Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spiritual Weight Lifting

For the last several months I've been trying (experimenting, perhaps?) to look at life experiences in a different way. My normal natural-man tendency when anything is difficult or challenging is to just label the experience as bad, or frustrating, or overwhelming. I've been trying instead to look at things from a more faithful perspective, and to see that the Lord has a purpose for us in these difficult experiences, especially the difficult experiences that occur frequently in our lives.


Today in church I saw one of my sweet friends who is pregnant. I had three thoughts—thoughts I've had every time I've seen her recently.
  1. Why didn't they make such cute maternity clothes when I was in the pregnant phase? (Because believe me, that phase is over!)
  2. Why is it that my pregnant belly (even with only one baby) was twice as big as almost everyone else's?
  3. She looks tired.
For some reason this last thought popped into my head again as I was driving home after church and stayed for a little while. I'm sure if I didn't have triplet induced brain damage I'd remember better how exhausting the last 4 weeks of pregnancy was for me. And I remember plenty about how tiring it is to have a new baby. Fatigue was an overwhelming part of all of my early mothering years. For a moment I started to feel frustration about this and then the thought shifted. It occurred to me that perhaps in the Lord's plan there is a purpose or reason that many young mothers have to live and function while being so exhausted.


And then I had a new (for me) understanding. I've recently started a new exercise program. It would probably be a little challenging except that so much of the movement is done while holding a 5 lb weight in each hand. As I lunge and lift, or squat and curl, (fabulous mental images, I know!) I am very aware that it is precisely the pain and muscle fatigue I am experiencing that is going to create the muscle growth that I want. I remind myself that without the "challenge" added by the weights the benefit I experience would be much less.


I'm sure that in the same way that my exercise program uses added resistance to maximize the physical benefit, our loving and wise Heavenly Father uses added resistance (fatigue or chronic illness are two that come to mind immediately) to facilitate and maximize our growth in this test that we call life. Maybe if I hadn't been so tired all of the time being a mother of a new baby would have been a piece of cake for me and I would have missed important opportunities for learning. Maybe it would have been like going in for a calculus final and being given only simple addition questions--relaxing, but hardly helpful if personal growth is the true objective.


This afternoon I picked up last winter's BYU Magazine to read again Elder Holland's excellent talk Lessons from Liberty Jail. I didn't turn back to the beginning but started reading on the page it was already opened to. Almost immediately I realized that what Elder Holland was saying was testifying of and adding to the thoughts I'd had earlier.

But tonight’s message is that when you have to, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.

Now let’s talk about those propositions for a moment. Every one of us, in one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not have been our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord....But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.

And then from President Joseph Fielding Smith:
As I have read the history of those days, the days that went before and days that came after, I have reached the conclusion that the hardships, the persecution, the almost universal opposition [toward the Church at that time] were necessary. At any rate they became school teachers to our people. They helped to make [them] strong.

I didn't go to Sister's Nite Out the year after my triplets were born—we were in the middle of trying to sell our house and leaving three nine month old babies didn't seem like an option. The next year when I went two of my sisters made comments about how much I'd changed and grown from the experiences (trials) of the last two years. I didn't know what they were talking about and still don't—life rarely comes packaged with neat little exams that report back to you that you've now moved into the 85 percentile in faith and are in the top third of your class in patience. But their comments give me hope that I really did experience important growth as a result of the preceeding two years. Hope that even when I don't see it (which is most of the time) these experiences are moving me imperceptibly towards becoming the person Heavenly Father knows that I can become.

I just have to keep remembering that when I'm exhausted, when my muscles are quivering and I think I can't lift those weights one more time—that's when the real growth occurs.

The Sacred Sub-Arctic (Update)

The number of things I saw blowing in the breeze in the chapel today—4.
  1. tissues in the box by the pulpit
  2. the hair of a friend sitting in front of me
  3. the pages of my hymn book (not making this up, people!)
  4. visual aids with scriptures printed on them in RS
On the up side I was warmer today. I:
  • wore a long skirt and a jacket
  • sat really close to my warm husband
  • borrowed his sports coat, and later
  • borrowed Tami's baby (that kid is a little heater!)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Overheard at the Dinner Table

This picture has nothing to do with this post, except that it has my kids in it. But I just hate a picture-less post, so here you are!

When we were getting dinner ready last night there was a terrific thunder storm going on outside.

Jenna: I think the rain is Heavenly Father and Jesus being really sad and crying.
Jared: No, Heavenly Father and Jesus are so good that they are happy. So the thunder is really them bowling and having a great time!

Later, at the dinner table Jared was obviously still thinking about heavenly topics.

Jared: Mom, do you think that Heaven is like our house and our neighborhood?
Me: Well our neighborhood is really beautiful, but if Heaven is like our house I hope it's not as messy as our house.
Rachel: I hope that I can still be a kid when I go to Heaven, except that I want to be married too.
[big pause]
Rachel: Unless I don't like my husband, and then I don't want to be married in Heaven.
Me: Well you can always do what I did, and marry someone you adore. That way you will still like them.
Jenna (very slowly): Yeah...but the problem is, there's really no one that I adore...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Things I Learned Yesterday

From Jenna:

We were working on our end-of-grade tests and one of the possible answers to a question was fox. Jenna looked up at me, very matter-of-factly, and said,

"Mom, did you know that the fox is the only member of the dog family that can climb trees?"

Uh, no. To start with, I didn't even know that the fox was a member of the dog family!

Apparently she learned this little tidbit 18 months ago when we visited the Nature Center in Asheville and she's been storing it all this time to bring it up and astound me...

And from the orthodontist, when I was grossed out by the amount of saliva that came out of my mouth every time he put the new retainer in and then took it back out.

"Yeah, any time something foreign goes into your mouth your body thinks it's food and starts making extra saliva.

That's why people who get dentures slobber like crazy..."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A River Runs Through It

We did get to visit the Chattahoochee before we left Atlanta; though the weather never cleared up enough for us to be able to take our little trip down the river, it was good enough to go to a nearby park to play in the water for a while.

I think this is one of the loveliest spots I know...Water, trees, geese, rocks, fishermen...what more could you want?

Miss Jenna walking around on the rocks.
One of the things I enjoy about a place like this is seeing my kids have fun together and help each other out. Josh was great at helping Rachel and Jared get across a particularly slippery place between two big rocks.

And Rachel and Jared were thrilled to have gotten out so far.

Josh helped Jason get across too.

As we planned the weekend the kids started talking about belonging to the Chattahoochee Club. One year when we were playing in the river Rachel slipped and fell completely in the water. The Chattahoochee is fed from the bottom of the Lake Lanier dam, and the water is freezing cold. In an attempt to keep Rachel from freaking out about being all wet and cold, Uncle Larry made a big deal about how excited he was now that she was in the Chattahoochee Club. Rachel has always been very proud that she was a member of the Chattahoochee Club.

Josh started telling the little kids that if they were in the club they would get a full sized candy bar. Now in our family, getting a full sized candy bar is a rare occurance indeed, so the little kids were excited by this promise. Here are pictures of Rachel and Jared coming up out of the cold, cold, cold water. (I took Jason's camera instead of mine to the river because his is so much smaller. I was definitely missing my zoom!)

It took Jenna a lot longer to decide to dunk. I actually tried to talk her out of it. She gets cold so much faster anyway, and I didn't want her to feel pressured. But the idea of the full sized candy bar was stronger than her fear of being cold, and she eventually went all the way in. I was a little worried about Jason going all the way in too--I wasn't sure how his chest was going to react to being that cold, but he handled it ok.

I was right about one thing--as soon as all of the kids were wet, it was time to pack up and go back to Larry & Gaye's house. We had time to get warm, eat, and then we had to pack up for the long drive back home. It was sure a great trip, though---and we can't wait to go back again. We still need to "Shoot the Hooch!"

P.S. I thought this sign from the park was hysterical.

Here's a picture of the bridge from the georgiatrails website.

I had never realized before that the missing part of the bride had been stolen...presumably for scrap metal during WWII. What an enterprising project! I did do enough research to learn that the bridge wasn't in use any more at the time that part of it was stolen, which was quite a relief. All I could think of was the poor person who discovered the theft the hard way...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paco—The Main Event

The official story is that we came to Atlanta to spend time with Larry & Gaye. Here's a picture of us at their ward BBQ to prove it. (The ward BBQ that was interrupted by a complete & total downpour that left some of us very wet indeed.)

Fortunately we were almost done eating when the rain came, so Russ & I loaded up most of the kids and went back to the house. Larry & Gaye had to stay a little longer at church, so we let ourselves carefully in the front door.

Larry and Gaye have 3 kids who are serving on missions right now in Las Vegas, Portugal, and the Ukraine. When their kids all went to college they got another "kid," a green cheeked Conure named Paco.

My kids love Paco.

Paco usually has the run of the house; his cage is open and he can get out and walk around on the floor, or get himself back into his cage if he wants to.

When we got back from the BBQ Paco was walking around in the entry. The little kids were most concerned about Paco's safety there on the floor and decided that we needed to pick him up and put him on his perch so that no one would step on him.

Unfortunately that was easier said than done. Paco was much more interested in biting us than in letting us pick him up to put him on his perch. Jenna tried offering him a stick to climb on, and Russ tried getting his shoulder down to floor level.

(notice how wet Russ is!)

Paco wasn't interested in getting up on Russ's shoulder either, but he did shelter under Russ for a while.

After Paco got tired of hiding under Russ he decided to come check out my feet & shoes. Turns out Paco likes shoes.

When Larry & Gaye got home they found us still sitting in the entry, happily held hostage by Paco.

Jared is already planning to save up a couple of hundred dollars so that he can get his own Conure. We'll miss Paco when we go home, and I think Paco will miss the excitement of having us here as well!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Family Night at the Rays

On Sunday Larry and Gaye wanted to do charades for Family Night. Our kids just love charades. First we did animal charades, and then group scripture charades.

Rachel was a bunny.

Jenna was a leaf bug.

I'm pretty proud of myself for having guessed that Larry was being a Ray. ;) For my turn (no picture, sadly) I was a sea turtle. Since I so recently went swimming with several of them...

Gaye was a rattlesnake

and Russ was an elephant.

But the real highlight of the evening was Jared. Here is his charade...

He did it over and over again, and we kept shouting our our guesses.

Horse! Bird! Pony! Airplane! Pelican! Hawk! Pterodactyl! Unicorn! Pegasus! Duck Billed Platypus!

And then, just randomly, Larry shouted out

Flying Pig!

And that, of course, was it.


A Rolling Ray Gathers No Moss

In our BT life one of our favorite places to travel to was Atlanta, to visit Russ's brother Larry and his family. For some reason (too many trips to the beach? too many trips to Hawaii?? Gaye going back to college???) we haven't visited them in several years, and so we decided that was our plan for Memorial Day weekend.

Our initial plan was to devote Saturday to our favorite Atlanta activity-- "Shooting the Hooch." (For those of you not in the know, the Hooch is short for the Chatahoochie--the river that runs behind Larry & Gaye's neighborhood.) Unfortunately the forecast wasn't cooperative and we decided instead to go to Stone Mountain.

The "trail" (I use the word loosely) to the top of Stone Mountain is 1.3 miles, and the constant incline makes it quite a workout. If you look closely you can see that Russ (wearing his green turtle shirt from Maui) is up for the challenge.

Larry brought a pack of gum so that everyone could have a piece to chew on the trail. The reason became obvious when we arrived at one of the grossest things I have ever seen. The Gum Pole. Everyone added their chewed gum to the collection. Except for me, I couldn't even look at it, it grossed me out so much. (Except to take these pictures so that you, too, could be grossed out.)
Larry looks for an open spot for his gum.
It was actually a strenuous walk. The little kids complained a lot for the last part of it, but they still all did it.
Rachel takes a trail mix break.
The view from halfway up--Atlanta downtown and midtown in the distance.
A sweet sibling moment.
It was exciting to finally get to the top--a huge and windy expanse of granite. We sat for a few minutes catching our breath and cooling off, and then went over to the side to look at the view.
Resting at the top.
Everyone but Larry (who is taking the picture) at the summit.The little kids were not at all excited about having to walk back down the mountain. In fact Jared decided that he was going to crawl down!

As we got to the bottom of the mountain to the train tracks we could hear the train whistling. I was walking with Larry and Jared, and Larry fished a penny out of his pocket and put it on the track. Jared plopped himself down on the ground to wait for his penny to be processed by the train. It was pretty cool--the train may have only been creeping along, but it smashed the penny totally flat.

After we were all back to the van we piled in and drove around to the other side of the park to see the bas relief sculpture in the side of Stone Mountain.

Do we have these kind of Blue Jays (Southern Blue Jays) in Durham?

The mountain looks like a huge granite egg rising out of the earth. It was really fascinating.

Here's an up close of the bas-relief---Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Given the fact that I'm 2/3 through this month's book club book--Killer Angels--it made me sad.

Such a fun outing, and I totally had my exercise for the day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notice Anything Different???


Noon Today!!