Saturday, February 20, 2016

Counseling Together in a Marriage: An Example from Jacob, Leah and Rachel

When my husband and I were first married the best advice we got from our parents was, "Always say a prayer together before discussing money." We have always tried to follow that counsel and not only has it helped us manage our household better, but it was also the first way we learned to counsel together as husband and wife. We learned how to pray together before discussing hard topics, we learned to listen to one another's viewpoints, to respect the revelation received by the other person, and we learned how keep our voices kind. Later on in our marriage we began doing weekly Family Executive Council (FEC) which has been a big blessing to our family. We use to be good about doing it every week, which we need to get back to doing. Now it seems we usually only have one when things reach a crisis point!

The pattern of counseling together is one that has been taught repeatedly by our church leaders. They have  stressed the importance of holding regular counsels, at the Stake, Ward and family level. The point of a counsel is to listen to everyone's viewpoint and then work together to figure out what God wold like you to do, not what you want to do. This is an important principle for any organization but nowhere is counseling together more important than in a marriage, where both the husband and the wife have equal stewardship and authority over their family.

There is a really great story in the scriptures that models what counseling together in marriage looks like. It is the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah in Genesis 31. If you remember, Jacob was the son of Issac and Rebekah and the twin brother of Esau. When Jacob received the birthright Esau was angry and Jacob's parents were afraid he would kill him. So his parents sent Jacob to go live with his Uncle Laban in Padan-aram and to seek a wife from among his family. Jacob ended up staying with Laban for many years and married two of his daughters, Leah and Rachel. After marrying Rachel and Leah Jacob worked with his father-in-law Laban as a shepherd for a long time. Even though Laban was never honest or fair with him, Jacob's riches began to eclipse those of Laban. This made Laban and his son's jealous and eventually, things between  Laban and Jacob reach a crisis point. As it says in Genesis 31:2, "...Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and behold, it as not towards him as before." 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Too Many "Speedo-ish" Dresses Worn to Dances

Here is the original illustration that went along with the story 
I wrote this opinion piece when I was 16 years-old for my High School newspaper. It came from a talk we had one day in the journalism room with some of the Senior boys, who hated asking girls out to dances because they never knew what type of dress they'd have to dance with all night. It sort of went "viral" at my high school and was the first time I'd ever gotten attention for writing, good and bad. I consider it a pretty pivotal piece in my writing "career", because it made me realize that if you said things well people would listen to you. 

A few years ago my step-sister sent me a text telling me that her Seminary teacher had read it to them in her class. Apparently even 12 years later it was still a hit. I begged her to get me a copy of it and she sent me a photocopy of the original piece. I recently found it at the bottom of a drawer and thought I'd share it. 

Please remember this was written by my 16-year-old self. The title of the post is the original headline it had in the school paper and I have kept it just as I wrote it, punctuation and everything. I think the Speedo analogy is still a good one, but it has taken a lot of self-control to not change things, because I'm sure today I wouldn't use words like "disgust"  or "extreme public humiliation" when talking about other people. We all grow as writers and as people. So just keep that in mind. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

What Does it Mean for a Woman to be "Unclean" in the Bible?

There is one word in the Bible that bothered me for a long time. It was the word unclean, especially when it was used in connection with menstruation, childbirth, sexual intimacy and women's bodies. For example in Leviticus 15 it says this,
"And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean." (Lev. 15:9-20)
These scriptures go on for thirteen more verses explaining all the ways women can be unclean during menstruation. In Leviticus 12 it explains how a woman is unclean after childbirth, and how she is doubly unclean after giving birth to a girl. It seems like the Bible is filled with examples of how a woman's body, especially the blood she sheds, is unclean. So unclean in fact, that just being around a woman who is bleeding can make you unclean.

This all really bothered me. I know that are there are some women who were taught to be ashamed of their ability to menstruate, or who are embarrassed or inconvenienced by it,  but my mother did a wonderful job instilling in me the beauty, joy, and responsibility of having a female body. I'd been taught at home, and in church, that things like menstruation, childbirth and sexual intimacy were good things, ways designed to bring new life into the world, and that they were important parts of fulfilling God's plan for His children. It confused me why God would call them "unclean" and even require extensive rituals to become "clean" from them.

When I was writing Walking with the Women of the New Testament I did some research about the Woman with an Issue of Blood. I was interested in knowing what she would have experienced and why she was considered to be unclean. The first thing I learned was that the Hebrew word that is translated as "unclean" in the KJV is the word tuma and it does not mean "dirty" or "contaminated".

Monday, February 8, 2016

If You Ever Wanted to Learn Ancient Greek

I've had a goal to learn ancient Greek for a long time. It first began with my high school journalism teacher who loved the language and would often write Greek words on the white board when he taught. My senior year I even convinced him to give me Greek lessons before school started, which he did for about a semester. My husband Jon even has a degree in Classical Studies (Latin and Greek) from BYU. When people ask why he studied something so obscure he replies, "To catch Heather", because I was completely attracted to him when I found out he was studying Latin and Greek. Turns out that he was better suited to be an engineer (which he got his Master's degree in). I'm pretty sure that if he'd been studying engineering when I met him that I wouldn't have given him a serious look. Sometimes he jokes that we should have switched majors in college, because I would have loved his classes... which is probably true.

Since I missed my opportunity to take Greek (and Hebrew) in college there haven't been very many other chances. I've still always wanted to learn it and to be able to read the New Testament in the original Greek. I am pretty good with a concordance, but I'd love to be able to read it for myself.

Last year one of my home school friends showed me the Greek curriculum that her 10-year-old son was doing. I skimmed through the book and workbook and got really excited. I knew that my kids weren't ready for something like that, but I sure was! When I ordered my curriculum that fall I ordered the first set for myself.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Learning and Choosing to Be Happy at Home

I originally wrote this post as a guest post for another blog (which doesn't exit anymore). I recently found it in my draft box and I am going to post it here so I don't loose it. This was written when I just had two little children (I can't believe how small they were!) and I was still trying to adjust to the instructions God had given me to stay at home with my children. I think my advice is still good... in fact I probably need to listen to myself a bit more. 

When I was 17-years-old one of my best friends and I were sitting backstage at play rehearsal. I can't remember now what prompted it but I remember that I turned to her and told her,

"Promise me, cross your heart and swear to die, that if I ever call you and tell you that I am getting married before the age of 24, have a baby before I get my Master's Degree or decide to be a stay-at-home mom that you will kidnap me and hit me with a baseball bat- even if I tell you I am happy-- just remind me of what I told you today."

She promised, because she could see I spoke those words in dead seriousness. I really meant them. In my 17-year-old mind getting married young, not having an advanced degree, having a house full of babies, and having no career outside of your home were the epitome of failure. Those were all the things that "ordinary" LDS women did and I was certain that they were all faking happiness. I was certain that I was not, and was never going to be, one of those "ordinary" LDS women.

Well, ten years later I am truly grateful that my friend seems to have forgotten her oath, because it turned out that I got married at 21, passed up the opportunity to do my Master's degree to have a baby, chose to be a stay-at-home mom full time instead of continuing with my career path, and fully intend (if God wills it) to have a house full of babies. Basically, according to my 17 year-old self, I am a failure.