Monday, November 18, 2013


Shanghai, Beijing, Uganda, Tel Aviv, Geneva, London, NYC and Detroit.  What do all these places have in common?  Since September, my husband has worked in all of these cities.  He left again today for Asheville, North Carolina and will be working his way up the east coast to Baltimore.  Each week until Christmas, he is scheduled to be gone, (except Thanksgiving--yay)!  And we miss him already!  He just returned on Friday from the last trip!  It seems he is barely home long enough to get some laundry done before he is off again.  Life doesn't stop when he comes home either.  I have commitments, the kids have activities, friends/family need meals or time or love or all of the above.  I'm not about to complain!  But there is a cost that comes, and I have learned the necessity of having my priorities straight, efficient time management, not taking on more than I can handle and the art of recognizing my blessings.  Inevitably, appliances and cars break down when spouses are away!  Kids get sick.  Moms get sick!  Important documents need signing.  I bought our last house when Brandon was traveling! The list goes on...

The past several months have been insane for us.  We still have things left unfinished on our new home.  As workers come to finish, they point out things that need to be redone because they were done incorrectly, they throw numbers and words out about framing, electrical or plumbing as if what they are saying makes perfect sense to me!  Its difficult knowing who or what to trust.  We've been burned.  I've been naive and too trusting.

Kids come with their own individual struggles and our family is no exception.  Constant concern over what is best for them, time needed with each one, and learning how to advocate for them is something I spend a great deal of time on.  Getting to the root of learning disabilities, speech impediments, potentially fatal allergies, emotional issues and more takes time and a lot more emotion! 

We are not immune to health challenges.  I have a bag next to my bed that is host to a dozen pills I take every day.  Kids whose bodies aren't functioning right and need medicine to rely on for the rest of their lives is something that will keep you up at night! And learning how to discern between normal child behavior or behavior caused by a disease that messes with hormones is another challenge!  Searching for avenues that will restore health take a great deal of time, money and discernment.

I've now painted a miserable picture!

Here's another view.

I married a good man.  He is a good dad.  He is loyal and faithful. He has never complained about providing for our family.  I know he didn't want to get on that airplane today.  But he is a hard worker and will always take care of us.  When he's not working, he's working.  He listens to me talk about each kid and then does what is needed to reach out to them during that small window he is home, or over skype!  He forfeits sleep and rest (even with jetlag) so that he can be with us.  He is a good man.

We have been blessed beyond measure in so many ways. Our bodies are strong and functioning.  We have the means to pay for good health care and medication (at least for now!).  We have cars with over 100k miles that seem to be doing just fine (knock on wood!).  We have a roof over our heads and within these walls we have a safe haven that protects us from more than the harsh elements this earth provides.  We have kids who are learning how to be good people and want to be.  They are learning that their challenges are often what turns them to the things that matter most in life, rather than seeing them as obstacles in their way.  We are given opportunities to grow closer together and rely on each other.  We have felt the joy that comes each time we are reunited and know there isn't a greater feeling than being together after being apart.  We have a great support network from our parents who constantly provide relief, support and love.

I've learned if others are painting a miserable picture of their life, they are not seeing the good.  And if they are painting a perfect picture, they are not acknowledging/sharing the bad!

As Mormons, we believe that opposition is essential to God's plan.  We are free to choose liberty and eternal life through Jesus Christ or captivity and death, according to the power of the devil.
"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things...righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad...and if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin.  If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall say there is no righteousness.  And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness.  And if there be no righteousness or happiness there be no punishment nor misery.  And if these things are not there is no God.  And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon.
 For there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon." (Book of Mormon, p.58)
I have learned where there is resistance, there are greater blessings right around the corner.  We have felt the tug and pull of these slight challenges recently, but we have also seen unexplainable miracles unfold in regard to all of these challenges.  Likewise, where God is seeking to provide blessings, the adversary (Satan) is working overtime to create temptation and feelings of doubt and insecurity in us. If you are feeling weighed down, learn to feel the opposite.  If you are without hope, trust in the opposite.  If nothing seems to roll your way, wait for the opposite. 

Because I am a Mormon, I will look to my Savior, Jesus Christ, and do all I can to be faithful and choose eternal life.  I believe this is the way to happiness in this life and the world to come.  I do recognize there is another way to live, an opposite; but misery is not something I plan to welcome into my life any time soon!!

I love this family picture because we were all laughing at something when the timer went off on the camera! 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Same Church, New Congregation

I hate change!

In the LDS Church, we don't pick and choose the building where we would like to attend church.  Each congregation is geographically assigned into groups called wards.  Here in Utah, a ward consists of a few blocks of homes because nearly every house has a member of our church living in it!  Back in Snohomish, WA where I grew up, a ward covered several miles worth of neighborhoods because there are fewer LDS people. In some parts of the world, they must travel a great distance at great sacrifice to attend church with their ward. When my parents first moved to the Seattle area in 1980, my mom had to drive 30 minutes to Monroe to get to church until they built a new building in Everett.  As I was graduating high school and membership numbers grew, a church was built even closer, in Mill Creek.

Within each ward there is a Bishop.  He has overall responsibility for ministering the temporal and spiritual affairs of the congregation.  There are also leaders assigned to be over the children, the youth, the music, the compassionate service, missionary work, scouting, activities, etc.  Everyone within the ward has a volunteer assignment. NO ONE IS PAID.  It is perfectly organized and universally the same whether you live in Alpine, UT or in Africa! Ideally, everyone works together for the good of the ward.  I have been in wards where nobody knows my name, and I have been in wards where I know and love every single person on a personal level.  It is in wards where we are taught to serve and reach out to our neighbors, where the gospel is taught each Sunday, where we learn tolerance and forgiveness, and where we build relationships with other members of our faith.

I have fond memories growing up in the Everett 4th Ward.  Our ward boundaries had kids from different school districts which was kind of hard for me not going to school with all the same kids in my ward.  But we were a Family.  We didn't have any other family in Washington State and so our holidays, camping trips (when we went camping once!), and vacations were spent with ward family friends.  We played Church Basketball--dividing teams among wards.  There was quite the rivalry between wards! :) Because my dad wasn't an active member of our church when I was a kid, I can remember many of these ward families reaching out to our family and I will be forever grateful to some of those who befriended my dad and helped him feel more comfortable when he started going to church.  My mom was always involved in our ward in some way or another and her best friends were ward friends.  It is always a sad thing when they divide ward boundaries and all of a sudden, you go to church with a new congregation.  That happened when I was 12, and I recall feeling a great loss.

Well, fast forward to today...I am convinced that we recently moved away from THE BEST WARD in the entire LDS church! (And there are over 29,000 LDS wards in the world.) I've never learned so much from others as I have living among those people.  We must be crazy to have willingly left such a great place!  Our kids were taught by some of the greatest people on the earth! Every Sunday, we left church feeling uplifted and inspired to be a better person that week.  I miss them so much.  We moved less than a mile away, yet when you aren't in the same ward, your social circle is different!  Its such an odd cultural norm here! 

This new ward is nice and I have no doubt there are good people here.  But it is challenging to go to church, look around and see strangers. We have yet to meet our bishop and I can't remember names of people who have kindly introduced themselves, but hopefully we will start to feel at home soon.

Because I am LDS, I will always belong to a ward family.  I may not know them yet, and they don't know me, but through service and time, we will!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What if none of it is true?

I was seventeen when I can remember feeling very lonely for the first time.  I was surrounded by family and so many wonderful friends of all walks of life.  I was so blessed and had been given many opportunities and good things in my life.  But even my closest childhood friends felt far away from where I was at that time. Without realizing it, a division was happening as I was approaching adulthood, and I felt it.  Diversity is a great thing, but sometimes, it is nice to have someone next to you who understands what you are thinking without needing to use words.

After some time of feeling this way, when I was able to put my finger on it, I realized what I was longing for most was a friend who saw life as I did.  My friends were all good people.  But because of my religious practices, I felt set apart in the choices we made, things we wanted out of life, and the directions we were facing.  I’m sure there were others I overlooked who were in my same predicament, but at the time, I just felt lonely.  I was very aware that the reason I felt this way was because of my religion.  In my loneliness, I found myself asking...what if none of this is true?  What if it’s all a lie?  What if all these sacrifices I am making turn out to be for nothing?

Those are haunting questions.  But very real questions. 

Doubt is an enemy to faith.  Faith is believing in something you cannot see.  My whole life, I had believed in doctrines taught to me that I accepted on Faith; believing without seeing.  One would think that is foolishness.  But some might also say that having faith in something is being able to rise above foolishness.

I was an avid journal writer, so it is easy for me to remember exactly how I felt then.  I wrote in my journal nearly every day. Around this time period, I was reflecting on things in my life that were positive because of my faith in religion. One day I noted in my journal that even if someday I find out that it is all a lie, none of it true, I had decided it is still a good way to live my life; a life devoted to families, improving character, service, sacrifice and centered on Jesus Christ; a life of discipline, striving to make life better for those around me, of forgetting myself, and finding joy--not momentary happiness and excitement--but pure inner joy that is lasting.  I chose faith over doubt and committed myself to live this life, believing that it was a good way to live.

Now it has been seventeen years since that time, and my faith has grown.  I believe this way of life I am living is not just a good way to live.  It can be both demanding and challenging. It can be lonely.  Questions still arise and my faith is put to the test.  But I believe this way of life is THE WAY to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. 

But I’ve also wondered this.  When I was seventeen and doubting what was real, I also wrote this in my journal...“If this religion is what it says it is...what does that mean for all my friends who I love so much who do not know?”  I expressed heartfelt yearning for them to believe as I did.

So now I ask you, my friends of all walks of life!  Just as I questioned whether or not my religion was true or not, I ask you: 

what if it is? 

I believe that truth is Truth whether we choose to accept it or not.  Truths that are conflicting cannot all be Truth.  We can say the sky is purple all we want.  We can say that this life has no meaning.  We can say that there is no God in heaven.  We can say there is no such thing as miracles, answers to prayer or revelation from above.  But at the end of the day, Truth will remain.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is Truth.  And I pray I will live my life according to that truth--no matter the loneliness, or whatever else falls in my lap--until the day I take my last breath.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What I Learned from Being Mary

When Martha and her sister Mary, of Bethany, were pleading for Jesus to come quickly and heal their brother, they did so in great faith.  They knew Him and loved Him.  They had been witnesses to many miraculous events and knew that if there was a way to save the life of Lazarus, their beloved brother, Jesus Christ was the way.  They believed in Him without question.

But He didn't come.  At least not when they wanted Him to come.

Their sorrow arose from their grief; knowing that if He had been there, their brother would not have died. 

I know what it is like to place all my faith in Jesus Christ, whom I know can do all things, and plead for His help, only to experience the same grief and sorrow when it seems He has not come.  Most of us do.  It is difficult not to wonder and question, why?

As I've pondered this story over and over again the past couple of months, I have learned so much.  One lesson in particular is that when Jesus actually does come and He sees what has happened to Lazarus and sees the sisters' pain and suffering, He weeps.

Now I used to think he wept because He was sad Lazarus had died.  He saw the women were sad, too, and I thought the lesson here was that Jesus Christ can comfort us in our time of need because He feels our pains.  Although, I believe this to be true, I do not believe it is the lesson to be learned.  At least not for me the past several weeks.

Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient to His Father.  Perfectly.  Mary, Martha, the people of Bethany, and all the world needed to see that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead.  We needed to know what He meant when He said "I am the Resurrection and the Life, he that believeth in me shall never die." If He had come when they called, that lesson would have been missed by all.  I believe that He had the power to come sooner and heal Lazarus, but that He was exercising His perfect obedience, and in doing so, His own heart couldn't stand that those He loved were suffering.  And so the tears came.  And eventually, so did the miracle.

My experience in participating in Rob Gardner's Lamb of God production as Mary of Bethany has taught me so many beautiful things. I was taught in much the same way as Mary was taught.  As I sought much needed help, it didn't come when I wanted it to come.  Even though I believed with all of my heart that the only way I could perform was through His help, I felt that the help was withheld from me for some time.  It caused me to question my abilities, my motives, and I often asked myself, why am I doing this?  I became discouraged and felt similar to how Mary must have felt as I sought the Lord's help in prayer.  I knew that He could help me and strengthen me; I never once doubted His ability to help me; but I questioned where that help was.

Well, it also eventually came.  Not when I wanted it to, but when it was going to teach me the most.  Days leading up to the performance,  many miracles took place.  My confidence grew; not in myself, but my confidence in my God.  Through an inspired Director, I was given opportunities that made a huge difference in my performance.  He gave me his confidence.  Through a kind and gifted mentor and teacher, I was given professional suggestions on how to manage nerves and anxiety on stage.  She, too, gave me her confidence.  Through a loving and supportive husband, I was given constant assurance that I could do this, that I needed to do this.  And through a perfectly obedient Savior, I was given peace and strength.  I was given His confidence.  I can't say I wasn't nervous, but I knew He had not left me to myself.  I gave it my all, and pray that it was enough.

Because I am LDS, I believe in Jesus Christ's power to heal us not only in our time of need, but in His time.  He is our Advocate with the Father.  It isn't that He wants us to suffer, but that He is obedient to His Father who knows what is best for us.  Though it seems at times He is far from us, He will always come in the moment that is necessary to best teach us.  And just like Mary, we will understand as we realize that if He had come sooner, the lessons would never have been learned.  We must hold on until help comes.

As hard as that can be, it is always worth the wait.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why Jesus Christ Matters to Me

Jesus Christ was born over 2,000 years ago.  Someone once asked me why He still matters when He lived so long ago.  To paraphrase, this is what they were saying: "I get it, he was a good man, but as time has passed, the Bible stories have been blown out of proportion through exaggeration and ideals--the Bible is a record of the ideal, not reality. And that all happened so long ago.  Things are so different now." 

I want to share why Jesus Christ matters to me, in 2013.

He did live thousands of years ago.  But He lived long before then.  He was the creator of this earth; He lived before the earth was formed. (John 1:3)  And He lives today, and tomorrow and forever.  Things are different now.  But He still lives--and that matters very much.

When He was on the earth, He lived a perfect, exemplary life we ought to follow.  All of life's problems can be solved when we ask ourselves, What would Jesus do?  I teach my children stories from the scriptures because Jesus Christ's life is the perfect pattern.  If you are going to sew a dress, it hardly makes sense to make your own pattern if you want your dress to turn out the same as the original.  There are so many philosophies out there, so many different opinions, but when we follow God's path, we can be assured we are on the same path that will bring happiness to our families.

He is our Savior.  It is through Him that we can return to live with our Father in Heaven after this life.  He saves us, literally.

I do not understand how Grace works.  Sometimes things cannot be explained.  But I know because we are mortal, that we are destined to error, to make mistakes.  Without someone who can redeem us from those errors, we would be forever lost.  Every day, I pray that through the power of His Atonement, I will be made whole and will be worthy to appear before my Maker after this life is said and done.  Without a Savior, I am nothing. It is through Him I can do anything.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13).  I recognize that any ability I am given is because of Him.

There are millions of people walking this earth who do not believe in Jesus Christ, or feel His influence is still present.  And yet, I believe His life is central to every single soul.  Every breath we take, and every good thing testifies to me of His reality.  Without Him, we would not be.  Without Him, there would be no goodness.  Without Him, there would be no hope. 

Jesus Christ matters to me.  Because I am a Mormon, I believe that He will someday return to earth and He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords...every knee will bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him.  Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts. (Proclamation to the World on the Family).

He will matter to each of us.