Category Archives: religion

Becoming Comfortable with Beauty

Last week’s SS lesson talked about gaining knowledge. The teacher asked “why do you think it is important to ‘read out of the best books’ ?” He pointed out that the scriptures are The best books and we should read from them daily.  But there are others that we should also read.  So, here are my thoughts:

I think our brain is like the rest of our body: Garbage in, garbage out. If we eat harmful things, it will starve our organs of necessary nutrients to function properly. Some substances (like harmful drugs) can actually target certain organs and cause damage quickly. Likewise, we can take harmful things into our mind that will slowly starve it (lack of learning) or even damage it quickly (pornography, hate-speech).

Mom with her Osborne Computer
Mom with her Osborne Computer, 1980-ish

I’ve always liked the analogy that we are each like a puzzle piece that fits into our family puzzle; immediate and extended. We are shaped by those around us and by the choices we make. As we grow older, we have more control over our “shape” as we make more of our own choices. And I’m not just talking about our body shape. 🙂 Our “shape” is who we are comfortable spending time with and the places we are comfortable in. And by “comfortable” I guess I mean “easy.” Routine is comfortable.

When I first moved away from my parents home I remember how good it felt to go back home for a few days. That’s where my shape fit best. The whole environment felt like a warm blanket wrapped around me. I remember years later, after I’d been married for a few years, we weren’t able to be with my parents for Thanksgiving. I not only missed the time talking to them, I even missed falling asleep on the couch after dinner with the sound of the football game on the TV. I’ve never been one to turn on a football game but I did on that Thanksgiving Day.

I know many smokers who want to quit smoking. It seems like the routine of smoking may be harder to quit than the physical addiction to nicotine. My husband was successful when he replaced his smoking routine with a painting routine. He painted a mural at his workplace instead of going on smoke breaks. He broke the pattern of where he walked and how he used his hands during breaks. The mural only took so long, though, so his desire to quit kept him motivated to find other ways to create new patterns and routines.

We don’t have to like the routine we are in for it to be comfortable. Change is hard. It may be the biggest reason an abused person doesn’t leave the abuser. They’ve gotten into a routine. It is comfortable in the sense that they know what to expect; not that they like it but they don’t know anything else. Maybe they don’t think they deserve anything better or they don’t think they are capable of anything better. When we change our shape, some of our closest relationships won’t be as comfortable. Those people either choose to change their shape or leave.

Yes, change is hard but it is so worth it! In the past, I was trapped in a shape I wanted to change. I could see that the men I was attracted to were toxic. I was successful in my career though. And I had good relationships with my family and friends (as far as I know-lol). It was just this one type of relationship that I had trouble with. I had to change my shape. I changed the way I thought about myself. I had to practice seeing the beauty in others as well as in myself. But that also meant I needed to learn to recognize what was harmful to me. I am now blessed with a kind, loving and supportive husband. I’m not done yet. Life is not over. I’m still working on my shape.

lake-house-nighttime
The pathway home

Change is hard. But we CAN change our shape! God created us in HIS image! (Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” also: Moses 2:27, Abraham 4:27, Ether 3:15, Alma 22:12, D&C 20:18)

I think one reason to “read from the best books” (D&C 88:118) is so we can fill our mind with beauty; so we are comfortable hearing beautiful speech. When we look at beautiful scenery and artwork we grow comfortable being in beautiful places. Aren’t we trying to shape our puzzle piece to fit into God’s family puzzle?  Don’t we want to be comfortable in the beauty of Heaven?

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Elk Calves Romping

Why are babies (and little children) just naturally happy?

[youtube https://youtu.be/aLPZuLB2BBw]

“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:2-6

elk calves
Elk calves playing in the field

Remembering Elder Packer’s teachings about the importance of children in our lives; even if we can’t have any of our own:  “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”

Who’s Listening?

Is listening a lost art?  Has technology made us poor listeners?  Technology has increased reading material significantly.  But reading isn’t the same as listening.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can find the information I need in milliseconds and that I can write to friends and family and get a response with only a delay of minutes rather than days or weeks.  It has made me more productive in my work.  But computers have also made me impatient.  I’ve come to expect a quick response in everything.  It takes too long to write out a check at the grocery store so I slide my card.  When it takes longer than 10 seconds for the receipt to print I’m tapping my toe.  10 seconds!  Really?  Sitting in traffic was excruciating until someone invented texting.  We’ve become computers!  We multitask every moment of the day!  How the heck does anyone sleep?  You can’t multitask sleep!

Is speed really that important?  If I am multitasking, am I multitasking the right things; or the best things?  Every moment presents a choice.  As a wise man recently suggested, we not only have a choice between good and evil but also of “good, better or best”.  Are we using technology to strengthen our family?  Or is it tearing us apart?  I saw a disappointing scene in the overflow section of church last summer.  A family, who I thought was very close-knit, was sitting in front of us.  There were plenty of empty seats so the 5 of them were spread out over 8 seats.  As the speaker got a little dry the cell phones and tablets came out.  In the overflow, we watch the speakers in another part of the building from a monitor.  So they didn’t have to hide their devices from a speaker looking at them.  The youngest is 4 and didn’t have a cell phone or tablet.  She first leaned on Dad, then Mom, then each sister without the desired response.  Then she started over.  Maybe they were all reading scriptures but they weren’t all on the “same page” and someone was left out.

Since I first taught 7 year-olds in Primary I’ve liked the saying, “God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth to be used in that proportion.” But I’ve always felt like I’ve had a lot to say and didn’t know how to say it.  Since the advent of the internet and I’ve discovered blogging, it feels like I’ve found my voice.  I started out using it to share wildlife photos with my family but noticed non-family paying attention.  I think the saying needs an amendment: “but He also gave me 10 fingers!”  The added attention gave me courage – or maybe a false feeling of fame.  Social media makes it possible for each of us to live like a rock star or movie star.

Recently I’ve thought, “What I have to say is probably not as important as what I need to hear.”  I’m not an eloquent speaker.  Even after a casual conversation I walk away thinking I needed to say something different and sometimes follow it up with a well-thought-out email.  I’m sure my email has incredible wisdom in it.  (hahaha)  Social media gives us the impression that everyone cares about what we have to say; or at least, more people than I knew before.  (If I was younger I’d think a lot more people care about my looks based on statistics of my selfies. – gag!)  My statistics tell me how many people were “reached” or “liked” or “shared” what I had to say.  This is not a satisfying voice:  To put thoughts out there and wait to see if anyone likes it or comments on it.  Has blogging changed my focus from listening to speaking?  Even most (not all) of the comments I get are strangers paid to sound interested in my post so others will see their avatar and click on it because they are advertising something.  How ridiculous is that!  I don’t “accept” those.

I worked with a guy once who had had a near death experience.  He talked about meeting Christ and having the choice to come back.  I asked him what he learned from it.  He said that loving people is the most important thing we can do in this life and that we should pay attention to what is right in front of us.

Technology can either improve our connections with others or it can disconnect us.  It all depends on how we use it.  The rising generation might be lacking some listening skills if we don’t help them navigate this sea of technology.

common merganser
Common Merganser

God made some beautiful creatures.  We only get to see the male common mergansers in the winter months.  He’s just takin’ care of business!

Yesterday’s Directive is Today’s Sign

I need reminders.  If I just need to remember for a few minutes I’ll cross my fingers until I can get to it.  If it will be longer and, especially if I’ve forgotten it several times, I’ll write it down.

label or directive
       Sometimes we just need a sign

After I cleaned the oven I realized that I don’t need to remove my note!

But it’s Christmas so I have to go deeper…

If I haven’t mentioned it here before, I hate cleaning tasks because I can never get the object to look like it was when it was new.  The Magic Eraser gets as close as anything I’ve ever tried but there are still flaws that cannot be removed with caustic cleaners and a good scrubbing.

Jesus Christ is better than a Magic Eraser!  Of course it takes faith in Him (oven cleaner) and repentance (application) for Him to make us clean again.  By accepting His gift we can develop Christ-like traits like humility (acknowledgement our own limitations), a change of heart (“sin no more”) and forgiveness of others as well as ourselves.  Some flaws may be deep.  But when we repent of our sins He forgives us and will “remember them no more”, D&C 58:42; even if it takes many times to get it right (“seventy times seven”, Matt 18:21-22)  When we do our best, He not only makes up the difference but restores us so that we, to Him, are just like we were when brand new.  That humbles me and I am so grateful to our Eternal Father for giving us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“The mercy and grace of Jesus Christ are not limited to those who commit sins either of commission or omission, but they encompass the promise of everlasting peace to all who will accept and follow Him and His teachings. His mercy is the mighty healer, even to the wounded innocent.”  Boyd K Packer, “The Reason for Our Hope

Sometimes we may want to put a sign on someone to indicate they need cleaning.  But we don’t know their heart.  God may be reading the sign a little differently.

Easter Reminders of Eternal Life

Life blossoms in the spring.

Apple Blossoms
Apple Blossoms

You know the drill.  All the leaves fall off the apple tree in the Fall.  The tree looks dead all winter.  But then tiny specs of green appear again in the Spring.  Before long, the pretty, delicate, pink buds are revealed and then blossom.  It’s kind of a relief when I see the apple blossoms.  It’s a reassurance that the tree is not only alive but healthy and it will again fulfill the purpose God gave it.  The blossoms make me smile.

Pansies on Post
Pansies on Post

We all have a purpose whether we know what it is or not.  I believe it is through serving others (family, friends or strangers) that our purpose is revealed.  Small, kind, acts or words that make someone smile renews hope.  That, I believe, is the message of Easter.  Jesus Christ gives old things new life and purpose.

Happy Easter!

Genesis 1: 1, 26 – 28

Gen 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Hubble Frontier Field Abell 2744
Hubble Frontier Field Abell 2744

Gen 1: 27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he them, male and female created he them.”

2 thoughts:  1) If there are people on other earths, why would they not look like us?

2) If gender wasn’t important, Adam and Eve would still be alone in the Garden of Eden.

(just some thoughts as I was studying my SS lesson from Genesis this morning)

having no joy, for they knew no misery

The Weekly Photo Challenge this week was Joy.  I looked at other posts and saw faces of children, nature photos and descriptions of the joy that Christ brings.  I wondered what photo I could post that would exemplify what is joy to me.  I thought of the baby girl looking at her daddy with awe.  Then I thought of the photo our son-in-law sent us when our daughter delivered their stillborn son.  Mama was holding her child tighter than I’ve ever seen her hold anything; staring into his face as she wanted to memorize it forever.  Their joy in their other children was certainly amplified from that experience.  Heaven now holds more joy than we might have imagined it would.

It got me thinking about what joy really is.  Dallin H. Oaks said, “Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being.”  I don’t know if that is an uncommon definition but I think a lot of Christians describe it that way because of the peace Christ brings when we focus on Him.  Elder Oaks added, “The opposite of joy is misery.”  Opposition helps me to appreciate the good in my life.  Contrast certainly helps to define whatever it is that is opposite.  I’m just glad that it doesn’t take much misery for me recognize joy.

Green Flash at Yaquina Bay
Green Flash at Yaquina Bay

I’ve said before, I’ve never appreciated the sun so much as I have after living in Oregon where I can go for weeks without seeing it.  Even when it is not cloudy, a mountain (mostly) hides it from my home during the winter months.  While that may not be pleasant, it is a far cry from true misery.  I’m not saying I want to experience true misery so I can experience true joy.   I’m satisfied with the trials I’ve had and I trust that I won’t be given anything I can’t handle.

We happened to be driving down Hwy 101 this evening just before sunset.  So we (and about 30 other people) pulled into Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  In typical meerkat fashion, we lined the edge of the parking lot watching the colors change, wondering if we’d be rewarded with a green flash.  Some silently watched alone, others were arm-in-arm with a loved one.  Parents tried to help children hold their attention on the slow-moving sun.  We were rewarded even though I didn’t capture the best of the green flash on camera.

sunset at Yaquina Bay
After the sunset

But once the sun set, the real show began.  Colors slowly changed from yellow, orange and blue to pink and purple and it lasted and lasted.

So there it was; a few moments of peace and tranquility.  It lasted as long as I was still and watched and took it all in.  And now I have the memory to reflect on and to contrast.  “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.)    He created us to have joy!   I think this is one area where balance is not required.  It only takes a short burst of pain to help me appreciate feeling good for a long time.

References:  2 Nephi 2:23-25;   Dallin H Oaks article:  October 1991 General Conference

Wow – I hope the next photo challenge isn’t as thought-provoking!

Happy New Year!