Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Revelation

This is the last week of seminary. We've been studying the book of Revelation, which Joseph Smith called "one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written." I'm glad he felt that way because we normal folks call it "scary stuff that freaks kids out".

A few things stood out to me. First of all, an increased appreciation for John, the one commissioned of the Savior to receive and record the revelations. What a life he had, from witnessing countless miracles such as the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:35-42); being on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9); and being witness our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 26); to continuing the work after Jesus' mortal ministry where he was eventually exiled to the island of Patmos and received this vision. That's not to mention the super-amazing request he made to "tarry" until Jesus came again to the earth (John 21:21-23), to minister here and not die until Christ comes in his glory. I can't even fathom that, nor understand the daily doings of one who does not taste death; that is a mystery to me. But the fact that he would choose to stay, knowing the destruction and wickedness that comes with the end of the world, is a testament to his devotion to the work and the cause.

Another thing that touched me is the REASON this revelation was given. I used to think it was to scare us to "straighten up and fly right" because we'd now been warned. But I came to understand that it is also given to comfort us--that God knows the end from the beginning. Yes, calamities, disease, and wars will rage and wickedness will abound. But how does it all end? With good triumphing over evil. With peace and joy. Taking that into my own life, if He knows that--the outcome of the entire earth's history and eventual glory--does He not know ME and the plans for MY life? I find that to be a great strength.

The last thing has come to me more strongly since hearing about the devastating tornado in Oklahoma this week. The book of Revelation talks about many horrible disasters in the last days and it seems like we are hearing of more and more of this come to pass every year. So very sad. Something I read in my study was this, from Joseph Smith:

"It is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgements, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and 'the righteous shall hardly escape;' still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reasons of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God."

Hardships and trials, even destruction and death--these affect both the righteous and wicked. Matthew 5:45 says "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Those people who lost loved ones this week are in my prayers because no matter how firmly you believe that there is a plan, their poor hearts are broken. That's the real difficulty in all of this and I wish I could see with heavenly eyes and feel with a heavenly heart to make sense of it all. It's no wonder that John used such frightening-sounding imagery in describing the calamities and devastation that will befall many of us in the last days. I have no doubt that many wonderful, innocent people lost their lives that day--that the rain fell on the just--and to us, it just doesn't seem fair. However, if God knows the end from the beginning, who are we to say that this exit from mortality (which we will all have to face) was not exactly what He had planned and that those souls are now progressing more quickly than they could have had they stayed here? Not easy to accept, not easy to let go, but perhaps a comfort nonetheless.

I am grateful for the book of Revelation--the last book placed in the Bible but written before John wrote his first epistle (1 John).

(Did you know that? That when scholars were grouping the different letters, epistles, and accounts they started with the four Gospels because those were about Christ's mortal ministry; then moved to Acts because that was an overview of the activities and doings of the Apostles; then came all the letters. At first the book of Revelation was not included in the Bible. However, when scholars agreed that it was important they put it at the end.)

I cannot yet say as Brother Joseph that the book is "plain" to me but I do have a greater understanding and appreciation for the mighty prophesies revealed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stuff I Like

--Yoga. I love that feeling of bending and twisting and burning and getting stronger. I prefer more cardio-intense versions over the peaceful, relaxing kind--I especially like Ashtanga, or power yoga. That kicks my butt every time. I like being in touch with my body's limitations and strengths and taking note of how each part can improve (unlike a killer aerobics-type class, where all I feel is my heart thumping, my head hurting, and my strong desire to fall on the floor). Yoga helps me connect to one of my core wellness beliefs, which is to honor the temple that houses my spirit. I enjoy the inner power and peace that comes with that final Namaste.

--Berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries--I eat them every day.

--The TV show Bates Motel. Great writing and acting. Scary, fascinating, sweet, and unnerving all at once.

--Losing 20 pounds (yes, one more than when I last wrote). Slow and steady, yo.

--That Bryce cleaned our bathroom spotless. Wow, it shined when I came home from chaperoning Tyce's choir trip to Magic Mountain. We have three kids who share our bathroom (which is ridiculous, but whatever) and they are neither tidy nor conscientious about their clothes on the floor or toothpaste in the sink. But now it looks like grown-ups live there and it is quite nice.

--My kids' teachers. I have really enjoyed getting to know them as people and they are wonderful human beings. I am grateful for all they give of their time and talents to my children.

--Words with Friends. When life is too much, I can play a word game on my phone and escape for a while.

--My blender. I make a smoothie every day. (My favorite: spinach leaves, raspberries, small orange, plain Greek yogurt, and chia seeds.)

--Drought-tolerant plants. Thank goodness they exist and that I can put one in a pot on my porch and not kill it.

--Hot pink toenail polish. Why? I don't know. I just like it, probably because it makes me look tan. Next to red, it's my favorite color.

--Walking. I haven't done it much lately for exercise other than taking Katie out for a stretch because it's gotten so summery here (over 100 degrees) but I enjoy that time to think.

--That Mary and I wear the same shoe size. It would seem that this would benefit her more than me (as I have a lot more footwear) but it goes both ways. Sometimes I buy her a pair I wouldn't buy for myself but then the perfect outfit comes in to play and her shoes are the perfect complement. But mostly it gives me peace of mind when she's freaking out that she can't find what she wore yesterday; I can say, "Here. Wear these. Now get in the car!" (As you may suspect, those shoes become hers forever after that.)

--Sleep. Oh man, I don't feel like we get enough of that but it sure is nice on those rare occasions we wake up refreshed.

--When Tyce and Mary play the piano. They are very, very good at what they play and I love to hear that beautiful music throughout the house.

This is just a little sampling of what makes me happy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A for Effort, F for Customer Satisfaction

That's how motherhood feels to me at the moment.

I didn't become a mom to receive praise or even appreciation--I know who I am, what I'm doing, and I'm confident that I'm doing my best. Two of my kids tested that core belief yesterday on the holy grail of parenting holidays: Mother's Day. One of them refused to do anything helpful or nice, and the other completely ignored me, a passive-aggressive holdover from the day before (as in no eye contact, no words--nothing). This is actually not that unusual except that it seemed amplified on a day with such high expectations. All I wanted was for all my children to go to church with me and they couldn't even do that.

I never understood how some women had a hard time on Mother's Day. But now I get it. You see those sweet Primary kids sing at church and think, "I had some of those, but I don't know where they went." When they're young they want to please you, to make you happy. They can't wait to give you the craft they made. And when they get older they want to pretend you don't exist.

It's times like these that make me say, Lord, please tell me you know what you're doing because this life is pretty unpleasant.

I know that when certain kids can hardly handle their own lives it's pretty hard to give anything to anyone else. I know it--but if I could just switch off my feelings then it wouldn't hurt so much.

(Yes, it did hurt. I wish I could say that I'm bigger than that but I'm not.)

But looking beyond my pain, I am grateful for a loving husband who shows and tells me how appreciative he is of me. He and the other two kids did their best to make me feel special and I did. I am grateful for my own wonderful mom and for Bryce's mom, who are examples of love and goodness. I am grateful for my friends who are mothers and for those who have mothering hearts. I learn from them every day how to better bless my own family.

I know that motherhood is an eternal calling and I am thankful for that. It gives me hope that when things shake out in the eternities, I will be able to take all I know and have to offer and be the best version of what my children so desperately need but are unable to accept at this time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Latest

Some things that have happened lately:

Cameron was Colt of the Month! I was so proud of him. He has improved his focus and concentration in class and his grades show it. He started meds for ADHD recently and it has made a world of difference. Before, he would flit from activity to activity, provoke Harrison because he was bored, interrupt his own sentences because he got distracted by another thought. Now he can sit for literally hours and work on an art project or build a Lego creation. He still pesters but it seems to be less than before. I think he must be happier because he's able to complete things and he is more pleasant to be around. He really  is a sweet boy.

Cameron and I at his award ceremony in the courtyard.

Katie had a birthday. On May 1st she turned 3. She had a hamburger patty for a cake and later I found her chewing on the number 3 candle, looking guilty.

Bryce chaperoned Tyce's chamber choir trip to . . . Disneyland! Finally, a perk of being an involved parent. Just kidding, but Bryce had an awesome time with the other parents and the kids. Tyce did too, of course. The highlight of the trip was the competition aspect. First they practiced in a beautiful church and received instruction from a music professor on how to arrange the singers; she tested each person for their unique sound and then placed them in an order than would make for the best blend. Bryce said it was a fascinating process. When they performed for the judges they blew everyone away; the contest announcer said he'd never felt such a spirit from a choir before. At the awards ceremony it was an awesome feeling to find out they'd won 1st place and swept the competition! Johnnie and Nick went on stage to accept the award and Nick did a back flip. This made the crowd go crazy and made the MC sputter, "Well. Hm. Don't do that. No one else do anything like that."

Of course Disneyland was super fun and Mr. Duff said it was the best trip he'd ever taken a choir on. That's quite a compliment but not a surprise, as this is an amazing group of kids.

Mary is on chapter 25 of the book she's writing. It fills up 6 spiral notebooks so far. My favorite time of day with her is when she comes home from school and says, "Can I read you my book?" We settle into the living room and she takes me into the fantasy world she's created. She is an amazing writer and I am awestruck at her creativity and the complexity of her plot lines. I am a somewhat creative person (within my sphere) but she is above and beyond anyone I've ever known in real life.

Harrison has really enjoyed Bryce reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" to the boys at night. Cameron falls asleep quickly but Harrison (a night owl) stays awake as long as he can. When I took a turn reading, Harrison filled me in on everything in perfect detail. He has also loved riding the rip stick (like a wobbly skateboard) around the neighborhood and plays with the neighbor kids every single day. He is an incredibly active kid who throws and kicks things constantly, enjoys being around people. He hardly ever sits to watch TV but he does enjoy listening to the iPod and playing games on my phone.

Cameron has a new passion: the Pittsburgh Steelers. NFL football appeared on the twins' radar just the past Super Bowl, when classmates predicted and then gloated (or cried) over the outcome. The Ravens beat the 49ers and all that talk pushed Cam to choose a favorite team himself. After much deliberation Cam decided that he was for the Cowboys. He earned some money and asked to go to the sports store to buy a Cowboys wallet he'd seen earlier. However, when he got there the wallet was gone; but he found a $5 Steelers hat and he fell in love. Now he wants to visit Pennsylvania and is obsessed with all things Steelers. He has an NFL sticker book (and Harrison has one for baseball). Cam knows all the players on his favorite team in the book (there are about 12) but he calls them all by their first names instead of their last!

I am still teaching seminary and I'm glad it's winding up. I'm losing my mojo and the kids are not as invested. I need to find a way to rally them for the last stretch. I have really enjoyed studying the New Testament though and it's been wonderful to not only read, but delve in to the history and commentary in each chapter.

In other news, I am still going strong in my lifestyle change and my eating choices have been whole foods about 90% of the time. I exercise for 30 minutes a day doing cardio routines, walking, or yoga. I feel good and as an added bonus, I have lost 19 pounds so far.

That's about all that's going on. I know I haven't been good about writing lately but I hope to get back in the swing of things soon.