Friday, March 6, 2015

blast from the past

I found this post in my drafts folder. Cute and funny.

I’m having a hard time lately, putting things into words that I would be satisfied to share with everyone. Putting something on Facebook or my blog leaves so much open to criticism, and the experiences I’ve had with Chris lately, and even more so the feelings I’ve had that go along with them, seem just too, well, sacred, to leave them open to that.

I knew I loved Chris in October of last year, in part because in romantic relationships, I give whether I really want to or not. Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that I had some kind of moral obligation to be in love, whether or not that was a rational, healthy thing to do. So it’s been a new experience to love someone who actually loves me back, who invites thought-out behavior and healthy patterns. I keep talking about how this makes sense in my mind and in my heart, because that’s something I haven’t had before. I’ve had several experiences where my head was perpetually anxious about what my heart had gotten into. I’m much less at odds with myself this time, although there are still some elements of that. I think that’s normal though – that’s real life, the subjection of the natural man to the Spirit.

I went to the temple today, and participated in an endowment session. All through it, I kept thinking about how Eve was a follower, and there’s a rightness and a nobility to that. That led me to conclude, as prompted by the Spirit, that I ought to let Chris lead, and give him the space to do so. I think in a month and a half from now, we will be rather better prepared to take marriage out of hypotheticals and really figure out the logistics of it. We’ll be prepared to handle that much commitment. For now though, looking at places to live in Indiana feels a little awkward and premature, and when people ask, we tell people that Chris is leaving for Indiana and I am staying here. That’s still the plan right now, as little we like it, simply because we’re not emotionally prepared to admit to any other course of action.

I think being on the brink of engagement is just an awkward place to be in a relationship regardless, because technically, as things stand in the present moment, there’s nothing more serious going on than a simple dating relationship. But your future could be so much more than that, if you decide in some not-so-long-from-now conversation that you’re going to tie your loyalty to that one person. It makes me understand better why people use the passage in Ruth for wedding vows. Regardless of the practicality of independence, it’s no longer the code by which you operate. You spend the rest of your life reminding yourself to function as a single unit with another person who clearly has their own brain and agency and history. Daunting and rewarding, and somehow fun as a combination of the two.

I love the concept of marriage, but the practice is one I have to psych myself up for. I think Chris would say the same thing…I think he’s trying to get excited about the idea of being married, since (if I understand correctly) the idea of having me around all the time is already appealing.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

a longsuffering God

Acts 14 was another moment of admiring Heavenly Father for His longsuffering in the face of wickedness. Paul and Barnabas go into Greece and preach, but the unbelieving Jews there undermine their efforts to spread the gospel.
So they stay there a long time. Still boldly testifying, still performing miracles, still working so that as many people as want to learn have the opportunity.
There's such an element of nonjudgemental-ness here. Paul and Barnabas make no assumptions about the general wickedness of the people. They see that it is a place divided, and intend to garner as many converts as they can regardless. It would have been so easy to just shake the dust off of their feet and move on (they've done it before!) but it seems to me that Heavenly Father recognized that these were people there who earnestly sought joy, and who demonstrated gratitude for the blessings they received (even if the demonstrations are a little misguided...they try to sacrifice animals to Paul and Barnabas, after all.)
To me that says that Heavenly Father is willing to work with my imperfections. He doesn't ask me to get rid of them all at once, and doesn't dismiss me on account of them. He sends messengers -- the Spirit, the scriptures, prophets and apostles, inspired friends -- to keep teaching me, because He recognizes that I have much good to give, right now, even as He urges me to repent and rely on the Savior so that I have and am even more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

being expectant

Acts 13 today.

The first thing I noticed was that the chapter again starts with the church asking for revelation from Heavenly Father and receiving it via the Holy Spirit in specific, concrete ways.

This is a recurring moment in the first several chapters of Acts, what I love about it is the sense of expectation the saints have. These prayers are not wishy-washy hopes or idle wishes or even the obligatory request from jaded souls. These are moments of humility that are also full of promise, because they are sure that their God has something to say to them, and that He will say it if they listen -- and one step further, that they will do something about it once He does.

It made me wonder...what guidance would I receive if I wasn't so convinced that I would be ignored or criticized? What direction would I gain if I mustered the courage to hear and act on what was told to me?

The next thing I noticed was that later in the chapter, when he is teaching in the synagogue, Paul identifies a pattern in Heavenly Father's dealings with His children:

-Slaves in Egypt, delivered in a miraculous way

-Disobedient wandering in the wilderness, inherited the promised land

-Whining and clamoring about the government, God chooses David

Then Paul goes on to say, in essence, "Guys, you KNOW God. You know He fills His promises, you KNOW He forgives His people if they repent and humble themselves before Him. It really shouldn't surprise you when I say He's done it again." And then Paul testifies of Christ and His divine mission to bring mercy and incorruption and forgiveness to the world.

And it just struck me how loving Heavenly Father is. He knows exactly how screwy His children can be. No matter how much my perfectionist and outward-appearances tendencies say otherwise, there is no hiding our deeply flawed and tragically incomplete selves from Him. And yet...Heavenly Father, knowing that, provided a purifier and a completer, 'the author and finisher of our faith," Jesus Christ.

In short, Heavenly Father still gives gifts to our incredibly indebted selves.

That means we can rejoice, not because we are independent, but because we are dependent on something, Someone, that will never, NEVER fail us.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

miraculous escapes and angel thwacking

I read Acts 12 today, where Peter is miraculously freed from prison. I love finding funny moments in the scriptures, because while it's telling about life of apostles 2000+ years ago, it's still LIFE. For example, in this chapter, Peter thinks he's seeing a vision of an angel freeing him from prison (including the angel thwacking him in the ribs!) But then, once he is completely safe and the angel disappears, Peter realizes...he...was...awake...the whole time. It made me giggle.

Because this was the part of the chapter that stuck out the most to me, I pondered it some more to see if I could perceive more spiritual significance from this moment of Peter's. So here's my thoughts to that effect:

When we're enduring hard things, sometimes we don't recognize blessings as being a part of our reality. Sometimes we forget that we can count on Christ for deliverance and healing from ALL things. Our escape from hardship and trial may not be so very miraculous and clear-cut as Peter's escape out of prison, but we can still find haven in the peace we feel from obedience and tender mercies intended to remind us how much Heavenly Father cares.

And, like Peter, our next steps might still be fraught with their own dangers. He got to spend very little time with the local church before he had to move on for his safety (and theirs, I imagine.) He was still going to be a wanted man, and still going to preach to as many people as would listen.

I think I often hope for these miraculous, sudden escapes without understanding and accepting that it's another challenge and another work and sometimes even another "prison" that I will escape to. But I do know that Heavenly Father prizes my enthusiasm and that as I rely on Him with grace and humility, I can treasure the joy of this life He has given me and find peace even if I am hoping an angel will whack me awake and tell me to get moving.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

admiring Christ

My most meaningful devotional moment in the last couple of days has been couple study with Awesome Husband. We were reading this talk, and a particular line stood out to me:

"[I would like to share]... a quote written in 1908 by Charles Edward Jefferson on the character of Jesus Christ. It reads:

"'To be a Christian is to admire Jesus so sincerely and so fervently that the whole life goes out to him in an aspiration to be like him.'"

That took me by surprise. I love Christ, I am grateful to Him, I worship Him. But do I admire Him?

Admiration is a pretty normal frame of mind in my life...I have amazing, talented, giving friends who I love to observe and emulate, whether they are writers, wives or disciples. My thoughts about them are, "wow, that is AWESOME! I want to do that TOO!"

But do I often think that way about Christ? I don't think it's occurred to me. I've struggled reading the New Testament because so much of it has seemed to be directed to someone else, and I'm just along for the ride. After reading this quote, I want to read specifically looking for the admirable qualities of my Savior, and trying the thought "wow, that is AWESOME! I want to do that TOO!" on for size when I read the accounts of His forgiveness, kindness, and purity. Because He IS awesome. And I DO want to be like Him, too.

Friday, January 2, 2015

breaks and buzzes

After a long day at work, moving and unpacking boxes in our new office, I came home a little early and asked Chris if we could hit the grocery store.

"Don't you want to take a break?" he said.

"A break?" I looked around. We just cleaned the apartment. The dishes are reasonably tamed. Dinner will take mere minutes. "Huh. I guess I could."

So just like that, Chris went to the grocery store by himself, leaving me here to put my feet up and write another 500 words on the latest draft of my manuscript and revel in the tidy, quiet, peaceful home we've created.

That by itself would have been a gift, but the fact that he's picking up things at the store that were mostly for me just makes it even better.

We have an app on our phones that allows us to share lists, so every time he checks off something from the grocery list, my phone buzzes.

And every time my phone buzzes, I am reminded of just how lucky I am.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas 2014

Chris and I have been hard at work to get into the Christmas spirit this month.

And, because we don't have kids and all of our near-and-dear friends live far away, it can be just that: work.

Mostly it's the work of be excited, to get the things done that we intended to. We've discovered a couple of things, like how neither of us actually likes The Nightmare Before Christmas, and both of us feel like a tree without lights is pretty pointless. We've started a couple of traditions, like watching the Christmas devotional and decorating with homemade and gifted items.

In truth though, the most meaningful Christmas moments this year have existed entirely in my own head and heart. This year, I've been struck again and again by what Christmas is really about...and not just in the "let's put Christ in Christmas" kind of way. It's been a level deeper than that.

Do you realize who Christ is? Do you really understand His role and purpose in being born? Without Christ, there is no hope. No forgiveness. No improvement. No mercy.

But with Him...oh, the magnitude of blessings we have. Because of Him, every brokenness can be healed. Every failing can be changed. Every harsh reality of moral existence becomes nothing more than a moment to stretch and demonstrate our faith.

That little baby was the Savior. The Redeemer. The Deliverer. The Light, the Life, the Way.

He saves, redeems, delivers. Resurrects us, even, from our cold and sinful ways to the warmth and vibrancy and safety of His love.

And oh, isn't that worth celebrating?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Today was spent taking Chris to Chicago to catch a place. He'll be in San Francisco for about the next week or so, giving a couple of presentations at a big conference. He really didn't think he was going to be able to pull it off, but somehow he mustered a lot of faith and courage and sure enough, it looks like he'll get everything done that he needs to in order to have a successful presentation. I'm awfully proud of him.

Even if it means that I walked into my apartment tonight, alone.

It gave me a fresh perspective, though. As I looked around, taking in the surroundings that would be solely mine for the next week or so, I noticed just how messy things have gotten. Just clutter and disarray. Nothing too horrifying, but it's hard to find a place that isn't littered with stuff.

But you know what? That's what our life looks like these days. We are exceptionally busy, occasionally lazy, and so completely in love that a lot of evenings, it's just more important to us to sit on the couch and snuggle than it is to do the dishes.

I guess what I really see when I look around here is a lot of love. Our awesomely decorated living room, where we picked out and arranged everything together. The load of clean laundry that Chris did without me having to ask. The basil plant Chris let me get just because I wanted it.

The last days and weeks have been tremendously hectic ones, but I have to acknowledge that we have been richly blessed even as we have struggled. I will deeply miss Chris every day that he is gone, not just because I will want someone around (although that's probably true too) but because I want him around. Every day I spend with him is another day's worth of love that I have stockpiled for this delightful person that Heavenly Father gave to me. How amazing is that?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

family history

I've tried to link to information on concepts that those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might not be familiar with. If you have questions beyond what I've tried to address, please don't hesitate to ask!

I testify that Heavenly Father knows us, loves us, and has provided a way for families to be together forever. If you'd like to know a little more about a piece of my forever family, you can read the brief accounts below.


Mary Loretta Jackson is my paternal grandmother. When my dad was a single parent, my brother and I spent the summer with "Grandmom" (she hated being called "grandma"...I think it made her feel old!) so that my dad could continue to work during the day while my brother and I were out of school. I loved to sing the children's songs I learned in church, and many summer days found me singing "I am a Child of God" while I sat on the living room floor of Grandmom's apartment, playing Barbies:

I am a child of God, 
And he has sent me here, 
Has given me an earthly home 
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me to find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

Although I didn't really understand it at the time, this was strongly developmental of my grandmother's personal relationship with her Savior. My dad, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his 20s, shared the gospel with my grandmother, but it was her granddaughter's repeated action of bringing the Holy Spirit into her home that began to influence her to change her life.

When Grandmom was finally baptized, she asked me to sing "I am a Child of God" at her baptism. I am so grateful that she chose me to be a part of that and recognized the power that the Savior can have in our lives, even if it comes from a child.


My paternal grandmother was a creative person. She had more Bob Ross videos than I could comfortably count at age 9, and would often paint-by-number while I watched the progression of black and white outlines to full-color birds and animals with awe. My childhood was filled with elaborate, beautiful crocheted doll's dresses and carefully coordinated and sewn casual outfits which she had given me for Christmases and birthdays.
Perhaps one of her most enduring creative legacies, however, exists in the form of a poem. (If my dad knows where his copy is, I'll try to post it later!)
This poem is based on a particular experience she had, before she had even really considered joining the church. I hope to relay it accurately, but my retelling is based on cobwebbed childhood memory and therefore a little creative license of my own can be anticipated.
It was a rainy night, common to San Diego winters. My grandmother drove down the freeway, harrowed up by the anxieties and struggles she faced. As she drove, she began to pray, reluctantly at first, but with increasing earnestness as she took full stock of her life. Things seemed hopeless and she felt increasingly aware of how trapped she felt by her circumstances and personal weaknesses. In this dire moment of self-doubt and spiritual exhaustion, she cried out for help to the Lord. 

She drove her car around a bend in the road...and there was the temple.

The San Diego temple shone in its full splendor through the rainy, dismal night and my grandmother's tears. Light radiated from it in a holy proclamation of peace and majesty, and that holiness washed over my grandmother's heart. Tears fell anew as the Spirit bore personal witness to her that her prayers were heard, that her sacrifices and efforts were accepted, and that her Creator, her Heavenly Father, loved her with all of His infinite heart.
Grandmom's decision to put this experience into words influenced my own desire to become a writer, and her commitment to creating beauty to share with others inspires me to do the same. Most of all, however, I am strengthened by her testimony that Heavenly Father is aware of us, even in our darkest moments, and provides all of the promise and peace of the holy temple to bring us joy and light forever.


When my dad was a single parent, my grandmother was a strong influence in the life of my brother and I. Simply put, Dad needed the help, and Grandmom stepped up to the challenge of caring for the children of her children when she was needed.

Although she may not have realized it at the time, the most enduring aid she gave to me was allowing me to witness and participate in her conversion. My grandmother loved the temple, and the Primary songs I would sing to myself as I visited her. However, with all of the ways that the truths of the gospel resonated in her heart, she still struggled with the Word of Wisdom.

I remember a particular week when she had not been very successful in avoiding her addiction to coffee and cigarettes. She felt so weak, and the discouragement and disappointment she felt in herself hung like a heavy burden on her shoulders. That week in sacrament meeting, we could tell that she wondered why she was even trying.

During one of the songs in that meeting, I heard a sniffle. I glanced over to find my grandmother weeping, as her gravelly, tobacco-damaged voice sang:

I marvel that [Jesus] would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me 
Enough to die for me.
Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me.

She was reminded, before my very eyes, that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins, that we are blessed for every attempt we make to walk uprightly before God, and we are forgiven for each and every stumble.

Even almost 20 years later, this song still touches my heart and makes me think of my grandmother and her humble testimony. I, too, am amazed by the love that our Savior has for each of us, and with Grandmom, I testify that we can be free from every sin, addiction and weakness through His Atonement. And that is wonderful to me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

my amazing husband

My husband is on an absolute roll these days.

Before my new job, I've been the one responsible for housework and errands and things, mostly so that Chris could focus on school. After a couple of evenings lately when I was flipping out about how busy my life is, Chris sat me down. "I think you might be just as busy as I am, if not busier. You need to let me help."

We were very worried about what this transition was going to look like in our family. Was it going to cause fights if Chris didn't get around to what I'd asked him to do? Was I really going to make a new habit of asking for help? Were we going to be able to prioritize our very busy lives sufficiently?

We're at the beginning of my third week working, and it's been an impressive success so far. Mostly though, I'm impressed with my husband.

In the middle of a work project when I ask for help with dinner? "Be right there."

Being asked to do one of his least favorite chores? "Just do the first part to get me going, and I will do the rest."

Given a bigger job than he was hoping to be given? Does even more than requested, and when I ask about it, responds, "Well, it was dirty."

Stuck on the couch because his very tired wife just wants to snuggle? "You take a break. Can I tell you about my work project?"

Surrounded by clutter because we just haven't gotten around to it? "I'm sorry, I need to do better at checking our chore chart. We'll get it done, though. I really do want to help."

I am so impressed by Chris' humility, generosity, and work ethic. It seems that no matter how much Chris struggles with anything else, I really am his top priority. That blows my mind. With weeks like this one, I just can't imagine why he would ever doubt himself or whether or not the Lord is pleased with him.

I'm so blessed, guys. My husband is such a powerful example of goodness to me -- and that's not just with helping me around the house, either. In the last couple of months, we have made a friend through the missionaries. Frankly, our friend has needed a lot of help because her life is in such a huge transition, but I haven't heard Chris complain about it once. In fact, he's the one who baptized her this weekend.

I really do have the husband I always wanted, but never quite believed I would get. And I'm convinced that I'm able to recognize this because I've been diligently reading my scriptures lately. Because of the scriptures, I can see the truth:

He really is amazing.