Lehi – A Goodly Parent – 2 Nephi 4:5-12

You can read 2 Nephi 4:5-12 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Shortly before Lehi’s death, he blesses his grandchildren a final time.
  • Lehi passes away.

Lehi—A Goodly Parent

Well, we’ve been studying the Book of Mormon for a while now. I have spent months with Lehi, Sariah, and the rest of their family. And now, in 2 Nephi 4:12, Lehi passes away. As I read of his death, I am reminded the opening of the Book of Mormon:

“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;…” – 1 Nephi 1:1

Nephi was born of “goodly” parents. As we have been studying the life of Lehi and Nephi and their family, we can see that this was true.

I did a quick search and found that goodly basically means what we think it means. During archaic times this word was especially used to mean attractive, excellent, or admirable. I feel that this is probably what Nephi meant.

So – for today, I think that I will ponder some of the points that made Lehi a goodly parent. Also, I’m going to lump Sariah into these points. Cultures and practices were different anciently. I don’t know why women weren’t as included, but it just didn’t happen. Perhaps it was because people were more sexist back in olden times (or at least what we would perceive to be). But perhaps it isn’t that simple. Maybe in ancient times, especially in a culture like Nephi’s, they considered the whole unit – husband and wife – as one unit. Perhaps marriage partners weren’t as individualistic as today’s are (especially in the U.S.)? Most likely, the lack of female inclusion is a combination of many different things.

I don’t know.

But, for myself, I’m going to consider Lehi and Sariah as a package. Lehi wouldn’t have been who he was without her. And Sariah wouldn’t have been who she was without him. Not only do partners shape their marriage, but the marriage shapes them. So, as I write about Lehi, remember that I consider Sariah to be at his side. I consider them companions.

One – Lehi and Sariah were Disciples of Jehovah

Lehi Comforts Sariah

When the Book of Mormon opens, we read of a deeply spiritual experience of Lehi’s. His conversion to the Lord increases, and he is called to be a prophet.

Lehi is righteous and is willing to keep the commandments of God.

Additionally, we can infer that Sariah was also righteously devoted to the Lord. She let her husband preach! This was a dangerous and difficult time to be preaching as he did, but he was supported in it.

Two – Lehi and Sariah Faithfully Protected Their Family

Lehis begins Journey

Lehi’s willingness to keep the commandments of God and preach to the people of Jerusalem ends up putting him and his entire family in danger. The people of Jerusalem want to kill him.

I believe that the threat to Lehi’s life was immediate. In other words, had Lehi stayed in Jerusalem, I am not sure that he would have lived to see it destroyed. I think that he would have been killed beforehand. Perhaps his entire family would have been targeted.

God warns Lehi in a dream to flee, and he does.

One interesting note: this method of “protection” may not seem all that intuitive or conventional. Lehi protects his family by taking them into the dangerous wilderness! The thing to keep in mind is that Lehi trusts the Lord, and this is the best protection any parent can offer to their children.

Additionally, it is good to note that Sariah also aided in this protection. Lehi didn’t pack the camels, family, and provisions himself. He had the help of his wife. She didn’t receive the revelation, but she supported him, and in this way she also protected the family.

Three – Lehi Provided for His Family

In 1 Nephi, we read:

“…And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:4

Additionally, when Nephi and his brothers travel back to Jerusalem to get the plates from Laban, we read that they gathered up their old treasures to buy them:

“Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore let us go down to the land of our father’s inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord.

And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.” – 1 Nephi 3:16, 22

Lehi had amassed some kind of wealth during his life in Jerusalem. I’m not sure how he did it, but we know that he did provide for his family.

Again, it may have seemed counterintuitive for a man who was a good provider to leave everything behind and go into the wilderness. But his choice to listen to the Lord and take his family to a promised land would soon provide and protect his family better than anything he could have come up with on his own.

One more, Sariah must also be remembered here. She provided for her family as well. We don’t know the details, but I would imagine that she helped procure the beautiful and precious things that they enjoyed. She would have also helped to maintain the house and tents – providing an environment that would nurture faith.

Four – Lehi Teaches His Children

Over and over again, we read of the ways that Lehi taught his children. He gathered them in his tent while they lived in the wilderness. He testified to them. He told them his dreams. He expounded scripture to them. He warned them. When he sinned, he repented. He blessed them. Even to his dying day he exhorted them to come unto Christ.

As far as Sariah is concerned – this is an actual example that we have in the scriptures. She taught her children and then testified to them:

“Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

Five – Lehi and Sariah Loved One Another

For the most part, we have to infer and read between the lines when it comes to Sariah. But as a woman and a wife I have to believe that she was Lehi’s companion, love, and number one support. I understand what it is to be in a marriage, and I understand what it is to support and love a husband. I understand what it is to have a husband that also supports and loves me.

Lehi offers sacrifice

In 1 Nephi, we read of one of Sariah’s “bad” days. This “bad” day of hers wasn’t because she was selfish or bratty. It’s because she loved her sons and was worried about them! She complained to her husband.

Lehi, instead of getting frustrated, comforts Sariah.

Even though we have this one interaction, we can assume that this type of behavior was often extended one to another – between Lehi and Sariah. Lehi’s actions, in such stressful circumstances, reflect a loving relationship. If Sariah and Lehi had a toxic relationship, there is no way that this would have worked! Lehi and Sariah wouldn’t have been able to have peace while waiting for their sons to return to the wilderness with the plates.

And actually, that’s only the small part. Lehi and Sariah needed to have companionship, love, and devotion in order to be able to lead their group through the wilderness to the promised land. Can you imagine this undertaking!?! Can you imagine the stress it would have put on Lehi and Sariah? Can you imagine the way that it would have tested their relationship?

The only way that the journey to the promised land would have worked is if both Lehi and Sariah were equally yoked, humble, and devoted to the Lord.

Conclusion

This post is kind of all over the place, and I make a lot of assumptions in it. But I hope it is helpful. Truly, Nephi was born of goodly parents.

And now, we read in 2 Nephi:

“And it came to pass after my father, Lehi, had spoken unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, he waxed old. And it came to pass that he died, and was buried.” – 2 Nephi 4:12

Father Lehi led his family to the promised land. He taught them, protected them, provided for them. He loved them and given them an example of what a “goodly parent” ought to do. And now, as we read, he has died. It is the end of an era and we are moving on to new things in the Book of Mormon.

I’m so grateful for Lehi’s and Sariah’s examples. I hope that I can also be a “goodly parent.”

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Sariah – 1 Nephi 5:1-8

Click here to read 1 Nephi 5:1-8

Context and General Information

  • When Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi return to the tent of their father, their parents rejoice.
  • Sariah had mourned for them. She thought that they had died in the wilderness. Sariah complained against Lehi for taking them out there and now her sons were gone.
  • Lehi listens and then tells her he agrees – he is a visionary man. But because of the visions he had seen, he knew the goodness of God. He knew he could trust God in leading them to a promised land. He could also trust that the Lord would enable his sons to get the plates of brass.
  • Sariah was comforted.
  • When Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi returned to the tent of their father, his parents rejoiced, and his mother was comforted.
  • Sariah testifies that she knows that God commanded them to go to the wilderness. She bears a beautiful testimony.
5 Sariah
Sariah

Sariah

I really like Sariah.

I feel for Sariah.

Sariah is a woman of faith and strength.

Think about the situation. Life is kind of normal in Jerusalem for Sariah and her family. It seems like they had plenty of possessions. I don’t know what her personal life was like, but they weren’t poor. It seems like they had plenty of stability in their lives.

Until suddenly – when they don’t.

Lehi has this experience with the Lord, and then is called to prophesy and witness to others in Jerusalem of what he saw and heard. Suddenly, life isn’t quite as neat and stable. People don’t like what Lehi is saying. In fact, they detest what he has to say so much that the Lord warns Lehi – during the night – that they need to flee Jerusalem.

I imagine that Lehi woke up, turned to Sariah, and told her exactly what happened. And we read:

“And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:4

When Lehi departed into the wilderness – I doubt that he did one hundred percent of the work. I can imagine Sariah, waking up, hearing her husband – the tone in his voice – the urgency of the command to flee Jerusalem.

I imagine that Sariah packed up food, clothes, and goods for her husband, her children, and herself. I can imagine that she tried to get things as organized as possible to leave and flee to a promised land. She wouldn’t be going back to Jerusalem.

Sariah didn’t have the vision! She didn’t have the dream! She simply placed her faith in the words of her husband. And based on the swiftness of the departure of Lehi’s family, I’m going to guess that she did have faith in her husband’s words.

They traveled for days – and into the wilderness – without stopping. She is faithful and helpful. Lehi could not have done this alone.

We read:

“And my father dwelt in a tent.” – 1 Nephi 2:15

Yes – we all know that Lehi dwelt in a tent, but take a second to think about it. Perhaps Nephi would have been more accurate to say, And my father and my mother dwelt in a tent. Sariah was there, too. Struggling, suffering, and sleeping in the wilderness.

She faithfully chose to trust her husband’s command from the Lord. She helped and supported Lehi. She wasn’t just along for the ride to the promised land. She was Lehi’s companion. She was an integral part of making this whole journey work.

She faithfully goes, then Lehi sends their four sons back to Jerusalem.

After a while, Sariah voices her concerns – that Lehi is a visionary man. She says:

“Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 5:2

We all have hard days. Despite all of Sariah’s really good days and acts of faith, the only one we have in this record was a bad one. But we all have bad days occasionally – days when our faith flags. Days when we really need help. We covenant to “bear one another’s burdens” – without realizing that sometimes others are bearing ours.

Sariah had been bearing so much, but could no longer take it, and she told her husband.

Healthy Marriage Example

Sariah called Lehi a “visionary man.” (Dreamer?) She complained. And what does he do?

Lehi could have taken this chance to get annoyed and offended. He could have stamped off, huffing and puffing and then given her the silent treatment.

Instead, Lehi listens. He hears her. He validates her:I know that I am a visionary man…” He doesn’t defend himself by hurting her. He just reminds her the sequence of events that had led them to that situation. This sequence was orchestrated by the Lord.

Lehi’s willingness to listen rather than correct invites the Spirit into their conversation. This is how we can be sure that Sariah is so righteous. She is comforted. She is close enough to the Spirit to feel comfort. In this sense, she is a second witness that Lehi and his family truly do need to flee Jerusalem.

She still missed her boys, but her heart is full of confidence in God.

And then the boys return. She is so happy, and then – one of my favorite moments in all of scripture:

“And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

We get to read her testimony! This difficult trial reinforces Sariah’s faith in and testimony of the Lord. It will give the strength that she will need to push on for 8 more years until they reach the promised land. Testimony comes only after a trial of faith. Sariah’s faith was tried. She endured well, and now she has a sure witness that they are keeping the personal commandments that the Lord had given the entire family through Lehi.

***
I truly love this example. Time and time again, I have wondered – what does Sariah’s journal look like? What were her prayers like? It takes a lot of faith to be called a prophet and follow the word of God. And in some ways, we could argue that it takes even more faith to trust the witness of another.

Sariah trusted Lehi’s witness and then finally, the Lord gave her a personal witness.

I love this example because I’m a wife. I have had the opportunity to be married to a man who receives revelation for our family from time to time. I am not always the one who receives these promptings. We have had to learn to trust one another. I have had to learn how to be like Sariah – trusting in my spouse – that he is living worthy of the companionship of the Spirit and is following it. All of this only works if we learn to love and trust each other!

Though we don’t have much in our scriptures about Sariah, her life has made a major impact on me.

Listen to Learn – by Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk Listen to Learn, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1991 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been the best listener…That I’ve been the kind of person who quietly listens to what is happening in the world around me – rather than wrapped up in my own anxieties or ideas. Or, that I’ve been the kind of person who was engaged and truly listened to what others said to me – rather than quietly waiting to say what I want to say.

Even though I know that I have a lot to learn when it comes to listening, I do value it, and I have been trying to be a good listener for years. I have also found myself, as a mother, often telling my children “You have one mouth and two ears so that you can listen twice as much as you speak.” They kind of roll their eyes, just like I did when I was younger. But it is such a wise saying.

In his talk, Russell M. Nelson quoted the proverb:

““Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” – Proverbs 19:20

He then explained:

“Surely wisdom will come as we listen to learn from children, parents, partners, neighbors, Church leaders, and the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m not going to go through every point that President Nelson mentions. You can read it for yourself here. I will pick a few points out and write about them.

Learn to Listen, then Listen to Learn from Children

Russell M. Nelson stated:

“A wise father once said, “I do a greater amount of good when I listen to my children than when I talk to them.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have four children – my oldest is nearly 17. My youngest is 7. Though I’m not an expert by any means, being a mom is something I’ve done longer than almost anything else now. I’ve been “in the trenches” of motherhood for 17 years now. And I think that I’m really beginning to learn the truth of the above statement. I’m a better mother when I listen.

I have noticed, when I lecture, the glazed expressions that come over my children’s faces. At first, I’m tempted to get a little frustrated. Are you even listening to me?! I have even asked.
“Yes,” was the answer – usually mumbled!

Thankfully, the gift of the Holy Ghost brings everything to our remembrance. The kids look bored out of their minds because lectures are boring, and I’ve had enough boring lectures in my life to know that.

So, I’ve been trying to listen to my children. Of course, we can do this by hearing them. Sometimes that might even require putting our phones down. (hehe). But there are other ways to listen, too. Often our children say more in their behaviors than they do in words.

Things have been a little unsettled for our family for a little while now. We are in the transition of moving, but that transition has taken months. It is not easy for anyone – even though we have been infinitely blessed along the way.

Additionally, it is June. The days are getting longer, the nights shorter. The kids tire themselves out to the bone playing each day, but don’t seem to get a whole lot of sleep.

The physical tiredness and the “up in the air” feeling of our lives sometimes results in cranky or emotional kids. It could be easy to just tell them to snap out of it. It could be easy to lecture or yell. But it would be completely ineffectual.

Instead, by listening, the Spirit has helped me to see the real reason why my kids might be cranky. The words of a small tantrum are rarely the real reason a child is throwing it. Instead, if we listen – not only to our kids words, but to their actions, their concerns, and if we listen with the Spirit, we will see the truth of what they are “saying.”

My daughter, Sasquatch, was having a particularly hard day, and I was able to recognize, She needs sleep. She needs stability. She needs love. I wasn’t able to put her to sleep at the moment (she is 9, so she didn’t need a nap. I just needed to be sure she went to bed a little earlier that night). And yes, she needs stability, but we are still in the middle of a move, so that is out of my control. What I could offer her was the stability of a mother’s love.

Instead of lecturing her, I firmly told her to take a deep breath and stop crying. (Fits are not really allowed). Then, I scooped her up in my arms, hugged, her, and said “I think that you need some time with just me.” She went with me as I did errands, and I was able to be with her and just listen to her.

Now..it can be a bit easier to listen to a cute little kid rather than a teenager sometimes. President Nelson taught:

“The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. Children are naturally eager to share their experiences, which range from triumphs of delight to trials of distress. Are we as eager to listen? If they try to express their anguish, is it possible for us to listen openly to a shocking experience without going into a state of shock ourselves? Can we listen without interrupting and without making snap judgments that slam shut the door of dialogue?”

He continues:
“Parents with teenage youth may find that time for listening is often less convenient but more important when young people feel lonely or troubled. And when they seem to deserve favor least, they may need it most.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote.

And I admit, I have it easy. I have two teenage daughters, and they are simply amazing. Yet, being a mother is exhausting, and sometimes I’m not all that eager to listen.

When I am listening, sometimes I’m jarred by the fact that my teenagers are their own people with their own opinions. I’m startled when I realize that soon, they won’t be living with me anymore. That they don’t think I’m an expert. I still have a 7 year old son who thinks I’m the number 1 source of all knowledge and wisdom in the world! But my teenagers are keen on the fact that I don’t really know all that much.

Compound a healthy dose of skepticism with a not-quite-developed frontal lobe, and you have teenagers that sometimes say things that…drive you a little nuts.

But, if we listen, if we really listen, then we will understand. In fact, we might even learn something. I’ve learned so much from my children. They are patient, submissive, faithful. They want to do what is right. They are trying to negotiate this crazy world, and they are doing it so much better than I could have if I was a teenager right now.

When I listen to learn, then I’m actually better able to parent. Listening is really interesting. The more I listen to learn from my children, the more that they have been willing to listen to learn from me. True listening (not being a dumb doormat, but real listening) opens a door of trust.

Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn from Spouses

President Nelson stated:

“…some couples seem not to listen to one another. Taking time to talk is essential to keep lines of communication intact. If marriage is a prime relationship in life, it deserves prime time! Yet less important appointments are often given priority, leaving only leftover moments for listening to precious partners.” – Russell M. Nelson

I think that I’m a noticer. Sometimes being a noticer isn’t that good of a thing. In fact, sometimes being a noticer tempts me to be a little judgmental. But I’m a noticer still, and there are times when it is helpful. Sometimes I notice things like how men and women, husbands and wives interact with one another. There are some couples I want to emulate. Others not as much.

One couple that I really admire is my biological father and his wife.

Catania0052 - Jack and Regina Cacciato
Regina and Jack

I haven’t had as many experiences with them as I would like, but I’ve had enough to really learn from them.

Every time I’ve been in their home, there is a palpable feeling of love. Does this mean that they are all cheesy and mushy? Sometimes Yes! Other times, they gently tease one another. They have dealt with hardship and difficulty. They have also enjoyed victories and triumphs.

Their ability to listen to one another even literally saved a life. One evening, after falling asleep, Regina awoke to a strange noise. She said that Jack was doing some strange “monster” breathing. She said that sometimes he snored from time to time, and she would nudge him. He would then shift positions or whatever, and the breathing would go back to normal. But this time it was different.

I feel fairly confident that if they were not the type of couple that really listened to one another and cared for one another, then what followed would not have happened.

Jack didn’t stop his strange breathing, and he wasn’t particularly responsive to Regina. This is because, unbeknownst to her, he was having a heart attack. She didn’t just roll over, ignoring this man that slept by her side for over 30 years. It’s so easy to ignore the person closest to us. Instead she was alarmed.

She tried to get Jack’s attention, but still the strange noises. Her daughter (my sister) and husband (my brother-in-law) happened to be staying the night with Jack and Regina. And my brother-in-law happens to be doing his residency as a doctor. Matt, my brother-in-law, came to the bedroom and immediately recognized that Jack was having a heart attack.

Regina was a champ. Despite the high emotions of the situation, she listened to her children – to her son in law. He gave everyone there directions on what to do – call 911, open the door and look for the ambulence, etc. He directed Regina on how to help him move Jack off the bed, and then how to assist him with CPR. She listened. And she saved Jack’s life.

This is a fairly extreme example. And it is an obvious example on why we ought to listen.

We, in the Mormon faith, believe in eternal marriage. When we are married in the temple, the verbiage of the marriage covenant not “until death to you part.” It is an eternal covenant, an eternal marriage.

There are some people who are in insufferable marriages – for decades. And that’s not even a fraction of eternity! Gross! Terrible!

I’m a noticer. I have noticed one couple who have a low-grade fight at all times. (Yes, there are times when the fight escalates, but it is never gone completely. How incredibly exhausting.) Because of this low-grade, neverending fight, there is no room for true listening – the kind of listening that teaches and informs. Instead, “listening” is a weapon. The husband and wife of this marriage are almost like bots – listening for keywords that can help them in their fight to destroy one another. This marriage has lasted decades, and I can’t even imagine the strain.

Not only have I noticed the terrible marriage, but the effects on the individual is also unmistakeable. Because of decades of refusing to listen, love, and understand, they have become changed beings. It’s kind of like getting a sliver that then gets infected. After a certain point, the entire being is septic – not only the source point that started the infection.

It’s so depressing.

Contrast that with a couple like Jack and Regina, who may not always see eye to eye, but they have chosen to be loving and accepting to one another. They have chosen to listen to one another. They don’t make assumptions about one another. Listening is used to increase their joy in life and to build up their marriage – rather than as a tool to destroy one another.

Which situation would you want to be in for eternity?

Learn to Listen, then Listen to Learn from the Lord

Honestly, we could start and end the blog post with this. When we learn to listen to the Lord, and we listen to learn from the Lord, everything else will flow naturally.

When we learn to listen to the Spirit and actually listen to learn from it, we’ll also listen to learn from our children, parents, companions, neighbor, and church leaders.

When we learn to listen to the Spirit, we will develop discernment because listening doesn’t mean that we blindly follow everything that our children, parents, companions, neighbors, or church leaders say. Sometimes they are wrong! Sometimes they are even hurtful! We have to be wise.

The best way to be wise – learn to listen to the Spirit and listen to learn from it.

I have found that if I’m listening to the Spirit, then I can live with no regrets. Even if things don’t seem ideal, I can feel confident when I’m following the Lord in my life.

I love the following scripture:

“Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me; and ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings.” – Doctrine and Covenants 41:1

Often, I focus on the part that says whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings. It helps me to know that God loves to bless us. But this verse also tells us about our role in being blessed.

We need to hearken and hear.

President Nelson explained:

“Scriptures recorded in all dispensations teach that we show our love of God as we hearken to His commandments and obey them.14 These actions are closely connected. In fact, the Hebrew language of the Old Testament in most instances uses the same term for both hearkening (to the Lord) and obedience (to His word).” – Russell M. Nelson

Hearkening and hearing isn’t passive. When we hearken and hear, we actively obey. We repent, we change, we proceed, we strive. Hearkening and hearing means that we let His words become a part of us as we put them to the test in our lives.

Finally, President Nelson advises:

“Carefully listen to learn from the Lord through the still small voice—the Holy Spirit—which leads to truth. Listen to learn by studying scriptures that record His holy mind and will. Listen to learn in prayer, for He will answer the humble who truly seek Him.” – Russell M. Nelson

Listening to the Lord often requires us to “tune in.” We really have to turn the dial and adjust the volume if we want to hear what He has to say to us. This is done when we study the scriptures, when we pray, and when we act according to what He teaches us.

I know that this is true. There have been times when I haven’t tuned my heart or soul in to the Lord. When this is the case, I stumble along through life – surviving. But, I’ve got to admit. I’m not all that interested in merely surviving. I want to thrive, and I know that the Lord blesses in abundance. He wants us to thrive, too.

I have learned that when I prioritize my health – physical and spiritual – I’m better able to hear the gentle promptings of the Spirit. I have learned that when I then trust what the Spirit is guiding me to do, then I’m strengthened and blessed abundantly. When I learn to listen to the Spirit, I’ve come to realize that He is all around me! That everything testifies of Christ and His love for me. That He showers His tender mercies on me in my life – even if I’m not always capable of recognizing them.

Through learning to listen and listening to learn, I have come to realize that the Holy Ghost truly can be and is my constant companion. That He is always gently speaking to me – of the Love God has for me, of my value and worth.

Can you hear?

Joy Project – Week 13 of 52

Week thirteen of the joy project.
3-23 – 3-29

March 23, 2014 – My Little Homies

I <3 These Two.
I ❤ These Two.

I love these two.

There are times when I just look at these two, and my heart overflows with love. Nothing special happened in this moment. It was just a usual Sunday night with us eating dinner and the T-Rex going crazy. He can barely stand to finish a meal because he's got too much excitement. He loves to entertain all of us. After he's finished with his meal, he hops on Homey's lap. They are so cute…or should I say cool.

Joy is family. Joy is having a little boy that is a spitting image of his father, your best friend, lover, companion…everything!

March 25, 2014 – Swedish Furniture

We are so Swedish!
We are so Swedish!

Last week, we painted our bedroom. I love it. And Homey put together our desk.

Today, I was cleaning, and I had to smile when I saw this pile of Ikea tools.

Joy is a new desk and a fresh coat of paint on your walls.

March 26, 2014 – A Text from my Brother and Mrs. Featherbottom

Mrs. Featherbottom
Mrs. Featherbottom

I received a random text from my brother. I love him. In case you’re not familiar, this is a quote from Arrested Development. Over the years, Arrested Development has brought me a lot of joy. I believe in laughing a lot. Nothing releases stress quite like a laugh does.

Joy is awesome siblings who refer to awesome characters on awesome TV shows.

March 27, 2014 – The Orchid Tree

The Orchid Tree
The Orchid Tree

I have been envying/coveting a tree for some time. A few weeks ago, I noticed that several people in my neighborhood and around town had this tree that seemed to bloom orchids–giant purple orchids.

Now…rewind to last year when we moved into this house. It was late in the year – nearly Thanksgiving. We have this big tree in our yard. It seems nice enough. Then, last winter we had a week-long freeze. This is unheard of in Phoenix. Our Lemon tree didn’t die, but many branches did. Some of our plants were frozen to the point where they died. This large tree in our yard seemed to be under a lot of stress. It lost all of its leaves. We didn’t know if it would come back to life.

Throughout the spring it struggled, but leaves came back. It never bloomed. It was just struggling to get back on track. Throughout the summer, it continued to gain strength. There was hope for the tree. I was glad that we waited to see what would happen–we almost took the tree out.

I never thought much of this giant tree in our yard – other than it is great for shade and many birds love it.

I had noticed the orchid trees around the valley, and I started thinking I wish I had one. Oh how I wish I had an orchid tree! Imagine my surprise when I noticed a few orchids blooming on this tree. A few days later, and the tree is covered!

Yay!!!
Yay!!!

It’s funny. All along this tree has been here. Even though I hadn’t expected to find such joy in this tree, I have. I nearly feel guilty that I didn’t appreciate it in the past. There is something about that – about how often huge blessings are right under our nose. It just will take a while for them to bloom.

Joy is a gigantic, mature tree covered in orchids in your backyard. Joy is feeling God’s love in something as simple as a flowering tree. Joy is having a prayer answered before you even knew you had it. Joy is an unexpected orchid tree.

March 28, 2014 – Hiking

Hiking with the T-Rex
Hiking with the T-Rex

I had a few minutes alone with the T-Rex this morning. I figured that instead of our usual morning routine, we’d go and hike. So we did!

We went over to the trails and found a mountain to climb. This little boy loves climbing mountains. He jumped on rocks, oohed and ahhed over the views as we climbed to the top of the mountain, gasped at every single “yucky cactus,” and then chased a lizard into the desert.

Joy is being outside with this little T-Rex. Joy is living in this world, experiencing it, and watching a toddler experience it, too.

March 29, 2014 – Unexpected Blessings in Disguise

I was fully expecting that I’d be saying today’s “joy” was taking my daughters to the Women’s Meeting.

However, we had an emergency. A lice emergency.

I washed and combed hair for hours. After that, we got out the vacuums, clorox wipes, sprays, and cleaned every surface in our home. In the meantime, we washed every single sheet, blanket, pillowcase, and stuffed animal we own. It was madness.

Where’s the blessing and joy in this.

1) We’re alive and can even experience the adversities in life.

2) Only one of my children had lice.

Joy is remembering that even sucky things can be considered a blessing. Even sucky things are reminders that we are on this earth and enjoying the blessings of mortality. My five year old asked, “Why did Heavenly Father create lice?” Often, I’ve asked similar questions (about mosquitoes, ticks, and scorpions). But the answer is, so we could have joy. No, I don’t necessarily enjoy having lice in my home, but I can joy in the reminder of the blessings I have. And I can even joy in the fact that I’m experiencing it at all. I have children. I have a family. We all have heads of hair. There is much to rejoice in–even in something as repulsive as a louse.

Joy Project – Week 7 of 52

Time for a little catch up…

Week seven of the Joy Project

February 10, 2014 – Priesthood Blessings

Homey and Little Homey at the Gilbert Temple Open House.
Homey and Little Homey at the Gilbert Temple Open House.

This isn’t about the Gilbert Temple Open House. Instead it is about Homey. I chose this picture of the temple because it is through temple covenants and the Priesthood that Homey has become the man he is today. He takes his covenants seriously and serves our family.

Today, I went to the doctor because I’ve been having earaches. The doctor gave me advice, and I was feeling a little bit unsure. I decided to ask Homey to give me a Priesthood blessing.

One thing I’m really grateful for is the fact that any man in the church, as long as he is found worthy, can officiate in the priesthood. This service isn’t relegated only to those who go to seminaries. It is available to all men starting at the age of 12. The Priesthood teaches men to serve God and honor the commitments and covenants they have made with Him. When men magnify their priesthood, they also magnify womanhood. They show more love and compassion. They serve others. I really think that the priesthood is what makes a man. Instead of being married to some “guy” or some “boy,” Homey is a loving, strong, and capable man. This is because of the Priesthood that he bears.

I asked him for a a blessing, and I was filled with joy as I felt the words that Heavenly Father had for me.

*If you are not Mormon, but want to understand what a Priesthood blessing is, you can either email me or read more here.

As Homey began the blessing, I was verbally reminded of how much Heavenly Father loves me. As Homey uttered the words, I realized that every blessing I’ve received or witnessed has started in a similar way. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each of us, and they want us to know this, too.

Joy is being married to a man who honorably holds the Priesthood and uses this power to serve our family. Joy is receiving a blessing and being reminded of God’s love for me, specifically. Joy is knowing that I’m on track, I can stay the course, and that I can be confident.

February 11, 2014 – Tiger

T-Rex and Tiger
T-Rex and Tiger

There are times (a lot of them) when the kids cry, tease, and are just mean to one another. I don’t really understand it. Well, I suppose I do. They are tired. They are dealing with changes in their own lives. They are human.

My oldest two (Tiger and Panda) are really good to one another, but every once in a while, they can be – well – jerks. They have their own little power-plays, and the contention drives me up the wall.

Yesterday, after an altercation, I made Tiger and Panda apologize and then take a time out in their rooms. While in their rooms, they had to write an entry in their journal – about how to be better to each other. I didn’t make them read what they wrote, I simply told them to do it.

Today, I had another experience during a quiet time of the day. It brought me a lot of joy. I was reminded of what a good girl Tiger is. She wants to do what is right. She doesn’t want to fight with her sister, but they disagree at times. Her life is changing. She is in the Young Women’s now. She is in Junior High. Her world is shifting, and sometimes that is difficult to negotiate, but she wants to choose the right. She has a testimony. And, even when I giver her punishments, she loves me.

Joy is a daughter who wants to do what is right.

February 12, 2014 – Art Closet

Today, I started on a big project.

Big Time Clean-Up Job
Big Time Clean-Up Job

I have an art closet. It is supposed to be a linen closet, but I have to admit, I’d rather stuff my linens under the sinks and above the toilets so I can have space for all of my craft supplies.

If you think this is a lot, you should know 1)This isn’t even half of the closet. 2)I have downsized from a craft room to a craft closet, and that was a big deal.

Like anything in life, you can go along, ignoring your art closet (or anything else, for that matter) until the point comes when you can’t open the door for fear of being crushed by your junk. That’s when you need to clean it out!

So I did. It took a little while, but it was fun. I was able to find some things that I had been looking for. I also found things I didn’t even know I had…like this gem:

Hahahahaaaaa!
Hahahahaaaaa!

Joy is cleaning your closets. I forget this all the time. Whenever I need to clean a closet, I put it off telling myself how much I loathe cleaning and organizing. In this procrastination, the mess usually gets so bad that it reaches a fever pitch where I finally give in and clean. And then, every time I do, I’m so happy that I did it! Joy is finding old stuff and being reminded of projects that need completing. Joy is finding an organizing book in the back of your horribly crazy craft closet.

February 13 – A Sleeping Boy

I know that a lot of these posts are about my kids. But really, nothing brings me more joy than something like this:

I don't have enough kisses for him.
I don’t have enough kisses for him.

Our little T-Rex is always full-throttle. He is “all boy.” He loves to run, jump, play, and do anything that is life-threatening.

He is happy, happy, happy, but is also a little on the aggressive side. (I don’t mean that he is mean-aggressive, I just mean that everything he done is rougher and tougher. When he plays, he is playing aggressively. When he hugs and kisses, he squeezes and slobbers. Everything is more intense with the T-Rex.

I love it.

Yet, it gets a little tiring, and I have to admit that one of my favorite things in the world is when he is peacefully sleeping after a long day of playing.

Joy is a little boy that is all boy. Joy is having a fourth kid that is still teaching you so much about everything. Joy is seeing that active little boy rest.

February 14, 2014 – Valentine’s Day

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have changed throughout the years.

Valentine's Flowers
Valentine’s Flowers

There were times when I was against it (the principle of it, of course). When I was in high school, I thought of myself as smart and not bound by convention. In fact, I loved to buck against convention. All of my friends were skateboarders and had dyed hair. (I never did that – and not because of convention – it was out of being even more unconventional. I didn’t want to follow the group of kids who were doing something just because everyone else wasn’t. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I’m sure a psychiatrist has something to say about this). Anyway – during those years, I hated the idea of Valentine’s day because it seemed so contrived and fake. We should just love one another.

When I got married (to Rusty), I was originally feeling like Valentine’s Day was a load of phooey. I would tell him that I didn’t need any jewelry or card. I didn’t want a teddy bear. Whatevs. I worked at a Hallmark store, and there was more than one man who rushed in 10 minutes before close and asked me, “Do you think that you can find me a Valentine’s card that my wife would like?” (uhhhhh)…

My feelings about Valentine’s day began to shift while I was married to Rusty, however. Our marriage was *lacking* to say the least. We rarely dated. I rarely felt like Rusty knew I existed. Valentine’s Day became a day that I felt, “Surely he’ll do something for me today. Surely he’ll care about me today. He has to.” I was originally grateful that there was a day where we were forced to remember our loved ones.

Then, Things fell apart between Rusty and I (Were they ever not?). This happened only a few days before Valentine’s Day. I spent Valentine’s Day 2005 feeling sorry for myself and every other person on the earth. (Whether or not they were in a relationship, I was sorry for them. It was a cynical time in my life).

While I was single, Valentine’s Day got a little better. One year, a man I dated got me roses and chocolate. It was cheesy and cliche. It was conventional and normal. It was everything I was against (when I was younger), but I was grateful for the attention. This man’s romanticism (and machismo, I dare say), was exactly what I needed after nearly 7 years with Rusty).

After this experience, though, I kind of went back to my original feelings about love/Valentine’s Day – cheesy and kind of stupid.

Then, I met Homey (online)… Even though we were 2,000 miles apart, I had my best Valentine’s Day ever. It was simple and honest, and that is when I started to like it.

Valentine’s Day isn’t about chocolate, jewelry, teddy bears and cards. It’s about honesty and love. Being with Homey has taught me this. Valentine’s day is a day we can celebrate our relationships. One legend tells that back in the day, Christians couldn’t get married, and St. Valentine would marry them in secret. Pretty rad. Another one says that Claudius II (I believe) felt that unmarried men made better soldiers, so marriage was outlawed in Rome. Valentine would marry these men in secret. (Also rad). I believe in marriage, and it seems like every legend of St. Valentine centers on marriage and love.

And now that I’m married to Homey, I feel love in my marriage all the time. Valentine’s Day came, and I wasn’t even looking forward to it – not because I hate it, but because it doesn’t matter that much to me anymore. I don’t need it to exist so that Homey will recognize me, pay attention to me, or express love to me. I know he loves me. Valentine’s day is a nice date night, where Homey buys me some flowers and maybe a little gift. But he really doesn’t need to because his real gift to me is his willingness to make me feel secure and loved in our marriage every single day.

I will say, though, Valentine’s day has the cutest decor. 🙂

Joy is a holiday dedicated to love and marriage. Joy is knowing that you have a spouse who cares about you, prays for you, cheers for you, listens to you. Joy is having evidence of this 365 days a year, not only when he is forced to by Hallmark.

February 15, 2014 – Gardens

We took a family adventure to the Desert Botanical Gardens. It is beautiful.

Chihuly in the Garden
Chihuly in the Garden

This Saguaro is dying, you can see its "skeleton"
This Saguaro is dying, you can see its “skeleton”
Butterly
Butterly
Deedle's Dirty Toes
Deedle’s Dirty Toes
Hummingbird in the garden
Hummingbird in the garden
More Dirty Toes.
More Dirty Toes.
Blooming Cactus
Blooming Cactus
Severed Cactus Limb...pretty
Severed Cactus Limb…pretty
Touch me
Touch me
BZZZ
BZZZ
Blooming Cactus
Blooming Cactus
:)
🙂
So much love.
So much love.

It was a nice day, the kids ran and played. T-Rex got too close to cactus and would say, “ooohhhh! Yucky Cactus!” (He has learned that cactus are painful through sad experience). I loved spending time with the family.

Joy is taking a ride to public(?) professional (?) gardens. Joy is taking time with family on a Saturday afternoon. Joy is a bunch of cute kids and dirty toes.

February 16, 2014 – Happy Birthday!

My old man is 60 years young.

Senior Portrait
Senior Portrait

I’m grateful for my dad. He adopted me when I was four, and I’ve known him since I was two. He raised me and cared for me. He taught me to read, enjoy baseball, bake cookies, and have a sense of humor about everything. I’m grateful for him, and I love him.

Joy is having family. Joy can be laced with melancholy knowing that your dad is thousands of miles away. Joy is looking forward to visiting him. Joy is having a good example of how to be a parent. Joy is having a dad – no matter how he came into that role in my life.

***
What has brought you joy this week? (Don’t worry, I’ll be updating more later today/tomorrow!)

The End of the Beginning (Part 32 – the finale – of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

This is part thirty-two of the Homey and Me Love Story.

While waiting for the cancellation of my first temple marriage, Homey and I decided to keep moving forward with our wedding plans. I still needed to meet his parents and we needed to find a place to live in Mesa, so he sent me a buddy pass, and I flew out to AZ.

The flight to Mesa happened to be the worst ever flight of my entire life. Because I was on a buddy pass, I was flying stand-by: which means no assigned seats. I ended up in a seat between this large older man and a and thin older woman (I later realized she was the man’s wife).

I had my book, but was honestly a little too excited to read. It had been three weeks since I last saw Homey. I was going out of my mind.

The plane took off, and that’s when the bodily functions began. Not my bodily functions. The man next to me – kept farting, burping, and breathing on me. It was so disgusting. He seriously lifted up one of his *cheeks* and let out audible gas! And smelled incredibly gross. I shoved my face into my book so that I could breathe in the pleasant smell of books rather than the putrid odor of his flatulence. About twenty minutes before we were supposed to land, the woman sitting next to me starts speaking to him in German. I realized, they were married! Gross! And I had to sit next to him. Although, I admit, she lives with this man. I can understand why she’d want a five hour break from him.

Not only was I excited to land so I could see Homey, but I longed to felt free after being stuck to the large, gassy, German dude.

(super gross…I know).

I got off the plane, recounted my experience to Homey, and laughed, taking great pleasure at my suffering. We are perfect for each other.

The weather was sunny and beautiful in Arizona, and it felt like a good sign.

I honestly can’t remember most of the details of this trip, except how I felt one night. For most of the trip, Homey and I had fun plans. I spent about a week in Arizona. We went to a baseball game, we went to a Shins concert, we ate at In and Out, we toured apartment complexes and even put a deposit down on one of them. I was feeling overwhelmed with happiness; my life was changing.

Though we always had a lot going on, one night, Homey and I stayed in. I was staying at his parents house. He cooked for all of us, I chatted and got to know his parents, and then Homey and I watched a Stranger than Fiction. I had never seen it before, and was excited to see it. The movie was a bit of a departure for Will Ferrell, but it was still really good.

I have to admit, I’m not much of a fan of romantic comedy. I know that sounds like a cardinal sin. But, for the most part, I hate romantic comedies. There are a few that I like, but for the most part, romantic comedies are so far-fetched that they have ruined the process of dating and love for so many women (and men). Plus, most romantic comedies have very poorly developed characters and even worse dialogue. I know I sound picky. And, for the most part, I am.

While Stranger than Fiction is more along the lines of romantic comedies, I liked it. There was an unrealistic, even magical element to it, but it was executed so well. I felt like the situations were actually more believable, the characters were developed, and the dialogue was interesting.

Most of all, I liked this movie because I felt like it highlighted the beauty of ordinary love.

***
When I was first going through my divorce from Rusty, I struggled between feeling like love, loyalty, and marriage was a hopeless notion and hopeful notion. One day, I went into church and sat in my pew. I looked around at our congregation, and the ugly thought surfaced,
I wonder how many men here have their own dirty little secret. I wanted to believe that every marriage was a lie.
Yet, as soon as that thought surfaced, another chimed in, Catania, there are good men in this world.
But Rusty seemed so good, and was so bad. My stepfather cheated, my father cheated, my biological father isn’t a part of the picture and never has been. It’s easy for these guys here at church to act good. But Really? Rusty acted good, and we know the truth. Are these men really any different?
Just as I had these thoughts, my Bishop caught my gaze. I tried to force a smile, but he didn’t really smile back. Instead, as he acknowledged me, he simply began to weep, and I knew that yes there are men who love their wives, there are men who love their children, and there are men who love their God. I could see, from my Bishop’s sympathy, that marriage and love could be a sublime experience.

This small gesture became a small ray of hope.

One night, shortly after my separation, I was talking with Spunky on the phone.
“I just want to find a sexy man, hold hands with him, and walk with him on the beach at sunset.” She said.
It was like high school all over again for us. “That sounds nice,” I returned, dreamily.
“The sea breeze flowing through my hair, and every once in a while, he’d kiss my cheek.”
Her dream sounded perfect, but after a moment, it was sitting right with me. “You know,” I started. “I don’t want that.”
“Well, then, walking through the streets of Paris or Rome,” she countered.
“No,” I said. “I don’t mean it that way. I mean, don’t get me wrong. A walk on the beach or in Europe would be nice, but I want something more. Or actually less.”
“What do mean?”
“Well, I mean, just imagine, sitting there, with a dude that you like, that likes you, and you’re just laughing together. No beach. No Europe. Just you, and a guy who actually cares about you.”

At that moment, I realized that I just wanted to have an experience where I was loved for who I was – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I looked forward to an experience where I was with a man who was undistracted and kind. I looked forward to a connection. I could enjoy a walk on the beach, or a trip to Europe with anyone – male or female – or even alone! But my dream was to experience a deep, meaningful, intimate relationship without the aid of a beautiful backdrop.

Having been married, I knew that there were happy times, beautiful times, low times, and ugly times. I knew that not every single day would be a walk on the beach. I knew that we would need something real, and that was my dream.

***
While Homey and I started watching Stranger than Fiction, he began to fall asleep (a marathon week of concerts, baseball games, apartment hunting, and more led to a really tired finale). I snuggled up to him in a very mushy way and watched the movie. After a while, he woke up.
“Tired?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it’s a good tired,” he replied.
“Keep sleeping.” I offered.
“I feel bad, though. I’m missing the movie.”
“We can watch it again.” I assured him.
“I’m going to watch it.”
“Okay. I bet.” He laughed, and stubbornly tried to watch the movie. His exhaustion won out, and he snoozed the rest of the time.
I didn’t mind, though. Everything about the moment felt right. As much as I loved going to baseball games and concerts, sitting together and enjoying a nice evening was just as amazing. I felt like the vision I had years earlier was being realized.

I was with someone I felt comfortable with. And he felt comfortable with me.

A lot of times, people say that you know you are comfortable with a person because you can fart, burp, or do something else gross in front of them. And maybe that’s true. But there is a difference between comfort and lack of respect. I thought of that woman who didn’t want to sit next to her stinky husband on the plane, and I was grateful that I was with a man who respected me, but was also so comfortable with me that we could be doing nothing and be happy.

***

The week in AZ went by too quickly. I was back in PA, and now we were counting down the days until the wedding. We still hadn’t heard about the cancellation of my first temple marriage. We were planning the wedding without knowing if it was going to happen.

Two weeks after I returned back to PA, Homey would come out and would stay in PA until we were married, home from our honeymoon, and ready to move to Mesa.

***

Thankfully, the Bishop agreed to let Homey stay at his house for a few weeks before the wedding. Though the Bishop had met Homey before, this time, when Homey arrived to PA, the Bishop had a little bit more to say to Homey.
The Bishop invited us into his living room, and began to question Homey.
“So…what do you do for a living?”
“I am selling my Smoothie Business and just got a job working for a CPA. I have a Masters in Accounting.”
“Oh, okay,” the bishop said with a nod. “Where did you study?”
“BYU” (another mental check in favor of Homey).
“Did you serve a mission?”
“Yes.” (right answer, thank goodness.) It was funny to see the Bishop this way. While he wasn’t being mean, he also wasn’t his usual jubilant self. He was very serious as he interviewed Homey. Neither Homey nor I were expecting it.
“Where did you serve?” the Bishop asked.
“The Italy Milan Mission.” With that, the Bishop jumped up out of his seat. The Bishop’s wife, Homey, and I just sat there as the Bishop ran into another room.
A minute later, the Bishop returned with three large binders. Family History binders.
As the Bishop began to open them, he asked Homey, “Have you ever heard of the Waldensians?” At that point, Homey’s eyes lit up.
“Yes. I actually served in a small town called Pinerolo, Italy for about seven months. It was near the mountain where the Waldensians hid.”
At this point, you *the reader* probably have no idea what the Bishop or Homey are talking about. If you do know, then you’re probably an Italian-American with Mormon Pioneer heritage – a descendent of this group of people. I had no idea what Homey or the Bishop was talking about. Sister Malan, the Bishop’s wife, sounded like she had heard these stories before. Sister Malan and I exchanged pleasantries while the Bishop and Homey discussed Italy and the Waldensians.
I was fidgeting with my watch when the Bishop’s wife declared, “I think that they have a place to be.”
We all laughed, and the Bishop excused us to go. As Homey and I left, the Bishop took me aside and whispered, I really like him.
I responded, “Me, too.”

***
On May 1st, 18 days before our scheduled wedding, I received a letter in the mail from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s here,” I told Homey.
“Wow. Open it.”
So, we took it to my mom’s kitchen, and opened the letter.

The first presidency approved my request! My temple marriage from Rusty was cancelled! I called the Washington, D.C. Temple and confirmed with them that we’d be getting married on May 19.

I had my Bishop’s approval. I had the approval of the First Presidency. Now, I needed to get approval from my dad.

***
When I told my dad that I was marrying Homey, whom I had met online, he asked, “When are you getting married?”
“May 19th.” (It was a month away at the time).
“Wow. May 19th. So, is that the day he gets out on parole?”
“Ha ha, dad. I know I met him online, but I promise, he’s a good guy. He’ll be out here soon, and you can meet him.”
“I’d like that.”

So, at the beginning of May, Homey, Tiger, Panda, and I headed up to Boston.

I can’t remember the details of this visit, but I remember that it went well. We hung out together as a family, we chatted. Homey was interested in talking to my dad because of his interest in stocks (my dad is a stock trader). They had actual adult conversations about money and stuff that I still don’t understand. Later on, my dad said to me, “That Homey, he’s a pretty sharp kid.” That’s about the best kind of compliment you can get from someone like my dad.

One evening, during dinner, as we were having usual dinner-time banter, Homey cracked a few jokes that left us all laughing – especially my step-mom. She said to me, “He’s really smart. And funny…I like him.”

We had a great weekend in Boston, then headed back to PA to make final preparations for the wedding.

Wedding Preparations

You might be wondering, how on earth do you prepare for a wedding in less than three weeks.

hahahahahahaaaaaaaaa! The secret is: have the world’s best wedding ever.

Our wedding consisted of: inviting our very closest friends and family. (Less than 30 people, total!), a reservation to be married in the smallest sealing room at the Washington D.C. temple, and a reservation for lunch at Bucca di Beppo.

So, I was able to make both reservations in one afternoon. We called all of our friends and family, telling them that the wedding was happening, then I went shopping to get a wedding dress. Easy peasy.

The Bachelorette Party

On May 18, Homey and I visited with my Bishop one last time. I wanted him to attend my wedding, but he’d be traveling on business. We met with the Bishop, and he gave me a Priesthood Blessing. I had received countless Priesthood blessings from my Bishop through my years as a single mom. This, he mentioned, would be the last one he gave me.
My Bishop looked at Homey and remarked, “Now, when Catania needs anything, you will be able to bless her. I hope that you will.”
Although I have no blood relation to my Bishop, I considered this my first and last Father’s blessing.

He gave me a blessing, and then Homey, my sister, and I went to Washington. When we got there, Homey met up with his family. My sister and I met up with Freckles and Spunky.
Freckles asked, “Do you have a photographer?”
“Well,” I replied. “My sister brought her camera.”
“Okay, good.” She said.
My sister chirped in, “Yeah, I’ll take the pictures.”
“Thanks, guys.”
“Well, do you have any flowers?” Spunky wanted to know.
“You know, I thought about it. I wanted to get some Gerber Daisies, but never really got around to it. No big deal, though.”
“No! You need flowers,” she insisted.
We drove over to a Giant Food store. It was about 9:30 PM. “They might not have much variety, if they have any flowers at all,” I said. “I’ll just take whatever they have.”
We walked into the Giant foods, and there was one lonely bouquet of flowers…

Wedding Flowers!
Wedding Flowers!

“Perfect!” We snatched the last bouquet. It was a little ragged, but Freckles had a solution. “Let’s just go to Wal-mart, pick up some floral tape and cute ribbon. Then it will look professional.”

So, we did exactly as she suggested, and I had a bouquet!

“How are you doing your hair,” my sister wanted to know.
“Uh…” I began.
“Have you thought of anything?” they all wondered.
“I mean, we’re getting married. I have a dress. We have reservations to fly to Cancun. And we’ll be eating tomorrow. The important stuff is covered.” I chuckled.
“We need to figure out your hair.” My sister stated.
“Okay. I guess we’ll put it in a ponytail. I don’t want anything fancy. I mean, you’ve seen my dress. I just want something simple.”
“A ponytail is perfect,” my sister agreed. “Let’s just get some ribbon for it.
We looked through the ribbon, and I originally picked a pink one that matched my flowers when Spunky shouted, “I have the perfect idea!”
She held up a spool of ribbon that read, “I [heart] my pet I [heart] my pet I [heart] my pet.”
“Funny,” I agreed.
“What?” My sister asked.
“You don’t get it,” Spunky began to explain, “let’s add an “e” to Pet. Then it will say, ‘Pete’!”
Without hesitation Freckles grabbed the ribbon and added, “We need a sharpie.”

So, with floral tape, ribbon, and sharpie in hand, I was finally ready for my wedding.

This went down as the most productive bachelorette party in the history of everything.

The Wedding

The morning of the wedding, I arrived at the temple with plenty of time. I had chosen a very informal wedding dress (and it was black), so I simply changed into my usual temple clothes.

If you are not familiar with a temple, Mormons get married in temples. There are special rooms for brides to do some last minute preparations before they are married.

These rooms are beautiful and ornately decorated. The Washington D.C. temple is large and can accommodate many brides any given day. Saturdays in May are especially busy. Inside of the Bridal room were many young women and their mothers: cinching up dresses, reapplying make-up, and fretting about last minute details for their receptions. I sat, completely at peace. Well, I was nervous. I was about to get married. But I wasn’t bogged down by a million other details. I was able to think about Homey, soak in the experience at the temple, and mentally give a prayer of gratitude.

My sister sat at the mirror set aside for brides and applied her make-up. We all laughed about it, and I felt so much relief knowing that I didn’t have to worry about a thing. All I had to do was get married.

***

When my time came, I was led to the sealing room, where I saw Homey, our friends, and our family. It was a very touching experience. I was both happy and sad. I was happy to be surrounded by the people I love. I was sad that there were several people I love missing.

The sealer spoke to us for a few minutes, then performed our marriage, and we were married. Not only were we married, but we were officially sealed to one another as husband and wife for time and for all eternity.

Yay! Newly Married!
Yay! Newly Married!
Our Family.
Our Family.
Homey and Me
Homey and Me

***

When I was fourteen, I received a very special blessing, my Patriarchal Blessing. In this blessing, I was promised, “I bless you that you might also see through to the day when you will be able to find a fine young man, a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood who will be willing and able and worthy to go with you to a temple of the Lord, there to be sealed together for time and for all eternity.”

When I married Rusty, at the age of 19, I found this phrase somewhat cryptic. I knew that marrying Rusty was the right thing to do, but at the age of 19, it didn’t seem like I had to see through to the day.

The day I found out about Rusty’s infidelity, I began to understand what this phrase meant. When I decided, finally, to divorce him, this part of my patriarchal blessing fueled me with hope. And, through God’s mercy, and his willing servant (my Bishop), I was able to find a fine young man.

My Patriarchal Blessing continues, “Recognize, Catania, that that is one of the choice blessings a man and woman can receive on this earth.”

I have come to know that this is true. This May, Homey and I will be celebrating our Seventh anniversary. While it isn’t a long time, by any means, we still love one another. We still cherish one another. I love Homey more now than I did when I married him.

Homey has proved to be exactly the man that I both wanted and needed in my life. With Homey, I’ve become a better mother, wife, friend, and woman. He magnifies my womanhood. He loves me and respects me. When we were dating, Homey would jot down little things that he liked about me on a pad of paper. It is a list of little phrases – usually based on things that I said or did. I don’t think that he knows I found this list (I found it one of the times we were moving). Obviously, when I read through this list, I was reduced to tears. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there is a person, a man who cherishes me because I’m me: because I like to crochet, because I fall up the stairs, because I have pretty eyes, because I love to study the scriptures… Yet, he does love me, and I love him. We’re pretty lucky.

Of course, we’ve hit bumps in the road. Within the first year of marriage, we had experienced a colonoscopy, surgery, and cross-country move. The last seven years have not been uneventful. Homey adopted Tiger and Panda, we had two more children. We moved cross-country again. And then again! Homey has had seven different jobs. We are still discovering more about ourselves, each other, and our children. But this journey is so much better with a companion. It isn’t always simpler or easier, but it is, undoubtably, better.

So, while this is the last entry of the “Homey and Me” Love story, it isn’t the end. Our wedding was a commencement.

I hope that as you’ve read my story, you have not only been uplifted by a love story, but you have also felt the power of and love of God. Every time I think about meeting Homey – and I mean the whole story including the years preceding my meeting Homey – I am ultimately struck by the love that God has for me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that He loves all of His children. I know that He loves you, that he weeps with you and rejoices with you. I know that He wants to bless you with the righteous desires of your heart. And I know that when we allow ourselves to submit to His will, then we will have what He wants for each of us: happiness and joy.

Marry Me! (Part 31 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

This is part thirty-one of the Homey and Me Love Story.

It was March 17th, there was a dusting of snow still on the ground from the storm the day before, and Homey and I were at my house…shooting the breeze. Well, actually Homey was on one knee, shaking, and sweating despite the fact that it was only 65° in my house.

Homey held up an open ring box, with a diamond ring sparkling, and demanded, Marry me!

I started to say yes, but then laughed, realizing that he left me no option to say yes or no. I motioned for him to get up, started putting on the ring, or maybe I was hugging him…I don’t know. I can’t really remember the details. But I’m sure that we were kissing and that we were so mushy that you would have needed a barf bucket if you were there. It was the best.

Before Homey had come out to PA, we had given ourselves a curfew, and we were getting really close to it. So we hugged, kissed, celebrated, and then Homey left for the night.

I wanted to call him right away. Instead, I started texting him. We texted back and forth until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.

I was engaged…to be married.

I went to my bed, alone, realizing that this experience was limited. Everything in my home was different. I wouldn’t walk up my creaky stairs many more times. I wouldn’t be sleeping alone much longer. I wouldn’t be checking my phone every three seconds to see if I had a text from Homey. Soon enough, I’d be moving to Arizona, and we’d be together. In fact, we’d be together forever.

I wasn’t on cloud nine. I was on cloud nine-hundred ninety nine.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of happiness and excitement as I showed off my engagement ring and told everyone my big announcement. With every repetition of the phrase, “We’re engaged!” the fact that I was engaged felt more real.

***
Homey went back to AZ, and we continued to email and talk on the phone, but now our conversations were laced with real plans. It was an exciting time.

One of the first things I had to do to prepare for our wedding was talk to my bishop about canceling my temple marriage to Rusty. Here’s the thing, marriages performed in the Mormon temple are considered to be eternal. When we are married, the priest performing the wedding doesn’t say, “’til death do you part.” Instead, under proper authority, this priest is sealing a husband and wife as a married partnership together forever. This scripture explains:

“And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens;…” – Doctrine and Covenants 132:46

Marriage isn’t only a social construct. It is ordained of God. It is a covenant, the crowning covenant, that we can make during our mortal lives. Marriage is an eternal covenant made between God, husband, and wife. Getting married in the temple isn’t just a wedding. The temple marriage is a significant and sacred covenant. Divorce isn’t really meant to be an option.

Elder Oaks explained,

““Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:8–9).

The kind of marriage required for exaltation—eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because “of the hardness of [our] hearts,” the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.” – Dallin H. Oaks

So, if we are living the way that we should, then we would have no need of divorce. We would not enter into a covenant that we didn’t mean to keep. If we are serious about our commitment to God, then we will be serious about our commitment to our spouses, even when it is difficult. When we truly accept the gospel and the covenant of temple marriage, we rely on the Atonement to aid in our marriages.

Even though my story is ultimately a happy one, divorce has always brought confusion and sadness in my life.

Divorce isn’t ideal, but Heavenly Father knew that people wouldn’t keep their covenants. He knew that there would be victims. He knew that there would be a need for divorce, so He allows for it under certain circumstances, but it isn’t meant to be a quick solution.

In the Mormon tradition, when a man and woman who have been married in the temple are legally divorced, the blessings and obligations of the temple covenant are not automatically revoked. Only someone with authority from God can cancel the temple marriage. As the Savior teaches,

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. – Matthew 19:6

Because the temple marriage isn’t instantly revoked at the time of a legal divorce, Mormons go through another process. Often, it is referred to as a “temple divorce.” However, as I began my own process, I soon learned the true name of this process: the cancellation of temple blessings. What a difference this makes. “Temple divorce”- sounds pretty cut and dry – sign a paper, and voila… However, “Cancellation of Temple Blessings” sounds more difficult. I don’t want to lose out on my blessings. I don’t want the covenants that I have made and kept to be cancelled. For this reason, most people do not receive a cancellation of temple blessings when they are divorced. Instead, they wait until they can be re-married, so as not to lose the benefit of such covenants.

I had not broken my covenant with God nor with Rusty; therefore, I still received the blessings of this covenant. These covenants are very sacred, so I can’t really spell it out to you, but I can tell you that I was protected throughout my marriage to Rusty, throughout my divorce, and throughout my life as a single woman. Someone asked me what good my temple marriage had been since my marriage had ended in divorce anyway. To this person, I proclaimed, It wasn’t the temple that failed me; it wasn’t God that failed me. It was Rusty. I have lived worthy of my covenant, and can still appeal to God for all of the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant…What good was my temple marriage? It led me to be closer to my God, the temple has infused my life with the Spirit. And the Spirit has saved me – literally and spiritually.

So, I was being blessed by this covenant, but now that Homey was in my life, I knew that I wanted to be able to make this covenant with him. In order for this to occur, I needed to see my Bishop and begin the process of a cancellation of temple blessings.

In some ways, this process was exciting. I would be getting married soon! I was moving on! My prayers were being answered. But for the next six weeks, I would feel so much stress – the stress of completing all of the components of this process, and the spiritual stress that also accompanies all big changes. It was a challenging process. There were three main ways that the cancellation process kind of scared me.

One – The Process itself

First of all, the process of a cancellation of temple blessings is exhausting. I had to meet more often with the bishop. I had to have extended worthiness interviews. Old “stuff” that I hadn’t thought of in years was brought back to light. I had to write a letter to the First Presidency. My bishop would have to get in touch with Rusty. My bishop would have to get in touch with Homey’s Bishop. After all of this, I’d then have to have an interview with the Stake President.

The Stake President and Bishop would also send letters to the First Presidency and give their thoughts.

My request, forms, and letters would all be sent on to General Authorities, and they would evaluate everything. Prayerfully, a decision would be made by the First Presidency. They’d send me back a letter, and I’d know if they had agreed to cancel the temple blessings or not. It was a long process that required a lot of work.

Homey and I prayed about it and decided to set a date for our marriage. We didn’t know if I would be granted a cancellation of temple blessings. We decided to act in faith. I had kept my covenants. I knew that God would keep His, too.

So. I met with my bishop, and I started the process. The first thing I had to do was write a letter to the prophet. If you are not Mormon, you need to understand how huge this is. Essentially, I had to write a letter to the Pope. The only one who can revoke the covenant of a temple marriage is the prophet. Yikes!

I wrote my letter to the Prophet and First Presidency of the church. You can read more about that experience here. I sent a copy of this letter to Homey. I was so happy to receive his response.

Catania, this email is gonna be brief. I just want to thank you so much for sending me a copy of your letter to the First Presidency. You are an AMAZING woman. I’m so lucky. ohmygosh I will never forget how lucky I am. I LOVE YOU more than raccoons love shiny stuff in a box.” – Homey to Catania, March 2007

Not only was it nice to hear Homey talk about how much he loved me, I’m so glad that he compared himself to a raccoon. He really was my kind of guy.

Two – An Unwanted Reminder

Even though Homey was supportive of me, and even though he knew my past, the process of a temple cancellation was a constant reminder to me and to Homey of my past.

Sometimes, I just wanted to pretend that I had never been married before. I wanted to be pure. I didn’t want a shadow to hang over my relationship with Homey. For the most part, this was possible. Rusty was such a distant memory that it never came up between Homey and me.

However, when we began the process of the temple cancellation, there was no getting around the constant reminder of my first marriage, my past life, and I kept worrying that Homey would be turned off by all of this. Homey was, after all, a bachelor who had never been married. Would all of this talk about Rusty and my first marriage make Homey realize that I was tainted meat? that I was worthless?

Just when my worrying and fear would reach a fever pitch, I’d get an email from Homey and be comforted by his words:

“I just barely fell asleep on the couch and had a dream that we were married…and we were at the golf practice facility hitting golf balls. My oldest bro was there with his kids (this will probably happen because he lives in Tucson and loves golf), and Tiger and Panda were there running around with them. This one will definitely all come true in just a few short months. Anyway…it was good because it feels so right every way I think about us together.” – Homey to Me, March 23, 2007)

Or…Just when I was sure he’d realize I was “tainted meat” and that he was “settling,” he’d say something like this:

“Why are we getting married? Pregnancy, financial security, loneliness or wanting to get out of the family home are not valid reasons for getting married.

We’re getting married because I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved and God’s plan for us is that we are married to one oanother to obtain all the eternal covenants, blessings, and ordinances that Heavnely Father has outlined for us. I want to be with you all the time. And if I HAVE to go to work, then I want to be with you the rest of the time (other than maybe a round of golf here and there… 😉 I really truly love you. you’re not pregnant, we won’t have (much) financial security, I’m not lonely, and I don’t live with my parents…so it must be love. 🙂 – Homey to Me, 29 March 2007

Even though our meeting was unconventional, it was right. Through the process of the cancellation of temple blessings, I was learning that all of the afflictions I had experienced in life were consecrated for my gain. (See 2 Nephi 2:2.) I began to learn (and frankly, I’m still learning this) that I didn’t need to fear. I could trust God, and I could trust Homey.

Three – The Usual Fear that Comes from the Adversary

Besides the constant reminder of my divorce and the process of the cancellation, I was facing a third challenge: the Adversary. This challenge proved to be the most difficult.

It seems like from the second that Homey proposed to me (well, the second he got back on the plane to AZ), I was bombarded with doubts. I have already discussed some of the doubts (about divorce, etc.) I constantly worried about my worthiness. I worried that the cancellation of temple blessings wouldn’t happen. Some of the people who should have supported me proved to be the biggest problems. I was constantly second guessing myself.

Worst of all, my cold feet returned, and with a vengeance. I began to wonder, Do I love Homey? Really? Will I really be happy with a man, or am I happier without one?

I came to the conclusion that I was in love.

Which led to another doubt, Should I really be marrying Homey, or am I blinded by Love? I have always been so blind. I’m a terrible judge. Perhaps I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.

I wanted a “big” sign that this was right. But instead I was simply feeling a quiet sense of peace. I had to remind myself of the miraculous nature of a quiet sense of peace.

One Saturday, I went to the temple. I was feeling burdened with all of the stresses coming in my life. By then, I had quit my job, and I was already living with my mom again. In some ways, major decisions had been made that I couldn’t “unmake.” I still didn’t know if our wedding would happen. I was still waiting to hear from the First Presidency on the cancellation. I was overcome by my emotions and stress.

I walked into the temple sad. Sadder than I had been in a very long time. Would I be able to feel peace without the nagging of doubts?

I attended the temple, and my heart began to settle. I was reminded that I could trust God. He is a God of Miracles. He created the Earth; surely He could perform the miracles I still needed in my life. I felt his love, and by the time I was leaving the temple, I without really knowing it, I started singing a song in my head,

“You can make the pathway bright,
Fill the soul with heaven’s light,
If there’s sunshine in your heart;
Turning darkness into day,
As the shadows fly away,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today.
f there’s sunshine in your heart,
You can send a shining ray
That will turn the night to day;
And your cares will all depart,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today. – You Can Make the Pathway Bright, Helen Silcott Dungan

I hummed the song as I walked to my car. When I got in the car, I sat down and said a silent prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for the chance to go to the temple. Suddenly, the song I was singing dawned on me. I know that the song was Heavenly Father’s way of telling me that things were okay. Instead of worrying, I could make the pathway bright by allowing God’s sunshine in my heart.

I also realized that we have agency. Even when the Lord blesses us, we have agency. We don’t have to accept the gifts that God gives us. Heavenly Father had personally answered my petitions and prayers (and Homey’s), and allowed us to meet and court one another. While this was an answer to my prayer, I didn’t have to accept the gift. I could still walk away. However, I knew that Homey was a miracle and a gift, and if I chose to walk away from this blessing, I might not receive another.

Though so much of my future would be an act of faith, I could trust in God. I could be happy. I could scatter sunshine. I knew that His hand had been in my life up to this point, and that as long as I continued to come to Him, His hand would stay in my life–guiding me, stabilizing me, reaching out to me in love.

***

A final excerpt from an email from Me to Homey:

“I read a quote today–from Boyd K. Packer. It included the following scripture, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). I realized that I need to take this to heart. Sometimes I get afraid, Homey. Sometimes I’m afraid that the temple cancellation won’t happen. Sometimes I’m afraid that we won’t be able to get married for a while, and that we’ll miss Cancun, and that it will be difficult. Sometimes I get afraid that moving is going to be too difficult and hard. Deep in my heart, I know that these fears are unfounded and wrong. They are, quite honestly, Satan’s stupid whisperings. He’s trying to get me down. He tries in so many ways. But today’s quote helped me to know how I can overcome my fears–BE PREPARED. I have a bit to do for preparation, and it’s a good thing that I have 53 days to do it. That’s plenty of time. And this helps me have confidence. I’m grateful for the adversities that we are facing together. It helps me to love you even more. It helps me to see that our love and marriage are wonderful things. I know Heavenly Father is happy about them. He is the one who set us up! I know that we still have more to overcome. And I know that if I continue to put my confidence in the Lord, supporting you as you also put your confidence in the Lord, then we will be able to work together. It is exciting, Homey. I’m realzing–instead of me being the only one–the only one to receive revelation, the only one to feel the Spirit–I will have you, too. I know that you can lead me, and that I can trust you. It’s exciting–we’re going to be married. We’re going to be “one flesh.” We’re going to be united. I’m really happy about that. I have a lot to learn about this. I think that I come from a deficit because I learned bad habits. This experience will help me to learn how to be a good wife, I think–and how to truly trust in both the Lord and in His Priesthood.” – Me To Homey, 27 March 2007

And this is what happened…we struggled as we waited, together, on other sides of the country, to see if we would be able to get married in the temple. Every day, I checked my mail. Every day I prayed. Every day I wondered, will we be married at the Washington, D.C. Temple in May? Will we be able to celebrate with friends and family? Will we go to Cancun? or…will we tell our friends and family to cancel their plans? Will we have to postpone the trip to Cancun?

Will we have to wait?

Click here for part 32.