Monday, September 30, 2013

Crap Happens - But its Smell Doesn't Have to Linger...

Sometimes crap just happens.

At least that's the phrase I learned from my beloved friends in Oklahoma. The idea that no matter how hard one tries to keep out of the stink of life: be it trial, misery or sadness. It still comes knocking.

Maybe that is what Helaman was trying to tell his sons, Nephi and Lehi when he told them how important it was to center their lives around the Son of God - for as he warned "mighty winds" and "shafts in the whirlwind" (I think he meant debris), or "mighty storms shall beat upon you." Aka: Crap Happens. 

Such awfulness seems to be playing in my court as of late. 

Last night, I experienced what it means to mourn with someone else, after she''d experienced being threatened and vulnerable. While I stood by her side, and called the police, I felt strength beyond my own.  

However, when I woke up this morning, a new found threat presented itself: Anger. The type of howdarecrappythingslikethathappentoinnocentpeople anger. And it festered, and rose within my soul as fast and subtle as yeast in homemade bread. Soon I had baked myself into perfect dish of misery. I sobbed that such things could "be" - I grieved over the existence of "wrongness" and "unfairness," especially for its presence in the lives of those I love.

And then the oddest thing happened - a glint of hope, a mere suggestion that changed my day. As I walked into the grocery store, to gather comfort in the form of: chocolate and salt, the merciful phrase came to mind: the best way to combat evil and injustice is to be more kind and loving. 

Crap does happen - but it happened to the best person on earth as well - the Son of God suffered beyond all comprehension and He was perfect. And the miracle of it all? His declaration upon the cross: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:32).  

When served injustice - He offered forgiveness. When hated He loved more deeply.

So - what does this mean for me and perhaps for you? 

While I don't have the complete answer, I feel a bit closer. While crap does happen, it doesn't mean I have to "choose" to live in a smelly world - or to view it in the unjust way I saw it today. I have the conscious choice to give the world flagrant flowers of kindness or love like fresh homemade cookies, instead of polluting the air with more unjust anger or hatred. Perhaps this is what Christ meant when He counseled us to turn the other cheek?

I can almost guarantee that awful things will continue to happen all around me; however, I feel blessed that through the mercy of a loving God, I can still learn how to be kind to family, friends and even strangers; and more importantly, provide our suffering world with a more abundant love.

Crap Happens, but that doesn't mean its smell has to linger.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Truth - Proclaim it.

I started this blog in 2008, because of a challenge given by Elder Ballard in an LDS General Conference. At that time "social media" was merely a making its' way into daily life, and blogs were rather popular. 

Interestingly enough, another talk/sermon given by Elder Ballard has encouraged me to try my hand again at blogging an important subject: Truth.

Sitting at my desk, this morning, I have access to thousand of databases - all with information to convince me that X, Y, or Z is the "cause" of which I should fight for. Sadly, people ARE starving in other countries, rites ARE being denied in others, and oppression reigns globally. And so, individuals, most with great motives, encourage us to stand in the lines of toleration and liberation; hoping that such causes will provide peace, validation and satisfaction. Could such virtues really provide the inner stillness we all long for?

I love this thought from Anne Morrow Lindbergh:
We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers [in hand] we attempt ... to water a field, [instead of] a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into the committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives—which tend to throw us [yet more] off balance. 

Mechanically we have gained, in the last generation, but spiritually we have … lost.

Our world is starving for truth - Real. Truth. Simplicity that answers the question of the soul such as: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Curious for real answers? (Check out this Page )

Consider the profoundness of this proclamation made in the Doctrine and Covenants:
 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it (D&C 123:12).
These words can prove helpful in our navigation for truth about ourselves and our world. When weighing information on the scales of "truth" we need to ask ourselves the motives behind information. Does it seek to deceive, to blind, or to hide? Or does it speak boldly, plainly and clearly?

For those of us who are lucky enough to have uncovered precious gems of truth - be it secular or spiritual - are we sharing it? Consider this challenge:
Therefore ... we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven - These should then be attended to with great earnestness...
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed (D&C 123:13-14,17).
Such thoughts and feelings transpired within my soul - because one humble man was courageous enough to remind me of the power and plainness of truth. He wasn't there to impress or entertain me with sensational stories or statistics. His motive was to proclaim Truth. To help me remember that I am a child of God with a divine purpose. 

And so I pass on simple truths to you:
  • God Lives - He is Our Loving Heavenly Father
  • You are loved by God, because you are His child
  • You can talk with God by praying - and He will answer.

These simple truths can change your life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Be Grateful - Day #1 - Crayons

November: a month in which we should cram our brains full of blessings, instead of simply stuffing our tummies with turkey, pie and random fruit salads from great Aunt Sally.

Sure, its easy to consider some of our greatest blessings to include knowledge of God, His word and the blessing of family, yet today, I want to start my November by thanking the heavens for something temporal and random, but nonetheless brings joy to my life every week: the gift of Crayons.

While most people are digitally marking up their calendars using iPads, iPhones, iPlanners and whatever other digital device they can get their hands on - I'm reaching deep into my desk drawer like a kindergartener, eager to wrap my hands around the perfect yellow rectangular box that reads: "Crayola 24."

My 24 crayons are my best planner friends - I use yellow to mark spiritual enrichment such as scripture study, church and temple attendance as well as service. Orange, green and blue are used for work - the categories they represent switches frequently :). Pink helps me to make time for me - so that I'll continue to maintain my inner princess, it blocks out time selected for good meals and exercise. While purple reminds me to have fun and connect with friends and family, as well as ride my new best friend: Zee, a 5-year-old thoroughbred mare.

I've been planning with crayons weekly since January of 2011 - after being taught the principle of "spinning plates" or the sometimes impossible task most adults face of trying to maintain a balanced life. True, it seems  as if the world of work is always demanding more time, more ideas, and just MORE. Without an effective time management strategy one finds his/herself surrounded by broken plates: symbolically representing good health, fulfilled dreams and goals, and general happiness.

My finished product looks life this:

Endless appointments, tasks and responsibilities can become rather monotonous. Yet somehow pulling out a a while piece of paper, and strategically coloring in the lines makes life more fun, and more me: random and full of passion and color.

Hence, I am grateful for the gift of crayons, that enables me to enjoy the gift of time.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Dream Called Life

I've been staring at this picture all week. In the doldrum of database decipherment and the monotony of mindless money-making I long to exchange places with myself.

And then my pity party is crashed by the profoundness of a prophet, President Hinckley:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.

Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” 

Sure all of us would love to spend endless hours on the beach, barefoot in a yellow jacket away from bawling babies, lengthy lists, or mindless managers. But as Julie B. Beck, recently reminded me, "easy" and "stress-free"  living was never the dream.

"The dream is eternal life - and to get there we have to go through an experience: mortality."

Consider the things you learn during monotonous moments. Is it not in these moments we ask some of the deepest questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?

Or ponder the things you learn during from a strenuous scene in your life theater. Is it not during those climatic conflicts that you reach for a higher power, even the God of all our souls, for mercy?

It is in the struggle that we learn and in the opposition that we find the fiber of our soul. 

"Be still and know that I am God."  Be it on the beach, smiling in a yellow jacket, or in an office surrounded by marketing mayhem, we are still progressing towards the dream.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Returned with Honor

And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen. (D&C 15:6)

Between the ordinary and the mundane of life, one finds the the small, simple notes that compose a masterpiece of personal joys.

Six years ago, I met a 14-year-old boy in Canela Brazil, who I have since lovingly nick-named, my little Joseph Smith. After teaching, a simple lesson in less-than-perfect-Portuguese, this boy looked at me with his big brown eyes and said: "I want to know everything about Joseph Smith." I knew then that he was a special son of God.

Soon thereafter, Lucas was baptized August 2, 2005, alone with no family support, but a vibrant testimony. I was transferred out of the area only a few weeks later.

Since that time Lucas and I have communicated via letters (while I was still serving) as well as email (after I came home). I was ecstatic when Lucas informed me two years ago, that he would be serving a full-time mission in the Brazil, Sao Paulo North mission.

Words cannot express the joy I have felt as I have wrote and received letter after letter. Such a simple act of love has brought more happiness than I can describe. I have cried and laughed as I have read each letter of this stalwart missionary. Mostly,  I've loved see the joy and light in his face as he sent me pictures like this:

Yet, today my tears of joy were different. For this very day my favorite little Joseph Smith honorably returned home to his family and friends in Canela, Brazil. He has completed a mission.

Welcome home Elder Lucas Schenatto, I can't wait to talk to you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Playing for Father Joe

"Let's Go Rose Park!"

"Come on, show 'em West Side"

Eyes focused.
Knees Bent.
Glove ready.

The crack of the bat from the opposing team. The ball soared south-west, straight toward me at alarming speed; I steadied my hand, lowered it slightly and.... GA-WHOOSH! The ball was a imprisoned in my glove.

At that exact moment, I thought of one of my greatest heroes, a man who 30 years earlier had made similar catches: my dad, who I have lovingly nicknamed: Father Joe.

Truth be told, my giddy-nature and love-for-the-game has no doubt been influenced by a father who still watches the World Series religiously. Yet, as I have played for the past ten weeks, I am surprised by the increase of love I have felt towards my father. It has become my favorite game, because it is HIS favorite game.

Each time I have walked into the batters' box, my memory flashed back to four small kids, waiting anxiously on a front lawn in rural Utah, to hear the roaring sound of a white Chevy Sierra approaching our drive.

"Pitch for us Dad, please!" my brothers, sister and I would yell in unison.

And he'd pause--nonetheless thinking of his legitimate reason to walk in the house after a long day at work and then chores on the farm--pushing all thoughts away, he played.

Sometimes he'd stay for an hour pitching and watching us as we raced around homemade bases of irrigation boots, old bottles, or ball caps. And other times, he'd only stay for 15 minutes, so each one of us could hit at least once, before church responsibilities or farm chores called him away. Nonetheless, my brothers and sisters were delighted by every second he played.

Play I did these past ten weeks, every Wednesday night, I'd pause from my adult responsibilities just like my father and enjoyed the spirit of fun.

As I stepped on the field, be it at base or shortstop, I paused again to glance at my dad's favorite glove, marked with permanent black marker: WATSON. I'd smile, prepare my stance, and think: "Dad, this one's for you. I'm going to make you proud."

After some great catches, I couldn't wait until the game was over, so I could text Father Joe and say, caught one tonight: Watson Style!

These past few weeks have reminded me that our family relations are some of the best gifts we have been given. For as my hero has taught me, "In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time." (Utchdorf, 2010)

For 15 short minutes, have made all the difference for me 15 years later.

So let's play ball!
I'm playing for Father Joe.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sacrifice and Compensation

I don't really think Adam looked at God after his first sacrifice and said, "So, uh, can I eat that lamb tenderloin, because it looks ooooohhhh soooo good."

So keep that in mind as you think about the content of this post, its not really about what one gets as a result of sacrifice, but the joy of realizing what comes because of sacrifice.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2005 I was sitting in a small, dusty, garage-type room packed with five computers in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I was planning to attend the Porto Alegre Temple later that afternoon with my friend, Sister Alaina Jordan, but had stopped quickly at an internet cafe to read my weekly family email. As I clicked open the email from my dad, I read these life changing words:
Tamra, Rugrat got out of his pasture on Saturday and was hit by a van. Luckily the people driving were not severely injured, but Rugrat had to be put down. I heard a neigh that night, and I figured it was him thanking me for all the hay I had given him all these years. I'm sure you'll miss him.
Niagara Falls gushed from my tear duct. My horse, my only horse, was dead. I had been the proud owner of horses for more than 12 years. My mind flashed back to the day I had said goodbye to Rugrat. I took him for a long ride around town, galloped him on my favorite trail, and then fed him some carrots while I stroked his neck. As mom and I drove away, he ran the fence line and whinnied as if to say, "I'll miss you."

It's been almost seven years since that gloomy news day in Brazil. Yet as I glance back with my 20/20 vision of perfect understanding, I realize how much the Lord has compensated me in "horses" because I left mine to do His work.

I spent more than two years riding a beautiful mare named Pacer in Hyrum, Utah. Debbie, Pacer's real owner always claimed her horse was more mine than hers. We formed a fabulous relationship, and although Pacer has been sold, I still visit Debbie often.

When I graduated from Utah State, I feared I would never ride again. Yet, I was delighted when I was introduced to four fabulous horses: Lucy, Lizzie, Paint and Angelina, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I spent hours on their backs, relaxing my brain from the stringent demands of academic philosophy, research and writing. For the year and a half I spent in that wondrous state, those four ponies became a lifeline.

Now, as an independent woman, living in downtown metropolis, I often wonder how a cowgirl ended up swapping lives with a city girl. As I spent a holiday weekend in my hometown I found myself longing to take a pony on my favorite trails. So I called up a mom of an old pony-club pal and within 30 minutes, Tikki and I were enjoying ourselves on the dusty trail.

Since my last ride, I have realized, God truly recognizes and rewards us for our small sacrifices. I never expected to meet and ride so many wonderful horses during the past seven years, but I have, and its made my life more pleasant and joyful.

So, maybe Adam did eat a nice lamb tenderloin after he sacrificed his best lamb; and although the superb taste of the meat left him drooling, the greater sweetness probably dawned on him as it did me: God is the source of all blessings, even those that follow heart-wrenching sacrifices.