Before I count my blessings

Happy 2016!

Holy cannoli–did this year fly by or WHAT? I feel like the old adage is definitely true. The older you get, the faster time flies. It’s going by at warp speed. But life is so good!

I hope that you all had an amazing Christmas season and New Year with those you love the most and that you took some time to reflect on the past year and consider all of the things that God’s hand did for you. For the Lemmon household, we had quite an adventure. We traveled and met new people and made new friends and saw lots of change. I went from selling mattresses in rainy Washington state at the beginning of the year and living in a 598 square-foot apartment to packing up all our things, moving to Idaho, quitting my job, and taking the leap to do my photography and my writing FULL TIME. Boy was it all so scary and so sudden. But it’s the best decision I ever made for myself.

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Once in Idaho, we bought our first home that’s a spacious and cozy (and much bigger than our shoe-box apartment) corner lot with trees in the front and backyard and a fireplace I always dreamed about. We were able to give our bunnies their own room (I know, weird. But totally awesome for me.) And we got a new puppy that is such a rambunctious ball of sweetness.

new home

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My husband graduated nursing school before coming here and now works as an RN at the biggest hospital in the area. My head is spinning with how fast everything happened, and I am so grateful that after three years of really struggling to make ends meet, scraping to get clients, and only being able to  squeeze in my passions on my days off, I can officially say that we’ve made it to where we wanted to be all along. Is the journey over? Far from it! There are so many more goals I want to reach and things I want to do. But it’s exciting when you see some answered prayers manifested right in front of you and see hard work paid off.

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But I realized the other day, while my family was discussing new year’s resolutions in the car on our drive home from Utah, that although I’ve never struggled in counting my blessings, I think a struggle that has been mine is what comes BEFORE I count my blessings. And that’s thinking about all those things I don’t have yet, and feeling sad or inadequate that I don’t. Those feelings and those thoughts often came first and made the “blessings” feel a little bit less impactful than they should be.

For example, this time last year I remember saying, “With all of our fertility treatments, I KNOW we’ll have a baby in 2015!”. I think I said the same thing the year before that, too. And needless to say, we still don’t have any children. It’s always been something constantly at the back of my mind, eating away at me, reminding me that no, life isn’t fulfilled YET.

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But what a poor attitude that is! Just because not every goal is reached and not every desire is granted does not mean that I’m not fulfilled yet. I’m not half of a person–we’re not less of a family. This year I want to pay attention to what I’m thinking about before I count those blessings. Those little voices in my head that have the power to tell me I’m greatly blessed and on the right track, or that I’m lacking and not as lucky as all the rest.

This year will be a year of thankfulness. I hope you’ll join me. No matter where you are in life, no matter what you’ve been praying for or how long you’ve been praying for it–rejoice in where you’re at. It’s a beautiful place to be!

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For 2016 I have so many goals. For my personal life, for my spiritual well being, and for my business. But those things do not define me. Only my gratitude does and the joy I recognize along the way.

Happy New Year, everyone! And I hope every day gives you something wonderful to be thankful for.

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It gets better: A message for the grieving heart

Death is simple.

The last breath is quiet. It only takes a moment. And then it’s over.

But to those who have gone through it, it’s not as simple as it looks–not really. It shatters and destroys and devastates those surrounding it. It forms a dark pit that sits like a silent, heavy passenger.  Death is simple, but living without the one death took is not.

Two years ago today I was sitting by my Dad as he struggled to breathe. He was barely conscious and little did I know that I’d have maybe two more days left before he closed his eyes and slept until his heart would stop.

Two years ago Christmas was dark. The lights, the nativity, the familiar carols on the radio fell a little flat. The snow wasn’t as beautiful–it was just cold. Nothing mattered because my Dad was sick. In my mind, nothing would really matter the same way again. I remember how that hole felt and my eyes mist over if I trace the memory footstep by footstep, feeling his hand again and watching the sun rise and set as if nothing was changing.

I remember that girl but I am not that girl today.

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And I think it’s worth telling this side of the story; the side that often doesn’t get told because once someone passes through the thick of the grief, there doesn’t seem to be much to write about anymore. But perhaps the most important lesson in it all, and the lesson in which I’m learning every day, is that it gets better. It really does.

To the mom who is watching cancer take her child; to the dad who’s soldier didn’t make it home. To the child who had to stand at the funeral of her parent and to the  person who had to say goodbye to a best friend–you have been so heavy on my heart. I have cried your tears, even if they are much different, and I have touched the gravestone.dad's grave

I have cried into a cold pillow and I have stared blankly at a sad Christmas tree. I have felt what holidays feel like with an empty seat at the table and pictures of their smiles still on the wall. I have sat in a full bustling room with laughter and chatter and have had a wave of sadness take me by its talons and make me feel alone. Grief feels endless. And to be honest, I don’t think it ever completely goes away. There will be days when it will hit you out of nowhere and bring you to your knees, and then there will be days where you laugh again–one of those belly laughs–and you fall asleep on a dry pillow. Grief is a funny thing, but it gets you to where you need to be– and that is right here.me and dad

This Christmas I was surprised when I realized I had decorated the tree and had listened to the carols without stopping to gain control of my emotions. I  had even found the ornament my Dad had left for me before he died and placed it on a limb, smiling gently to my surprise. I miss my Dad. I wish he were coming for Christmas this year to see my new house and to pet my new puppy and to give me advice about home repairs. I wish I could show him my recent photography and hear what he has to say. I wish I could hear him laugh one more time in that goofy way he used to do as he slapped at his leg, and I wish we could plan trips and have him dramatically fawn over my cooking like no one ever has since. my pup

I miss my Dad. But I know I belong here where I am–and it has gotten better. My heart, scars and all, beats a little bit stronger. Yours will too.

It’s hard to hear it now, and I bet you’re even a little bit mad at me to read it because it feels impossible to ever get past the point of complete and utter loneliness. How do you repair a shattered mirror? It’s just one piece at a time. The cracks won’t go away. You won’t feel the same or be the same or even look the same in the way your eyes move or your smile turns. You will forever be different because of the loss you suffered. And that is okay.

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In only two years I have experienced the worst pain of my life so far and in return I’ve been able to experience the redemptive power of choosing to get out of bed, one foot in front of the other, until little by little it’s easier to laugh and I’m quicker to understand and empathize with those who are hurting. I’ve been able to see the effects my Dad has had on my life, long after he left it, and the way I’ve become a little more like him every day just because I remember him and carry him with me. I’ve become stronger and more resilient. I’ve pursed passions I wouldn’t have the guts to pursue before. I can dance to Jingle Bell Rock in my kitchen in my pajamas again and remember the way he spun me around when I still had pigtails; I can put my ornament on the tree and actually smile–and that’s because of the last two years.

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It will get better. You will get a little bit stronger. A song they loved will come on the radio and instead of turning it off, you will turn it up. Someday, you will see their pictures and laugh at a funny memory behind it instead of cry. And one of these days, you will lay down in bed, and sleep will come easy.

So don’t give up. Don’t write off Christmas or swear off the family get-togethers. The place you’re in is not a place to stay. Although the pain will always be real, you will rise above one day at a time, and I promise you–

Mourning will end and the morning will come.

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This much I know: My take on the LGBT Mormon controversy

I read it right before I went to sleep last night–which wasn’t a good thing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not baptize a child under 18 who is the child of a same-sex couple either married or co-habitating. Once the child turns 18 and is no longer living in that household, he or she can seek approval then.

That meant I couldn’t sleep for at least an hour because I wasn’t in a very good mood. My first response?

How dare they.

And then the morning came–and I had a memory that struck me out of nowhere.

I started learning about the church when I was 18 and I still lived at home. I was still several months away from college, my parents were active in the Pentecostal church, and I was raised so anti-Mormon that we hid in closets when those black-tagged visitors would knock on our door. Needless to say, it was scary when the day came to tell my father that I wanted to be Mormon.

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Although my mom was more accepting of the idea, my dad was a tough nut to crack. He wasn’t happy with me going to church or reading the Book of Mormon and we fought like cats and dogs. The missionaries refused to come over to teach lessons when they weren’t welcome–they even sadly told me I couldn’t be baptized quite yet–because they “aren’t in the business of pitting me against my parents”. Now, they didn’t push me away, mind you. That’s important to note. Every time I showed up at church they made sure to do whatever it took to answer my questions and give me whatever literature I requested. Each sunday they’d even meekly ask, “Is your father ok with us coming over this week, perhaps?”

Although I itched to be baptized–it was respect. I see it now that within a church that strives to make families eternal, the last thing they’d want to do is baptize a young girl still living at home with parents who could potentially kick her out, disown her, or be driven even further from the gospel. My parents weren’t like that of course, but it was the missionaries’ jobs to do things the right way. Some time later on, after my parents agreed to have them over for dinner, and after we were all eventually baptized and even went through the temple together, one of my missionaries said to me, “I always had the faith that YOUR faith would make it all alright.”

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And I repeat that memory in my head now with the controversy being stirred up by those within, and outside of, our great church of Christ. Just like me, the church is striving to protect these beautiful children who live within a home that is contrary to God’s will. Does that make the LGBT bad people? Of course not! There are Gay and Lesbian parents who are loving and wonderful and raise such good kids. Our church has gone the extra mile to make sure that they know that. They are loved and valued beyond comprehension! But the fact remains that the child’s home and church would be very different from one another. The things the children would be learning–the covenants the child would be taking on–would mean that their very living condition is out of alignment with the gospel. We can all agree on that. The child would eventually have to choose between the parents’ or the church’s doctrine. And that doesn’t support the gospel OR families.

Sooner or later the teachings might pit the child against his or her own parents. There might be fights. A lack of trust. Or maybe the child, defensive of his or her parents, would grow bitter against the church and leave or retaliate, which would be much worse than never having been baptized in the first place. There are a barrage of things that could lead to a slippery, dark slope.

We aren’t in the business of baptizing members just to leave them gasping and flailing for air. Baptism is sacred–very, very serious. Those who are baptized and eventually go through the temple make promises and covenants that last eternity. Now, seven years later, and looking back upon my journey to where I am, I understand why my missionaries did it they way they did. Because of how they did it, my family was united. There was love. My dad died a priesthood holder with a temple recommend at his bedside. My decision to go to BYU-Idaho was a happy one. There was peace and understanding with my decision.

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If someone, younger than 18 and still living at home, takes that all on without support–there will be horrible repercussions. And that doesn’t just go for the LGBT community. There are a hundred other circumstances. My husband, who served in Africa, said that same policy was practiced among the children there who had Muslim parents. Because of the threat to the children’s safety (because of religious law) and the lack of support, it was simply off limits to baptize a child without parental consent.

I’m not a spokesperson for the church. In fact, I keep deleting and re-writing lines of this blog because I don’t have an agenda and I don’t want to sound like I do. I don’t know everything. Sometimes things hurt me, like they do you, and sometimes my perspective is so narrow that I have to get on my knees to ask for His perspective instead.

“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” I kept saying in my head last night. And I realize now that the church, which is founded upon Christ, never said they should not. We believe that Christ loves all children, from conception to last breath. And we believe that regardless of skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, intelligence, or religion he loves so unconditionally and wholly that there will be a day when everyone will have a chance to say “Yes” to him and commit to him, whether it’s in this life or the next.

This policy is not to keep the children away. It is to make sure they have a sure chance of not only coming, but staying.

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I don’t know everything, and sometimes I wish I did. Because it takes a while for me to swallow doctrine at times. I’m the type of person who gets angry first about things and then thinks later. I know it should be reversed, but I’m only human. As a convert to the church, sometimes I sway to the liberal side of things, and the only way to rein me in is to show me why certain policies are there for the exact reason I’m passionate about. To protect. To defend. To lead in righteousness. When I open my eyes and broaden my look at things I more easily see that the very things that seem harsh or hard to take are the very things that protect the family, protect eternal principles, and protect the Lord’s flock.

So many covenants we make as LDS members, we realize the grave nature of them. We’ve all heard the expression, “To reject the Lord after knowing the full truth, it would be better if you weren’t even born.”

So why would we play with the fire?

Christ leads and guides this church and inspiration and revelation in our day is to make sure our standards stay high, even when the world’s becomes low.

I’m humbled that during the times when I’m doubtful or unsure, He fills in the blanks. He reminds me to pray. To trust and have faith that His love and His perspective is so much greater than my own.

I at least know that much.

And for now, that is enough.

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UPDATE: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responds to policy change in this powerful video:

Church responds to criticism over new same-sex policies

President Monson: I heard what you said to us

General Conference this past weekend was super special to me.

I know, they’re all special. But this one sticks out.

For the past couple of years I’ve been working during General Conference, which means I’d usually catch it later, picking through the talks I wanted to read later on. But this year it was LIVE. And I was present, ready to be taught. Not only that, but I didn’t actually SEE it for the majority of the time. I simply heard it. I was driving home from Utah with General Conference tuned in on the radio. And it was just me, the open road, and the words of prophets filling my empty car.

Because of that–I didn’t see President Monson’s legs fail him. I simply heard his words. I count myself blessed for that.

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Since General Conference I have seen and read countless posts, blogs, articles, and statuses revolving around our sweet prophet’s diminishing health. Since conference I’ve seen the videos, I’ve seen the photos, and I’ve felt a pit of sadness in my stomach when I think about how as his age increases and his voice becomes quieter, it ticks away the time we have left with him. I too am saddened at that. But I think that something else that is sad is the fact that there are so many articles revolving around his poor health–and so little revolving around what he actually said to us that day.

Along with that, I’ve seen so many articles, complete with click-bait titles, that bemoan the fact that our three newest apostles are white “stereotypical” church leaders with little diversity. I’ve read blogs about the dissenting votes during the sustaining portion of the meeting. I even saw another puff of talk from Ordain Women. So much smoke and mirrors.

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Distractions. Blindness. Meaningless debates.

And because of that I have this longing to say out loud: President Monson, I heard what you said to us. It was much louder than what you didn’t say.

I’m not saying that I don’t care about President Monson’s health. I do. I pray for him and I cried like a baby at his wife’s funeral in 2013. I love the man–and because of that, I choose to look where he points instead of point at his shaking legs and his quivering voice and the way in which his hands aren’t as expressive as they used to be. I choose to scribble down notes as he talks and remember the way he said with conviction, “You have come from His presence to live on this earth for a season, to reflect the Savior’s love and teachings, and to bravely let your light shine for all to see.”

From the inside of my car, President Monson’s light shone strongly to me. He wasn’t weak. HIs legs didn’t shake. The spirit testified to me again of my mission here on earth. I know without a shadow of a doubt that’s what President Monson would want each of us to feel and to remember–long after he’s gone.

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If we take it back hundreds and thousands of years we’ll find our prophets speaking from the most miserable of conditions. Abinadi preached within the fire, Noah screamed through the rain, Daniel spoke from a lion’s den and Joseph counseled with God within a prison. So with trembling knees and an aging body President Monson continues to uphold the fact that God’s word is important enough to preach–even amidst the fire. And in my opinion, it’s our job to follow the example of the saints of old and listen close through the noise.

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President Monson was the first living prophet I’ve known. I was baptized several months after Gordon B. Hinckley died and only know him through his words and some of the talks that have been shared with me in BYU classrooms. And with a tiny bit of sadness I realize that when it’s time for my children to listen to conference it most likely won’t be President Monson they’ll be watching, but someone else. But like I have learned from President Hinckley, they’ll learn from President Monson. They’ll read the stories he tells and laugh at his eccentric ways of storytelling. They might collect “warm fuzzies” in a jar each time they do an act of service. They’ll read about his constant way of telling us how much he loves and appreciates us–and how we need to love one another. They’ll know these things because of what I’ll write down and how his talks will be transcribed. It won’t matter to them that he had diabetes or neuropathy. It won’t mean anything that he was so old that he had to be held up. The only thing that will matter is that he was the voice of God while on the earth. And he spoke until his time was up. A true soldier of Christ–unwavering, stalwart, and noble.

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I’m so grateful that at all times now on this earth we have a way to hear from our Creator. How amazing is that? I’m grateful that amidst all the smoke and distractions we have voices yelling out from the fire–reminding us what matters and teaching us what to tune in to.

In my car during conference– I heard you, President Monson. Despite the shakes, despite the challenge it was for you to stand, I heard you tell me to be more like Christ every day. Loud and clear I tuned in and heard that. I could almost see you too, hand pointed toward the saints, broad shoulders poised as you declared the word of God boldly and confidently. I could see the spirit move the saints to action. I could see you smile through your stories and your testimony of the Savior.

That’s all I could see.

Sorry, but Kim Davis does NOT represent my Christianity

“Eye of the Tiger” was my high school’s theme song. At every football game, every pep rally, every assembly–that darn song played. It’s a good song, don’t get me wrong, but after half a million times of hearing it and cheering to it it’s just as easy to quote and re-sing as the birthday song to me. The hardcore champion song has it’s place–like in high school gyms or the start of the Super bowl.

“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight. Risin’ up to the challenge of our rivals.”

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That’s the song that Kim Davis walked out to at a support rally in Kentucky today.

Click here for video of the rally

Crazy enough, it wasn’t a boxing match or the end of a Friday night game. It was because she openly and knowingly broke the laws of the land and said she did it in the name of the Lord. And everyone applauded and some cried out for her to run for president and others spouted off hate-filled cracks toward gays. And in my opinion this is exactly what it looks like–boloney.

If you haven’t heard of Kim Davis, she was a county clerk in Kentucky who denied a same-sex couple their right to a marriage license, even after she was asked several times. You can watch the video here. After spending some time behind bars, she is now being heralded as a hero for Christ–a saint who stood up to the “rivals”. And that just twists my stomach into a million knots.

I share Kim Davis’ faith in God. I share many of her opinions, most likely. But where we differ is in how we stand for it.

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First of all, as Christians, “Risin’ up to the challenge of our rivals” doesn’t mean rising up against our fellow brothers and sisters in unkindness, disobeying the laws of the land, or making a spectacle of yourself in a crowd of uplifted crosses, homophobes, and cheering Sadducees. It doesn’t mean forcing your beliefs on others and crucifying them when they prove to be different. That doesn’t make you a winner for Christ. That makes you a symbol of all the things that are wrong in some parts of the Christian culture. It makes you the reason so many people turn away from all the good that we do in our churches and all the people who are truly loving and faithful followers of Christ. It makes you a laughing stock who did nothing more than make a same-sex couple feel judged and hurt and who is the reason that thousands of people clicking play on computer screens all over the world are shaking their heads and changing their minds about religion.

After watching the video of this rally where Kim raises her hands to Heaven as a mismatched, awkward backdrop of “They stack the odds, still we take to the street, for the kill with the skill to survive” plays in the background, I felt extremely prompted to apologize on behalf of those, who like me, feel sickened by this display.

“His people have rallied–and you are a strong people!” she yelled into a loud crowd at the rally. But what are we rallying for? To go against laws at our place of employment? To ostracize those who think differently? To mask yourself as a martyr for a cause?

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Those who love God love their brothers and sisters too.  They don’t gain attention as modern-day crusaders. This isn’t love–and this certainly doesn’t reflect a perfect Creator.

I understand the need and desire to stand up for what you believe in.

In a world that preaches so much of what is wrong, we’re called to be the light that fills up those dark corners. We’re called to be examples. But Kim Davis worked as a COUNTY CLERK. Her main job, alongside other tasks, is to sign marriage licenses. She didn’t have the right to deny the right that is now lawfully given to same-sex couples. If she doesn’t feel comfortable doing that, fine. Then change your day job. I can’t imagine the horror I would have if a homosexual clerk denied me the right to marry my husband. Opinions ASIDE. Standing up for what is right is a lot less extravagant than what some people tend to think nowadays. So many people feel the need to flash their banners and wave their flags and stand on the pedestals of “Thank God there is someone like me”. That’s where we’ve got it SO wrong.

All the while, far from the chaos and the Pharisees of our generation, Christ is standing amongst the widows and the prostitutes and the sinners and the neglected and the addicts and he’s comforting and loving and ministering to those who stand in food stamp lines and cancer wards and mental health facilities and in the lonely homes of those who wrestle with demons. He’s holding the depressed and he’s forgiving the teenage runaway and he’s helping and talking with the Christians who defend him by being kind and generous and bold in how they LOVE and use their hands for good.

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We live in a day where men’s hearts will fail them. When we hear that scripture I think that so many of us think of those who are unbelievers. But I feel that if we aren’t careful and honest in our beliefs, we can be the ones to fail. We can be the ones to grow hard and calloused to those around us who are different or part of different cultures. And I don’t want to see that happen. The beliefs that Kim holds dear can be used for good. What if she talked to those young men as she wrote out their marriage license that day, asking them about their lives, laughing with them a bit, leaving them a little happier–a little better–than the way she found them? Isn’t that more of the world we want to create?

As I have loved you, Christ said so earnestly during his earthly ministry, love one another.

Think of your darkest moment–He loved you through that. Our job is to pass it on. Nothing more–nothing less.

Kim Davis does not represent Christianity by her recent actions. But Christ does.

That is the only way in this world. There is no Eye of the Tiger playing to the beat of hate. And we aren’t called to rise up against those we want on our side.

Let us be better.

He maketh no mistake

I stared in the mirror yesterday and couldn’t believe I had become that girl.

The one in a Ross dressing room, eyes filled with tears, jeans at my knees, suddenly completely and utterly aware of a falsehood that I had managed to dodge up until that moment in time.

I’m the girl that cries in dressing rooms.

Lord have mercy.

I am NOT turning into that, I told myself, cleaning up the trail of mascara, re-hanging the jeans, and exiting quickly enough so that the attendant didn’t get suspicious. But then I saw my husband who was waiting at the entry way and as soon as he saw me he had that look of knowing and of course–(because I’m a girl in general with one too many emotions)–I started bawling.

My size doesn’t fit anymore. The size I’ve been in since my senior year of high school (and have worked to keep) no longer fits AT ALL. Truth be told, lady and gents, this is totally embarrassing to write about. Who wants to get on their blog and tell the world that their pants don’t fit the same? But pride out the window, I have to tell the story of what happens next as soon as you reach a point in your life, whether sooner or later, that you’re totally aware of a blinding imperfection or insecurity and you become the crying girl in the dressing room. Because I think what happens next matters in terms of our salvation even.

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“He’s jealous,” my husband said into my hair as I stepped into an aisle with tall racks to hide my horrible and embarrassing crying. “Satan is jealous that you have a wonderful and perfect body because he can’t even have one.”

It hit me hard, him saying that. It’s not that I didn’t know it, either. Growing up I was always surrounded by people who gave too much value to the numbers on the scale. I had worked my way out of an eating disorder as a young teen and have written countless blogs on self worth, even writing to people thousands of miles away to encourage those who found themselves lacking the confidence to even go on in life. I grew up seeing the fault in focusing on the faults merely because I didn’t want to live the way I saw so many people live. I didn’t want to go back to the time where I fell into the same trap. But now, here in a store with jeans two sizes too small slung over my arm, for a moment I forgot all of that and decided to listen to the lies.

Every now and then we all give in to the same lies because Satan isn’t creative. He whispers the same kind of  things to all of us because of his jealousy in the fact that a PERFECT creator created YOU. And He maketh no mistake.

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The lies are everywhere at times.

You’re fat. Your hair is thin. You’re too short. Your thighs touch. You’re too skinny. Your nose is big. Those jeans USED to fit before now.

And it hurts enough to make you the girl that cries in dressing rooms. It makes you forget that the only reason in the world you would think those things is because there is someone who wishes with all his might that he had that healthy beating heart and those legs that can run. He wants to drag you down into a misery that is blinded to how beautiful you really are with those eyes that can see and that body that can move and have babies and paint and sing and dance and build.

He wants you to forget that simple truth that God makes no mistakes.

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This isn’t a profound, ground-breaking message. But to me it was everything. In that moment of looking in the mirror and judging myself at every angle, I needed to be reminded of that.

I’m not saying that it’s okay to not care about the condition of our bodies because that would be opposite of loving them. We should strive to be our healthiest self and to encourage others to do the same. We shouldn’t let ourselves become addicted or slow or sick and keeping ourselves strong should be a goal.

But I don’t want to be the mom someday who shows my little girl that my worth lies in the number on the scale rather than in what is told to me in the scriptures. I don’t want to be the mom that shows my son that women are weak and unhappy with their bodies. So I have to start now, despite a bigger size of jeans. Because judging value upon THAT is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and you think so too, even though you might do it as well. It’s easy to listen to the father of all lies, but we can make it a learned trait to shut him out.

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At the end of the day what matters isn’t the size of jeans or the aisle we have to shop in. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never really had curves or that you have way too many.

What matters is that you are kind. Honest. Loving. Healthy. Selfless. Happy. And completely aware of how valuable and beautiful and incredible your intricate, perfectly created body really is. You are created the way you are for a very specific purpose.

So wipe the tears with me and try on that bigger size–or the smaller one if you need.

You make them look fabulous.

If Cecil the lion doesn’t matter to you, you’re missing the point

There are so many terrible things going on in the world. I can name a few without even thinking.

ISIS. Hunger. Poverty. Aids. Cancer. Domestic violence. Genocide. I’m not going to name them all, because that would take up my entire blog and then some. And these terrible things are worth getting mad over. They’re worth the attention and the conversation and the motivation to change things. They’re worth caring about.

But the other day when a dentist named Walter Palmer from Minneapolis poached a lion named Cecil that was known and well-loved by an African community, a large amount of people (aside from those upset by it) from all over the world seemed outraged that people would be so furious over the death of a lion when “God forbid!” there are children dying of malaria.

cecil the lion

Bloggers and columnists had a hay day with it, preaching about how ridiculous it is to talk about dead lions when there are bigger fish to fry and bigger tears to cry.

I can’t help but roll my eyes at how ridiculous us humans can be and how narrow minded. I can be mortified at child sex slavery in southeastern Asia and still have enough room in my heart to be disgusted that lions and giraffes and elephants and bengal tigers are lured out of game reserves or hunted on their land all for the sake of being “prizes” that serve to shock and sicken us on our Facebook walls. Before Cecil’s famous death, there have been countless incidences of poaching and it has been a PROBLEM. This isn’t a new issue here.

giraffe hunter

For years now I’ve been teased that I’m a tree hugger and I finally learned to take it in stride because– well, maybe I am. I think that deforestation is a huge issue that needs to be resolved. Poaching sickens me and needs to be stopped and prosecuted much strongly than it is. We need to take greater strides to reduce our carbon footprints, cut the plastic six pack rings before tossing it, and clean up after ourselves after a day on the beach. Walk more than you drive and donate to causes that protect land and wildlife. Get outraged when men and women with enough money for a plane ticket to Africa slaughter endangered animals and then say they “used all the meat”.

Getting caught in an improperly discarded six-pack ring resulted in a deformed shell for Peanut the turtle, who is now displayed as part of the state's anti-litter campaign launched Monday.

Hunting or slaughtering for food is necessary. I won’t shame that or disrespect you for feeding your family or a community. But it is a shame that there are self-promoting poachers who will pay buckets of money to travel the world only to kill for a thrill and bring back prizes like head hunters. Those people aren’t dying of hunger. They don’t need winter coats. They are simply wiping out bits and pieces of a beautiful world that’s dying a little bit every day. They’re writing the endangered species listswith their very own hands and bragging about it.

tiger

It is possible, contrary to popular belief, to care about these animals and still care an incredible deal about other world issues. They ALL matter. The fallacy of “I won’t get angry because this doesn’t matter as much as genocide” is just as ridiculous as saying a woman in Michigan shouldn’t cry over her husband leaving her because a woman somewhere in Africa just had to bury her third child. Buck up honey, people have it worse. Right?

But that’s where we’re wrong.

It should hurt us–everything that hurts another life. These issues should be enough for us to talk about it and vote and write and support the things that aim to heal it. As cheesy as it may sound, actively caring makes a difference. It convinces and touches and persuades and carries around the world quicker than you can imagine. There’s no need to compare issues and choose just one. That would be missing the point of being stewards over this earth.

earth satellite

In the very first book and chapter of the Bible we hear God’s commandment for our earth. It’s in the FIRST chapter. It must be pretty important.

Genesis 1:26-28 states, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Dominion means to have authority and control over something. It’s mentioned several times in the scriptures, even when explaining the dominion that parents have over young children. This shows that dominion isn’t a loose term. It’s responsibility. Respect for what keeps us breathing and eating and revolving. It admonishes us to maintain balance and to nurture resources. Dominion, in my opinion, is a great form of love.

whale

The responsibility of our earth, our animals, our people, and the very air we breathe was given to us before we were even born into it. So why do we treat it so lightly? And why is it last on our priority list because there are “so many other issues”?

Cecil the lion is a symbol of something dark that affects us. Human trafficking victims speak out to warn us of something that affects us. Smog covered cities and disappearing ice caps and tents with shivering bodies under overpasses scream from the very ground we stand on. It all affects us simply because this is our home and these are our walls and our people and our dominion.

Proverbs 12:10 blatantly says, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” and Psalm 50:10 says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Taking life–whether it be an animal’s or a human’s or the very earth itself–shouldn’t be a cheap thrill and a set of bones on a mantle. That isn’t the dominion we were given.

That sick control gets me angry–angry enough to blog about it and read about it and pray about it–angry simply because of how strongly I care.

cecil the lion

Call me a hippie or a tree hugger or “going green”. There’s so many labels nowadays for people who decide this world matters.

Wear your label with pride, whatever gets YOUR feathers ruffled. Care about it passionately and demand change every day of your life through how you live and what you support or buy or what you choose to stay away from.

Because it ALL matters.

It really, really does.

A farewell to the familiar

You may have noticed that it’s been awhile since I’ve last blogged. That’s not the norm for me, and I hate to get out of the habit because blogging is often the only way I can get all of my thoughts and emotions and opinions out CLEARLY (as possible, anyway.)

And this month has been challenging for me, so I need to write. It’s just hard to. Tomorrow I’m moving to Idaho–not just a trip or a pro-longed stay–but a for real “I’m a real adult now?” kind of step. That includes house buying and career changes and the whole nine yards. In less than 24 hours I’ll be packing my Washington life into a 16-foot space and giving my last hugs before trucking 14 hours across the state, leaving behind co-workers, friends, and family that I love, the ocean that’s part of my soul, the Cascades, the Evergreens, my childhood house and our starter apartment, the very things that just sing to my spirit and created ME.

at the ocean

Why am I doing this? I’ve asked myself this probably 800 times since the decision was made. I look around my room and procrastinate packing and I cried as I wrote out my “Farewell!” e-mail to my work district. Why am I doing this?

But in my heart I know why. It’s because God has called me to.

Matt has job opportunities he wouldn’t get here as easily, we found a house that we can actually afford and have a family in, we prayed and saw the Idaho plains as the place our children will play and our lives will grow. But it hurts–oh, does it hurt.

grandma

And isn’t that the truth of it all? All of us, at some points in our lives, follow a path that just doesn’t make sense to our logical minds or to our broken hearts. But yet we go on, we step forward, we carry a torch of memories with us and forge ahead to create new ones. We say goodbye to those who started out with us and soon meet the people who will fill in the middle and eventually the end. We hold on to those who undoubtedly are rooted in our lives and find ways to keep them actively in it. We make decisions that absolutely suck in the moments and sob as we drive away.

kissing nephew

I’m so grateful for Washington. I’m grateful that this is the place where I played barefoot in the soft grass from morning ’til the dinner bell–and even after that, to catch frogs in the dark. I’m grateful that I went throughout my school years here and met the teachers who urged me to write and create. I’m thankful that I have memories of my dad playing with us in the sprinkler, his work pants rolled up to his knees–and memories of saying goodbye to him not even ten miles away from that same spot. I’m thankful that I watched my mom sacrifice for us and that we had a place to laugh and cry with her and become women like her. I’m thankful that this is the place where my sister followed me around all summer with a saggy diaper, taking my hand and becoming my best friend through the years.

raining

This is the place where I visited on breaks from college, watched sunsets with lemonade, gazed at stars from my back on a dewy backyard trampoline, learned from missionaries, got my heart broken, visited with a new husband and created our first home, worked for the news like I’d dreamed of, changed my mind about dreams and created new goals then changed my mind again. I’m grateful for the woods and the lakes and the smell of rain and the shorelines that touched my toes and filled my soul with sunshine and salt water for years upon years. It became part of me.

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It hurts to leave it behind, even with excitement of the new adventure to come. It isn’t easy leaving a place that has become comfortable or leaving the people who are simply the fabric of your existence. But we all do it. Change comes, and we rework ourselves and rediscover ourselves and meet new faces and new experiences and new ways of living. That’s how our lives become beautiful. Life isn’t in any way sedentary, rather it’s a bizarre and lovely metamorphosis of change.

I once read a blog post (I can’t remember where I read it, darn it) from a man who was talking about his son and daughter-in-law moving across the country. He had a unique perspective that really made me think. He said that he was proud that his son was taking the family name to a place his family had never lived. That he took that last name and brought it across the country to inspire people and love people and make an impression that would really change those he encountered. He said his own father had traveled, making his own mark upon lives, and that he had also done the same. Now his son will continue to dot the map. How cool is that?

zoo time

I hope to do the same. I look forward to taking the roots of Washington and my family name and legacy to the places I live and touch and the lives I encounter. We all literally dot the map–even in ways we’ll never be aware of. That’s why change is necessary. That’s why the hurt and discomfort is worth it.

So farewell for now, Evergreen state. I will visit you again soon.

Now I’m off to dot the map with footprints of sand and ocean air and pieces of beautiful home.

sandy

Bryce Harper posing nude for ESPN is NOT a billboard for Christ

What do you guys think about this topic?? I’ve seen various viewpoints on the subject and think it’s good to get the conversation rolling.

8ways2

Latter-day Saint professional athlete Bryce Harper, 22, is an all-star baseball player for the Washington Nationals.  Along with Jimmer Fredette and Jabari Parker, he has been one of the Mormon role models to capture the heart of America with their spark and religious convictions.

bryceharper

Sadly, Bryce Harper chose to be involved in ESPN’s Body Issue in which famous athletes pose nude, showing off their sculpted Roman-like physiques.  I thought about this before writing, but I came to a simple conclusion.

If you’re going to be a role model for Christ and His church you better not defile it.

He wasn’t always like this, though. In 2013 Deseret News highlighted the Bryce Harper I looked up to: “Bryce Harper: MLB slugger has high standards on and off the field”

Baseball player Bryce Harper smiles during a news conference where the Washington Nationals introduced him as their first overall selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, at Nationals Park in Washington Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. Harper  agreed to a $9.9 million, five-year deal with the baseball club last week. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Here are a couple quotes from the Deseret News article showing how Harper felt 2 years ago:

“I feel I can be a walking Book of Mormon and help people…

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The thing we’ll regret from the legalization of same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage is legalized–and I know we have all read 537 articles telling us so.

This blog will make it 538.

In all honesty, as soon as I heard the news I told myself under my breath, “I’m not writing about this one.”

Most of my readers, my friends, my family–even my co-workers– know how I feel about same-sex marriage just by the church I attend and the social views I have and express when asked or here on my blog. I really didn’t have anything new to say in regards to my opinion on the matter. But now I do–and it’s something that bothers me more than the legalization of same-sex marriage.

It’s the hate.

hate

There is a divide in our nation–and we caused it. There is pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage. Liberal and conservative. “#lovewins” or “#traditionalmarriage”. Black or white. There is barely a middle anymore where all of us grays mingle, agreeing to disagree with kindness and compassion and a willingness to be in the presence of those completely different than us. I miss that gray area. And I think we eventually all will.

I can’t scroll down my Facebook wall without seeing half of my friends list filtered with rainbows over their profile pictures, loudly exclaiming which side they’re on, drawing attention to the profiles of those who stand on the other side of the ravine. Little by little we claim our groups, hoist our flags, and draw the curtains on the “other side”. Little by little we become members of a certain community rather than individuals of different colors, faiths, ethnicities, orientations, and backgrounds who inhabit a country built on the beauty of differences. We seek so ferociously to “unite” and “accept”, all the while dividing and shunning. And I’m so incredibly sick of seeing that happen. Are you?

Years down the road I hope we aren’t so far gone that we don’t regret this period of complete unkindness toward our own brothers and sisters. I hope that pictures like this make us sick.

gay parade

And I hope that our flag and war heroes mean more than this to us.

iwo jima offensive

And that this kind of anti-gay bullying will simply be in the pages of an old history book.

gay bullyingfacebook bully

And that churches can preach what they feel is right and ban what they feel is wrong.

And that bloggers like me and artists and writers and politicians and ministers and you and I can hold opinions and vote for what we feel is right and still make friends with those who cast a different vote.

And as soon as I push publish on this blog I realize the repercussions of it. I’ve sifted through the e-mails and comments before, knowing full well that along with those who seek understanding and love even amongst disagreement, there will be even more at times who seek to harm and destroy and rip apart all for the sake of hopefully “being right” or “being heard”.

You know what I believe.

But if you are gay– I love you. You can be my friend. You can be someone I laugh with and work with and go to for advice.

I am devout in my faith–and I hope you love me back.

Because THAT is humanity.

Jesus washing feet of man wearing jeans

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently published a letter boldly saying, “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree. We affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same‐sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully…The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.”

Kindness and civility shouldn’t be too much to ask, but it often is. There are no winners when a comment thread takes a nasty turn or when churches are persecuted or a gay teen commits suicide because of homophobes by his locker. Hate never breeds victory.

Just last night there were some news reports about how the star during Jesus’ birth was once again visible in the sky after 2000-something years. My sister and husband and I actually saw it while driving home last night. “What do you think it means?” my husband asked. Some people may have answered, “That God is pissed at what’s going on right now!” or “That He’s celebrating marriage equality!”. But my answer was kind of simple. I think He’s just reminding us that He’s there.

birth star

No matter what.

Genesis 20:13 blatantly speaks to us. “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, ‘This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother’.”

My brother. My sister. That’s who you are. That’s who I am to you.

I hope that one day we regret the repercussions of this movement and I feel that someday we will. Because I’ve always regretted the times when I hurt someone’s feelings or worded things wrongly or pushed someone further away from the Savior rather than closer to him. But I’ve never regretted being honest or understanding.

And I’ve never regretted being kind.

Additional Reading:

Here’s a link to a beautiful blog that I recommend reading: I’m Gay, And I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage