Thursday, September 24, 2015

Titanium



"I am Titanium!"  The lyrics played in the background at the therapy pool at TOSH the last morning I was there.  I went for pool therapy once or twice per week and did my own routine the other days.  That day was a special day in the therapy pool.  My therapy was "upgraded."  Two hip surgeries, 12 weeks apart.  I've had many ups and downs, but overall I'm glad I had the surgeries.  My doctor is the very best.  My pain from before the surgery is absolutely gone.  Now it's time to get strong.

When I arrived that day, the pool was full.  The therapy pool has lanes for swimming and deep and shallow areas.  No children.  No slides.  No waves.  The room has large windows where the sun streams in during the morning hours and large potted plants think they live in a jungle.  It's a beautiful pool.  There were lots of elderly ladies there that morning for the arthritis class.  Every morning I went, there were many of these same people.  On this day, I was really paying attention.  Wondering.  What are their stories?  Everyone there is trying to get strong.  Maybe they've had surgery, like me.  Maybe recovering from an accident, or illness.  Maybe they just have a lot of pain that comes with age and they want to feel better.  Something brings them there.  Something brought me there, too.

Everyone was always so kind.  Gentle smiles and friendly greetings.  "What brings you here?  You're so young!"  "Two hip surgeries," I say.  "What?  Hip replacements?  You're so young!"  Then I have to explain that I am too young to have hip replacements and I had a different kind of surgery.  I digress. On that day it really hit me hard just how beautiful these people are.  Fragile, sweet people. Lined faces with bodies that are failing them.

There was a time that I dreaded aging, hated the thought of getting older, and having my body fail me.  I'm over it.  I'm 50 now.  I no longer care about trying to look like I'm 30.  I'm not, so why would I want to?  Fifty is a really good number.  I look pretty good for 50, so I'll be happy with that, but it's about so much more.  It's about what's inside.  It's about where this body has taken me, what it has done for me, what it continues to do for me, and where I hope it will take me still.

This is a telestial world.  I don't want a telestial body.  My goal is a celestial body in celestial glory, in Heaven with my family and God.  How can I be worthy of a celestial body then if I'm obsessed with a telestial body now?  My belief is that God gave me this body to learn His will and do it; to have and raise a family; to serve others, and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Am I wearing my body out in service to the Lord and others?  Or am I worshipping myself and my body through telestial means or "worldly" ways?   I do believe in putting my best foot forward each day, being clean and well groomed, and well dressed, having good manners and propriety.  But it changes to something else when I worry about my hair or my shoes or my last-year's coat.  When I start to feel the temptation to "do something about" one of those little problem areas.  No, I want a celestial body, not a telestial one.


I'll tell you who has a celestial body.  My husband's mother.  She is 90 years old.  She is beautiful. Not in the way that would ever grace the cover of a magazine.  No, much more important than that. She is gloriously beautiful in the way her crippled and twisted hands show a life of constant service, of playing the violin well into old age, of continuing even to this day to write at the computer and produce her first and second novels; her lined face and thin body too fragile on most days to do much more than a walk around the care center to do her visiting teaching; eyes that are starting to no longer see, but still shine brightly when she sees her family; a head of white hair that is so thick and wavy, I could only dream of having hair like that; a sense of humor and wit so keen and quick you would scarcely believe she is 90.  Does she primp and fuss?  No way.  She doesn't have time.  She's clean and well groomed, smart in her classic style of dressing with a necklace or two about her neck.  She has more important things to do than worship herself and worry about her looks.  She knows her time is running out and she has things to do.  Testimony to bear.  Souls to lift.  Hearts to gladden.  Wisdom to share.  People to love. 

So I think of the words in that song.  "I am titanium."  And I feel like that.  Some people don't like my views on things.  That's okay.  I probably don't like their views on things.  It doesn't mean we can't be kind to one another.  I wonder how people younger than me will treat people of my generation when we are older, like the sweet ladies in the pool; however, I'm not optimistic.  So many younger women seem to already have lost respect for people older than them.  And I'm not that much older.  Not too long ago, a younger woman criticized my dress at church.  Really.  And there was no reason.  It's modest, it's a classic; it is a beautiful dress that I've had forever.  If she doesn't like it, she doesn't need to say anything.  There are things she does that I might not approve of, but I don't judge her and I certainly don't say anything to her.  What is missing? 

I think the problem is the self-centered culture we live in now and numerous people have purchased it with their souls, but so many younger people, who don't really remember what the world was like when it was better without so much technology, have jumped head first into a very shallow pool.  Shallow is the operative word here.  Shallow values and priorities.  Missing respect and propriety.  Absent of class and maturity.  Too self-absorbed.  Too concerned with keeping up with their friends, even if doing it dishonestly.  All for their Instagram feed and 'friends' they have never met and will never really know.  My husband said to me the other day, "be glad you're not in your 30s."  And I really am.  Would I go back?  No way.  No way!  And to the younger people, all I can say is, enjoy things now, because this is all coming down the pike for you, too. 

 
My 4-year-old niece spent the day with me today.  It was really wonderful day.  We played dolls and Lego.  We painted pictures and created fresh works of art.  We took a ride for lunch and a treat and went to the art store.  We bought candy necklaces.  While we were painting, she asked me, "Gina, how old are you?"  I asked her how old she thought I was, reminding her that on my birthday last year she helped me open all the presents and it was a lot, so that should help her remember, since it was a joke to see if I could really open 50 presents.  She thought about it and said, "hmmm, 20?" 
"No, honey, I'm 50."  She replied in excitement, "you are?!  That's so great!"  I told her, "yes, darling, I am 50 and it was my very favorite birthday." 

It's true.  I'm 50 and I'll be 51 before Christmas, which is tremendous because now I'll be IN my fifties.  I am looking forward with great optimism to the future of what will unfold for my children, for my husband and me, and even for this body of mine.  It can do so much!  And my brain, it still works!  I can still do everything I enjoy most and the physical things will improve as my hips get stronger.  I'm sure of it.  However, the most important things are my spirit and my heart.  No matter how tattered and worn out this body gets, and it's bound to, nothing can kill my spirit.   "I Am Titanium!" 



Saturday, September 5, 2015

Paddle Up!



Labor Day weekend 2015.  Bear Lake, Utah is the place.  Paddle boarding is the reason.  It's the only vacation we're taking this summer and we've waited all summer to go.  Why?  Everyone else is having so much fun, going to Disneyland and on Alaskan cruises or to the Oregon Coast.  Well, it sounds peculiar, living in Utah as we do, but we have never gone camping at Bear Lake.  We've been to Disneyland, the Oregon Coast a few times, and even on an Alaskan cruise.  Not to mention our other wild adventures to distant places we can talk about later.  The kids wanted to do something we haven't done and we only had the weekend.  They're all grown up now, with jobs and responsibilities of their own.  It's hard to find time to get away.  Their dad is the bishop so it's hard for him to get away, too.  But we rented some paddle boards, loaded up everything that could possibly fit into the Subaru and even brought along Frank, the little rescue dog. 

We got to the campground late.  It was dark and putting the tent up was challenging, but with the help of flashlights and car headlights, and four sets of arms and hands, we got the job done and were soon roasting marshmallows over the campfire.  I settled down into my chair and inhaled the delicious smell of campfire and slowly enjoyed the perfectly golden brown marshmallow that was completely liquefied sugar in the middle.  What could be better than this,  I wondered.  Not much, I answered to myself.  My biggest and most beautiful blessings were nestled around the fire beside me:  my husband of 30 years, my handsome son and beautiful daughter, and even our little rug-rat dog.  My testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was burning like a bonfire in my heart and my feelings of love and gratitude were just barely under the skin.  I had so much to be happy about.  I had a temple marriage to my best friend and two miracles for children and a knowledge and belief in God and His Son Jesus Christ.  I had a living prophet to look to for counsel and I thought of my temple covenants and the Priesthood power that binds our family together through eternity, if we are worthy. 

We brushed our teeth, had family prayer, and nestled into sleeping bags for a good sleep outside under God's stars.  It took me a long while to get sleepy.  I really wasn't uncomfortable and it was nice and cozy in the tent, until the dog started running around, trying to get to the kids who wanted to sleep out under the stars.  My heart was so full of gratitude.  I did a lot of wondering that night.  Wondering about what it will be like next summer, when our son has moved away to graduate school.  Will our daughter move away too, when she starts her first teaching job?  How far away will they be?  How often will we get to see them?  How much money will that all cost?  After next summer, whenever we want to see our son, for sure, it will cost money, for someone to fly to see the others.   I wondered, when will the kids get married?  Who will they marry?  Is there anyone good enough for them?  Are they good enough for someone else?  Have we taught them everything they need to know?  Will they stay true to who they are?  Most importantly, will they continue to listen to the prophet?  Will they stay true to Jesus Christ?  Will their spouses stay true to Christ?  Will they raise a righteous posterity?  What will be the opposition against them as they try to do this?  How hard will it be?  Am I ready to support them in the difficult things that will still come their way?  Am I strong enough to be a worthy grandmother?  And on and on and on until I started to get a little weary. 

Then in a silent prayer of gratitude and awe at how blessed I truly am, a sweetly complete peace enveloped me from head to toe.   I knew all would be well.  I knew that although we are not perfect parents, we have been steady, consistent, supportive, and loving parents.  Our children have strong testimonies.  They have already shown bravery in standing up to peers about their beliefs.  They have a sure foundation, not built upon us, but upon their Redeemer, Jesus Christ and they love Him.  They make good choices and I know they will continue to do so.   I didn't need to worry about them, but about me.  My only job is to work on myself.  I have to make sure that I'm strong, that I stay true to them, to my husband and to Jesus Christ.  I have to keep my covenants.  I have to follow the prophet.  I have to be worthy of the Holy Ghost to guide me in everything I do and testify to me of what is true and warn me of what is not. 

I started repeating to myself the words of The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  It seems like yesterday that it was read in church aloud, as we studied it and pondered the significance of it in all of our meetings and at home as a couple.  At the time, I was a young and na├»ve Primary president and my children were 4 and 1.  Our little girl hated the nursery and begged John to go with her each week for "a couple minutes" until she settled in.  John will tell you how he felt on the day that was read in Priesthood meeting.  He recognized the significance of it.  It is the word of God, spoken to us by prophets and apostles.  We both knew it and knew what it meant for our future and the future of our then little children:  the family is under attack. 



Just last month, John and I celebrated our 30th anniversary.  We had thought about doing something elaborate, but decided on going back to our humble beginning of a short honeymoon in Salt Lake City and Heber, Utah.  We spent the morning together at the Salt Lake Temple, where our new little family began that miraculous and gorgeous day.  I was so overcome by the tender feelings I had while I sat there that morning, waiting for the worship to begin.  So much had transpired in our lives.  There had been so many struggles and so many glorious blessings.  We had come so far and still had so far to go.  I sat and looked at the picture of the Savior and could not contain my emotions.  Everything I had that mattered to me was because of Him and His restored gospel and Priesthood.  I wondered in magical awe, because of Him, my family is sealed together for eternity and if we all try our best to repent and be clean, we can all live together, forever!  As a young 20-year-old getting sealed to John that day, I knew that, but not like I know it now.  It's different, 30 years on the other side of the wedding day.   
 
In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, in the very first paragraph, it says: 
"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman
is ordained of God
and that the family is central to the Creator's plan
for the eternal destiny of His children." 
 
 
So I'd like to focus on the words "solemnly proclaim," "ordained of God, " and "central to the Creator's plan." 
 
It doesn't say, "we're excited to announce" or "we think it's a good idea" or "we kinda think."  SOLEMNLY PROCLAIM.  Solemn because this is serious business, people.  And proclaim because this is not a recommendation but a declaration!  Why?  Because people, even in the church, don't get it.  Sadly, twenty years later, even more do not get it.  And now the pressure is on from the people in the tall and spacious building and more and more people fall into the misty water and lose their way every day. 
 
"Ordained of God," to me means, treat it differently because it is different.  It is not of the world, at least it's not supposed to be.  Ordained of God means marriage between a man and a woman is important, sacred, necessary, and should be our goal.  How should we treat something that is ordained of God?  Think about that for a minute.  How should we regard our families and our marriages if they are ordained of God? 
 
"Central to the Creator's plan" is enormous in its scope.  This is not a suggestion, brothers and sisters.  It is everything! 
 
I started thinking about how much Heavenly Father must love me and John because He has trusted us with two exceptional children.  He has trusted us to love them, take care of them, and to TEACH them about Him and His Son.  He knew we would need help so he gave us the scriptures and living prophets.  He gave us priesthood leaders and wards and stakes full of others that would help us and love us and help and love our children.  He gave us His Son and we promised we would follow Him.  He promised us everything He has, IF we will be obedient.  If we will be true.  If we will do our part.  That means making our marriages and our families central in our own lives.  Ordained in our own eyes.  Important and first on the list of everything else in this world.  It should be our number one goal every day to make sure we're doing what we can to get ourselves back to God and set and example so our children and spouses will do the same.  The ultimate blessing will be if our families get there, safe and sound, with no one missing.  So this means we have to treat things differently, here, in this life.  We can't expect to live out eternity together if we aren't getting along here on this earth, right? 

Bear Lake was a blast!  We had such a good time.  Paddle boarding is fun and relatively easy, if you don't mind falling off a few times while learning.  John got into it and did really well.  I did great as long as stayed on my seat; I wasn't willing to risk falling and hurt my recently operated-on hips.  The kids loved it and took to it like they'd always done it.  I think it's their youth and athleticism.  There are some keys to it though.  You need to be safe and wear a life jacket.  Our daughter got into a bit of trouble when the waves came up and she got separated from her board.  Luckily, she was able to flag down a man on a jet-ski who came to her rescue--tender mercies!  You also need to balance your body on the board.  If you know how to stand, or sit, and you know how to balance the paddling to go the direction you intend, you'll be fine.  If you get separated from your board, you better hope you have a life jacket and can stand the cold water long enough for help to come, otherwise you're in trouble.  Like anything else, if you do things safely, following advice from those with more experience, you'll be safe.  Even if you fall off, you've got your life jacket to keep you afloat until help comes.  I think the life jacket represents our covenants with God.  If we're humble enough to put it on, to enter into a partnership with Him, we will stay safe, even if we get separated from our boards or our families or even our own lives.  If we are clean, if we are obedient, we are safe. 

General Conference is coming up.  What will be said those two days is inspired and it is from the Lord.  Jesus Christ is at the head of this church.  He will direct and influence the apostles, prophets, and other leaders who speak to us in what they should teach us.  It will be as if He were speaking to us Himself.  Will we be present?  Will we listen?  Will we do?   Will we take the truth to be hard, like Laman and Lemuel?  Will we be happy and excited about the gospel and the humbly receive the counsel we are given?  I came across this passage today as I was reading the Book of Mormon.  I had always focused on verse 2, but today, with conference on my mind, I paid particular attention to verse 3.  Could we not apply this to how we receive prophetic counsel?  Could we not also apply it to how seriously we take The Family: A Proclamation to the World? 

Nephi said he knew what he was teaching was hard--he never said it was going to be easy.  It's also true for us.  No one ever promised in conference that what we were asked to do would be easy, but we are promised we'll be blessed.  Look at Nephi's words: 

"IF ye were righteous and were WILLING to hearken to the truth, and give HEED unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would NOT murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us." 

So, if we are trying our best to do what is right and be obedient, if we are repenting daily and striving to have the Holy Ghost for our constant companion, we will not think the things the prophets and apostles ask of us are hard.  We will happily do them, without question.