Tag Archive | Religion

The things that make us different make us the same.

Yesterday was remarkable.

The fact that yesterday was so amazing leaves me with an interesting conundrum–I’ve been trying all day to organize my thoughts and feelings about what I experiences in a way that feels not preachy and interesting. The problem with these life-changing revelations is that they tend to apply only to the life of the person who experienced it.

So, yesterday, my local NPR station broadcast an extraordinary interview with a man who is both openly gay, and a faithful member–and employee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can hear it here. This interview led me to Wilcox’s pet project–beyond the film discussed in the interview–The Empathy First Initiative. The EFI Facebook page had this video of a TEDtalk linked to it.

First off–why had no one told me about TED? It’s amazing.

Second, I realize I just linked an hour and twenty minutes of media that, while I found utterly fascinating and life changing, others may not.  What follows is what I found apropos, if you don’t want to watch and listen to those links.  Or, even if you do.

So, here’s how I understood all of this. In Randall Wilcox’s discussion on what it means to be a gay Mormon, he talked about embracing his whole self. When he accepted who and what he was, he became more spiritual–contrary to what Orthodox Mormons tend to believe about homosexuality, and what it means to be gay.

The other thing Wilcox discusses beautifully is empathy.  Rather than looking at a person as an object–oh, he’s gay, or she’s a democrat, or their poor–he encourages us to look beyond, to see the person who has thoughts and feelings and ideas. To not dismiss someone as an abomination or a bigot, for instance, but to try to understand their thought process and the life-experiences that led them to those conclusions.

Brene Brown’s talk is on similar lines, in that she discusses empathy as well. But what stood out to me in her talk was the notion that when we numb the negative in our lives–the pain, the depression, the vulnerabilities–we numb everything. I think I’d subconsciously come to the same conclusion, at least in regards to my depression.  When I started to open up about the fact that I am depressed, and stopped pretending that everything was fine, I started to feel better.

Brown also talks about vulnerabilities–we are all vulnerable. Everybody has something that makes them vulnerable, but it’s the people who embrace their vulnerabilities who thrive, who can love and be loved, while those who try to hide their vulnerabilities struggle, blame others, and spend their lives searching for meaning.

This makes perfect sense, and it’s something that I’ve begun to put into practice.  I’ve been dredging up those deep, dark places within my soul and mind, examining everything and–and I think this is the important bit–not reburying those imperfections that make me vulnerable. I’ve realized that all the self-destructive things that I do are because I feel vulnerable, and I’m trying to either hide the vulnerability, or the shame that comes from being vulnerable.

But, by embracing who I am, the dark scary parts and all, I can become a better person, one who has the capacity to love herself, and by extension, others. I feel like I’m taking the first steps on an important journey.

Now, I do understand that this is all shiny and new, and in a couple of months, the shine will probably have worn off–this post is as much a reminder to me as anything. By getting the words down, it cements the way I’m thinking or feeling. I also know that it might be too much to ask that these few words might help someone else. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Right now, me becoming a better person is all I can ask for.

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Knowing what I should do doesn’t make doing it any easier.

I am a spoiled and selfish girl.

What right do I have to complain?  I have a supportive family, a nice house, two dogs that love me, I’m moving forward with my life, finally.

So I’m sad a lot.  So I have to take medicine to keep me from killing myself.  What do I have to be depressed over, really?

I mean besides the fact that my brain doesn’t process chemicals correctly.

I woke up to a bit of a surprise–today, before I’d even gotten out of bed, I’d received more visits than I had for the past week.  Okay, I wasn’t expecting that one to be a big post…

I think my problem is that I am impatient.  I guess we all are.  After I wrote that post, and while in the process of crying myself to sleep last night, I remembered a scripture from the Book of Mormon that I should have been thinking about all along, specifically Ether 12:27

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

My new friend, William Wallace (FREEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!  sorry, just had to get that out my system.) reminded me in the comments yesterday that I need to turn to God.  I know this.  I’ve always known this.  I know that my trials in life are those that He knows I can handle.

This is hard to remember, though when you’re feeling to agoraphobic to go to church, and to distracted and scatter-brained to study scripture.

School should help.  It’ll get me used to being around people (I’m surrounded by dogs, so I just used the word “socialized” in my head) so I’ll feel more comfortable at church.  The first little bit, anyway, should help with the self-esteem crap too.

I don’t know, I feel like I’ve been such a downer lately, but then I’ve been pretty down.  I want to have something happy to write about, but I really don’t.

Into the Lion’s Den

I’ve been feeling especially brave, the past couple of days.   Of course, when I say I’ve been brave, I mean I’ve been doing stuff that everyone else would think was just par for the course.

Yesterday, I went to Wal-Mart for the first time since the pseudo-fire.  I needed more hardware/garden type stuff, so I was on the other side of the store from: a) where the fire was, and b) where I was when they asked us to evacuate.  It was still pretty difficult, and I was fighting back a panic attack the whole time.  Of course, that could have just been Wal-Mart, too.  Fortunately, I was able to find an isle that didn’t have any customers, pretend I was looking at plastic pestles, and take deep breaths until I calmed down.

Today, Sis asked me to come and watch the kids while she went and got her hair did. She knows it’s hard for me to be around E, and was apologetic, but I was actually happy to–despite, well, despite it being the time of the month when it is extra hard to be around babies. Both G and E have pretty nasty colds, and so are pretty demanding.  So far so good, but we’ll see what happens when I get home tonight.

Even with what I’m considering two huge triumphs, things have been pretty difficult the past couple of days.  I’m having to take a hard look at myself, what I believe and what I know.  I’ve felt for a long time that I’d need to get my spiritual house in order before I would be able to find work–and I’m just now realizing what a state of disrepair it’s in–and of course, because I’m trying to get my life back on track, the adversary is working hard to keep me from doing so.

Blame it on the Olympics.

I’ve had Canada on the brain recently.  I suppose the whole world has Canada on the brain right now, but I’m not thinking about Vancouver (much), I’ve been thinking about Saskatoon.

Saskatoon was the first city I served in on my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  When you’re a missionary, you go where the Mission President tells you to go, and are never more than three feet away from who the Mission President tells you your companion is.

Saskatoon was my favorite city that I visited on my mission.  Yes Regina has the temple, and Winnipeg has…stuff, but Saskatoon is special. If I were to move to Canada, Saskatoon would be the city where I’d want to live.

I’ve been thinking specifically about three people who live in Saskatoon, or at least did when I was there in 2002 and 2003.

The first is a man by the name of Tony.  I never knew his last name.  We met him while we were out tracting (that’s what we call it when missionaries go door-to-door, soliciting appointments and handing out literature, or tracts).  He was sitting in a lawn chair in his driveway, so he had to see us coming.  In his benefit, he didn’t hide inside like most people do when they see Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses coming.  He was very friendly, and talked to us about how he had gone through a difficult time in his life recently, but had found religion in another church.  (I don’t remember what religion he found, but it was a main-stream one).  He wasn’t interested in hearing our message, so we left him with a pass-a-long card. (cards that missionaries hand out, with a phone number or a website where someone can find more information on the church, or order a video, Bible or Book of Mormon free of charge.)

The next was a woman named Danielle.  She wasn’t very old–about 28 when I knew her, and had been a model, but her life was a wreck.  I think she kept working with us because she wanted friends–she was distraught when I told her I was leaving after the first time I was transfered out, even though I knew I’d be back.  She was one of our contacts for the whole two and a half months I was in Saskatoon the first time around, but dropped the discussions sometime in the six months I was away from the city.  When I was called to Saskatoon a second time, the first thing I did was call her to let her know I was back, and asked her to return my call if she was interested in continuing the discussions.  I never heard from her again.

The third person I think about is a man named Leighton.  Leighton was a teacher at a seminary outside of Saskatoon.  He lived a few blocks from our apartment, and I think he was in love with my companion.  Teaching him was very intense.  We even had the chance to visit the seminary, and meet some of his students.  I thought he was a solid investigator (someone who is investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and thinking about being baptized), but he had dropped the discussions between the times I was in Saskatoon.

I don’t know why these three people are the ones that I think about (in my head I just pronounced that aboout.  I love Canada.) when I think about my mission.  I should think about people like Marjorie and Jaime, people I worked with who eventually got baptized (I do, quite a bit, actually, but I don’t wonder about them like I do Tony, Leighton and Danielle).  I should think about Gerta, Darcie and Ann, the sweet members of the Church who helped us so much.  I should think about companions, and the friendships made and the lessons learned.  And, really, I should be thinking about Winnipeg–I spent twice as much time there as I did in Saskatoon.

I don’t know how much of an impact I had on Leighton or Danielle’s lives.  I don’t know if Tony even remembers me–I don’t even know why I remember Tony.  But these three people had a huge impact on me–and I don’t think I’ll ever forget them.

Trusting God

I had an interesting weekend.  And, because I’m unemployed, when I say weekend, I mean from Thursday to Sunday.  I guess today is Martin Luther King day, so technically, I could throw today in there as well.  I’d be much more excited about a 5-day weekend, if I wasn’t in the midst of a multi-month weekend.

Anyway…events lined up this weekend to have me asking the question “Do I trust God?”

Do I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that he said and did everything he claims he did?

Do I believe the Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and all the rest to Gordon B. Hinkley were prophets?  Do I believe that Thomas S Monson is a prophet?

Do I trust that the quorum of the twelve were divinely called?  Do I believe that my district, stake, ward and priesthood leaders are men of God?  Do I trust that they are  inspired of God?

Do I believe the scriptures?  Do I believe that it was God, and not Joseph Smith who said:”…Be not troubled, for, when all these things come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:35)

Do I trust in the promises that were made to me by Stake Presidents, Mission Leaders and the Patriarch?

Do I trust in God?

For those of you who know me, don’t worry, I’m not having a crisis of faith.  I think that blind faith is almost as dangerous as no faith, and that Heavenly Father wants us to ask questions. (James 5:1-6, Moroni 10:4-5, there are many more, you can search them out yourself) I just needed to sit back and re-evaluate where I am on the faith scale.

For the record, I do trust God.  I do believe that Thomas S. Monson is the Prophet of God, and that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles et. all were divinely called.  I do believe that God will keep the promises He’s made to me, I just need to have patience and faith.

A short post full of long explinations.

It’s a little strange to go to church in my parent’s ward.  They still live in the house I grew up in, in a small Mormon town, and even though they haven’t moved, their ward boundaries have.

(In case I have any non-Mormons reading this,  a little note of explanation.  Mormon congregations are called “Wards”, and they are organized by geographical location.  The main church meeting is called Sacrament Meeting, and this is where, unsurprisingly, we take the sacrament, bread and water that represent the body and blood of Christ, similar to Catholic Eucharist.  We also don’t have a paid clergy, so speakers for Sacrament Meeting are pulled from the congregation.  After Sacrament Meeting, we divide by age group and, occasionally, by interest of study, into Sunday School classes.  After Sunday School, the men go to their Priesthood meeting, and the women go to Relief Society.    The course of study for Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society is all determined by church leaders in Salt Lake, so every ward, in theory, is having the same lesson every week.  The Priesthood and Relief Society lessons are also taught out of the same manual,  so men and women receive the same lesson, just not together.  There is also the Primary, Young Mens and Young Women’s programs for children and youth, which I will explain further if I ever have reason to talk about them.)

With the change in the ward boundaries, things have gotten a little strange for me.  First of all, my favorite high school teacher is in my parents ward.  Second of all, it seems like a fair number of jocks that I went to high school with have ether moved back to town or never left, and they are living in my parents ward.

All this is a very long  explanation to talk about what happened in church today.  Boo, the star of the high school football team (and yes, that’s what he chooses to call himself) and his wife were two of the speakers in Sacrament today.  Boo hadn’t been active in the church when they first met, and they weren’t married in the temple.

(Another note of explanation. While the LDS Church recognizes civil marriages, we believe that such unions will end at death.  When a couple is married in the temple, we believe that if both spouses stay worthy, that that marriage will last for eternity.  However, if a couple is not married in the temple, [and there are some states and governments that do not recognize a temple marriage as legally valid] they can go later to be sealed, which is essentially the same thing. Children who are born to a couple who were married or sealed in the temple are also sealed to their parents and can be a part of their family forever.  If a child was born before the sealing took place, or if a child is adopted into a family, they can also be sealed to their parents in the temple.

We also perform this work for our dead ancestors in the temple.)

Boo and his wife both spoke on preparing to go to the temple to be sealed.  It was a very touching experience for me.  I have two callings, (jobs in the church) Relief Society teacher, and Temple Committee co-chair.  One of my duties in the temple committee is to teach the temple prep class, to help the members of my ward prepare to enter the temple.

(What, more explanation?  I know there are a lot of people who don’t understand why we don’t let just anyone into our temples.  I hope I can clear it up a bit.  We believe that the temples are the most sacred spots on the earth.  Inside, we are taught sacred truths.  Even members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not allowed inside the temple unless they are approved by their ward and stake [a stake is a collection of wards] leaders, and issued a recommend.  My temple prep class is to help those members who are worthy to receive a temple recommend to be ready to receive those sacred truths.)

My temple prep class has had me discouraged lately.  The members of my class are brought in by invitation, and tend to be 19-20-21 year old girls and their recently returned missionary fiancées. (a missionary, male or female, goes through the temple before departing on their mission)  The girls, the ones who the class is for, seem to treat it as a joke, or are too shy to comment, so much of the discussion takes place among the fiancées,  who have already been through the temple.  While this is understandable to a certain extent–we are not supposed to talk about much of what happens in the temple outside of its sacred walls, so trying to prepare someone to enter requires a lot of talk about seemingly random topics that can be difficult to understand unless you have been through the temple, it’s still frustrating.  I don’t know how much these girls are taking away, or if they are treating this topic of eternal importance with the gravity it deserves.

Which brings me back to Boo.  He said in his talk today that the only reason he went to the temple prep classes was because they served refreshments afterwards.  He didn’t really take much away, but, when he got to the temple, he realized how much they helped.

Granted, I was already emotional because I was feeling overwhelmed by being around so many people, and the past few days have been on the down side of things. (um, not a church explanation, but rather a personal one.  “Down day” is my own personal code for a day when I’ve been noticeably more depressed for much of the day)  So when Boo made that statement, I started to cry.  I needed to hear that just because I don’t think the girls are taking anything out of the class doesn’t mean that they aren’t, and they probably won’t realize how much they needed the classes until they go through the temple, get married and move out of my ward.

I’m so glad to have had that reminder.  I just would have never expected it to come from that source.

“Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world”

Yesterday, I posted about my favorite traditional/secular Christmas.  I was thinking, though, that if I’m going to talk about my favorite Christmases, then the ones I spent on my mission deserve a special recognition.

I served an 18 month proselytising mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My mission was called the Canada Winnipeg Mission, and it covered all of the central time zone in Canada–effectively, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and about a third of Ontario.  Technically, my mission also covered portions of Nunavut, all the way up to the North Pole, but the farthest north we had missionaries (at least while I was there) was Flin Flon.

I left for my mission on July 10, 2002, and, because transfers happen every 6 weeks, I had the choice to come home right before Christmas 2003, or at the end of January 2004.  I chose to stay ’til January, mostly because my first Christmas in the mission field was so amazing.

I spent both Christmases in Winnipeg, the first one in Transcona, the second one in St. James.  From what I saw, Christmas in Canada wasn’t that much different from the Christmases I grew up with–just colder, with more booze, and a strange pastry called butter tarts.

Where I was in Canada, most people who went to church belonged to one of two churches, either the United Church of Canada, or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. They weren’t really interested in hearing our message, or changing their way of life.

A change came around Christmas, though.  First of all, we changed our door approach to talk more about the birth of our Saviour. (See that?  I’m talking about Canada, so I just used a Canadian/British spelling)  People were more likely to let us in their homes.

Although, this could have had something to do with it.
Although, this might have had something to do with it.

Christmas on a mission is such an amazing time.  Missionaries are already so focused on the Savior, (I’m talking about missionaries in general, so that gets an American spelling) and, despite what the cheesy shows on TV and the “Holiday” advertisements tell you, most people who celebrate Christmas do remember Christ.  To have our message well (okay, better) received, to truly focus on what Christ and what Christmas is all about is the most amazing thing.

The last two weeks of my mission, the temperature never got above -45.  We weren’t allowed outside for more than five minutes at a time, and, of course, that’s when the engine block heater on our car decided to conk out on us.  I spent the last days of my mission stuck inside the mouse-infested apartment with my two companions (fortunately, there was a family-owned grocery store across the street, so we weren’t hurting for food).  It was a very difficult time (even though I love Sister Jackson and Sister Johnson) and not a very spectacular way to end the mission.  Even so, I was glad that I stayed an extra 6 weeks, so I could spend another Christmas in the missionfield.

When I got home, and my family was so eager to have the delayed Christmas that they had planned for me, I wasn’t really all that interested in opening presents, I would have just as soon shared the love and spirit that I felt for the special time of year.

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