Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Merry Christmas from us!
Larry still works hard, but plays a little less hard since his knee surgery. Although he's no longer tearing up the basketball court, he still rides his bike, drives the boat, and he's considering skiing again...soon. He teaches the gospel doctrine class Sunday School class.

I wear lots of different shoes...when I wear them. Since the girls left for college, I have little reason to leave the house. I threw myself into my writing and published 4 books this year. One has been an Amazon best seller for more than a month now. I also serve as the secretary in the stake relief society presidency (and when I do, I always wear shoes.)

Adam is an attorney for a firm specializing in international law. This means that he sometimes uses his Spanish for something other than reading the street signs in Rancho. He's the activities chairman in the singles ward.

Bethany wears mostly flip-flops to chase after her two boys, Chandler 6 and Sterling 3. They live in Las Vegas. I don't know what sort of shoes Brandon wears to work (he's a chiropractor.) Winston, the Westie, does not wear shoes, although he occasionally will wear sweaters.

Nathan and Shirley live work and play in Boulder, CO. Nathan graduated in Information Systems from BYU in the spring and started his own development company about a year ago. He's moving his rapidly growing business into an office in a few weeks, so his barefoot days are about over. They are expecting a baby boy in May.

Jared just returned from a study abroad program in China. He'll return to school in Provo in a few weeks where shoes will not be optional.

Natalie graduated from Tesoro last spring as a Valedictorian. She takes ridiculously hard classes and waffles between majoring in Diet and Nutrition and English Lit at BYU.

Miranda is no longer a thespian, but she did get a job working for the BYU broadcasting company so she's still in the industry. She's studying International Relations at BYU.

Although we're no longer all under the same roof, we are all following the same path and our Savior. We're so grateful for all the love in our lives and pray that all your days are holy, filled with love, laughter and glimpses of heaven.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Scripture Experiment. Forgiving the Irksome

Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things. (Jacob 4:7)

I know that there must be a few people in your life that push all your wrong buttons. After a few minutes in their company, you are probably cranky. If you tell me that you know of no such button pusher, I will tell that you aren’t being honest with yourself. Why? Because the people that push our buttons are those that reflect our weaknesses. And if you tell me that you haven’t a weakness—I’ll remind you about that honesty problem.

As a child, if I found someone hurtful or unkind and I took that pain and injustice to my mom, her general response was to avoid that person. Which was difficult to do if that person happened to be your brother and you lived in a two bathroom house. The Barenaked Ladies (the band, not naked ladies in general) offer the same advice in their lyrics of Be My Oko Ono.
If there's someone you can live
Then do so.
And if there's someone you can
Just shove out,
Then do so.

And when this person isn’t sharing your space, your committee, your project, or your mother’s birthday cake, you can do this. And sometimes this is the only thing you can do. When you find a person is just best to be avoided because their behavior is toxic—do so. But generally, usually, all most always, the best advice to learn why and how someone pushes your seething buttons.

Why? Because you want to be Christlike and love everyone? Maybe. Or maybe your reasons are more selfishly motivated…maybe you want to ferret out all your own weaknesses, confront and destroy them so you can become a better person. Maybe you need to not only forgive that wretched button pusher—maybe you also need to forgive yourself, and you can’t do that unless you recognize you have a problem button waiting to be pushed.

So, here’s the exercise. Write a letter to your antagonizer.  Go ahead. Be mean. Tell them exactly what you dislike about them, how and why they rub your fur the wrong way. Be explicit on all the ways they can improve and why the world will be a much better place after they have followed your  instructions to the T.  This might take awhile…take your time…come back when you’re done.
Now, erase your antagonizer’s name and write in your own.  *

After you come to the horrible realization that you share your antagonizer’s flaws (and you must, otherwise they wouldn’t irk you so much) consider why he/she/you might do the things you do. Is the over the top, excessive perfectionism and micro managing really a deep seated fear of looking less than up to snuff? If so, look for opportunities to be a cheerleader, rather than a critic. Chances are, they are already their worst critic. Or is impatience? If they need to do things their way, right now—offer to help. Ask, what can I do to help you?

 I know this is hard because this was my week’s challenge. There is someone in my life that I can’t avoid who irks me. It had gotten to the point where I had begun to look for and expect slights and criticisms from her. Why? Mostly, I think, because I wanted the justification of disliking her. I did not want to like her. And this is not Christlike behavior.

Because I’m not sure I can be a helpful cheerleader on my own, the next time I have to interact with this person, I’m going to ask for heaven’s help. I’ll say a silent prayer that I can be kind. And maybe it will still be hard. But I believe in the scriptures that says:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

With heaven's help (and maybe only with heaven's help) I can come one step closer to living that difficult commandment: 

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

* I borrowed this exercise from the Work of Byron Katie. The Work is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the anger, fear, depression, addiction, and violence in the world. Everything you need in order to do The Work is available free on her website

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Scripture Experiment. Life Foundations
 “Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, [which] built his house upon a rock—

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, [which] built his house upon the sand—

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:24–27

Building a life foundation at first seemed too big of a project to fit into a weeklong experiment, but as I considered my days and weeks, I found that I do have daily habits that serve as a foundation for how I live/cope and when those habits are ignored or forgotten my life can easily spin out of control. (In a moment I will give an example, because even when my daily habits are in place, life occasionally steps in and messes things up.)

Here is my typical morning routine:

6 a.m.    Prayer

Scripture study

7 a.m.    Household chores

8 a.m.    Exercise

9 a.m.    Shower/breakfast

I consider my day to begin at 9 a.m., because everything before that is pretty nonnegotiable. Looking back, I can’t remember when these patterns started. I do remember years when the scripture study happened during nap time and when I exercised in the evening when my husband came home, but for many years now, this is how I roll. Although, sometimes I exercise at 7 and the household chores are pushed to the end of the day.

This is my housekeeping schedule.

Monday               laundry

Tuesday               bathrooms

Wednesday        vacuum and dust

Thursday             groceries/errands

Friday                    yard work

Saturday              mop floors

Some things, like dinner and dishes, happen every day. And other things, like cleaning light fixtures and wiping out the inside of cupboards, happen rarely. But as long as I make an effort to see that these basics are not neglected, the dust bunnies stay tame. Of course, there were years where laundry was an everyday occurrence.

What does laundry and dust have to do with building a life foundation? Most of us are familiar with the quote:

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Does that mean my destiny is laundry and dust? No, it means that because I’ve conquered the laundry and dust I’m free to spend the rest of my day doing the things that I want to do.

My experiment for this week was to use a quiet moment at church to reflect on how I spent my week and what I could have done better.

Here’s an example of a day gone awry. At five p.m. on a Wednesday, the hour I usually think about starting dinner I realized that I hadn’t yet vacuumed. (Remember, this is Wednesday’s chore.) So, I sprinkle carpet fresh all over my house. The smell is horrific and as I vacuum, it only gets worse. I inspect my vacuum and discover a hole in the bag. I worry because I know I won’t be able to sleep with carpet fresh all over my floors and I also know that it’s too late to go to the Oreck store to buy a new bag. So I went to Target and while I’m frowning at their selection of vacuum bags, knowing that not one of them would fit my eight year old Oreck vacuum, I get a call reminding me that I had committed to drive a friend to physical therapy. I bought the most likely looking bag, drove my friend to her appointment, came home, threw a frozen pizza in the oven and looked for tape so I could jerry rig thhe bag and vacuum my carpets. Because of the vacuum emergency, I was late for my writers’ group. And in a bad mood. And more than a little nauseous from the carpet fresh fumes.

Was any of this a sin? No, of course not, but that particular Wednesday needed help. Maybe the wise man built his house upon a rock because rocks can be cared for by a broom. Imagine trying to vacuum a sandy floor. The exercise of considering how I intended to spend my week and how it actually came together will help me going forward to carefully consider how I use my days. And my days are the foundation of my destiny.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Scripture Experiment: A Life Chronicle

I want to share with you what I’m calling my Scripture Experiment. I’m taking a conference talk and giving myself a weekly challenge based upon the talk.

The first talk was President Packard’s.
I was touched by his life-long poem and decided to write not a poem, but a chronicle of my life. It surprised me how easily my life fell into these five year chapters. Each five years really did seem to comprise a chapter of my life, although some chapters and years were more eventful than others. It was interesting to look back, review and realize that even though circumstances have changed—I am still, at heart, the person I’ve always been and that the person I was 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago is still here. My body has matured, but so has my spirit and like President Packard, I can’t regret the maturation, because each life chapter and lesson has taught me things I needed to learn.
I love this scripture:
 Isaiah 32:17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
As I’ve gotten older my life has grown more and more peaceful. My house is quiet. I’m not as busy. My days are my own to live as I choose.
I have a wonderful life, and by looking back at these chapters, I realize that it’s been a wonderful life all along. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Easter Talk

In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, the villagers of a small town mid-western town gather together in the square on a beautiful summer’s day. Village children, who have just finished school for the summer, run around collecting stones. They put the stones in their pockets and make a pile in the square. Men gather next, followed by the women. Parents call their children over, and families stand together. Tessie Hutchinson joins her husband and children at the front of the crowd. She’s excited about the lottery—until she draws the slip of paper with the black dot. As the unfortunate lottery winner, she’s marked for death and ultimately stoned by her family, friends and villagers.

There’s horror in Shirley Jackson’s story. In our day and age, we know that the sacrifice of one individual cannot appease the gods or secure a bountiful harvest. Human life is valued, held sacred and protected and we, as a people, in general, as a nation—abhor violence and the shedding of innocent blood. Love, serve and bless—protect not only yourself, but those around you from harm and evil. These are the values I’ve been taught—this is what I have tried to teach my children.

So, in this mortal, earthly frame of mind—I will admit that I cannot understand the atonement of Christ. How can one person suffer and die for the salvation of all humanity? From an intellectual distance—it’s unfathomable to me. But I also accept that I can’t understand everything, that there are many things I have to accept on faith. There are just so many things that I don’t understand how they work—satellites, cell phones, kidneys and hormones—but just because I don’t understand how something works, doesn’t mean that I can’t make use of them--appreciate them and express gratitude for them.

Today I’d like to share with you what I have learned of the atonement of Christ. Please forgive me for sharing a very personal experience. My understanding of the atonement is, if nothing else, personal—as I think it must be for each of us. President Monson said, Every Cinderella has her midnight. Let me tell you about one of mine.

After the doctors told my mother that there was nothing more that they could do, my parents traveled to Mexico for experimental cancer treatments that were illegal in the United States and left me with my twenty-four year old brother, who decided to go to Canada. We lived in rural Washington on a large piece of property. I was fourteen years old and for the first time, went to bed in an empty house. I woke up around two in the morning—the stereo was turned up and blasting in the next room. Let me describe the 1970’s stereo system. It had a turnstile and a receiver and because our system happened to be broken, the receiver had to be manually lifted and placed on the record. This was not a matter of flipping a switch and pressing a button for instantaneous music. No—someone would have had to go into the music chest, select an album, place it on the turnstile, turn on the stereo, lift and place the receiver on the spinning record and then crank up the volume as loud as it could go. In the nearly forty years since, I’ve had many terrifying experiences, but this remains one of the most frightening.

In my midnight, I turned to the only one I knew who could hear me. My Heavenly Father. And for the first time in my life, I came to know the very real, calm and reassurance that only He can give. I felt an outpouring of his love and I held onto that comfort and peace—not only on that dark night, but through the long days of my mother’s illness and subsequent death. Because of that midnight—I know where to turn when things look bleak, chaotic or hopeless and for this—I’m profoundly grateful. How I wish my mom hadn’t suffered. I wish I could have been raised in a happy home free of sickness and suffering—but I’m grateful that at a very young age, I learned where to turn for peace, because when I’m sometimes plagued with doubts and fears—I remember that night when the Lord heard and answered my prayer. I’ve had many midnights since then—times when my faith has been weak, times when I’ve been lonely and scared and each time I’ve recalled the feelings of peace and comfort of that long ago night.

Doubt not fear not. Every experience shall be for our good. Be believing and faithful and rejoice that the Lord not only understands your pain, in His infinite mercy, He is able to transform your suffering into a blessing. How is the Lord able to take our pain and turn it for good? I can’t understand it, but I believe in His power, love and infinite abilities. How is it done? I don’t know, but I know that He will do it for you. Because He has done it for me.

Elder Holland tells us in his beautiful sermon, Broken Things to Mend,

“If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.”

In Nazareth, the narrow road,

That tires the feet and steals the breath,

Passes the place where once abode

The Carpenter of Nazareth.

And up and down the dusty way

The village folk would often wend;

And on the bench, beside Him, lay

Their broken things for Him to mend.

The maiden with the doll she broke,

The woman with the broken chair,

The man with broken plough, or yoke,

Said, “Can you mend it, Carpenter?”

And each received the thing he sought,

In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;

The broken thing which each had brought

Returned again a perfect whole.

So, up the hill the long years through,

With heavy step and wistful eye,

The burdened souls their way pursue,

Uttering each the plaintive cry:

“O Carpenter of Nazareth,

This heart, that’s broken past repair,

This life, that’s shattered nigh to death,

Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?”

And by His kind and ready hand,

His own sweet life is woven through

Our broken lives, until they stand

A New Creation—“all things new.”

“The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,

Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,

Mould Thou into the perfect part,

O, Carpenter of Nazareth!”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jared 7-12

Hello Family!
First responding to everyones comments:
Of course I'm having fun! Everything out here in Taiwan is just amazing. Its like you know how life supposedly goes through phases? Like you have the honeymoon phase, then the hate everything phase, then the okay grin and bear it phase, then the endure to the end and make the best. Ever heard that? (We heard it about 3 times in the Missionary Training Center) Well I'm not really sure what happened to my mission experience because I either just skipped the bad parts and went straight to the endure to the end, or I'm just stuck in Honeymoon phase. Either way I love it!
You all are getting a beach condo?! That's so fun. Gongxi fazai :) (congratulations)
Haha Natalie asked me what my goals for my mission are, and well Natalie I have about a million goals... I have a goal for every aspect of my life divided into daily weekly monthly and Mission goals. I can tell you that my ultimate goal is to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ through Faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, BAPTISM, gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." (Missionary purpose) I strive to have everything I do help with that purpose.
I had a cookie a couple months ago. (Taiwanese) and 4 months ago (chocolate chip)
Congratulations on getting the blue car Natalie!
Every morning during personal study I always spend some time reading the Book of Mormon, most times I also read other scriptures, often study for the benefit of our investigators.
How is Nathan affording all these cool adventures? And can I go on some with him later?
Well things here in Taiwan Huwei are amazing. We're seeing a lot of miracles. One thing I learned recently is how weak man is. We as humans are weak. Almost everyone is captivated by something, that we personally cannot break from. We are weak. We need our Father in Heaven, you need your Heavenly Father. Fall to your knees and plead with him. Plead to have strength, plead to have power, plead for forgiveness. You are weak, but He is strong. Put an end to your pride and plead with your Father in Heaven with full purpose of heart, and it will be given you.
I love you.
-Elder Tate
Tang zhanglao