Sunday, April 26, 2015

Coming to Know God

“There are musicians but most of us are not musicians, some lacking musical talent, but the majority probably lacking inclination. But of those who are musically talented none ever becomes a great musician without years of persistent, continuous work. Great performers continue long hours of practice even though their reputations may be international. … No athlete becomes outstanding, no mechanic becomes skilled, no physician becomes an expert, no orator becomes great, no lawyer becomes renowned, except by persistent practice and many, many hours of hard work. … How foolish it would be for me to close my eyes and ears and say there are no musicians because I am not talented to become a musician; that there are no Edisons because I cannot become an inventor; that there are no artists because I do not have the talents and inclinations to become an artist. Does not reason tell us it is equally foolish for a man to declare there is no God simply because he has not discovered him? …
“He who makes no effort to learn of the existence of Deity will, in this life, likely not learn there is a Deity. But his ignorance does not warrant him in declaring there is no God.” (Joseph F. Merrill, The Truth-Seeker and Mormonism, Deseret Book Co., pp. 76–77.)

I was asked to speak about knowing God, but as you see from the quote I just read, it is something that takes hours and hours, years and years. We don't get to a finish line and, "Now I know God. I'm done." It is a life-long endeavor. And yet, hours and years of practicing it? It can't happen just by reading our scriptures and praying. We have to actually go out and live our life. 

So I turned to stories in the scriptures of people who spoke to God or Christ face to face. Who had special interactions with Him, so that I could draw conclusions of how to come to know God in our daily life.

Moses and the burning bush (in nature)  Exodus 3:21  
 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, thepriest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
 And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Alma 30:44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of allthese thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and allthings denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
10 Be still, and know that I am God:
I can't help thinking that if Moses had been looking at his cellphone while he was leading the flock of sheep that he would have missed the burning bush and missed God entirely. How often do we allow ourselves to connect with God through nature? To be still? To see His hand and His works. 

Mary, mother of Jesus  (in parenthood)  
 Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
Being a parent gives us the opportunity to understand how God feels about us and sees us. Even on my kids' worst days I still am able to see all their potential and goodness. But in addition to that, we have the opportunity to see God in our Children. They are so innocent, they are windows to the divine. Tell story about Max and crying about the beautiful flowers.

The woman who anointed Christ’s feet  (in our service)
 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed themwith the ointment.
There are lots of examples in the New Testament of people who interacted with Jesus. I chose this one because this woman truly recognized Jesus for who and what He was. Her act was one of respect and gratitude, but also service. When we serve we come to know better Christ who “went about doing good.”  By developing Christlike attributes we will come to know Him. Jane and Christmas Stockings.

Saul/Paul  (in our sins)
 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue,Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appearedunto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and awitness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness tolight, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
God has a higher calling for us. He welcomes us under his wings even in our sins. Turn to Him. He is never too far away. What can we learn of God when He calls us back from sin. We know He is both just and merciful. He is neither a vengeful wrathful God, spurring people on to acts of terror and violence, nor a big teddy bear who expects nothing of His children. But His grace is sufficient. God saw something more in Saul of Tarsus. Even in his vast and terrible sins. The best bishop, the best YW President, best YM pres. I have ever known have all wandered but were never lost to their Father in Heaven. 

On the Road to Emmaeus  (in those around us)
 13 ¶And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem aboutthreescore furlongs.
 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communedtogether and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart tobelieve all that the prophets have spoken:
 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, heexpounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

I sometimes wonder what Christ would look like if He came in our day. He loked like everyone else at the time in Jerusalem. They didn't recognize Him by looks but by how He made them feel.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faithvirtue; and to virtue knowledge;
 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperancepatience; and to patience godliness;
 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
If this is the nature of God, then I guess we know Him now, right? These are just words to me. What do they mean, really? We are all children of God. We all have part of His divine nature within us. Look around you. Do you see those who exhibit faith? Virtue? Knowledge? Patience? Study them. Watch them. Try to be like them. That is how you come to understand the nature of God. 

Mary at the Tomb   (in our sorrow)
 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Mary recognized the Savior not because she saw Him, but because she recognized the way He said her name. It was probably one of the greatest sorrows of her life. Here she had put her faith in someone to be a Savior and now He was gone. Not just gone, His body had been stolen and probably desecrated. But then Christ called to her and she turned and recognized Him. Tell story about being angry with God. Are we allowing our sorrows to bring us nearer to God. To converse with Him and understand?

God is all around us if we will only take the time to listen and watch and recognize Him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

28 Things I Know From 28 Years

1. The years really do go faster the longer you're alive.

2. There is no perfect spacing between kids.

3. Life is so much better when you dive in rather than waiting for everything to be just right.

4. It's okay after several years of being happily married to realize you're still just a little bit in love with Gilbert Blythe.

5. Costco stopped making their All-American chocolate cake last week.

6. J.J. Abrams can do no wrong.

7. Big dreams are at once scary and exciting. They can lift you up and crush you all at the same time.

8. Words of Wisdom from my mother eight years ago. So often, it's not marriage that's hard. It's life that's hard. Marriage just means you deal with it together.

9. Poop is just a given.

10. It's easier to get through the scary and hard parts of life when you view it as part of a great story you get to tell later.

11. People really are pretty incredible.

12.West Side Story will always make me cry.

13. Life is beautiful and messy and unfair.

14. Everything in life is made easier by having a support system that can truly say, "We  understand."

15. All those hard, messy and unfair things we go through make it possible to one day be that support system for someone else. That person who knows how to listen and understands.

16. Every book you've ever read started out as a first draft. And it sucked.

17. The waiting and dreaming are half the fun of the actual "doing."

18. I will always love Harry Potter.

19. Vulnerability is truly the secret ingredient to living.

20. My relationship to makeup is complex and has more to do with how I feel about myself and how safe I feel with those around me than anything else.

21. Faith is sometimes uncomfortable, especially when you don't have all the answers, and that's okay.

22. Everyone is driven to create. Art, food, music, stories, blankets, babies. And nothing else bears greater witness to me of Divinity.

23. Water is the most amazing molecule in the universe.

24. There are always trade-offs.

25. Everybody has a story.

26. Children are the best thing ever. But you'll never really understand how until you have one.

27. The best days to go to Disneyland are Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

28. Every time I look at the stars I will always secretly wish to be an astronaut.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Letter M Painting

My first try for a painting for the Mount Simeli story and the letter M. I wanted to show that cave full of gold at the bottom bursting with light, but I think I made it a bit too big. I'll keep it in mind when I take Jane through the painting.

April Chalkboard Drawings

This is an illustration from this week's Super Sam story. I had a picture to go along with the poem we're learning about an acorn earlier this month, but forgot to take a picture! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Story for Yosemite Falls

A trip is always made more magical for young children with some good stories. Tell a story about a place you are about to visit and watch your children notice all those special things you mentioned or ask where that special fairy might be hiding.

Well, our favorite place is Yosemite and over the next few weeks I'll be writing some stories here for my kids (and for yours too, if you want.)

The first story is for all those beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite. But especially the big Yosemite Falls.

Once upon a time there was a great mountain mother named Lyell. She took good care of all her children, the fairies and gnomes, the butterflies and bears, and even the ducks that visited her mountain lakes. All her children loved her too. But the one who loved her best of all was a little fairy named Lana.

Lana was born in the early spring, right in the center of a Mariposa Lily. She had a bright orange dress but never really fit in with the other fairies because one of her wings had a small rip and so she couldn't fly. But Lana wasn't lonely because she was always asking Mother Lyell how she could help. "May I make you a crown of wildflowers Mother Lyell?" she would ask. "Do you need me to ask the clouds to rain on your dry spots? " "Should I turn the leaves of the trees orange and yellow now?"

And every time Mother Lyell would reply, "Yes child. Thank you for always helping me."

And then Lana would wake up the seed babies to make a beautiful crown of wildflowers, yell up to the sky and call down the rain, and shimmy up every tree to change the colors of the leaves.

Then the winter snows came and Mother Lyell seemed to grow old and age all at once. Her head was crowned with bright, white snow for hair and her rocks creaked. The trees and the wildflowers and the grass and the seeds all lay fast asleep beneath the great drifts of Mother Lyell's snow, white hair. All her children went into their dens for a long winter nap and then Mother Lyell herself began to lightly snore.

All the other fairies flew down the mountain and away to the warmer places where they could still fly among the orange trees and sandy beaches. But not Lana. She was left all alone.

"Mother Lyell?" She called. "Mother Lyell, do you need anything?"
But Mother Lyell never said anything, she just continued to sleep. An evergreen tree hear Lana's cries and shook her branches. "Come here, child. Come here. Winter is a time for rest. But do not worry. You will be warm beneath my boughs and soon spring will come again and all the world will wake. Even Mother Lyell."

Lana nodded and crawled underneath the kind fir and nestled in the pine needles. She slept restlessly all winter. Waking up and checking to see if Mother Lyell was awake yet.

"Not yet," the tree would say. "But soon. Soon dear."

Then one day, Lana felt the ground beneath her and it was warmer. Not warm like in the spring and summer or even fall, but not quite so cold. She put her ear to the ground and listened. "Are you awake Mother Lyell?"

"Yes," she whispered.

Lana was so excited, she dashed out from beneath the pine tree. "Tell me what you need Mother Lyell. How can I help you?"

Mother Lyell wheezed out a quiet laugh. "I feel the spring coming," she said. "And in the spring I put on a lovely green dress lined with wild flowers. But look at my hair. It has gotten so unruly!"

Lana looked toward the top of Mother Lyell and she was right. The snow lay in great huge clumps all around.

Do you think you could brush my hair out, Lana? Brush it out into the rivers and streams and lakes that is used to be."

Lana's heart felt suddenly warm. "I would love to!"

"Here," said the pine tree shaking a bough. "Take one of my branches. I have kept it warm and alive all winter. It will be perfect."

Lana snapped off the branch and went to work. She climbed up to the very top of Mother Lyell and started running that warm pine branch all over the snow. She called up to the sun. "Mr. Sun! I need your help to comb Mother Lyell's hair." And even though the sun still was not as warm as in summer, he shone a little brighter.

Slowly, slowly, and little by little, Lana combed out Mother Lyell's hair into great, beautiful, blue trickles running down her sides. And then she combed out more and then become streams, and then creaks. And then after several weeks Lana had combed so much of Mother Lyell's snowy hair that they joined together into a beautiful river.

But Mother Lyell's hair was so long. It jsut kept stretching on and on. And one day as Lana was combing it out farther and farther away, she came to a steep cliff. "Oh no," she thought. "What will I do? I have no wings to take Mother Lyell's hair over this cliff." Lana looked over the cliff again and it was so far down. She sat on the ground and began to cry. What would Mother Lyell say? Already she was beginning to put on her beautiful green dress.

Suddenly, Lana heard a voice. "I can help you."

Lana looked and saw a small rainbow. "I can give you a ride down the cliff," said the rainbow.

"Really?" Lana wiped away her tears and hopped onto the smooth, dewy surface of the rainbow. And then Lana and the rainbow led Mother Lyell's lovely, blue river of hair over the edge of the cliff. It fell, fell, fell with a great CRASH against the rocks below.

"Thank you!" said Lana with a clap of her hands.

"We aren't done yet," said the rainbow. "Look."

Lana looked down and saw ANOTHER cliff. "I'll help you down that one, too," said the rainbow.

And it did. Mother Lyell's brlue river now cascaded beautifully over the upper and lower cliffs and into a valley. Lana looked around and saw that as the water from Mother Lyell poured into the valley, everything became green and woke up. And it was beautiful.

"Where are we?" asked Lana.

"Yosemite Valley," said the Rainbow.

"It's beautiful."

"Yes, it is."

From then on, Lana stayed with the rainbow by Yosemite falls every spring and early summer. In the late summer she'd return up the mountain and in the fall help Mother Lyell get ready for her long winter's snooze. Then in early spring she combs out her hair all over again. You might see Lana when you go to visit Yosemite. Just look for a rainbow in the rushing, misty water. That's Lana, brushing a snarl out of Mother Lyell's hair.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Absurdity of Grief

It will be a year in May since Steve died.

But I don't think May 2nd will be the hardest day. This weekend will.

It's Stake Conference and Steve was in the stake presidency, and even just thinking about it is making me angry.

It doesn't make any sense. I don't really expect our local church to come to a standstill for a year. I don't really expect his calling to just be left vacant until I deem it okay to be filled.

And yet...

And yet when they called someone else to his position it felt like they were trying to replace him. I wanted to raise my hand. You can't replace Steve! Doesn't everyone feel how wrong this is?

The new member of the presidency gave me my temple recommend interview this year. I sat in the chair and couldn't stop thinking, You're supposed to be Steve. I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to Steve. How dare you talk to me.

And tomorrow I will walk into that meeting and everyone will be listening and I'll just want to yell, DON'T YOU FEEL IT? DON'T YOU FEEL HIM MISSING? I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'RE ALL JUST PRETENDING THIS IS OKAY AND NORMAL! HOW ARE YOU JUST MOVING ON? HAVE YOU ALL FORGOTTEN?

But I won't, because I know the deepest wounds lie inside those I love and even myself, though it's taken me this long to acknowledge just how much I've been affected.

It's absurd to expect everything to change for everyone else. But I still do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Homeschool Stereotypes and Reality Checks

Homeschooling is a growing movement. More and more people are pulling their kids out of public and private schools and doing it themselves. There are a lot of reasons for this. The internet for one is so full of resources for learning and blogs showing you how that it is not nearly so intimidating anymore. Technology has also changed the face of the employment market and I think there is a growing consensus that public school is not keeping pace with the changes necessary for what the future will hold. But despite all these changes and the growing community of homeschoolers, there is one thing that has stayed the same.


So, I just wanted to bust a few of those using just the Mom's that I know from our local group and a few that I regularly interact with online.

STEREOTYPE #1 - Homeschooling is only for crazy evangelicals who don't want their kids to learn about evolution.

REALITY - In just our small group here we have devoutly religious mothers from several Christian faiths. Christian homeschoolers do make up a large percentage of the community, but we also have a Muslim family, agnostic families, and even an atheist family. Online I know several Pagan and Jewish families. All homeschooling.

STEREOTYPE #2 - Homeschooling is mostly done by Conservatives who don't want their kids learning about the gay agenda at school.

REALITY CHECK - I would say the fastest growing segment of the homeschooling community right now is actually more liberal in their political leanings. They gravitate towards unschooling methods and other alternative models like Waldorf, or Reggio Emilia. These methods are also popular with very environmentally conscious families. Take a look at this article if you don't believe me.

STEREOTYPE #3 - Homeschooling is something really only available to those with a lot of money.

REALITY CHECK -  I know homeschoolers living on the brink of poverty, some trying to navigate a sudden/long term job loss, many stable middle class, and yes, some very well off.

STEREOTYPE #4 - Public school teachers hate homeschooling.

REALITY CHECK - Some do. Many mothers in our community are former school teachers. Two of the fathers in our community are actually principals. Some teachers are against homeschooling because of what they've seen come into their classroom after it failed. There are many teachers who choose to homeschool their kids because of what they saw in the classroom. We are not enemies.  Realistic homeschool parents understand this. I think most teachers do too.

STEREOTYPE #5 - Homeschooled kids are brilliant and accomplished.

REALITY CHECK - Some are very impressive. Some are pretty normal and just right on track. In fact, I'd say academics wise, most are just pretty right on as far as grade level goes. And some are behind. Pretty much, just like public schooled kids.

STEREOTYPE #6 - Homeschooling looks like school at home.

REALITY CHECK - Not even close. For some it does. For others it's a reading free-for-all interspersed with regular classes, museum outings and camping trips. There are so, so many methods out there. Roadschooling, unschooling, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio, Classical, Thomas Jefferson, literature based, and on and on. It takes a while to let go of our preconceived ideas of what school should look like. But when we all embrace our own vision and why we felt called to this, school looks just the way it needs to.