Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Land of Normal

Illustration by Gary Larson
Last Fall we had a new student join our homeschool classes. We hosted these classes once a week for youth ages 12 and up in our home. It was a great way for our youth to learn with other like-minded teens who value similar things like family, reading books, high standards, lots of studying, etc..

This particular young lady was not only new to our classes, but she was new to homeschooling. She had had a rough time in Middle School, and had begged her mom to bring her home. She was a beautiful girl, and very smart, but she really struggled in our classes. She seemed to focus a lot on her appearance, she was always on her phone texting, and she continuously complained about-- well, everything. She was a quintessential teenager.

One day, the dozen or so youth in our Shakespeare class were having a lively discussion and this young lady in frustration flung out the sentence "Ugh! You guys are so WEIRD!"

The other students blinked, looked at her in amazement, and said with smiles, "Yeah, we know."

She was shocked. Here she was, delivering one of the greatest insults in all of normalcy, and those "weird" kids were taking it as a huge compliment!

She quit after the first semester, and we've never seen her at any other homeschool gatherings-- I'm assuming she went back to school where she can feel "normal" again.

Like the "weird" students in my class (four of which were my own children), I've come to feel that being called "weird" is actually a compliment. I grew up in the Land of Normal, constantly comparing myself to my peers, whether it was in my appearance, my intelligence, or my abilities. Though I wanted to "fit in" and be accepted, I never felt that I ever measured up to what I "should be." I was told I was too loud and obnoxious, not smart enough, and definitely not thin or rich enough.

The battleground youth face every day creates a trail of broken hearts that rarely heal into adulthood. I know; I've been there! It's sad, because coming to accept myself as I am has taken me years and years-- and it continues on.

BUT, it has been so refreshing, so cleansing, so freeing to stand up and say, "I am going to try something different. And I DON'T CARE WHAT THE LAND OF NORMAL THINKS!"

Ahhhh. (Feels good!)

The Land of Normal is a very comfortable place for most people to stay. But where has normalcy actually brought us as a society? To materialism, body obsession, debt, ignorance, and down-right denial about the state we're in. (Heaven forbid we ever do something "weird!")

The citizens of the Land of Normal frequently shake their heads at me, my family, and my friends and all our "weirdness"-- some even giving me helpful advice like "You're crazy!" or "I'm really worried about your kids," or "What about the prom?!"

I'm finally okay with who I am-- that I'm "WEIRD." Remember, I think being called "weird" is a huge compliment.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Charity: The Pure Love of Christ

Quote attributed to Plato

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
 "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all... Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:" (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8)
 "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." (Moroni 7:47)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the word CHARITY. Not simply in general terms, but what it means in my life. How do I treat others-- those I know, those that are strangers, those who live in my home? Am I dismissing, pre-judging, trampling those I come in contact with? Or do they feel happier and uplifted because I was kind and understanding?

We children of God have the potential to do sooo much good! There is so much negativity, so much criticism in this world. Are we part of the problem, or are we different, because we know and love Christ? Are we building others up, sharing the pure love of Christ; or are we tearing people down, breaking hearts, treading on tender feelings?

Artwork by Greg Olsen
I have learned that CHARITY is not just about giving to the needy, it's not just feeling concern for people, or even about praying for others.

It means treating others like Christ would treat them.

Everyone needs to be loved, understood. Every person is a child of God, and needs to be valued.

And sometimes, all it takes to make people feel the love of Christ is to receive a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, or a hug.

One of my favorite quotes about the worth of souls comes from C.S. Lewis:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, to some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations-- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

From the LDS Scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 18, verse 10:
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

Sister Mary N. Cook said this at the last LDS Young Women's Broadcast:
"Benevolent is a lovely word that we don’t hear very often. Its roots are Latin, and it means 'to wish someone well.' To be benevolent is to be kind, well meaning, and charitable... Our Savior taught us about and lived a benevolent life. Jesus loved all and He served all. Centering our lives on Jesus Christ will help us acquire this attribute of benevolence. For us to develop these same Christlike attributes, we must learn about the Savior and 'follow in His ways.'"4
"President Thomas S. Monson taught us how to interact with our peers and everyone we meet when he told the young women of the Church, 'My precious young sisters, I plead with you to have the courage to refrain from judging and criticizing those around you, as well as the courage to make certain everyone is included and feels loved and valued.'"
We do not know the battles that other people are fighting, as we go through life's journey. If we treat others as Christ would treat them, we will not only please our Heavenly Father, but we may bring someone else to Christ.

We can all be a little kinder, more gentle, more benevolent. WE CAN HAVE MORE CHARITY, which is the pure love of Christ.

Monday, November 14, 2011

October Journey: Part Two

Russell and Miss Eryn
We had a WONDERFUL time in Idaho last month! Karl and Kenzie's wedding was so sweet, so lovely. It is a tender, beautiful thing to be at a family member's temple ceremony-- the Spirit radiates through the couple, and all around the room. Such a sacred event!

The adorable, happy couple!
Sonja's next!!!

Sonja is marrying the kind and handsome Isaac in January, and we're so excited for her! They'll be sealed in the beautiful Rexburg temple.

Granna and some of our pretty girls

(L. to R.) Isaac & Sonja, Karen & Nick, Reed & Julie (with new baby Allie!)
Two day old Miss Allie Mae and her gorgeous mama

Kitchen Duty

I had a great time helping to set out all the yummy sweet breads my mother-in-love Diana made and the pressed apple cider my father-in-love Randy made for the refreshments. The smell was HEAVENLY! (And I was good and didn't eat ANY! Still off sugar, yup.)

Miss Abby did an AWESOME job helping me! She is a wonderfully hard worker, just like her pretty mama.

Adorable Miss Abby

The real troopers were Debbie, Clay, and Miss Tyler, who slaved away in the kitchen practically all day! First for the family luncheon (and so did the amazing Karen and Nick!), and then before and during the entire reception. They are such a wonderful family! We sure love them!

Aunt Linda talking with Debbie, as Clay watches the reception fun. (Oh, and Avalon looking for more yummy bread.)

My handsome big boys!
Gavin and the garter!

The funniest part of the night was when Gavin joined in the crowd to vie for the garter-- and then HE caught it! Everyone was laughing! Then Gavin brought it back to us, holding it like it was a dirty rag or something, and asked "Now what do I do with it???" Hee! That made us laugh even more! :-D

Dancing with the Princess Bride

Our little cousin,  Miss Macie, LOVES brides! She was so excited to dance with the lovely bride, and so MacKenna followed along. At first MacKenna was dancing with Karl (her FAVORITE!), but then she decided the Bride was funner to dance with. (Sorry, Karl!)

Avalon joined in.

Cake by the very talented Mandy! (I got to help a bit, too. So fun!)

I loved seeing Miss Macie holding her new little sister, "Owie." (Allie) What a sweet moment!
(I wish I were a better photographer...)

We had a wonderful few days, but then we rushed back and traveled home without a hiccup! (Thank goodness!!!)

And here's two last pictures to show how beautifully Grayse is healing!

Still smiling!

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mama!"

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A New-Old Chapter

"Twelfth Night" 2008

 Since we moved back to Arizona, I have felt a little bit adrift in the homeschooling community. I came back home to find that many of my homeschooling friends had moved away or moved on. I sure miss those that have moved away, but I understand that life goes on and things are bound to change with time.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" 2009

So I got together with some that were still in the Valley, though more spread out in recent years. We created a wonderful little Commonwealth School, and met once a week in my home. We had classes on the Constitution and Shakespeare. We put on a fun play by the Bard. We laughed and talked and commiserated. Community!

"A Comedy of Errors" 2011
Then this past summer, I did NOT feel good about teaching Shakespeare this year. I was puzzled, but figured I would enjoy the break. I decided to have faith that the Lord must know some things about this next Spring that I didn't know.

Our little group moved to a more central location, at the home of my wonderful friend who is teaching a Civil War class to a few of the kids who were in our group last year. It is such a wonderful thing for our kids, and we so appreciate this amazing lady and all she's doing! But we mothers don't get to talk much any more. We're all in a rush, and have other things in our lives to do. Our little community just isn't what it used to be.

Life waltzed in again, and a new season is in full swing.

So. I recently got an e-mail from the chairwoman-- who is also a dear friend-- of the "other" Commonwealth School in the Valley. It's a BIG, active community with lots going on, and they have been planning for quite some time to put on a musical production next Spring. BUT, due to life changes in their own community, they no longer had a director.

Any guesses on what the e-mail was about?

Yes, you are "looking at" the new director of "Fiddler on the Roof" being produced next May!

I was kindly invited to the group's board meeting yesterday to talk about the show and my vision for it. As the ladies walked in, one after another, warmth filled my heart. HERE they were!!! The community I once knew before we left the state surrounded me. It was such a great feeling, and ended up being a wonderful reunion for me!

It's good to be back among some more great families. And I can't wait to get going on the show!

Mazel tov!