"One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, 'I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a 20-dollar bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars.'"
He has been begging all day for me to let him ride his bike to the store, the neighborhood, anywhere. I keep telling him there are things that need to get done, putting him off. I can't understand my hesitation, at his age I was biking all over, why am I not able to be brave and let him do this simple thing. I finally call John. He's always good about helping me brave, knowing how to quiet my fears.
As I start to tell him tears come flooding out and I can hardly talk. I suddenly realize why it's so hard, why I can't let go. My son has no idea what can happen. He has been raised in an environment of safety, love, and respect. He doesn't know the injustice that can occur just because of the color of his skin. This isn't about a bike ride, it's about my inability to protect my children from the cruelties they will face in the world. How can I shelter him from this ugly truth? Is sheltering him good, but how do you prepare someone for the cruelty of humanity?
I want to warn him, prepare him, but how do I that without scaring him. I want him to be independent, to be strong, and to see the good in people. I don't want him to walk around being suspicious to people, I don't want him to live in fear. Where is the balance? Why does there need to be a balance? Why can't we live in love and respect? We are all more alike than different, so why do we focus on the differences when we should be building, helping and supporting one another.
John patiently listened through my tears and said it would be okay and to let him go. He assured me that everything would be fine.
We live in a great place, yes it's a predominately white suburban neighborhood, but kindness and acceptance has been our experience. I am also not so naive to think that they will always be accepted. I worry about the time they start to drive or act like stupid teenage boys. I worry about a million difference scenarios, but for today I will not lose faith in humanity. I can't. I can't live in fear. I can't because my son won't let me.
I sit on the couch in tears trying to explain to him the fears and concerns of my heart, he just smiles and says, "I'll be fine mom. There are cruel people in the world, but I'll be fine and I have hope that people will change. Don't worry mom, I'll be fine." He understands more than I have given him credit for. I know he has had similar thoughts and yet he is still willing to be hopeful and press forward.
As they ride away I decide that I will occasionally track their progress from the app on their phone. I know they call it spying, but for today I am okay with it. This mama is taking baby steps.
When I saw the caller ID from my ringing phone my heart dropped a little. I knew who it was and I suspected it wasn't going to be good.
"Mom, I'm not feeling so well. My stomach hurts and I'm having trouble breathing."
"Son, are you really sick or are you just stressed out about a class."
"No Mom, I'm really sick."
I knew he wasn't. I could tell by the sound of his voice. In the flash of a moment that can feel like an eternity I had a choice to make. Pick him up again or let him work through the challenges that he didn't want to face in the day. Today I chose to let him learn. It breaks my heart when I have to be tough like this. He was mad when he hung up the phone and accused me of not be compassionate or sensitive to his needs. I called John I needed some reassurance that I had done the right thing.
At noon I got another call and I answered with a little trepidation.
"Mom, you don't have to worry about me. I'm feeling much better."
"That's great son. I'm so happy to hear."
Then in the softest whisper, because he was in a crowded office full of his peers, I heard him say,
"I prayed to Heavenly Father and He help me."
Tears sprang into my eyes as I told him how proud I was of him to think about asking God. He wasn't much interested in talking more, he had to go find his friends, but this one little whisper helped make those hard times seem small.
This experienced happened back in October 2015. I quickly wrote it down because I didn't want to forget and I wanted to get a picture of him on the phone, but life got away from me and I just found the post. So I made him pick up the phone and just let me shoot. I didn't tell him why I wanted the pictures I just let him react and the images that followed are wonderful. He has such an amazing smile.
I met Eva last week while attending a ward in Northern Ireland. I was sitting in the back of Relief Society and during the announcements it was stated that they had reached their indexing goal of 10,000 names for the month and to please come join the group on Wednesday evening.
10,000 names? Did I hear that correctly.
Now remember I've only indexed a handful of times and the idea of 10,000 seems incredible. I was distracted the entire meeting thinking about what this tiny ward is accomplishing and that they met every week to work on this project? How did they manage it? How did it get started? Why was it so successful in a place where members were few and so much work needs to be done?
After the meeting I quickly went to the front of the room, sat next to her and asked, "Did you say that you indexed 10,000 names last month?" She nodded and seemed a little leery of this crazy American stranger eager to talk about indexing.
I peppered her with questions. How was she so successful? How did she get people to come, help, and be enthusiastic about helping in this work?
She smiled at me with the wisdom of someone who has endured much and understands only as experience can understand. She said that like everything it started with a calling with just her and has slowly increased. They have about 5-10 people each week (some work from home) and as I looked around at this tiny congregation, thinking about the massive sized ward I attend, I was even more impressed by the number of people involved. She was quick to talk about how wonderful the people in her group were and how amazing it was this past month to have reached their 10,000 goal because they have 4 women in the group with severe dyslexia and they were all working on Old English documents that are challenging in their own right.
It inspired me to think about the obstacles being overcome, the determination to continue even when it's hard. It left me feeling hopeful at the great things that are happening through seemingly small means. Then she said, "Last month, June it was 10,600. May, over 16,000 names. April was lower with 11,000."
Can you imagine what they will accomplish in one short year? Imagine the families that can be connected because of their work.
It gives me new motivation to do a little more than I am doing right now. So many of you have written to me and said that you index one batch a day. That is awesome and inspires me to do try a little harder. This upcoming World Wide Indexing Event is a great way to get started, a deadline or event is always a good thing for me. Some of my best work is done with a deadline looming. I know I've already written about this (here and here), but as I come to understand with greater wisdom the importance of the work of family history I will continue to write and share what I learn.
I know there are so many obstacles and things that clamor for our attention and our lives. I understand that you can't do everything and that time is limited. I understand that when someone says family history your mind can shut off and you can groan saying, "not again." I have said and felt it all before, but our leaders are right and the changes and miracles I've seen have become cherished moments in my life. I am a different person because I know the stories of my ancestors. I am changed because I am finally searching out and connecting more family members.
On Sunday John and I returned from a two week long tour of the United Kingdom. We traveled with two backpacks with clothing and a messenger bag for the electronics, my journal and some applique. John had a couple of days of business in Ireland and England so we made a vacation of the work. We have never gone away for such an extended period of time and I worried about the children, but the older girls took care of everything here at home and created some wonderful memories for their siblings. It was tremendous blessing for us that they would be willing to help us.
I initially took a picture of my feet on a cobblestone street to send to my trainer because I had managed to successfully navigate a difficult, for my ankle, event. I had been worried that my injured ankle would not be able to withstand the constant walking and difficult terrains we were planning to see. Not to mention the fact that I didn't know how my arthritis would be effected with the elevation and long flight, but with each passing day and each new surface I decided to document in this simple way our trip. Historically it was also a great way to remember the tiles from the 13th century, or the wood flooring in a beautiful 15th century estate.
I walked paths that for centuries others had trod. I stepped on stones that were formed 50 million years ago. Ours was a journey of seeing the wonders of the land and history of places that are rich in culture. Together we learned about the lives of the privileged and the the poor. We learned about geological events and how wars shaped not only the landscape, but the culture of the people.
I sat among the elite in a black tie affair in my simple Birkenstocks (the limitations of traveling with a backpack) and learned the rules of Gaelic football. I saw vistas the made me weep from the beauty. My feet were tired, my ankles and knees often sore at the end of the day, but I thanked a merciful Father in Heaven each day for the strength and health to be able to spend this time with my darling husband.
I will never forget this grand adventure. I will cherish the gravel pits and sandy beaches. I will appreciate with greater knowledge now some of what my ancestors gave up coming to America and the beautiful landscape that must have filled their memories. Hand in hand we walked along the streets of nobility and the paths of the farmers talking about our lives, our children and our faith. This time together was a treasured blessing and one that I am so thankful to have experienced with my best friend and two pairs of shoes.
All photos were taken with my cell phone. More photos to come.
"The Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power."
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Doctrine and Covenants 93:30
One of my favorite parts about being a father is seeing my children develop and become happy, becoming more and more who they really are. This development often happens in unpredictable ways, which makes each instance all the better to observe and enjoy—it is particularly gratifying to see them learn and do things I don’t do or don’t do well.
While I want to have an influence on my children, I also feel so strongly that I should not attempt to mold them. There is so much to be learned from the Garden of Eden in which God provides numerous trees and plants with only the fruit of one of those trees being forbidden and then gives Adam and Eve time to explore and learn on their own. He also watches as they develop their own language rather than giving them a language. While it is obvious that there are age and other factors that should modify the degree of direction and restriction given to a child, wonderful things happen when a child is given the freedom to become who they really are. This principle is the same for those of all ages.
The world is generally opposed to freedom, and thus to growth, existence, and happiness in so many direct and subtle ways. At the end of my last post I asked the following questions regarding the story of Jesus, Mary, and Martha contained in Luke 10:38-42: What happens when someone like Mary is surrounded by expectations and pressures from ten people instead of from one? Or from a hundred, and each of these surrounded by another hundred, each with their own form of expectations and pressures and efforts to control? And what happens when a portion of these expectations and pressures are more coercive or even cruel and violent? What are the inevitable cultural implications of this complex web? What are the cultural or societal inevitabilities of making unto ourselves and worshiping graven images?
My answer to these questions is that we inevitably find ourselves in the world in which we currently live. At the least this includes characteristics like the tendency to control, lifestyle pressure, social pressure, political pressure and conflicts, a multiplying of laws and regulations and general complexity and centralization, etc. Eventually systems of complete or near complete repression exist, enslaving and tormenting their subjects, including systems that prey on the vulnerable such as sex slavery and forced labor and repressive, totalitarian regimes.
This is the most serious consequence of disobeying the second commandment: making unto ourselves graven images and bowing down and serving them always leads to bondage. God gives and continually restores freedom; and man continually places himself and those around him into bondage.
The ancient practice of sacrificing the innocent and vulnerable to idols is symbolic of so much occurring in all worldly cultures in every time period. In the future in this world this reality will not change, but instead will worsen, up until the day that Christ reigns, again restoring freedom.
Revelation 13 tells of a time of two beasts, worship of image, and enslavement, and while in scripture this appears as a dystopian extreme that will be clearly distinguishable and avoidable, it will in reality be not that much different from the current world and will be brought about in such a way as to create question, confusion, uncertainty, and acceptance. It will be discernable only for those for whom communion with God is central to their existence. In the pattern of the great deceiver, that which is described in Revelation 13 is in many details a parallel to God’s influence in the world of that time as described in Revelation 11. Again, it will not be clear without light from God. Evil as always will be more attractive and compelling to most, and how people understand the world and live accordingly will come down to how they understand or don’t understand God and live or don’t live the commandments, including the second of the Ten Commandments.
"Too often, we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations. However, when we focus on the “why” of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away."