To Live For Today.....

“Even you are not rich enough to buy back your past... No man is." - An Ideal Husband

Today I feel caught in the past. The memories of my past. The thoughts and fears and dreams of my past. I am finding it hard to live in my life today because my mind is running through the scripts of my past days in such quantity and with such speed. There is so much that I regret, so much that I need to acknowledge and atone for and so much that I have been castigated and thrown over the coals for that I never did. A part of me thinks that it should be a wash and I should have a blank slate like a newborn child.... but I would never want to go back to my childhood and I would not relish losing much of the knowledge that I have gained. Even the knowledge that I have gained from having my feet pressed firmly on the hot firebricks is valuable and useful knowledge and the pain of gaining that knowledge doesn't outweigh the benefits of its possession.

So... I can continue to waste this day and allow my mind and my heart to fall into the dark depressive ruminative state that accompanies sorrow and self pity... or I can sit up and shout “I'm here! I'm good! I'm trying!” I can hold my head up high with my shoulder straight and remember that I am a daughter of God, that he cares and loves me, and that he paid the price so that I can screw up and not have to beat myself whether physically or mentally. I do not have to become a self flagellant. I can remember that this day is the only day like it I will have.... and I can live for today. I can hug my child, kiss my husband and tell all my friends and family that I love them and make today a special day to look back upon instead of having mostly uncomfortable memories. I can break my life down into short pieces so that I can find more success and feel more hopeful and maybe even... joy. And my world will be better for this... and so will my life!


Trials and Temptation

(David Lynn)

“Didn't He say he sent us to be tested? Didn't He say the way would not be sure? But didn't He say we could live with Him forevermore, well and whole if we but patiently endure? After the trial we will be blessed, but this life is the test”
- The Test by Janice Kapp Perry

The last two months, I have felt tested beyond anything I have ever dealt with in my life. Scarily enough I am finding this harder to deal with than my turbulent adolescence in my parent's home... although I think that is because I didn't expect to be so threatened in my life ever again. However, it has happened and I am unsure what to do. In some ways, I think I feel almost bipolar- my moods change constantly depending on my thoughts which are headed in almost any direction as I try to cope. And trying to deal with the outside forces bombarding my mood and emotions has been almost impossible. In the past when I have needed to try and cope with severe problems, I have been reminded of a Bible verse:

1 Corinthians 10:13 - There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

The first time I heard someone describe this Bible verse was in Sunday school and it was misquoted. Many people have shortened this verse to mean that “Heavenly Father will never give you more than you can handle”. Just my opinion, but that is absolute bunk. First of all this verse uses the words “you will not be tempted”. Second, God does not 'give' us the problems that we face- most of those problems come from ourselves as consequences or from other people and their free agency. I know that it can be comforting to smile through our tears and repeat over and over that we can handle it, but it is just false doctrine. The other (and main) reason I think that this statement is bunk is that it tends to be used by others to justify their good fortune- “I am good and that is why I have money... she is bad and that is why she is having problems with money, children, etc...”) By using this justification, it allows people to divide others into 'us' and 'them' and permits them to justify allowing suffering and allows them to feel comfortable either not helping and/or judging.

I can not accept that. I can not accept that some people are poor because they are bad. I can not accept the idea that rich individuals are closer to perfection – not to beat a point into the dust but.... Tiger Woods anyone? And so I find myself frustrated with this platitude and others that seem to mostly justify not doing anything about bad things. I take the scripture verse at face value- Heavenly Father will not allow us to be tempted past our endurance. Trials, however, are different from temptations no matter how you splice it.

I believe that temptations are personal- it may hurt or cause consequences for others, but your sins are your own. Isn't that listed in Article of Faith number 1? Trials, however, are meant to be faced with others. We are on earth so that we can be tested but also to make the test easier for us around us. If we allow ourselves to become so insulated and arrogant that we do not help each other... well, what is left to enjoy in life. If we only help those we love... a lot of people will be left out to struggle alone which is not what our Father intended. We can not allow ourselves to be so self involved that we do not ask ourselves a question – “Is Heavenly Father hoping to use me to ease this burden?”

We can not make it alone- only be helping each other can we hope to make it!


Perception and Reality

Isn't it funny that a few people can share a day together and then go their separate ways. The next day two of the members of the group that shared the same exact experience can 'see' the experience so differently from the other person. In fact, if you didn't know better, you might possibly come to the conclusion that someone is lying to you. But in reality how each individual processes their day in their mind made the experience different due to their perceptions.

The word perception in regard to human psychology is usually defined as the process of attaining awareness and understanding of sensory information. How a person perceives their situation, environment, etc... is almost always affected by several factors- past experiences, culture, interpretation of past and cultural events, age, intelligence level and more. Rene Descartes hundreds of years ago conceived the idea of passive perception that can be described as a series of events; input (senses), processing (brain), and output (reaction). Today, many psychologists tend to subscribe to the idea of active perception as a more accurate way to describe the idea that there is a dynamic relationship between the brain and senses which create experience.

So even if every human being is exactly the same in all ways (which of course we are not), we would still find that people's perceptions will differ from each others. If our genes were exact duplicates – in essence, if we are clones- our experiences might be slightly different causing different perceptions and ideas. I find this idea so fascinating and frustrating all at once. It is fascinating because the world is an amazing place with so many differences in people, environments, cultures, etc... Look at the amazing people we learn about in history class and how our world has been shaped by their perceptions of the world around them? One example that springs to mind is Henry VIII of England. Even people who have no interest in history have heard of this king/man. His perceptions of himself, gender and reproduction changed the lives of his many wives (sometimes ending their lives), the lives of his children and the lives and culture of an entire country. One of his daughters Elizabeth I went on to rule after him and her perceptions of power and men again changed the course of her life, the lives of all those around her and the history and succession of an entire country.

However, one thing that really frustrates me about perception is that we as human beings can be so shuttered and trapped into poor perception. When we are born, our brain in many ways is a blank slate which we then begin to fill. As we get experience in life, this experience will change and therefore bias our perceptions- there is now a preconceived concept. This happens because human beings do not readily understand new information without the bias of their previous knowledge. So we can misinterpret others actions and behavior based on the actions and behavior of others that surrounded us in the past which can cause us problems in our present. Or,maybe even worse, we can fail to perceive something at all because our brains are unable to process the information in any way. So something can be explained to you a million times... and you can still fail to 'get it'. So essentially, our reality is biased and as such... boy, it helps to see why we are supposed to forgive people almost everything. If the human mind can only create reality from what it has been exposed, then misunderstandings must be so easy. The mind will just pull out the bits of perception that it recognizes so that we can have understanding or comprehension- even though that probably will not give us understanding and comprehension. “ That which most closely relates to the unfamiliar from our past experiences, makes up what we see when we look at things that we don’t comprehend.”

So know that I truly understand this (at least I think I do.... :), what do I do? If I have communication problems based on the abuse in my past and the way that I was treated early in life, how do I change. What I mean is, I can change outward behavior and I have in many ways. I no longer have a 'anger' problem- I just have to be aware of my emotions an understand that I have a penchant towards anger. By knowing this, I am able to control it. But how do you truly control thought patterns that have been a part of you for so long that I am unable to even recognize that they are thought patterns? How does anyone do it? David Pelzer is an example that I can think of. He had some of the most horrendous abuse I have ever heard of or read about... and yet he has been able to change his actions and his thoughts (at least it appears that he has). Clearly this is a loooong process. So...

How does perception effect you and your relationships? How does it affect your communication with others? How does it affect how you do.... everything!? If you have had abuse in your past or other major problems such as divorce, instability, etc.... how have you dealt with it? What has worked to help change the way you think..... has it worked? Carlfred Broderick talked about a transitional character- one who is able to purify their family line from the blackness and instability of the past and give future generations the ability to not have to confront the pain and scarring. In the past I have thought that I have been pretty successful at being a good transitional character and I have the best husband for that- his patience and kindness are a Godsend that I do not deserve. But... I suspect I have a lot more work to do!


A True Friend - Sarah Drew 1920-2010

Everyone in their lives hopes to find a true friend. Someone to laugh with, cry with, and that they can trust to care for them. A true friend who sometimes puts your feelings before theirs when its important and right and who works to help you in your endeavors… and allows you to help them with their needs.

Finding a friend like that in my life has been difficult (as I assume that it is for so many people.) Now that I am 35, I think that I have found five in my entire life. Two are childhood friends that are now almost acquaintances because we live so far apart and our lives are so crazy…yet I truly believe that one (if not both) of them would come to help me at a moments notice if I really needed it. Heck, some of the people that I know who live within ten minutes would not do the same for my family and I am aware of it. True caring and sacrifice are hard to find. My third gem (Katey) lived near me for a few years, but circumstances in her life have changed for the next few years... and so we live as far apart as possible almost and still claim to be in the same country. Yet she keeps in touch and does everything that she can think of to help me and my family. She is honest and kind and intelligent… so much that I just cannot put into words and really captures her true essence. The fourth mention is a friend that I just lost. Both of us were unable to live up to the ideals that a true friend needs. While a large part of me is sorry and grieves for this friendship still… a small part of me is glad that the friendship cannot ever really be repaired. After all, the betrayal could have gotten much worse and even more painful. I guess it is better to know sooner rather than later. (Am I allowed to wish I had been warned a few years ago…?)

The fifth friend I just lost to death. I cannot pretend that I was not aware that our separation by death was more likely than some friendships as Sarah Barter Drew was over 50 years older than me. We were brought together by a nice trick and her friendship these last seven years has meant the world to me. I feel so many emotions that my grief will probably take a long time to process and to be able to move on with living without feeling constant sorrow for my loss.

I met Sarah through the missionaries. Sarah Drew has a niece who is a member of the LDS church. When Sarah went to visit her niece over seven years ago, her niece took her to the church building with her as she needed to clean the building- the ward she belongs to uses different volunteers every week to keep the church clean and ready to use. Later, Sarah told me that the good feelings and the Spirit that she felt just sitting in the building were so strong and so powerful that she asked to have the missionaries visit her. She lived about four hours away from her niece and so she ended up seeing the missionaries in my area. After a few visits and lessons, Sarah decided to attend church. However, being 83 years old with medical problems, Sarah could not get there herself and due to church rules, the missionaries couldn’t take her to church. Elder Birtenshaw called several members of the ward in our area attempting to get her a ride to church and he was unsuccessful. He prayed and decided that even though I had problems and wasn’t getting the help or support I needed at church, he thought he was supposed to ask me to take her for one Sunday. He called and begged for me to agree to take her for “just that one week, no more” and he would make sure she had a ride next week. So that Sunday, I drove over and met Sarah Drew for the first time. We hit it off almost right away. I felt that I had found a kindred soul and by the time I took her home, I agreed to take her to church any week that I was attending (That was a good thing and a very inspired call by the missionaries because if I did need to find a ride for her when I wasn’t attending church, I was rarely able to find anyone and most often was told it was my responsibility. The elders told me later that they had hoped that the inspiration would ‘convince’ me to do it more then once as they did despair of finding anyone to take her –hence my wording ‘nice trick’.)

The next few years we became closer. She learned more about my family circumstances and was always ready with great advice. She was always ready to give me a hug or just listen to my concerns. When people at church would say rude and slanderous things about me at church in front of her expecting a common ally… they soon discovered to their cost that she was unwilling to hear anything like that without correcting it loudly and bluntly. She always asked over my son Bug and she always remembered him and my family for all holidays. He without fail received valentines, birthday cards, Christmas gifts and even the occasional fresh homemade dinner at her house. She loved to watch Bug tuck himself into her bed and she loved to watch his energy and his joy. She worried over my stress level and her concern over my emotional state and needs. She was a true loyal friend who I could depend on for almost anything. Several times, she bemoaned the fact that she was too old to be able to babysit and help me and my family with things such as babysitting. And she was a wonderful and beautiful grandmother to my son who loved her very, very much.

A few years ago, my husband and I started building a house. I was so excited and was also hopeful that we could get the house completed soon enough to be able to help Sarah. She was living in an apartment, but I knew that she was on borrowed time. Her frailty was becoming more apparent and her eyesight was slowly disappearing… but I guess that it wasn’t meant to be. Our house has slowly struggled or stalled over the last four years. Soon Sarah fell and was hurt enough that she ended up going to a nursing home. Even now, my house is still not finished. Her health continued to deteriorate and in November 2009, she fell and broke her hip. Sarah wasn’t able to recover from that and her death came mercifully on April 5th, 2010.

Sarah is a beautiful and tolerance person who is loyal and loving. She was a hard worker, smart as they come, and a tireless advocate for justice and fair play. She is courageous, determined, and patient. And because of these qualities I didn’t get to see her for the last few weeks of her life. Because I was embarrassed and didn’t want to tell her the family problems that I was having. So instead I avoided her and kept telling myself that she was doing OK. I will always regret that pathetic decision. She was my very best friend, a friend at the time that I was suffering the pain, embarrassment and confusion of losing a different friend. Sarah, I will miss you more than I can ever express and I am sorry for my frailty in your last months. I hope that you will be able to forgive me and I hope to see you again and apologize in person when I too cross the veil. Thank you for everything. Thank you for you!

Here is a link to her obituary - http://fenceviewer.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31855:Sarah%20B.%20Drew&catid=969:obituaries&Itemid=142g


History of a Song: April - “I’ll Be A Sunbeam” (a.k.a. “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam”)

This song was imagined from the mind of Nellie Talbot. Unfortunately, there is very little known about her- I was able to find very limited information on her. There were some possibilities of where she lived her life in the census. I did find a genealogy site that said her full name was Ellen Winnifred Talbot and she was born in October 1871. Another site said that she died in March 31, 1959 and her parents were Joseph and Mary Talbot. What is generally known is that she lived in Missouri and at one point, she wanted to come up with some new material for her Sunday School class that she taught at church. She could only think of nature and wrote this song about Christ and sunbeams.

In 1900, Edwin Othello Excell wrote music to go with her words and the song as we know it was born. He was born in December of 1851 and he died in 1921 in Chicago where he was buried. He was the son of a German pastor and he began his adult life as a bricklayer. His love of music was such a vital part of his joy and life and so he traveled to Chicago to study. He went on to start singing schools and expanded his work in religious song and study. He wrote over 2000 religious songs and pursued music publishing for most of his life. He is well known for his arrangement of “Amazing Grace” in his published hymnals and for his editing and publishing skills.

This song has been used by many Christian denominations since it was written and set to music. I learned it in Sunday School when I was a child in the Mormon church. Others have written online about learning this song in many different protestant churches. And, because it has had such a wide audience, it has made its rounds through not only Christian churches, but parodies and pop musicians. This hymn was referenced in a song called “Alibi” that was performed by Elvis Costello. The first parody of the song that I could find was sung in 1987 by a Scottish Alternative band called The Vaselines. Later the group changed their parody and renamed it “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam”. In 1992, the latter parody was released by Nirvana and before the band broke up, they released two additional versions of this parody. Another parody was published on the web in 2006 called “Allah Wants Me for a Jihadist” and is sung to the same tune.

This song has a long history in the Mormon church. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has released a version of this song and the LDS church has many online resources that parents can use to work with this song- including a Primary Song video and coloring pages. It has been published as a book by author Hans Wilhelm and LDS apostle mentioned in the October 2009 conference that this song is one that he “really loves.” This song is also listed as #12 on the Official All Time Favorite Primary Songs list in the LDS Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah. This song or theme (Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam) is heavily marketed and can be purchased on pillowcases, shirts, stickers, rubber stamps, thongs and more. (yes… thongs. Can you say too much marketing?) This song was recently released by the music group Juice on a movie soundtrack for the film “The Home Teachers”. However, it would be a mistake to forget that this song is not an originally ‘Mormon’ song and to lose sight of the message that this song gives not only to other Mormons, but to the outside religious world at large. After Prop 8 in California, a group sponsored a contest for slogans to protest outside of the Salt Lake Temple. One of the most popular slogan was- Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam, why don't you? Love is always the answer.

This song is one of the first primary songs I ever remember learning and it was the second one that I taught my own child. What does this song mean to you? What memories does it conjure up in your mind? If you are not LDS, please tell me your experiences with this song.


2010 Poetry Corner # 6 - "Counting Blessings"

Sometimes, I think that I forget the blessings
Sometimes, they are hard to see...
Sometimes, they masquerade as a curse.
Sometimes, I am too caught up in 'me'

Daily, I should stop and sit.
Daily, I should try...
Daily I should give thanks.
Daily, stop asking 'why?'

Tomorrow, I will do better.
Tomorrow I will find....
Tomorrow my life will be happier if
Tomorrow I see blessings in my mind