Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shiblon Syndrome Vs The Corianton Course

(By Guest Author Mitch Borden)


In the book of Mormon there is a story of a prophet named Alma who is the son of another prophet named Alma.  The second Alma is often called Alma the younger.  He had three sons, Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton.


For most of my adult life I have been a big fan of Shiblon. I wanted to be like Shiblon. When Alma the younger was about to die and giving final counsel to his sons; Helaman who was to be the next prophet received lots of  spiritual counsel and instructions, Corianton who had been wayward received a loving rebuke and lengthy instructions, and Shiblon got a verbal pat on the head equivalent to a 'good-boy'. I wanted to be Shiblon. 


I certainly didn't want to aspire to leadership or to be in the limelight. 


And I didn't want to screw up big time like Corianton I just wanted to do what was right and hope that someday somebody would tell me I've done a good job. That was my quiet secret desire. So much so that when I heard someone praising Shiblon I was jealous. He was MY hero. I, I was going to be like Shiblon, not this guy  speaking at the pulpit.


Now let me change direction briefly and I will come back around to Shiblon.

Have you ever felt that you're not good enough? Like no matter how hard you try you always fail. Have you ever felt completely insufficient? Have you ever felt worthless that you will never measure up? Do you feel like your best just isn't good enough? Well let me put all of your questioning to rest. You aren't! You aren't good enough you are insufficient you will never measure up. And it's ok. That is the message of the Gospel. Or rather; that is why the gospel message exists. That is why I need Christ. Because I have spent nearly 2 decades trying to be like somebody I know nothing about (Shiblon.)


Shiblon probably screwed up every day of his life. I can say that because I truly believe Jesus Christ is the only perfect being to ever walk the face of the earth. I imagined that Shiblon was near perfect and I was hoping to be like him. That if I could try a little harder and be a little better and sin a little less that I could receive somebody's quiet praise "good job."  But that is all a lie. I'm calling it the Shiblon syndrome. I think an overwhelming number of us are guilty of it. Cause we build up somebody we don't really know in our minds to be something they aren't and then judge ourselves for not being more like the fictitious version of somebody else. I'm done with that. I no longer want to be like Shiblon. I can be happy being like Corianton.  Corianton made mistakes, we know that because at least some of them are right there in black-and-white for everyone to read. Well I have made mistakes too. I am far from being the perfect fictitious version of Shiblon I held in my mind. But just because I have fallen short and I'm not good enough or worthy on my own does not mean the story ends there. 


As I said earlier this is why we have the gospel message this is why God sent his only son. Even though I've spent my life being taught this and have taught it to others for years and years; I am just barely really appreciating the fact. That until I accepted my own broken status. And my shortcomings and limitations I can never have the peace that he offers. I've held myself to the inaccurate belief that since I have accepted Him and repented that I need to be perfect now. I am so far from it. I am so acutely aware of my imperfections I get uncomfortable and it bothers me when I am praised for some bit of good I may have done. Because no matter how much I sacrifice, no matter how many profanities I refrain from shouting,no matter how much perceived good I do I am still imperfect in so many ways. The truth is I am insufficient. The truth is I am incapable of being better on my own.  But He, HE is capable. He is capable of taking sinners like me and Corianton and making us more. 


 There's a famous verse in the book of Mormon that says if all men were like Moroni (a spiritual and military leader alive at the same time) then the very powers of hell would be shaken forever. Less famous are the following verses that say that Helaman and his brothers were no less serviceable to the people. Did you hear that? Helaman' brothers Shiblon the good boy middle child and Corianton the sinner.  Corianton who is most famous for messing up, repented and became a force for good as strong as Shiblon, Helaman and Moroni.  I am abandoning the Shiblon syndrome of judging myself by an imaginary perfect person. And instead I'm trying to recognize that I am on what I will call the Corianton course.  I don't need to be perfect today. I would like to be, but for now I will have faith in Christ that he can turn me into who he would have me be.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Day we Gotcha

The first time I saw you, you put your face to the sky, because that's how high I was to you. You grinned the most hopeful, don't-you-think-you-could-love-me smile.


We went to a really fun park. All the kids ran up a hill together, giggling with a ball. The sun was shining. It was like the Sound of Music. It felt like heaven. I swear there were rays of light all in our eyes from the sun rays in the sky. It felt like a movie scene. Mitch and I looked at each other in the moment. We both felt it. "THIS. THIS is what we were searching for. We found our kids."


Everything went perfectly and Big Sis started calling the boys "bruthuhs" but towards the end Little Sis had her first running episode. A glazed look came to her face, she paused, and ran straight for the road. A car was coming. Strange (I thought) for a kid her age. I later learned that some kids with Autism are "runners". Sometimes it happens when they have a sensory overload and in this case an emotional overload, too.


One of the first times you came into our house to visit, Little Sis, you were timid. Emmett showed you our pink unicorn. You warmed up to play and eventually jumped excitedly and soared thru the air. You overshot the unicorn and bonked your head on the tile.... You also wanted to swing. For like ever. I looked at Mitch. Should I keep pushing her on the swing? He grinned patronizingly, "Haha, are you going to be her mom or not? You get to swing her for AS LONG AS SHE WANTS!" It was forever. Like seriously forever that you wanted to swing--another sensory cue that I would later understand for Little Sis.


We pushed you in a stroller and went to the hot dog stand as a family. You got a shake.


Big Sis was like the perfect little child. Followed every rule. Didn't cry. Later I would understand that was an attachment issue. She was in shock with this life change and the real hell didn't manifest itself until a few months later which I have found out was fortunate that the awakening and her breakdown came so soon. Many adoptive families experience that up to years later, but we were able to start therapies sooner than most.


The first night you stayed with us, you couldn't sleep Little Sis. You kept running around. You were scared and crying. You were confused, sad, and angry. You cried so much that finally in the middle of the night I took you for a ride because nothing would help you calm down. Not singing. Not a movie. Not holding you. You were a solid, bright, and "old" kid it seemed but you were acting like an 18 month old baby, but worse. Much worse.  We drove to help you calm down but you were screaming. You wanted your other mom. You wanted your other bed. Where were they? Why weren't they with you? You were hurt, scared, and mad. I felt it all with you. I cried with you. I tried to soothe you. Nothing worked. I finally turned to look at you during a red light. Desperately and emphatically I was trying to explain, but you couldn't hear me until I yelled it as loud as you were wailing:  "I'M ANGRY ABOUT ALL OF THIS, TOO! THAT'S WHY I'M HERE! I'M GOING TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES; I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU BECAUSE I LOVE YOU! NONE OF THIS SHOULD HAVE EVER HAPPENED TO YOU! I AM MAD ABOUT ALL OF THIS, TOO!!!"


You listened enough that something changed in your face, but you were still crying. I drove longer and you finally calmed down with the vibration of the car seat. I dreaded the moment you'd be jostled enough to wake up and realize again that you were in yet again another home. How could you trust any adult in your life ever again? They all let you down. 


You woke up when I took you inside. I fell asleep before you did as I held you because with the emotional and physical exhaustion I simply could not manage to stay awake. It was the middle of the night and I left the front door open, the car door, and your big brother was still inside. God woke up your dad. Literally. I had tried calling him on the way home during the screaming fits. Nothing woke him up. He was beyond tired too and in shock. It was God who woke up your dad. Big brother got carried in. The door got locked. 


The next day your voice was gone. You had cried so much in anguish over what you knew was happening to your life. "Mine mouth broke," you whispered raspily.


The first legal day we "got" you, I met your relatives. Your case was in part joined with your brothers. We had small talk. I sat in the court room. Birth mom was in heaven, and birth dad abandoned. I looked over and saw your young teenage brothers resolutely sitting there. They heard everything I heard the judge say, and I watched them take it ALL like men. Little men. Too young to be these fierce kind of men. They had lived the hell that lead up to this moment, so they were not showing emotion. Maybe they were numb to it by now. I was the only one crying. I had previously served as an alternate juror on a lengthy murder trial. The months of jury service and the weight of that experience was the worst I had seen in court UNTIL those 20 minutes when your birth parents rights were severed and when your brothers who were kids themselves had to be men. NOTHING else I'd been through compared to the intense sadness, and horrific emotion that came into my heart and soul the day my children were legally free for adoption.


Your dad and I decided that we would not let you into our home as a placement unless we had decided to keep you beforehand. If we could help it, we weren't going to do that to a kid. We wanted to be in it NO MATTER WHAT. Of course nothing is final for anyone until the adoption happens… So we couldn't promise you completely that you would never have to go anywhere else until it was legally done.  That window of time was trying because no offense you are the hardest children we've ever had the pleasure of raising. But it's because you've been through the hardest things. Only one week after you moved in, I started to crumble. 

 I called your dad and voiced the terrible things inside of me: "I can't do this. Is it too late to turn back now?" He said, "Yes it's too late. We CAN do this and we ARE doing this. We're doing this TOGETHER."


We were here for you no matter what.


Once that choice was really made and tested, God reminded me:


Little Sis was the angel who told you in a dream what her name would be before you could have kids. You lost 3 babies and thought you'd never have one, but you had a dream and you were told her name and here she was--bearing the same name from your dream.


Then God reminded me. When you were pregnant with your third boy and you knew without a doubt you were having a girl, that was the same month birth mom was pregnant with Big Sis.


A lot of miracles and a lot of struggles brought our lives together so that you could be my child and I could be your parent. Your dad had steady faith along the path of uncertainty that led us to you and he held us all up through our doubts and dark days.


Now it's been one year since we legally "gotcha".


That day was magical….Just like the day at the special park. Adoption Day actually changed our household. The judge let Big Sis hold the gavel and say "This case is this dismissed."  Something connected and it changed you. You both started doing things you wouldn't do before--simple things like being more obedient. You acted more calm. Something settled in your heart and soul and ours too. You were finally ours. You could believe our promise that you were going to stay.


Things didn't get completely better like everyone believes adoption can  magically do. Most of our days have still been dark as we continue this uphill journey together.


But I am learning a lot from you. I am learning how to love the people that did this to you. I'm learning to accept you for your whole story and not wish it had never happened. I am learning how to be grateful for the hard things that happened because without the hard things that happened I wouldn't actually have you.


But it still hurts because no one should ever have to go through what you did. 


Somehow God has blessed (or cursed) me to feel what you are feeling so that I can understand you. Somehow God has blessed (or cursed) my path with painful awareness in my own struggles to show me many ways that I actually relate to you. Somehow God has shown me how to understand and relate to the people that you still love because they are a part of you. I have developed secondary PTSD and secondary trauma in the process of helping you work through your primary trauma and PTSD. The journey for wholeness is happening slowly, and also in magnificently personally eye opening ways, but we really are getting better. We're getting better together.


I think I really can say now that I wouldn't change the story. You don't ever have to say that, tho. Every day I see your hearts' deepest struggles to accept us as your parents and to accept what's happened to you. I want you to know that I will love you no matter what and that everything you feel is okay. I don't have to be jealous of you or who you love or what you wish for. I don't have to be jealous that your heart actually belonged to somebody else before it belonged to me. But I do know you were my child before you came to me and that we have a very special spiritual connection that's shared only between us and it transcends whose womb or home you were in before you were able to be called mine. 


Savage Garden's song comes to my mind: "I knew I loved you before I met you. I think I dreamed you into life." When people say dreams really can come true, you are my proof. 


Every birthday, holiday, and life event for you includes extreme emotions of joy and pain at the same time. No reason in the world is good enough to cause a child that much pain. But you live with this and that’s just what you do. 


You have taught me so much about what it means to be human. What it means to feel. What it means to overcome. What it means to fight. Every day you fight the way your brain was wired. Wired for fear, for abandonment, and for loss. You’re strong and independent. You’re teaching me how to be independent, too. Some days you might be the death of me but simultaneously you’ve given me new life, too.


We want to throw a party and talk about the miracles, love, and blessings that brought our lives together, but that brings all the bad back too. So our gift to you is to let it be like you’re a kid who doesn’t have to worry about deep past hurts. We're not really going to talk about Gotcha Day even tho it's really special.


We’re at the splash pad with you and you’re dumping water on me. The little boy at the table next to us is giggling because you’re rambunctious and funny. You’re impulsively smearing sunscreen all over your arms and rubbing it in like crazy because that’s what you do. It looks like I have to teach you girls to not be wet before applying sunscreen.


Normalcy. Simplicity. A plain and regular day. That’s our gift to you today.


I could never adequately explain to you how much your dad, your brothers, and I love you.


Happy “Gotcha Day” to our dreams come true.





















Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Red For Ed bringing Historical Focus to AZ Education

Before the local districts decided to close schools for safety in the event of the upcoming walkout, I was planning to go to work because I can't afford to not be paid when I have 6 kids and need the steady paycheck. One of my closest co-workers reminded me there are single parents and couples who BOTH get their incomes from their school positions. My fears compared to what they'd have to face paled in comparison. Once our superintendent explained how a school closure would be handled, it basically answered every personal fear I was facing (including my own internal conflict of wondering if my motivation to stay in school was selfish or even justifiable when compared to my deeply rooted feelings on the situation at hand) and I realized AGAIN that I have something amazing at my job. I also know that it's NOT like this everywhere in AZ. There are teachers who will face legal action and job loss. There are laws and people above them who manipulate them OUT OF using their voice to positively influence the very topics and passions they spend their lives devoted to teaching. BECAUSE my school will be closed down, I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY to stand FOR the teachers in AZ who do not have what I have. And I am happy--excited even--to stand for them. Only 3 weeks ago this was something I didn't think I could do. But tomorrow, there will be teachers and students who CANNOT stand.  I will be at the Capitol FOR THEM and their situations.


Many people have made harsh and judgmental statements about the AZ teachers at this time, but they have no idea what it looks like from the inside of an AZ classroom or in the day to day, moment to moment battle to engage and inspire students. 


Many people are angry about the school closure. First let me empathize with you: I will not be able to send my own children to school either. I'm in the same boat with you, and my own family vacation plans are ALSO being affected by each day the strike lasts. My personal income may also be affected depending on the unknown factors at this time.


The current state of education in Arizona is FINALLY BAD ENOUGH and has lasted in this sub par condition for LONG ENOUGH that the collective personal discomforts and statewide inconvenience combined is actually LESS THAN what is believed could be gained for Arizona at this time--gained even for people who are incensed about the very idea of a teacher strike.


The current state of educational funding has finally lasted long enough that teachers are no longer divided among each other down the middle about needing real change. It didn't used to be this way. There used to not be enough support or courage among the teaching community to even be able to do something like what you see happening in AZ now. Not 10 years ago. Not 5 years ago. Not even a year ago. 


While there are differing opinions in education even on the current topic, there is an overwhelming majority that believes the time to address these needs is now. That's why this is the time. And it's about time.


It's about time to see this kind of unity on a bipartisan topic. Unity that will benefit our kids. Unity that if it had existed 10 years ago COULD have helped children who are facing problems now that are too late to change. Unity that we need to model for the children who are in our classes now.


If you are newly frustrated with the current situation of education in Arizona, we are glad that you are finally taking part in discussions that we've been trying to solve and work on for years. We are glad that many people are being exposed to the hideous things that are happening with the funding--both at the state levels and the local levels of government. We are glad that social media posts (even the ones against #RedforEd) are beginning to scratch the surface of the iceberg that affects so many. We are grateful people are finally hearing about the battles we have been facing the whole time we have been in this profession. Thank you for being with us in the discomfort.


And before you judge the teacher walk outs and the character of the professionals so harshly, try to remember that a short term inconvenience might bring our state a long term solution. For those of you who are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of rearranging school schedules even for just a couple days… Please remember that it is the teachers that you are mad at who have put the students first and made plans to accommodate every single child and every single variant circumstance that they could think of. The teachers you are furious with are still the ones taking care of the kids--they've arranged for students who rely on the food programs to still get it--they've personally delivered it, even. The teachers you judge for walking out (whether they had the choice to go to work or not on those days) are also the ones re-planning school events and field trips, providing new sites for daycare, meeting with legislators, along with having their own largely emotional concerns at this time. 


Tomorrow is not a paid day and it is also NOT a day off. There is NOTHING easy or stress free regarding the collective choice to have a school closure or walk out. It's a bigger deal than you can imagine and all the while that you've been mad at your teachers they are still working as hard as they can to meet your kids' needs under great stress. 


No one is walking "out" on your kids. 


Stand with us AZ. Something historic for education has finally happened in the state of Arizona. Let's take this where it needs to go. Let's do what we need to do for our kids and the professionals who work directly with them. Let's not drop out of being aware of our local School Board choices and the transparency of our state tax funds again. Stay involved with us and maybe it will get better for all of us.


#REDforED







Sunday, March 25, 2018

Was Joseph Smith a Rat or a Good Guy? I am Ready to Talk About It.

I listened to a speaker who had promised herself she'd write a book called "The Rats of The Old Testament", so when the day came that she was asked to write a book in the area of her expertise regarding healing childhood trauma she first scribbled out a short book about "the rats" to fulfill a promise to herself. As I listened to her brief thoughts on "rats", I got to thinking.


LET'S DEFINE RAT


Who are the rats in the Bible? They're usually the good guys that let us down. At some point they demonstrated faith and valor and had so much strength that maybe we thought they were superhuman, but then something major happened and we realized they had flaws. But the flaws were not just minor. They were THE BIG ONES, the REALLY BAD NO-NO FLAWS.


Let me elaborate:


David

I can still hear the sound effects my dad would make telling me one of my most favorite bed time Bible stories in my childhood. He made the most glorious whooshing noise as he reenacted the sling that shot the smoothest of stones right between Goliath's eyes. Had there ever been so much faith in God demonstrated by anyone in the world as there was by the David who slew Goliath? Probably not. I still adore that David. But you know? That's the SAME David who lusted after the naked and bathing Bath-Sheba even tho he was married and she was married. Do you know what he did in order to hide adultery? He tried to cover up that he had sex with her by summoning her husband back home from war but the husband wouldn't come, so just short of getting his own hands dirty with blood, King David orchestrated the MURDER of Bath-Sheba's husband. Uriah died in the front lines of battle so that David could marry Bath-Sheba and make her pregnancy "acceptable." Despicable to say the least. David became a RAT!


I guess it turns out David needed Jesus just like the rest of us.


You know there's something else ironic about this story. Jesus himself (the King of Kings) was born out of King David's line of genealogy. But NOT the morally sanctioned lines. Jesus came from the posterity of the adulterously and murderously tainted bloodline created by David and Bathsheba.  


I have wondered: Couldn't this world provide our Savior with anything better? Apparently not. 


I used to be annoyed that the adulterers were rewarded with the Savior (of all people) on their line of posterity. Why weren't the people who made good choices rewarded with Jesus in their line?


But I don't think this sequence of events happened by coincidence. If God is real, if Jesus is real, if the Word is real, then there's a message that Jesus came to us and FOR us even in the most rotten of all of our sins.


Another quick example before I get to my main points: Let's think about JUDAH--as in the revered man who started the tribe of the Jews--the one the Bible's writings are named after referring to "the stick of Judah". THAT man had sex with a harlot, but not just any harlot, it ended up being HIS DAUGHTER IN LAW (soooooo sick and wrong). They had not just one child but TWINS came from that encounter! Judah was a RAT. Yuck. And let's not even mention how he treated his little brother.


How interesting that Jesus himself bears the title, "King of the Jews". It turns out that Jesus' genealogy is ALSO tied to the posterity that came from Judah and his daughter-in-law who "played the harlot".


So let's get on to Joseph Smith: The prophet of the restoration. The boy who saw angels, who even saw God the Father and the Son. The boy who braved getting his leg cut into without alcohol for anesthesia and who cared more about his mother not being in the room than his own pain. The boy who with little education miraculously translated ancient text from the Golden Plates that became the Book of Mormon and whose influence transformed a portion of the Christian world into what's become a world wide church with millions of members. The man who never turned back on his testimony, who lost children to exposure because of the mobs and persecution who tarred and feathered him in the bitter cold (but he still stood to preach a sermon the next morning in extreme internal and external pain). The one who DIED IN THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS as a martyr beside his brother Hyrum. THAT Joseph Smith. 


There is a scripture prophesied that says "good AND evil will be spoken" of him.  But here is my question to you: WHAT IF the evil spoken of Joseph Smith (whether blown out of proportion or not) were true? WHAT IF it were true to ANY degree?


A lot of eyebrow raising things have been said of him. Mostly about polygamy. That he was in it for sex. That men were sent away on missions so the church leaders could steal and marry their wives and the younger women. That people in the church were actually punished for not wanting to be polygamous. Not to mention that radical offshoots of the Mormon faith have produced individuals like Warren Jeffs. That polygamy was used to subjugate, manipulate, and control women, and there are even journals to prove it.  These are the uncomfortable things that have been said about the beginning days of a church and people that I belong to and dearly love.  It hurts to hear these things. 


Because I practice being honest I'll say that I have never liked the idea of polygamy or it's association with my religion and I have also never fully understood it. Some explanations people give to justify or make sense of it have just made it feel even worse to me. I've also had irrational fears associated with how I understood certain scriptures and concepts related to polygamy. I've had the abstract idea that polygamy could affect me at some point of my life or even after this life (even if only in the event of my death and husband's potential remarriage OR in the event that the scripture about 7 women needing claim to 1 man might be fulfilled in my lifetime since after all we are taught that we live in the "last days"). Those ideas and others affected choices I made in dating and marriage and the topic has tried my faith. When I was 19, as a church institute scholar and eventual graduate, after studying the Doctrine and Covenants in depth, I deliberately wanted to know (but purposely refrained from asking God) if polygamy would ever be required of ME because I FEARED so DEEPLY that the answer would be yes. I knew if I prayed God WOULD tell me, so 14 years ago I chose NOT to pray about it. I even remember where I was when I made the decision to not ask God at that time. I was terrified of the "yes" answer that I believed would surely come because I clearly understood what was written in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding the nuances of "the new and everlasting covenant" vs "a new and everlasting covenant." I didn't need the 80 page document that circulates the internet to understand that nuance because I understood what was implied by those passages because I studied the scriptures in depth.


It wasn't until recently (as in a few months ago) that I was brave enough to talk to God about it. To finally tell Him about my anger and upset on these religion related issues. The distinct impression I got back from Him was, "If you're that afraid of me, then you don't know me."


That was a personally pivotal answer that changed the way I looked at things. Thank goodness our God is not a respector of persons--not of race, and certainly not of gender.  


Everyone on this earth may end up walking a path that brings them suffering, and horrible things do happen to good people, and sad stories may be written of anyone at any point in their life, but Christ can take any of our stories and any of our heartbreaks and turn it into something good later. God himself is not the one who manipulates anyone to do anything to anyone else. Forcing people into situations they don't want to be in sometimes happens because of circumstances we cannot control or because of the choices of others, and when we're stuck in a situation like that is sometimes when God helps us the most but if we believe God wants to manipulate us then maybe we don't know Him. 


So back to the point of all of this. Did Jospeh start polygamy for sex? 


It's been argued that because he didn't have babies with anyone besides Emma, and because he was definitely fertile, it's likely that he didn't have sex with all of them and possibly none of them besides Emma. But we live in a day where we understand that there are many ways to be sexual besides the traditional way that makes babies...so unfortunately having no offspring from other wives may be EVIDENCE but CANNOT actually PROVE that he didn't have sex with them. 


If he did have sex with more women than Emma, does that make him a rat? 


Some say yes.

Some say no.

I say I hope not, and I don't really think so, but since we cannot prove either way, I feel that IF HE WAS a "rat" as has been defined above, then he would be in good company with the other rats in the scriptures. It would mean he needs Jesus, just like the rest of us. It would mean he needs Jesus just like David did. Just like Judah. Just like you. Just like me.


It's possible that perhaps back in those early days some things were taken a little out of context by an overly zealous and eager group of people who were anxious to serve the Lord (maybe even blindly). And even if some subjugation of women happened BECAUSE of polygamy, even if some sexism happened and still lingers in some circles still today, and even if some unrighteous dominion happened or still happens, EVEN IF there has been a negative ripple effect from this topic there are still good things to be found within and because of the LDS church and its people too.


There are many things that I don't know and can't prove about controversial and historical moments in my church's history, but one thing I do know is that the church I belong to has blessed my life tremendously. 


I have had personal and miraculous blessings because of the priesthood. I can say that my life path as a member of the church has been a necessary part of my personal path to find God, even tho I do believe God will make himself known to the pure in heart no matter what walk of life they are in.


Because the message of the restored gospel is beautiful, Joseph Smith is highly esteemed among Latter-Day Saints. But this can be tricky territory for most members who don't want to hear anything bad of him (even tho it was prophesied bad things would be said), because if you think he is so superhuman that he wasn't human, if you think he did no wrong, then when you find out or finally allow yourself to question the evil that has been spoken of him and if there were in fact ANY TRUTH to the evil that was spoken, it is likely to make you wonder if there is any truth whatsoever to anything you have ever been brought to believe. 


Personally, I don't think that kind of crumbling is a bad thing, though. It is a necessary experience in order to help all of us find out who Jesus really is to each of us. We need to have our faith and trust centered on Jesus Christ alone and in a personal way. 


WHERE I STAND:

I believe God uses broken people all over the world to accomplish His work. 


I am pretty sure that God ONLY has broken people to work with. Unfortunately some of the people who do the greatest work for Him can also be some of the people whose choices can cause the greatest harm. It may not always be intentional. 


I personally do believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and the Son. I do believe the Book of Mormon is inspired scripture, and I do believe that he was the prophet of the restoration who the Lord used to bring the priesthood and its ordinances back to the earth.


I know he was human though, and so are all people. I CANNOT and do not care so much about the answers to this particular controversy regarding the prophet of the restoration (for good or for evil). I especially cannot worry about it to the point that it becomes an ultimately deciding factor in keeping me in or out of the Mormon church and here is why: If I think Joseph Smith was a perfect person and then in research find out that he wasn't and then drop everything in my faith, then that means this whole time I believed (or that I was taught to believe) in Joseph Smith MORE THAN Jesus. It could also mean that I believed in perfectionism more than Jesus (which in my eyes could be a type of putting 'other gods' before the One I worship). I can emphatically say that that is not what my parents were trying to teach me by raising me in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 


I can say the domino effect of polygamy in my church's history has affected me personally even being generations away from it, but I cannot focus on that. JUST LIKE I cannot focus on David's fall to negate the positive message I learned from the time he slew Goliath. Just like I cannot worry about the mistakes of others in the Bible--I still read the Bible even though it is considered to be "the stick of Judah", and even though Judah wasn't very nice.


There are good choices and bad choices recorded in all of history. 


There are quality moments and blinding imperfections in my own life. 


But I believe in Jesus Christ alone. I do believe that he came to save us all. He came for worst of us, for the best of us, and He walks all of our paths WITH us. He knows us. One of the most beautiful things that Jesus Christ does is give us a promise that someday all the hurt that was caused by the choices of others will be made right… Even if they were people who were well respected or well revered or even people who were not well known....  Someday all of the pains whether intentional or unintentionally afflicted on others will be made right again. Because of this everything that's been said for good or evil about Joseph Smith, no matter what may be true or not true of all the claims made, I cannot care about the details of that moment in time more than I care about Jesus' grace and ability to fix it someday.


I'm here to say that Joseph Smith, David, and Judah are individuals who are no better or worse than I am. 


I want Jesus to call my name. I want Him to call theirs. I want Jesus to heal every person in this world, and I trust in Jesus Christ more than anyone else in history. Jesus is the ultimate Good Guy. He takes our good deeds and makes them more than what we could have made ourselves. He can do His work through broken people and despite blinding imperfections BECAUSE Jesus is the One who paid the price for the Rat inside of us all.



(Picture from LDS Media Library)



Notes:

1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 11, Genesis 38, Joseph Smith History, Isaiah 4:1, Doctrine and Covenants 132

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Can Jacob's Mission Community Center Prevent the next School Shooting?

In a world reeling from the latest high school shooting, families sit around dinner tables and discuss gun control matters.  Others fumble through or add to vitriol on social media about the right or wrong way to protect school kids.  What is most misunderstood, however, is that the answers to solving these problems are in the field of healing early childhood trauma.  

No one wants to think of Nikolas Cruz as anything more than a monster, but he never had the chance to recover from his deepest childhood grief, loss, and attachment problems.  At only five-years-old Nikolas witnessed his father’s death, later he was relentlessly bullied, his adoptive mother also died, and then he was fostered by family friends*.  Foster and adoptive parents in the trenches feel the weight and likelihood that more has happened to Nikolas that hasn’t yet been disclosed.  And sadly, these unresolved traumas have left a devastating wake on the world around him.

What can you do to prevent children with dark pasts from becoming the next school shooter?  How do you stop these kids from having a psychotic break that creates new traumas for others?  Instead of blaming parents, instead of fighting about gun rights, we have to focus at the core of their problems:  that’s exactly what the non-profit organization ASA Now is doing and why (despite incredible odds) they are moving forward to create Jacob’s Mission Community Center.

In a life touched by adoption or not, it is no longer an effective option to live obliviously unaware of what childhood trauma looks like in our communities.  Check out these national statistics**: “Girls in Foster Care Pregnant by 19 – 50%, Former Foster Kids in U.S. Prison – 74%, Incarcerated within 2 years of “Age Out” – 50%, and Former Foster Youth on Death Row – 80%.”

ASA Now’s mission is to “support and strengthen the most vulnerable population” by providing therapies, extra-curricular activities, food boxes, social connections, information and trainings on how to receive essential psychiatric counseling, medical services, and much more.  ASA Now is “committed to ensure that all families who have been touched by foster care succeed,” and prevention is at the forefront of their purpose, but their mission needs you to help raise the final amount to open the doors that will fill lives, hearts, and homes with the adequate healing that is still missing in our Arizona resources to help these broken children and their families recover. 

Tax deductible donations will help open the doors for Jacob’s Mission Community Center (click here).  To learn more about the center get involved today, and/or make a difference by helping fund ASA Now directly (click here).



Also, don't miss the ASA Now Fundraiser breakfast (click here) next week on Friday, March 23rd to build funds for Jacob's Mission Community Center. Funds will help make the center fully opened and functioning by 2019 for all of Arizona's foster or adopted children and their families. For only $30 individuals can participate in the fundraiser breakfast, and business sponsorships are listed below:






Notes:  THANK YOU to FosterArizona.org for being the original publisher of this article: THROUGH THE EYES OF A TEEN, HOW JACOB'S MISSION COMMUNITY CENTER CAN HELP CHANGE LIVES
*Information about Nikolas Cruz found published here with Canoe, here with Yahoo, and here with SunSentinel.
**Statistics found in the following studies and cited by the ASA Now Strategic Plan: 2015 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, US Department of Justice, the Casey Foundation and the National Foster Care Coalition.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The 3 qualities I had no idea I would need desperately...

Hard times show true colors and actual abilities. Hard times can make or break us, and hard times also make us grow. 


Back in the day (and because marriage is one of the most life changing choices in a young person's path) I made this list of qualities I wanted my future husband to have, and then I made a list of things I would do to also live up to the requests I was hoping to find in my future husband. 


Ironically, with my mile long list of qualities, I happened to miss the THREE VERY MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I WOULD NEED in my life partner and eternal friend:


  1. HUMOR - I could have found ANY DRABLY PERFECT person with all the qualities on my list and lived MISERABLY ever after. But lucky me, Mitchell cracks jokes at just about everything--he's got good timing and a good memory that makes his humor an on-the-spot and in-the-moment stress reliever. It pulls me out of a funk every single time.  
    Like the times he photo bombs! 
    And the times he poses for the heck of it. 🤣
    Or the time he drove around town with a pink unicorn on his work truck. 😂
  2. STEADINESS - I think I suffer wth ADHD. Mitch knows how to focus. I am emotionally here, there, and everywhere. Mitch is even tempered. When I panic and believe the sky is falling, Mitch builds something to hold it up. It's just part of who he is. He's logical, and steady (even if he knows how to be funny). And it's part of his persona to be steady by fixing things--it's the way he shows he is THERE for me and for others.


  3. GRIT - Some people say "after 3 kids it's all the same"...the joke was on us as our 4th, 5th, and 6th kids are the "hardest" for us. I used to live my life believing I could get thru anything I signed up for because of sheer grit, and determination to never give up. And I did exactly that in all my endeavors until my adrenal glands (aka stress managers) broke. Lucky for me, Mitchell Jay has a seemingly endless reserve of "sheer grit", and when my engine came to a screeching halt, he strapped his strong-hearted-we-can-and-we-will-do-this jet packs on. When life got rougher he pushed the turbo speed button and saved the day. Every day. Every time. I'm getting better and my adrenals are healing, but I'll never forget just how awesome this man is under fire. I get burned in the fire very easily, but turns out Mitch is pretty fireproofed. Who would have known--that's the quality I would need most in my future husband? It's the one thing he possesses that I had no idea our family would desperately need until I ran completely out of my own grit. When we were under flames and fire and in the moments I had nothing left to give is when God showed me the true gift He'd sent our family in this man of mine.He pulls his fair share as a husband and father, and he's a true teammate in raising our 6 kids.

Everyone I know who meets Mitch seems to like him or to love him. They like him because he's naturally funny, he is calm, logical and steady, and he's quite obviously a hard-working-family-man with a boatload of grit (I think it runs in his veins--I've got a lot of Bordens and Whitings to thank for that). I am grateful that this is the man I am blessed to call my husband.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Is there room for Agnosticism in the Church Pew?

Wearing "Sunday Clothes" to church is a tradition I've participated in since I was little. Who doesn't like to dress up once in a while (or once a week)? Wear your Sunday best and symbolically give "your best" to the Lord while going to church--that's the point of it, right? The idea also translates further to showing an outward expression of an inner commitment--or so that's how I interpreted it. 


Until I met a friend who came to church in a tank top. He didn't just wear a tank top once. He did it every Sunday, and it showed his favorite bands and often his shirts exposed chest hair. But each  Sunday he came I could see his humility, tho. 


His humility was not expressed by adhering to social or cultural norms. His humility was evident in the way he carried himself--yes even while showing his chest hair in church. His humility was open for all to see when he walked to the pulpit on testimony day and gave the most honest testimony I have ever heard. He very reflectively said he wasn't sure if he believed in God and then he opened up about some difficult experiences he's been through and what he feels. He expressed so much more acceptance of "what is" than most of the people I have been around in church settings in my entire life. I cried like a baby thru his whole testimony. I felt so much closer to God by hearing about his struggle and the shards of hope and light that kept him moving forward.


I had so much admiration for my friend that day. The truth for me was that behind the smoke screen of my beautiful Sunday dress with perfectly fixed hair and make-up, I was actually really hurting inside. I had been hurting inside for a long time (even tho I've been doing all the right things and even been doing them for the right reasons). I've been unable to understand how to accept what-is until only recently in my life and the path of bad habits makes it still quite a struggle at times, so his testimony resonated with me, and I knew that thru the eyes of his Agnosticism he was actually closer to God than I was. In my eyes he actually KNEW God better than he even realized. 


What's interesting is that my friend had the opportunity to get "church clothes" for cheap or for free but he continued to come in his tanks because this was HIS personal journey and it was happening without a time-frame that was dictated by anyone else. It was happening in a real way and not in a fabricated way that anyone else thought it should look like.  I actually respect him more for that because he was demonstrating self-acceptance--something that in my thirties I am barely coming to understand. 


Each Sunday that he walked in I would find my soul filled with pain and wishing that the whole congregation could be more like him. Why can't we all come to church as we are? I wish we could. The truth is that WE CAN. The problem is that we are often running so much from what is going on--striving so much to "rise above" it, that we actually miss dealing with our problems altogether and often by running we create more problems for ourselves. Instead of wearing perfect Sunday clothes and slapping on happy faces, why can't we show up AS WE ARE? What would happen if we could SEE people as they are and what they're going through each week? Would we have signs at church on our clothes or hovering above our heads? 


Maybe you'd see some messages like, "I'm struggling with my self-worth." 


"I have a binge eating disorder." 


"I look at porn and don't know how to stop." 


"My marriage looks good on the outside but this no longer feels like a fairy tale to me." 


"I get bullied at school." 


Or what about "I get bullied at church."


"I was sexually abused and I feel like no one can relate." 


"I feel differently than you do with your political opinions, but my religious reasons are as closely related to my stances as yours are to yours." 


"I'm gay but I'm afraid to tell anyone about it because all the other gay people I know who are open about it no longer feel accepted at church." 


"I am not actually happy as a stay at home mom but everyone else acts like they are. What is wrong with me?


"I want to experience more from life than what I'm getting." 


"I had to ask for help paying for my food box this week at the food bank. I don't know how we're going to make it."


"Reading scriptures, praying, and going to church isn't actually lifting my fog of depression, but I'm here anyway." 


"My child has special needs and I'm beyond tired but I don't feel like I can ask for any more help.


"Sometimes I drink alcohol." 


"I live with regrets and don't know how to move forward." 


"I can't stop grieving the loss of someone I love."


Or what about, "I'm having a hard time believing in God this week, because believing in God in the past has hurt me."


The signs might change week to week--you'd never know what they'd say but they would be real.


What's interesting to me is that I don't personally believe that we're all as good as we try to make ourselves and others believe. It could be argued that we are no better than the worst that is within us. The trick is that the worst that is within is can never actually get better when we're continually in denial that it's there and continually running from it instead of facing what-is. We're told that Jesus Christ can heal broken hearts, but how can we even come to Him with our broken heart or our contrite spirit if we think that's not for us--if we think everyone else at church is the sick one instead of us? My parents used to tell me that church was like a hospital for the sick--and I agree with them. 


It's not anyone else's fault that this has happened, but I personally feel like for way too long I've really misunderstood what "being sick" really looks like on the outside. For me, being the one who is sick means I'm wearing the perfect Sunday clothes and my whole family parades in to church looking like we don't have problems. While not originally intended to be this way, the premise of looking good at church can actually turn into a smoke screen for anyone (although I am not saying this spiritual trap happens to everyone). All I'm saying is that MY soul needs to be more real. Because that's how I'm coming to know my Savior better. I am coming to accept myself more and thereby I am beginning to accept my Savior more. I can say that this has happened to me in a large part because of agnostic friends on the church benches. My soul needs more agnostic friends in my life--and not so my understanding or interpretation of God can heal them--it's because I know their honesty and acceptance is the missing piece to the puzzle of what I need to bring me closer to Jesus so that He can heal me. 


I believe this is one of the many ways where the first shall be last and the last shall be first, but sometimes we're so focused on fixing what's wrong with everyone else and their life perceptions that we forget how to let God speak to us in personal ways. Sometimes the way He speaks to us is in a lengthy, struggle-filled journey that might even make us question Him. 


In the last few weeks I have worn less make-up to church, and when I was stressed about finishing my make-up in the parking lot I heard the echoes of my own words from this post I've been formulating: "Go inside as you are, D-Jo. PLEASE just come as you are."