort to the Saints as they migrated to Utah. While Eliza wrote 10 current hymns in the LDS hymnbook, “O My Father,” written in Nauvoo in 1843, is one she’s most remembered for.

Eliza was born with a poetic gift, and because of her gift and desire to do the Lord’s will, she’s touched the heart and ears of many through her hymns.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Biggest Battle that Ever was Won

For the last several months I have been wrestling with a trial of the soul. It is one that has brought me to my knees again and again and has had me crying out for relief. In many ways I feel a bit like Job, whom the Lord allowed Satan to tempt and persecute, not because of anything wrong that Job had done but because Job needed to know what it felt like to struggle and to turn to the Lord.

As a child I was taught to imagine Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane suffering and bleeding and to ask, "How many drops were shed for me?"  The image of Christ bleeding for my sins has been a powerful image in my life and I have felt guilt and sadness imagining that I added to the already heavy burden of Jesus's load. Yet recently, I have felt my understanding of the Atonement deepen. I've realized that the Atonement was not just about suffering the darkness, despair and anguish of our trials and sins, but it was also an enabling power that conquered the powers of darkness and death.

If I were an artist the image I would paint would be of Jesus kneeling in the Garden, while every devil and force of darkness in the world gathered around, throwing everything they had at Him. In my mind His agony in the Garden wasn't just sorrow for sin, but also a battle against evil. He took on Satan and all the evil of the universe by Himself.  He felt the full weight of the powers of darkness-- the very worst-- and did not get lost or over come by it.  He conquered them, and because He did it we can do it. 

In "Walking with the Women of the New Testament" I wrote this about Jesus's experiences in the Garden of Gethsemane, 

"...Christ, the most perfect of all, "descended below them all" (D&C 122:8). In His hours in the Garden, Christ felt all our misery. He felt the chains of darkness wrap around Him and felt the despairing gloom, anger, and fear that threatened to overcome His power. Yet the glory of His Atonement is that He was not overcome by the darkness; He found a way out. Consequently, His message to each of us is "come, follow me" (Luke 18:22). He invites us to turn towards Him and follow Him because He, and only He knows the way out-- out of sin, out of darkness and out of despair." (Page  78)

I have felt the truth of those words over and over. There are times when I feel like the trials in my life are like wading through midst of darkness and confusion, times when I feel like I would like to give in to them and give up, and times when I feel like a totally lost and hopeless cause. Yet, the power of the Atonement in my life is that I know that there is a way out. There is a way to be happy when you feel like you will never be happy again, there is a way to repair what seems broken beyond repair, there is power to be found when you are weak, and there is a way to find hope and faith when it feels like you have no hope.

The miracle for me this Easter season is that He felt it all, all the evil and pain of this world, and found the way out... and all I have to do is follow Him.