Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wherein a Rasta Mon Changes My Perspective

A week ago my hubby Buns and I did something decidedly unusual for us. We went on a cruise. This was not something we had done before for a multitude of reasons. Those reasons mainly being tied to the financial and logistical constraints of rearing four late model children. 

Many family road and camping trips had been pursued up to this point, with 4,297 toddler bathroom stops in every repulsive germ infested truck stop on the West Coast along the way, but never had Buns and I gone, just us, to do much of anything. 

This year my awesome mother-in-law took pity on our lack of grown-up vacation experience and arranged for us to accompany her on a kids-free week long trip to the Western Caribbean. My mom and sister bravely volunteered to watch the troops while we journeyed.

The trip was oh-so-fun. The ship beautiful, the activities exciting, the food scrum-didili-upmtious, and the sea breezes divine. As we made our way  from port to port, picking up Mexican vanilla, souvenir T-shirts, and talavera pottery along the way I found my mind wandering to home and worrying about how the kids were doing, the bills that we needed to pay when we got back, if the plumbing was behaving itself, what was going on at work. 

Worrying is a genetic trait in my family. Along with our Scandinavian genealogy which provides mayonnaise white easily sunburnt skin, we worry. A lot. And usually it is about stuff that has only a 0.01% chance of actually happening. 

Will I be attacked by rabid squirrels today? Is the low grade fever my 5 year old has really the black plague? Will the pint-sized mistake I made at work bankrupt the entire company and bring hoards of raving lawyers down on us?

Then there is the worry about spiritual growth. Am I overcoming this weakness fast enough? Why can’t I find the answer to my question right this instant? Why do I have to suffer this particular trial? Haven’t I already learned this lesson?

Never mind the waving palm trees and the coral pink sunsets, I worried the toilet at home was going to somehow explode and I wouldn’t be there to take care of it.

Then we got to Jamaica. A beautiful port- clean and controlled by the cruise companies with smiling merchants selling wood carvings and hand-made dolls, Bob Marley playing over the loudspeakers. After perusing the vendors for a while it was decided we would leave the walls of our tourist enclosure and venture into the city to see if we could find real Jamaican jerk chicken. 

The city outside was a different place altogether. Crumbling buildings painted tropical colors lined narrow streets. Beat up 25 year old cars raced by with reckless abandon, honking at pedestrians to get out of the way as they bounced up and over the sidewalks. Cab drivers lined the streets and aggressively accosted us to take a ride in their vans. I was even offered a joint by a young man trying to sell his Reggae album for $10.

It was clear that the lives of the people living there were tough. Money was scarce, the living conditions were difficult, and that to keep yourself and your family fed you had to really hustle.

As we walked deeper into the city after getting directions to a local restaurant, we came to a man selling handmade necklaces at a little table on the side of the road. He was old. He was small. His salt and pepper hair hung almost to his waist in dreadlocks over a filthy white T-shirt. He wore a dilapidated Rastafarian cap and as we stopped to talk to him I realized he had the most beautiful soft brown eyes I have ever seen. They were the color of coffee beans and were full of humor and love and wisdom. 

He told us that he was a Rasta Mon who lived in the mountains above town. He made his living by carving jewelry and selling it to the travelers who came by sea for a day, but what he also did was teach. He wanted people to taste the culture and the way of life in Jamaica. He wanted to transmit his truth.

In the course of five short minutes we learned about the life colors of his people. 

Red for the blood of their ancestors who had spent hundreds of years in slavery.

Yellow for the life giving sun that dominates the sky. 

Green for the trees and plants that sustain man.

Black for the skin of the people.

He spoke about the deep connection mankind has to the earth and through a thick accent told us about their attitude that no matter what the circumstances that there was no need to worry. Everything was going to be all right. Life is beautiful and we have power even in the humblest of circumstances.

Irie. Power, beauty, love.

As we walked away from our encounter I marveled at the deep faith this man had in a higher power. It was part of his being, he knew that even in the harshest circumstances God would take care of him and bring him to a place of peace. There was no doubt. Pain, poverty, oppression, none of it mattered. All you had to do was come out of the mindset that creates injustice and you could change the world. Love your fellow man, stop being greedy, trust God and stop worrying, it will be alright. 

The idea is basic and profoundly freeing. I imagine the ritualistic cannabis smoking helps with the easy going outlook as well, but even for someone who doesn’t participate in that activity the basis of their belief system is a universal truth we should take notice of. 

Obsessive worry is just doubt and lack of faith, a break down in the trust I should have in God. As smart and sophisticated as I think I am I’m really just second guessing the Almighty when I worry. The toilet will be OK. Life will be OK. It's all a blessing.

So relax, don’t worry. Everything is gonna be alright.



D&C 100:12 Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end. 

I found truth in the tropics, what unexpected place have you found it?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sam's Story

This is Sam
I have always admired large families. In my teen years several of my close friends were the products of those types. Seven kids, ten kids, nine kids. Those households were crazy and messy and fun. This had an impact on me.  I ordered up a soccer team of boys for my future expectations.

After getting married and checking the first two slots off of my all-boys roster in quick succession, the genetic quirks that had limited my mom to four kids and my grandmother to three manifested themselves. For eight long years we tried and failed to have our third. The doctors were not encouraging; my body looked at pregnancy like it was a peanut butter and onion sandwich. Blech, no thanks.

I was beyond grateful for the two awesome boys I had and finally came to terms with the fact that it just wasn’t in the cards that we should have another baby. It was then, once I had accepted God’s will that a miracle occurred. 

That miracle arrived after a tumultuous 8 ½ months of health issues and eventual bed rest. No kidding that little super-pink bundle of joy nearly did me in. It was such a rocky road that when it was over and we had a healthy baby girl in our arms I said to Buns “never again!” 

Life went on and due to the disturbing realization that it takes money to raise three kids, Buns and I found ourselves on the hamster wheel. I worked at a bank days, he did technical support nights. We would pass each other coming and going and our conversations happened on phone calls at break times. 

I would come home from stressful fast paced workdays and cook dinner, help with homework, do laundry, and make sure everyone was bathed and ready for the next day. Then there was the other million things that moms do. On top of that our little girl had nonstop ear infections. She and I sat up countless nights, rocking and trying everything to soothe the pain in her ears. I was exhausted, and because of the economic conditions of the area, didn’t see any possibility of getting out of our hamster cage anytime soon.

Even with the situation not being ideal, we were happy and I would think to myself “man I sure am glad we are done having kids, I just couldn’t do it again.” 

You can imagine my surprise, when on one of the rare days a week Buns and I were home together, he said to me “Brenda, I feel like we need to have another baby.” After doing a proverbial spit take I nearly shouted “you can’t be serious?” 

So that you don’t get the wrong impression, Buns is not a person who likes watching his spouse run herself into the ground. He gets no joy out of torturing her (unless it is to fluff the covers once in a while). He knew our situation but had been having the impression for some time and had prayerfully considered it. He knew how I was going to react, but could not keep ignoring that prompting.

After a few minutes of hyperventilating, I decided that there was no way God was going to ask this of me. He knew I was going to get sick. He knew it was going to take everything I had to be pregnant and keep up what I was doing. There was no way he was going to ask me to do this. It was too hard. I decided to pray about it, confident that the answer was going to be that Buns was just engaging in wishful thinking. 

I chose to ask my question a few days later in a quiet spot in our bedroom. I started off telling Heavenly Father all of the reasons this was a bad idea. It wasn’t that I didn’t want another child, I did, but the circumstances were just not right. I couldn’t do it. I then told Father that I would do His will whatever that was, but I was certain I knew what the answer would be. As I knelt there I had a sense of peace fill my heart but didn’t get a yes or no. I stayed for a while waiting but nothing came. 

I got up and headed out into the hall. As I did, I glanced over at a small table that was next to the door. There on the table was a copy of the Ensign magazine. The cover picture was a beautiful painting by Carl Bloch of Christ, He was pointing to a little boy. They were both looking expectantly at me. I stopped in my tracks and could not tear my eyes from that picture. 

Frozen in that moment, the Spirit flooded me with the knowledge that there was a little boy, a member of our family, who was waiting to join us. His name was Sam and nothing would be complete without him. All the worry about work, and kids, energy, and health evaporated instantly. Sam was waiting and we needed him. 

Tears streaming down my face I went to tell Buns what I had learned. Even with that powerful confirmation of the Spirit I knew it had taken almost 9 years the last time around. Sam would probably take a decade to arrive.

One month later I was pregnant. 

As expected, there were serious trials to be had and overcome in the short term. And even with the conviction that I was doing the Lord's will, there was some major whining done on my part. It was hard, it was scary, there were many moments spent by myself, and Buns, and others praying for us. Priesthood blessings were had. Once again, bed rest was impatiently endured. Thankfully Sammy arrived healthy and happy. 

Not too much later our life in the world of hamsters ended with a move across the country to a place where the pace is slow and everyone has a drawl. We were directed  to a situation that allowed us to be together, to take care of our kids in the way we wanted, and to slow down.

Now as I look at my precocious, adorable, long-lashed Sam I shake my head at the foolishness of my selfish attitude. I don't know better than the Lord what will bring joy into my life. My perspective is so limited, why can't I let go and trust him more? Part of me knows that it is because I am a wimp and with the best blessings there always seems to be hard work, faith, overcoming fear, and pain to be had before we get to the good stuff. And sometimes things don't work out the way we think they should. Sometimes they do. 

Either way when we keep doing His will the joy eventually comes, the blessing is exponentially bigger than the discomfort of the trial preceding it, and He is able to teach and bless us in completely wonderful and unexpected ways.

And sometimes that blessing will squeeze your cheeks between his little hands and say "I wuv you mom."



Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why I Get Excited Thinking about Death

Whoa there Nelly, did you forget to take your pills this morning?

Rest assured I am of sound mind (or at least as sound as it is possible for me to be), do not have my bags packed and am not ready to board the train into the next life. Nor do I relish the thought of the period of time directly preceding that journey but I am fascinated with the wealth of information we have available and get excited the more I learn about what my existence will be like once I get there.

“All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:50).

Death can be scary on the face of it and the Lord has put a strong sense of self-preservation inside of us so that the second the going gets tough we don’t run out and end it all. Can you imagine what would happen without that instinct? “Oh man, I burned the eggs this morning; I better go drive my car off a cliff.”

This sense of self-preservation runs in tandem with the purposes of our not being able to remember our pre-mortal life. It would be absolutely miserable to have the memory of living with Heavenly Father while we are away from Him and making our way through the difficulties and trials of this life. The homesickness would absolutely debilitate us. With that, there is every so often a whiff of that longing for home that our spirit remembers. It helps us to stay focused on the goals we set for ourselves back then. To gain a body, be tested, and get home.

The restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has given Mormons a different view of the impact of death than many others in the world. In a conversation I had just yesterday with a wonderful lady of another faith she explained that they believed that you were born, you die, and then you go to either heaven or hell and that was the end of it.

She certainly wasn’t wrong but what a blessing it is to have the more complete version of that scenario.

If you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about please see my post on the The Plan of Salvation in a Nutshell.

With this amazing knowledge of the Plan comes peace and the fear of death dissipates . 

Alma 27:28 “…and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.”

Brigham Young said “We shall turn round and look upon [the valley of death] and think, when we have crossed it, why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body. My spirit is set free, I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I hunger no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me, nothing like pain or weariness, I am full of life, full of vigor, and I enjoy the presence of my heavenly Father” (Journal of Discourses, 17:142).

“All fear of this death has been removed from the Latter-day Saints. They have no dread of the temporal death, because they know that as death came upon them by the transgression of Adam, so by the righteousness of Jesus Christ shall life come unto them, and though they die, they shall live again. Possessing this knowledge, they have joy even in death, for they know that they shall rise again and shall meet again beyond the grave. They know that the spirit dies not at all; that it passes through no change, except the change from imprisonment in this mortal clay to freedom and to the sphere in which it acted before it came to this earth” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 428).

My interest as of late has been on the state of our spirits right after we pass on to the Spirit World. While that is a much bigger subject that I can chew on in this limited forum I have come across a really wonderful talk from Education Week at BYU that had me on the edge of my seat. I share it below, it is worth every minute.

'What Is This Thing That Men Call Death'

By President Gordon B. Hinckley

What is this thing that men call death,
This quiet passing in the night
'Tis not the end, but genesis
Of better worlds and greater light.

O God, touch thou my aching heart,
And calm my troubled, haunting fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure,
Give strength and peace beyond my tears.

There is no death, but only change,
With recompense for vict'ry won.
The gift of him who loved all men,
The Son of God, the Holy One.

Faith comes as knowledge of the truth increases. A major benefit of faith is that fear cannot exist in the same place. Death doesn't need to be scary and I think that is pretty exciting.



The Plan of Salvation in a Nutshell

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, here is The Plan of Salvation in a nutshell. (With a really cool graphic to illustrate, isn’t that exciting?) Since this post is located in said nutshell, it is condensed and very basic. There is much more information to be had should you wish and the link at the end will take you to a phenomenal site should you want to see more.

We believe that Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits. That we lived with Him as spirit children before we came to this Earth. In that place we learned about and chose to participate in His plan for us. He gave us the ability to choose and make decisions for ourselves. With that gift He also knew we were going to mess up and sin in a bazillion different ways while we were here. He provided a Savior to atone (pay the price so that justice isn’t robbed)for our sins if we would repent.  That Savior would also overcome death through the resurrection. There was only One who was perfect and strong enough to be able to do those things. Jesus was that One and he loved us so much that he did.

This earth life ends for everyone through death. Sometimes it comes early and sometimes after you have danced the “funky chicken” at your 100th birthday party, but it does come. At that point your spirit (really the you in you) lays down your body and goes to the Spirit World. There, people who were good and repentant go to paradise to rest and teach others, and the wicked go to Spirit Prison. Once that’s done everybody the good, bad, ugly, and silly alike will receive a perfected body through the Resurrection that Christ made possible.  

“At the time of the resurrection, our spirit and body will reunite, and we will be judged and received into a kingdom of glory. The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion and our obedience to the Lord's commandments. It will depend on the manner in which we have "received the testimony of Jesus" (D&C 76:51; see also D&C 76:74, 79, 101). 

For more information please visit:

Friday, January 4, 2013


This morning the West Texas landscape awoke to winter, actual honest to goodness winter, where nature had laid a very delicate lace scarf of snow over the dead grass. The skies are grey, the trees are barren and a dark damp. It is a day to listen to Pearl Jam, the melancholy stuff, and ponder a little on the parts of life that don’t seem to be going as well as they should. 

There is a part of human nature that is a constant struggle between what we know can be and what currently is. Many times the gulf between the two realities seems insurmountable and it feels as if there is no hope for ever reaching our goals. Whether it is career goal, a fitness goal, a spiritual goal, a health trial, a family problem or anything that we really want sometimes our efforts are inadequate and nothing seems to change no matter how hard we work and pray and ask for help.

I know that those of you who read this have seen miracles and blessings in your life. You’ve seen prayers answered both in the affirmative and negative and you know that God is there and that He loves you. You know in your heart of hearts that He has your best interests in His safekeeping. But what about the times when the heavens are silent? What about the moments that you ask for a particular blessing that you know is worthy and nothing happens? What about the stretches when you keep working and praying and doing everything you know how to do to call down the powers of heaven and they still don’t come? 

If you’re like me frustration ensues. Anger at the continued struggle starts to kick in, and the humility and meekness that we are asked to lay at the Savior’s feet starts to fly out the window. Even with all of our past blessings staring us in the face the doubts begin to creep up on us. Doesn’t He love me enough to answer? Why has he taken this trial from someone else and not me? Why can't I stop making the same stupid mistakes?

In a talk given at BYU in 1990 President Henry B. Eyering answered the question about how to call down the powers of heaven we so desperately need.  Along with having faith, repenting, and doing good works he hit upon something that I had missed. Learning to wait upon the Lord. 

“If you pray, if you talk to God, and if you plead for the help you need, and if you thank him not only for help but for the patience and gentleness that come from not receiving all you desire right away or perhaps ever, then I promise you that you will draw closer to him. And then you will become diligent and longsuffering”  

“The Lord doesn't put us through this test just to give us a grade; he does it because the process will change us."

“Let me encourage you by telling you a story. It was told to me by my father. He told it with the intent to chuckle at himself. It was a story about his trying to do his duty, just the way you try to do your duty.

Now you have to know a little bit about my father. His name was Henry Eyring, like mine. He had done some of the things students of this university are preparing to be able to do. His work in chemistry was substantial enough to bring the honors some of you will someday have, but he was still a member of a ward of the Church with his duty to do. To appreciate this story, you have to realize that it occurred when he was nearly eighty and had bone cancer. He had bone cancer so badly in his hips that he could hardly move. The pain was great. 

Dad was the senior high councilor in his stake with the responsibility for the welfare farm. An assignment was given to weed a field of onions, so Dad assigned himself to go work on the farm.

Dad never told me how hard it was, but I have met several people who were with him that day. I talked to one of them on the phone the other night to check the story. The one I talked to said that he was weeding in the row next to Dad through much of the day. He told me the same thing that others who were there that day have told me. He said that the pain was so great that Dad was pulling himself along on his stomach with his elbows. He couldn't kneel. The pain was too great for him to kneel. Everyone who has talked to me has remarked how Dad smiled, and laughed, and talked happily with them as they worked in that field of onions. 
Liz Collins Oil Pastel

Now, this is the joke Dad told me on himself, afterward. He said he was there at the end of the day. After all the work was finished and the onions were all weeded, someone asked him, "Henry, good heavens! You didn't pull those weeds, did you? Those weeds were sprayed two days ago, and they were going to die anyway." 

Dad just roared. He thought that was the funniest thing. He thought it was a great joke on himself. He had worked through the day in the wrong weeds. They had been sprayed and would have died anyway.

When Dad told me this story, I knew how tough it was. So I said to him, "Dad, how could you make a joke out of that? How could you take it so pleasantly?" 

He said something to me that I will never forget, and I hope you won't. He said, "Hal, I wasn't there for the weeds.

Now, you'll be in an onion patch much of your life. So will I. It will be hard to see the powers of heaven magnifying us or our efforts. It may even be hard to see our work being of any value at all. And sometimes our work won't go well. 

But you didn't come for the weeds. You came for the Savior. And if you pray, and if you choose to be clean, and if you choose to follow God's servants, you will be able to work and wait long enough to bring down the powers of heaven. 

Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls. [Alma 37:33–34]

Next time I decide to do something, I think I will ask in prayer, "Heavenly Father, is this what the Lord would have me do?" And I think I will wait upon the Lord until I know. Then I might say, "Please, while I am working at it, can I remember that I am doing it for the Lord?" I promise you that if you will be patient and diligent, you will have a blessing come to you that you will know that you are doing what the Lord would have you do. And you can be blessed to remember that while you are in that onion patch, you are not there for the weeds. That will be important sometimes when the weeds don't come out easily. You can feel the approval of God. 

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31] 

Dad never got better. He just got worse. So you might say, "Well, he waited upon the Lord, but he couldn't run and he couldn't walk." But that was true only in this life. There will be a day for you and me when, whatever difficulties and limitations we have here, we will have that promise fulfilled for us. We will be lifted up as on eagles' wings, and it will be those who have waited upon the Lord.”

So as we work on our shortcomings and move through the trials of our lives, if things are just not going the way we want, let us keep working knowing that we aren't there for the weeds and that the process is what takes us home. It will make all the difference.


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