Sunday, June 28, 2015

Roger Davis, Rest in Peace

I find it a shame that I have never dedicated a full post to a very special person in my life.  I have mentioned him briefly perhaps but never given the complete tribute my Southern cousin surely deserves from me. I regret I never told him all of this while he breathed but after his death I received several powerful spiritual manifestations that he not only knows my feelings but also has come to regard me with more humbled respect than I ever thought possible.  So I suppose that makes us even.

I love all my family, and as a child I certainly enjoyed spending time with my relations in South Carolina when I had a chance to visit them. It always proved a long and arduous journey, crossing the wide expanse of Texas in a car with three siblings, but the love I bore my family members made the trip worth every moment.  We spent a great deal of time together in my infancy and I came to cherish my cousins intensely.  As we matured into adolescence, however, things changed.  I was always a straight arrow young woman, avoiding alcohol, riotous parties and the like.  My wonderful cousins, as is often the case, decided on spending much time in drinking, smoking, and the like.  I loved them still but it created something of a chasm.  I didn't chasten them and they didn't seem to judge me harshly but still, we lived in somewhat different worlds.  I felt a deep and overwhelming loneliness and misery when I visited because after I had endured the enormous trek, I often found myself alone in my room while my cousins hit the town.  They weren't rude about it - it was just a relationship that for a time simply didn't work as smoothly as I might have hoped. 

But Roger was different.  Although many of my cousins would spend perhaps an afternoon with me here and there, Roger put aside his daily friends and plans far more than perhaps the rest of my cousins combined in order to spend time alone with me.  I remember an incident that even now brings me to tears of love and gratitude for him.  News had been buzzing for days that a massive drinking party was to erupt that weekend and as I heard it, simply everyone was going to attend.  The excitement proved absolutely infectious amongst my cousins and I heard all of them voice their eagerness to be there.  I of course said nothing but sat listening peaceably and respectfully.  The evening of said party was eerily quiet.  I was feeling of course rather saddened to be on my own in my grandparents' home again and at about six o'clock I concluded that I might as well go to bed.  I was turning out of the kitchen toward my room when the phone rang.  I was shocked when I heard it was for me and picking up the receiver, I heard Roger's voice on the other end inviting me over to his house for snacks and a movie.  I don't remember what I answered but I remember riding in the back of his father's car to Blockbuster to pick up Tommy Boy and curling up with my red haired cousin for hours on the couch that night.  

Years later I visited South Carolina in the middle of a very dark and soul wrenching time in my life.  Although I kept a placid smile in public, I found myself facing emotional dilemmas more than I could bear and skipped off to the back porch of Roger's parents' home to break down into tears where no one could hear me.  Eventually straightening up and wiping away the evidence I composed myself sufficiently and reentered the house to find Roger dressing for an appointment he had made.  He was already running late so he initially only afforded me a quick greeting but then when I answered he heard my voice crack.  Looking up hastily he asked what was wrong, but I wasn't about to give in about it easily.  Desperately glancing from the time to me, he made several more attempts to get me to tell him what was troubling me but to no avail.  I assured him it was fine and that he should be going.  We walked out to the living room together where the parents were in conversation and we joined in for a moment before he truly had to leave in all haste.  He pulled me into a hug and kiss on the cheek and departed.  That was the last time I ever saw him alive.

 Upon his death I didn't know how  in the world I would ever be able to sustain returning to the South.  I had always relied on him and in fact often told myself on the eve of my trips eastward, "This is going to be hard because my cousins and I are so different, but it is okay because Roger is there." My single trip to the South after the funeral proved a wonderful success as my cousins had married and settled down quite a bit, so I had precious little difficulty in finding the joyous relationships I had wanted with most of them.  Nevertheless before I headed back to the West I insisted on visiting my late cousin's old bedroom, arguing that "I [hadn't] seen Roger yet." 

Few people in my life have ever been as passionately kind, supportive and understanding of me.  He didn't have to sacrifice his own plans in our teenage years, but he did and when I heard the news of his early and unexpected death I was ready to drain my savings account to see his body one last time.  And I was not the only person he touched.  His funeral was packed to overflowing and it seemed more than evident that in his relatively short lifetime he had affected a tremendous amount of people.
Sometimes when we talk about changing the world or doing something important with our lives we have visions of PhDs, political power, and millions of dollars.  Roger didn't have any of that, but he had more love and concern for people than I have known many people to possess.

More Precious Than Gold

Yesterday my wonderful son entered the waters of baptism and took upon himself the name of Jesus Christ.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not allow anyone beneath the age of eight to partake of this ordinance because the individual must make it voluntarily, understanding the responsibilities and blessings before accepting them.  Indeed, a child or adult must pass an interview beforehand ensuring their understanding and worthiness to do so.  We also confirmed my son a member of the Church and gave him a priesthood blessing wherein he received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Each blessing proves different and is tailored by inspiration to the specific person.  There is no rehearsal or premeditation before the blessing.  It is given as a man bearing the priesthood feels impressed and inspired.  I have often known men who have given sensational, amazing blessings and  immediately afterward could not remember at all the words that left their mouths.

Josh's blessing indicated that he was a very strong spirit and that God sent him to the earth at this morally dark time because he was so valiant and could help others stay strong in the face of temptation and adversity.  I believe it; I have always known that of him.  Long before he was born I could feel that kind of strength in him. 

After the ordinance, blessing and subsequent party at our house, Josh wanted to go to Walmart and finally purchase the long awaited Minecraft Lego set he and his sister had wanted very badly for some time.  They had scrubbed bird droppings off the porch, cleaned dog excrement from the backyard and polished indoor furniture to earn the money for this fairly expensive toy.  Since we were out already and they had not the money with them we agreed that I would pay for it and upon returning to the house they would reimburse me. 

I received a strong impression as we entered the parking lot which lingered with me as we made the purchase and returned home.  As we sat in the living room they placed the money into my hands so I could count out and take the requisite amount.  According to the impression I had, however, I stopped and told them that I was very proud of them for working so hard.  I was proud of them for achieving their goal.  I was proud of both of them for striving very hard to be good people.  I was proud of them most of all for each making the choice to follow the Lord Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism.  This single decision of baptism, I concluded, was worth more than all the money on earth, and pushing their hard earned wages into their hands once more I finished with, "Take it back."  

The look on my son's face was worth it.  

I think the Lord does that to us sometimes.  He puts us through very hard things for extended time periods and we slave recklessly, proving ourselves willing to give all we have to Him if we can just get the blessing we so desperately need.  And then at long last, when we have done all we can and the time is right, we hand Him everything we have become in payment for what it is we feel we need.  With a smile, He unexpectedly gives us not only the blessing for which we worked but all the strength, tender mercies and wisdom we acquired along the way. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Arguing With a Pouf

Tension melts away and I feel my stress level plummet as I stroll through the automatic doors of World Market.  This is often my hiding place when troubles chase me through the labyrinth of mortality.  I bask in the sights, smells, and overall luxury of this beautiful store, surrounded by handcrafted imports and feeling much like I am enjoying a cruise around the world in miniature.  My eyes skim over beautiful pillows, jewelry, and other merchandise which have traveled long distances to plead for my attention.  I feel like a queen in this setting.  

Meandering to my favorite section of the store I inhale incense and turn nonchalantly southward.  My heart skips a beat as I discover a beautifully finished pouf from India which would go so adoringly well with the new decor of my bedroom and which seems to be calling my name.  The magical pouf draws me toward it and I glance at the price.  My vision of a perfect find deflates slightly.  It isn't a terrible price - certainly worth the item.  It is just that I have a tendency to be very tight about money - even when money isn't tight.  Surely I can use said cash to feed the homeless here in America, save for my children's college, or give it away to someone who needs it.  But spend such a quantity on myself when I am not starving or on the brink of death?  Sigh...the more responsible side of me kicks in and I straighten to my full height.  This is hardly needed, I tell myself.  I resolutely stroll through the aisles of relaxation and finally stalk straight out the door. 

But the pouf haunts me at night.  I pray to have peace and forget about the beautiful little decoration that deep down I want so badly.  I want to be a good, upstanding, down to earth human being who does not run off and buy everything she likes simply because she can. The Lord does not seem to agree.  He impresses upon my mind that I need to learn to relax and enjoy beautiful things without constantly thinking about what is most appropriate.  He impresses me that sometimes enjoying beautiful things in one's life is also appropriate, even when aforementioned beautiful thing comes with a price tag above ten dollars.  I argue the point in prayer, hoping to get the Lord to change His opinion.  Perhaps He merely wants to test my resolve to stay strong in the face of exquisite temptation.  But He doesn't budge.  

World Market calls me back a few days later.  Still I resist.  I will do something more constructive and beneficial to the world at large!  Again, a few days later necessity brings me back to World Market for I need to find a Father's Day gift.  Buying gifts is allowable; they are not selfishly purchased for me.  Finally Heavenly Father sits me down and tells me that I will not be allowed to leave the store without that beautifully crafted pouf that goes so well with the new bedroom I'd love to have.  I glance at the pouf.  It is calling to me.  I see that it was crafted just for me.  It was meant to be mine and I love it through and through.  Still I give one last push for well mannered resistance.  Heavenly Father reasons that He cannot give me the pleasures, beauties and blessings of heaven someday if I can't even handle buying a pouf.  

Oh.  Point taken.

My children love the pouf and argue about who gets to carry it to the car.  All this frustration and resistance when it makes all three of us so thoroughly delighted?  I grin sheepishly heavenward and thank my Father for kicking my backside into caring a bit more about myself and ensuring His daughter gets spoiled a little.  And though I don't dare allow my mind to consciously think it, my  heart drifts back to that one Indian bedside table that would go so well with the pouf....

My Southern Ancestors Owned Slaves

I have been wanting to write this post for quite some time and after a discussion today I figured now would be an appropriate moment so to do.  My father, Joseph, grew up in the tiny South Carolinian town of Camden and remembers quite vividly all the trials and learning experiences that accompanied desegregation.  He was raised in part by a former slave who he regarded and loved.  He absorbed from the cradle many of the opinions, ideas, and manners attendant on a white boy in the South.  And yes, he grew up on family land that had once proven a plantation filled to the brim with black slaves. 

I am grateful to have lived in Arizona my entire life that I might be able to look with a more objective view now regarding the trouble brewing in my father's home state.  I understand both sides of the coin in the debate raging about the Confederate flag, and find myself brokenhearted about the violence that has transpired recently.  Hatred never brings joy.  I have perused the old pictures of my Southern ancestors, some of whom fought and bleed under the Confederate flag for a cause that to a great extent makes me wish they had not.  I understand the war was about states' rights as much as anything else, and anyone who has read Uncle Tom's Cabin understands that those slave owners of the day often believed due to preachers at the pulpit that they were fulfilling God's will in attempting to own human souls.  It is folly to blame people for things they did not understand and it serves no intelligent purpose to remain angry and filled with hatred for those people who to some extent were victims of their society and upbringing.  My heart bleeds for those slaves they owned, both at the site of my father's upbringing and the other family plantation which still stands and bears the title Tanglewood Plantations and I plead with heaven for the souls of my ancestors who, I hope, were at least humane in treatment of their slaves.  I know that at least one of my ancestors was a member of the KKK and it grieves and shames me to my knees.  I pray for his soul in the hope that he acted in what he honestly believed to be the right course of action, though even in this it renders me little comfort.

Our world's history proves rife with conflict, lack of perspective, meanness, littleness, and injustice.  I am sorry for it.  But I feel it does no good to take those past aggressions and dredge them up again today.  I understand that tensions prove high and that this moment is a difficult one for many people.  I urge all of us, however, to strive to be peacemakers in whatever manner we can within our own sphere.  We have seen blood spilled across the pages of American history, in the plantations, in the actions of the KKK, in the assassination of President Lincoln and most lavishly splashed with generosity across the grievous soil of Gettysburg.  We have seen enough blood.  We have seen enough hatred.  Let now become our moment to heal.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Watch Your Mouth!

I have spent many hours listening to the trials and tribulations of people and I find that once in a while it proves healthy to stand up to one's full height and laugh at the absurdities we see around us in even the most frustrating situations.  Gazing upon all that I have heard, I find one of the most amusing aspects of dealing with overly contentious and even verbally abusive people is the unparallelled art of actually taking them seriously.

Let me explain.  A dear lady friend related her history with her significant other, who on top of being physically and verbally abusive would top off his fits of hysteria by threatening suicide when his temper flared particularly high. My friend was of a naturally compassionate and gentle temperament so she of course would try to calm him down.  After many years of this and after having taken much abuse, the man's counselor called her into his office for a chat.  The counselor looked at her with intelligence and compassion and told her point blank that the next time he threatened to kill himself, her job was to let him do it.  Period.  He argued that this man continued to threaten suicide so that he could maintain abusive control, and that the reason he hadn't changed was because he had never had to taste the consequences of his actions.  So the next time he began to get heated she warned him that her orders were to let him commit suicide.  He was stunned and his temper immediately began to abate.  Much later he threatened suicide again and she reacted by calling the police on him.  She condescended several hours later to pick his much humbled self up from the mental hospital that the police mandated he ought to go.  

Another lady friend had trouble with her husband on very similar terms except that he had continually threatened to divorce her when his temper raised itself to a certain pitch.  She struggled, pleaded, and cried for years. Finally she applied to her mother, who advised her to tell him that it was perfectly fine and that instead of threatening, he was certainly quite free to go ahead and do it.  He never threatened to divorce her again. 

My last and absolute favorite anecdote arises from one of the most devastating cases I have ever witnessed and I confess an involuntary grin spreads across my face in pleasing reminiscence.  A man had spent over a decade abusing his wife and she sought for many years to maintain a calm and peaceful atmosphere for her children by taking whatever he dished out at her behind closed doors.  He had a habit of telling her he was leaving forever in the morning and returning by evening either repentant or still sporting a foul attitude.  Finally one good day his shouting and temper reached the point that she could no longer hide the fact of his abusive nature from her children.  Yelling, throwing things, and cursing God he made for the door and immediately before slamming it in her face, scowled at her and said, "Have a nice life!"

So she did. 

He had no idea at the time that because of his outburst he had deeply traumatized his innocent, trusting children and when he attempted to return to the house he found his family gone.  The lady had become accustomed to protecting her children no matter the cost and when he became the danger to them he found in her not the trembling, silent woman he had known but a fireball of matriarchal ferocity.  She understood that as a single mother and having no masculine counterpart to help her she had to take extremely good care of herself that she might be a pillar of strength to her crying, frightened, disillusioned, miserable little ones.  They held on to God and to each other as never before and the man was the one who lost.  She never struck him a blow; she merely dodged his attack and let him fall with the inertia of his own swing. 

Let's watch our mouths, my friends.  Let us make sure our language reflects kindness, for our most vengeful words just might also be our last.

Meditation Interrupted

We all know only too well the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  We know how stressful our deadlines and responsibilities can prove.  We know that many duties in life are necessary, important and require our attendance.  What we often forget in our daily struggle is that the need to take care of our minds, bodies and spirits stands as vitally important as well.

I write this late at night, waiting for my children to finally doze off that I might without distraction continue the meditation I started shortly after their bedtime.  I don't seem to always have the time to turn the focus inward to take care of Michelle but as today was particularly wild and exhausting, tonight will be the night.  As I wait for little ones to drop into slumber I munch on shredded wheat, which is truthfully my way of showing love for myself.  I love and cherish my body and treat it like a temple by filling it with healthful food and keeping out those things (donuts) that would lead me to regret and eventual sorrow.  We show our self love by treating our bodies right.  Today I also performed one hundred squats and a hundred training push ups.  Not a massive workout for me but still it helped me center my mind on treating my own person with respect and appreciation.  As the children brushed their teeth and readied themselves for bed I blissfully indulged in some Argan oil on my face as well as oil from the "flower of the gods" on my arms and neck, sinking into the calming scent that ties in so well with meditation and quietude of mind.  And I write.  I write because it soothes me; it always has.  I begin each morning in asking the Lord what He would have me consider for that day and asking for His guidance and protection in all things spiritually and otherwise.  He answers me every time and provides for me spiritually, emotionally and in every other manner with an extraordinarily miraculous hand. I thank Him for the ability to think and feel.  I thank Him in the quiet hours of the night for all the gifts He sends to me.  I enjoy the feelings of gratitude I have and long to progress further along the course He has appointed.  I appreciate and thank Him for the gifts of femininity, of the ability to be gentle toward myself and others, and for all the distinctive joys and pleasures He affords me.  I sometimes meditate at night with incense but today the flowery scent that both my kids love radiating from my skin proves sufficient aromatherapy and I may incorporate yogic melodies and rhythms instead.

How you decide to meditate may prove somewhat different, and indeed, my own forms of meditation vary significantly based on what I feel I need, what trials the Lord in His tender kindness affords me, what tools and settings I have around me, and the like but the constant truth stands firm in any situation.  Remember that you need time to cherish yourself, to commune with your God and to fill your life with a greater sense of peace and light.  Blessings be upon you, my beautifully made and eternal friend. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When Your Significant Other Leaves You

Heaven only knows why I feel so thoroughly, overwhelmingly, powerfully impressed to write this post.  I feel as though heaven is all but pushing me to write in this manner and I find myself gazing upward wondering why in the world God has decided I ought to pen such words.  I can only assume that someone out there needs this message and the Lord has turned to me to toss it outward.
I have known many situations in which a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse leaves their counterpart.  This occurs for varied reasons and every situation proves different.  They leave for different reasons - some justified and others not, but each person in said situation has a choice of how to handle it.  I have known a man abandoned by his wife choose to throw his life and faith away and treat their mutual children with contempt.  I am sorry for the pain his ex wife caused but I am more sorrowful by the damage he inflicted on himself.  I have known a woman whose husband committed adultery and then left her for another woman.  I watched in compassionate sorrow as this poor woman chose, instead of standing with quiet dignity, to berate and verbally abuse her ex husband for years thereafter, poisoning virtually everyone she could against him and taking offense when other people saw merit of any kind in him.  And yet I could see in her eyes that she really wanted him back.  I have rarely met so deep an example of sour grapes in my life.  And I can't help but wonder if she understands that if she really does want him back, is she going about in the right way to accomplish her desires?  Let heaven judge; I just work here.
My friends, bad things happen.  Life is filled with sorrow and trial.  We can turn to anger, or we can choose to turn to God.  He will never lead us down the everlasting dark downward spiral of self pity or contempt for another human soul.  He will lead us upward at all times though we may not always understand His way and beautifully intricate and eternal reasons.  When we turn to anger and hatred, we do not walk away triumphant.  All we do is illustrate our own weaknesses and as I have often observed, the other person through their deep and heartfelt repentance generally comes off happier than the one who chooses to cling to injured feelings.  My dear friends, with all the love and compassion in my soul let me plead with you to recognize that there is a very large world out there with new horizons and fresh perspectives.  Let go and look up.  Bask in the joy of your life and use that precious energy to walk toward happiness rather than hammering on the negative behavior of others.  My God bless you as you do this and may He lead you to worlds of light and a life of splendor!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Breaking Up With Rexford

Recently I read an article a friend posted on Facebook regarding appropriate behavior of young women toward young men.  It discussed how young ladies ought to prove modest in dress, manner, speech and the like because the author was attempting to raise her young son to be a noble, respectful young gentleman.  Bravo!  

My thoughts drifted to my own teenage years and in response to the sentiments outlined I found myself overwhelmingly grateful, not only for having the stringent moral standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in my life but also for at least one decision that rocked my foundation and proved a powerful factor in the rest of my life.  I address more particularly the young ladies out there, though it would prove a solid concept for anyone.

Some of my cousins still tease me about a boyfriend I had for approximately three years in high school named Rex.  We were nowhere close to marriage in age but he had for all practicable purposes decided that our lives would be united someday.  Though he hadn't formally popped the question I had a beautiful and rather expensive ring from him and we dated quite steadily.  He was a normal teenage boy and as such I found that the relationship slowly sliding into a morally strained state.  I was a straight arrow girl from the first and Mormon standards mandate total abstinence before marriage, including the avoidance of petting, necking and the like.  I could see the pressure of forbearance in Rex and I eventually heard him often trying to reason out some kind of loophole in the whole abstinence rule.  Eventually I came to a crossroads and found that if I stayed in the relationship self control was going to snap and I would find myself in a moral train wreck.  I felt very much as though I was between a rock and a hard place and realized that I would be forced at some point to offend either Rex or God.

So I dumped my boyfriend.

Was it hard?  Absolutely.  In fact, I was a bit too much of a coward to do it myself, and had a mutual friend break the news to him instead.  But the relief and innocence of conscience proved so immediate and powerful that I waltzed into choir class the next morning and announced to my dear friends what I had done.  Some of them picked me up and twirled me around in the air for joy.  I had lost a potential fiancee.  But I gained a higher kind of freedom of self respect and alliance with heaven, and to this day I have never once regretted making the decision to put God before man.  

What Do You Do When They Die?

It may seem a strange thing to relate that when my legendary grandfather died in my sixth year, when my relatively close cousin died shortly before and when my grandmother died after I'd reached adulthood, I never shed a tear.  The fact was that their spiritual life forces stayed with me so strongly that I have never felt them to be dead.  Indeed, some years ago I had an extraordinary dream about my dear late cousin Moses, and he told me to explain to the rest of the family that he was not dead.  He was alive, had always been so, and wished the rest of the family understood that fact.  He particularly wished his parents and our mutual uncle Benny to know this. 
But other funerals have brought me to tears and I have known the anguish of finding myself swallowed in an overwhelming grief.  My dear sister lost a wonderful father in law last week which is what draws my mind in this direction at the present time.  My thoughts have been engaged in imagining how I would feel if persons in my life now breathing wafted into eternity.  How would I react to my children dying?  How would I respond to my living grandparents' deaths?  And as I played through these situations in my mind there was one person particularly that I believe I would have a very difficult time releasing.  Indeed, I can only imagine that I would stubbornly wrap my arms around this expiring person and defiantly declare that I was going with them.  I tried to imagine how I would be able to cope with losing this person and I can only suppose that others would have to forcibly pry me off of their lifeless body.  But what then?  Unless God saw fit to take me at the same time I would have to somehow learn to place one foot in front of the other. What would I do with the rest of my mortal life?
I'll tell you.  I would turn all that grief and anguish into determination.  I would use that aching to be an influence of good in this world and make said loved one proud.  I would be the person they would want me to be.  I would grit my teeth and, knowing that they were watching, stand up and reach out, reach upward, and turn more and more to God.  Indeed, I would know that they are not really dead.  Death as we often describe it doesn't exist.  It is a mere transition.  That person would be learning and progressing in a manner outside this world; I would dedicate myself to learning and progressing as God directed while still in this world.  When I meet that loved one on the other side of the mortal veil I will not see disappointment in their eyes.  I will meet them gladly, knowing that I didn't waste the time we had apart.  I would look forward always to the day that I could meet them again and our relationship could prove stronger than ever it was before because I hadn't thrown this probationary time away.  I would use the initial grief I had to make a better person of myself so that when we met again I would be more worthy of the eternal friendship we would share. 


Uh oh! Am I in Trouble?

Well hello, my gentle reader.  I thought it might prove amusing and stimulating to invite you behind the scenes in my life as a blog writer and to invite you to throw out your intellectual opinion in an ongoing battle I have been having.  Those who often read my blog understand that I have a rather different manner of viewing the world, which generally centers around the idea that we are all here to grow, progress and help each other back to God.  

One of my very faithful email correspondents would like to throw a wrench into my way of thinking in one particular.  He believes I am terribly misguided in the idea that a woman can and should help a man to become closer to the Lord, kick off his bad habits and ultimately reach his fullest potential.  He believes that a righteous woman is so precious, so beautiful and so exquisite a gift from God that a man should have to already be a shining example of godliness in order to win her.  He believes a righteous woman ought not waste her precious time trying to uplift a man who has been stained with sin and vice.  He believes that a good woman is an ethereal reward from God to a man who has already proved his metal without her help.  Although I see his point and highly appreciate it the realist in me recognizes that men are not perfect, men are quite human, and that a good woman ought to understand that, be understanding of his faults and dig into her store of patience to help him be the man she knows he can eventually become. 

So who is right?  Or are there valuable and accurate points on both sides?  Perhaps you already have this figured out and we are both wrong?  Feel free to comment, message me, or (my favorite) respond privately to