Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Measure of Grace

This is a very personal post, and because of that, it's kind of hard to write. The reason I'm sharing it is for two reasons: I think my experience can help others realize the awesome power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal all wounds; and I don't want to forget what happened to me.

As preface to my story, let me say that I have been thinking a great deal lately about my testimony of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. When the LDS church began acknowledging historical documents that may cause some people to question their faith in specific people, events, or doctrines of the early restored Church, I started contemplating what, exactly, makes up my testimony. My conclusion is that my testimony and my faith are centered in Jesus Christ, and everything else is merely an adjunct to that testimony. I know He lives--not because I've seen Him with my own eyes but because I have felt the Spirit too many times as it testifies to His divinity. I've felt the power in my heart. It is a power that does not and cannot deceive.

Anyway, this was going through my head even as I once again fell into a mind trap and began feeling very depressed and self-loathing. Old habits die hard, I guess. For several days, I couldn't look in the mirror without turning away in disgust not just at my physical appearance but at the remarkable feat of my having survived 42 years on this earth without managing to accomplish one good thing or develop one good talent. It's ridiculous that I could think that way, of course, but I couldn't "logic" myself out of this thought pattern. The dark cloud of pain kept growing and growing, the pain getting more and more intense.

Finally, on a recent Friday morning, I awoke in the wee hours with this heartache piercing me to the core. Husband was peacefully asleep, so I slid out of bed to keep from waking him with my restlessness and tears. Kneeling on the floor, I began pouring my heart out in prayer, desperate for the pain to stop. For 45 minutes, I knelt, begging for healing. I listed all my fears and doubts as they tore through me. It felt like I was ripping apart.

Finally, exhausted, I slid back into bed. That's when the miracle happened. My body relaxed immediately, and my storm of emotions calmed. As if someone was reading them off of a list, all the fears I had been fighting against suddenly began running through my mind, perfectly articulated. But instead of the dread and pain I had felt before, the Spirit infused me completely, and I was at peace. Every time I questioned the peaceful feeling, the words "Be still!" echoed in my mind and I relaxed again.

I don't know how to describe what happened except that it was like having poison sucked out of me. That's how it felt. Once the well-articulated list of my doubts and fears was completed, the fear left. It just disappeared out of my mind. I felt nothing but love and peace and a sense that I was surrounded by beings of light who loved me. I was so relaxed and warm that I fell asleep and did not wake up until the alarm went off.

To this day, there is a sort of buzzing feeling where those fears once were. I can't remember them. I can't remember what, exactly, they were. I suppose that if I really wanted to, I could dig deep and pull them all back up, but I have no desire to do that. I had spiritual surgery, and I'm healed. I know I can return to old thought patterns and habits and have the same issues again, but I don't want to.

The power of Christ's Atonement was not only that He paid for the sins we all commit, but that He also dove deep below all the pain and anguish any one of us would ever feel. The Atonement literally heals, as is evidenced by my experience. I am still in awe that I would receive such a powerful answer to my prayers, and I am eternally grateful for the new insights I now have. Grace will save us if we allow it to. There is no person on the planet for whom Christ's Atonement is not in effect, for whom it cannot provide healing. No one is too bad or wrong or broken to be the exception; all are welcomed. Every single person is loved beyond his or her capacity to understand.

I'll need the Atonement's power in my life again and again, and I know it will always be there when I reach for Christ's healing love.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Playlist Report

So what can I tell you? I haven't been inspired to write anything in particular lately, and I'm not sure I have anything interesting to say now.

I'm writing a book. For the moment, I'm just vomiting words to see what happens.

I finally burned a mixed CD again. I've been slowly collecting songs I want, and I finally had enough for a shorter CD. Rather than continue to collect more songs, however, I got impatient. I know CDs are so 1990s and first decade 2000s, but I don't have a smart phone that holds music, so listening to my faves in the van is only possible with a CD.

Wanna know what I collected? Of course you do!

  1. Black & Gold by Sam Sparro 
  2. Good Intent by Kimbra (This song is about a man being tempted to stray during his marriage, but it's so cleverly done.)
  3. Gal Mithi Mithi by Amit Trivedi & Tochi Raina (So, so danceable! And so, so Indian!)
  4. Don't Stop the Music by Jamie Cullum (this is a cover of Rihanna's club dance song, but while I don't much care for Rihanna's version, this one has such incredible jazz piano chords and is so sultry that I can't stop listening to it.)
  5. The Blower's Daughter by Damien Rice (If there's an overarching story behind this song, I don't know it. I just like its poignancy.)
  6. Eyes by Kaskade (featuring Mindy Gledhill) (I love Mindy Gledhill's voice. This is good dance music when you're putting on your makeup in the morning, although I encourage you to be careful while dancing and applying eyeliner. That's from personal experience.)
  7. One by The Bee Gees (I loved this one in the early 90s. It has good memories associated with it.)
  8. Happy by Pharrell Williams (This will be one of those horribly overplayed songs very quickly, but it really is a happy song. I don't clap along because I keep my hands at 10 and 2, but I'm happy like a room without a roof!)
  9. Hunting High & Low by A-Ha (Total throwback. There's nothing wrong with a shot of A-Ha.)
  10. Won't Stop by One Republic
  11. You Win Again by The Bee Gees (see my comments for One)
  12. Say Something by A Great Big World (This is not the single featuring Christina Aguilera because that version just doesn't make sense to me. I can see one person singing these lyrics, but two? That smacks of frustrating miscommunication in this particular song, and that makes me upset. So I prefer this version. The throbbing heartbeat of the piano, the driving insistence of the cello and strings, and the sad lyrics just get me every time.)
So now you know what I'm annoying the kids with while we drive. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

What's Better Than a Love Story?

How funny is it that I've gotten some of my girls hooked on a Korean soap opera?

It's a somewhat silly teenage series based on a Japanese manga, but it sucks you in and won't let you go. Love triangles make for great drama, and because they cast some of South Korea's finest looking specimens of humanity, it's fun to look at while you root for Team Goo Jun-pyo or Team Yoon Ji-hoo. You'll have to excuse the boys' hairstyles and just assume that is what passed for highly fashionable in 2009 South Korea.

Check it out on Netflix InstantWatch: Boys Over Flowers. It's fun. Just pace yourself or you'll never get anything done.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why Does It Still Seem a Little Obscene to Say You've Googled Yourself?

One of my best friends showed up unexpectedly at my door yesterday afternoon. She came in waving a piece of paper.

"Look at this!" she exclaimed incredulously. "I went to get a copy of my medical records from [a doctor], and a copy of this guy's driver's license was in the middle of my records, not once but twice!"

I looked at the paper she was holding. Sure enough, it was a copy of the front and back of some guy's driver's license. What's more, his last name wasn't even close to hers in the alphabet, so a misfiling by proximity seemed unlikely.

"My phone died, but I wanted to call him and tell him I have this copy," she went on. "Do you have a phone book?"

I looked around a bit helplessly. I remember seeing a phone book at some point, but I could not remember where I would have put it. Who uses phone books anymore?

"I'll just grab my laptop," I said, and scurried up the stairs to fetch it.

We sat down at the table and I typed the mans' name into a Google search. Several entries popped up immediately, and I clicked on one. It happened to be his voting information, which is something I've never seen before in an internet search. As we scrolled down the page, we found his full name, spouse's name, address, phone number, political affiliation, and the number of times he's voted. I was a little shocked with the amount of information I had in my hands.

My friend borrowed my phone and called him up to inform him that the doctor's office had inadvertently given her two copies of his driver's license. (When you understand that she is extremely angry with this particular doctor, you'll understand why she was so quick to make the call. I happen to know she is very justified in her anger, as I am a witness to how she was treated.)

The man was both confused and upset by her revelation, but what probably made him the most upset was the manner in which she found his phone number. She gave him her name in case he had any further questions, and when she hung up the phone, we kind of looked at each other.

"I can't believe I have his driver's license number and all this information about him on the internet. I should have gotten his Social Security number," she joked.

I asked her if she'd ever Googled herself. Incredibly, she never had, so I typed in her name to see what would come up. We started sifting through all the search listings as she got more and more horrified at how much information was out there about her. When we looked up images, she couldn't handle it anymore. She left, laughing that she would have to take care of this.

Well, I don't know. Remember that movie with Sandra Bullock, The Net, that seemed so futuristic in 1995? I remember being fascinated with the idea that you could order a pizza from your computer and never actually have any human contact (not that that idea was entirely attractive). Now public records and all kinds of bits and pieces of information are out there about you, never to disappear. Interesting world. And I have ordered a pizza from my computer, but I went and picked it up in person, just so people could say they had met me personally. You know, in case someone tried to scrub my identity or something...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Arizona Should Pass That Legislation

Oh my! Such a can of worms has been opened in Arizona that even the Republican senators who originally backed the bill are trying to tell the cool kids that, hey! they're cool, too, and they didn't really mean to be uncool at all. I'm talking, of course, about the bill in Arizona's legislature that will allow private businesses to discriminate against any customer based on religious belief.

The horror! Oh, the humanity!

Twitter has overheated! Facebook rage runs rampant! Obviously, by passing such a law, Arizona is trying to stomp all over the LGBT community and promote hatred and hate-speech and hate-crimes and just a general overflowing of hatred all over the place. It must be the work of those nefarious and overreaching religious nut-jobs who hate blacks and gays and anyone who is different! People who proudly proclaim that they never go to church or practice any organized religion are declaring that they must know the Bible better than most schmucks who go to church, who are (to reiterate) the very clods who have brought such an awful bill to pass.

It's all very dramatic and very stupid.

So let's look beyond the merely superficial, hair-raising headlines, shall we? Let's get a bit of perspective into what is and is not freedom. Then let's talk about how so many tolerant and compassionate people are completely missing the mark.

First of all, a bill allowing private businesses to discriminate against any customer based on religious belief is not the end the of the world. Remember those "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" signs in the convenience store by the beach (or anywhere else)? Yeah, that's discrimination. Remember those "We reserve the right to refuse service to any customer for any reason" signs in restaurants and bars (not that I frequent bars, but I've been in enough to know they're there)? Yeah, that's also discrimination.

The problem is that people think "discrimination" is a bad word. If you're discriminating, you're obviously an intolerant, incompassionate, and wholly unfeeling lout. If you discriminate, it must mean you're some sort of bigot or homophobe (which is a world I detest, as it's so completely misused) and you should probably be shot at dawn in the main square after being forced to stand in the stocks overnight and be pelted with rotten vegetables and cow dung. And yet the same people who believe discrimination is evil also make choices about what brands to buy, which people to be friends with, what clothes to wear, what car to drive, and where they work. In short, everyone discriminates. To discriminate means to make a value judgement based on your beliefs, experience, perception, tastes, and understanding.

Of course, in this case, people are up in arms about the possibility that private business owners will be able to choose which customers to serve and which not to, and because the stories have made national headlines about gay couples suing private florists or bakers for not providing their services for a wedding to which the owners objected on religious grounds, discrimination for business owners must mean that business owners will now throw out the gays en masse.

Being of a libertarian mindset, I support the right of absolutely any private business to discriminate about whom they will and will not serve. Why? Not because I'm a heartless, bigoted homophobe. No, it's because I think we are all benefited by as much liberty in business as possible. I think it is absolutely immoral of the State to legislate that any private business owner must serve absolutely everyone who walks through their doors.

GASP! I can hear someone claiming that I would have supported segregation in the Old South! Maybe even slavery!

Let's be logical here. If a private business is free to discriminate, the market is much more free. Free, unfettered markets produce products and services that are based on what the public is willing to pay for. Jobs are created, creativity and ingenuity are rewarded, and people find new products they didn't know they needed before. Wealth is created this way, and anyone can get a share of that wealth by coming up with a popular product or service. Any attempt at forcing private businesses to serve one set of people or not serve another set of people gets in the way of this process. That, to me, creates more evil in the long run than allowing discrimination. Yes, evil. I said evil.

Once the State can tell you whom you must serve, they can also tell you whom you must not serve. Remember Hitler's Germany, where private businesses were penalized for serving Jews? What if much-maligned Christians in the U.S. became the new boogeyman, not to be treated as full citizens--or even as full humans? What if it were people with dark skin? Oh, wait, that's already happened. So don't tell me it can't happen here. And if you allow the modern State to tell private businesses whom they must serve, it's happened again.

But what about the gay people who want cakes or flowers for their weddings? How fair is it that they can't get them from people who are religiously opposed to gay marriage?

I tell my children that I'm going to make them t-shirts with the words "It's not fair!" printed on the front. I hear that phrase so much, and it's something you expect from immature children, not from adults.

Okay, so what about dirty, stinking homeless people who regularly get thrown out of stores for being dirty, stinky, drunk, foul-mouthed, or annoying? What about people who don't get served because they aren't wearing shoes or a shirt? What about someone who walks into a store and begins to antagonize everyone in it with threats? Should you be forced to serve all of those people? Even if they hurt your business or threaten your other customers or you whole-heartedly disagree with their lifestyle?

Yes, it is the same thing.

So if this bill passes, what happens? It means that any private business owner remains in control of his or her business. It means he or she can discriminate about which customers to serve or not serve. And if a gay couple walks in and is rejected on religious grounds, the gay couple has the opportunity to find an establishment that would be more than happy to take their money for services they are willing to render.

The point is this: it doesn't matter if it's on religious grounds or political grounds or whatever grounds. Private business is PRIVATE and has the right to discriminate. This is the way the free market works. If you don't like a store for their discrimination policies, choose another store. Spend your money in establishments that want your money. Vote with your wallet. Tell your friends. This is how all of us participate in the free market. Those private businesses who make choices that are unpopular will feel the consequences in their bottom line. Maybe they change their policies, maybe they go bankrupt. But it's their choice because they are PRIVATE.

Emotions and hurt feelings do not enter into this conversation, which is often the currency of leftist policies. Free markets work best for everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. When the State dictates to private business owners that they no longer have the right to discriminate for any reason that blows in on the political wind, there is no free market. Then we all suffer for someone's hurt feelings and downtrodden emotions. We all lose more liberty and freedom. We all take another step toward evil.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Quick Headshot

Here is my one of my beautiful and artistic daughters. I am putting her head shot here so she can link to it in an application.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Be Still

One of my friends has asked the desperate question: how do you tap-out? Between work, home, bill paying, the inability to sleep well, and all the responsibilities that come of taking care of a family and doing the right things, how do you relax? How do you give up the stress without piling on the guilt?

Did I mention that this friend is male? He's also Catholic. Between Mormons and Catholics, I think there is so much guilt being produced that it could probably compensate for all those who blithely and recklessly ruin their and other peoples' lives through careless or deliberate actions.

Is life really more complicated than it was when people spent most of their time on survival? Are we truly more busy and stressed? The answer is an unequivocal and resounding YES! Our lives do not reflect the same sort of stresses that once plagued our agricultural ancestors. While we have thousands of machines to do the heavy labor of life, we have also invented a million new ways to trigger the fight-or-flight syndrome. We are on 24-hour alert every single day of the year. It isn't a female thing. It isn't a male thing. It's a human thing.

To add insult to injury, if you abide by a religious or spiritual creed or belief, you are also attempting to live a good life and make good choices. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as living a moral life of treating others as you would wish yourself to be treated is only going to make the world a better place. But when we start feeling horrible and crippling guilt for what we perceive are our failures and never give ourselves credit for the things we do right, something is very askew.

Another problem is that what is right is now a big question mark for much of society, and that question brings with it a whole new set of stresses and worries. Are you a failure if you don't recycle everything possible? Are you a horribly insensitive person if you don't agree with all the social progression that is constantly being flung at us? Are you teaching your children correctly if you aren't politically correct?

So where does it end? When does the enjoyment of life begin? When is it okay to tap-out? And how do you do it?

I have my days when worries and stresses and guilt almost overwhelm me. I allow that inner critical voice to say nasty things and call me names. I cry with the grief of being so incompetent and stupid and lazy that I can't do everything and be everything I know I should be. And then there are the days when I regain my eternal perspective and realize that most of what is considered important in this world is so much fluff. What is truly important is feeling the joy in the journey, in loving your family and sharing smiles and laughs and the freedom to share your feelings in a safe place. What's important is turning to God when the burden seems unbearable and laying that burden at his feet. What's important is realizing that you will never, ever do everything you could possibly do because you are human, flawed by your very nature. What's important is giving other people the benefit of the doubt and loving them, too, because they are on the same sort of journey you are on.

The scripture I repeat most often to myself is "be still and know that I am God." There are two important commandments in that scripture, both of which are hard to follow when you are swimming breathlessly in the panic of trying to keep your head above water. The first is to be still. The second is to know and recognize God's hand in all things. Be still. Be calm. Quiet your monkey-mind. Silence your doubts. Let the fear go. Take time for contemplation of the most beautiful things in the world. Kneel at the feet of the Savior and lay down your burden, handing it over to the shoulders that can and have borne all things. And then know that God's hand surrounds you, that you are precious to Him, and that He wants to hear every thought and feeling you have. Know that He is, that His name is I AM, Eternal, Endless, Love. There is nothing greater than God, not even the bills.

Then you learn to live with less: less stress, less worry, less fear. You learn to shrug your shoulders more and take joy in the happy moments. You learn that the kids are not going to be harmed by not having all the music or sports lessons that you can't afford. You learn that if you are consciously trying to make good decisions, you'll be led toward them and away from the most horrible ones. You learn that there are constant miracles whenever you look for them and have faith, even with money being too tight and time being so short, and days that are full of responsibility. And you learn that even when you make mistakes or suffer pain and anguish, that the lessons learned and the progress you make is a triumph over tragedy. I know--far more easily said than done! Why do you think I'm reminding myself of it yet again?

To my friend, Dave, who is stretched so tightly, you're in my prayers. You are a good, good man, and it shows in how you live your life and how you treat your family and friends. If we know people by the fruits they produce, I am honored to be friends with someone of your caliber. You are always trying to be consistent with what you know to be right and good. I hope you find your tap-out, but I think you're doing just fine. Maybe you can let go of some guilt and stress and enjoy the journey a bit more, which is darn good advice for all of us.