Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Alarm Clock of Youth

Why, oh why, must children remember the very things about their childhood that you wish them to forget? And why, oh why, don't they recall the many wonderful things, (I'm sure there must have been many), that are worth remembering?

My kids are all grown. One day, I was feeling uncharacteristically wistful about those long, lost days when they were newer.  I asked one who turned out well to tell me about a childhood memory.  I was looking for validation that I'd been a good mother, that I'd been a light in little childish lives.

Take my advice.  Don't do this. You may be sorry.

Dear daughter cheerfully replied that one of her most vivid memories as a young girl was being awakened every morning by the ringing sounds of pots and pans clanging together. This was coming from the kitchen. Then every so often,  after a particularly loud crash,  the shrill voice of her lovely mother would cry out in exasperation,  "Damnation!"

She doesn't recall that I was all alone out there, in the dawn's early light,  making breakfast and packing lunches for the rest of the still sleeping members of the family.  No, of course not.   All this before I had to get ready for work too.  Never mind that I wasn't cussing AT anybody for Pete's sake!  Plus, I didn't think anyone was listening, but that doesn't matter either.  She just remembers what she calls, "The alarm clock of my youth."  5:00 AM she said.  It never failed.  For years she awoke to the sound of pots and pans crashing loudly and "Damnation!" ringing out from the kitchen of our "little house in the big woods."  Now whenever she hears anybody shout, "Damnation!" she thinks of me.   Great.   Happy mother's day.

After this distressing little tale I asked her to tell about something nice.  A beautiful memory.  Something precious that we'd shared as mother and daughter.

She thought hard and said with a bright smile, "Nothing comes to mind off the top of my head."

If you still have kids at home think about this.  Let it be a lesson to you.  Children have very selective memories and good hearing.  And regret has a bitter taste in old age.

Watch yourself.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What Goes Around Keeps Coming Around

Since I retired from teaching three years ago I've given up on keeping up.

With local and national news broadcasts that is.

I used to watch every night.  You know....mindless, habitual viewing.....6:00 news with dinner, 10:00 news before bed.  But now that I've had time to think about it, I decided that as far as knowing what's going on, ignorance can indeed be bliss.

This began when I really paid attention to what was being put out there. It was negative, biased, incorrect, and usually depressing.  Almost always.  What's more, nearly all of it was outside my area of influence. There was never a thing I could do to help those poor souls involved in the latest shooting or drug bust, but still my stomach churned and my heart ached for the victims.  The despair never made my life any better.  And "knowing the news" never helped me to be a more effective person either.  In fact, I began to look suspiciously on more of my neighbors than deserved it.  And to make unkind judgments on whole categories of people.  Like media folks.  I'm sure some of them must mean well.

So now I pray hard and help whomever I can around me. And then I donate to organizations who may be able to make a difference to the rest. When being informed in order to be a good citizen seems important, I find other sources.

It was truly amazing how much peace came into my life with this one simple, "No news is good news" change. The sun rose a little brighter.  A positive viewpoint was easier to find.  It actually reduced the number of little pills I had to swallow for stomach and blood pressure problems!

In any case it seems like there's nothing ever really new anyway. The same old issues just keep coming around again and again. It makes me feel like we're not learning from our mistakes, which is depressing in itself, and one of the biggest mistakes of all.

Now my daughters tell me that an old issue is making headlines again involving the church.  It's about women and the priesthood.  I remember when this was part of the news cycle decades ago, back when I was a young woman new to the gospel. It concerned me then because, as a Mormon, I was being taught that God is perfectly just. I learned that we may not be able to see it now, but one day we'll all say,  "Father was fair with me."  It was distressing to hear that some felt the church to be discriminatory.  I needed to know.  So I read church teachings about this very thing.  I studied scriptures. What's more I tried to live the life of a Latter Day Saint woman. Somebody said that was the real test of the truth.

One day when I was trying to live that life something happened.  I was asked to substitute in a Sunday school class. It was for kids around 9 years old and called "Valiants" I think.  Ordinarily I'd try to get out of this kind of thing but as I said I was trying to walk the LDS walk to "see for myself" as a test.  So I said yes. Some frantic sister with sick kids dropped off a manual and gave me the lesson number. Late Saturday night I finally opened it to see what I was supposed to try to teach a bunch of rowdy 9 year olds in the morning.
I've remembered that lesson for decades now.

It was about what you can know for sure when you see any human being on earth. No matter what the circumstances you can know this is true. I remember three main points.

First, everybody you see is a child of God. The literal offspring of deity. (Think about that for a long time before going on to the next thing. It's deep.)

Second, since they're here on earth, everybody you see chose the Lord's plan once. In the pre-existence they voted with Father. So, no matter what they're doing now they chose right then. Too, since these are the last days and many valiant spirits have been saved for this time because of the great need, it's possible that they may be one of them.

Last, we know what Father said in the scriptures,   "Thou shall not esteem one flesh above another."
Not "All men are created equal." No mention of male/female, rich/poor, black/ white, broken/whole or any other categories.  Just flesh.  And esteem.


This is what Mormons are teaching their children. All the little LDS kids around the world were being taught this same lesson. Not just word of mouth either, but published right there in all the manuals printed in every language.  Many of them would go home to families and be asked, "What did you learn in church today? Then a bunch of nine year olds would share eternal truths all over the world. Millions of people being taught these things in every country and culture.


But what about those sisters in the news, the ones upset because only men were given the priesthood in the church? If Father loves all flesh equally can this be fair?

Then something else happened to me personally that I believe was a heaven sent blessing and message.  It was a sacred experience and I share it only in the hope that it may help someone else. It's not part of church teachings.

I had a baby.

And while giving birth I had a special experience. Though I've had several children, this only happened one time.

Right in the middle of the last stages of labor my thought processes turned to eternal things.  I seemed to be an observer of what was going on around me. I remember thinking and feeling,   "There's another person, not just a baby, but a person with a past and a future, who is coming THROUGH  ME,  right at this moment.  God is using my body to send someone to earth."  I began to think of how special the physical connections of childbirth were.  A bond between mother, child and God.  A special blessing reserved only for women.  A sacred experience that men cannot share. Suddenly I was sorry for my husband who could never feel what I was feeling!   Yes, while in labor I felt sorry for men!  They were missing out on one of life's greatest gifts. Then the pain came back and my attention was directed elsewhere.

That was all. That was the experience. Strange for sure.

I didn't know it then but that was only half of it.

Sometime later I was witness to a priesthood blessing, certainly not unusual and something I'd done before. I believe a little child was sick and was receiving a blessing of healing. As the men with the Holy Priesthood placed their hands on the girl's head I glanced up.

Then the oddest thing happened. Thoughts came rushing back to me from the delivery room!
There it is! I thought. Those men are putting their hands on a child's head and physically blessing her to be healed. Surely one of life's greatest gifts! Something reserved only for men. The laying on of hands. A sacred bond between them, the child, and God. Blessings of comfort, courage, healing, and sometimes miracles given by Father's faithful sons.

So I needn't have felt sorry for my brothers. I knew then in my heart and soul that Father is indeed perfectly fair to his children.

Just a note about a related subject.

Once I heard somebody say that LDS women are discriminated against by LDS men generally and not allowed to reach their full potential.

After I quit laughing I'll give them some input.

I advise them to walk the walk of a Mormon woman and see.

I have three daughters and eight granddaughters, all walking the walk.  I asked some of them about this very thing and this is what I found.

Never,  never,  never,  have any of them, ever, been encouraged to be anything less than their best selves. In fact, most often we are admonished to be better than we think we can possibly be. We are vigorously taught to develop all of our God given talents. We are exhorted to become as highly educated as our circumstances will allow. If formal education isn't possible then we're urged to study on our own, by candlelight if that's all there is!  We are counseled that we must read and learn "from the best books," in every subject. We are to be knowledgeable, accomplished, and to use our talents in every way to help make our homes and the world a better place.

I even remember one Relief Society lesson where the point was made that some of our talents may be hidden. We were advised to be diligent, discover them, magnify them along with the ones we knew about already, and then get busy using them to bless the lives of others!  In addition, all the while we're doing this we're to seek after everything that is beautiful, lovely and of good report.

Victims of discrimination? Not allowed to become all we wish to become?
Truth be told, some of the females in my family suggested that they could use a little rest from trying to reach their full potentials. Many times, I too have longed for a nap, but instead have been out there trying to develop something.

All the women in my family can testify of the truth of what I say.  I know they can because they're all tired.  Indeed all Mormons are taught from the cradle to reach for everything that they may become.
And when that reach pulls a hamstring we're instructed in first aid so we'll soon be well and back at it!