Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Offer... even that of a Broken Heart..."

Yesterday, I received my weekly email from my missionary son. 

He wrote -- "....this week i have thought about something hermana Ailine Kinikini said to me in a short email. she said ¨When PREPARED is met with WILLING the Lord can bring mircals¨ this week i have seen the truth and the power in these words. earlier this week my trainer called me heartless... hahaha. although he said it in a joking tone i could see a little bit of seriousness in the way he said it. he was talking about his family and his girl and how much he cried and all that when he left home and then asked me how badly cried when i left. i said i didnt and then he asked okay how many times did you cry in the MTC again i said i didnt. (not saying i dont miss you guys but i just dont feel like crying. haha.) then he asked if i have cried since being here i said no so he asked if i even miss my family i answered yes but i still would rather be here than home. and then he screamed HEARTLESS!!! and tried to smile and laugh it off. but i could tell he was a litle bit serious. haha. anyways the reason i bring this up is because after he said that i strated thinking if i was or not and then i thought about the words that Ailine shared with me. ¨when prepared is met with willing the lord can bring to pass mircals.¨ and i thought about the meaning behind it. in order to prepare for something we first need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get ready for what is to come. if we are not willing then the Lord cannot prepare us. the lord truly prepared me for this work because i was first willing to change. but in order to continue to change we need to continue to be willing to. when i arrived in this country i decided not to let anything in this country bother me. i said to myself not matter what happens you dont let anything or anyone affect who you are. in a way that is a good thing. but i see now that as i have made the decision to not change for the bad it has also stopped my growth for the good. it reminded me of something you said to me in an earlier email. in order to grow fast we must break. but in order to break we must be willing to. like i said when i got to this country i decided i woundnt break not for anything. but i have seen and come to realize that the lord givs us trials to break so that we can then grow. if we are unwilling to break then we are unwilling to learn. and the preparation for what is to come stops there. and then the lord can no longer prepare us because we are no longer willing to let him. mom this week i have found that i need to be broken. like you said this is not a competition. but i am now ready again to change and change for the better. i am willing to let the lord prepare me so that i can change for the better." --Elder Moses Kinikini 

As I read my son's email, I was reminded of the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 59:8, "Offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and contrite spirit." It is the scripture I use as the theme and name of this blog. It is also one of my favorite scriptures.

Additionally, as I read my son's email, my mind immediately turned to a neglected little space I have had on the world wide web. Back in the day, I had started this blog to record and share lessons I had learned in life. Specifically, I had hoped that through the lessons I had learned and the thoughts I chose to share, my testimony of a Savior I had come to love would be evident. 

Unfortunately, my efforts have been weak. This is not to suggest that I have not had lessons to share nor that my testimony of the Savior has waned. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. I have simply not taken the time to share and post my lessons or my thoughts like I had wanted to. And lately it has left me feeling a little... well... broken.

So I am renewing my efforts to try to be a little better, to change, to grow. The world wide web has been used for so many things... and here, I get an opportunity to use it promote good, to uplift, to testify and hopefully to edify. Therefore, I will follow the example of a young man I know, serving the Lord somewhere in the Dominican Republic. A young man who is serving the Lord by sharing his testimony, his thoughts, and lessons learned about the Savior Jesus Christ. 

I, too, have a testimony of Him. I know that He lives and that He loves each and every one of us. I also know that He desires nothing greater than for all of us to be able to live together eternally. He will do His part, and we must do ours. This life is an opportunity for us to prepare ourselves to reach that celestial goal. Many have shared snippets of that journey through this life on the web, and I am choosing to join that effort. I do not have a lot to offer the Savior. But I do know that if I so choose, I can offer Him the only things that are truly mine to give... my heart and my spirit... even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit

Have a blessed day, y'all!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mornings Were Made for Man

I should clarify here that I am NOT a morning person... and so to post something that suggests that mornings are made for man seems crazy. Yet, I have often found that those things that are most beneficial for man are not usually the things they want to consume (like vegetables). And mornings just happens to be one of those things. It is a lesson I learned some months ago... and one that has changed my paradigms about mornings.

Some months ago, I was finding myself starved for inspiration. My time was filled meeting the needs of children, husband, home and church and although I was happy to do this, I could feel that my balance was off. I had no time for myself... time I could feel both my body and my spirit needed. I was feeling discouraged, uninspired and bordering on depression. I found myself dawdling in bed in the mornings, taking long showers, huddling in a corner with a book or retreating to a quiet room for some personal time. It was cutting into my family time and the effects were not positive.

One particular morning, I arose fairly early. (I awake pretty early in the mornings anyway--between 4 and 5am, but rather than arise, I drift back to sleep or lie in bed entertaining foolish imaginations. However, after a particularly difficult night, I decided to arise.)

From our home, we have beautiful views of the surroundings. To the southeast, lies our neighboring city beneath the snow capped mountains. And to the east, majestic mountainsides immediately greet us. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by God's beautiful creations.

This is the view from my bedroom window...

Enveloped in the surrounding beauty, a few things became rather clear to me in those early morning hours.

1. I could not and should never allow myself to be starved for personal time that I take this time during family time.

2. I need to use the early morning hours for personal time.

Now, I should clarify that although I awake at 4 or 5am, I do not actually get out of bed. I am not totally thrilled with the idea of beginning my day at such an early hour. I am certainly NOT a morning person! But after reviewing my days, I realized the early morning hours offered me the best chances of getting some quiet personal time.... time to reflect, time to study, time to pray, time to be inspired and to receive personal revelation. Morning hours have been recommended before to me for personal study time... but I could never seem to make this a habit. On this particular morning, however, I committed to do so.

As I made efforts to actually arise during these early morning hours, I began to feel empowered. In my journal, I recorded the beauty of the early morning hours I often missed because I chose not to arise.

The beautiful pink hue of the sky announcing the rising sun. The majestic mountainsides covered with tufts of snow and wispy bits of cloud clinging lazily to its sides, dissipating in the warmth of the rising sun. The lights of the sleepy town below, once bright in the dark morning hours, slowly dimming, nothing more than the twinkling you find in the smooth surface of untouched snow, calm ocean waters or a beautifully cut diamond. In the warmth of my room and the quiet of my home, I not only saw the peace of the morning hours... I felt it.

With the house quiet, children still sleeping, the rooms warm and inviting, the scene outside all calm, still, and peaceful as the early morning darkness moves slowly into the light, I realized this scene begged those who are willing to enter into its domain to come and learn, come and be inspired. I also realized, it was *the only time of day where darkness actually gives way to light*.... And it suddenly seemed such a shame to waste it.

As I began to appreciate the significance of those early morning hours, I began looking for more about this time of day in my gospel study. In the account of the Creation in Genesis, I began to appreciate the 'separation of the light from the dark' being the first thing done, on the first day.

In the inspired words of the hymn "Joseph Smith's First Prayer", it is implied the sacred events of that day took place that morning and thus begins the familiar hymn: "Oh, how lovely was the *morning*!" (Hymns, no. 26)

And last, but certainly not least, after three days, it is on the "morning" of the third day, the Sabbath, that Jesus arises and is found gone.

There is much beauty to be found in mornings... not just literally, but figuratively, symbolically as well.

And although there is no specific time one need use for personal time, personal inspiration and revelation, or for personal scripture study and prayer, I can not help but make a case for mornings, even early morning hours. I am  not an early morning person myself (especially after many years of being up with little ones), but I have since claimed those hours for me... because there is something special in those morning hours that are difficult to find during any other part of the day, making it a great time to be inspired personally.
3. Use evenings for family time.

In trying to find a time and a means to inspire my family, I read something some years ago that left an impression on me. I quote what has since become one of my favorite excerpts from a book called *Leadership Education: Phases of Learning *by Oliver DeMille. He says :

"It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that in the evening we are all inspired--by something, to something. Sometimes the something is good--or not; sometimes it is planned and led by the parents to help the children--or not. Evenings are for inspiration; and we can be inspired for greatnes or otherwise. If you have struggled to inspire [your family], ..., and it just does not seem to work, look closely at your evenings. If there is something you really want to inspire, consider what evening event will best accomplish it.

"Perhaps the easiest evening inspiration is just reading a great book together as a family. This teaches and inspires on so many levels. Board games can be good, trivia or quiz games, cookouts around the campfire with singing, working in the garden together in the evening dusk, sitting around outside and waiting to count the stars together, telling stories of ancestors by the fireplace or grill, "shooting hoops" in the driveway or tossing a football on the front lawn. A variety is good over the year. But in our opinion, the evening reading of a great book is still the best because it is simply the most inspiring. ...

"The Hebrews taught that the day started not at sunrise, but at sundown each evening. Thus, the most important part of the day in the Hebrew tradition is the evening, since how you spend your evening has the most impact on your entire day. The Hebrews taught that we should start the day with making each evening wonderful. A good day will naturally follow. In the West, with our emphasis on morning and our use of the evening as entertainment, it is not surprising that we have lost touch with the inspirational, the heavenly and the eternal. Our pragmatic realism is an illness, one easily reinforced by our poor evening choices. Evenings are inspirational. Be wise about what you inspire." (Excerpt taken from *Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning*by Oliver DeMille).

Like my recent epiphany about mornings, I came to appreciate then the significance of evenings. My husband and I understood we needed to organize opportunities for familial growth, closeness and inspiration... and evenings seemed to be the best time. With Oliver DeMille's insight, it added clarity to choosing this time of day as "family time".

Of course, once a week, LDS church leaders recommend a formal "family home evening". But, we have found we could use every evening as a sort of "family home evening"--much less formal, of course, but still a "family home evening". So, as often as we could, we would read, play games, watch movies, talk, create something, sing, and make music together as a family. These activities followed seamlessly after family dinner and family work (putting food away, cleaning dishes, putting younger children into their pajamas, etc), and flowed naturally afterward into family scripture study and then family prayer.

As our children grew, evenings became busy with performances, youth activities, and friends. However, even then we would try to make it as much of a "family home evening" as we could--supporting and attending performances together or making our home a place the children would want to bring their friends. Even in youth and primary activities, we were blessed to have children of an age where there were at least always two of them that were in the same organization together; and thus a sense of family was still present as the children made way to their activities together. It was always fun to have them come back and relay the activities they enjoyed together, and have other children reminisce of their time together in the same organizations.

Recently, our evenings have been changed yet again. With Dad's new work, he is often working long into the evenings or out of town. But even then, small efforts are made simply to be together. When Dad returns from work, often tired, he still makes it a point to be present physically in the evenings, even if it means he falls asleep. Through the years, our children have gotten into the habit of being together in the evenings. And even though each family member might be doing something different, we all seem to do it in close proximity to each other physically. One child might be strumming the guitar in one corner, a couple other children may be playing card games, another child could be on the computer and still another child would be playing video games. Dad may be asleep on the couch and I may be at the table reading and writing, but again, we are all in the same room. And even though there is no organized family activity in this gathering, there are still many unseen benefits.

Before the night is over, I may look up to find my four younger children have gathered around the table to write/draw and read next to Mom, while a teenage daughter and son have taken up a seat on either side of their sleeping father to "watch" a movie together and still another teenage daughter and son have moved to a corner to collaborate on a song together. Each doing their own thing, but all in close proximity to one another, all in the same room. Through the years, we have learned, even if we are doing different things being together as a family is valued and important to us.

Another added benefit: it becomes easy to see if someone is struggling with something. If a family member is absent or chooses not to be part of this gathering, it is almost invariably because something is wrong. Sometimes, we allow those members time and space to deal with their struggle, letting them know we are here if they need us. Other times, we intervene. 

So, when I began retreating to my room for some "personal time", I should have known something was wrong....

And this brings me back to where I began. After a difficult night trying to articulate in my mind what I was struggling with, I arose early the next morning... the family room was in disarray, pieces of paper and other debris strewn across the family room and onto the connecting kitchen floor, children had fallen asleep in the family room and the dishes were piled high in the sink--the result of the previous evening. But I had been absent and therefore was not there to lead... especially where the family work was concerned.

But, as I stood there thinking while I was doing the dishes in the quiet early morning hours, looking out the picture window above the kitchen sink at the beautiful snow-covered mountains as the sun began to rise, in my mind, darkness truly gave way to light. It became clear to me what I needed to do... And after I finished the dishes, I recorded my findings, my life lesson, in my journal:

1. I could not and should never allow myself to be starved for personal time that I take this time during family time.

2. I need to use the early morning hours for personal time.

3. Use evenings for family time.

Sound familiar?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Gift of Asking Questions...

I remember as a teen and into my young adult years, I really had a phobia about asking questions. If I had to articulate why I felt that way, it would be because it made me feel stupid.

I know, I know... I have heard that adage, "There is no such thing as a stupid question." Fine. But that is certainly not how I felt. In fact, the older I got, the less and less I would ask questions. If I did feel the need to ask a question, I would always go over it in my mind.... just to make sure it was a "good" question before I "asked" it. (Remember... I had to avoid looking stupid...) Pretty shallow, I know.

Recently, though, I have come to really appreciate what a gift asking questions can be. And you know the funny thing is.... children seem to have this gift in abundance. They have a million and one questions about everything under the sun.... Actually, I take that back... they have questions about the sun and everything around and above it too. Children just seem to have this natural gift of asking questions so uninhibitedly. And I think there are great lessons to be learned from that. It reminds me of a particular life experience that happened earlier in my married life and one I recently recalled--

About 10 years ago, when my (now 19yo) son, Hailame, was about 9 years old, we were sitting down as a family for Family Home Evening. My husband was giving the lesson and as part of the lesson, he was sharing the story found in the New Testament of the sick (palsy) man who was lowered down through the roof to get to Jesus, in a home that was completely packed with people. Immediately, my then-little son began asking questions: “How did the sick man get on the roof? How did they get his bed on the roof?”

My husband answered his questions briefly and then tried to redirect his attention back to the main point of the lesson. But my son’s curiosity kept the questions coming: “How did they get the man on the bed and then down through the roof? How did they get those other men onto the roof (who helped the sick man down)?” Exasperated, my husband stopped the lesson and began chastising my son for asking, what appeared to my husband to be, insignificant questions. He went on to explain the necessity of asking "good", better questions.

Of course, my son’s feelings were hurt and needless to say our family home evening was brought to an end and the children were sent off to bed. While the children prepared for bed, my husband and I talked and agreed that an apology was in order. But I could tell my husband's heart was not completely in it. He felt it was important to ask "good" questions and the instruction he was giving his son was out of love. But he offered to apologize anyway.  

A couple weeks later, after our sacrament meeting, my husband was asked if he would take, bless and administer the sacrament to members of our ward that were confined to their homes usually due to medical reasons. We called them “shut-ins”. My husband agreed, but having no companion, he decided to take our 9yo son, Hailame.

When they returned home, later that day, my son came charging through the door. He was smiling, laughing, and talking so fast I could not understand a word he was saying. After a few minutes, I caught the phrase “I have to go and tell my sister” and then he was gone.

Hoping I could get an explanation from my husband, I watched for him as he followed our son into the house. Surprisingly, my husband’s demeanor was drastically different from what I saw in our son just moments before. My husband was very quiet... and I thought I even detected tears in his eyes. He did not say anything to me, but simply motioned for me to follow him to the family room and there he explained the following—

After he had finished blessing and administering the sacrament at the first home, he felt prompted to stay and visit a bit with this elderly member. The member was thrilled and expressed how wonderful it was to have visitors, especially young visitors from the Primary. Much of the little time they had together visiting was spent interacting with my 9yo son. Because of its success, my husband and son lingered a bit at every home they visited.

At the last home, my husband administered the sacrament to an elderly sister. As soon as she realized they would linger a bit to visit with her, she immediately began addressing my son. She talked about the many places she had traveled and at one point, she stopped and took a photo album off a nearby shelf. She asked my son, “Have you ever heard the story of the sick man that was brought through the roof to be healed by Jesus?” My husband reported, “My son looked at me and nodded his head.”  Then this sister asked, “Do you know how they were able to do that?” Looking at his dad again, my son shook his head.

Opening her album, she flipped to a set of pictures she took during a trip to the Holy Land. In the pictures, she shows my son a hillside and along this hillside, there are homes. As I understood it, because of the sloping feature of the hillside, the homes are built almost like a flight of stairs. The roof of one home could easily serve as the patio or porch of another home. Because of this, it would be easy for anyone to stand on the roof of the home just below it... and thus easy for four men to lower a sick man on a bed through the roof into a home, because the roof would be nearly flush with the front door of the home that stood above it on the hillside. In the course of just a few minutes’ visit and without even knowing it, this elderly sister answered every single question my son had posed just a few nights previous.

In the car on their way home, my husband reported, he once again apologized to this son of his. But this time the apology was much more sincere from a much more humbled father. 

Reflecting on that experience, I am touched at how easily it is for a child to ask questions and expect answers.  Somewhere along the path of life, as I get older, I lose that uninhibited ability to not only ask, but to expect answers. 

Perhaps this is why the Lord encourages us to "behold our little ones" and to "become ye even as a little child". In the scriptures, He has certainly been clear about asking questions: "Ask and ye shall receive." Short, simple and to the point. Maybe this is where I have to practice a little more faith and a lot more humility. 

If you think about it, asking questions requires a certain degree of vulnerability... and confidence. "Vulnerable" because you have to humble yourself enough to know that you need help. And "confident" because you expect there will be an answer. I know it is not coincidence that our children would have this gift down so well......

Any questions?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lessons from the Dog Whisperer...

A few days ago, I was watching an episode of "Dog Whisperer" and was surprised by what I learned... and  not just about dogs.

If you have never heard of the show "Dog Whisperer", it is about a man named Cesar Milan, who is called upon by dog owners to help them with their dogs, because of his expertise in the field.

In this particular episode, the "Dog Whisperer", Cesar Milan, is hired by a couple who run a small business of owning and training dogs to sniff out drugs and explosives on a busy port. Already, the couple owned three dogs and had recently added another three dogs to their pack. From the footage, it was apparent the dogs were well-trained to do their jobs. However, the owner's concerns were not in what the dogs were doing "on the job", but rather what they were doing "off the job".

On two different occasions, one of the newly acquired dogs--a chocolate lab--had attacked another dog from the original pack--a german shepherd. The attacks resulted in wounds serious enough that the trainers were finding they had to feed and walk the dogs individually, for fear more attacks and greater harm would be done to the dogs. Walking and feeding six dogs individually was taking up the bulk of the day, leaving little time to train. It was an inefficient way to run their business, and certainly took the joy out of training their dogs. So, they turned to the Dog Whisperer for help.

When the  Dog Whisperer arrives, the dog owners immediately begin sharing their list of concerns. Cesar interrupts at one point and says, "[So] you want a balanced pack." Both owners immediately nod with exclamations such as "yes" and "that's it".

Now, I'm not sure what a "balanced pack" means, but I did think it was interesting that Cesar would articulate what the owners desired  and not just what they were concerned about. It was the difference between being able to see the end goal and simply seeing what was immediately before them. It even made me wonder if the owners really knew what their ultimate goal was. They obviously knew what was bothering them and could express those concerns fluidly, but they could not clearly express what their end goal would look like. Perhaps, because, they had not clearly envisioned that goal for themselves.

There is something positive about this. When Cesar was listening to the owners describe their situation, all they could do was talk about the bad behaviors and the concerns they had about their dogs. Cesar listened and then summed up their negative perspective with one positive goal.

In my life, many times I get so caught up in what is before me--in dealing with the challenges and conflicts at hand--that all I care about is making those obstacles go away. If you ask me how my day is going, it would be easy for me--much like these owners--to list the concerns about what is going on in my life... all the negative stuff. It would be much more productive and motivating for me to focus, instead, on what my end goal is and truly try to envision that. It is certainly a much more positive perspective.

Returning to the show, Cesar, then, has the owners show him the dogs. The camera pans to what appears to be a warehouse located  along a busy dock. The dogs' kennels are set against a backdrop of pallets of cargo. The barking and growling of the dogs, as Cesar and his camera crew approach, is deafening. You can see the dogs jumping up and down along the sides of their kennels trying to get out, barking loudly as the sound echoes obnoxiously off the warehouse walls. Cesar observes for what seems like a moment and then points to the glaring lights overhead and the noisy port just outside the doors, located just a few feet from the dogs' kennels.

Briefly, Cesar explains to the owners, in essence, that the dogs are surrounded by a chaotic, busy, and noisy environment. Even the commands given by the owners are loud. (From footage taken earlier of the owners interacting with the dogs both on and off the job, you can see and hear the owners yelling: "Get it! Get it!... C'mon! C'mon!... That a girl!... Good girl! Good boy!... ")  Cesar explains to the camera audience "[The dogs] have a job [to do], but they do not know how to rest... [They] never learn how to find whatever [it is they are looking for] calmly."

After his observations, the Dog Whisperer goes to work. He steps into one kennel and notices a warning sign--the dog's pupils are huge with a green film around them, a sign that the dog is in fight mode. Upon further inspection, Cesar finds the same physical feature among the other dogs... definitely a sign that the dogs have not moved from their "work" mode to a "rest" mode. Before Cesar can address that issue, he must first address the anxiety and stress between the dogs.

Cesar begins by putting the two dogs, most at odds with each other--the chocolate lab and german shepherd--into the same kennel with his supervision. With some coaxing and redirecting from Cesar, the dogs  interact cordially. Shortly after, Cesar takes them for a walk., saying, "The fastest way to help two dogs that want to kill each other is to have them walk together--as simple as that." To some extent, I think that would work for people as much as it works for dogs.

He takes a short walk with the two dogs, correcting, directing and training them as they go. Then he comes back and adds a third dog to the pack... then a fourth.. then a fifth and sixth. Within a couple of hours, Cesar is walking the dogs as a pack while the owners observe.

When he brings them back to their kennels, he briefly, again, gives the dogs additional training, teaching them how to enter their kennels quietly and calmly. Surprisingly, the dogs submit... entering their kennels submissively and remaining quiet and calm in their kennels. They are so subdued that Cesar is able to leave the doors open to each kennel. When a dog attempts to move outside the kennel, Cesar gives a quiet command and the dog immediately retreats into its lair. After working with the dogs for just a few hours (three to four hours), you could see a marked difference. Cesar uses the moment to point out to the owners that this was what he had envisioned as the end goal--each dog quietly and calmly remaining in its kennel with the gates open, until summoned for work or for training. It was a most amazing thing to see...

In the end, Cesar states: "It takes patience to train a dog to find drugs, weapons and explosives. But it also takes patience to train a dog to find peace."

I really liked what Cesar had to say about finding peace. It never really occurred to me that finding peace might be something that is learned, something that could be taught. As I contemplate the world that I live in, the world my children live in, I can not help but think of the harried lifestyle our modern life can bring with it. And in all that chaotic, noisy, business of life, learning to find peace would allow people, like my family, to live a much more balanced and fulfilling life. As a mom of eight, I feel impressed to make this learning more concrete in my home, more visible, more accessible... and not just some vague, peripheral concept.

Coming away from the episode, I realized I have much to do in my home, in my life.... and all this spurred on by the lessons I learned from the "Dog Whisperer"... :)