Author Archives: Janet

About Janet

I was an early baby boomer, born at the end of WWII. I had all the blessings of growing up in the 50’s and the turbulence of coming of age in the 60s’. I went from a school girl in a Midwest university town, to a New England hippie, then to a Utah Mormon, and finally becoming a happy Idaho grandma. My family is filled with awesome people – talented and highly ethical who serve others and love their children and grandchildren – a very great heritage. This is the story of my journey to reconcile all these different identities. I didn’t understand myself well, so of course I didn’t communicate well. I either spoke out too easily and too harshly or not enough and stuffed my feelings, typical 1950s behavior. As the adults around me raced to recover from the Great Depression and World War II, their children heard the call of the new science of psychology and a non-material value system. The result: The Generation Gap – something new under the sun and painful for both sides. This blog is an anecdotal account of my long, arduous path out of that emotional maelstrom. Can you relate to this? I think many can. Our individual circumstances may vary greatly, but the desire for healing of heart and soul is fundamental to being human. I’ve learned a great deal from others’ personal accounts and have come a long way in my quest to become “kinder and gentler,” plus becoming vastly happier. I will frequently quote scripture from the King James Bible and LDS scriptures (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price). I’ll also include book reviews, physical health information and resources, plus my personal insights. Perhaps you can learn from my journey and I’m sure I can learn from yours. Please feel free to add your comments so we can share our experiences.

White Space

A salesman once told me that an established maxim in advertising is White Space Sells. He explained that “less is more” in print ads. Keeping titles, information, and slogans short and punchy have a lot more impact than a flyer or ad crammed full of detailed text.

And aren’t we also like that? I tend to shut down when I feel overwhelmed with detail, endless to-do’s, and swirling emotions, just as I throw away flyers with too much to take in at a glance.

For a long time, I’ve used December to reflect on the year past and the one coming up. I form goals, clarify values, and edit out unnecessary involvements. Once my kids were grown, Christmas decorating, baking, and gift-giving (except to charity) lost its charm and freed up even more white space in my schedule and in my head as I streamlined my celebration of Christ’s birth.

This year, I come out of three years of focus on moving, settling into my new home, plus establishing a large garden, and I see an expanding horizon in front of me. It’s both enticing and a little daunting. Increased opportunities also present an increased challenge to carefully discern what should and shouldn’t be tackled, as well as how and when. So I’m not as far along in this process as I normally am after New Year’s. Plus I’m feeling the limits of my own abilities, energy, and drive, both personally and professionally.

Coincidentally, a broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded a year ago for Human Rights/Martin Luther King Day showed up in my queue on Direct TV last Sunday. The Spoken Word message really spoke to me. Fittingly, Dr. King was quoted as follows:

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair,
and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights,
let us remember that…[God] is able to make a way out of no way,
and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
(Source listed in link above)

There was the light I needed. I was absolutely right to see that by my own powers alone, there really was NO WAY to achieve all my goals and dreams. But as I’ve seen repeatedly, God can open a way where there was no way before. He has provided employment, housing, creative opportunities, and friends. He has led me to insights and wisdom far beyond my own. I don’t quite know where this year is headed yet, although I see glimmers through the trees:
* Continuing to work with home buyers and sellers on a selective basis,
* Defending the faith in writing and orally,
* Looking for a publisher for my phonics readers,
* Expanding my social life.
All are twinkling at me. Stay tuned for updates….

If you’re looking for a good movie that brilliantly illuminates how God opens a way when there is no way, go see Darkest Hour, a film about a couple of weeks in Winston Churchill’s early tenure as Prime Minister in 1940. The entire British Army of 300,000 soldiers was trapped on the French beaches of Dunkirk, with the far more powerful German army and air force poised to annihilate them. Churchill had to weigh the loud voices of powerful British leaders pushing for a “negotiated peace” with Hitler versus his own belief that Hitler is a Bengal Tiger and you don’t negotiate when your head is in his mouth! (paraphrased). Go see it to find out what happened.

I am reaffirming my belief in God’s miracles today and reminding myself to call for them, expect them, and then be grateful for them when they show up. I invite you to do the same, and then let’s share those stories with each other and whoever needs a message of hope.

The Light of Miracles
Courtesy Pixabay.com

36 Months

Last April, my post 28 Months (HERE) described my rather tortured journey to home ownership and the feeling that last spring ushered in an end to “House Jail.” Little did I know it would be replaced by “Garden Jail”! It was only this month that I was paroled once again . . . and on the 3-year anniversary of starting this massive project.

This last year involved a life-and-death battle with weeds, and lawn trying to take back my new garden beds. I got volunteer help from grandchildren and church youth groups. We put over 300′ of lawn edging all around each bed since the walkways were grass. Then I upped the ante by putting commercial grade weed cloth down every walkway between the beds. This conquered much of the problem, but refugee grass kept escaping and invading my beds. Giant tufts of green peeked out from under squash, bean and potato plants, laughing in derision.

I refused to use weed killer. After all who poisons the very ground that feeds? So I pulled up handfuls of grass, hacked at invading turf with my trusty small shovel, mulched heavily and finally put weed cloth down all around the outside of the garden – all at a fearful cost of time and money. Just the clips alone to hold it in place were over $50. I bought a manual lawn mower with the romantic intention of combining exercise with saving money. It was easy to mow the small remaining 20’x20′ patch of grass in my back yard, but the front yard defeated me.

Garden Path Conquered!
Author’s Photo

Since a real estate commission allowed me to install gravel in my front side yard, that eliminated one patch to mow. But even the remaining larger area proved to be too much. My charming Fiskars mower simply didn’t provide a clean cut. I had to go over the lawn 2-3 times to get it presentable and my hand trimmer, even with its long handle, was slow and painful to use. Finally, I made a deal with my wonderful lawn guy: He would mow and trim just the remaining front yard for half his former price, and I would manually mow the back.

By fall, harvesting my overgrown and somewhat neglected garden competed with managing one of the most stressful real estate transactions in my 14-year career. My clients were selling their home and buying a new one, two transactions due to close on the same day. They were much loved and admired friends plus great to work with, but their buyer was a nervous first-time homeowner who put us through our paces during a 7-week escrow and long inspection period.

Throughout all this, I had a garden only partly harvested, overrun with huge healthy plants, and once again I felt like the Miller’s daughter in Rumpelstiltskin facing an unexpected, biggest room of all to spin into gold. I had run out of volunteer options, so after a “light-bulb moment,” I hired some teenage girls which probably saved me from a heart attack! Together we harvested every bed, mulched and covered them with netting against high winds, covered a pile of free palettes and my AC unit with tarps, and even covered the area under the water faucet with extra gravel from my front side yard. Victory!

By the time both transactions closed on the same day in early November, I felt like seaweed washed up on the beach that had been repeatedly run over by a tank and pulverized. I was barely gasping for breath! But I could rest, restock my pantry with my new earnings, and look forward to a season of hibernation and reflection.

December is always a retreat from the hustle and bustle of life for me. This year doubly so. I have solid hope that 2018 will actually materialize as the year of liberation, since 2017 unexpectedly kept me in the path of struggle. The gift of this year was working with two wonderful families getting their homes sold for full value and forging new heart connections with both. That lit candles for me that will burn long after the pain and struggle is forgotten.

And isn’t that the promise of life in general and of Christianity specifically? No matter the trials we face in mortality, we have light and liberation always beckoning us forward: to new adventures, expanding horizons, and deeper joys.

May you all be blessed with a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

 

 

 

Hitting the Wall

Recently I had a crisis that almost brought me to my knees, all because I’m a single woman trying to deal with a major lawn project that was totally beyond me.

I bought a Fiskars reel mower this year – you know the kind we used in the 50’s that you just push around your yard – no motor? My idyllic vision of being a suburban farm girl took a serious blow when I realized I would have to mow in four (yeah, 4!) sections, spread out over the week, each week. This seriously crippled my time and energy to work on my first love, gardening.

As I struggled with these conflicting demands, I realized I was fighting a losing battle and something would have to give. Soon, however, a vision popped into my mind: (1) gravel in the front side yard by my drive which would provide extra parking and eventual access to utility yard behind my fence and (2) weed cloth all around the garden in back, both eliminating a lot of grass. Besides, this would reduce my weekly mowing by half – two sessions – and return me to my old Hippie dream of hanging out with herbs, butterflies, and huge squash plants.

Fast forward to the next Saturday. My darling granddaughter came over and we laboriously laid down commercial grade week cloth in the side yard and tacked it down with 100 6″ staples – a true labor of love on her part. I scheduled delivery of 3/4″ round gravel for the afternoon after the August 21 eclipse, and it showed up as promised. The very nice driver tried to honor my request to back his dump truck up to the top of the 45′ stretch of lawn so he could drop his load all along the future drive so we could have a polite volunteer party to rake it into place.

Well, the first thing that happened was one wheel started spinning and sinking about 8-10″ into the ground. I yelled, “STOP,” which he did and returned to the street but not before much of the weed cloth was pulled loose by about 2′ and dislodged many of those 100 clips!

I honestly didn’t know whether to cry or vomit . . . . I think only those women who are alone can understand how vulnerable and overwhelmed I felt. But the driver was nice and helped me re-position the weed cloth, then dumped the gravel in the middle. But now how to spread it out? Yet another crisis. Plus all those loose pins needed fixing.

The next day – Tuesday – I hit the wall. I basically had a spiritual temper tantrum. I told the Lord I was done. I could no longer stand living so close to the edge, that I needed more support, more help, and more blessings. And I needed them NOW.

Ironically, later that day I had to start a cleanse to prepare for a dreaded colonoscopy the next day. So as I purged physically, I continued to purge emotionally and spiritually. I recalled my friend Lindsey advising me once in a crisis that the first thing I needed to do was “thank the Lord for this adversity.”

Are you kidding me? Why would I do that? I could hear her voice saying, “Because that shows our faith that God will always bring about greater good than the size of the adversity.”

This thought was met with extremely wavering faith, but I believe in principle over emotion. So with rather poor grace, told the Lord I at least accepted the situation and would He please, please, please help me solve it? As I progressed forward on Wednesday, my procedure went very smoothly. I got a clean bill of health and was soon eating and feeling good.

My faith and optimism also miraculously returned: Of course great things were coming in my future. Plus insight and solutions kept coming to mind. Here’s what happened:

  • It turned out that the gravel delivery driver also had a small tractor, and he agreed to come the following week and spread  the rock for a very small fee.
  • With sudden inspiration, I asked a large family to send over a couple of teenagers, who wanted some extra money, to help put down weed cloth in the back and weed – they had four!
  • Since they came before Tractor Guy, the five of us quickly finished tacking down weed cloth more securely in front, so we were ready to spread that gravel.
  • Then all four put down 170 feet of weed cloth around the outside perimeter of my back yard, clips and all, both jobs in only 3 hours – oh glorious day!
  • The two older boys refused pay since they had jobs. The two younger girls gladly accepted it with the promise of more work to come.
  • To top this off, the oldest boy volunteered his Sunday School class to come back and spread the gravel by hand, banishing my lingering worries that a tractor would disturb my already traumatized weed cloth in front.
  • Last Wednesday, a crew of six strong guys appeared with rakes, shovels and a wheelbarrow. Within 45 minutes, gravel was nice and smooth, all as Christian service. My contribution: bottled water and cookies from the local grocery.
  • Finally, yesterday, my two young women helpers were back pulling weeds from two neglected beds. Now I can cull strawberry runners and plant them in the newly cleared old bed. I can hand water my herb garden to hit neglected spots, and I’m already planning next year’s beds with great anticipation.

Here’s how it looks:

Side Yard Before
Author’s Photo

Side Yard After
Author’s Photo

Garden Path Conquered!
Author’s Photo

Along with better balance, joy is back in full force. Not only did the Lord help me solve my problem but He used this experience to expand my faith and my spiritual tool kit for battling the darkness of our mortal limitations.

So when you find yourself stuck inside your soul, squeezed tight like a snake needing to shed its skin, remember to thank the Lord for it but also ASK for solutions, comfort, insight, and confirmation of your own plans. They will come.

 

 

Like a River

This morning’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast was an Independence Day Special with crashing patriotic numbers – of the goose bump variety. But then Stephen Paulus’ Hymn for America came on with a quietly reverent, but powerful beginning:

We have loved you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores . . .

I immediately burst into tears as my feelings for our native land spilled over. I have always related deeply to nature around me, especially the huge City Park across the street from my house growing up in Iowa City. It had towering trees, scampering squirrels, even peacocks’ screams that punctuated our nights – all of which was surrounded by the wide, silent Iowa River that enfolded the lower part of the park with a tender embrace.

I crossed that river daily on my way to and from school. Its varying moods and silent power provided a stable setting for a childhood privileged in many, many ways. Here’s a wonderful photo. The green bridge in the middle is the Foot Bridge linking the Student Union and main campus with the west side of town, Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. I stood there and watched otters darting in and out of moonbeams after a night of study at the University library, and as a high school senior floated daringly past my PE class, practicing golf swings by hitting heads off dandelions!

Iowa River
Courtesy breac.nd.edu

And just as nature, embodied by the Iowa River, underpins all our physical existence, this nation with its gloriously inspired constitutional government and long heritage of freedom underpins our current quality of life. We are privileged to live in the most prosperous, most democratic country in the history of the world. And even though that heritage and those freedoms are under extreme attack, we have God’s solemn promise that those who live His commandments will be protected and ultimately return to Him. This country is a Land of Promise for those who live the laws of life.

But for now, I want to celebrate the greatness that God’s creation and our free country has spawned. All I have to do is watch PBS to see the many and often unsung heroes featured there, and whose creativity and ingenuity have created our wonderful way of life and capped Western Civilization with sparkling achievement. Here are just a few:

  • Mark Twain and his biting wit
  • All the Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma,  that capture and even helped create our country’s personality and identity
  • Cutting edge novels – where would we be without Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe?
  • Riveting film like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. And anything with Jimmy Stewart – the original American “boy next door.”
  • TV that set the bar high: I grew up with Gunsmoke and The Honeymooners. My kids grew up with the Donny and Marie Show , The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.
  • Finally, a land dotted with churches and amazing spiritual leaders, like Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Marshall, and Joseph Smith.

Christian prophets have long foretold of a thousand years of peace and plenty, after the return of Jesus in glory. I believe, like Anne Frank, that most people are basically good and that life, like a river, is taking us to that distant shore of peace, fulfillment, and glory. We just need to stay in the boat, on the wide river of life.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

My youngest brother texted me a nice message this morning as I was waking up, and I’ve received generous gifts from both my children. But the gift “that keeps on giving” is watching their lives unfold in good and sometimes unexpected ways – a true fountain of continual joy!

They turned out well thanks mostly to good genes and their own efforts, only minimally from my halting but committed efforts to raise them with good values and healthy self esteem. Here’s one of my favorite photos when Peter was 3 and Amanda 5:

Precious Blessings!
Author’s Photo

Amanda used to make up poems and songs and loved to draw. She’s an accomplished writer and gifted artist today. Peter was very creative and always building complicated structures from blocks, Legos, sticks, even paper grocery bags. Now he works in construction sales. His room showed military order, while Amanda focused on creating beauty in hers. Both have happy marriages to wonderful people. I can take absolutely no credit for any of this. I believe their own choices in our pre-mortal existence set their path early. Mostly I tried to get out of their way and only wish I could have provided more creative opportunities for them.

My two grandchildren continue the magic. Alex is a deep soul, loves stories, good conversation, playing the guitar and singing in a college group. Taylor has her Dad’s easy going personality, with the work ethic of both her parents. She loves nature, is a good student, and is discovering a real talent for art. She gave me this wonderful pen-and-ink drawing for my birthday last month:

Butterflies Set Free
Author’s Photo

Families are a “slow tango” to borrow a phrase from movie critics – a long period of cultivation but bringing a rich harvest, one I expect to keep reaping throughout this life and the one to come.

Here are my “kids” all grown up:

Amanda and Peter
Author’s Photo

Whether or not you have children, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. After all, we all had a mother and can nurture the children around us, as well as the child within ourselves. Take a walk through your album of blessings, and I think you’ll agree we all have much to celebrate!

 

28 Months

Today marks 28 months since I first conceived the idea of doing a deeper organization of my home and possessions. I started with possibly the most un-fun job – dejunking my files! Who likes paperwork, now I ask you? But I decided that it was time to marry an old system of putting documents in 3-ring binders by topic with the file folders in drawers, which were quicker but less usable. I started in December 2014 and it took me into January, about five weeks of chaining myself to my desk singing along to Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma and Showboat.

Then I tackled my cramped kitchen, finding yet more alternate pantry space, then my linen closet turned household supply cupboard. After an inspirational spiritual preparedness fair in March 2015 and praying earnestly for goal-setting guidance, I had a vision of a large storage unit stocked with bins and books for the future. Three months later, reality matched the vision. Then in quick succession I worked with rural buyers, researched a home to rent for myself in the rural areas west of me, found a home to buy instead, listed my current rental for my landlord, moved, put in a large garden, found renters for my bonus room, settled in, redid my legal paperwork and battled a second bout of Epstein Barr virus (chronic fatigue) all winter. By New Year’s, I felt like I was in “House Jail” and I wanted out!

Elderberry syrup quickly banished the virus, spring banished the blues, and as I emerged from those 27 months, I found I needed to banish lingering personal doubts and fears about my future – I still wasn’t done. Did I deserve prosperity and higher levels of success and creativity? So I’ve spent an additional month working through this last obstacle – the 28th month! I listened to countless Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, Vocal Pointe’s Christmas concert, and meditated on God’s many invitations throughout the scriptures to trust Him and to trust in His promises to bless our efforts, however imperfect. And I’m making headway – I truly feel “a perfect brightness of hope” as many of my insecurities are healed. (1 Nephi 31:20, Book of Mormon)

I may be just like the plant below, emerging out into the sunshine through hardened layers of habit, doubt and fear.

Breaking Through Obstacles
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 1147803

Why was I doing this? To create an expanded future, with more time for family and friends, for inspirational writing, for community and church service, and I now have time and energy for them. I feel like a kid on the last day of school facing a long, wonderful summer – whoopie!

This 28-month trek was like the last room in the fairy tale, Rumpelstitskin, where the miller boasted to the king that his daughter could spin straw into gold, but she was in trouble when the king put her to the test! She was promised she could marry him if she would actually spin a room of straw into gold. You all know what happened:  a funny little man showed up and magically did the work for her in exchange for her ring. The king, seeing a bonanza, delayed fulfilling his promise and gave her a bigger room of straw. Her mysterious friend rescued her once again in exchange for her necklace. A final challenge, however, found her with the biggest room of straw yet and nothing with which to pay this funny little man. He suggested she give him her first born child and, thinking she would never have to actually do it, she agreed. The straw was turned to gold, the king finally kept his promise and, in due time, the miller’s daughter had a beautiful child. When the funny little man showed up demanding payment, she was stuck unless she could guess his name. Numerous failures ensued, but finally one of her huntsmen overheard a funny little man dancing around a fire chanting a rhyme that contained his name. Appearing one last time before the young queen, he was flabbergasted when she pronounced his name, Rumpelstitskin, and he dissolved, screaming, into ash.

I believe this, like all fairy tales, is an allegory about life. When we face “impossible” tasks, something or someone magical shows up to help us but it costs us something (faith, courage, work, time, etc.). When our usual talents and resources aren’t enough, the largest challenges require extra brilliance, inspiration, and help from the unseen spiritual forces around all of us.

Willow Cathedral
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 90987

But the good news is that, because there is goodness in the universe that ultimately rewards effort and sacrifice, we get to “marry the king” and break through into a newness of life. As I emerge from my latest cocoon of struggle (larger than all past ones), new horizons beckon me like the tunnel above. They’re green, inviting, and exciting – far from the drudgery of the past. And I have hope this truly was the last room before greater support systems show up and allow me a more “normal” pace of life and expanded effectiveness. Stay tuned for updates….

In one of those serendipitous happenings, I just finished reading a Maisie Dobbs mystery where our likable British “Investigator and Psychologist” comes to a major crossroads in Leaving Everything Most Loved, to travel into adventure. Her fears were soothed by a wise Indian woman who reassured her with these words:

I’ll tell you this. Leaving that which you love breaks your heart open. But you will find a jewel inside, and this precious jewel is the opening of your heart to all that is new and all that is different, and it will be the making of you – if you allow it to be.

These words reflected my experience leaving my marriage, leaving New Hampshire where I spent the happiest six years of my life, leaving Eagle last year and many well-loved friends. But each move has brought new adventures and new friends, making their own memories. The rewards have been worth the pain of change.

Eternal Life – Part 3 – Tribes and Families United Forever

I just watched a Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast, all of which was dedicated to the music and genius of Oscar Hammerstein II. Not only was it a musical feast, but my love for the Jewish people reawakened. It’s a little known fact that most Broadway musicals were a product of two great legacies: the American struggle to create itself and the Jewish struggle to recreate themselves. Jewish songwriters, lyricists, producers and directors wrote stories of outsiders who were lost, then found – a mirror of their own struggles over the centuries. But they didn’t directly tell their own story but instead told the story of the “Gentiles” (non Jews) who founded this nation and gave birth to a vibrant new culture.

So why are Jewish people telling the Gentiles’ story? To answer that, I needed to reflect back on Biblical history:

A close reading of the Old Testament tells the story of the 12 Tribes of Israel, descendants of Abraham, his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob (spiritual name Israel) who had 12 children with multiple wives – hence the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Throughout ancient history, their fate rose and fell on the tides of righteousness versus idolatry, false values, and downright wickedness. The Tribe of Judah are the ancestors of today’s Jewish people, especially the sect known as Pharisees. They were the administrators of the Kingdom, a “chosen people” unto God, really self-chosen by their righteous living and dedication to that God. But the tribes of Israel struggled and fought with each other, ultimately dividing into the Northern Kingdom of 10 tribes and the Southern Kingdom based in Jerusalem, consisting of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. When the Northern Kingdom had “ripened in iniquity,” they were scattered by the Assyrians in the year 721 B.C. and absorbed into other cultures, and are now called The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

The Southern Kingdom lost the way of good living, embraced sin to the degree of sacrificing their children to idols and embracing every known sin, resulting in their vulnerability to outside enemies. They were conquered by the Babylonians and carried away captive in 586 BC, as a group, for 70 years; they were then allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem and, unlike the Northern 10 tribes, were able to maintain their culture and religious identity. But since a segment of Judah (mostly Pharisees), ancestors of today’s Jewish people, crucified Christ, they and their descendants have been fated to be “scourged,” afflicted, and scattered throughout history as a way to ultimately bring them back to God. They found a refuge in Spain for centuries until the Inquisition sent them fleeing, yet again. Pogroms in Russia, the Holocaust during WWII, and persecution elsewhere finally drove many to America where they again found a safe harbor. Their business experience, intelligence, and creative talents opened doors of opportunity, especially centered on both coasts. Of course, not all Jewish people followed good paths, just as people from all religious and cultural groups spawn evil doers. But those who reached upward created much of our wonderful American culture.

This morning I’ve listened to classics from Sound of Music, Carousel, Oklahoma, and State Fair, with the spoken word given by Oscar Hammerstein III describing how his grandfather gave us such wonderful stories and lyrics through his own continual struggle and much failure. He told his sons, when playing tennis, to “always look to the next ball, not the last ball” – good advice for us all!

This wonderful legacy is detailed in the PBS Special, Broadway Musicals, A Jewish Legacy. I saw it years ago, never forgot it, and ordered my own copy recently. Who doesn’t love the music of Barbara Streisand, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Rogers (Oscar Hammerstein’s creative partner) to name just the most famous?

Christian prophecy tells of the great restoration of the Twelve Tribes of Israel with Judah’s spiritual leadership centered in Jerusalem and “Zion” or the Tribe of Ephraim as temporal leaders centered in the “New Jerusalem.” Even though many of our struggles only result in partial victories now, we have the hope of absolute victory in Christ at His Second Coming.

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out:
and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God,
which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God:
and I will write upon him my new name. 
(Revelation 3:12)

Last week, I spent some wonderful time in our local LDS Temple, “sealing” ancestors together as families. I could feel the spirits of those who especially wanted this work performed for them, all of which is conditional upon its acceptance by them. It’s my testimony that everyone who wants this blessing, who lives so as to qualify for it, and embraces the path to it, can bring that restoration and ultimate unity to their own family.

Gladly, we also have the promise that the family of God will be made whole. All human life on this planet has the same promise: to be restored to their original place in the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or be adopted into it; then to be taken home to the God who made us to live eternally with Him, the great patriarchs, our ancestors and families. Those who arrive there are not chosen capriciously by God, but they choose themselves through their intentions, efforts and journey towards truth.

Salvation is so much bigger than human ideas and even experience. It’s my “hope in Christ” that all those who have wandered, struggled, and felt lost will find the eternal home they’re seeking. The Jews, by telling America’s story, really tell the story of all humanity, for which we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Sealed Together for Eternity
Family Photo

Eternal Life – Part 2 – Worlds Without Number

Once the Hubble Telescope was launched and repaired, scientists could see far deeper into the universe than ever before. They focused on the darkest spot they could find in the heavens, then counted the number of galaxies they could see. They were stunned to see at least 10,000.

Galaxies in Hubble Deep Field
Courtesy Pixabay.com

How many stars is that? Estimates range from 100 to 400 billion stars just in our own Milky Way! 10,000 galaxies x 100,000,000,000 stars is huge and that’s the conservative estimate for just that one spot. Scientists estimate there are between 125 billion to 2 trillion galaxies in the whole universe. I won’t even tackle how many stars that is. This gives new meaning to worlds without number – see below.

Billions of Stars in a Single Galaxy
Courtesy Pixabay.com 

In the LDS scripture, Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses, we read:
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten (Moses 1:33).  This may not be authoritative for non-members of the Mormon Church, but in the New Testament we read:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of having my own world or “mansion” is pretty thrilling. Think how much we enjoy a new home, however modest. I’m having a blast feathering my nest in my new house and cultivating a large garden. How about designing and cultivating an entire world! This makes any sacrifice I make to walk the Christian path seem minuscule and puts fresh heart into me for the uphill climb.

From Psalms 8:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet . . . .

This post harkens back to an earlier one, The Three Pillars of Eternity: #1 The Creation. None of what I’ve said above makes any sense if we don’t believe there’s a Creator and that He consciously created not just this world, but all worlds. Is there a God? If so, where does that belief lead us? How does that influence how we live and how we regard the future? These are all questions I think the stark realities of mortality pose to each of us individually.

I, for one, choose to believe and live with faith and hope. Good wishes to all in your journey through this mortal life.

The Milky Way Seen Through Utah’s Delicate Arch
Courtesy Pixabay.com

Eternal Life – Part 1 – Grace for This Life

Today is New Year’s Day, a time I and many others refocus our vision forward: a time for fresh beginnings and to be freer from the reach of the past.

One of the greatest blessings of Christianity is the absolute promise of immortality for all mankind and the more conditional promise of eternal progression (shortened to just the phrase Eternal Life), if we live the Christian journey wholeheartedly. This brings an unlimited future of increasingly glorious personal growth, extending into the next life. We will then be rewarded for all sacrifices and trials faithfully endured, and to end up in one of the “many mansions” Christ is preparing for His followers in the hereafter (John 14:2). I don’t know any philosophy or religion whose promises the Holy Spirit will confirm as this was witnessed to me years ago and many times since.

A beloved LDS apostle and scholar, Bruce R. McConkie, named three central Christian doctrines The Three Pillars of Eternity which I described in previous posts. They are the Creation, The Fall, and The Atonement, which are bookended in the Book of Mormon by a preface question, “Do you believe in God?” and a concluding promise of “Eternal Life” as the final state of sincere Christians. Read for yourself: Alma 22:7-15. Here’s the list again with links to the previous posts:

Foundational Concept: There is a God, Part I and There Is a God, Part II
Pillar #1 – The Creation
Pillar #2 – The Fall
Pillar #3 – The Atonement
A Glorious Promise and Reward: Eternal Life – 
today’s and subsequent posts

Furthermore, I believe that those rewards start to appear in this life. Just as there’s a temporal reward for effort in everyday life – think high school graduation, obtaining a fulfilling job after years of training, seeing a child become a happy and productive citizen, or conquering a life-long pattern of dysfunction, I believe there’s divine grace that blesses and enlarges us as we strive to make spiritual and creative growth as well as temporal progress in this life.

As a divorced mother of 44 years, I struggled financially most of that time. I plodded on trying to juggle work with personal growth and service to God and my fellow man. The phrase muddle through most accurately described my progress through life! I even found a picture on a greeting card I adopted as a personal image. The young woman below is walking through a dreary winter landscape (to me, symbolizing adversity), inadequately dressed but resolute with snowflakes of light and affirmation around her, illuminating her path.

Hopeful Woman in Winter
Source Unknown

But now I’ve gotten out of debt, bought a house and rented out my bonus room to my church for the sister missionaries, I have finally arrived at a place of far greater temporal stability than any time since my divorce. As I settle in, establish a garden, and start to sink roots in my new community, I can see the prospect of also being much freer creatively, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ll have time to launch a new phase of real estate work, continue my spiritual writing, give increased community service, and generally have more fun – whoopie!

A massage therapist recently commented that with all these positive changes, I should find another totem image. I immediately thought of the Monet painting my daughter decoupaged on a wooden plaque many years ago. I found it online immediately:

Claude Monet, Woman with Parasol
Musee D’Orsay, Paris
Image in Public Domain

This lovely painting calls to mind a quote by Albert Camus, a French philosopher:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me
lay an invincible summer. 

I see myself in a delayed but prolonged creative summer, and I plan to bask in that warmth as I sail warm updrafts of inspiration and divine encouragement. Furthermore, I think these triumphs and that happiness is available to all – it’s called Grace. Hopefully we’ll all build our own “invincible summer” within, believing in the next breakthrough.

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #3 The Atonement

Today is Easter Sunday when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, providing universal immortality. We are all also given an invitation to repent and be forgiven, as well as be healed of all our mortal sorrows.

In my previous post on The Fall, I recounted highlights from my own healing journey and how God’s grace blessed my fumbling efforts. The broken pieces of my childhood are finally mended, so I can look forward to future creative growth without that drag on my footsteps. Hooray! It’s a mini-resurrection for me. I have much work to do and growth to make, never fear, but that’s one challenge I can finally put “Paid” to. So yes, Humpty Dumpty can be put together again!

But no effort of mine nor anyone else’s can mend mankind’s fundamental brokenness. That happened through Adam and Eve choosing between two conflicting commandments: Multiply and replenish the Earth (Genesis 1:28) and Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). If they had stayed in the garden of Eden, they couldn’t have had children. By partaking of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they gave life to the warning that they would surely die, meaning they would enter mortality with its condition of certain physical death. But only by doing this could they have children and fulfill the first commandment.

Why would Heavenly Father give contradictory commandments? I believe, along with many religious scholars, that He did this so that the Fall would come about by choice, not compulsion – a fundamental law of Heaven. And that fall into mortality was universal for all humankind. We have all “surely died” since then. Can any effort of ours overturn this awful condition? People have long sought for the Fountain of Youth or a magical path to immortality, but always in vain.

That’s why we needed a Savior, someone with more than mortal power. In an almost unbelievable story, we’re told that Jesus Christ volunteered to be that Savior in pre-mortality. He would be half god, half mortal. His mortal half could experience life as we know it, suffering all our temptations, trials, and deprivations. His godly half would have extra strength to resist evil and super intelligence to understand all things. Most important, He would have power over death just as Heavenly Father has.

To be our Savior, he had to live a perfect, sinless life of His own free will and choice, then choose to be unjustly sacrificed for all our sins and sufferings, hence the phrase “sacrificial lamb.” The ancient Israelites were taught about this upcoming event and practiced actual animal sacrifice of a perfect, lamb “without blemish” each year on Passover, so the lesson would be imprinted deeply on their minds and hearts.

The scriptures give us the glorious tidings that Jesus fulfilled His mission perfectly, suffering every pain, sin, temptation, and sorrow of mankind willingly. Once the “uttermost farthing” was paid, He gave up His life voluntarily – no one could take it from Him. Instead of endless night and bondage to evil for eternity, all people will be resurrected and permanently escape death! It’s my testimony that this is the true story of life.

The big picture promises resurrection and the hope of eternal progression in worlds of glory if we choose to come unto Christ and live the laws of life (The Ten Commandments, The Sermon on the Mount, etc.). Most important, we must repent of wrongdoing promptly for:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom;
therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those
who have washed their garments in my blood,
because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins,
and their faithfulness unto the end. (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:19)

And from Isaiah:

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence,
touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her;
be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Isaiah 52:11)

In Joy to the World, our joy comes from the Atonement:

No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Far as the curse was found . . . .

The little picture promises divine guidance during our mortal journey, healing of our broken pieces, and rich rewards for our feeble efforts now. No matter how long it takes, our own personal curse, like Job’s, will be removed and the Lord will bless “our latter end more than our beginning” (Job 42:12).

The true end of our mortal journey is the promised Second Coming of Christ, a truly great day for the faithful, and the real promise of Easter!

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson
Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints