Because nature will teach its own geography lessons

I never realized how much I’d love living near a lake. It’s moodier than the ocean, probably because Utah Lake is so shallow–only 20 feet–it has no depth to anchor it. Today it’s a grouch gray-green, maybe because a storm is coming. Geography is fascinating.

That was supposed to be my post, and my thoughts, this morning as I stepped off the asphalt trail and headed through the beach area to get closer to the lake. I’ve taken detours from my walk many times before, to get closer to the ice sheets on the edges of the lake or watch the waves, and to take photos like this:

This was just four days ago, when the marsh, muddy ground was still frozen solid. See? I do know where to walk . . .

After I took that top photo of the lake and its gray/green color, but not liking the angle, I stepped backward a little for a better shot.

That’s when I got another lesson in geography—about mud. The last few times I’d been out here, it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ground was frozen.

This morning it was 38 degrees, and no longer frozen.

I literally heard the earth say, SQUELCH.

And suddenly my leg sank into the soft, cold mud, all the way to the knee.
I’m proud of myself that I didn’t swear, but only shouted, “Oh NO!”

Then I realized I could laugh or cry, so I laughed.
Then the other leg went down.

That time I yelled, “Oh, SHIFT!” Seriously, I really try hard not to swear.

Smartly, I shoved my new phone/camera into my coat pocket, then started to pull out my first leg. It came, but naturally left my walking shoe deep down below, with mud slowly closing over it.

“Oh NO!” More laughter, and great relief that no one else was around to see my mistakes.

I gingerly reached down into the hole and extracted the filthy blob that was my shoe as the earth burped another SQUELCH. I laid on the mud a little to reduce my weight on my remaining entombed foot, and pulled that out at an angle, fortunately with the shoe still on.

And then I had to get up. I crawled carefully to reedy ground, away from the mud, and stood up. No more squelches. Triumph!

Except I was encased in cold mud from my knees down, and about a quarter mile away from home.

Still laughing, and murmuring, “Oh, no. Oh, no,” I made my way back to the asphalt trail, about 100 yards through muck and reeds.

Halfway there I realized I could put my muddy shoe back on my muddy sock.

Cringing in embarrassment, I headed home, grateful that the gloomy day had kept away the usual traffic of walkers on the Jordan River trail. As I turned into my neighborhood, blessedly no one was on their way to school or work. They’d all left the hour previous.

Then I perked up. Today, Thursday, was one of the days everyone in my house leaves for work and school! I could go home, clean up, and no one would know how silly I was to forget that mud defrosts.

Before my front porch I paused to take this picture:

I wish you could smell this photo. It’s . . . unforgettable.

Then I kicked off my shoes and rinsed off the thick mud at the spigot outside.

I quickly made my way to the laundry room, and as I peeled off my jeans—and remembered that Utah Lake mud has a uniquely stinky stench—I thought, “No one will ever know what I mess I just made.”

As I swept up the clumps of mud I left behind, I thought, “But why not confess my mistakes? I thought today’s insight would be the moodiness of the lake, but really, it’s how quickly a situation can turn, right?”

As I shoved my pants, socks, and shoes in the washer, set it to heavy duty, and said, “Why yes, washer, I DO want the ‘heavy soils’ setting, thank you,” I realized I could share my ignominy.

But why? I wondered as I took my second shower of the morning (and it wasn’t even 8:40 yet). Why not just hastily remove all evidence and pretend nothing happened?

“Because I know what happened,” I murmured, as I lathered up my feet and legs a second time with the best smelling Bath and Body Works soap I have, because Utah Lake mud is REALLY stinky.

“And not just because by the time everyone comes home this afternoon, the smell still might be lingering. Because it’s important to realize that plans can go awry, missteps can cause great havoc, and you can laugh and recover anyway.”

Immensely grateful that I didn’t have a 9am class this morning, I lotioned up with another Bath and Body Works scent, but to little avail.

(Even as I type this, I keep smelling rotting lake mud, mixed with “Frosted Cranberry.” Work harder, Frosted Cranberry! Harder! By the way, this isn’t a scent that Bath and Body Works should attempt in the future: Muddy Frosted Cranberry.)

Now, less than an hour after my missteps and forgetfulness that the ground was no longer frozen, I’m cleaned up, dressed, and with my hair fixed and my online class ready. The washer is still chugging away, as it will be all morning because my coat and gloves are next for Heavy Duty treatment. I’ve recovered, except for the smell.

And you know what? I still love living next to a grumpy, gorgeous lake. I’m going to head back out again tomorrow morning to see what mood it’s in, and I’ll probably step off the trail again. But this time I’ll wear my hiking boots which are harder for mud to suck off.

(Really, I have no idea what I was supposed to learn today. Seems like I’m learning nothing. Take what you want from that.)

The world cancels you; Zion forgives you

Zion allows for mistakes, for changes of hearts, for new understanding.
Zion promotes growth.

The world, however, doesn’t tolerate your past, or your “old” heart, or your immature understanding.
The world promotes “cancel culture.”

Zion believes in forgiveness and second chances, and third chances, and fiftieth chances.
The world wants to banish you. One strike and you’re out. Erased even, if possible.

The problem with this harsh judgment is that not even the world can live up to its unrealistic judgments. So it changes the standards, again and again, to meet their behaviors, but not to accommodate those who suddenly find themselves judged by yet a new standard which didn’t exist a decade ago, or even a week ago.

I don’t think they’ve recently consulted Matthew 7:2.

For with what ajudgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what bmeasure ye mete, it shall be cmeasured to you again.

Zion’s standard never changes: a people living with one heart, one mind, sharing all they have, caring for each other, and–most importantly–forgiving each other when they fail.

That’s Christ’s way. He suffered for all of us to give us second chances. And third chances. And even a thousand chances. As long as we keep trying, He keeps forgiving us.

Christ will never cancel us.

Let’s build Zion so He can live among us and teach us how to be more like Him. #BuildZion

Leave the world and find your purpose; Ask Him

“Leaving the world” means setting aside all of that which distracts us from focusing on God. For some that sounds dreary and dull (what, just reading scriptures and singing hymns?). They believe the world is exciting and vibrant.

But consider that maybe we have that reversed.

Focusing on the world is exhausting. The world is hounding you with so many unnecessary expectations and demands.

You may find yourself:

  • fixated with fashion or physical appearance;
  • preoccupied with the look of a house and yard;
  • needing to be seen as “successful,” especially on social media, in your business and personal life;
  • driven to possess the next best thing either in technology, or vehicles, or housing, or vacations;
  • consumed with a desire to be popular and recognized as part of the “right” group.

That’s exhausting. And it’s dreary and dull, trying to keep up with the world’s changing trends.

Keeping the world “happy” is as tedious as reasoning with a toddler having a tantrum. What they want changes frequently, and they’re never satisfied for long.

Now think about what your life would be like without that pressure to impress the world.

Really think about it: no demands, no expectations, no guilt or shame for not being “good enough yet,” and no fretting about what someone will think—

Doesn’t that make you feel like it’s the first day of summer vacation when you’re in high school? Remember that feeling? No more assignments, no more demands, no more busy work to earn a label of “success” or “failure.” (I realize that as a high school teacher I’m condemning myself here a little, but teachers probably rejoice at the end of the school year more than students do.)

Instead, you feel that release, that sudden joy and lightness of realizing you get to do what you feel you should.  Explore, work, play, sleep—you can just enjoy the world.

That’s what God wants for us. Focusing on Him is summer vacation, while being obsessed with the world is the third week of a gray, cold February with no holidays in sight.

Ask Him what “summer vacation” and focusing on Him looks like for you. It will be different for everyone. For me, this month, it’s focusing on my family, writing new books, studying ideas I’ve always wanted to, and preparing for the future. Next month may be different. And I eagerly look forward to it.

Building Zion is all about finding your purpose and leaving the world behind. You won’t miss the world, and what’s more, the world will not miss you. (Because it doesn’t care about you and it never has.)

There’s always another option, such as building Zion.

You don’t have to align with one political group or another.
There is always another option.

We can leave it all.
We can choose to separate ourselves from the world.
It’s time to Build Zion.

For over forty years, every since I was a child and my father told me about Enoch and Zion, that it “fled” but would return–and that we could help build it here on earth again–I’ve been slightly obsessed with the idea. So much so that I wrote a nine-volume book series about it. (And am now working on a prequel series–I just can’t leave it alone.)

I think it’s finally time to leave the world and actively look for ways to build Zion, and I’m open to your suggestions and ideas on how to do so.
First, I believe we need to pull ourselves out of these current conflicts, especially here in America:

  • Choose not be sucked in by any political party’s contention (and it is a choice to step away).
  • Stay objective and out of all fights. (Peace is gone, and we can’t “force” it back with violence.)
  • Turn off the news and unfollow all those who incite anger and who choose to be willfully ignorant, on all sides.
  • Choose instead to feel compassion for everyone, in every situation. (It’s much easier to do that when you’re not watching them say and behave in ungodly ways.)
  • Cultivate a charitable heart, so that we can be “one” with others. Pray to God to soften your heart towards everyone. (He will. He’s done it for me many, many times, because I’m a slow learner.)

18 And the Lord called his people aZion, because they were of bone heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness;

Moses 7:18

Tell me how you cultivate peace in your heart in these times. Let’s figure out how to start building Zion now.

He can fix everything; do your part, and He’ll make up all the rest (.01% vs. 99.9%)

Recently I had an incident that left me feeling misunderstood, chastised, and utterly stupid. For days it’s been hanging over me, leaving me with zero motivation.

Yesterday morning I feebly prayed, “Dear Lord, sorry I’m so stupid. Please help me function through this day. Amen.”

Then I spent the morning and afternoon doing what I felt least like doing: conferencing online with my high school students on their last major paper. But I acted as their encouraging cheerleader, and halfway through the day I was feeling a little lighter.

That evening I went with my teenage daughter to see “some Christmas lights,” (I didn’t know exactly what we’d be seeing) and was overwhelmed by millions of lights on a one-mile path that meandered through a statue garden about the life of Jesus Christ.
And I felt lighter still.

That night I reluctantly joined a brief online meeting with women in our church, and left it later than expected after laughing about babies and books and having made a new friend.
And I felt lighter still.

Before going to sleep I was skimming one of my books to find forgotten details (I’m finally drafting the prequel series about the Great War and Lek and Lorixania–woot!) when I ran across these words from Perrin in Book 4: “Only the Creator knew him well enough to fix him. It was the Creator who gave him the strength he needed . . . It was the Creator who won that battle and turned the momentum of the war—not him.”

I remembered my pathetic prayer that morning, and realized that God was fixing me.

He had set before me exactly what I needed: reminders of how much I love teaching; time with my daughter in a beautiful place; connections with a new friend.

The incident from earlier which has weighed me down hasn’t been erased, and I still feel stupid (because that’s a common theme in my head, and yes, I know I need to work on it—I have been for fifty years and I feel stupid about that . . . can you see a pattern?).

But I am also a Daughter of the Creator, who loves me and guides me, and if I do my part—especially when I don’t want to—He lifts me beyond my stupidity and lets me continue onward, once again, with hope.

If He’ll do that for a slow-learning goober like me, He’ll surely do that for you, too.

(And no, I don’t have a date for when the first prequel book will come out, it’s all in the drafting stage right now. But so far I’ve got Terryp just about to enter the ruins in the east, General Lek Shin having to trek north with his sergeant Barnos Zenos to quell violence, and Guide Pax arguing with King Querul about who really is the cause of that violence.
The characters are coming alive more each day, and gloriously are starting to tell me their stories, just as Perrin and Mahrree and Shem told me theirs. Only 20,000 words in, and I think it’ll be at least two new books in the future–we’ll see. So fun to be back in their world again, and I can’t wait to get all of their stories right to share with you! Have an amazing Christmas, in spite of everything!)

Merry Christmas Images, Pics, Photos | Xmas Pictures 2019 ...

We’re now being punished not for crimes, but for merely words and ideas

When I first drafted those words above, probably back in 2010 for what eventually became book 5, I really didn’t think we’d get to this position in our own world. At least not for another 30 or 40 years, and only once I was senile enough to not notice.

But ten short years later I’m reading daily about how people, groups, and movements are “canceled” because of their opinions.

Political commenters are calling for those on the sides “opposite” of them to be punished after this election.

Leaders are threateningly suggesting that those who vote against them will regret their decisions in the future.

Friends and family are attacking each other on public forums, calling each other “sheeple,” or “oppressors” and, in once case, reported a family member to the police on false charges in vengeance for a slight on social media.

We haven’t reached the level of laws against ideas yet, but considering how rapidly we’ve run into this state of chaotic accusations and offenses, I can’t imagine it’s too far off. I remember my parents telling me stories about having to be careful about what their families said in Nazi Germany, because they were never sure who was listening in and who would turn them in.

I never imagined we’d forget so much of that horrific history that we choose to repeat it, but here we are.

We’ve long ceased being a republic; we’re well on our way to a dictatorial leadership of some kind. And such leadership can exist safely only when its enemies have been silenced.

I’m slowly learning to stay out of these fights. No one’s opinions will change because we tell them they’re wrong, just as we won’t suddenly agree with those who accuse us of ignorance.

The only thing we can do right now is rise above the mudslinging, the anger, the fury. I keep thinking of Legolas in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, walking on top of the snow drifts that his companions struggle to slog through. We have to stay above it, or it will drown us.

Go through the storms, but don’t be slowed down by them. (Also helps if you’re as light as an elf, but hey, we can’t all be nearly perfect.)

Because more and more, I’m feeling that a different future awaits those of us who try to remain kind, calm, and compassionate. More and more I’m not only hoping and praying, but also looking forward to a place that lets us live in peacefully even with those we may disagree with, without any threat or retribution.

It’s coming. We need to make sure our hearts are ready to receive it. If we will be one, we will be His, and safely with Him.

Choices, always choices here. This isn’t the world, you know. We’ll never tell you what to do, or what to think, or what to believe. We offer what we have and show you what we feel is true, but then we let you make your choice. Whatever you choose, whatever you choose.

~Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, Book 5; Forest at the Edge

Test everything, especially what you believe

Several years ago we moved to a distant community we’d visited only once, and felt fortunate to find a couple willing to help us get settled. We took their advice about jobs, housing, schools, and the people, although at times what they claimed didn’t ring entirely true with my limited experience there.

Soon after we moved in, I began to realize that this couple perceived things very differently than we did, pointing out negatives which weren’t there and criticizing the sincere efforts of others they felt were “beneath them.” The picture they had been giving us about the community had been quite distorted.

Within weeks it became apparent that they had an agenda and were grooming us to support their efforts. As quickly as possible we severed ties with the couple and endeavored to learn the truth about our new home, which proved to be far better than we had been conditioned to believe.

Over the years I’ve ceased feeling embarrassed about being duped by this couple, and instead have grown grateful for the experience which taught me three important strategies for life:

  • Gather several points of view about a situation before making decisions.
  • Look for someone else’s agenda in what they proclaim to be the truth.
  • Don’t make hasty decisions but weigh them out before acting.

And I’m doing all of that more each day, with every news broadcast, every political stance, every health report—pretty much everything.

I get different viewpoints, even–and especially–from those “on the other side” politically. Don’t be afraid of the opposition; learn what they believe. Debate their positions in your head.

I look for agendas and what they ultimately hope to accomplish. The end result may be hard to discern, but their ultimate goal tell you all you need to know about how they will treat you and others in the future.

I don’t make hasty decisions, especially if someone is telling me exactly what I want to hear. That’s called bias confirmation, and in our zeal to be proven right, we may be unintentionally agreeing with something wrong.

Most importantly, it’s ok to take some time to form an opinion. On many issues, I still can’t make up my mind about who to trust, so I trust no one and remain floating in a pool of ambivalence until greater light and knowledge come to me.

And how do I get that greater light and knowledge? I pray and ask God about everything, and I mean everything, that I come across.

Quite often He gives me a clear answer in the form of peace in my mind about a matter, a calm reassurance that fills me with warmth.

I’ve learned to question everything, and not to simply take someone else’s word or testimony about an issue. I’m entitled to my own answers, and God wants to give them to me, and to you, if you want them.

Sometimes He doesn’t answer me immediately because either I’m not ready for it, or I have no way to discern the truth . . . yet.

But then later the answer comes, exactly when I’m ready to accept it and act upon it. It always comes. And it will for you, just as quickly as you’re ready to accept it and move on it. With answers comes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required.

But you don’t have to trust me about this–test Him for yourself. He’ll always tell you the truth and what to believe. Always.

“I’d rather fight the current”

Not long ago an acquaintance asked why I seemed distrustful of the media and government. She was embarrassed by some of my comments and posts, and thought I was “coming across as a little paranoid.”

Only a little? Clearly I’m not doing enough.

I chuckled sadly and told her, “My parents grew up in Nazi Germany.

“My formative years were filled with warnings and advice about putting too much faith in an entity that promises to fix everything.

My father was adamant about preserving and protecting freedom, especially of those with whom he disagreed. He wrote many letters to the editor insisting upon maintain our freedoms.

My mother watched the news carefully and analyzed every word.

“They were so proud to become citizens of America, and feared it may fall.

It was as if they knew I’d be living at a time when the world forgot how dictators create dissension and discord in order to overthrow a country.

“I’m grateful that they passed away a few years ago and can’t see what’s happening now to our history and freedoms.”

My acquaintance simply shrugged and said, “I don’t really know anything about the World Wars,” and walked away.

I wasn’t surprised. Very few people really want to know anymore. Too many in America seem to revel in ignorance, which is ironic since at no other time in the history of humans has information been so plentiful and easy to access.

Sadly, a section of our population prefers to be told what to believe and what to do, and believe that taking the seemingly easier way will be the better way. Free everything for everybody, and if it’s not given, then just take it. They seem to think the end result will be a country of easiness, equality, and handouts for everyone.

If they knew anything about history, they’d remember that in thousands of years, that result has never, ever occurred. Whoever ultimately achieves the “top seats” immediately pounces on the lower folks who got them there.

We’re being used by going along with every new edict, rule, and illogical mandate forced upon us without vote, without representation. I suspect that COVID-19 has now become a testing ground of sorts to see just how much citizens will put up with for the sake of the “common good.” How many freedoms and privileges will we give up for a virus that has a 98% survivability rate? We’ve been thrown into a massive experiment which has long since lost its initial purpose of flattening curves (they’re flat, very flat) and now has become a test of just how much control we’ll accept.

I’m encouraged by how many people are beginning to grow tired of the experiment, are beginning to question the “wisdom” behind many mandates, and are quietly beginning to take back their freedoms.

Together, we can fight the current and live.

It’s time to wake up, cling to each other, and band together–storms are coming

Last October, 2019, our church had a General Conference where the prophet and apostles of God spoke.

But I felt I was half asleep. Not literally (although sometimes I did doze off) but spiritually. I was so overwhelmed with teaching and family demands to really take time to listen.

By around January 2020 I was even more overwhelmed, but felt a spiritual nagging: I needed to wake up.

I brought this concern to God: “Please,” I prayed as I studied the scriptures, “I feel I’m missing things. Tell me what to read and study, and send me resources to rouse me.”

I should have remembered that when you ask God to change you, He will do so in magnificent fashion. I forgot to brace myself.

Coming at me in the following weeks, from friends and acquaintances, was a flood of podcasts, book recommendations, speeches, church talks, and scriptural accounts that not only woke me up but nearly set me on spiritual fire.

Then came March—specifically Friday, March 13, when I said good-bye to my students for the last time and didn’t yet know it. The Spirit spoke to me that it would be the last time, but I brushed that aside as “unbelievable.”

None of us would believe anything that followed.

This was part of my “waking up,” and it has been brutal for all of us. (But it’s not all my fault, I promise.)

In some ways the past five months have been a huge blessing: all of the activities and events with school that I would have been responsible for I didn’t have to do. I had more time for my family, for study, and to look deeply at the world and see what was looking back.

Recently I’ve thought about my earlier listlessness and contrasted it to my now-intense alertness, especially when I’ve had readers message me with, “Isn’t it crazy how parts of your books parallel what’s happening today?” and “Did you accidentally write history?” (Yes, it is crazy; no, I didn’t intend to prescribe history.)

Those comments have left me wondering, Why didn’t I see any of this coming?

Then yesterday I saw this post in a group I follow: “Remember the 10 virgins who waited for the Bridegroom to come?

Five of Them Were Wise, by Walter Rane; GAB 53; Matthew 25:1–13; Doctrine and Covenants 33:17–18; 45:56–57
Walter Rane “Five of them were wise”

“They had fallen asleep—all of them had fallen asleep. And then when they awoke, five were ready to follow Him to the supper, while the other five were unprepared and had to run to find oil for their lamps . . .”

I was struck by “all of them had fallen asleep.”

It’s ok that I didn’t see this coming, that NONE of us saw this coming. We weren’t expected to.

But now we’re waking up.
Now it’s time to trim our lamps and get hustling.

Some are slower than others to wake up–I am solidly a mid-to-late-morning person. No “up before dawn around here.” I’m so grateful for friends who are earlier risers and noticed when I was ready to see what was going on. I was fully awake by the time March came around, and I was still alarmed, but now we are  “awake to a sense of [our] awful situation.”

Today I realize that we need to rid ourselves of petty anger, self-righteousness, and divisiveness. Satan’s doing all he can to splinter us, and he’s (literally) damned good at it.

But we can be better than him!

It doesn’t matter what “stupid” or “ignorant” thing someone posts on social media, look past it and love them anyway. We don’t all have to agree about everything, but we need to set aside our differences so that we can stand together strong in the midst of the storms that are coming.

And they are coming.

I’ve been quiet on my website because every time I’ve come here to write something, the Spirit has held me back. I’m not sure why.
Today, though, I feel strongly I need to share this message.

Look past the arguments meant to divide us.
Instead, cling to each other.
Hold tight together.
Brace yourselves, look to God, and live.

Band together

One last thing, from a book that truly is “writing history” and teaching me daily how to respond:

23 . . . it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get apower and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of bdestruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this asecret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

25 For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the afreedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who bbeguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath chardened the hearts of men that they have dmurdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

26 Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have ano power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be bpersuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all crighteousness and be saved. 
~Ether 8: 23-26 The Book of Mormon

The freedom to take a risk

No babies should try to walk until we’re sure they’ll not fall down.
No child should take an exam until they’ll get every problem correct.
No learner of a second language should utter a word until they’re sure they’ll pronounce it right.
No one should drive cars until we can guarantee they’re 100% safe from accidents.
No one should leave their houses until all danger is gone (never mind that most accidents occur in the home . . .).

And then everyone will be safe.

But no one will ever have lived.  

Make mistakes

Do what makes you feel safe, but don’t forget that in this world there’s no such thing as “completely safe.”

Life’s not supposed to be safe. How can we grow in a dull, quiet bubble? We can’t. And why would we want that? The greatest growth comes from the biggest mistakes. We learn more from failures than successes.

Remember Miss Frizzle on the “Magic School Bus”? She was right. (Although I’ll agree that bus was potentially terrifying, still I’d go on it and sit next to Ralphie.)

Reminder to Self Part 1: Create OR Analyze

(Quote from Book 6, Flight of the Wounded Falcon, here and here.)