Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Of Ice and Men

There was a lot of hype surrounding the theatre release of Frozen. I was finishing up my last semester at BYU-Idaho and so I decided to wait until it was available on Netflix and watch it at home. When we did I was really surprised to learn that Elsa is the villain and the moral of the story was more about love overcoming personal differences than about doing what’s right for you. You know the only thing I ever hear people reference about Frozen? Elsa’s show-stopping song “Let it Go”. Here are some snippets of that song:

"I don't care what they're going to say! Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway"

"It's time to see what I can do... No right, No wrong, no rules for me I'm free!"

How did a story about sacrificing oneself for the benefit of another get turned into a story about girl who did what was right for her? How did Elsa become the heroin for turning her back on her kingdom rather than for healing her sister? How did “Let it Go” become the anthem of this movie and go on to win an Academy Award and a Grammy?

During my last semester at BYU-Idaho, I was enrolled in a class which discussed cultural differences  between America and most of the rest of the world pertaining to the practice of Psychology. Two of the most widely used motto's which seems common place in America but strange in other countries are “do what’s right for you” and “you have to love yourself before you can love another”.  What bothers me about these two snippets of advice is where do you stop? Aren’t they both supremely suggestive? Taking the advice to “do what’s right for me”, when led to its’ logical conclusion, could allow me to do whatever I wanted because what’s right for me is inside myself and no one can tell me what’s right for me is wrong. Don’t judge. And likewise, when have you ever thought to yourself “You know, I have enough self-love, it’s time to love someone else”? I feel that’s why Frozen seems only remembered for “Letting it Go” because the song embodies the mantras todays culture lives by. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me- I’m free!”

A couple of years ago I came across a blog post that has really stuck with me. The blog post is entitled “My Life is Not my Own” and in it, the writer tells a story of when her mother came to the conclusion her life is not hers to have and to hold but to share. I began repeating this in regards to my husband. When we were first married I wanted him home beside me all the time and yet between work and church responsibilities  he seemed never to be home. One day, while complaining in my mind that I was having to share my husband too much, I applied this title to express “My husband is not my own”. I don’t mean this in a fidelity way but in a Godly way. He is God’s servant and commissioned to do the will of God. Thinking that I was completely selfless for letting others borrow my husband to move their stuff or teach them or meet for study groups, I have come to realize I have never really seen the truthfulness of the mantra “My Life is Not My Own” until I had a child.

Of course I had heard before the idea that children change your life and things you may have taken for granted before (like using the bathroom in private) are long sought after once children are around. But in my experience nothing is my own. When I was pregnant my body was not my own but mine and my child’s. What I put in to my body affected her. That continues after the baby is born (if nursing). My energy is not my own to use how I would, but is my baby’s. My sleep is not my own. My house is not my own. My stuff is not my own (she is very grabby these days…). My money is not my own. My time is not my own. Nothing is “mine”.

When I was a senior in high school, I came to a crossroads. Two messages had been taught to me exclusively and I was trying to find a way to combine them. One message was that I was to be a mother. Another message was to be ambitious and follow my dreams. Some women are able to combine the two messages and carry on down the road, but I decided to choose to be ambitious and follow my dreams. I did what was right for me. I heeded not the council of those around me and thus did not care what other people said. I let go of a lot of the things I had been taught and, in effect,  let go of who I was. Down this road all I found were thorns and potholes to trip over. I unknowingly searched for someone to help me and luckily found someone. But not soon enough to not have hurt people. Not soon enough to make a positive impression on those I came into contact with. Not soon enough to not have regrets about that part of my life.

Thankfully, I met my husband and we embarked to turn around and go down the other road- the road towards having a family. And now that I have my baby, I learn every day the truthfulness of the words "my life is not my own". But I don't bemoan this fact. I am grateful! I am grateful my life has more meaning than me. "You can't achieve your life's purpose by trying to achieve your life's purpose". Jesus likewise said “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself... For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” Matt 16:24-23. Jesus also never once said to make sure you as an individual are loved by you before you give any love to others.  He said “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” Matt 7:12; and “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” Matt 5:43-44 

(And lest we fear that we only have so much love to give so it would be best to save our love for those we choose, Jesus further explains: For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again Luke 6:32-35)

I know I am at the beginning of my motherhood journey but I hope I can keep as a mantra “my life is not my own”. I hope I can teach my kids that their actions affect others and so they should be concerned for others (even more than themselves). I also hope I never have to hear “Let it Go” ever again.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoughts on Fathers

           Happy Father’s day!  This has been the first father’s day (to my knowledge) I have ever celebrated. My dad is retired from the NAVY and when I was younger he was often off on deployments. I have one really vague memory of us standing in the kitchen in the home I grew up in. He would grab my hands and I would walk up the front of his body. I also have a hazy memory of a weekend spent with my older siblings and him in which I scored a nifty air brush toy. You would put a marker into this holder and then pump a pedal with your foot that blew air over the marker. Come to find out, that was the weekend he and my mom’s divorce was finalized so, besides random phone calls throughout the year, I grew up in a home essentially father-less.
            When I would tell this to my teachers or other kids they often replied “sorry” but I was never upset about it. Like I said, because my dad lived most of my life away from home, having my mom and him divorced was no different from when they were married. I never really felt I had missed out on anything until things like father/daughter dances were scheduled as church activities and days like father’s day. I would not feel necessarily sad about these things, but I thought of it as something others did that I abstained from. After living most of my life with the understanding that I did not have a father, one day in my teenage years, it dawned on me that I do have a Father. I have a Father who is perfect, who is everywhere, who knows everything, and who can achieve anything He sets His mind to doing. This began my understanding of what a father’s role is and why we need them.
            In further study, I have come to realize as children of Heavenly Father, we have many fathers. We refer to our progenitor as “Father Adam”. We learn about our “Father Abraham” who had many sons. In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that Joseph, Jacob and Isaac are also considered our Fathers. Because of all of these fathers we have great blessings promised to us. Because Abraham was obedient to God and agreed to receive the higher Priesthood (or the Melchezedek Priesthood as we refer to it today) and was sealed to his wife, God promised that all of Abraham’s children would be able to enter into the same covenant Abraham entered into. Because of Abraham, we have the ability to “come forth in the first resurrection”, “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions” and these blessings have the potential to continue to our posterity forever and ever.
            Similarly to Abraham, Jacob blessed Joseph through Ephraim that his seed will be numerous that they will be “fruitful, and multiply” and that this numerous seed will be strong and will be made strong through the “hands of the mighty God”. Later, Moses blesses the tribe of Joseph and compares them to a bull exclaiming “his horns… shall push the people together to the ends of the earth”.  If this isn’t enough of a reason to celebrate Father’s Day, let me explain one more Father we all share.
            In an article published by the First Presidency and the Twelve, the doctrine was taught “the term Father as applied to Deity occurs in sacred writ with plainly different meanings”. There is the Father as our literal parent (or Heavenly Father- Father of our spirits), and Father as creator who would include both Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is further referred to as our Father since this is His Gospel which we, His followers abide in, and Jesus Christ is also a Father by divine investiture of authority. Divine investiture is a fancy way to say that Jesus Christ not only represents the Father but speaks on behalf of the Father. In John 14:7, Jesus is recorded as explaining “if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” so even though we sometimes may feel as though we do not know much about our Spiritual Father in Heaven, by Jesus Christ we can come to know Him. So let’s look at some of the blessings we have because of our Father. One of the things I really enjoy about Father’s day is hearing people’s stories about their fathers. In learning the stories of Jesus, we come to see what a father is and why it is important to have fathers. Jesus teaches us Fathers provide, teach, and love for their children.
            When Jesus found his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded, Jesus boarded a ship and went to a deserted place. His followers heard that he had gone away and decided to walk to find Him. Matthew tells us that when “Jesus went forth [He] saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick”. This went on all day! Jesus’ apostles finally came to him and said (in effect) “It’s getting dark and there is no food around. Tell everyone to go home so they can get themselves something to eat”. Jesus replied “They need not depart; give ye them to eat”. The apostles, possibly annoyed, possibly hangry, replied “we have here but five loaves and two fishes”. Jesus asked them to give the food over and, after blessing the food, fed over five thousand people. In this story, I can totally relate with the apostles. Jesus just had a major death in his family. He goes away to get some peace and quiet and over five thousand people come to him to have him help them in their need. Instead of sending them away to focus on himself and his loss, he works all day to serve the multitude. He does not tell the multitude he needs “me” time but forgets himself and goes to work. In this way Jesus not only provided for the temporal hunger of the multitude, but left them with a testimony to provide for the multitudes spiritual hunger as well.
            We find Jesus in the midst of the multitude again and again; sometimes friendly but more often not. There are many occasions when the Pharisees come to Jesus in an attempt to teach Him but end up themselves being taught. Some of these times Jesus was overt in his teaching, such as when He taught on the Mount or in the synagogues. To say Jesus was a great teacher would be an understatement and yet he had to repeat himself and still people did not understand. While He was out fulfilling prophecy from the books  which those that condemned him read, He found it necessary to explicitly state He was the Messiah. It was the custom for those known for their knowledge and religiousness to read the lessons in front of those gathered in the synagogue. On one such day, Jesus read the prophecy from Isiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”. Possibly letting the irony of the words sink in to those in the audience, Jesus closed the book and returned to His seat. Then to make sure everyone in attendance understood, He declared” this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”. Jesus not only fulfilled the prophecy by stating He would heal the sick and deliver those in captivity, but by spending His days preaching the gospel, healing those in need, and delivering the captives. Still, if He were to judge His effectiveness by 100% compliance, He might have thought of himself a failure.
            Sometimes we may feel that providing for our children and teaching them are enough proof of our love for them but Jesus sees it fit to prove His love to us by declaring his love to us with His blood. There are times in parenting when we must allow our children to face the consequences of their actions. There are other times when we must rescue them from themselves. Isn’t it ironic that the death of Christ embodies both of these techniques? Because Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a redemption from this fall was needed. We needed someone to save us from ourselves and Jesus has always been the willing Save-er. Heavenly Father however could not step in and save His son from the physical agony and death He would experience. Heavenly Father withdrew himself from Jesus when Jesus was trying to save the Father’s children. The only reason Jesus had to save the children in the first place was because of a choice one of the children made. Jesus tells us “greater love hath no man… that a man lay down his life for his friends” or in this case, His children.
            After such a study of my scriptural fathers, I can feel nothing but gratitude. My gratitude was further extended when I married and inherited a father-in-law. PJ tells of a time he arrived home from school and his entire house smelled of sulfur. When he found his dad sleeping, PJ awoke his dad and asked why the house smelled. PJ’s dad realized that he had tried to make himself a snack of a hard-boiled eggs and, in anticipation of the 30 or so minutes passing until he could eat it, fell asleep. Thus PJ learned that napping and cooking do not mix well. Ever industrious, PJ also tells of a time his dad helped him beat a level in a video game. The video game required the player to spin the joystick as fast as he could so the character in the game would roll quickly past obstacles. After many tries, PJ was unable to beat the level so PJ’s dad got a drill, stuck a foam ball onto the bit of the drill, and pressed it against the joystick. The level was beaten and PJ’s dad set PJ on a path of engineering solutions to life’s problems. As proof, PJ’s favorite saying is “I can fix this”.
            Now as I get to observe my daughter with her father, I find that even though our scriptural fathers provide eternal blessings, our earthly fathers provide and fulfill many of our temporal needs. There may be a special bond with mothers and their children, but I can testify to the bond that fathers have with their children, especially girls to their daddies. At a time in which women are making it known that they are able and are necessary, I would like to take this opportunity to announce fathers are needed too! We should not worry about divvying up the amount of necessity. Paul touches on this in one of his epistles to the Corinthians when he asks “if the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” Just because one element of the body is important, does not mean the other parts of the body are less important. While it is true that some are born without sight or hearing, it is also true that having both sight and hearing is advantageous and ideal. Similarly having both a mom and a dad is what God intends for us. And lest you fathers feel inadequate or that your words of caution fall on deaf ears or wonder if your children know you love them; just remember 80% of success is showing up.
            I am grateful for the fathers of the world who do their due diligence in providing, teaching, and loving their family. I am also grateful for my scriptural fathers, in particular my Heavenly Father. I know that He lives and while sometimes it is hard to feel His spiritual presence in this tangible world, if I listen closely enough I know He is there. He hears me, He loves me, as He loves each of you and desires nothing more than for us to follow His words and return to the safety of his fold. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Experience: The First Three Months


 21 woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

What does it mean to be a mother? I wish I had a beautifully poetic, well-thought-out definition but I don't. People have asked me how I enjoy motherhood and I know they want to hear how rewarding it is and how my life has been impacted for the better but, for me, being a mother of a newborn is not an euphoric experience. I don't hate it, I'm not depressed, this is just my experience.  

Over the past three months, each one has come with it's own challenges. The first month I remember as somewhat of a honey moon with the baby. I was tired and sore from delivery, but very blessed to have family in town for the whole month. I didn't have to cook, clean or stay up with the baby during the day if I needed a nap. I remember the baby sleeping pretty well at night (one night she even slept 8 hours!) and being scared to let her sleep during the day in fear that she wouldn't sleep at night. My main goal for this first month was to heal and, thanks to my family, I was able to do that! 

The second month was the hardest. Since I was able to get so much rest during the first month, being alone with the baby didn't scare me. It was hard to find my rhythm to work in grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc... but I felt able. What became hard is around 6-7 weeks, the baby woke up and hit a growth spurt. We also had daylights savings time. Luckily the baby still slept during the night, but it was getting her to go to sleep that had me in fits. We would start her nighttime routine around 7 (I still don't remember why that time but it must have been when she was going to sleep previously) which consisted of bath, feeding, swaddle and to bed but she wouldn't sleep. My husband and I would take turns for hours rocking her trying to get her to sleep. We put trash bags over the windows to make it darker in her room. We had a vibrating pad in her crib to try to soothe her. We had two noisemakers (mother's heart beat and white noise). I tried essential oils to "soothe" her to sleep. Still for a week or two we tag teamed bouncing her for 2-3 hours. 

We have a sleep book suggested by my pediatrician and one night, out of total desperation, I was studying the book trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. It was suggested in the book that around this age babies enjoy an earlier bedtime so we started bedtime around 6-6:30. The first night was beautiful. Bath, feeding, swaddle, in bed and asleep. She woke up to eat again about an hour or so after we put her down and went back to sleep. But as the week progressed, it turned into the same ol' song and dance to where, eventually, she wouldn't even go to sleep after the bath and swaddle. As I was sobbing in my room (out of pure frustration, desperation, and coming to terms that I would never sleep again [I'm not dramatic at all..]) I pulled myself together, went into her room and took her from my husband and she was asleep! Like completely out. I looked at the time and realized it was the same time she had been going to sleep all along when we would spend hours in her room rocking her. Alas! It wasn't an earlier bedtime but a later bedtime that was needed. 

The third month of my baby's life was ushered in with another growth spurt but luckily I could recognize the signs of what was going on and I extended a little more patience. At this point she is very interested in the world around her, constantly looking around wherever we are. The one comment I receive most consistently about her (besides how cute she is :D ) is how alert she is. She loves bath time and loves to swat and sometimes grab her toys dangling from her jungle gym. She can grab other toys if you hold it out for her and she loves to smile and we can squeeze a laugh out of her occasionally. 

To say that my experience with motherhood has not been a spiritual one would not be true. Just like with new exercise routines you find muscles you didn't know you had, I have been stretched in ways I didn't know I needed to be. One of the biggest lessons is remembering that my baby is not out to get me. She doesn't mean anything by what she does. While we are all learning about life, she's just starting out on this journey of life. 

While I don't have any flowery description of what it means to be my baby's mother, I am grateful that I have the chance and opportunity to guide her through this initial part of her life and watch her grow. It might have not been as soon as I was delivered of the child that I was joyful, but every day, week, month has brought more and more joy that a [wo]man "has been born into the world". 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Birth Story

 It is so weird to think that this time last week I had just given birth to the baby who had been cooking for about 9 full months. I don't think I've done anything for 9-10 months straight.

My pregnancy was pretty easy going. I didn't have any cravings or mood swings but I did have a lot of heart burn and boy does baby girl have hair! For the first half of the first trimester, I felt great. I thought to myself "why do people complain about being pregnant?" Then the second half of the first trimester I had migraines and laid in bed with a pillow over my head what seemed like all day. Migraines weren't new for me but it was the first time I couldn't take Excedrin for them. The second trimester was great! 'Nuff said.

The third trimester started around the time of the holidays and we had an arctic blast which came and froze the city including thick fog and single digit temperatures. At first the weather kept me inside, and then it was the limited mobility/aching because of a growing belly in addition to the weather which kept me inside. I had Braxton Hicks off and on for the month of January and in the last two weeks of January I started having actual contractions. Usually just over the weekends for an hour at a time. One of those weeks I woke up and felt like I could conquer the world. I had energy! I had a drive to go out and do things! I actually wanted to cook! I spent that week shopping for food and stuffing my freezer so we would have at least two weeks worth of food.

I would normally wake up around 2:00 a.m. to use the bathroom but Tuesday, February 3 I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with contractions. After about the third one I started timing them and they were consistently about 3-5 minutes apart until around lunch time and for some reason they slowed down. They became really irregular, some coming 8 minutes apart and then 30 minutes apart. I was really annoyed because, to be quite honest, I was ready to have this baby weeks ago. PJ and I took a walk around the neighborhood and, while the contractions sped up when we were walking, they slowed down as soon as I sat down. PJ had to go to school around 4 p.m. and, about an hour after he left, the contractions became a lot more regular around 5-7 minutes apart. He got home at 6:30 and by 8 p.m., we were out the door to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, I was dilated to a 6 and about 100% effaced so they admitted me and I finally got my epidural around 10:30 p.m. I finally got to rest!

Around 2 a.m. Wedensday morning the nurse came in to check on me and I could feel Wendy pretty low down in the birth canal but she encouraged me to wait so I wouldn't have to push as long. Around 3:30 a.m. I started pushing and honestly this was the most enjoyable part of labor. I think my epidural was wearing off so I could feel a lot more than I thought I would be able to, but it felt so good to do something to cope with the contractions rather than just lay there and wait for it to pass. At 5 a.m. Wendy joined us and was placed on my chest while the doctor finished up his job. I don't remember a whole lot about the pushing experience but I remember when she finally came out and the nurse gave her to me, Wendy and I just stared at each other like "What just happened". If I had to describe that moment in one word, it would be relief. Relief that labor was over, pregnancy was over, relief that she was OK. The details after that are a little blurry, I know I asked if I tore and they told me I did and hemorrhaged  and they had to give me medicine to stop the bleeding. I remember I asked for a warm blanket, threw up, and then went to sleep. About an hour later, they moved me to my recovery room and three days later I was discharged. Once we got home and I was able to sit down in my own house, I had another overwhelming feeling of relief. As great as the nurses were at the hospital, there truly is no place like home!

Before Delivery
1 Week Later

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Musings

When we first went to college, we went in order to major in musical theatre but half-way through the program we changed our minds. Once we were married, we took some time off to save up money and really think about which careers would be the best fit for us. One day I jokingly suggested to PJ, now that he was LDS, we could go to BYU. That joke became reality and we just graduated from BYU-Idaho in April.

Huge life decisions are so easily told in hindsight. The details of the daily prayer to seek guidance or the nights of lost sleep are forgotten with the triumph of that one idea or choice working out to be a good one. When we had applied to BYU-Idaho and received our admittance letter, there was a lot to prepare for. How were we going to get from GA to ID? How much did we need to save? Where would we live? Did we know anyone in ID? Would our cars make it out there? Would we fail and then need to figure out ways to get back to GA after a semester? There were so many questions, especially from family members such as "Why Idaho!?" In truth, the decision made no sense. We were both working full time and within a couple of miles of really good schools. There are logical reasons to attend BYU-Idaho over other schools such as lower cost, but that was not even considered when we applied. As trite as the answer is, it still rings true: It was the Lord's will for us.

In our years at BYU-Idaho, I often thought of the ancient Israelites. Especially three days into our journey when we woke up in Nebraska to snow. It doesn't snow in Georgia but maybe one or two days out of the winter. When it does, the whole town shuts down and as long as there is snow on the ground, even if the roads are clear, people stay home. Apparently when we woke up in Nebraska, it was the first snow storm of the season. So as we were driving on I-80 West in white-out conditions, I could totally see myself asking God "Because there were no graves in [Georgia], hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?!" Even though it was only four years in Rexburg as opposed to the forty the Israelites spent in the wilderness, there were many times I looked back to Georgia, like Israel looked to Egypt, and remembered the "fish... cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick" as I was eating my fill of potatoes. Unlike the Israelites, the day came that we were able to go back to Georgia to live when PJ did his internship. Once there, I realized the Lord had been working on us and, even though we weren't slaves previously, we were not in our promised land. We had fully believed we were going back to the south when we finished school, but after a couple of dead ends with the job search, we finally said "the prayer". The prayer which is usually uttered once you know the answer but have been trying to hide it from yourself so you won't have to acknowledge it. The "not my will, but thine be done" prayer.

That's the funny thing about having faith in the Savior is that you must constantly be reminded that He is in control. When discussing faith in the Savior, there are so many things you could mean. Faith that He lives, faith that He is the Savior, faith that He will answer your prayers, faith that He knows who you are, faith in His Gospel, and the list goes on. When Paul taught the Corinthians, he explained that when we are baptized, we are baptized into one body and further explains how important each part of the body is. Just as the eye serves a different purpose as the hand, the “eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you… but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.”  Just as this can apply to serving in the church, this teaching reflects the second great commandment to love and serve each other. With faith in the Savior and the change of heart which comes through accepting Him as our Savior, we should feel compelled to not only help one another, but to put other’s needs before our own.

Isn't that so different from the messages we hear today? Between TV advertisements, motivational speakers, and music lyrics, we are told "You deserve it", "Don't care what other people think", "Do what's right for you", "Let it go", and the list goes on. These sayings are catchy, and, when we've had a hard day, sometimes empowering, but in all actuality very opposite from Christ's teachings. These sayings tell us, rather than looking to Christ for His will in our lives, truth lies within ourselves. What we decide is right for us, we should do regardless of how our actions effect others, including the Lord and his kingdom. There are three people in particular in the scriptures who followed these sayings very well.

Samson: a covenanted servant of the Lord and a judge in Israel became entrenched with a woman outside of the Israel covenant. After his parents tell him to try to find a woman within the camp of Israel, Samson tells them "Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well". She was eventually murdered but Samson met another woman who would eventually be his total demise after he breaks every covenant he made with the Lord.

David: the greatest king to ever rule in Israel was also overcome by a beautiful woman. Following his heart and doing what was right for him in the moment, he took her and conceived a child with her while her husband was fighting in David's army. Wanting to cover up what he did, he had Uriah killed and eventually David's kingdom fell.

Finally Judas: anointed of the Lord to be His apostle took heed to what no man thought as he sold His Savior for 30 pieces of silver. The ultimate example of "nothing personal, just business".

In contrast, the people we look up to the most in the scriptures exert complete faith in the Lord and take the teaching literally that "whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it". A famous heroine in the Bible came across this advice when her uncle told her to save her people. When Mordecai discovers Haman’s plan to have the Jews killed, he tells Esther to go in to the King and talk to him to which Esther responds with her fear that the king may have her killed if she goes in to him without the King summoning her first. Mordecai then tells her “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest they peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed…” In other words, if you do not do this in order to save your life now, you will eventually lose it when someone else comes in to deliver this people. Having faith in our Savior requires us to forget ourselves and go to work.

Thus, faith in the Savior entails action. James teaches us "Even [if we have] faith, if [we] have not works, [our faith] is dead... be ye doers of the word and not hearers only". Paul teaches us that "[we] are not [our] own For [we] are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Since we aren't our own, Paul further states "servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God." Finally, when Paul was teaching the Romans, Paul teaches "shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why has thou made me thus?"

When we take these scriptures and teachings seriously, we find when we exercise our faith in the Savior, we ask more “what would thou have me do” and less of “didn’t you hear what I asked you to do for me before?”. We find we “kick against the pricks” less and learn to accept the plan which has been planned by the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and almighty God whose universe we reside in. The times I do this in my life are the times I feel the most at peace. I do not feel a need to craft a plan of my own or control the outcomes I think would be best. So often when I allow the Lord to do His job , my life is nothing what I expect it to be, but better than I could have made it on my own.

One reason I know this is true is that I made a life plan and even put 25 cents on it that it would come true. It looked something like this: I would get married, move to Florida, live in an apartment until I was either pregnant with my 2nd child or had the 2nd child. Then we would move to a house and I would be playing outside with a child when I would see a bright light and the bright light would be the Savior coming. As you can see, my life did not quite work out that way!

The phrase “kicking against the pricks” became really real to me when I was at my first college. Kicking against the pricks comes from the machinery farmers had in Biblical times. Oxen were hooked up to a yoke and goad which contained a “prick” on it. The farmers would use the prick for the same purpose horseback riders use a whip- to make the animal obey the master. Sometimes the oxen would be angered by the prick and kick out against it only driving the prick further into the flesh of the animal. When I was in my Musical Theatre program, the feeling became stronger and stronger that I was not moving in the right direction. I continually auditioned for shows, tried to get professional jobs over the summer, and it became more and more of a burden. I could feel the yoke begin weighing heavier and heavier and as I resisted the Master’s command, nothing good came of it. When I finally dropped the program and eventually went to BYU-Idaho pursuing a different program, I was relieved to feel no resistance. As I have come to trust in the Lord more and more, peace comes to me by following His guidance for his yoke truly is easy and His burden truly is light.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Shabby Chic or Just Plain Shabby?

**Post edited as Shabby Apple has deleted some originally posted pictures. Originally posted a year ago. As I look over SA's website now, I can see some encouraging changes.**

Have you ever heard of the online dress store called Shabby Apple? Advertised as being a modest dress store, Shabby Apple has cornered a market for women seeking "modest" dresses which cover the shoulder and hit at the knee.
I have known about Shabby Apple for about five years now and have seen some changes take place. When first established, Shabby Apple (SA) made a big deal about not having to add on to their dresses. No need to wear a cardigan in the middle of summer because our dresses have sleeves! No need to wear a camisole under the dress because our dresses will not have plunging necklines. Now, the dresses are advertised as "vintage, retro, and unique". Either way, I was excited about SA because all too often I have thought "that dress is cute but is too short" or had other reservations about the overall modesty of a dress. When I first viewed SA dresses five years ago, I was excited and could see myself wearing the dresses whether to work, church, or on a date. The only thing that stopped me from buying all my favorites was the close to $100.00 price tag.
I finally got a chance to own one of these dresses when a store in town which carried a few of their styles offered a 50% off deal. I was a little heavier than I am currently so a lot of the dresses had fit issues, but I attributed that to my body rather than the dress. Later, after earning an academic scholarship in college, my husband said I could buy two SA dresses and luckily there was a BOGO sale going on so I jumped on the website and searched for my prizes. Since I was a student now, I wanted more casual dresses that could be dressed up but could also be worn to class or out to run errands. When I finished another successful semester, I ordered two more dresses, and ran into a few problems. I explain all of this to say that I have been a customer of this company for a while and have had numerous experiences, and issues, with their dresses.

-Fit- I measure in at a whopping 5'2 34"-28"-35". Most size guides tell me I am between a 6 and an 8 but in most circumstances a 6 does the job. Like I said, I have been heavier, but have had these measurements for over a year. My first dress, called "West Coast Swing" by SA has remained my favorite SA dress. (Notice I say SA dress and not favorite dress overall) It has a waist tie so has been able to stick with me through my size changes. I prefer to match it with a belt rather than the tie with which it comes, but I still have it today after about four years.

No complaints about the fit for this dress. Next I ordered "Gondola" and a blue one I can't remember the name of and one they don't offer anymore.

As you can see, I have a different body-type than the model which enhances the seam over the bust. Every time I wore this dress it was as though the temperature was a little too cold. I eventually always wore a cardigan over it so the seam wouldn't be visible. Also, since I am a little more busty than the model, the green ends too high. I wish the green went all the way down to the beginning of the skirt so as to give me more of a torso.

This outlines really the main issue I have with SA's fit. I have ordered three other dresses and each fit strangely. SA guarantees on their main page "And we cater to all sizes whether you’re looking for something plus size or petite" and yet I cannot get one of their dresses to fit me right besides a wrap dress. I ordered a pencil dress and if it fit me in one place, it was too loose in another. There was no give to the fabric so if you have any semblance of a chest, no luck. This is how most SA dresses are made now. High neck, slight or full A-line skirt with some sort of quirk whether it be fabric or embellishment. There are few to none open necks, v-necks, or pencil dresses.

-Construction- I mentioned it when I introduced the "Gondola" dress, but SA's construction leaves much to be desired.  From fabric choice to detailing all the way to execution, SA dresses begin to look more like a home-ec project than a dress worth $100.00. You may think this to be picky, but let me re-emphasize, these are $100.00 (or more) dresses!
$66 Skirt advertised as leather but
looks more like vinyl and a
botched hem. 

$88.00 Dress is wrinklyand whose chest looks like that?
Also the hem line is not very good. 

Whether there be hem lines that are obvious and lumpy, wrinkly fabric on the models, or seams over the bust which make the chest noticeable in all the wrong ways, SA's construction does not seem to be worth the price tag. There's hand made and then home made and these dresses look home made.

- Style- The last [major] issue I have with SA is their styling. I like to try to find pictures of the models either standing straight up and down or pictures of the dress on the mannequin to get a feel for what the dress actually looks like without lighting and manipulation. Here are some examples when styling helps a ... less than perfect dress:

All in all, I can't say that everything SA makes is horrid, but I do think SA lacks polish and sophistication which can be found elsewhere for less. I have been able to consistently find perfectly modest clothes which fit my body better for less at other online stores such as Asos and Dorothy Perkins, not to mention retail stores such as NY and;CO and Kohls. I don't expect SA to change their aesthetic for one customer, but I do hope people critique their clothes with a more skeptical eye before they spend so much on a dress, wait for it to be shipped to them, only to try the dress on and find it not as advertised.
Image 1 of ASOS Midi Dress With Pleated SkirtImage 1 of ASOS Midi Dress With Pussybow In Dragon Jacquard
Image 4 of ASOS Midi Dress In Animal PrintImage 4 of Lipsy Ruched Dress in Applique Lace
All available at for less than SA prices.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Favorite Easy Dessert

I got the baking bug today. I just turned up my Christmas music and went to baking. I made banana chocolate chip muffins and brown butter pumpkin muffins with maple pecan frosting. Want to come over?!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins:

3 lg. bananas, mashed
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (or 3/4 c. white and 3/4 c. whole wheat)
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. (or more) chocolate chips
Add sugar and slightly beaten egg to mashed bananas. Add melted butter. Stir in dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. (Either grease muffin pan or use baking cups.) Best served warm!

(I snapped this really quickly with my iphone- don't hate! They're really good!)

 If you're interested in the muffin recipe, you can find that here: Baked Perfection

(Now that's a professional picture!)