Thursday, October 30, 2014

Genesis 1:1

I love the images in the beginning of God creating the earth--of the molding and shaping that took place. To me it speaks of a God invested in creating beautiful and functional things.

God creates Adam and Eve-male and female.

 26 ¶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.
 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
 28 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.
 29 ¶And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

The word dominion is used two times in this section. Dominion means the right of governing or controlling. I like to think of dominion in the context of stewardship, which means overseeing or caring for something worth preserving.
In trying to find what the original word in Hebrew for dominion was, I came across a blog which said the word used in Genesis 1:28 is "radah" which means a royal form of ruling, according to this blog. The authors of the blog, Poiesus Theou, suggest that God has set forth how Kings and Rulers should rule in Psalms 72:12-14. 

12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
 13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
 14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
In this passage, David is speaking of his son, Solomon, and comparing him to the Messiah.
I like the imagery of a king caring for the needy and the poor. I like tying the two passages together in commanding Adam and Eve to have dominion over the earth--to care for it and to utilize the gifts of the earth to care for its people, especially since they would be so reliant upon the earth to care for their own children.
I recently learned that about 1/3 of the food produced in the world is thrown away--wasted. It is terrible because this food could actually be used to feed its people who are starving. This brings me to the section where Adam and Eve are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. 
The earth currently has about 7 billion inhabitants. Proponents of population control say that the earth is full and can't possibly reasonably sustain or support this many people or the people to come in the future. Yet, proper stewardship of the earth, utilizing resources wisely, better distribution of food, along with plummeting populations in Russia, Japan, and parts of Europe suggest otherwise. I think we have less of a resource problem and more of a distribution problem. We also have a major greediness problem. 
God's commandment to Adam and Eve to have children is one that I believe all of the people on the earth are to fulfill. Obviously, I am pretty invested in it. 

I think this is a critical part of the Plan of Salvation.
HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Question: Why is this story of creation one that is so compelling and important. And why do we hear it over and over again?


Learning to Love the Old Testament

The Old Testament is weighty and difficult. I think the Bible pretty accurately portrays people in all their messiness and awfulness. I have my own issues with this book of scripture. Reading it challenges me all the time, often in ways that make me angry and frustrated. When I studied at BYU many, many years ago, I took a literature class called, "The Bible as Literature". This sounds really funny, but it helped appreciate the Bible in an entirely different way. It is time to revisit the Old Testament. I'll be trying to read and post about my thoughts and questions as I read and study. Hopefully, it will go well.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough,
and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, 
confusion to clarity."
Melody Beattie The Language of Letting Go

Lately I have been an over-buyer and an under-user. It is a terrible trap to get into, especially when working hard to live on a structured budget. In pondering why I have been buying so much, I realized that I feel a scarcity in my life. Which is ridiculous, right? The good things in my life are so abundant I can hardly count them all.

I have a husband who loves me. He is my best friend. He loves our children with complete devotion.

He spends hours a day working at a demanding job, utilizing his tremendous talents to make the world a better place. He works on our home, making it warmer and beautiful.

I have six healthy kids. SIX!!! I made it through six pregnancies strong and healthy.

My kids are privileged to be getting a good education.

I have a home that is both beautiful and warm. My kids have space to play and I can enjoy my hobbies.

We have an AMAZING yard, flower garden, and vegetable garden.

I can make delicious meals with variety. I have eaten food from my garden and can drive to several bountiful grocery stores within a few minutes.

I have parents who love me. 

I have amazing sisters. I don't get to see them very often. But I get to talk to them on the phone or text.

I am healthy. My body is strong and I can keep up with the demands of having a large family. I have had lupus for over ten years, so this is a very BIG deal.

I get to write, read as many books as I want, scrapbook, play music, and do things I enjoy.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough,
and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, 
confusion to clarity."
Melody Beattie The Language of Letting Go


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wandering in My Dreams

In my dreams I explore foreign places, both familiar and new. Sometimes I wander the cobble-stoned streets of Lund and visit old friends. I speak Swedish poorly and lament the loss of my vocabulary in my dreams. Sometimes I am setting up an apartment in these dreams.

In other dreams, I feel the shimmery heat of the desert in Riyadh. I feel the weight of the abaya falling on my shoulder. I hear the call to prayer filling the air. My dream self meets my friends in Riyadh and spends time talking with them.

The other night, I dreamed a vivid dream of Bulgaria. My two oldest boys were gone--in college and on a mission, while the other four children were with me. We were living in a small apartment and trying to get it outfitted for our family. My husband was working at a university. I was teaching English. My mornings were free after getting the kids off to school, so I would walk around or take a bus, and sometimes stop in a coffee shop and get a pastry. In my dream, I was looking for some thrift stores to pick up a few necessary items for our place. I was also studying the language and trying to use what I could as I walked around. The streets were cobblestoned and the buildings were grey.

I awoke from my dream with vivid images still fresh. I don't know why my brain hit upon Bulgaria. I have never thought of visiting Bulgaria. I had to look it up on a map to even locate it. When I think of Bulgaria I think of the Iron Curtain, the Cold War, and the Soviet Union. All kind of ominous and dark things.

Of course, I had to do some research about the country. Bulgaria is bordered by Greece and Turkey to the south, Macedonia and Kosovo to the west, the Black Sea on the East, and Romania to the north. Sofia is its capital, which lies quite a bit inland. It has a rich history filled with connections to Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey. It was a part of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries and then eventually came under Soviet rule. It currently has an emerging market economy and is governed by  a unitary parliamentary republic.

Some interesting links to explore:

36 Hours in Sofia

The Official Tourist Site of Bulgaria

Bulgaria: the Wikipedia entry

Bulgarian Cuisine

Such an interesting place. And now I want to visit.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Life Hacks: Fitnet-an app for busy moms who want to exercise

When I lived in Riyadh, I took a Boot Camp exercise class on the compound. Twice a week I walked 2 minutes to the gym and worked out. It was great and I loved it.

Moving and pregnancy threw a wrench into my exercise routine. I totally fell off the bandwagon. I have been eating like crazy to keep up my milk supply, which is great for my baby, but not so awesome for my waist line.

When friends of mine decided to do a raw food challenge, I thought I would give it a go, but then realized it wouldn't work well for my current situation. Instead, I opted to make some changes that could easily be implemented in my life right now. I'm eating less and avoiding my favorite sugary treats. (Except dark chocolate--I just can't give that up. I eat just a square or two of really dark chocolate--at least 70% dark or more.)

I also started exercising. I found an app that I like called FitNet.FitNet is a free app that is amazing. It has three different fitness levels: lite, moderate, and intense. There are three different sections: cardio, strength training, and mind/body. Lite Cardio has four different series of workouts you can do: Light Low, Ready to Go, Step Basics, Light and Fit, and Kick It Up Kids. Each workout takes about 5 minutes to do. You can mix and match to get a good workout for your needs. When you do the workout, you get a video with a personal training talking and showing you how to do the workout. The camera on your phone or iPad measures your activity and scores you. The app logs and tracks your workouts so you can see what you have done.

The app is great because it is flexible, useful, and free. You can set and track your fitness goals. I have been exercising consistently this week. I feel great and have energy to get through my long day. I highly recommend this app to busy moms who want to sneak in exercise but can't get away to a gym. It is also a great option for budget-conscious moms who can't afford a gym membership. You don't need extra equipment-just a tablet or smartphone.

The only downside to the app is that my baby can turn it off in the middle of a workout.

Try it and let me know what you think of it.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Home Is Where You Wash Your Pond Rocks

A Home for My Mother

About a decade ago, my parents built their dream home. My mom saved and saved so they could pay cash for their home. It is a beautiful home, designed to suit their needs. My parents deserved it after enduring a small home that wasn't designed especially well, crammed with kids, for almost 30 years. After a couple more years of saving, they put in some beautiful landscaping, complete with a waterfall and pond feature.
(Scrubbing rocks isn't the only thing my mom likes done. We also scrub the fences. Also, this is my dad's dog. My dad likes to pretend that is my sister's dog, but we all know that Colt had bonded so deeply to my dad that the two cannot be separated. )
One day, my mom handed my younger sisters rags and asked them to go outside and scrub the rocks near the pond, because there was slimy mold growing on the rocks. Two of my sisters took the rags and headed out to the pond, when the other sister stopped and point blank refused to clean the rocks.
(I can't actually find a picture of my mom's pond on my computer. I know I have one somewhere. In the meantime, here is my parents' home in the winter. My dad has a team of draft horses named Bill and Bob. They have the most amazing views at their house. Nothing tops the Wyoming sky. )

This moment has become family legend because no one defies my mom, especially  not when it comes to cleaning. Really, it was completely absurd to go out and scrub rocks, but if you knew my mom, you wouldn't think it strange that she asked my sisters to do it.

(Yeah, we spend a lot of time outdoors when we visit my parents in Wyoming. We ride horses, pet dogs, and gaze at the blue sky with clouds. )

No Home for Me

Over a period of eighteen years, I lived in one dorm room, eight different apartments, and four different homes in six different towns, four different countries, and two different states. Living such a transient life feels rootless. With each move, I would take stock of my new residence and adapt to its quirks. 
(One of Sweden's quirks was snow and cold making snowsuits a necessity eight months of the year. These weren't just any old cheap snowsuits. These were heavy duty snowsuits designed to be used all the time. The little snowsuits had rubber bottoms so the kids could sit outside in the snow without freezing their little tushes off.)

Each new place felt temporary as I knew a move would be imminent. No matter how much I would try to live in the moment, the next moving date would loom in the back of my mind. Living in a new place requires a lot of strength and energy to adapt and learn the culture. I focused on providing stability and roots within our family structure, as opposed to our home.
(We lived in three different student family apartments in Sweden. They all had the same layout and kitchen. I made well over 5000 meals in this little kitchen and often for lots of people. It wasn't much and I could have made more of it, but I was too busy having fun with family and friends to worry about it.)

That isn't to say I didn't make our homes comfortable or presentable. I just spent less time worrying about what went into the home and making it perfect and more time concentrating on experiencing the new area.
(These are some snapshots of our Swedish apartments. We had a table in our living room. Our hallway filled with backpacks, snowboots, rain boots, rain coats, snow suits, helmets, etc was the most important room in the house. We biked everywhere sometimes pulling a trailer for the little ones. My bigger kids biked to school and church.)

A Home for Me

Buying our first home felt like exploring grown-up territory. As excited as I was for home ownership, I wasn't prepared for the emotional feelings I would have owning a home. It is responsibility and stewardship, both freeing and weighty. 
(This is the view through my study windows. I love New York in the fall. The colors are gorgeous.) 

Today I was sweeping my deck, prepping it for a waterproofing treatment in anticipation of winter, and it suddenly dawned on me why my mom wanted my sisters to wash the rocks. It wasn't just about cleaning pond scum, but the feeling of pride and ownership for a place. It is about having roots and wanting to thrive-not merely exist in that place. It's about wanting to make a place better for having been there. 
(The previous owners of our home dug deep roots. You can see it in their care of the place. These gorgeous daffodils popped up in the spring and blew me away. )
I may not have a burning desire to scrub rocks, but the inevitable weeds push against my mind-begging to be pulled. My desire to beautify my home goes beyond anything I've ever experienced before. I see myself stretching roots deep into the ground of my home, making my home here. I'm not planting with one eye on the calendar thinking about the next move. It is new territory for me. I rather like this new feeling.

(Working in our garden in earnest. The teenagers listen to books on tape while they weed. We had a lovely yield this year.)


Saturday, October 4, 2014


One of the secrets of a well-adjusted expat is developing the gift of contentment and gratitude. Learning to love and appreciate what your life is helps dull the ache of what your life isn't. When you live far away from family and friends, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that if you only lived ________, your life would be perfect and easy. Most of us can recognize the lie in that statement. The truth is that every place you live will come with its own challenges. Often those very challenges aren't things you have control over. You can let it drive you crazy, or you can roll with the punches and open yourself to the good things your life has to offer.

It is entirely possibly to experience contentment with yourself and your path in life completely apart from your physical location. When you feel content, it is a great gift. I don't think many of us actually experience genuine contentment and peace with ourselves. Which is a shame, because I believe most of us are too hard on ourselves, tearing at our weaknesses and flaws, mistakenly believing that others would tear at us with the same viciousness if our flaws were exposed. 

However, discontentment with yourself can and does serve a valuable purpose, if not used for self-flagellation, but rather with the goal of positive progression. I have been listening to the General Conference sessions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. The speakers have presented some wonderful thoughts. Listening has opened my eyes to some things I need to work on.

I am discontent with my inaction in my life. I do a lot-like most women with families. I am almost consumed by my very busy-ness. But I find that I am not progressing in the way I want to, I am without focus. My goals are too easily dropped and I don't accomplish things that can/should be done. 

Do you ever feel like that? I feel like I am fighting against all my sins, committing them over and over again. I get caught in a cycle of media consumption that overtakes all my time for doing worthwhile and valuable things. It is making me sick.

I was really touched by Sister Esplin's talk about the Sacrament and Atonement. She shared a story of a young woman who was trying very hard to make the sacrament more meaningful. This girl felt discouraged that she kept repeating the same sins over and over again. Sister Esplin reminded us that the young woman had forgotten the power of Christ and how it helps us change. 

When some clever person tires of making pretty printables of Elder Holland's talk, hopefully they will turn to Sister Esplin's talk and make a printable of her quotes. If/when that happens, I will post that here.

Edited to add: Thanks to Cheryl's daughter, I now have a great meme of Sister Esplin's talk.

In the meantime, I'm going to be devoting more time in prayer, trying to figure out where to go from here and what needs to happen.