Friday, September 30, 2011

Humility

It was one of those wards where you could depend on something offensive, socially awkward, or doctrinally unsound to come across the pulpit every testimony meeting. Often all three. This particular week, an older gentleman got up and made some ignorant and somewhat offensive comments about Muslims. I cringed, grateful I didn't see any investigators, and thought that was the end of this adventure in testimony meeting. But the next month, he walked up to the podium the instant the floor opened and said he'd been approached by a ward member who'd explained what was wrong with his previous statements and encouraged him to learn more about the Muslim religion before making further comments about it. He'd taken the counsel to heart and had gone to the local mosque to gain understanding. This Sunday, and the two following testimony meetings, he got up and shared what he had learned during his periodic visits, celebrating what we had in common, gaining empathy for what was different, and recognizing the goodness of the patient spiritual leaders who had taken time to simply teach someone with no interest in converting. While three months of synopses of his time at the mosque was a little out of place for a testimony meeting, I was struck by this man's humility. He could have easily been offended. He could have said “I'm too old to be politically correct.” But no, he was teachable. He took criticism and grew from it.


I see the beauty of humility more and more as I get older. It is hard to suppress that knee-jerk reaction to defend yourself, to paint yourself in the right. But at what cost? I've seen relationships ended, opportunities lost, and bitterness clung to, all for the sake of feeling justified. I want to be the kind of person that is secure in myself and my goodness, but still open to ways to add more goodness to my life.

I want to exemplify this with general conference this weekend. Don't get me wrong. I love general conference. I always come away from it with messages that move me, concrete goals to improve myself, and an affirmation that God is still speaking to us today. But I'm an analytical person. When someone tries to present an argument, my first instinct is to poke holes in that argument. Therefore, I also always leave conference with at least one address that leaves me a little rankled, and I therefore discount everything that speaker had to say. And while I'm ashamed to admit it, I often discount what they have to say the next several times they speak. Were my criticisms valid? Frequently yes. But as I've gone back and approached these talks with a humble heart, I've realized what I've missed. Where I initially said, “if women really are getting equal treatment, you wouldn't have to tell us so all the time,” I saw the varied and many footnotes references (from mommy web forums to scholarly studies) and found a man who had dedicated a considerable amount of time and prayer gaining understanding about what women are experiencing and the good they are doing. Where I saw poorly worded comments about same sex attraction, I missed beautiful passages about the power of the atonement.

I firmly believe God wants us to ask the difficult questions. He doesn't want or need blind followers. But I'm realizing that he wants us to ask the difficult questions while listening for His answers. So I'll continue to see holes – that's what my brain does. But I won't let myself focus on the absences – I will see the good that surrounds them. After all, I hope that's what God does when he judges my spiritual merit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In praise of quitters


My freshman year of high school, I played on my school's predominately male water polo team. I'd love to claim I wowed everybody with my athletic prowess, but …. um, let's just say I'm not sure why I thought catching balls while treading water would be a more successful enterprise for me than catching them while standing was. I quickly realized that I had no talent for the sport. However, I stuck it out for the whole season, attending every practice and match. I did so, clearly providing no benefit to the team, for one reason: because I wasn't a quitter.

In retrospect, I'm not sure this was the right choice. Sure, I benefited. I learned I could sludge through difficult things without the praise or satisfaction that comes with excelling. I made friends. And let me tell you, that was the most in shape I've been my entire life. But could I also have learned valuable lessons if I'd used that time towards activities I possessed actual talent in? Yes.

I have a mental block about quitting. Once I've committed to do something, I struggle to move on. I've been awed by friends' ease in switching from a job they feel satisfied with to one that has the potential to be better, dropping a graduate program they were halfway through because they weren't sure it was the right fit, or asking to be released from a community responsibility or church calling before their term was up. They were all smart things to do, both for the individual and the organization they were involved with. And I'm sure they had to think and pray very hard to make their decisions, but I always find myself thinking how difficult it would have been for me to do what they did because it is quitting.

There's value in loyalty and dependability. But I'm learning there is also value in using our limited time wisely and recognizing when life has prevented us from giving what we should to an organization. So here's to quitters who quit in the appropriate circumstances.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Looking frumpy?

Please don't answer that question about me - I'm asking about my blog. With the exception of a gadget here or there, my blog's design is identical to the one I had when I created it in 2007. Truth be told, I kind of forget that my blog's template exists. I go to the blogger dashboard to post, and generally am running to manage a screaming child before I have a chance to see if it posted right, or even proofread (you've probably noticed). And I kind of forget those of you with blogs have templates, unless I comment, because I use google reader - everyone's stuff appears on a sleek, white template. But I recently started looking around, and wow, some of you have snazzy looking pages. And mine sure looks like a rookie blogger created it in 2007.

What do you think, should I get a new look? Does the aesthetic part of your brain cringe every time you open my page, or do you access me through an rss feed? At least it isn't as bad as the average myspace page was, right?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Utah

I love my in-laws. Isn't that fantastic? They are thoughtful, fun, hard-working, interesting and adventerous. I had a great time with them these past few weeks.

Some photogenic highlights from our trip:




I loved getting so much time in the mountains. I forgot how much easier it is to exercise when you're living 15 minutes away from great hiking, and how happy I feel when I'm there.


I spent lots of time with my brother. He willingly accompanied me to get all the Provo foods I'd been missing (even going to Jamba twice with me), showed me around the new broadcasting building where he works, and spent lots of time hanging out in the great outdoors with me.



Emily loved helping her grandpa feed the horses and dog, and was a fearless and obedient horse rider.



One of my favorite things was seeing my kids play with their cousins. Note that in this picture, when we put them down for their naps, Emily and Abraham were in different beds.




My fabulous in laws watched the kids so Rob and I could take a tandem bike ride up Provo canyon. This was a common date before we were married, and we even got engaged on one of those bike dates, so it was heavenly to relive those moments.



And because I'm a moron about picture taking, I forgot to take pictures of some other highlights - Emily and Elliot meeting their great-grandparents, attending a family reunion, and having dinner with the Storer/King family. I loved watching Merwyn make Elliot laugh, June take Emily to pick strawberries, and getting to meet more of Rob's extended family. And I've said it before, but the Storer/Kings are the best kind of family - the kind you don't have to be close with because you aren't closely related, but you are because they are amazing people you learn from and have so much fun with.


Sure, there were hitches. Emily barfed on the plane. Elliot went on a nursing strike (hundreds of miles from my pump). And there tantrums over being out of their routine. But I am so grateful I got to spend so much time with amazing people in a beautiful place.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank you, Irene

Best time to go on vacation: these past two weeks. I missed an earthquake and a hurricane. Because our flight was cancelled, we got two extra days of vacation. We were able to ride horses with grandpa (Emily was fearless), get takeout from my favorite Thai place in Provo, and spend my birthday with my brother and my in-laws. So while Irene irritated millions of people, she at least made me happy! I'll write more when I have time, but it was a great vacation, and I was grateful for the extra two days.