Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Will of the Father

I gave a talk in church at the end of May. The topic? Following Christ's example by submitting our will to the Father.

I stifled a chuckle when the 2nd counselor in the bishopric gave me the topic. Of all the people in the ward, I'm sure am the worst example of someone who follows Christ's example by submitting to the will of the Father. Because the truth is, I haven't so much as submitted to His will as I've been strapped into it with ropes, buckles, and duct tape, and no matter how I try to wiggle free, I can't.

I would love to be married. Everything I've been taught in church (and continue to hear in church) suggests that marriage should be part of God's will for me. I've examined this topic for the past couple of months, especially through the lens of being a single woman in a predominantly married church.

A friend once told me that she wished I just knew when—or if—I'd ever be married. If I knew, for example, that I would meet a great guy at 41 and marry at 42, she figured my life would be a little bit easier to bear. True, that some of the angst I feel often springs from flat-out not knowing if it will ever happen. But isn't that the whole point of faith? To believe and hope, despite conventional wisdom telling me not to?

Faith is so hard. I often turn to the women of the Old Testament for support. Never mind the conditions in which they lived (no Sephora or indoor plumbing!), these women were TRIED. Sarah, who with Abraham shared the promise of millions of children had to see her handmaid conceive easily. Rachel, who wanted to badly to marry Isaac but her older sister got in the way. Esther, who had to essentially save an entire nation.

Each of these women—and I'm sure others who were excised at various councils as the Biblical canon was formed—had moments where faith failed them, and moments where faith sustained them, all the while keeping their eye toward what their Father required of them.

And this is where I know I can improve. I know what God asks of me, yet I consistently fall short. I'm mostly certain that He's not withholding a spouse until I stop making mistakes, but I'm also mostly certain that as I continue to develop more faith in His will for me—which I have to believe includes marriage—I will be so much happier.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Patriarchal Blessings (Posted by Stella)

As I've mentioned before I take a great deal of joy in reading the posts that readers leave. I take encouragement and support from those who confess having similar struggles, I take a renewed sense of commitment from those who cheer me on, I shake my head at those whose judgements are well...nonsensical and ridiculous and I hurt when I read someones comments about their own pain.

Some time back someone made a post and asked that we discuss patriarchal and other Priesthood blessings. You know the ones, the kind where we have been promised certain blessings only to wait, and wait, and wait some more to have them realized. Where we are given comfort and peace only to have it disappear as the days, weeks, months, or even years continue by. This particular comment broke my heart because I could envision through her words a certain hopelessness that her promised blessings were being withheld and all of the feelings that came with it. I know that feeling well and struggle myself to make sense of the Lord's will and many times have questioned my personal revelations. I've thought about her post many times and wondered how best to go about it.

I'm not going to give you Stella's interpretation or vision of what our blessings mean - I have neither the wisdom, understanding or authority to do so BUT I will share some of the things that I have come to learn through my own trials and will reference some talks by those who do have the proper authority to have a valid opinion.

  • Promises made to us in our Patriarchal blessings may be realized at any time during our spiritual journey (pre-existence, mortality, or in the eternities.) Oh how I wish I had perfect faith so that I could say "OK, if not now then I won't worry about it." But, if you're anything like me then this is little comfort...

  • I remember watching a panel discussion on BYU TV where one of the panelists said that the desire for marriage or children is a RIGHTEOUS desire (i.e. if you're living as you should your desires are in line with God's will.) If those desires are as yet unrealized that desire isn't going to go away as long as you continue to live RIGHTEOUSLY. Seems wildly unfair to me and not much incentive to keep holding on to the rod, HOWEVER;

  • I do believe with all my heart that if being single is not okay with you, if you can't get peace about it, if the heartache and the desire refuse to go away (despite prayers and pleadings and a true effort to focus on the life that Heavenly Father has blessed you with) THEN there's a purpose to it. I do not believe for one single second that our loving Heavenly Father would let us be miserable and watch us struggle if He did not intend that struggle for our good. What would be the point to have so many of His daughter's in quiet pain and sorrow if it were not for our betterment? So what then is He trying to teach us and why does it hit us at different times in life (meaning - why some women in their early, mid or late 20's and some of us can handle it until our 30's etc...)
#1 - We all have our free agency. I imagine many of us have an experience where the person we were dating would have been a great match and we could have had a very happy life only to watch them turn their back and walk off (and maybe even some of us were the ones walking away.) That's not God's intention but He doesn't take our free will away. So if this has happened to you I believe that our blessings don't disappear just b/c someone else used their free agency poorly - we are affected unfortunately but it doesn't make our blessings null and void. It does mean we have to continue to wait, which is akin to having your fingernails pulled out one by one...very slowly...with plastic tweezers.

#2 - We are in the last days - the Prophets have been telling us this for quite some time. I think (?) it was President Kimball who said that (I'm paraphrasing here) only those with a DEEP and UNMOVABLE testimony about the importance of families would be able to navigate their family successfully through the last days. I interpret that to mean that only those who have this testimony will be able to keep their family together, teach their children the gospel, and successfully overcome the adversary's full on attack on anyone with any level of goodness in them.

#3 - I take this thought a little further and realize that few people appreciate things that they haven't had to work to the end of their strength to obtain. The things that I value the most are the ones that didn't come easily and that includes my desire for a husband and children. The wait has been unbearable at times and the path to get to this place (and the places still yet to be traversed) has been strewn with opportunities to forget who I am and more importantly why I am here. Now, tell me that's an accident.

#4 - I feel confident in saying that I have made some huge mistakes in my quest to find my family. I have certainly chased my own wisdom and have not been as vigilant as I could have been in trusting Heavenly Father. I have learned through my own experience the good from the bad, happiness from sorrow, that my way will always lead me to destruction and I hope have proven to our Heavenly Father that He can trust me. No matter how far I fall it is Him I will always come back to.

To our dear sister who questions the blessings that she has been given. I wish I had the perfect words to share or the right story to say that would renew your strength and bolster your faith. I'm sorry to say that I don't - but I will say this: If you are continuing to go to church, to follow the counsel of the Prophets, to do the things that you know are right, to serve and love others then YOU ARE BEING FAITHFUL! Do not, for even a moment, let a self-deprecating feeling or a thoughtless observance from someone else make you feel forgotten or lost or wrong or worthless.

Heavenly Father knows with perfect knowledge how hard this is on us. Single-hood is not His way or plan nor is our hurt His purpose. Our Savior feels our pain and I have no doubt They cry with us during those times when we feel like we just can't take one more day. He doesn't expect us to be perfect but He does expect us to try, to keep going, to fall down when we must but to not give up. He needs to know that He can trust us with His precious children because I also believe that the spirits that we are waiting for are going to be some of His most choice. They need mothers whose strength goes to the core, our future husbands need women who will not falter, and the world needs women who will fight for righteousness. If we're being successful out here on our own just imagine what we'll accomplish in the walls of our own homes with a righteous partner by our sides. While we are being prepared so is the one we will take this journey with. Maybe he's not quite ready and our time would be well spent praying for him.

I also believe that if I didn't have something truly spectacular to offer my future family satan wouldn't waste his time on me. If I wasn't going to be a fantastic wife and mother he'd go harass someone else. I believe the same is true for you. When you feel lost, forgotten, alone, lonely, hurt, afraid, hopeless, or less then please remember those feelings do not come from Heavenly Father. The plan of happiness is about 1 thing and 1 thing only. Families. If we weren't future feathers in the proverbial cap of the kingdom satan wouldn't bother. If we weren't heading in the right direction we wouldn't struggle so hard with being single. If it wasn't in the cards for us Heavenly Father would make it okay. If it's not okay, then it's not over.

One of my favorite talks that remind me that my promised blessings and personal revelations are real is by Jeffrey R. Holland: Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence:

Your promised blessings are real. I don't know when our hopes and desires will be realized and I don't understand why they are so long in coming but I do know that they will. I believe that the endurance and strength we utilize every day living full and productive and most importantly FAITHFUL lives despite going through this particular trial that seems to so strongly affect the lense that we look at life with is no small thing and I like to think an indicator of just how special we each are.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lessons from the Mission.

Thirteen years ago this week, I returned from my mission. I remember feeling like I would never forget the lessons I learned, and many of them I haven't. But one very important lesson I had forgotten, until today.

Whenever God's children try to do something right and good, they might be met with opposition. As a missionary, when someone chose to be baptized, I saw this so often—suddenly she was tempted with things she didn't even know were weaknesses. It's been said that Satan knows our weaknesses and he exploits them anyway he can. And I fell victim to that today.

One of my biggest weaknesses is assuming men do not like the way I look. I come by it honestly—more than one boy has broken up with me and given my looks or my weight as the reason why.

After a particularly rough day at church, I walked to my car, and this principle came to my mind: just like Satan tries to keep people from choosing to be baptized, or go to church, or make simple right choices, he was exploiting my deep-seeded self-loathing to keep me from opening my heart to a good man.

As I reflect on the past couple of days, I can see clearly how it happened—how the thought was planted, how it grew, and how I felt strangled by it by the day's end. And when I floated my theory past my sister this afternoon—that the adversary was pitting me against myself to sabotage a potentially good thing—she said, “I had that thought last night.”

“Why didn't you tell me then?” I asked.

“Would you have listened to it?” she countered.

Good point. I may have, I may have not. But making that connection on my own was certainly more powerful than hearing it from my sister. Finding a spouse is a good thing, an important thing, a righteous thing. So of course Satan would want to thwart that any way he can.

I don't want to give him the satisfaction.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Introducing Anne Elliot

I first read Jane Austen's Persuasion after one of the roughest breakups I've ever experienced. And it gave me hope—maybe the man who left me would be my Captain Wentworth! Alas, he was not, but I reread the good Captain's letter to Anne often, as a reminder that men do have the capacity to love and ache as much as women do.

(Yes, I know a woman—Jane Austen--actually wrote that letter. It's called “willing suspension of disbelief.” I'm an English teacher.)

I used to be a serial monogamist when dating. For the past 10 years though, I've just been on a lot of first dates.

I occasionally cycle through the hell that is online dating and have made some good connections...until we meet in person...and then my self-esteem takes a beating. I don't live in Utah, California, Arizona, or Virginia, where there seem to be large pockets of LDS menfolk, so I am somewhat limited in my dating options if I want to stick to marrying someone who is LDS.

My major dysfunction in developing relationships is trust, and not making current men pay for the mistakes and hurt past men have inflicted.

I've written a couple of guest posts here, mostly when I've needed to write about the unique challenges of being single and I don't want my mom to see it (she reads my personal blog daily). I've admired the women on this blog for years, and have drawn strength from their posts, and I'm excited and honored to help keep it going!