3.09.2020

Come Follow Me: Jacob’s Anxiety


I love Jacob.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that my affinity toward Jacob has grown.  There is beautiful emotion and empathy, passion and pleading, and heartwarming humility in his teachings.  This time around, I has also been drawn to his use of the word “anxiety” several times.

Before Nephi dies, Jacob teaches the people:

“...I speak unto you again; for I am desirous for the welfare of your souls.  Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been (2 Nephi 6:3).”

Then once he assumes the leader role after Nephi’s death, Jacob reiterates his feelings:

“Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with sober ness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God. And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been (Jacob 2:2-3).”

Again, just before he teaches the great Allegory of the Olive Tree, Jacob declares:

“Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit and stumble because of my over anxiety for you (Jacob 4:18).”

We have created such a negative connotation to this word: Anxiety.  What is it?  And is it as “bad” as we have made it out to be?  In these words from Jacob, I can feel his anxiety, but I also see that it comes from his great love and caring for the people that he serves.  Only in the last verse quoted do we see that he is anxious about himself; but again, only that his own anxiety won’t overpower the spirit and love he feels for his people.  I find this endearing and a bit heart-wrenching.

Let’s pause to look at Jacob’s life.  He was born in the wilderness.  He knows nothing other than hard work, pain, suffering, sorrows.  He watched his family disintegrate with contention and false beliefs.  In Lehi’s final blessing to his son we read, “And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.  And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren (2 Nephi 2:1).”

Of this beginning and living in the wilderness, Deidre Green explains:

The wilderness is a luminal space —a space of change and uncertainty, but also a space of transformation.  And it’s a space of vulnerability and I think that really influences Jacob’s perspective on the world, and also his affinity to God...It seems that God and Christ, as he understands him, are really kind of the stabilizing forces for him in his life. 

We see this in Lehi’s continued words, “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain (2 Nephi 2:2).”  Jacob has learned from an early age what it means to rely on and trust in God because of his childhood in the wilderness.  Likewise, as we are born into and travel in our own wilderness called mortality, we learn to have this same trust and love for a Father in Heaven who is guiding us and protecting us.

It is because of Jacob’s experiences that he is able to empathize with a larger group of people.  This brings us back to his anxiety.  With his own heart enlarged by his life’s journey, Jacob feels deeply for the people whom he serves.  I can understand this!  I recently wrote a blog post entitled, “Caring too Much is Going to Kill Me.”  Not only is there my own natural anxiety spurred on by my own weaknesses, there is also the pressure of truly caring for the sisters I serve and desiring their happiness.  Oftentimes I worry that my over anxiety is getting in the way of leading them by the Spirit.  Thus, I can relate to Jacob more than ever before!

We also learn from Jacob’s anxiety that it’s okay to live with some ambiguity.  I feel some of his anxiety is spurred on by the idea that he doesn’t know what is going to happen to the Nephites once he dies.  He also pleads with the Nephites to continue reaching out to their brethren, the Lamanites. He knows and understands that a relationship with God is first and foremost, and sometimes familial relationships only add to the complexity of understanding God’s ways and His children.  Growing up in a time of uncertainty and constant change allowed Jacob the ability to see these dichotomies of life.

Ultimately, we see Jacob’s undying love and testimony of a living Savior.  As taught by his father, Jacob experiences firsthand a knowledge of his Redeemer.  “And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh...Wherefore, redemption comets in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth (2 Nephi 2:4, 6).”  Then, when it is his turn to lead, Jacob counsels his people, “...be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrecting, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ...(Jacob 4:11).”

What I gain from this message is that our anxiety does not need to keep us from the love of God.  Despite his anxious spirt and sorrowful yearnings of his heart, Jacob is able to persevere and powerfully testify of Christ.  Likewise, because of his anxious heart, Jacob has the capacity to gather his people in love and righteousness, to empathize and to teach in love and understanding.  With this thought, however, we must remember one thing:  Jacob’s anxiety was for the welfare of his people more so than for himself.  We, too, can turn our hearts toward others and allow our anxiety to bring us closer to them and to Christ for nothing shall separate us from His love.

 - - - - - - 

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of god, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
Romans 8:38-39



3.03.2020

Come Follow Me: The Doctrine of Christ



I'm back!  February was a crazy month.  So, yes, I completed most of the reading but could never get to writing anything down.  So, here are my thoughts on this week's study: 2 Nephi 31-33...

Here we find the Doctrine of Christ.  Most of us can quote the Article of Faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first, faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by emersion for the remission of sins; fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And many of us have probably been taught these principles and ordinances in a step by step fashion.  I've even drawn the steps myself, one following the other as we make our way to heaven.  Therefore, I find it very interesting that in laying out the Doctrine of Christ, Nephi doesn't go through the "steps," nor are they even in the same order.

Nephi first talks about baptism. He talks about Jesus being baptized and then declares, "And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water...O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water (2 Ne. 31:5)!"  Interestingly, when Jesus visits the Nephites after his crucifixion, the first thing He teaches them is about baptism.  Something about that ordinance is crucial to following our Savior.

When asked, "Why did Jesus have to get baptized if He was perfect?"  our typical answer is, "To show us the example."  Yes, in verse 9 over chapter 31, we see just that, "...it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them (italics added)."  When I read these verses this time, however, I was struck by another phrase.  Verse 7 states, "...But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father... (italics added)."  And this is what I think is crucial about baptism coming first when teaching about the doctrine of Christ.  Baptism is our first ordinance in which we declare to God that we will follow Him.  This decision is a humbling experience as we bury ourselves and come up again as new creatures.  We renew this covenant, offering our humble hearts to God, every Sunday when we partake of the sacrament.  Humility is necessary in following our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As part of that sacramental renewal, we then have the opportunity to repent.  Repentance is not required of young children before the age of eight.  Repentance, in my viewpoint, is not required of those who do not know the law.  Repentance is a blessing we partake in after we have made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ.  I guess you can read 2 Nephi 31:11-13 and come to the conclusion that repentance is required before baptism, but again, I don't see these principles and ordinances as steps, I see them interlocking as we choose to follow our Savior. 

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the the name of Christ, by baptism...then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel (2 Ne. 31:13)." 

With the Holy Ghost we can then speak with the tongue of angels.  What does that look like?  What does it feel like and sound like?  I find this a fascinating phrase.  In chapter 32, Nephi clarifies, "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, tehy speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feas upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do (v.3)."  In other words, having been baptized, with a humble and repentant heart we can receive personal revelation!

And then comes faith!  Faith was already present when we made the initial choice to be baptized (see 2 Ne. 31:19), but that faith only continues to grow and build and strengthen as we continue along the path. 

"And then ye are in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life;  yea, ye have entered in by the gate;  ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive....Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold...ye shall have eternal life (31:18, 20)."

We are taught that faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ is first, and I don't think I dispute that.  But we need to remember that once we act in faith, it is not a one-time action.  Faith is a growing, learning, active, and living principle.  It is only through continuing on the path that our faith becomes stronger and our understanding of Jesus Christ and His love for us can grow. 

Nephi's final words testify of this.  He declares, "I have charity for my people and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat (2 Nephi 33:7)." How does He have such faith?  "...for thus has the Lord commanded me, and I must obey (v.15)."  Nephi made the decision to follow Jesus Christ, he chose to obey, he chose to stay on the path.  Of these first four principles and ordinances, only baptism happens once; and yet, even then, the covenant is renewed with the sacrament.  Nephi did not follow a step by step plan to heaven, Nephi chose every day to hold to the Doctrine of Jesus Christ!

 - - - - - 

"And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ.  And if ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good."  
2 Nephi 33:10 


2.19.2020

A Testimony of Jesus Christ



What is a testimony?

"A testimony is an open declaration or confession of one's faith."

"A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost."

My testimony has taken an interesting journey, as I suspect most testimonies do.  I would say I received a testimony at a relatively young age and have had many powerful experiences with the Holy Ghost testifying to me of sacred truths.

Several years ago, however, a series of experiences put a little dent in my faith.  Though I can say I never really doubted the existence of God, I did begin to wonder about His role in my life.  Confusion, questions, pride, and fear took a front row seat in my mind.  Still hoping and praying for some clear answers, I started to catch glimpses of light and strength.  However, as quickly as they'd come, they would leave again.

I recently had a friend ask me some difficult questions. "What does your relationship with Christ really mean?  If [recent life events] have been so hard, how has that brought you closer to Jesus Christ?"  Basically, I felt she was asking me, "What is keeping you so sure?"

These were some great questions and I feel the last few years these are the exact questions I have been forced to ask myself.  These are questions I wonder if we all need to ask ourselves at some point in time. In fact, Elder John Carmack once stated, "I shudder when I hear anyone declare, 'I will never deny my testimony of the gospel.'"  To do so would put us in a position like Peter when he declared his devotion to Christ only to deny him three times.  President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk once entitled, A Living Testimony.  I love the word living because it implies, first of all, that it is something that needs nourishment.  For another thing, it also signifies that it will ebb and flows, has its ups and downs.  We do not receive a testimony and then expect it to stay exactly the same. Hopefully, it is constantly growing, but I would assume that sometimes it doesn't feel that way.

When my friend asked me those questions that day I had one answer to give, "I can't say [these experiences] have brought me closer to Christ themselves, but I can say that through these experiences I have learned with more conviction the why of what I do -- it is because I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I do these things for Him."

Along my faith journey I have wrestled with a lot of questions.  I have studied, read, prayed, pondered, written and cried in my desires to know where God is in my life.  And for me, staying on the path was extremely helpful.  I have realized that the one thing truly keeping me in the Church are the covenants I have made with my God.  The one thing I would miss the most is communion with Him in the temple.  For me, there is great strength and comfort in those covenants because I know His promises are sure -- no matter what chaos might be going on in my life.

Also, along this journey, it became easy to discredit emotion a little bit.  Those who know me know that my threshold for tears is very low!  Because of this I have had to learn and relearn which tears come because of the Spirit and which come for other reasons (namely: exhaustion, hormones, nerves, etc.).  I have had to really home in on personal revelation and discerning of spirits.  I have had to learn which voices to hear and which to ignore.

Wendy Ulrich (remember, my favorite!) wrote an article on belief and cognitive dissonance.  Toward the end she wrote, "While cognitive dissonance theory says we behave primarily to justify our beliefs, faith teaches us that both commitment and uncertainty are valuable tools that can be sued to clarify our beliefs and increase our trust in God (italics added)."    Isn't that beautiful?  (Read it again!)   J and I have come to believe that the law of opposition is not about having alternate choices to make, but rather the opportunity mortality provides for us to truly wrestle as we come to a pure, loving and deep relationship with God -- our Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  To build, receive and nourish a testimony requires such a process.

During a recent training meeting President Nelson told the general leaders, in essence, "If you are not having opposition every day, you aren't working hard enough."  The struggle is real.  But it can be joyful, and I think that is what faith leads to in the end -- hope and joy.   What I have come to in the last few months is that I want to be more like Paul and be not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  A testimony of my Savior is in my heart.  I may not be able to fully explain it in a logical way, but it is real to me.  I have received a witness and I cannot deny it.

 - - - - - 

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him:  That he lives!"  
Doctrine & Covenants 76:22


1.30.2020

What I've Learned in the Last Decade



Inspired by something my cousin wrote, I thought I'd look back and see what I have learned in the last ten years.  In 2010 I had five children ages 10-3.  It was my favorite stage of motherhood!  I had no diapers to change and no teenagers to manage.  We were still homeschooling at the time and I was in my element.  I was happy.

not quite 10 years later, hard to get a family shot with John gone

Fast forward ten years and I'm back to changing diapers and have multiple teenagers in the house.  I'm still happy.  But I'm different, too.  Many experiences in the last ten years have shaped me to be something (or someone) I never quite expected.  We talk about our children "adulting," but the older I've gotten the less I know what that means.  I guess I expected that when I turned 40 I'd feel like I'd arrived to real adulthood.  In all honesty,  I only see much more life to live and more lessons to learn up ahead.  I'm not sure I'm ready for it because that's the first thing I've learned:

Lesson #1:  Learning can be painful. 
Some of our most valuable lessons are learned through pain, heartache, and struggle.  I guess that's my least favorite part of being an adult, is recognizing that when you take a risk it could lead to pain rather than being some thrilling adventure.  In this I've learned (am still learning) not to be afraid of that pain.  Mortality is meant to be a struggle otherwise we wouldn't have the law of opposition or a desire to reach up and out for guidance and comfort.

Lesson #2: Don't forget to do what you love. 
Childhood is such a beautiful time.  It's a time to explore different things, learn new talents, and discover what you love.  Somewhere between childhood and adulthood it becomes less important or valued to keep expanding on the things you discovered in those early years.  For example, I was just reading in my journal that during girls camp I missed two things:  my parents and the piano.  I'd forgotten I loved the piano as much as I did when I was young.  I'm starting to play more again and loving it.  Don't forget what you love to do and don't forget to make time to do it!

Lesson #3: Kids really do grow up fast!  
One thing I really, really love is motherhood!  Despite that great love, I heard all the time,  "Just enjoy them while they're young, it goes so fast."  I remember those kind words and thinking, "I do enjoy them.  What are you talking about?"  Now I get it.  Once the kids hit about age 15, time speeds up so much that you can hardly catch a breath.  And the closer you have them together, the sooner they all leave.  I didn't think about that so much with my first five being born within a 7 year span.  They will be gone so fast.  And yet it's also super fun to watch them grow up and become their own people.


 - - - - - 

"You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we're all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it's going to be over, and you better make this count."
 - Nancy Reagan - 

1.27.2020

Come Follow Me: Study Helps



I love studying the gospel! What I love the most about studying the scriptures is that some days you can simply read some verses to feel inspired; but on other days you can take the time to dig in deeper on just one subject or verse.  When studying the gospel, we have the ability to enjoy the complexities and the simplicities of it all.  I also love that multiple people can read the same passage of scripture but each see something completely different. 

I love the new Come Follow Me curriculum for the same reason.  Some weeks you can dive into the chapters and study questions, while other weeks you can feel satisfied getting through the verses.  There is so much flexibility with no major pressure.  I love it! 

With that said, this last week I was swamped with making ministering assignment changes so I was able to read the chapters but not necessarily dig as deep as I would have liked.  So, I thought I would share some of my favorite study helps today.

First of all, the Come Follow Me manuals have a lot of extra resources to draw from.  This week there are links to the Book of Mormon video collection as well as links to additional scriptures to connect thoughts and ideas.  Most weeks they also have a conference talk or two that can enhance our knowledge and understanding on a particular topic.  I can't help but think about how much work goes into making these manuals, so we can value that effort by utilizing the resources there.

As I mentioned in my post about questions, as a family we have tried to go just a little bit deeper in our family scripture study.  One day we'll have many thoughts and questions shared, others we'll have almost nothing. To foster deeper learning, we purchased journal-style scriptures for our children.  One child in particular said, "Mom, I love this scripture journal.  It is just so fun to read scriptures now."  Maybe it's the nuance of having something different, and maybe the novelty will wear off, but it has been a good tool for our kids to have as they've explored the scriptures this year. 


For Primary and younger children at home, I have utilized the Primary website so much. With all of the recent changes I panicked a moment thinking maybe they got rid of my favorite feature.  Let's say your child has a question about Nephi building a ship.  If you go to the resources by topic section of the website, you can see several articles, stories, and activities on the subject.  Other topics will have music and videos also.  This was my go-to resource while I served in primary because it expanded my own enthusiasm for the basic principles of the gospel.  And when a teacher (or parent) is excited about the lesson topic, the kids can feel that and will be excited too!  (Of course, there is also plenty of additional material in Come Follow Me manuals as well, don't forget that!)


My favorite resource when studying the scriptures is the BYU Scripture Citation site.  If there is a verse you want to take deeper, you can find every conference talk ever given that quotes the verse.  The information goes clear back to Joseph Smith.  It's an invaluable resource I have loved for years!

Aside from Come Follow Me, when preparing a lesson for Relief Society we ask our teachers to read all of the footnotes from whatever talk from which they are teaching. Again, I think the Apostles have prepare far beyond their 20-minute talk.  They have studied and edited and prayed for hours, making their message a succinct as possible.  I want to know what happened in all that study time!  It's in the footnotes!  And it's usually within those footnotes than I have found what our particular sisters need most from the lesson.  We cannot underestimate those footnotes! 

I also enjoy BYU Studies.  They usually have further study options on whichever curriculum we are following in any given year.  These articles can range from spiritual to geographical to intellectual articles on any of the themes highlighted in the Come Follow Me chapters.  It love it! 




Last point:  I have given up on having any detailed or strenuous scripture marking systems.  I just mark and write.  Sometimes I can find themes within one of the scripture blocks and try to use the same color throughout in that one section, but usually it's pretty random.  I find that I can see connections and think outside the box a little more when I don't stick myself inside a marking system. 

So, there you have it.  It's not comprehensive, but there is plenty here for me to get a good in-depth study of the scriptures when I can and want to. 

 - - - - - - 

"I am grateful for emphasis on reading the scriptures.  I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God.  I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted.  At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine." 
Gordon B. Hinckley, CR April 1995

1.24.2020

Friendship



I recently spent 10 days (off and on) with my very best friend, Kelly.  Her daughter just had a baby and so Kelly came to stay with me while she jumped back and forth to take care of the new mommy.  Yes!  I am now close to Grandma status!!  It's so hard to believe.  Having my dear friend here all that time gave us plenty of time to talk, laugh and cry.  It was refreshing to be with someone who knows me and loves me anyway!

Kelly and I met at girls camp.  Our stake in California covered several towns, ours being half an hour apart. We were twelve.  I'm not even really sure what attracted me to the young women in her ward, but I just remember wanting to be around them.  After that we would see each other at stake events (including more girls camps) throughout the years.

And then came our fourth year at camp.  At that time, the 4th year campers were calling "Adventurers" and they would go on an overnight hike the weekend before girls camp.  Because Kelly and I had fall birthdays, we went the year behind our friends and the girls in our same grade at school.  I immediately latched onto her and the duration of the hike I talked and she listened! A match made in heaven.

I found the journal entries from that year at camp:

"So far it's been pretty fun.  A girl named Kelly is the only one from C.  We've sorta been palin' around together most of the time.  Actually, pretty much all of the time!  She's so great!...We walk around and talk, tease each other, and goof off.  We have this thing for kissing up to [our leaders].  We're gonna see who's the beset kisser-upper by the end of the week.  It's going to be loads of fun.  Anyway, Kelly's really fun to be around!" 

I remember that week!  The week Kelly and I became real friends.  At the end of that week I wrote:

"It was pretty hard to say good-bye to everyone, especially [our leaders] and Kelly.  Kelly and I were practically inseparable the whole week.  Now we're not together and it's actually kind of weird.  I hate it.  We're so much alike, yet we're so different!  She's so awesome and I love her so much.   I hope she realizes that despite how much I've joked with her and stuff."  

I feel the same today, after spending this last week together.  Having her here has made me wonder what it takes to build such a deep friendship.  We joke that what's kept our friendship going is that neither one of us will stop writing back!  But it's kind of true - - we have a private blog to prove it.  It's been through our writing to each other that we have built deep friendship and connection.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT FRIENDSHIP

Any relationship you desire is worth the fight, the time and the energy it takes to get there.  According to Psychology Today, it takes three elements to build such a friendship:  investing time, accentuating the positive, and being helpful (give and take feels equal).  If we want that kind of friendship, we need to be that kind of friend.  I only pray that I can do those things to nurture my dearest friendship.

"Friends are the surest defense against one of the most ruthless killers:  isolation....one unshakeable imperative: If you want to live a long and healthy life, invest in friends, particularly in midlife (Life Reimagined, p. 88)."  It's during midlife that forging deep friendships is the hardest.  I've experienced that in my own life.  Currently, I still want to make connections, but where is the time to invest?  Midlife is also the most stressful period of our lives and when stress rises our inclination is to isolate, to say no to more - -  more things and more people.

"Animals actively work to build...friendship bonds.  They do it...to avoid being eaten by predators. Multiple studies...have shown that animals with the strongest social networks live longest...'What friendship is at the end of the day...is creating small-scale, intensely bonded groups that act as a protection [to life's] stresses (Psychology Today).'"  Probably another topic for another day, but this leads me to wonder why friendships are as vital (if not more so) as family bonds.  Maybe there is something about someone choosing to be in your life.

The greatest friendships are the ones who support our identities.  My greatest friendships have been forged with time, energy, and no strings attached.  There is mutual give and take.  There is sharing the good and the bad.  There is genuine joy when there is success or cause for celebration and there are tears shed when grief is inevitable.  There is the belief that someone loves Julia simply because she's Julia.  I want others around met to feel this same security.

Friendship has always been a lifeline for me.  I have been blessed to have good friends throughout my life, but it hasn't always been easy.  I think the main barrier to developing deep friendships is our fear of being truly vulnerable with another person (other than our spouses).  It can be scary to get that close.  Until recently, I didn't realize what a risk it can be to open yourself up to another person, hoping they will love in return.  It's in those moments when I cling even harder to this friendship that has lasted beyond any expectations.


BACK TO THE BEGINNING

After that first week of girls camp, Kelly sent me this poem, unknowingly a prophecy of what today would be:

"We're joined in a friendship that time cannot sever.
With bonds we have built we'll remain friends forever.
We're welded in spirit, attached by our hearts.
We're fused by the feeling that friendship imparts.
We're tied by emotions, connected by dreams.
Reinforced by our hopes, unified by extremes.
No longer a function of time or of space,
Our love is a substance that life won't replace."
 - Bruce B. Wilmer - 

1.20.2020

Come Follow Me: Asking Questions



I have been thinking a lot about asking questions lately.  In preparation for a teacher training meeting awhile back, I asked each participant to read a conference talk and come with questions that came to mind.  During the meeting I asked what questions they had written.  I was a bit surprised when one sister gave a brief monologue about how beautiful the talk was but posed no question.

Likewise, in a recent lesson I was teaching, I asked the sisters to think of any questions that came to mind while we read a passage of scripture.  Again, no questions were posed, only comments about what the verses meant to them.  Maybe I didn't give them enough time or maybe it was the wrong setting for such a request, but I still found it interesting that nobody thought of a question.  

Both experiences caused me to think about the process of asking questions and how often we ask questions ourselves.  I, for one, can't say that I was born with an inquisitive nature.  My husband, on the other hand, questions everything!  As I have been married to him and had my own experiences, questions have become second nature to me.  When I read the scriptures, I will often find myself asking questions rather than highlighting inspirational verses.

Chapters 11-15 in 1 Nephi are replete with questions. Several questions are asked by Nephi, by an angel and by Laman and Lemuel.  I became intrigued by their questions and wondered how they were the same or different than the others.  As I created this table a few thoughts came to mind.


Angel's Questions
Nephi's Questions
Laman and Lemuel Questions
11:2 - What desirest thou?
11:1 - "after I had desired to know…I sat pondering"
(not a direct question, but there is sincere desire here)


11:3 - I desire to behold the things which my father saw

11:4 - Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?


11:10 - What desirest thou?


11:14 - What beholdest thou?


11:16 - Knowest thou the condescension of God?


11:21 - Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?


13:2 - What beholdest thou?


13:21 - Knowest thou the meaning of the book?


14:8 - Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? 

15:7 We cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken (not direct question)

15:8 Have ye inquired of the Lord?


15:10 How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? 


15:10 How is it that ye will perish because of the hardness of your hearts? 


15:11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?


15:12 - …are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?


15:15 - …at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? 


15:15 - …at that day will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine?


15:15 - will they not come unto the true fold of God?



15:21 - What meaneth this thing which our father saw in a dream?  What meaneth the tree which he saw?


15:23 - What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?


15:26 - What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?


15:31 - Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?

Questions Leading to Conversion
In the examples above there are different types of questions.  The angel asks Nephi what he wants, what he knows, what he sees and what he remembers.  These are important questions that seem to go straight to the heart.  The angel is taking what Nephi sees, what he already knows and building on that knowledge. "Yea, thou knowest I believe all the words of my father...blessed art thou Nephi, because thou believest int eh Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou has desired (11:5-6)." 

When Nephi is speaking to his brothers, he tries the same tactic, but it feels different.  We can almost hear his own frustrations with his brothers.  When they express their lack of understanding, he asks, "Don't you remember?" and "How can you be so hard in your hearts?"  Nephi is responding to the resistance he is getting from his brothers.

From the questions of Laman and Lemuel we gather that they are focusing on the things they don't know and understand,  a few times even mentioning that they don't or can't understand what is being taught.  Thus, they are frustrated and harden their hearts, shutting off the possibility of hearing truth.  At one point their demeanor seems to change and they start to ask for the meaning of the dream Lehi had.  These last questions appear to be sincere.  And yet, in the end they proclaim, "Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear."  Again, Laman and Lemuel choose to focus on the things they don't understand. 

There are a few things we learn from Laman and Lemuel's questions.  First, they allow their lack of understanding to diminish their ability to believe.  Elder Neil L. Anderson addressed this issue in his talk, You Know Enough.  He's speaks of those who are preparing for missionary work and don't feel they know enough to preach the gospel.  He simply tells them to focus on what they do know, the rest will come.  I have one daughter who will get easily frustrated if she doesn't understand something right away.  We need to take breaks, step back and baby step her through the things that are hard to understand.  I see Laman and Lemuel having this same stumbling block.  Nephi, on the other hand, admits that that he doesn't know all things and doesn't allow that lack of knowledge to inhibit him in learning more.  "And I said unto [the Spirit]: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things (11:17)."

The second thing we see with their questions is that they don't want to do the work it will take to truly find answers.  "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened up to you."  It requires real action - - asking, seeking and knocking - - to come to the truth.  Michael A. Goodman, a professor at BYU has said,  "When Laman and Lemuel didn't understand Lehi's words, they would argue among themselves and even ask Nephi about their meaning; but they refused to exercise the faith and effort necessary to obtain an answer form the Lord (see 1 Nephi 15:8-9).  Their lament that 'the Lord maketh no such thing unto us' was not an indictment of God but their own lack of effort."

There is a third piece to asking questions that is necessary for coming to the knowledge of God.  On the surface, the questions Laman and Lemuel pose don't appear to be that different from Nephi's.  The tone, however, is what distinguishes Nephi's ability to understand and come to full conversion.  "Have ye inquired of the Lord?" Nephi asks his brothers.  This is the difference.  "Laman and Lemuel ultimately refused to humble themselves and turned away from the Lord," Goodman continues.  Therefore, all questions hinge on the heart of the asker.


Personal Application
We have been trying something new for our family scripture study this year.  In the past we would wake up bright and early, sit on the couch or lay on the floor, read a few verses each, say prayers and get on with our lives.  There wasn't much discussion happening.  It was a great way to wake up!  But this year, reading the Book of Mormon, we wanted something different.  Now we give the kids the reading block and read the assignment ourselves.  We asked them to come prepared with both thoughts and questions that come to mind as they read.  Their questions have been super insightful. As we create an atmosphere where asking questions is acceptable, we are able to see into the hearts of our children at a deeper level.  As we observe their responses to answers, we also catch a glimpse of whether or not they are truly becoming converted.  It's been fascinating and I hope it will continue throughout the year.  

I have grown to love questions!  My favorite group of questions in this scripture block come from 1 Nephi 15:15.  Nephi teaches his brothers about the Gentiles becoming a part of the House of Israel by understanding His true points of doctrine.  He then exclaims, "And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine?  Yeah, will they not come unto the true fold of God?"  Nephi is emphasizing, through questions, the joy and blessings that come from making covenants with Heavenly Father. It's like he's asking his brothers, "Don't you want that, too?"

Cecil O. Samuelson once said, "One of the key ways that we learn...throughout life is by asking questions (speeches.byu.edu, Nov. 13, 2001)."  As we ask our questions, we can be sure we are asking with sincerity when we humble ourselves and push through the stumbling blocks when we lack understanding.  The Spirit will ultimately teach us and guide us in our quest for truth.

 - - - - - - 

"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any things according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."  
1 John 5:14-15

1.13.2020

Come Follow Me: Be Not Ashamed

Lehi's Dream by Damir Krivenko

“And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.  And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building, and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.  And it was filled with people both old and young, both male and female, and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine, and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit,  And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost (1 Ne. 8:25-28, italics added).”

Reading about Lehi’s vision this time I was struck by how he tells this part of the story.  He is watching people take this fruit that makes one happy, is most sweet, fills our souls with exceedingly great joy, and is more desirable than any other (see 1 Ne. 8:4-12). As the people partake they look around “as if they are ashamed.”  Questions began to pop up in my mind.  Why did they look around in the first place?  If the fruit  is that delicious, what would cause them to feel ashamed?  I found this super fascinating because if something were that amazing, it doesn’t seem possible to be deterred from enjoying it.  Why do we allow ourselves to feel ashamed?  And on the flip side, I thought of those in the building:  who are they, why are they mocking, and why do they care if others are partaking of the fruit?  

It’s so easy to say, “It’s the world, we’re letting the big scary world out there affect us.”  We know that the great and spacious building is “the pride of the world,” but that pride is not exclusive to “them out there.”  We, in the Church, need to be cautious of allowing the great and spacious building to enter our church buildings.  

I recently had an experience that heightened my awareness of how the great and spacious building affects me.  I’ve never been drawn to the more outward temptations of the world - - drinking, smoking, partying, etc.  For me, the battle has always been much more internal.  A few months ago I had found a truth that resonated with me deeply.  I had come to understand my worth greater, my understanding of God’s love had increased, and my confidence had “waxed strong” because of this new insight and understanding.  I felt peace, settled and content.  I lived in this space for a couple of months.  And then, in a matter of about a week, two or three comments were made that negated the truth I had come to understand.  I thought, “If they are saying these things, then I must be wrong.”  The fact that there were multiple comments was also jarring (though even one probably would have done the trick).  I began to doubt and feel ashamed of what I had come to believe.  I became confused because the fruit tasted so good and yet these comments made me feel “wrong.”  My main trigger was that I did not want to appear above others or self-righteous because of the sweetness I had tasted.  I didn’t want others to feel “bad” because I felt “good.”  And so, I “fell away.”  I let go of that fruit and gave into the belief that I just couldn’t enjoy the fruit to the extent that I wanted to, so I dropped it altogether.  And I am still working my way back to the tree in regards to this particular situation. 

How often do we look to the world for validation of how we’re living?  The world is definitely getting louder.  “In the attitude of mocking” we see agendas being pushed in television shows and movies, social media comments meant to belittle and degrade, and tolerance being preached above the laws of God.  “...we continue to face distraction and deceptions, confusion  and commotion, enticements and temptations that attempt to pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following Him (Elder Neil L. Anderson, CR 2019).”  I have witnessed this same attitude amongst our members. We compare and compete and can belittle another’s faith in doing so.  I am a passionate person and have feared or felt ashamed for being “too good” or believing “too much.”  And yet, what I gained the most from reading the New Testament last year is from Paul‘s example of being unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul was bold and fearless, never shirked from the truths he believed.  He spoke with conviction and power, no matter the message he was sharing.  I want to be like Paul!

How do we keep ourselves from feeling ashamed?  How can we keep our eyes on sweetness of the fruit rather than looking around for that external validation?  Elder Neil L. Anderson spoke of this dream in his most recent conference talk.  He said,  “[The fruit] represents ’the love of God’ and proclaims our Heavenly Father’s marvelous plan of redemption...This precious fruit symbolizes the wondrous blessings of the Savior’s incomparable Atonement....Partaking of the fruit of the tree also symbolizes that we embrace the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel...”. In other words, we keep our eyes on the Savior by learning of Him and partaking of the goodness He offers through His atoning sacrifice the covenants we make.  

One of my favorite chapters of scripture is John 15.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can yet, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abide the in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing.”  And then the Savior shares a beautiful treatise on love.  Without the Savior Jesus Christ as our focus we cannot feel that incomprehensible joy that is ours to partake.  Without the Savior Jesus Christ, we cannot produce the fruits necessary to bring others along on the journey.  

I’ve been pondering my experience from a couple months ago, wondering what exactly happened.  The short answer is:  I “looked around.”  I sought validation from outside sources and believed mocking fingers.  Whether the mocking was intentional or not, I allowed the voices from the building to be more influential than the sweetness of the fruit.  As one sister recently said, “To partake of good fruit we need to choose from the right source.”  Christ is that source.  As we continue to look to Him, to develop our relationship with Him and our Father in Heaven, and trust that the Holy Ghost will guide is with truth, we cannot be led away.  

“When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation...and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening - or not happening - in our lives.  Joy comes from and because of Him.  He is the source of all joy....If we look to the world..., we will never know joy....[Joy] is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ (President Russell M. Nelson, CR. Oct. 2016).”

 - - - - - 

“Keep your eyes and your hearts centered on the Savior Jesus Christ and the eternal joy that comes only through Him.”  
Elder Neil L. Anderson, CR Oct. 2019

1.08.2020

A Mother’s Love




"The very essence of motherly love is to care for the child's growth, and that means to want the child's separation from herself...Two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child's separation." 
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, 48


My daughter moved out this week.  Even though her apartment is just a few blocks, my heart still hurts.  It was especially difficult the first night when I went to bed.  That first night on your own can feel pretty lonely, right?  And then the next morning when I went to wake up all of the other kids - - her bedroom door at the end of the hallway remained closed.  My husband noticed the loss when she wasn’t there to greet him at the doorway with one of her “Brooky hugs.”  (She was always the most excited whenever he came home!)


*


"It is only at this stage that motherly love becomes such a difficult task, that it requires unselfishness, the ability to give everything and to want nothing but the happiness of the loved one....Only the really loving woman, the woman who is happier in giving than in taking, who is firmly rooted in her own existence, can be a loving mother when the child is in the process of separation." 
Erich Fromm, 48

I honestly can’t say that this stage is my favorite, or even easy for me.  No.  I’m not so great at transitions in general, but letting your kids go to forge their own lives is super hard for me!  I mean, once they are gone and I see they are doing well, it’s a bit “out of sight, out of mind;” but there are (and probably always will be) those moments when tears fill my eyes as I realize they aren’t ever coming back.  Sure, they will physically come back, but their childhood selves are gone forever the moment they leave.  And when they do come back, they aren’t the same.  It’s not the same. I'm not even the same.




"...the relationship of mother and child is by its very nature one of inequality, where one needs all the help, and the other gives it.  It is for this altruistic, unselfish character that motherly love has been considered the highest kind of love, and the most sacred of all emotional bonds."
Erich Fromm, 46-47

Ironically, on the morning Brooklynn was eager and anxious about moving out I was talking to my son several states away - - the only day of the week I get to talk to him.  I wanted the day to be all about her, but I also wanted him to know that I loved him that morning, too.  Meanwhile, my two-year old, right in front of me and with me all day every day, had decided he needed to be my priority that morning.  Motherhood was calling loud and clear!

Often a mother’s love is tied up in demands, right?  We clean, cook, counsel, correct, cuddle, comfort, create, cover.  This is our calling.  We show our love by doing these things, right? In my most recent yoga experience the instructor used a quote from Major League baseball coach Joe Madden as the basis for our practice.  In his introductory press conference of 2014 he said, “Don't ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”  I have had a lot of pressure placed upon me in the last little while, to the point of wanting to cave in.  Motherhood demands have been placed paramount inside my personal pressure cooker, so much that I have forgotten the pleasure of it all.  I’m noticing that pressure seems to be magnified each time a child prepares to leave the home!  The fight becomes way too real!


*


"Motherly love...is unconditional affirmation of the child's life and needs...Affirmation of the child's life has two aspects; one is the absolute care and responsibility absolutely necessary for the preservation of the child's life and his growth.  The other aspect goes further...it is the attitude which instill in the child a love for living, which gives him the feeling it is good to be alive, it is good to be a little boy or girl, it is good to be on this earth!"  
Erich Fromm, 45-46

This week, as my daughter left the nest, I also felt joy.  I felt joy because I could see that Brooklynn felt "it [was] good to be alive."  The first night she was gone, Addie (my second daughter) was at work and my husband was out of town.  It was just me and the boys.  I had a moment of realization, “Now I can give these boys the time they need from me.”  There’s a lot of hype about big families - - that kids don’t get enough attention or that the younger kids get lost in the shuffle.  But this is a new moment for our family and I’m realizing as the older kids leave I am able (and available) to give more time to the younger ones.  It’s different.  Things will always be different.  But different isn’t bad.


*


"Mother's love for life is as infectious as her anxiety is." 
Erich Fromm, 46

Interestingly, as I release another child into the world, I feel a bit more free as well.  Oh, there is plenty of anxiety, wondering and worrying if she's doing well and waiting for the moment when she's not!  But, it is a beautiful gift to watch your child make that first step into true adulthood.  (Only, now I wait anxiously for my missionary son to come home and enter the real world again!) Yes, this transition has been bittersweet...and I'll take all of it if that what it means to love only as a mother can.

  - - - - - 

"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ 
than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." 
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CR Oct. 2015

1.06.2020

Come Follow Me: Highly Favored of the Lord



This is one great paradox I have found in the scriptures - - the idea that Nephi, the brother of Jared, and others were highly favored of the Lord and yet God doesn't have favorites, does he? What does it mean to be highly favored of the Lord?  Are we not all highly favored? 

This question arises when we view the word favored in it's limited meaning:  favorite, best-liked, privileged, or preferred.  The Lord does not necessarily prefer one person over the other; however, He is bound to bless those who obey His commandments (D&C 82:10). 

But for further understanding, in the 1828 edition of Webster's dictionary we find some more applicable definitions to this word.  One word that struck out to me was that to favor is to support.  For example, "to be in favor of a party is to be disposed or inclined to support, to justify its proceedings and to promote its interests."  In light of the Lord's favor then, we can understand that as we make righteous decisions, He will support and promote our interests. He will help us in our righteous desires. 

Another definition we find is "an act of grace or good will."  In Matthew we learn that "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good (Matt. 5:45)."  The Lord is eager and desirous to pour down blessings upon all of His children.  When Nephi says he has been highly favored, I can imagine he is looking back on his life and recognizing the many blessings he had received.  We can all have that same gratitude as we look backwards and in the present moment. 

And lastly, (I liked this one), to favor someone is to "resemble in features."  A child might favor his mother or father, having similar features and mannerisms.  To be favored of the Lord could also mean that we are made in His image and are striving to become like Him in all that we do. 

Being chosen can also be a part of what it means to be favored of the Lord.  In 1 Nephi 1:20 we read, "But behold, I Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." Again, this phrase "whom he hath chosen" can cause us to tailspin, wondering if we have been chosen.  When I read the word chosen, though, I think more about responsibility than I think about being favored.  And yet, they were chosen "because of their faith."

This thought can be portrayed in the fact that Mary was "favored of the Lord" to bring forth our Savior into the world.  Jospeh Smith has likewise said, "...we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participating in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory, 'the dispensation of the fulness of times, when God will gather together all things that are in heaven, and in all things that are upon the earth...' (TPJS, p. 231)."  To be chosen thus, means to have great responsibility in following the commandments of the God and helping Him bring to pass His work and glory.

Going back to Nephi, what did he do to become highly favored of the Lord?  He was told by his father, "...thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured (1 Ne. 3:6)."  He desired to know that the words of his father were true, cried unto the Lord and sought Him diligently (1 Ne. 2:16).  He remembered the miracles of their forefathers (1 Ne. 4:2; 5:15).  He obeyed both his father and God (1 Ne. 3:7; 4:18).  He kept and preserved the records (1 Nephi 6).  These are all things we can do to be considered highly favored of the Lord.

Other groups of people in the Book of Mormon were also highly favored because they humbled themselves and rid themselves of contention (Alma 48:20) and "they were perfectly upright and honest...firm in the faith of Jesus Christ (Alma 27:27, 30)."  Again, we can be found highly favored as we strive for these same characteristics. 

But it's not only in the doing of these things that we become highly favored.  Remember the definition that we are made in His image, that we are His children.  Again, the paradox: "Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one, he that is righteous is favored of God (1 Nephi 17:35).  God loves all of His children perfectly, not because they are perfect but because His love is perfect.  We are his children.

I am led to believe that whether or not we feel chosen or favored of the Lord is up to us, not Him.  We choose if we want to be chosen.  And the instant we choose to follow Jesus Christ, to bind ourselves to Him through covenants and ordinances, to repent and turn toward God, it is in that instant that we become highly favored.  The Lord will not withhold any blessings or opportunities just to prove a point.  When we choose Him, we become favored - - in that moment.

Brigham Young once said, "I know this day that I have favor with God; and I would not do anything that would deprive me of this for the world and all that is in it (JD 10:365)."  As we choose to seek God, we can all say this same thing with assurity.  Every morning I can wake up and declare this statement, with hopes that throughout the day I will remember Him and bless his children. Every day I can choose to be righteous and have the assurance that I, like Nephi, am highly favored of the Lord.

1.01.2020

"The Art of...." Reading Challenge

Happy New Year!  

Some years I love to give myself a reading challenge for the year.  Rather than just making a book list for the year, I like to do this because it gets me to read books I might not normally read.  This year was No exception!

My Goal:  To read 12 books with “The Art of...” in the title.  I finished 10!


The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
I read this in one night.  It’s not my favorite genre and I got to the point where I just wanted to finish it. I’m not a fan of animal thinking/talking books. Surprisingly, I have found myself thinking about this book throughout the year.  Maybe it’s because the movie just happened to come out soon after I read the book.  I think this is a beautiful story or love and pain.  Relationships.


The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
This was one of my favorites of the year!  I read it in February, thinking it was fitting for Valentine’s Day.  Fromm showed me that love is much more complicated than we give it credit for.  It’s easy to say, “Just love them.”  But love is such a multifaceted word, with many as many ways to feel it as their are people in the world!  The greatest lesson I learned from this book was that a mother’s love is the deepest.  Because whereas in most relationships love is a coming together, motherly love is a pulling apart.  A mother’s love is most deeply shown when we allow our children to leave us.  I have experienced that feeling tremendously these last couple of years as my kids have become adolescents and begun to leave the home.  It is heart wrenching for me!  I highly recommend this book.



The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer
This is a hidden treasure I’m sad I didn’t read sooner.  This book brings life into mothering and homemaking.  Schaeffer shows how joy can be brought into ever aspect of a homemaker’s life, especially in the seemingly monotonous and mundane tasks.  I would recommend this to every young mother.



Life Reimagined:  The Art and Science of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
I was browsing the library shelves for a different book when this one popped out at me.  Did you know there are little to no books written on midlife?  Yeah, we joke about having a midlife crisis, but we don’t take the time (as a society) to fully realize how true that can be.  Whereas there is plenty written and talked about for the younger and the older ages, midlifers (between the ages of 40-65) are expected to just manage it all!  This is the busiest and most stressful time in life and we have a hard time taking care of ourselves as we are taking care of both the young and the old.  And yet, in order to not only survive this stage but to thrive in the next, we need to cling to friendships, take care of our health, find meaning and purpose, and enjoy the journey.  This book was timely just as I enter (and have felt the keen pressures) of this stage myself.



The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
Written by a husband (musician) and a wife (psychologist) this is a beautiful book about discovering creativity by opening ourselves up to all possibilities rather than sticking inside the box.  Full of precious quotes and little gems, I felt inspired to let go of social norms and “have tos” to become who I am truly meant to be.



The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
While reading this book I kept saying how beautiful it was (ask my dear friend, Kelly).  And it did feel beautiful while reading it.  Afterwards I wondered why I had liked it so much, though.  Maybe I just didn’t love the ending.  Maybe when I expected a happy ending, all I felt was sadness.  It was also a bit unnecessarily graphic in sexual content.  I really don’t know how I feel a bout this book.




The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh
I read this book in preparation for a presentation I gave to youth in September.  Like The Art of Loving, this book helped me to see how power is also a word full of deeper meaning than we give it credit for. With a focus on mindfulness, I learned that power is in the present moment and when we are being our most authentic selves.



The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
This book was wonderful!  I first listened to a podcast interview of the author on Leading Saints and then decided to read the book.  It’s funny how a seemingly simple concept can be so forgotten in our current society.  Do we know our neighbors?  Do we stop and visit with them or just wave and keep on driving?  I have personally found so much joy in “walking my neighborhood.”  When I walk rather than drive, I almost always run into somebody to visit.  I find joy in knowing who I’m mingling with at church.  Again, what may seem like common knowledge has become a lost art for sure and this book is purposeful and necessary.


The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith
Meh.  Not super great.  I don’t really love this author.  I’ve tried!  And modern literature just doesn’t seem to do much for me.  This book was pretty pointless about a girl who got mixed up in the drama of a woman who’d had an affair.  I thought it’s as going to be a mystery.  Not the case.  Sorely disappointed.



The Art of Remembering by Alison Ragsdale
A broken book for sure.  This was depressing.  It had the same elements as the movie, “The Vow,” if you’ve seen that one.  Again, I’m not sure how I feel about this book.  I have the opposite reaction to this book than I had with the Heartbeats book.  I didn’t love it as I read it, but afterwards I can’t say I hated it.  It’s a story about love and lost love. Memory and lost memory. Pain. Marriage. Life.  There is a bit of language.   I just don’t know what else to say about this one.






Overall consensus:  I loved the nonfiction more than the fiction on this list.  I would love to continue reading more Art of... books, but I plan on reading only a few next year rather than one a month.  I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and found some great books to add to my personal library.
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