Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Courage in the face of hate.

Sorry, I have been MIA this last week.  We have had some things going on, which I may or may not touch on in this blog post.  But if I don't, I'll let you in on it later.
Copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

Today, in many of the blogs I read, I have heard a common theme and since it is one I have really, really struggled with, I decided that would be the topic of my conversation today.  It is just this:  Haters are gonna hate.  Stephanie Nielson touched on people 'hating' her on social media and being mean to her regardless of what she posts, what they wear, what they do, what her religion is, etc....  Heather from Women in the Scriptures received a not-very-nice, anonymous letter from one of her neighbors about their ability to keep up their yard.  One of Heather's readers referenced this blog post by Kate, which I have also found accurate, and  Misty wrote about all of the negativity and meanness happening across the globe and what she is planning on doing about it.  Her post really touched me!

I have to tell you, the things these women posted about are all things I have struggled with too.  I shy away from being too personal in social media because I am a sensitive person and even if I do not know you, I want you to have a good opinion of me.  It really hurts my feelings when people are unkind, even in a 'constructive criticism' kind of way.  I try to let comments roll off my back, but most of the time, I just can't do it.  Instead of being brave like Heather or Stephanie and just crying because people are not nice, I have tended to just eat.  I am getting better about that though, and now, in the moment, I can cry, so that is improvement.

I struggle to stand up to people in public meetings and just say, "This is what I think and this is why" because I am so concerned that someone is going to disagree withe me and berate me or be mean to me in public.  I have had plenty, plenty of experience of people being mean to me.  It is hard for me because I try really, really hard to be kind to everyone, to see things from their perspective, and to lift people.  So when people are directly mean to me on purpose, it is so hard for me.
Here is what I have learned:  There are mean people out there.  I cannot control them.  I can control whether I allow what they say to hurt me and how long it hurts me.  Most of the time, when I reflect on what they have said, and evaluate the validity of their gripe, it is usually unfounded, misunderstood, taken out of context, or is a direct reflection of where they are at the moment.  As I have tried to figure out how to manage my relationships with these people, because for me, most of them are in my immediate circle of social interactions (not friends, mind you, just people I have to interact with, constantly), I have had to pray to act more like Christ.  I study how He and the prophets have behaved when they were treated badly.  How did they say what they needed to say and stand as a witness for the Savior, for themselves, for their beliefs, without lowering themselves to 'meanness'?  Because, I recognize that when I am mean back, that is where I cross the line and I sin.  I have to pray for help.  I pray for them, like Misty suggested, because it really does soften my heart and help me to have compassion for them and understanding.  I pray to see them as God sees them, not because I want to know all of their sins, but I do want to understand their struggles, and challenges so that when I interact with them, my heart comes from a place of love and not hurt. 

Sometimes, I do stand up and say something that is valid, constructive, and calls them on their bad behavior.  But most of the time, my job is to heal my wounds, forgive, and learn not to be mean back.

What do I think about the reasons I get to endure such treatment?  Well, first and foremost, it is one of my weaknesses.  I don't tolerate others' meanness well, personally or in how I treat them in return, even if I use indifference.  How does that change anything?  Second, I think God wants and needs us to be able to discuss conflicting values and interests in the face of attacks, because let's face it, that is the tool the adversary uses to diminish the discussion--when good people say nothing because of fear.  Our Father in Heaven needs us to be articulate, educated, kind and courageous.  The best way to build that kind of faith and determination in a spirit like mine, who is afraid of conflict and ridicule, is to allow me to receive it once in a while and then teach me, line upon line, how to handle it and how to respond to it, properly---the Lord's way.  Then, when I am so armed, I can teach it to my children and others, and I become much more serviceable in the kingdom.

Listen to the words of Sister Sheri Dew in her book, No One Can Take Your Place:
We too need unflinching moral courage.  A recent experience demonstrated this vividly to me.  To my great surprise, in March 2003 I found myself at the United Nations as a White House delegate to an international commission focused on issues relevant to women.  The setting was entirely new and quite overwhelming.  New people.  New language, as it were. New motives to discern.  And an entirely new system to understand.

From day one, I observed something that seemed curiously incongruous.  Women who impressed me as God-fearing souls in search of honest solutions to their problems often lobbied for the same things as women who had blatantly evil designs.  I struggled to know if there was a way, apart from spiritual discernment, to detect the motives of these women.  I listened carefully to what these two varying groups said and at night searched the scriptures for insight.  But it was a puzzle.

Then one evening as our U.S. delegation held a briefing, angry lobbyists began to attack us about the President's position on HIV/AIDS.  These women were vicious.  They were mean!  In fact, if you don't mind me saying so, they were as unattractive (read: ugly) as any women I had ever met.  As I prayed silently to know what to say when I took the podium I had a clear impression:  "Sheri, don't you see?  The mean ones are the evil ones."  My fear vanished instantly.  Now that I knew how to identify those on the opposing side, I wasn't afraid, because I learned long ago that Satan never backs up his followers but the Master always does.  The power of Jesus Christ is always stronger than any power emanating from the dark underbelly of the adversary.  Believing the Lord would fill my mouth if I would just open it, I plunged in, at first uncertain how to both teach truth and support the administration......

.....What did I learn at the U.N.?  I learned that vigorous differences of opinion can be discussed respectfully, but when people become vicious, they are likely working for the adversary.  I learned that even in a spiritually hostile environment, truth is truth, and there is power in truth.  I learned that when we have faith in the Lord, we like Paul "may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear" (Hebrews 13:6).  And I learned that the gospel is so practical.  During two weeks, I heard no issue debated that couldn't have been resolved by applying truth.  The gospel of Jesus Christ has the answer to every conflict in our lives, our families, and even our nations.  His truths heal hearts and bridge cultures.

And they also inspire courage.  The courage to stand alone.  The courage to open our mouths when prompted.  The courage to prepare the greatest generation of missionaries, mentor the greatest generations of youth, and share the gospel in any setting.  Unflinching moral courage.

Every time we exercise our faith in the face of fear or discover a doctrinal insight in the scriptures or the temple, we are better able to build the kingdom of God.  Every time we discard a sin or a self-serving motive, every time we keep a trust or gain another glimpse of who we really are or speak truth, we are better able to build the kingdom of God.  Every time we help someone else strengthen faith or resolve, we build the kingdom of God.  In short, every small step we take to develop  our God-given attributes of faith, knowledge, obedience, purity, integrity, identity, and courage makes us better able to build up the kingdom of God.

Isn't that amazing and inspiring?  Now, I do not necessarily think or believe that those who are unkind to me are working for the adversary.  In my case, they are just people, like me, who are trying to do the best they can and they make mistakes in their daily interactions with others.  Sometimes their behavior affects me or my family and my feelings are hurt.  Mostly, I can manage my feelings by forgiving them, dismissing their comment as unintelligent, or uninformed, or just judgmental.  Just because someone thinks or believes something about me, doesn't make it true.  If I learn to live my life by looking through the lenses of truth, I don't have to be hurt by others beliefs or comments.  If they are true, then I can work on changing those things about me.  If, as in Heather's case, I am doing my best to manage my work load within my circumstances and people still have an attitude, then I just have to let them have their attitude and recognize that I am doing the best I can, whether they like it or not.

The Spirit said something to me the other day the bears repeating, "I don't ever have to feel bad about the responsibilities on my plate, because the Lord put them there."  Here is how that applies for me:  I didn't ask for nine children.  I didn't ask for my husband to serve as the Bishop, twice.  I didn't ask for the attitudes who live at my house and require all of my time and ability.  I didn't ask to have all of my time taken by people, in and out of my ward and my family and have zero time left for yard maintenance or household projects.  I have plenty of those things to do and I really enjoy doing them.  But the Lord has given me a different work, and it is alright, because it is His work, and He gave it to me.  And that means nothing judgmental toward any of those people who don't have that many children and spend their time doing yard work.  Good for them.  Sometimes I wish that was me.  But most of the time, I am happy in the work He has given me, even when that includes loving people who hate me.

Friday, September 5, 2014

FFF #34--Spiritual legacy

When I moved here to California, we had four children and were expecting our fifth.  We didn't know a soul here.  We got a job, moved our little family and began our adventure after college.

I didn't have any idea what kind of stress that was for me or how much it affected me, until one afternoon, about 23 weeks pregnant, our little Scuff was being more rambunctious than he should have and not listening to me.  He had recently turned four.  He was running away from me while I tried to speak to him and instead of calming myself down, I simply grabbed him by his hair and took him to the floor.  I said whatever it was I wanted to say to him and let him go.  By the time Drew got home from work, I was a complete emotional basket case.  One because I realized how much stress I was under and had been under for the last two months, and two because I took our little boy to the floor with his hair!  I don't do that kind of thing, usually.  I have grown a lot in my motherhood since then.  I can honestly report that I have not taken a child to the floor with their hair since!

But, when we arrived, I had to find schools, doctors, dentists, where the grocery store was, you know, all those lovely things about moving.  Yuck!!  Plus I was managing the emotions of my little crew because they moved too, and had their own feelings about it!

Not long after we arrived, a woman from the ward came over to our house.  I felt immediately connected to her.  It was as if the Spirit was saying, 'You can trust her.'  Time would prove, I could trust her, completely.  I called her to watch my little ones while I attended a doctor's appointment, or when I needed to do something one on one with a particular child.  My dear friend was there as I had all of our other children born here in California, except Spike.  Over the weeks, months, and years she was a part of my life, there was never anyone I loved more.  Her service and her ability to know when I needed help was uncanny!  Actually, it was just that she was in-tune.  She heard and listened to the Spirit and then she came exactly when I needed her.

When it was time for her to leave the area, I cried.  I went over and helped her pack.  I wrote her a letter from my heart expressing my gratitude for her love and service and tried to explain to her what our relationship and her love had meant to me.

As life went on, I learned that her father had been the stake president here when they first built our building.  He had helped purchase the land, hosted Church representatives to oversee their progress, spoke to the city counsel about how our building would benefit the community, oversaw the construction of the building, and then dedicated that building.  My friend's family left a spiritual legacy here in our community.  She passed that on to me through her service and dedication.  She did that for each person she served, and she served many, many people, as did her entire family.

A few years ago, her daughter was roommates with our current Primary President, at BYU.  They love each other like women can do when they live in the same house and have the same beliefs.  Our current Primary President, just made the move here from Washington state a few months ago.  She has three little people.  Her little family, looks similar to mine when we arrived.  Our Primary President has an amazing testimony and a great love for people and for the Savior.

Through our presidency meetings, I have been able to provide similar support for her as my friend did for me.  How fitting, that my primary president dearly loves my friend's daughter and has a similar relationship with her.  As I explained yesterday how our lives (mine and the primary president's) intertwine with my friend's family and the spiritual legacy they have left here, tears just streamed down both of our faces.  Because now the torch is passed to a new generation, with an understanding of where we have been and a vision of where we need to go.

I just think Heavenly Father is amazing in His ability to plan our lives and to help us to see His patterns as we go about His work.  Do you have a vision of how the work is growing in your portion of the vineyard?  Can you see His hand across the generations?  If you cannot, or have not thought about it, do a little research.  I bet you will find it.  Talk to others who have lived there a long time.  Ask them to tell you about your little spot in the vineyard.  Ask them who built their building.  Ask them who was the stake president at times of change and ask them to tell you the stories.  Find out about the faith of those generations of people.  It will give you a greater love for the people and the area you are serving in.

And Melanye, Solanye, Emilye, and Brittnye, you may never read this, but just know, I love your mother!!  I love the legacy she left and I try to honor her and your grandparents with my service!  Thank you for sharing your mother with me!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Green IKEA

I have an awesome story.  Wanna' hear it??

K.  Here it goes.

A few weeks ago, I needed 'Trek' clothes for Speedy.  I wanted to get some pants that I didn't care if he totally trashed because I knew they had four river crossings, Speedy is hard to fit, and he is super hard on his clothes.  I didn't want him to ruin any of the ones we had for school.  So I headed out to the thrift store to fine some.  I did!!  I found one long sleeved, but light-weight shirt, and two pair of pants that would work, for $10.00 total!  Score!!

While I was there, I had the thought to go check out their dinner ware.  So I did that.  A green set of dishes, five dinner plates, five salad plates, and five bowls for $10.00 for the set.  We had broken all of our cereal bowls.  I had two left, we had been using the china ones and that week we had broken one.  When I saw the set, the only thing I cared about were the bowls.  In my head, I did the math, because it was so hard.  Well, let's see, I only want the bowls, so I am paying $2.00/ bowl.  Yep, I am willing to pay that, and I bought the set.
Ya....this set, minus the cups, which I HATE.

After I washed them and we began using them, I noticed that I LOVED them.  They were awesome.  I also decided that I needed to have more bowls, so on my next trip to Target, I checked out their dinner ware.  I found some clear glass bowls, the same size and they were only $1.59/ bowl!  Score again!!  I bought five.  I figured out budget could handle that.

Fast forward three weeks.  I really like those dishes.  Then I thought, it's too bad I don't have any more of those IKEA dishes.  But I like those Target bowls.  I think I'm going to go and get some salad plates to match those bowls and then in a few months, I'll get some dinner plates and I'll just put my own little set together of glass and green IKEA.  That will work.  Drew asked me to go to Target today.  So I'll go and check out their dishes.

Bummer.  No salad plates!  I guess I'll just have to order them on-line.  Whatever.

Drew called me later in the day.  His co-worker is moving out of the area this week and trying to off-load his stuff.  We have a young man we are aware of just setting up his initial residence.  Drew's co-worker was wondering if he needed some of his stuff, including a set of dishes.  I knew the young man didn't need dishes, because I was there when another friend gave her set to him.  But, I thought, I might want his dishes.  We arranged a meeting between the two men and I came along to move the stuff because our young man friend doesn't have a car.

There were plenty of things given to him that I drove to his house.  The co-worker gave me the dishes.  They were all packed up in paper and a paper bag.  So I just took them home.  Then we had guests over when I arrived, so I left them in the car until our company went home.

I went out to the car and brought the dishes in.  Sun and I started unpacking them.  Wowser!  It was a serving for six.  Six dinner plates, six salad plates, and six bowls!  Guess what ??  They are IKEA dishes!!  AND, they are green, just a slightly different shade of green, but GREEN!!  If I alternate dinner and salad plates and bowls, they look interesting and beautiful, and look like they belong together!  Can you believe that!!??  Three weeks apart, a set of five and another set of six that match, that I LOVE, that cost me $10.00 and a little bit of gas!
They look like this, only with a greenish glaze.

And now I have a matching set of dishes.  I know that shouldn't be important, but it is to me, even though it is stupid, and not important in the eternal scheme of things.  It was just another testament to me that Heavenly Father loves me, thinks of me, cares that I have the things I need and some of the things I want and if I will listen, He can provide them for me in a manner that my budget can afford!  (And now I can let go of all of those odds and end dinner wares that have been just hanging around because we couldn't afford to do something else.

Thank you Heavenly Father!!  Thank you for my IKEA dishes!!  (PS, the story is cooler because we do not have an IKEA store anywhere even close!)

Friday, August 29, 2014

FFF#33--Prepared for the journey

Yesterday, my oldest and my youngest were standing in front of the open refrigerator foraging for food.  I sat at the table eating my lunch.  I heard Spike say, "Ugh!  I don't know how to make wunch!"  I started laughing.  It was so very cute.  Slim then said, "Me either.  Let's go ask Mom."  For the record, Slim does know how to make lunch.  He is a returned missionary and college graduate for crying out loud!  He just doesn't like to make wunch.  We worked together and got those boys some lunch, which Spike still didn't eat and then had a melting fit later which is a story for another day.
not quite like this, but close

Stick with me for a moment, I'm going to divert, but I'll bring it back around.

I recently began my Book of Mormon study again by starting over in first Nephi (because I finally finished reading the Doctrine and Covenants!!).  Yesterday I read the chapter where Nephi is commanded to slay Laban.  As I read that chapter, it occurred to me that Nephi was hesitant to follow the commandment to slay him.  And who wouldn't be???!!  Really?!  You want me to kill the guy?  I know he hasn't exactly been kind to us, I mean he did try to kill us and he took all of our stuff.  But seriously?  Kill him?

But as Nephi ponders it and questions his instructions, the Spirit teaches him and directs him.  I have had a similar experience, multiple times (not being instructed to kill someone, mind you).  But when I have questioned my instructions the Lord knows exactly the right sentence to say to get me to do what He needs me to do.  Here is a fairly harmless example:

When Spanky was engaged, his father and I were concerned.  It felt that though he expressed his happiness and excitement of his upcoming nuptials, some little comments he would drop indicated that he may not be listening to the Spirit about whether or not this was the right choice for him.  After several such comments, my husband pulled me aside and said, "You have to talk to him.  He won't hear it from me.  But he is not listening to the Spirit."  Great!  I hate those assignments!

I began pondering how and when to speak to Spanky.  These were the thoughts in my head:  When you talk to others about sensitive subjects that you are not sure will be received well, where do you do it?  Oh ya!  Over food.  I need to take Spanky out (it was the morning) to breakfast.  Drew will never go for us splurging on breakfast with the way our budget is.  He wouldn't think that was cool.

Then I heard this:  Well, you can either spend $30.00 on breakfast, or $2000.00 in November for wedding travel.  Drew's the accountant.  Let him figure that out.

I'm taking Spanky to breakfast!!!

But see??!!  Succinct and to the point.  No beating around the bush.  Decision to act made.

As I pondered Nephi's experience, it occurred to me that killing Laban was only the first time Nephi was required to kill someone.  We do not have any record of his other experiences there, except for when he is getting ready to die, Jacob says, "The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defense and having labored in all his days for their welfare...." (Jacob 1:10)

We know that after Lehi died, Nephi took his family, sisters, Jacob and Joseph, Zoram and his family, Sam and his family and anyone else who would listen with him as they fled from Laman and Lemuel and their families.  And we know that they had continual battles with them.  So who was Nephi 'wielding the sword' at?  Oh, right, that would be his nieces and nephews, probably mostly nephews, but it was against his own family!  Probably not just once, either.  Killing Laban was actually a preparation for other things that Nephi would be required to do later.  The Lord had prepared him.

We know that the Lord prepares His people.  He tells us so.

1st Nephi 3:7
...I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for I know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way that they may accomplish the things which He commandeth them.

In Ether, chapter 2:6, we learn that the Jaredites built barges to cross many waters.  How many did they build?  We do not know exactly.  But when it was time to build the barges to cross the ocean waters, in v16, the Lord says to them, "Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built."

Do you think they learned one or two things in the first and second and third barges they had built about what would be successful and what wouldn't work?  I think they learned plenty, enough so that when they built the barges for their ocean crossing, it was successful!  Their barges were 'tight, like unto a dish'.  I'll tell you what, if I were in one of those barges I would be exceedingly grateful for the practice barges that weren't required for the ocean voyage!

But then in verse 25 of Ether 2, the Lord says, "And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea and the winds which have gone forth and the floods which shall come...."

So the Lord prepared them.  But if you read the verse before that, verse 24, you'll read: "...for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth."

Did you get that?

The Lord prepared the flood and the storm that was going to carry them to the promised land.  He prepared the trial for them, and he prepared them against the trial.  He prepared them to accomplish the thing which He commandeth them.  He prepared them for success.  He knew what that would take because He prepared both sides of the equation!!

And He will do the same thing for us.  If it feels like you are facing the same trial again, and again, and again, but it just looks a little bit different each time or it is a little more difficult each time, if you look closely, you can recognize the hand of the Lord in preparing you for your journey to your promised land.  He is preparing the way for you to accomplish the battle, challenge, journey in life that you need to take to bring about your eternal exaltation.

He does that because He loves us, because He knows who we are, and He knows what we need.  If we are willing and will listen, He will prepare us for what lies ahead as well.  Just like some day, my little Spike will know how to make 'wunch', and Slim has already been taught, even though he doesn't like it, the Lord will teach us all things that we need to do to be successful in the tasks He lays out for us.  It all ministers to our growth and development.  It is all a part of our personal journey, which is really why comparing ourselves with others is ineffective.  They are on their own personal journey, specifically tailored.

We can all have faith that the Lord is mindful of us and has our best interests at heart.  He has not only prepared us against the waves and the floods, He sent the waves and the floods.  He knows exactly what they look like and He will prepare us for them.  We can trust that!

I pray that you and I both will be able to withstand our waves and floods and successfully reach our promised lands, that we will have faith in our Father in Heaven and know that He has prepared a way for us to do what He asks of us!  In the name of His son, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Air, Water, Fire, Earth

Life has been crazy busy at our house this week.  It isn't so much with school beginning but just all of the end of summer, beginning of fall, stuff.  Drew, as an accountant, closes out the fiscal books for the court in July and then in August has all of July's regular work and budget planning in August.  So he is totally busy and is working extra hours to take care of all of the extra work.  (Summer family vacations are out!)
Copyright: Karen Larsen photography.  This is what I want the day to be like

This week alone, I have had three extra visits (to other people), a couple of child-care services (where the kids were dropped off here), a couple of extra appointments, and four evening meetings, and extra unplanned driving for the older boys---pretty much since Wednesday of last week.  It is just exhausting.  Tomorrow the calendar is empty.  I am looking forward to that.  This morning I looked on the calendar and realized that I had forgotten a scheduled appointment.  Crazy!  (Anyway, that is why there hasn't been much blogging activity.)

I am glad for fall and school, but some weeks are just ridiculous!

About three weeks ago, I found Carol Tuttle teaching us to Dress Your Truth.  Actually I read it in Heather's blog and listened to what she had to say.  It was awesome!  And though I cannot afford to buy her program, which I would just do if I could justify the expense, what I did learn has helped me a ton!!

If you haven't watched her videos, you won't know what I am talking about, so go a watch them first!

But here is what I learned:  I am definitely a Type 3 woman.  I am organized, succinct, irregular (though consistency is something I have worked on for years and am fairly good at now), bold, textured, rich woman (rich as in deep, not financially wealthy).  I am constantly thinking in my head when I talk to people 'and the point is???'.  Occasionally, I have even said to my children when they are telling me a story, "Skip to the end, tell me what you need/want me to do about it and why you are upset."

I have learned that most people cannot manage my bold, aggressive style.  It is too much for them, so I have tried to soften it.  Type 2 is my second nature.  I mask my Type 3 personality with Type 2 because I feel more people will be more accepting of me if I am a Type 2 person.

Well, I'm not!  I'm a Type 3.  As I have dressed more true to my nature and embraced who I really am inside, I am more at peace.  I am happier.  I have also had to just let go of the fact that some people are put off by Type 3 individuals.  And that's OK.

Drew is a Type 4.  When I realized that, oh my goodness!  The world changed.  I can embrace his nature also without taking offense at his ability to think critically and analyze everything and find all of the holes and then want to fix them because Type 4 people seek perfection.  My Type 3 personality moves just a little too fast for him.  But together, we have some balance in that he slows me down and keeps me from jumping too quickly into something and I spur him on so things actually get accomplished.
The children are all a mix.  We have some fire boys (Type 3), a water girl (Type 2), a few earth men (Type 4), and maybe only one air man (Type 1).   [The kids are Avatar watchers, so the air, water, fire, earth analogy makes more sense to them.]  The first day I listened to the four different types and realized they matched the Avatar, the Last Air-bender series, I sat the kids around the table and we each got a piece of paper and labelled everyone in our family.  It was a pretty fun activity.  The kids really got into it.  Then, of course, we had to all discuss why we put some people in certain labels and defend our choices.  Some of us compromised, and some of us just agreed to disagree.  But it was amazing which ones were completely consistent!  Everyone pegged the Type 4's and Type 3's without question.
As we talked, like Carol does, about embracing everyone for their gifts and their natural abilities, relationships in our home have improved.  And it is totally funny to hear one of the kids say, "Oh well they are (fire, water, earth, or air bender) which is different than me and that is why they are like that."  And when one of us fire benders is on the war path, watch out!  But now we just say "My fire personality is going to burn you up if you don't back off."  (And when two fire benders in our home are at each other, it isn't pretty).  But if we take the analogy just a little further and try to embrace each one's personality, we provide balance and then our little world can be in harmony.

But for now, we are all just learning to live together, some days in harmony, some days praying for harmony.