Moving from good to great (or, “How I console myself about being middle-aged”)

An appointment in Salt Lake City yesterday allowed me time to check on my most favorite building in the world—the Salt Lake Temple. As you can see, it’s in the middle of what I’ve labeled as a long, slow surgery. One year in, and three more to go, the Salt Lake Temple’s foundation is being fortified to make it strong enough to withstand a massive earthquake.

(And I keep thinking, “Once it’s completed and rededicated, everyone brace yourselves—that 8.0 is finally going to hit Salt Lake City.)

Walking around it filled with me nostalgia and a little sadness. As a child I lived just a few blocks away, and visiting the grounds was a monthly occurrence. Even as I grew older and moved around the country, returning to SLC always meant at least driving around Temple Square, just to check on my temple (my husband and I were married there) and to make sure “home” was still secure. For as often as we’ve moved, Temple Square has always remained my “home” base. All other life radiates out from it, for me.

Yesterday, though, there was no “life” there. The temple has been gutted to make room for major and essential renovations. Yesterday I saw only a shell of stone being worked on, the operation occurring in and around and below it. Its soul and light are temporarily gone, like a spirit leaving a body during a delicate surgery, hovering above the “doctors” and observing until it’s safe to go back in. While it’s hard to see the temple in this fragile state, it’s also encouraging.

I admit I’d love to climb that scaffolding and see what’s happening inside!

The 5.7 earthquake last March knocked down part of the Angel Moroni statue and a few finials on the top of the temple, demonstrating even greater the need to strengthen it. (Renovation had begun in earnest just a couple of months earlier.) Age has taken its toll on the Salt Lake Temple, and while its “body” been very good in the past, it’s now time to make it greater.

The message wasn’t lost on me. I was in Salt Lake City seeing a specialist because my own body has been crumbling a little on the edges. Solidly in middle age, I hadn’t realized how my own systems have been slowing down and requiring some major overhauls to strengthen my foundations for the coming years.

As I’ve heard many other people say, I’ve recently taken inventory of where I am physically and mentally, and have discovered that while things were good in the past, they’re not so much anymore. The little tremblings from this past COVID-19 year has revealed that I’m not as sturdy as I assumed I was. Not only is it time to strengthen my body and mind, but to also move beyond “good” to “great.” I feel pressing on me, as I’ve heard many of you say as well, that “something” is coming in the future, that the ease we’ve been experiencing is coming to an end, that as for Joseph in Egypt, the years of plenty are coming to a close, and years of . . . “something” are around the corner.

I want to be ready for that, shored up and better than ever, just like the Salt Lake Temple. I’ve heard people complain about some of the changes occurring to ready it for refurbishing. Pioneer-era frescoes are being photographed then likely sacrificed as walls are removed, and many other traditions that have been there since the late 1800s are being set aside to accommodate three times as many patrons when the temple reopens in 2024.

Likewise I’m finding, as are many of you, that I need to remove some ideas and practices that have been part of me, set them aside to make room for that which is greater.

In some ways, it’s as if it’s gone back in time again.

I think we forget that in this sea of life we don’t drift to a certain harbor and then stay there for the next several decades, moored at dock, content to be where we are. That’s when the barnacles and rot begin to set in. Instead, we’re to learn what we can at that destination, then take on new supplies and set sail again, and again, and again.

When we see a familiar, solid landmark like the Salt Lake Temple being reworked from top to bottom, I think people balk at such a drastic surgery because they fear they, too, need a similar restructuring. I know I haven’t been thrilled to see what’s needed to make me become better, but as time goes on, I’m becoming more intrigued by the possibilities of what I can do in the future.

I took heart when I came across a few groups of moms/grandmas with little boys looking through the large acrylic windows down on the sights below. With the enthusiasm only little boys can express, they said to me, “Lady! Look at the trucks! And there’s tractors! They’re making the temple! Watch! It’s so awesome!”

I chatted and laughed with them as jack hammers suddenly started up, or massive drills pulled up and shed loads of soil, and we guessed which truck would back up next out of the narrow entrances and exits where, years ago as a child, I used to walk around the beautiful gardens with my mom and dad.

Some flower beds remain, eager for spring and visitors. I felt they wanted their picture taken, to prove they’re still growing strong.

My parents are now gone, and most of the gardens are gone as well, as is the light that used to be in the temple, but only temporarily. The light and spirit of the temple will return, as will everything else, I have no doubt.

In the meantime, something good is now making way for something greater.

The little boys’ joy in watching the construction was contagious, and I thought of my own internal and external construction I need to be about, to get me ready for the next stretch, whatever that may be.

It’s going to be a lot of work, but I realize that in the end, it’s going to be, in their words, “so awesome!”  

Striving for something great is another way to Build Zion. Let’s not wait for a better time, because this is it.

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

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 worth of battered books, and us (plus a sneak peek into Book 8)

I woke up dreaming of a battered book. I’d been thumbing through it and wincing that poor-quality sticky notes had left yellow squares on pages, along with what I suspected was coffee or soda splotches. And that brown smear? Oh, I hoped it was chocolate.

I sighed in frustration. Not that long ago the book was brand new, but it had suffered from living in a student’s backpack for a few months.

The dream was so vivid probably because I recently went through my classroom novels and grumbled that books which I had purchased at the beginning of the year were now filthy and being held together by . . . sheer determination?

But the words that went through my mind as I woke from my dream were, “So what? The words are still readable, the story still wonderful. It’s worth isn’t lessened because the book’s been misused.

Abused text

I’ve met a lot of people who have been treated horribly, yet have beautiful stories to tell, maybe because of the mistreatment. They hold together through sheer determination, which makes them even more valuable.

 

Young Pere scoffed quietly. “I know what you’re suggesting, but who would want someone like me? After all I’ve done and been through?”

“No one’s perfect, Young Pere. Everyone has less-than-impressive moments. We all hope someone will forgive us of those moments and let us move on. Could you love someone who made mistakes in their past but feels about them now the way you feel about yours?

He pondered that. “I think . . . I think I could.”

~Book 8–The Last Day–coming Summer 2018

Book 7 teaser–Are you being forced or are you allowed to choose?

I’ve discovered the easiest way to decide what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”: by asking, “Am I being forced to accept this?”

If someone lays out the facts, then takes a step back to let me ponder and evaluate, then I’m much more inclined to accept their position.

But if someone tries to force their ideas on me, I dig in my heels and refuse to budge, because something is fundamentally wrong with the argument if it must be forced to be accepted.

And it doesn’t matter who or for what cause they’re forcing. I’ve known very religious people try to force their children/spouses to obey them. I’ve known agnostics and atheists do the same thing.

Force is always wrong, because it takes away a person’s agency: their God-given right to choose for themselves. And it IS God-given. That’s not a nicety, but a reality.

No ideology, political group, religious organization, government or family member has the right to force their opinion and will upon another. If someone is trying to control another, you can be sure they are acting devilish. That’s not an euphemism, but a fact: Satan is all about control, about force, about taking away freedoms. Lucifer is real, and his influence is very easy to spot. If someone’s trying to control you, there he is.

God, however, is not about control or force. Many religious groups and zealots, however, will hijack the notion of “god” and appropriate it as their own, pretending that their cause is god-driven and therefore you must follow. But the only god they’re following is the one they made up; they’re worshiping themselves and want you as a follower.

God, on the other hand, sent us to this earth as a testing ground. He wants us to choose right or wrong, good or evil, and He so values our freedom that, when we make mistakes, He’s even given us a way to fix them. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins so we could come back to Him.

BUT–and this is a big BUT–only if we want to.

God is our Father, and like any good father He wants His children back home. But He will never force us back, never force His will. He sets out His terms, His promises, His hopes, then takes a step back and lets us choose for ourselves.

That is love.

Satan is not.

And every last argument in the world plays into either of these two courts: Are you being forced, or are you allowed to choose?

“You can’t force your will on someone,” Peto would say as he hauled the flailing teenager to the barn, “and demand they do what you want. That’s the Refuser’s way, not the Creator’s way. The Creator allows everyone to choose their way, even if it’s the stupid way. But the Refuser wants to control everyone’s lives. That’s not our way!” ~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017

weekly meme background The Creator's way

 

Book 7 Teaser–Does “the dogma live loudly within you”?

Last week Senator Diane Feinstein tried to shame a judicial nominee, Amy Barrett, law a professor at Notre Dame and a Catholic mother of seven children, for her religiosity. Feinstein said, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

It was meant as an accusation for Barrett’s devotion to her religion.

But I can’t imagine great praise being leveled at anyone. To be so true to your convictions that others can witness you “living loudly”? Shouldn’t that be what we all hope can be said of our lives?

Catholics have marvelously embraced this phrase, employing the hashtag “dogmalivesloudly”. Others are saying it’s their new mantra, their goal in life, that everyone can see exactly how they live.

I’m not Catholic but a fellow Christian, and when I read about this yesterday (I missed it while following all the hurricane news), my arms tingled. I have no idea who this Professor Barrett is, but suddenly I really want to meet her.

Often I’ve heard that Christians should be recognized by how they live, that their examples should be obvious. The Apostle Paul proclaimed, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” (Romans 1:16) and he definitely lived as he believed.

But such “living loudly” frightens some people, understandably. Remember how the Apostle Paul died, as a martyr? As did Peter, James, Stephen . . . well, just about all of the Savior’s apostles died because they “lived loudly.”

Not that I’m suggesting that holding firm to our Christian beliefs means that we can expect martyrdom, but to be honest, that has happened, and is happening, and will happen in the future.

The world doesn’t like Christianity, but that’s ok, because the approval of the world isn’t what we’re after. We’re here only temporarily. (Atheists, on the other hand, think this life is all there is, so getting everything they want right now turns them a bit dogmatic in their own ways.)

This earth life is merely a blip in our existence, a brief sneeze of time, but such a very important one. It’s an all-inclusive test, to see what we’ll believe, what we’ll pursue, and what our hearts really want.

What we do here tells God what we want to do next. And that “next” is going to be an eternity. That’s why we Christians are also so dogmatic about getting things right.

And why we shouldn’t be afraid to live loudly. Professor Barrett has inspired me, fortified me, helped me realize there are lots of us out there, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to live my Christianity loudly.

Peto grinned at his wife. “So last night made up for yesterday?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” Lilla said fervently. “The Creator made up for it in grand style.” She looked up at the sky. “THANK YOU!” she hollered.

Peto and Shem flinched in embarrassment as a few people in their fields looked around in confusion. They waved uncertainly at the four riders, not sure what the loud thanks was for, and Shem and Peto waved back, trying not to snort. 

Calla chuckled at her sister. “Why not? THANK YOU!” she called to the sky.

~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017

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Book 7 teaser–He still had a foundation, and something new could be built for him

I go walking a few times each week, and yesterday went exploring a quiet, tracked lane by myself. It’s not hard to lure me into the woods, and I was surprised to soon find myself on a peninsula with untouched fields of wild blueberries and black berries.

And I also found boulders!

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I felt like I had stumbled into Edge!

But what I found at the end of the peninsula surprised me most of all: ruins.

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I know this area has been inhabited by colonists since the late 1600s, by Native Americans for far longer than that (they’re the ones who dined on blueberries and lobsters hundreds, if not thousands, of years before anyone).

But these stones took my breath away. My first thought was, “This foundation’s still standing!”

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With a little weeding (ok, getting those trees out might take a little longer) and some reshifting of stone, another house could feasibly be built there. Carefully fitted, these stones had remained solid for who knows how long.

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Today I told my archaeologist daughter about what I found yesterday, and in ten seconds she sent me a link: I had “discovered” the remnants of Fort Foster, built in 1776 during the Revolutionary War to keep East Machias, Maine, safe from the British.

A forest, boulders, AND a fort?! I HAVE found Edge!

As for these stones, I don’t know how long they’ve been there; because the fort was mostly berms, these stones were likely part of some settlement structure before or after.

But they gave me goosebumps. Through years, through storms, through prosperity and poverty, this sure foundation has remained. 

I thought about the horrific flooding in Texas, and I have no doubt that when the waters finally recede, and the devastation is fully realized, there will be something that remains: solid foundations. Marking where homes and lives used to be, and perhaps inviting lives to rebuild again.

In fact, in every devastation I’ve seen people face, as long as they have a solid foundation–a rock upon which they’ve based their lives–they can continue.

I was so struck with these images that I ran home and added new lines to Book 7 which I thought was finished. But, like everything, there’s always room to keep building and growing:

So often he’d found it hard to see himself, as if he were looking deep into his soul and was terrified by what he’d find, but tonight he wanted to see what was there. And what he saw someone a little lost but finally on the right track. He also saw his grandfather looking back at him.

He suddenly remembered the ruins of their burned house outside of the fort. Despite all that had happened to it, the foundation was still there and strong, and something new could be built upon it.

Then he understood. He still had a foundation, and something new could be built for him. ~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017

foundation

Book 7 Teaser: Tell God what you want!

“Your problem is that you haven’t told God that you need a miracle. Tell him! Demand a miracle!” That was the advice my friend gave me when, seventeen years ago, we were drowning.

I was pregnant with my 6th, my husband had lost his job and the part-time job he had in the meantime wasn’t paying, and my adjunct contract wasn’t going to be renewed because of budget cuts. We were falling behind in our mortgage payments and our savings were gone. Very soon we’d be in very dire circumstances.

“Tell God exactly what you need and get that miracle!” my friend insisted.

So I prayed—earnestly and daily—telling God what I wanted: a good-paying job for my husband so that we could meet our financial obligations, and the ability to keep the house we’d built so our family could be raised in a great neighborhood.

Not much—just what all of our other friends and family had. Not a fancy car, not a dream vacation, not a huge house—just the bare necessities.

Others also prayed in our behalf—intently and constantly—until finally the miracle came: my husband got a job.

But the not-so-miraculous part was that it was 2,000 miles away from that great neighborhood and my family.

And it wasn’t going to pay enough.

And we’d have to leave our house.

But maybe, just maybe—it’d be ok?

With enormous reluctance and huge tears, we moved our family cross county, put our house up for sale, and waited for the next miracles.

But they didn’t come as I demanded. Where we’d moved was outrageously expensive, and my husband’s education-based income would never cover rent, so he found yet another job, this one a couple hundred miles away, leaving me and our six children to mooch off of his family for several months.

The sale of our house fell through—four times—and because we couldn’t get caught up on the payments during those eight months, it was going into foreclosure with letters sent to us almost daily from lawyers and banks.

I was so humiliated and depressed, alone and still drowning. Did we not have enough faith to make those miracles happen? What more was I supposed to do to get my prayers answered? What did I still lack? Why wouldn’t God give me what I needed and what our family deserved?

I began to realize something: demanding miracles from God wasn’t how it was supposed to work. God is not, as Harry Emerson Fosdick once quipped, “a cosmic bellboy for whom we can press a button and get things done.”

Maybe I wasn’t praying for the right things. Maybe I didn’t even know what those “right things” were?

So I stopped telling God what I wanted and needed, and started asking Him to help me understand. I asked Him to change my heart to be submissive, to meekly take whatever was thrown at us. I was so low anyway, I didn’t have anything else to lose. I was hopeless, in heart and spirit.

I was broken. That’s what God was waiting for.

That’s when miracles began.

Miracle #1–We found a house to rent across the street from my husband’s new job. It was condemned and would be torn down in six months, had mice and skunks (in the cellar) and roaches, but we could live there for $350/month and be a family again for a while. The fact that I was grateful for such accommodations after living apart for eight months? Miraculous. (I’ve written about this house before here.)

virginia house

And when it rained, water poured in on all the edges where the walls met the ceiling. But that was ok, because the vines growing in the house needed to be watered.

Miracle #2–We finally found a buyer for our old house, and the day before it was to be sold at auction we closed on it and were able to negotiate payments for the second mortgage, which wasn’t covered, down to a reasonable rate. We paid it off five years later.

Miracle #3–Astonishingly, the mortgage company hadn’t reported our delinquency properly, and on our credit report was only that we’d missed one monthly payment. Our credit rating fell a bit, but three months later we were in a position to buy a brand new house at $600/month.

A full year after I TOLD God what I wanted, I realized I was in a completely different situation than I’d ever imagined but . . . I liked it!

Our new life was giving us experiences that we never could have had any other way. Our kids were flourishing, our new house was adorable, my husband loved his job, and I had work as well.

And I was very glad that God did NOT listen to my demands.

A couple years ago we drove through our old neighborhood to see the dream house we had left and lost in 2000. I was so grateful that we did NOT raise our kids there. Not that there was anything wrong with the neighborhood, but I realized how limited and narrow our lives would have been had we never left, instead of the wealth of experiences God gave us instead by forcing us away.

He knew what we really wanted, rather than what we thought we should have.

The real problem, it turned out, wasn’t that I needed to demand a miracle and insist on my ways, but that I needed to ask God what His ways were for us. And His ways have always been far, far better.

     With growing despair, he sat back on his heels. It was time to send the general a message.

    “It’s the right thing to do, right, Puggah?” he whispered.

     It’s an intriguing idea, Young Pere. But is it the right idea?

     “Well, you did it! At least, you were trying to do it, then did it in another way—”

      Young Pere, think about that—I tried to do it but failed. It wasn’t meant to be. It isn’t meant to be with you, either. 

     He scoffed. “But you just said it was intriguing!”

     Yes it is. But just because it’s an intriguing idea doesn’t mean it’s the right idea. Especially when the Creator has something much better in mind. 

~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017

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Move from Utah to Maine, Day 4–Welcome to the east, Kirtland, and our 29th anniversary

(Current location, Batavia, NY, a town in upstate New York which has at least four different ways to pronounce it and we’re probably still not saying it correctly.)

Something strange happened as I stepped out of our hotel this morning into the heavy, warm, humid air of Ohio. Memories rushed me, and it was as if I were for the first time in many years eating a dessert my grandmother had made me but I’d forgotten about. The mugginess, the trees, the farms, the gray air—suddenly I remembered all about living in Virginia for five years and thought, “Wait a minute—I LIKE this!”

Driving through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York has felt like the states are welcoming me back (we’d visited here a few times over a decade ago), like they’re that friend you had in high school that you forgot all about until she friends you on Facebook, and you think, “Oh yeah! YOU! Oh, I forgot you! I’m so glad we’re together again!”

The east coast is my forgotten high school friend. Every mile I’m getting more excited to renew our friendship.

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Why yes, I do DO feel welcomed!

Shortly after this I heard my 5 and 9-year-olds in the back seat having the following conversation:

“Housebuilder and General Grievous want to come over to play.”

“Ok, but we have to move the silly putty and get out the magnifying glass.”

I just don’t know, I really don’t.

I have to put in a plug about my kids—my three oldest take turns driving and willingly take the younger ones to the restrooms, get them treats, and make sure no one’s missing. Everyone has tasks, and they are all good about retrieving the radios to be recharged, getting everyone’s bags and coolers into the hotel, and packing everything up again. This cart below will be packed to the top before it gets to the elevator:

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(Shortly after this, another woman used this trolley putting on it three small grocery bags. I nearly scoffed and said, “Lady, THAT’S not the way to use that trolley!”)

I don’t even have to deal with my 5-year-old at night because his 20-year-old brother takes care of him. I am incredibly grateful that they are all remaining good-natured, cheerful, and willing each day. They wake up on time, get themselves to the breakfast buffet (which is the BEST part of each day—all kinds of food that I didn’t have to make and that I don’t have to clean up!) then they make seating arrangements, my 18 and 20-year-old trading off driving the minivan depending upon who’s the least tired, my 17-year-old acts as servant to his siblings sitting behind us in the big van, and the 13-year-old is my husband’s navigator in the moving truck.

I thought today, on our 29th wedding anniversary, that my husband and I have been blessed with incredibly good kids, and that they are who they are not because of anything we’ve done raising them, but because they came to us that way. We don’t deserve any of it, I know.

I’m writing today from Batavia, NY, which isn’t too far away from Toledo, OH, and although Siri had us get on and off and on and off the freeway around Cleveland pointlessly (but we got lots of views of it, as you can see below), that’s not why we made so little progress.

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We took a detour to Kirtland, OH, for four hours where we visited the Mormon church sites where the early pioneers were in the 1830s and saw their store, houses, sawmill, and ashery.

(I had NO idea such a thing existed: burn ashes?! That’s like watering water!)

We then took a tour of the Kirtland Temple owned by the Community of Christ and heard the same history, but with different angles which proved to be excellent family discussion during lunch at yet another Wendy’s (although my 17 year old snuck in a Little Caesar’s pizza), comparing the different takes on the history.

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Twelve years ago we did the tour of the Kirtland Temple where the young tour guide pointed out only the architecture, but this time a preacher of the Church of Christ named Rick led the tour. He actually talked about the spiritual significance of the structure, and led our group of fourteen tourists in singing the first verse of “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning.” That’s always been my favorite hymn, and I will never be able to forget the experience of our few out-of-tune voices singing it there in the room where it was first performed and where so many important and fantastic experiences occurred. It was all I could do to keep from tearing up. Our tone-deaf singing actually sounded good together, for probably the first and last time ever.

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We got into our hotel room at a decent hour (before 9 pm!) for once, and compared notes about if the pleasant toll booth worker was perhaps a different gender than they were dressed up to be. My husband now has foot cramps, and my sons are punching his feet to make them feel better. It’s not working, but still they valiantly try with even more punches. I’m doing a load of laundry now, enjoying the broken dryer which runs continuously without any coins needed, wondering what else I could throw in there just for fun.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Palmyra, NY for some touring and then on to New Hampshire, where I’ve always wanted to visit and always wanted to say this:

(Interesting note–that movie was actually filmed in Virginia where we used to live, so actually we WERE in the movie New Hampshire, not the real one. Actually, none of that was really interesting, so just never mind.)