I Will Stand in My Truth—-It’s Mine

So yesterday I succumbed to fear.  I let hurtful words of others paralyze me and ruin a lot of my day.  And it was my birthday.  I went into panic mode and took down my blog, the entire thing, for a period of time.  Bad decision.  I shouldn’t have done that.  I have all of you wonderful readers who support me and write and tell me how my writing is helping you, or lifting you, or giving you courage to stand in your truth.  And I let you down.  A tiny number of people made me take down my platform and I lost sight of all of you that share and read and keep coming back for more.  To all of you, my dedicated and loyal readers, I apologize.  It will never happen again.

I stand in my truth.  What does that mean, exactly?  To stand in my truth means that I am owning and admitting that this is my perspective.  My point of view.  It may sound selfish, but that’s all we know as human beings.  We only feel our own feelings and experience our own lives.  I believe in having empathy for others and I know that I do.  I have deep empathy and even pity for people who have let me down in my life that I might write about.  I don’t write to incite or to inflict pain to those people.  I write to inspire you, my readers, to know that you are not alone.  That we can survive difficult things and then find our way to happiness.   In fact, I have so much empathy and compassion for these people that I have never divulged names, dates, locations, or even details.  I don’t even write under my maiden name.  I have been intentionally vague, to protect both myself, and others.

I attended World Congress of Families IX and one speaker talked about the effects of the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce on the children, most of whom are adults now, but suffer the post-traumatic effects of this culture.  I found myself answering yes to nearly every bullet point on the slides shown.  But it gave me hope, surprisingly.  Hope, because I knew I had made it.  My husband and I had changed the situation in our home with our children, which means that others can do it too.  We don’t have to be victims.  I never want to be considered a victim.  Not even a survivor.  I want to be known as a thriver.  Because I am thriving.  And it’s because of choices.  I made choices that have allowed me to thrive.  When I actually had the power to change my stars, believe me, I did.  And so can you.  So many of you have.  That is why I write.  To share some of my stories of overcoming and standing in what is my truth, so I can stand beside you as you overcome and stand in yours.  
My truth is not your truth.  Your truth is not mine.  We cannot tell each other how to feel.  We absolutely are not allowed to edit each others’ lives.  When people try to silence others from speaking their truths, abuse continues.  Abuse is protected, strengthened, and grows.  Abuse is rewarded.  I also learned at WCF-9 that we must stand up and say what happened to us, as survivors of no-fault divorce.  If we don’t tell our stories, we can’t help other young couples as they begin their own families and are tempted to continue in negative traditions they brought with them from their own homes.  If we stand in our truth, with the intention of inspiring and uplifting others, we should not be afraid of those who wish to quiet us.  They are threatened by our truth because it invites them to discover their own truths, which they are not willing to do.  
I am intelligent.  No one has to tell me that there are more sides to the pyramid than mine.  I have never, ever said that I was speaking for others.  I write about my life.  My stories.  My experiences.  My lessons.  My triumphs.  And it’s not selfish.  I could keep it all inside myself so no one else might benefit from learning from my struggles and mistakes, joys and wins.  I only want to help others who might be like me.  I want to help young parents realize they can change their stars and they do not have to repeat the traditions of their parents or grandparents.  Even if it’s not abusive.

Example: For Thanksgiving, I do not make the fruit salad I grew up with for my whole life. The one with red grapes, pineapple, apples, whipped cream, bananas, and marshmallows–I think.  I don’t make it because I don’t like it.  I hated cutting up the grapes and removing seeds for that salad and I never liked how by the end of the meal the cream had separated and mixed with the juices of the fruits, the bananas were brown and slimy, and it was a big, wilted mess in the Tupperware bowl.  I make Lemon Chess pie, which I discovered on a trip to the South.  I attempt to make the stuffing my mother-in-law always made.  I make the things our own little family has come to love.  We have kept the traditions that are spirit-building, happiness-giving, and comfort-lending and created others for ourselves that fulfill these goals, and thrown out the rest.  We have trashed the slimy fruit salad.  It’s not on the menu here.  

That is the power of standing in my own truth.  I can make a different salad for Thanksgiving.  I can wear more than one coat of mascara.  I can wear jeans everyday.  I can do whatever I want in my own house and not get grounded.  I can trust that the people I live with will fiercely protect me, comfort me, and love me because I’m safe.  If someone out there doesn’t like what I write, then I invite them to stop reading what I work hard to give.   It’s not for them.  This blog is to lift.  To become the cream.  To find, defend, and stand in our truths.  Not to hurt, but to help.  
In the allegory of the cream rising to the top, and if you’re unfamiliar with that idea, I invite you to go back and read my older post, “Why, Becoming Cream,” where I shared with you about taking care of fresh milk from our dairy cow when I was a kid.  We had to be careful to strain the milk straight out of the pail.  Sometimes it was dirty, especially if the cow had been in the mud.  Sometimes it required more than one straining.  The milk passed through the paper filters, into a pristine bowl.  What was left in the disposable filter was surprising.  Hairs, dirt, small pebbles, hay, grass, etc.  Souvenirs of where the cow had been in the last 12 hours.  Nobody wants cow lint in their sweet and delicious milk.  Often, the bottom of the pail would have the most debris, the things that were heavy enough to immediately sink.  After the milk was filtered, it was pasteurized and allowed to cool in the fridge.  The longer it rested on the cool shelf, the more thoroughly the cream rose to the top.  Two or three days in a row, that milk would be skimmed from the top in order to collect the cream, the most desirable part of the product.  But it took time to rise.  It had to be left alone, to cool, to settle, to allow the best part of itself, its TRUTH, to rise to the top.  
Yesterday I disabled my blog, for a time.  To settle.  To cool.  To heal.  It didn’t take me two or three days.  My husband and kids, friends, and family reminded me through their love and kindness, feisty defending of my character, and pep talks, to keep going.  To keep writing.  To keep on in my quest to become the best cream I can be and help you if you want to join me in this quest.  We must filter and strain, 100 times if necessary, and then sit in the coolness and allow God to comfort us.  And He will. Because God knows what is true.  And God inspires us to want to be better and do better and stand in our truth, but more importantly to stand in HIS TRUTH.  So, my birthday was ruined initially by a handful of unkind people.  But it was saved eventually by so many more beautiful people who love me, after I made the choice to focus on the plethora of blessings I enjoy instead of the few miniscule pebbles and hairs in my pail.  So I got up, washed out the pail, threw away the filter, and put the milk in the fridge to cool.  I enjoyed the rest of my birthday.  I gave thanks to God for all His gifts He has given me and repented for hurting anyone while standing in my truth, and received comfort and love from Him in return.  
So I stand in my truth.  This morning, there is cream atop the milk that I allowed to rest overnight and I feel like myself again.  Undeterred by haters.  I will write MY truth.  I won’t stop.  It’s my mission.  To become the cream and help others who want to be the strong, rich, dynamic cream instead of the thin, weak milk.  Thank you for reading and sharing and my prayer is for you all to have a very lovely and happy Thanksgiving.  With lots of whipped cream!  
Best,
Becoming Cream

#FightSong
#StandInMyTruth
#Truth
#FaithOverFear
#Thanksgiving

Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving

I love November.  I’m sure it’s because it’s my birthday month and also my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  I’m a turkey baby, though turkey is not my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.  I prefer the turkey leg as I’m partial to the dark meat.  Everyone told me I was a weird kid for that, as the popular choice is the dry, nasty white meat.  I love the homemade cranberry sauce.  I love mashed potatoes, with lots of cream, butter and salt whipped in.  In my opinion, they should be so delicious alone that you can eat them with a spoon, without any butter or salt because it’s already in the potatoes.  And the pies.  You can’t forget the pies.  I love them all, but lean toward pecan, lemon chess, and apple (all from scratch—-no canned fillings here). For my birthday, I always asked for pie—never, ever cake.  I would often order apple pie, but one year asked for homemade creme puffs and another year, Apple Chop Suey, a family traditional favorite for the holidays.  I usually asked for Russian Perisky for my birthday dinner, another family recipe.  Even now, my mouth waters at the thought of that dish.  In recent years, I have made it myself, in honor of my childhood self.

In thinking of Thanksgiving this week and my birthday this month, I want to combine my thoughts and share some of the things I’m most grateful for, particularly in how they relate to my own life because when I was smalll, I never could see myself as an adult, let alone a 50-something-year-old wife and mother.  Similarly, it’s hard for me now to picture myself as a child or even a teenager.  I have different perspective now and often wish I could talk to those former versions of me, to offer encouragement, advice, love and perspective.

To my little-girl self I would say:  There is no need to worry about the boogeyman, spiders in the basement bedroom, dead people, white dogs, or Paulina, the mean bully at school.  First of all, these things will make for some of the best stories you can tell your own children, young women at church, and sunday school teenagers.  Secondly, these are really small concerns compared to the other things you will face in your life, so chill out.  Ms. N. that checks your milk carton in the lunch room?  She has to check it; it’s her job and she checks all the milk cartons.  True.  Warm milk is wretched, but compared to other things you’ll face, it’s cake.

To my junior-high self:  This phase is temporary.  You won’t aways be the tallest girl and someday your mom will realize you will wear makeup and there is nothing she can do about it.  That’s what school bathrooms are for, right?  The creepy boys that make fun of your full lips now will wish they hadn’t later.  Right now they’re not “in style,” but believe it or not, one day women will PAY to make their lips like yours, and they still won’t be able to.  Jeans are not evil, no matter what your mom says; they are the best piece of clothing ever invented and the more soft, faded, and flared—the better.  Just wait.  One day you’ll be able to have as many as you like.  You don’t need a perm.  You don’t know it now, but you actually have naturally curly hair.  You’ll be perplexed one day when you decide to grow out your perm only to find that you never needed one!  You are smart and you can do and be anything you want.  Don’t let Mr. A. in 7th grade math dash your dreams.  He is only a grown-up bully.

To my high-school self:  As hard as it is to grasp, these three years will never happen again.  Hallelujiah!  It seems like an eternity in hell right now, but it will end.  I promise.  Going to prom is overrated.  Yes, it would’ve been nice, but maybe you would have married that guy and your whole life would have turned out wrong, so it’s a blessing.  Theater is not for you. You won’t do that ever again after school is over, so stop wasting so much energy on it now, and all the “drama” those people in theater carry around with them every day.  You’ve got more important things to do.  You don’t realize it now, but your seminary teacher, Brother B., saved your life, and you will thank him for the rest of it; he is a saint.  The friends you think are your friends, are not.  Look out for what you can learn, because you will see patterns later on for what to look for in true versus false friends.

To my college self:  Sadly, this time goes quickly in your life, so relish it all. It’s a good chapter.  Remember to be happy.  Never forget what it feels like to be freed from high school and small town thinking.  Think often about the friends you make and the lessons you learn about yourself.  You meet your most important friend here, who will stand by you for the rest of your life, and together you will start your own family.  What a glorious feeling it is to come out and shine.  Don’t quit art school!  Please don’t let the cruel words of your mom resonate with you.  You are an artist.  You can do it.  You will make beautiful things and people will appreciate your talent.  Don’t take it personally when your parents get divorced.  It’s only the beginning to a long road of heartache with your extended family, but you’re strong and God needs you to change the traditions of your own family and bring your own children up differently.  Pay attention.

To my young married self:  I don’t need to tell you this because this is one of your favorite times of your life.  What a glorious time to be alive.  Supporting your husband in law school, eating frozen burritos to be able to afford your first house, and making artwork to sell for extra cash with your husband will be memories you cherish for a lifetime.  You won’t ever get the house in Federal Heights though, and that will be a blessing.  Love this time and hope it doesn’t go too quickly.

To my young-mother self:  It’s tough not having any help when your babies are born, but that just makes you an even more tender and devoted mommy.  Besides, you’re smart and you can figure it out.  The kids will stop having ear infections and drawing on the walls.  You will strengthen your faith in God as you go through scary things like accidents and illness.  You wish for many children, but God will give you two, and that’s a beautiful thing.  Someday you will know why.  They will survive scout camp and mean girls at school. Your children will make you proud and humbled to be their mom.

To my older-mother self:  It happened.  The kids did actually learn to drive and they can do things by themselves and it’s a good thing.  They have good heads on their shoulders and you can be happy and at peace with whom they’ve become.  They know how to work and have achieved more in their young lives than you have, relatively speaking. They’re pursuing further dreams and aspirations and they are grateful.  You’re lucky and very blessed.  They will continue doing good in the world around them.  They will call and text you.   Everything will be alright.  You can afford the plane fare to visit them when they move away.  They are worthy and good and obedient.  You’ve given it everything and it is paying off.

To my bishop’s wife self:  This too shall pass.  It’s an honor and privilege to serve.  Your husband is a worthy and valiant man who humbly wants to help people, in the Lord’s way. When he’s away from home, he wishes to be with you, but other people need him sometimes.  A lot.  It’s okay. It’s another way for you to show Jesus how much you love Him.  The people that say hurtful things to you are hurting inside.  You don’t need to know why.  Many in the ward are praying for your husband and family.  God is blessing you in ways you can’t even see.  This work is important.  Don’t give up.  You’ve been married 30 years and your marriage and family are eternal.  Everything is worth that.  You hit the jackpot with your marriage.  You married your best friend and he loves you.

I am truly grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned in my life, and even for the pains and sorrows, because they have made it possible for me to know how much better it is to feel happy and peaceful.  God knows everything and for some wise and glorious purpose He has a plan for me, my husband, and my children.  I trust Him.  Even if things turn out differently than I imagine, God’s plan for me and my family will always be better and more glorious than our plans.  He loves us that much.  So, Happy Birthday to me and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  What a wonderful time to be alive, when the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and we have living prophets and apostles to lead and teach us.  Everything is good!

Here is my favorite Primary song of all time; the one where, on the day we learned it, I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father really did love me and I still know it today.
“My Heavenly Father Loves Me”
sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

#Thanksgiving
#HappyBirthday
#MyHeavenlyFatherLovesMe

My Prayer for Paris

I have to say something.  About Paris.  What just happened to the beautiful French people, and others from different nations.  This has to stop.  What is the purpose?  I know the answer.  Hate.  And I’m tired of it.  It has to end.  What are we going to do to stop it?  What can I do from my corner of the world?  What can you do? 

I have never been to France.  I hope to someday make the trip.  But, I will tell you the story of my little girl, who dreamed of going to Paris ever since she was 4 years old and saw “Anastasia.”  Her hopes and plans to see this distant city never waned over the years; they only grew stronger and more determined.  She felt drawn to this place of history, beauty, art, and love.  My daughter saved her money and in the Spring of 2014, her vision of herself gazing at the Eiffel Tower became a truth, a reality for her when she traveled there on a study-abroad trip with her university.  The trip of a lifetime.

 
My girlie loved her trip.  She visited Notre Dame, the Catacombs, the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Sacre-Coeur, “Love Lock” or Pont des Arts bridge, among many others her mother does not know how to spell or say.  She ate mussels, crepes, cheese, baguettes, and jam.  She was mistaken for being a little French girl and was often asked for directions from other tourists.  It was a tremendous compliment to her and she relished in it, hating to disappoint them when she spoke in an American accent, revealing she was not a native of France, but was French at heart.  This beautiful girl of mine came home more in love with France and its people than she had been before she even set foot there, which was a pretty immense love, I might mention.  She longs to go back.  The people were so generous, beautiful, and loving to her.  She saw beauty everywhere she went, and she mourned when the trip was at its close.  I know boarding that jumbo jet to come home was difficult.  She missed her family, but she never wanted to leave Paris. 
 
 
She has been busy this last week, with her student teaching, work, and a heavy school schedule.  We haven’t talked about what happened and how it made her feel, but I already know and I knew immediately.  She was the first one I knew who changed her Facebook picture to have the French flag across it.  She posted an image of the Eiffel tower and the American flag stretched out with French soldiers saluting it and showing solidarity for the United States after September 11th.  I know inside her heart is breaking.  I know she is praying, for all her French friends she made but does not know their names.  For the landmarks and places she visited.  For the people who make the crepes and the pastries.  For all those locking their love on the bridge and throwing away the keys. 
 
I don’t think I’ve ever been the same since my country of America was attacked on 9/11.  My husband and I were up for two weeks straight watching the news, reading the papers, and trying to just make sense of what had happened.  Our children were little grade-schoolers then.  I knew I could keep them safe, then.   At home.  With me.  But that is no longer true.  They are now adults.  Making grown-up plans.  Applying to graduate school.  Flying around the country on interviews.  Attending university.  Traveling on public transportation.  In large crowds.  Without me and without their dad.  Can I just say that I hate that?  I hate that I can’t keep them safe by keeping them home, making cookies and reading their favorite book to them.  We have raised them to know that they could do and be anything they desired and their dreams and plans are coming true.  What does that quote say, “a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for?”  Something like that? 
 
As a mother, I beg this world to stop it already with the hate that makes my children unsafe.  That makes every child unsafe, and every human being unsafe.  We are all children of God and He loves us all.  God hates it when we do these things to each other.  People hurting and killing and suffering.  Think how twisted it all is.  It makes no sense.  None.  My prayers are different now than they were after America was attacked.  They are a lot more intense, a lot more pleading in wanting us to have a safe and peaceful world where my children and your children, have a chance to do and be what God hopes for and needs them to do and be. 
 
In my tiny way, I thank France, all these years later for her love for America and her support after we were attacked.  I want them to know that I love them and pray for them and hope they can still find a way to be happy.  I cherish them because my daughter cherishes them.  I hope to go to Paris someday with her so she can show me all the things she wants to see again and those she still wants to see for the first time.
 
 
My little lovey locked her love for France on the bridge that day.  Not love for a boy, though there was one at home she cared about at the time.  No, she locked her love on the bridge that day for Paris, France and all its people and history.  And in a way, she locked mine too, because I love her so much, I love what she loves and care about what she cares about.  And she is the most guile-less person I have ever met in my life.  She doesn’t like contention or conflict and loves everyone. 
 
So for my precious daughter, I beg you, world, to calm down the hate.  We can’t have any more cities or people suffer.  All over the world, everywhere, people are hurting and have been hurt.  It has to stop.  And this love I feel for France through my daughter, also spills to every country and every people.  I want people to be safe and loved and have food to eat and clean water, without war and violence.  And there are places I want to go to someday, but now am afraid I will never be able to.  The world just gets more and more frightening. 
 
But, I want to feel again like I felt after 9/11.  The terrorists cannot win.  We can’t let them.  And maybe the only control we have is with our love and our determination to live our lives, anyway.  We have to go to work and school and fly to grad school interviews.  We need to go shopping and to the football games and concerts.  And church.  And we must try as hard as we can not to be afraid because that is what terror is–fear.  We must go on.  The best we can.  And be courageous and bold.   In solidarity with and for each other.  I might not be able to fight terrorism directly, but I can love indirectly and pray for my brothers and sisters around the world.  Please, God, help us be safe.  I want to see Paris someday, too. 
 
 
I love this song, “Afterlife” by Ingrid Michaelson.
It expresses how I felt after 9/11 and how I feel today, still. 
 
 
You can watch the video here:
 
#ParisAttacks
#PrayForParis 
#ILoveParis 
#France
#Paris
#EndTheHate
#StopTheTerror
#IngridMichaelson
#Afterlife
#lovethyneighbor
 
 
Permission for photos given by AKH, all copyrighted under Becoming Cream.

Hate?

Just what does it mean to hate something or someone?  I must admit I use that word a lot, but it’s in the context of, “I hate soggy bread,” or “I hate mayo.” Look at the picture of the definition.  Ill will?  The only ill will I have toward soggy bread is I don’t want it to touch my hands whilst it’s going down the disposal.  As for mayo, I don’t like the smell and I want it nowhere near my sandwich.  I still buy it for my mayo-loving family and allow it to have residence in our fridge, though, so I don’t really think it’s hate, it’s just difference of opinion.  It’s easy to use that word, though, because it’s pervasive in our culture.  
I’m in Salt Lake City, Utah for the World Congress of Families IX.  This is historical.  It’s the first and only time it has been held in the United States and it’s here, at home.  People from all over the globe have convened to learn from, connect to, share with, and teach others about the problems facing the human family.  This is a critical point in time, people.  Peggy Hartshorn of Heartbeat International said today that we are at a tipping point.  If you love Malcom Gladwell, you’re familiar with Tipping Point.  It can go one way or another, but it will go the way where there is more pressure applied, more weight.  It doesn’t even have to be a lot more, just MORE.  
The LGBT community thinks WCF is a “hate” group and are calling this a “hate” fest.  I didn’t witness one iota of hate today.  Sorry, but none at all.  NONE.  People from all over the world are here.  Beautiful, courageous people.  Every speech I heard, and I heard speeches ALL day, was filled will love and compassion, with the emphasis on the PASSION part of the word.  There is no hate here.  I was invited to lunch with women I didn’t know before and now call my friends.  I met people from all over and we exchanged cards and ideas.  Not everyone I made friends with today is of my faith.  Probably half and half.  And that’s GOOD.  It’s not hate.  Even the impassioned talks about pro-choice movements and working to ban abortion were filled with love.  Love for children who have no voice.  Love for the mothers who think abortion is their only option.  Love for the broken-hearted women whose lives abortions destroy.  No hate.  Not even for the abortionists or clinics where it happens.  In fact, John-Henry Westen taught us that “love is the answer to it all.”  If we want to get anywhere in winning the WWF (World War on Families) then we need to do it with LOVE.  
You say,”Gina, how can you win the WWF with love?” We teach people that we don’t want them to abort babies because we LOVE their babies and want them to live, that we love the women and want to help them, that we love the fathers and want them to feel important in their families.  You see, it all comes down to LOVE.  Our world has become so messed up.  The Sexual Revolution was actually a backslide into an abyss of misery.  We are still seeing, and will continue to see for decades to come, the side effects of the sexual promiscuity age.  In fact, I actually believed personally that in the 80s when the AIDS crisis was at the forefront that it might actually help people see the importance of families, of God’s law of chastity, of the sanctity of the human body.  Nope.  It did not.  Our world calls it love, but it’s really LUST.  Anyone can lust.  That is an animal instinct.  Love is a Godly bestowed gift.  There is sanctity in it.  There is safety and respect in love.  If a man and  a woman love God, and they love each other, they will want to marry each other and save intimacy for after marriage.  Then they will further honor God by making a family together.  They will even further honor God by keeping covenants or vows and remain true to each other and their children.  Their children benefit immensely from this safety net of LOVE.  Children in these homes are healthier, happier, and more resilient.  The studies prove it.  Go read them.  I don’t have time to cite them all.  It’s just the truth.    
Our church leaders have pleaded with us to be loving, respectful and civil when discussing things we have differences of opinion on.  We try.  Are we perfect?  No.  Is anyone else?  No.  Are trying to learn?  Yes.  Can we all just help each other be kind?   Go to http://www.mormon.org to learn more.  
In this definition of hate, I do not see the words “left out.”  I missed a lunch meetup with some people today.  Did that mean they hated me?  I didn’t talk to everyone today.  It doesn’t mean I hate them.  We gather in groups for reasons and sometimes it’s because we’re like-minded.  That is not hate.  No, it’s absolutely not.  But we are passionate about marriage between a man and a woman, traditional families, and religious freedom and we don’t have to apologize for that.  Elder M. Russell Ballard said today that “the most important cause of our lives is our families,” so we kind of take that seriously.   
Was I happy on the day of the recent SCOTUS ruling?  No.  For many reasons.  It doesn’t mean I hate anyone.  But, the LGBT community “won” and they still won’t let it alone.  Now they’re after religion; they want to silence every single person who disagrees with them.  We aren’t trying to silence them.  Where is the hate?  
Hate is a four-letter word being overused and blown out of proportion.  Sue me, but I hate country music.   Whoops, is that a hate crime?  I also hate un-ironed clothes.  Call the judge!  Please, people!  Let’s cool it with the “hate”-full speech.  Everyone gets to think and SAY what they want.  It’s called free speech!  So I’ll say it again.  I hate mayo.  I hate soggy bread.  I hate country music.  I hate un-ironed clothes.  Is it time to lock me up?  Sounds childish, right?  Well it does, because it is. 

Titanium

“I am Titanium!”  The lyrics played in the background at the therapy pool at TOSH the last morning I was there.  I went for pool therapy once or twice per week and did my own routine the other days.  That day was a special day in the therapy pool.  My therapy was “upgraded.”  Two hip surgeries, 12 weeks apart.  I’ve had many ups and downs, but overall I’m glad I had the surgeries.  My doctor is the very best.  My pain from before the surgery is absolutely gone.  Now it’s time to get strong.

When I arrived that day, the pool was full.  The therapy pool has lanes for swimming and deep and shallow areas.  No children.  No slides.  No waves.  The room has large windows where the sun streams in during the morning hours and large potted plants think they live in a jungle.  It’s a beautiful pool.  There were lots of elderly ladies there that morning for the arthritis class.  Every morning I went, there were many of these same people.  On this day, I was really paying attention.  Wondering.  What are their stories?  Everyone there is trying to get strong.  Maybe they’ve had surgery, like me.  Maybe recovering from an accident, or illness.  Maybe they just have a lot of pain that comes with age and they want to feel better.  Something brings them there.  Something brought me there, too.

Everyone was always so kind.  Gentle smiles and friendly greetings.  “What brings you here?  You’re so young!”  “Two hip surgeries,” I say.  “What?  Hip replacements?  You’re so young!”  Then I have to explain that I am too young to have hip replacements and I had a different kind of surgery.  I digress. On that day it really hit me hard just how beautiful these people are.  Fragile, sweet people. Lined faces with bodies that are failing them.

There was a time that I dreaded aging, hated the thought of getting older, and having my body fail me.  I’m over it.  I’m 50 now.  I no longer care about trying to look like I’m 30.  I’m not, so why would I want to?  Fifty is a really good number.  I look pretty good for 50, so I’ll be happy with that, but it’s about so much more.  It’s about what’s inside.  It’s about where this body has taken me, what it has done for me, what it continues to do for me, and where I hope it will take me still.

This is a telestial world.  I don’t want a telestial body.  My goal is a celestial body in celestial glory, in Heaven with my family and God.  How can I be worthy of a celestial body then if I’m obsessed with a telestial body now?  My belief is that God gave me this body to learn His will and do it; to have and raise a family; to serve others, and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Am I wearing my body out in service to the Lord and others?  Or am I worshipping myself and my body through telestial means or “worldly” ways?   I do believe in putting my best foot forward each day, being clean and well groomed, and well dressed, having good manners and propriety.  But it changes to something else when I worry about my hair or my shoes or my last-year’s coat.  When I start to feel the temptation to “do something about” one of those little problem areas.  No, I want a celestial body, not a telestial one.

I’ll tell you who has a celestial body.  My husband’s mother.  She is 90 years old.  She is beautiful. Not in the way that would ever grace the cover of a magazine.  No, much more important than that. She is gloriously beautiful in the way her crippled and twisted hands show a life of constant service, of playing the violin well into old age, of continuing even to this day to write at the computer and produce her first and second novels; her lined face and thin body too fragile on most days to do much more than a walk around the care center to do her visiting teaching; eyes that are starting to no longer see, but still shine brightly when she sees her family; a head of white hair that is so thick and wavy, I could only dream of having hair like that; a sense of humor and wit so keen and quick you would scarcely believe she is 90.  Does she primp and fuss?  No way.  She doesn’t have time.  She’s clean and well groomed, smart in her classic style of dressing with a necklace or two about her neck.  She has more important things to do than worship herself and worry about her looks.  She knows her time is running out and she has things to do.  Testimony to bear.  Souls to lift.  Hearts to gladden.  Wisdom to share.  People to love. 

So I think of the words in that song.  “I am titanium.”  And I feel like that.  Some people don’t like my views on things.  That’s okay.  I probably don’t like their views on things.  It doesn’t mean we can’t be kind to one another.  I wonder how people younger than me will treat people of my generation when we are older, like the sweet ladies in the pool; however, I’m not optimistic.  So many younger women seem to already have lost respect for people older than them.  And I’m not that much older.  Not too long ago, a younger woman criticized my dress at church.  Really.  And there was no reason.  It’s modest, it’s a classic; it is a beautiful dress that I’ve had forever.  If she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t need to say anything.  There are things she does that I might not approve of, but I don’t judge her and I certainly don’t say anything to her.  What is missing? 

I think the problem is the self-centered culture we live in now and numerous people have purchased it with their souls, but so many younger people, who don’t really remember what the world was like when it was better without so much technology, have jumped head first into a very shallow pool.  Shallow is the operative word here.  Shallow values and priorities.  Missing respect and propriety.  Absent of class and maturity.  Too self-absorbed.  Too concerned with keeping up with their friends, even if doing it dishonestly.  All for their Instagram feed and ‘friends’ they have never met and will never really know.  My husband said to me the other day, “be glad you’re not in your 30s.”  And I really am.  Would I go back?  No way.  No way!  And to the younger people, all I can say is, enjoy things now, because this is all coming down the pike for you, too. 

 
My 4-year-old niece spent the day with me today.  It was really wonderful day.  We played dolls and Lego.  We painted pictures and created fresh works of art.  We took a ride for lunch and a treat and went to the art store.  We bought candy necklaces.  While we were painting, she asked me, “Gina, how old are you?”  I asked her how old she thought I was, reminding her that on my birthday last year she helped me open all the presents and it was a lot, so that should help her remember, since it was a joke to see if I could really open 50 presents.  She thought about it and said, “hmmm, 20?” 

“No, honey, I’m 50.”  She replied in excitement, “you are?!  That’s so great!”  I told her, “yes, darling, I am 50 and it was my very favorite birthday.” 

It’s true.  I’m 50 and I’ll be 51 before Christmas, which is tremendous because now I’ll be IN my fifties.  I am looking forward with great optimism to the future of what will unfold for my children, for my husband and me, and even for this body of mine.  It can do so much!  And my brain, it still works!  I can still do everything I enjoy most and the physical things will improve as my hips get stronger.  I’m sure of it.  However, the most important things are my spirit and my heart.  No matter how tattered and worn out this body gets, and it’s bound to, nothing can kill my spirit.   “I Am Titanium!” 

Happiness is……Easter

 

When I was about 7 years old, my great-grandpa died.  It was the first time I went to a viewing or a funeral.  I remember being worried about what the casket would look like and what my grandpa would look like.  I remember being frightened.  I had a vision in my head that the coffin looked like the one in Snow White, with a glass top and flowers all around it.  When I went to the viewing with my family, I became distressed because it didn’t look like a Walt Disney scene.  I was afraid and didn’t like the smell of all the flowers.

When I was 9, my little school and church friend, Troy, died of a brain aneurysm.  We were in third grade and sat together.  We walked to primary together after school.  We liked to do art together and for a boy, I thought he was nice.  He didn’t try to pull up girls’ dresses at recess like some of the other boys.  We were good little buddies.  I remember the night he died.  I remember him saying he had a headache.  That night Troy became seriously ill.  They didn’t know what was wrong until it was too late.  It was really difficult for me to understand that my little friend had died.  I remember all the primary children singing at his funeral.  It was so frightening to see someone so young, like me, so still and so asleep.  Then I remember going to school after that and Troy’s chair was forever empty.  His crayons were still there, and the paste that we liked to dry up in the front corner of the cubby desk so we could make things out of it, was still there.   It was a long time before I didn’t cry myself to sleep about losing Troy.  And even longer still before I didn’t panic every time I got a headache.

When I was 12, my Grandpa died.  He had a bad heart and needed open-heart surgery.  My parents dropped my sisters and brother and me off at my other grandparents’ house, on their way downtown to be at the hospital.  I remember it was awfully late at night and still they had not come to get us and take us home.  My grandmother lovingly tucked us into the big bed in the guest room together to go to sleep for the night.  Then, in the early hours of the next morning, while we were sound asleep, my parents had come to take us home.  Just like it was yesterday, I remember my dad waking me up.  He said, “it’s time to go home; grandpa’s dead.”   He had died on the operating table and they couldn’t get his heart beating again.  I had visited the hospital before his surgery and I still remember him giving me a big hug and kiss and telling me he loved me.  I remember crying so hard at his funeral, I couldn’t get myself together.  Sitting there in my red Christmas dress that my grandma had sewn for me.  I stared at the coffin and stared harder at the grave.  I felt my heart leap out of my chest when they lowered his coffin down into the ground.  It was grief, truly felt for the first time.  I hated it.  I wanted him back.  After he died, I slept on the floor of my parents’ room for a few nights, afraid that his spirit was somehow roaming the halls of our house.

Yesterday, a very close and dear friend of mine passed away after a long and painful battle with cancer.  Joan was a rock star.  She was beautiful, clever, funny, genuine, loyal, and happy.  We went through a lot together.  She was a true and loving friend.  It is hard to think that we will not be having our long talks or our trips for onion rings and lime rickies; that I can’t just text her a funny joke and have her respond with a joke back in return; that we won’t get to be old ladies together, wearing knee-hi nylon stockings showing out of our church dresses; that I won’t get to hear her talk of her love of family and of God that inspired me so.  I’m sad that she suffered the way that she did.  I’m sad her time on this earth was short instead of long.  I’m sad for her husband and children who adore her.  But, it’s Easter tomorrow and because of what happened on the very first Easter, I am happy for my friend.

Easter is my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving is 2nd).  I love it because it’s quiet and not usually commercialized.  It’s spring time and the flowers are coming up out of the ground.  The trees are blossoming and leafing out.  The birds are building new nests and little calves and colts and lambs are being born.  Easter happens in the spring, when we are taught in such magnificent ways about a new beginning, a second chance.  Easter is most important because of Jesus Christ.  Our Savior suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and paid the price for all human suffering and sin.  My suffering and sin, and your suffering and sin.  My heartaches and hurts, and yours.  My sadness and disease, and yours.  My wounds at the hands of other people, and yours.  Every possible pain, sorrow, ailment, loss, wound, fear, error, mistake, and sin were truly and actually felt by Jesus Christ that day.  He bled at every pore, the pain was so horrific.  He did this because he loves us.  Because we cannot make it back to Heaven to live with God if we are not clean and whole.  We needed a mediator, a partner with greater strength, to help us bridge the gap between ourselves and our mortal weakness and our God.  Christ did this for us.  Then, after being weakened in the garden, he was taken to the cross where he was crucified for saying he was God’s Son.  He could have saved himself, but he didn’t want to fail you and me.  He refused to let us down.  He endured to the end.  He completed his mission.  He died on the cross, for me, for you, for all of humankind.  Then, he was buried in a borrowed tomb.  When Mary went back to find him, to properly care for his body, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.  She wept and cried, but Jesus greeted her and she recognized him.  He had risen from the dead and had been resurrected.  His body and his spirit together again, forever.  Now completely perfect.  He showed Mary his wounds in his hands and feet so she knew that it was really him.  She ran to tell his disciples and others.  What a glorious day that was!

I am so happy that I have this knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I am so profoundly grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me and you, and all of us, so much that he allowed his only begotten son, to come to earth and do what he did for us.  This is because God wants us to return to live with him again and he knows we cannot do it alone.  Jesus knew we needed a savior and so he stepped forward and became that for us.  How I love them both for this tremendous sacrifice.  Because of Jesus, if I repent of my mistakes, I can be forgiven and clean, able to be worthy to live with God again.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, it is now a gift that every person will receive, that we too will be resurrected.  Death really has no final word.  We will live again.  Death is not the end!  We will see our family and friends again!  I will see my dear friend, Joan again.  And my little friend, Troy, and Grandpa.  It will be glorious!  While I am sad at being separated from my friend, I am so very happy for her!  She is free from her pain.  She is in the arms of family and friends, and she is in the safe arms of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you feel helpless or lonely, sad or rejected; if you are sick or in pain; if you are tired and weary; if you have burdens of sin that make it hard to face yourself each day, take heart!  This is what Jesus Christ can do for you.  He can take away your pain.  He can bring peace to your mind and heart.  He can heal you from any wound.  He can forgive you of your mistakes.  HE LOVES YOU!  He did this for you!  Easter is for you!  and me!  and we!  The greatest gift the world will ever know is that of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am no longer afraid of death.  I know it is part of life and it will come to all of us eventually.  I know I will live again and be with my family and friends.  I know God is real and that Jesus Christ really lives, today!  What I do fear is not living my life well.  I’m afraid of wasting my life and choices on worldly things instead of focusing on the eternal perspective.  I’m afraid of not seeing myself and others the way God sees me and others.  I want to align my will with God’s.  I want to be more brave.  I want to be more happy.  I want to have more peace.  I want to do what’s right.  I am more afraid of not really living than I am of dying.

Easter is real.  Jesus Christ is alive today.  We have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to return safely home to him.  Our families and marriages can be forever.  All because of Easter—because of Jesus Christ.

Happiness is……Easter

When I was about 7 years old, my great-grandpa Nelson died.  It was the first time I went to a viewing or a funeral.  I remember being worried about what the casket would look like and what my grandpa would look like.  I remember being frightened.  I had a vision in my head that the coffin looked like the one in Snow White, with a glass top and flowers all around it.  When I went to the viewing with my family, I became distressed because it didn’t look like a Walt Disney scene.  I was afraid and didn’t like the smell of all the flowers. 

When I was 9, my little school and church friend, Troy, died of a brain aneurysm.  We were in third grade and sat together.  We walked to primary together after school.  We liked to do art together and for a boy, I thought he was nice.  He didn’t try to pull up girls’ dresses at recess like some of the other boys.  We were good little buddies.  I remember the night he died.  I remember him saying he had a headache.  That night Troy became seriously ill.  They didn’t know what was wrong until it was too late.  It was really difficult for me to understand that my little friend had died.  I remember all the primary children singing at his funeral.  It was so frightening to see someone so young, like me, so still and so asleep.  Then I remember going to school after that and Troy’s chair was forever empty.  His crayons were still there, and the paste that we liked to dry up in the front corner of the cubby desk so we could make things out of it, was still there.   It was a long time before I didn’t cry myself to sleep about losing Troy.  And even longer still before I didn’t panic every time I got a headache.

When I was 12, my Grandpa died.  He had a bad heart and needed open-heart surgery.  My parents dropped my sisters and brother and me off at my other grandparents’ house, on their way downtown to be at the hospital.  I remember it was awfully late at night and still they had not come to get us and take us home.  My grandmother lovingly tucked us into the big bed in the guest room together to go to sleep for the night.  Then, in the early hours of the next morning, while we were sound asleep, my parents had come to take us home.  Just like it was yesterday, I remember my dad waking me up.  He said, “it’s time to go home; grandpa’s dead.”   He had died on the operating table and they couldn’t get his heart beating again.  I had visited the hospital before his surgery and I still remember him giving me a big hug and kiss and telling me he loved me.  I remember crying so hard at his funeral, I couldn’t get myself together.  Sitting there in my red Christmas dress that my grandma had sewn for me.  I stared at the coffin and stared harder at the grave.  I felt my heart leap out of my chest when they lowered his coffin down into the ground.  It was grief, truly felt for the first time.  I hated it.  I wanted him back.  After he died, I slept on the floor of my parents’ room for a few nights, afraid that his spirit was somehow roaming the halls of our house. 

Yesterday, a very close and dear friend of mine passed away after a long and painful battle with cancer.  Joan was a rock star.  She was beautiful, clever, funny, genuine, loyal, and happy.  We went through a lot together.  She was a true and loving friend.  It is hard to think that we will not be having our long talks or our trips for onion rings and lime rickies; that I can’t just text her a funny joke and have her respond with a joke back in return; that we won’t get to be old ladies together, wearing knee-hi nylon stockings showing out of our church dresses; that I won’t get to hear her talk of her love of family and of God that inspired me so.  I’m sad that she suffered the way that she did.  I’m sad her time on this earth was short instead of long.  I’m sad for her husband and children who adore her.  But, it’s Easter tomorrow and because of what happened on the very first Easter, I am happy for my friend.

Easter is my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving is 2nd).  I love it because it’s quiet and not usually commercialized.  It’s spring time and the flowers are coming up out of the ground.  The trees are blossoming and leafing out.  The birds are building new nests and little calves and colts and lambs are being born.  Easter happens in the spring, when we are taught in such magnificent ways about a new beginning, a second chance.  Easter is most important because of Jesus Christ.  Our Savior suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and paid the price for all human suffering and sin.  My suffering and sin, and your suffering and sin.  My heartaches and hurts, and yours.  My sadness and disease, and yours.  My wounds at the hands of other people, and yours.  Every possible pain, sorrow, ailment, loss, wound, fear, error, mistake, and sin were truly and actually felt by Jesus Christ that day.  He bled at every pore, the pain was so horrific.  He did this because he loves us.  Because we cannot make it back to Heaven to live with God if we are not clean and whole.  We needed a mediator, a partner with greater strength, to help us bridge the gap between ourselves and our mortal weakness and our God.  Christ did this for us.  Then, after being weakened in the garden, he was taken to the cross where he was crucified for saying he was God’s Son.  He could have saved himself, but he didn’t want to fail you and me.  He refused to let us down.  He endured to the end.  He completed his mission.  He died on the cross, for me, for you, for all of humankind.  Then, he was buried in a borrowed tomb.  When Mary went back to find him, to properly care for his body, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.  She wept and cried, but Jesus greeted her and she recognized him.  He had risen from the dead and had been resurrected.  His body and his spirit together again, forever.  Now completely perfect.  He showed Mary his wounds in his hands and feet so she knew that it was really him.  She ran to tell his disciples and others.  What a glorious day that was!

I am so happy that I have this knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I am so profoundly grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me and you, and all of us, so much that he allowed his only begotten son, to come to earth and do what he did for us.  This is because God wants us to return to live with him again and he knows we cannot do it alone.  Jesus knew we needed a savior and so he stepped forward and became that for us.  How I love them both for this tremendous sacrifice.  Because of Jesus, if I repent of my mistakes, I can be forgiven and clean, able to be worthy to live with God again.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, it is now a gift that every person will receive, that we too will be resurrected.  Death really has no final word.  We will live again.  Death is not the end!  We will see our family and friends again!  I will see my dear friend, Joan again.  And my little friend, Troy, and Grandpa.  It will be glorious!  While I am sad at being separated from my friend, I am so very happy for her!  She is free from her pain.  She is in the arms of family and friends, and she is in the safe arms of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

If you feel helpless or lonely, sad or rejected; if you are sick or in pain; if you are tired and weary; if you have burdens of sin that make it hard to face yourself each day, take heart!  This is what Jesus Christ can do for you.  He can take away your pain.  He can bring peace to your mind and heart.  He can heal you from any wound.  He can forgive you of your mistakes.  HE LOVES YOU!  He did this for you!  Easter is for you!  and me!  and we!  The greatest gift the world will ever know is that of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

I am no longer afraid of death.  I know it is part of life and it will come to all of us eventually.  I know I will live again and be with my family and friends.  I know God is real and that Jesus Christ really lives, today!  What I do fear is not living my life well.  I’m afraid of wasting my life and choices on worldly things instead of focusing on the eternal perspective.  I’m afraid of not seeing myself and others the way God sees me and others.  I want to align my will with God’s.  I want to be more brave.  I want to be more happy.  I want to have more peace.  I want to do what’s right.  I am more afraid of not really living than I am of dying. 

Easter is real.  Jesus Christ is alive today.  We have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to return safely home to him.  Our families and marriages can be forever.  All because of Easter—because of Jesus Christ.