Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Day I Almost Quit 100 Happy Days

It was June 5, day 65 of my 100 Happy Days challenge. Over half-way through, I felt pretty upset about quitting.

"But that's what you are, a quitter."

That was my depression. She has a nasty voice that sounds like mine when I'm at my meanest.

"Why did you think you could be happy for 100 days straight? Are you kidding? You're never happy."

My rational voice tried to protest by saying that I'd already proved to myself that I could do it for 64 days. But when I'm depressed, my rational voice is just a really soft mutter.

I don't even remember why I was depressed that day. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) there isn't even a valid reason. Something small might tip me off and then I'm down a dark hole faster than Alice in Wonderland.

The whole reason I had started the 100 Happy Days challenge in the first place was to help with my depression. Especially since my husband left to train with the Army for 6 months, being happy seemed like an impossible task. But structure and goals seemed to help quite a bit, so this challenge was perfect.

I'd seen some of my friends posting their challenge pictures on Facebook and wanted to give it a go. There had definitely been some sad moments in the first 64 days, but I was always able to find something to be happy about during that time, even if it was something as simple as a bowl of ice cream after finally putting my baby to bed.

Not Day 65 though. For some reason I couldn't get out of my hole long enough to find something positive about my most-likely uneventful day. I'd probably just stayed home all day, in my pajamas. Maybe I'd made goals and plans for the day and not done any of them. Maybe I just felt like a waste of space, and it was all I could do to feed my baby and keep her happy between waking up, nap time, and bedtime.

"You did nothing today, you loser. What do you have to be happy about?"

Snarky ugly depression voice. I really hate her, and she sure is loud.

Then I heard a very soft voice say, "Well, there is always tomorrow."

And suddenly, that was my happy thought for the day. Days could get really bad, but the sun always comes up the next day with new opportunities and new surprises.

Maybe I hadn't been productive or positive that day, but it didn't mean I had to stay down in the dumps forever. Tomorrow comes and we get another chance. If that doesn't make everyone happy, I don't know what will.

Today I posted my last "100 Happy Days" picture to my wall on Facebook. I'm so glad I didn't give up, and didn't pay attention to that awful mean voice in my head that kept telling me I'm a quitter. I have learned so much in the last 100 days, but most importantly that happy does not depend on your circumstances, but rather on your choices.

There have been sad days during my 100 Happy Days, but I've been able to find at least one happy thing each day, despite what may have happened. Most days I could have posted a ton of pictures of what made me happy that day.

To make sure I got my challenge done, I would start each day thinking, "I wonder what I'll post today." Then throughout the day I'd make sure to take a picture, or find a picture online to represent what happiness I'd found in the day.

So, to my obnoxious depression voice--IN YOUR FACE! I WON!

She may always be around, trying to bring me down, but now that I've been happy for 100 days, I will continue to look for the happy every single day for the rest of my life. Because once you've developed that habit, it's hard to break.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Promises, Covenants, and Ordinances

In 2009, I was madly in love. I was 21 years old and dating the guy that I'd had a crush on since I was 15. It was a dream come true, and I thought it would last forever.

I was also preparing to serve a mission. I'd wanted to serve as long as I could remember and my boyfriend had promised to wait for me. He'd already served two years, and I'd written to him the entire time. Though we'd talked about getting married quite a bit, I'd prayed a lot about my decision to wait and serve a mission, and that felt right.

I remember hanging out with a mutual friend of ours one night before I left. He'd been a close friend of ours for years, and had always been willing to give advice to me and my boyfriend since the beginning of our romantic relationship three years before.

During our conversation, my friend said, "Do you really think he'll wait for you? What happens if you come home and he's not around anymore?"

The thought had crossed my mind briefly before, but I was convinced that after the three years in which we'd gone through so much together, we were sure to be able to make it through 18 more months. I assured my friend of this, to which he responded,

"But 18 months is a long time and people change."

Well, we did change. At least he did. I wasn't 3 months into my mission before my boyfriend had gotten another girlfriend.

I've been reflecting a lot on that conversation I had with my friend all those years ago since I read a blog by Matt Walsh called, "My wife is not the same woman that I married," where he addresses divorce, marriage, and people changing.

On my mission to Honduras the biggest obstacle that most adults faced when wanting to get baptized was the fact that they were living in fornication or adultery. They weren't married to the person they were living with. They would introduce each other as, "This is my husband," or "This is my wife," but the actual marriage had never been performed. They just hooked up one day and then decided to live together. They were lacking a very significant promise.

A lot of them would ask me what the big deal was. They were just like a married couple. Many of them had children. Some told me that marriage just ruined things, and that living together was the best.

They failed to recognize the significance of promises, covenants, and ordinances.

Yesterday I was able to teach a class to the Young Women about ordinances and covenants.

An ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. It initiates a solemn covenant.

On May 25, 2012, around 11am, my sweetheart and I covenanted with the Lord and with each other that we would love and take care of each other and spend the rest of eternity together. The ordinance was performed by a sealer in the temple who has the priesthood authority.

The hollow promise my boyfriend made to wait for me years earlier pales in comparison to this covenant and ordinance. Because now, though we may change (and we most assuredly will, because all people do!) we have that specific, sacred covenant to anchor us when times get tough. We made a promise that trumps all change. It was done in the right way, in the right place, and with the right authority. That is what all those couples in Honduras were lacking. There was no formal commitment; either one could leave at anytime.

Making covenants and receiving ordinances doesn't mean we're set and everything is taken care of; now life is going to be a piece of cake. In yesterday's class, one of the girls pointed that out. People do break solemn covenants all the time. It doesn't mean they are unbreakable. It doesn't mean that people lose faith, and fail to draw on the strength that is offered by those ordinances.

Everyone has their agency. But those specific ordinances are there to give us strength and power to resist temptation and cling dearly to our covenants. Those precise moments in time serve as potent reminders when all the forces in the universe seem to want to rip you apart.

God's plan of happiness for His children is molded around ordinances. I'm grateful for the specific, power-invested ordinances and covenants that are so much more than mere circumstantial promises.

Friday, July 4, 2014

What I Learned from Going to Walmart at Midnight

I think we all had the same general idea. Go to the store late at night, miss the crowds. Quick in, quick out.

I don't think anyone was really anticipating the 20 minute lines and whole families with their carts overflowing. Well, at least I wasn't.

I went to grab some shirts for the Fourth of July. I wasn't really surprised that the pickings were slim, it being July 3rd. So after about a half hour of searching and finely combing through the clothes, I found what I needed and headed to check out.

I wasn't in a hurry. I had put my baby to sleep hours before and was actually kind of enjoying being able to shop without her running around tugging clothes off of their hangers and onto the floor, or crying about not being held enough or just crying for no reason in particular.

My first choice was to go to self check-out, but they were all closed. So I headed to one of the four lanes that were open. I was about fourth in line. The person who was being helped had a cart full of things and seemed to be price matching all of them.

All around me I could hear people complaining. Complaining about the lines. The wait. The incompetence of the staff. Complaining about the other shoppers. About Walmart. About their human resources policies.

The atmosphere was intense. Not at all what I had expected.

Usually when I run to the store late at night I feel like I'm invisible. Tonight that was hardly an option. The girl behind me commented on all the sketchy weirdos who come to Walmart late at night. I just nodded, hoping that I didn't look too much like a sketchy weirdo.

Finally after about 5 minutes, they opened up another lane. I moved toward it, behind three other customers. The first people in line, again, had quite a bit of groceries. The poor clerk looked completely overwhelmed. The boys in front of me, who had just a bag of candy, were clearly agitated. When the clerk couldn't figure out how to scan something, they scoffed and said loudly, "Can't you just get a manager?" They loudly tapped their feet and clicked their tongues, as if it wasn't already obvious that they were upset.

There were two girls in front of me as well. Both the girls and the boys ended up deserting the line while unabashedly exclaiming the clerk's incompetence. That left me next in line, while the clerk still struggled to finish ringing up the first customer. I saw her desperation and could feel her stress. I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be alright.

I could hear some people behind me shouting obscenities, because obviously waiting in a line at Walmart for 10 or 15 minutes was the worst thing that had ever happened to them.

Then I heard the girl right behind me say, "That's a cute dress."

She was talking to me. I turned around and smiled and thanked her. We then proceeded to have a nice conversation about her trip to New York tomorrow and also about my adorable one-year-old daughter. (Pictures were shown, as I didn't have any other proof to attest to the cuteness of my baby.)

Finally it was my turn to check out. I looked at that sweet woman behind the counter and said, "Hi Heidi" (name tags are the best!). She looked as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She still seemed nervous, but much more relaxed. She smiled and said she wished the customers had name tags, too.

I introduced myself and asked her how long she'd been working. She told me just since 10pm, but she'd only been a clerk for 3 weeks, and up until that night she'd always had someone shadowing her. I told her she was doing a great job, and not to worry about it. She rang my shirts up without a hitch and after wishing her a happy Fourth of July and a good night, I was out the door.

As I drove home, I mulled over in my head everything that had just happened.

I've decided that when found unanticipated potentially stressful or unpleasant situations, there are two types of people: those who make it better, and those who make it worse.

We were all at Walmart. We all had a common goal of buying something (or lots of somethings) and then leaving.

There were long lines. Well, longer than you would expect at 11:40 at night. Although, not too much longer than a normal Saturday afternoon.

They were short on staff, probably because they weren't anticipating a huge rush at midnight, even with it being the Fourth of July tomorrow.

There were those who complained. Oh my goodness. Seriously? Complaining about the people who shop at Walmart...while shopping at Walmart? That means you are complaining about yourself! I don't care if this is your very first time in a Walmart (although I'm betting it wasn't). If you don't want to shop at Walmart, then don't.

And then there were those like the cute girl behind me, who decided to make the best of the situation. I'm not even going to say "bad" situation, because the only reason it was bad was because people were making it so. If everyone had been as nice and kind as the girl behind me, and just made the most of the situation by talking to her neighbor in line, the whole atmosphere would have been different.

I also learned that you can change how other people react to situations. When the foul mouthed teenage boys behind me heard how I was speaking to the clerk, they seemed to soften a bit. Not a ton, but enough that they kindly chimed in the conversation. They still seemed upset, and I don't know how they acted when they finally were rung up, but I'm hoping they didn't yell at the clerk.

Just...make the most of every situation. It doesn't HAVE to be a bad situation. 15 minutes out of your night to wait in line is NOT going to kill you. Take a chill pill. Be nice.

And if you are going to shop at Walmart, stop complaining about those who shop at Walmart. Especially right in front of them. Come on, let's talk about tactless?

End rant.

[P.S. This is not by any means a political statement for or against Walmart, just an observation about human behavior.]

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trying to Make Sense of Ordain Women: A Personal Journey

Yesterday I read about the founder of Ordain Women being called to disciplinary action within the Church.  (See article here.)

From the beginning, I have felt somewhat uncomfortable with the whole movement, and wrote various posts about it that received a lot more attention than I thought they would. Through that discourse, I was able to hear from some of these sisters and feel of their sincere interest in doing that which is correct before God.

I still never felt like the movement was a good one, though, and struggled to understand how so many other well-educated, spiritually strong, covenant-making LDS women would follow such a movement, especially after repeated response both through formal Church correspondence and through the messages of prophets and apostles  and other leaders in General Conference.

Last night, I decided to do the only thing I know how to do when I am confused or conflicted about something. I went to my Father in prayer and then went to my scriptures in search of answers.

This journey I have embarked on is primarily for my own sake. I consider myself fairly educated, especially when it comes to the Church, but I will readily admit that I am very far (and that's an understatement!) from knowing everything. So, I want to educate myself more about the priesthood.

I knew that to start with, I would have to set some ground rules--things that I know for certain.

These are things I know, and consider truth:

1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's restored church on the earth today.
2. It is led by Christ himself, through revelation to His chosen prophet. (Amos 3:7)
3. The Spirit confirms truth to each of us individually, but will never go against what the prophet has said. (Moroni 10:5)
4. The prophet will never lead us astray. God would remove him from his place if he even tried. (See Wilford Woodruff's address on Official Declaration 1)
5. Because Christ was the only perfect man to walk the earth, God uses imperfect men to help Him run things. They are human beings, and subject to possible error. (1 Nephi 19:6)

With those truths in mind, I set out to study more about the priesthood and try to come to grips with the things that are happening. Unfortunately, I could only keep myself awake until about 1:30 am, at which point I decided that if I didn't want to be a complete zombie the next day, I should go to bed. And in all that time of studying, I never actually got to the priesthood part.

My study took a different turn. I think it was definitely something I needed to learn before I start on my journey of discovery about women and the priesthood.

First I read in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 50. It is a section that I read often as a missionary, but had hardly touched on since I've been back.

In verse 2 it says, "There are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the earth."

In verse 15, it states, "And then ye received spirits which ye could not understand..."

The phrase that really caught my eye was the part about not understanding. That is exactly how I have been feeling. As I continued to read the section, I found more instruction.

"Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.

And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit; and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God--

Not with railing accusation, that ye be not overcome, neither with boasting nor rejoicing lest you be seized therewith." (vs. 31-33)

That is why I am blogging about it. Again, I am in no way any kind of expert on women and the priesthood. And I don't claim to have all the answers, or even most of them. But this is a spirit that I cannot understand, this movement, and I would like to figure out why. And despite fear of what others may say, I am trying to speak with a "loud voice."

As I continued my study, I found myself in the New Testament, in 2 Timothy chapter 2. In this chapter, Paul is writing to Timothy about some of the Saints who had gone against the doctrine of the Church and were leading others astray (2 Timothy 2:17-18)

Verse 14 says, "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers."

In the manual The Life and Teachings of of Jesus and His Apostles, it further clarifies this verse,

"Contention and division are of the devil. Agreement and unity are of God. Since true religion comes by revelation, man's sole purpose in trying to understand and interpret gospel principles should be to find out what the Lord means in any given revelation. This knowledge can be gained only by the power of the Spirit. Hence, there is no occasion to debate, to argue, to contend, to champion one cause as against another."

I am just embarking on my own personal journey in learning more about the priesthood and my role with it as a woman. I have always considered myself a champion of women's equality and rights. But I also know that God is a god of order. He established His church so "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15).

I seek to do what is right before Him, as I know my fellow sisters in the Church do. I hope that in some way my personal journey may help someone out there who is also seeking to learn more.

I'll keep posting as I keep learning, as always.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Lord, show thyself unto me"

The other night I was reading my scriptures, and I had an "aha" moment. Sometimes there are verses that jump from the pages, and this was one of them.

I was reading about the Brother of Jared and a conversation he was having with the Lord. This prophet asked Christ to touch some stones that he had brought down from the mountain so that they wouldn't have to be in darkness while crossing the sea. When Christ touched the stones, the brother of Jared saw His finger.

Christ then explained to the brother of Jared that it was because of his faith that he was able to see His finger. He then asked the brother of Jared if he had seen more than His finger, to which the brother of Jared replied,

"Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me."

It was that verse that jumped from the page.

I think it is because as I read it, I could hear my own voice saying those words.

Some days are tough. Especially lately. And at the end of the day, when the baby is sleeping and I'm alone in my room, I want to say,

"Lord, show thyself unto me."

It's more of a humble plea. Show thyself unto me. Let me know that you are there.

I don't expect Him to appear in my room by any means. I just want to know He's there, that He is listening. And He is. In one way or another, He always shows himself.

It can be an unexpected message from a friend, or a sweet hug from my baby. Or like tonight, as I'm writing this post, it can be a strong burning feeling that makes me shed tears. I know that He is there, and that He loves me.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why Social Media is Actually NOT the Devil

So, I've been seeing a lot of articles and videos and memes about how technology is overtaking our lives and making us out of touch with reality. Just for the record, I completely agree that looking down at your phone or your computer or your ipad every two seconds, rather than talking to people who are physically right next to you, is not a good thing. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram can definitely distract from meaningful human interaction.

But I would also like to point out that those very same channels of social media can also be the means of creating meaningful human interaction.

Example: When my husband left for the Army's basic training, I started following a Facebook page for his specific battery. Through that page I was able to see pictures of things that they were doing and also comments from other wives and moms of the other soldiers. I think it kept a lot of us more sane being able to feel like we weren't so alone in our own journey through basic training.

One of the other wives from the battery reached out and added me on Facebook. We chatted a bit and found that we had quite a bit in common, and that our husbands were going to the same post after basic training. This last week we both went to see our husbands graduate. We both got there a day early and were able to spend some time together before Family Day and graduation. That night that we both said goodbye to our husbands again, we really needed some company. This new found friend came over to my hotel and we talked for nearly an hour, trying to keep each other's minds off our husbands' absence.

That friendship started on Facebook, but fostered a wonderful "real" human interaction, one I was definitely in need of.

I understand that all good things need moderation. But I would like to suggest that while social media can surely distract from human interaction, it can also create it, and even greatly enhance it. It really just depends on how you use it.

Make sure that social media is a means to an end--that end being meaningful human interaction. Let it lead to get togethers and playdates with other stay-at-home moms. Or reconnecting with an old friend from elementary school and finding that you have way more in common than you might have thought. Or creating family groups where you can stay aware of things that are happening with loved ones.

Don't let social media replace human interaction; let it create and enhance it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What is Consent and Why I Wish I'd Known Before

Last month was Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I was so blessed to listen and participate in a presentation given by two college age young women in our church congregation to a group of high school and middle school girls.

After listening to statistic after statistic and story after story, I felt like I could talk forever about the importance of taking charge of your own life and never letting anyone take your power away from you. A thousand ideas whirred around in my mind in cluttered commotion. I haven't managed to find the time to get them all organized, but you'll probably be seeing a lot more blog posts on the general topic.

This is the first I wanted to address, because it is something I didn't know, and now I want to share it with everyone else.

What is consent?

"Consent is an agreement between people BEFORE they engage in any kind of sexual activity. Both people have to say “YES!” clearly and freely. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape. Consent must be willing."

"A voluntary, enthusiastic “yes-I-really-want-to-and-thank-you-for-asking” type of consent – not a consent that’s implied on the basis of silence, previous sexual history, or what the person is wearing."

"If you are ever unsure if the person you are with is consenting, just stop and ask."

"You may have heard the idea that “no means no,” but this doesn’t really provide a complete picture of what consent is because it puts the responsibility on one person to resist or accept. It also makes consent about what a partner doesn’t want, instead of being able to openly express what they do want."

"Some people are worried that talking about consent will be awkward or that it will ruin the mood, which is far from true. If anything, the mood is much more positive when both partners are happy and can freely communicate what they want. "

Why I Wish I’d Known Before

So now that you have the basic idea, I'd like to explain why I wish I'd known this before.

I want to say that I am not a rape victim. However, without diminishing the seriousness of rape, I would like to suggest that consent doesn't always have to be about sexual intercourse. It can start with something so much simpler, like hand holding.

As a teenager, I can't tell you how many times I went on dates and ended up holding hands with boys I didn't really like. Or maybe I liked them a little, but wasn’t really sure I wanted to hold their hands. I can remember sitting at a play on a date and out of nowhere my hand was suddenly sweating like crazy in the pasty sweaty hand of the boy next to me. Sure, we were on a date. But I really didn't want to be holding his hand. At the time though, I didn't realize that I could say no. I didn't want to "hurt his feelings."

I wish I had known that I could have taken my hand back and said, "Mm...I don't really want to hold hands right now." Or that I could have just taken my hand back with no explanation at all.

Things escalate quickly, and hand holding can get to body fondling faster than some teens may realize. It is so important that in every stage of dating we have a right to give or reserve our consent.

When I first heard about our right to consent at this workshop, it felt so foreign to me. (A sad result of cultural conditioning.) But as I mulled the idea of always being able to say yes or no, it made complete sense. Lack of communication ruins relationships, so why not start off right from the get-go by always communicating consent? It’s not a question of “being mean,” it’s a question of feeling safe and comfortable with those you associate with.

Women (and men!) should never be pressured into doing anything they don’t want to do (be it kissing, hand holding, sexual intercourse) just because they don’t want to offend someone else. Communication is key; so make sure to speak up!

If you want it, GREAT! There are beautiful, wonderful relationships out there, with mutual consent. I’m in one of those, and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. But I know how ugly it feels to not want something and to feel like you don’t have an option.

You should always have an option, and that’s consent.

If you aren’t given the option, and are able, get out of the situation as quickly as you can! Don’t wait until it comes down to sex. If you don’t want to hold hands, don’t. If you don’t want to be kissed, say no. Make sure you have the power from the beginning.