My niece Jessica

My niece Jessica often comes on holidays and summer break, and we were so sad to send her home this summer when I got sick.  We are super excited she is back for another Christmas holiday, and so proud of her as she prepares for baptism next week!

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#DIY #Christmas Craft: Reindeer

First, the kids traced a foot on construction paper, and then cut it out:

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Then they traced their hands, and cut those out:

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We glued the hands down to the top of the foot, and then flipped it over for three more dots of glue:

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They each cut out two circles and one half circle (we have been working on those shapes), and glued those down, with a red pom-pom in the middle!

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We did these last year with the foster kids we had then, and it was a hit again this year!

My niece Jessica was a great helper, and we had so much fun!

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Cookies

The truth is, the best Christmas present I could give my colleagues was to be helpful by delivering cookie trays.

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I didn’t have to order them.

I didn’t have to pay for them and wait to get reimbursed.

I didn’t have to pick them up at the baker’s and wait in line.

I didn’t have to deliver them to all the schools we serve.

All I had to do was stop by the Tulsa office while I was nearby, put them in my car, and drive them to the Bartlesville office.

How hard is that?

Well, it’s not.

Except for when you wake at 5 for your own personal quiet time, deliver kids to school at 7, try to start your work day before Christmas cancellations begin, get a call that Three and Sister are leaving for sure so please bring all their Christmas presents immediately so they can be shipped to the new placement out of state, and try and do that before the cochlear implant mapping appointment a million miles away in Tulsa, and oh yeah you forgot your annual review is right now.

Oopsie, as Toddler would say.

Finally, I got all the cookies in my car, started off, and then thought better of it and pulled over and rearranged all eight trays – because the last thing I needed was a cookie disaster.

Then, more patients, which runs late, which means Nathan has to pick up Five and Toddler for visits in the other county, which was at the same time as I was at the Scholl Center in Tulsa trying to get medical records for Six faxed to my doctor so she can get scheduled for her cochlear implant surgery (maybe).

Sigh. We found out her deafness is from abuse, and that if she gets hit in the head again, she will probably be completely deaf. So they want her to get the implants, but are debating about doing it now or when she turns 18.

Anyway, so after I finished my work and errands, I had to meet Five and Toddler in the other county, because Nathan had the van with the car seats for Three and Baby, so he had to get back to pick them up, and Six, who was done with her visit here.

Five again said he doesn’t want visits, and even told his father he doesn’t want to be there. But on we go, and this is our life until termination trial in February. Toddler had paternal termination tomorrow, for “unknown father”, and for the guy on the birth certificate but proven by DNA not to be the father. There is no way I can go to court tomorrow with the chaos of the holidays, so I hope the worker lets me know what happens and that there are no surprises.

That was our discussion with the workers before Nathan headed back to pick up the kids from his parents’ house. Except after he left, we realized he had my purse, and I needed gas to get home.

Blargh.

So he had to turn back to meet me in Owasso, of all places, so I could get gas… which meant we had to tuck our tails and just tell DHS that we couldn’t pick up those three today and ask for help. So an aide picked up those three, and took them to Nathan’s parents’ house, while Nathan headed there to pick them up and get them home finally.

I was stuck in Owasso because just as I was getting gas, guess who emerged from her three months of isolation and silence? Our very own Keyssie, who was then back in Tulsa, mad at the boyfriend, and ready to talk to us again.

It’s a boy, by the way, as we now know.

By then my kids were starving and I needed to breathe, and I remembered my challenge in my annual review this morning, to do better self-care. So I took the kids by our yellow house in Owasso to buy some time while I thought about our options. It made me cry to see it, and Five still doesn’t understand why we let people pay us to live there when he would live there for free.

Five also wanted to go in the backyard and play and see how our giant garden was doing, and I had to redirect him while cringing at the sting of the loss of that garden. I really miss it, but know it serves its role in providing for me those years and healing me from the deaths of my parents. Their souls are in that dirt, and my soul is in that soil. We were knit together there, my parents and me, as I planted good things and weeded out the noxious.

Five and I felt prompted then, to go check on Grandpa and Grandma J, so I drove to the Johnsons and crashed what turned out to be her birthday party… which included healthy snacks and memory meatballs, and my kids were fed and happy… especially happy about their first ever bites of cheesecake! Their home was a temple space for me, and as the kids played I got to visit and rest and sit quietly and gather myself together again. That helped, and I felt stronger and ready to get us home.

As we left, I got another call, that Three and Sister will be leaving this week for sure, so to please pack all their clothes but two outfits, and have it ready by 7am to pick up. I will be gone by then, with no time to do it in the morning, so soon as we got home and I tucked in Five and Toddler, then I crept into their dark rooms and stole their clothes. I got their bag packed and by the door.

And only then, at 1145pm, was I finally free to deliver the cookies.

It’s nearly a cookie fail, and definitely cookie drama, but truly my cookie best,

And now my car smells like cookies, and I may never eat cookies again.

Educational Interpreter Bill: Contact your Representative

On behalf of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community of Oklahoma, I urge our local Deaf community, and all our friends and family who love and support us, to please contact your state Representative to let them know you are *FOR* HB3402, the Educational Interpreter Bill that will be introduced in the House of Representatives in January by Sally Kern.  Ask them to VOTE YES!

CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE:

To find out who represents you in Oklahoma House of Representatives, CLICK HERE.

To find the email address of your Oklahoma representative, CLICK HERE.

Begin your email with “Dear Honorable Representative (THEIR FULL NAME)”.

EMAIL EXAMPLE (COPY AND PASTE):

Dear Honorable Representative (THEIR NAME),

My name is (YOUR NAME), and I am writing to you from (YOUR TOWN), Oklahoma.  I (HAVE/KNOW) a Deaf/Hard of Hearing student(s), and HIS/HER education depends sign language interpreters having adequate certification appropriate to the content, materials, and interactions of the class experience in its entirety.

Historically, changes in recent decades to promote mainstreaming of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children into hearing classrooms was reportedly done to ensure them equal access to the full educational experience.  However, our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children can only learn what is presented to them through interpreters, and interpreters with a gross lack of skills and/or inadequate qualifications cannot fully present content, materials, and interactions as provided to rest of the class who can hear.  This leaves Deaf and Hard of Hearing children behind, creating a huge gap between what is presented to them and what is presented to to their hearing peers simultaneously.  This is educational neglect, and a crisis in our state.

Currently, educational interpreters are certified at a much lower level than interpreters in every other environment, or in too many cases not certified at all.  This abandons our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, leaving them without full access to the educational experience.  This denies our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children equal access to the full learning experience equivalent to their hearing peers.  Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have the same right to education as their hearing peers legally, but cannot get access to this equal education right without appropriately certified educational interpreters and interpreter certification being enforced.

We urge you, on behalf of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, to VOTE YES to HB3402, the Educational Interpreter Bill.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read my letter!

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME
YOUR ADDRESS
TOWN, Oklahoma, ZIP

 

REMEMBER:

When you contact your representative, feel free to adapt the letter as needed.  But please, it is very important to remember:

  • Be courteous and respectful.
  • Be calm.
  • Give facts, not emotions.
  • Add and professional credentials or personal experiences you have related to the bill.
  • Keep it less than one page.
  • Use specific examples.
  • Keep it simple.  (Save research for presentation of bill.)
  • DO NOT: Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats.

Locked Peppers

Remember how we started the week by getting kicked out of the foster care Christmas party?

Yeah, well, the week has been that good, pretty much.

Besides a new child vomiting each day, the washing of sheets and spraying of Lysol, we have also had to say no to more foster kids being picked up as the holidays kick up the dust for those making poor choices or not functioning well.

Oh, and me.

The Baby, who is quickly becoming a toddler, was supposed to start twice a week visits and then overnights and then go home, and now all visits have stopped because mom has relapsed and lost her job.

Three and Sister will be leaving soon, right around Christmas, we just got that confirmed.

In the meantime, I locked all the sixes in the car with the keys. It was a mess! My phone was already in the car, so I couldn’t call for help. I was trying to get Five to push the unlock button that was right by the hazard lights, so was telling him to find the red triangle. He found every triangle in the car but that one! It was hilarious!

Then the Toddler locked herself in the bathroom, with a lock we didn’t know it had, and so I had to keep singing and chatting with her (so she wouldn’t be scared) while I took the doorknob off!

But everything is fine because the worker, who wanted to apologize for the Christmas party, gave us an entire crate of peppers.

What?!

Seriously.

So this is Nathan, cutting up peppers do we can prep them for freezing.

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The best thing, though?

Nathan’s mom gave me this book, and his dad gave me these screwdrivers.

You know, so I can unlock the babies.

It had been an excellent week of parenting, let me assure you.

Hebrew to English: 1 Nephi 12 #lds #ldsconf #twitterstake #mormon

CLICK HERE to read my explanation of and disclaimer for this project.

1 Nephi, chapter 12, from modern Hebrew, through ASL, into modern English:

 

So then the angel said to me,
“Look!  Look, and see your posterity
and the posterity of your brothers.”

I looked, and I saw the promised land,
that place already appointed to us.

I saw there the mass of people,
even their vulgar and common culture,
and that they were not living as a set apart people.
I saw there were as many of them as the sand of the sea.

I saw these vulgar people gathering themselves
to prepare for war against each other.
I saw wars and rumors of wars,
and even wars caused by rumors,
and many cold-hearted killings
by the cold steal of weapons
amongst people already divided by dissension.

I saw many generations pass in war
and because of the wars,
with many people dying
because of the strife,
contention,
feuds,
quarrels,
and conflicts in the land.

I also saw so many cities
involved in these conflicts
that I could not even count them.

And then I saw
a murky haze of a dark mist
settle over our promised land
and the people who lived there.

That is to also say,
a dark fog veiled the way
to our celestial destination.

That is to also say,
the people were not walking
in the way appointed to them.

I saw lightning and heart thunder;
that is to also say,
I saw prophets and heard their voices
warning the people,
and the earth shook at what they had to say.

Even evil shuddered
against monuments built in the ground;
that is to also say,
evil shuddered against temples built in the land.

Yes, I saw the earth torn,
with rocks and boulders thrown to the ground
like little child-stones.

That is to also say,
I saw a people fallen in pride,
suddenly nothing when they should have known better.

I saw mountains collapse
in on themselves.

That is to also say,
I saw governments fail
and cultural icons shamed.

I saw that fields were broken up.

That is to also say,
I saw political boundaries
change like geography,
and economies collapse.

I saw cities sunk;
that is to also say
I saw families failing
because of spiritual degeneration.

I saw many cities burned with fire;
that is to also say many endured much
to be refined and purified.

I saw many cities fall
because of the quaking;
or, that is also to say
that I saw many families fail
because they were afraid
and not acting in faith.

After I saw and understood all these things,
I took time to ponder them.
Only then I understood
that I was able to see these things
because the mantle of darkness
had gone from over the land
(or, that the veil was removed from my eyes
in exchange for clear-seeing and full-knowing).

And I saw the many, many people
who did listen
and who did do
as the Lord, our Master,
commanded.
Because of this obedience,
which was a token of their faith,
their families had not fallen in fear.
That is to also say,
they had not been condemned
at the judgement
by the Lord, our Master,
because they had offered
covenant tokens
validated by their lives of faith.

Then as I pondered further,
and sought to understand more,
another visioned opened to me.
I saw the heavens open like the sky,
and I saw the Lamb of God
descending out of a higher heaven.

He descended
to show Himself to them,
those who were covenant-keepers,
that they might re-discover Him
and so also remember Him.

Yes, I testify and record here
that I also saw
the Holy Spirit come down
as a companion upon twelve (ten plus two) others,
and God the Father chose them
(upon a mount, in a temple)
and relied upon them.

And the angel said to me,
“These twelve (ten plus two) are disciples of the Lamb,
selected to judge your posterity.”

And the angel said to me,
“Do you remember these (the ten plus two)?
You knew them before (pre-mortally).
They are the twelve (ten plus two)
apostles of the Lamb.

“Do you understand
that the children of Abraham
will be judged by these twelve?
They will judge the house of Israel (the ten)
[the northern kingdom of Israel]
and gather her ten tribes
to unite them again with the Jews (the two)
[the southern kingdom of Judah].
These twelve tribes
will be judged by these twelve apostles,
who care for the House of Israel
like a beloved daughter.

“In this way,
these twelve (ten plus two),
will serve even your posterity
as they gather
the ten tribes of Israel,
even your posterity,
(by) serving as messengers
from the Lamb
to you
and to your posterity.

“And see, they (the twelve)
are Righteous Ones
and their service correct before God
due to their faith in the Lamb of God.
Because of this faithful service,
their garments are made white in His blood.

“That is to also say
that they are saved by the atonement
of the Lamb of God
because they do keep their covenants
to testify of the atonement,
just as the Lamb kept His covenant
to complete the work of it.”

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.

And the angel said to me, “Look!”
I looked, and I saw three generations
be born and live their lives,
with lives lived honestly and righteously,
so that their garments were white
like those of the Lamb of God.
That is to also say,
these generations also kept their covenants.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.

And the angel said to me,
“These generations are made whole
(complete and perfect and peaceful)
in the blood of the Lamb
due to their faith in Him
(as evidenced by covenants kept).”

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.

And I, Nephi, also saw many of the fourth generation
crying out to God the Father
in the name of the Lamb
and keeping their covenants
so that
after they died,
they moved on
in progression
with the righteous ones.

And so, in this way
(by messengers and temple ordinances),
I saw the peoples
of lands
and generations
gathered together
with the Lamb.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.

And the angel said to me,
“See?  Do you see your posterity?
And the posterity of your brothers?”

And so I looked, and I saw
my descendants gathered in droves
against the descendants of my brothers,
who were already clustered for battle.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.

And the angel said to me,
“See?  Do you see
the dirty fountain from which
the murky water comes?
That’s the river your father saw
when he said it was
as deep as the valleys of hell.
That’s how the people are
more and more trapped
each time they return to their sin.

“And the mists of the darkness
are the temptations of the devil,
which taxes the eyes [of God],
wearing [on the people]
until they are blind,
and thumps on the heart [of God]
until the hearts [of the people] are hard,
and spreads amongst them
through one’s lack of testimony
to another without testimony,
through all the children of a generation,
leading them on tangents
until they have forgotten their way
and cannot remember it
because their faith is extinguished
and thus their way is lost.

“Remember that great and spacious building
that your father saw?
Those buildings are the false delusions
that rise in the once innocent children of a generation
until they grow in pride
(instead of waxing strong in faith).

“Do you see, now, that great gulf
between the children of men
and the children of God?
It is a horror to cross,
even impossible.
This gulf is the state of those
facing the justice
of a timeless and eternal God.
It would forever be impossible,
except for the promised Messiah,
even the very Lamb of God.
The Holy Spirit testifies of Him
from the beginning of the world
until even today,
and forever more.”

When the angel said these things,
I pondered further, and
I sought to understand more.

I looked, and I saw
my descendants fighting
against the descendants of my brothers,
as the angel had said.

Then as I pondered further,
I understood that this – in part –
was due to my own boldness against my brothers
passed down to my children but taken out of context by them,
just as rebellion was passed down from my brothers,
and because of the temptation of the devil.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.
And I saw that the descendants of my brothers
overpowered my own descendants.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.

Then I looked, again asking for more,
and I saw that the descendants of my brother
overpowered my own descendants,
and spread across the face of the land.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.
And then I saw my brother’s descendants
gather themselves together in purpose.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.
And when I looked again,
I saw that purpose was for war,
and that the people talked of war.
I watched as many generations
died in these wars,
losing both their living and their lives
to these wars.

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.
And the angel said to me,
“See?  Do you see how
the people atrophied
when their faith wasted away?
They became a decadent
and degenerate people
without faith.”

Then as I pondered further,
I sought to understand more.
And indeed, I looked and I saw
the people waste away
as their faith atrophied,
creating a darkness over them
until their lives were full
of corruption
and dirty economics
and filthy treatment of each other
by overindulgence
at the expense of others
and by violence
and by stealing
and by lying
and by relationships outside the Order of God.
This was the greatest abomination
because they could have been
a holy people of God,
even the House of the Lord,
their offering being Holiness to the Lord.

Sunday School Lesson 44: Ezekiel

Before we had the temple in Oklahoma City, members in our area had to go all the way to Dallas to visit the temple.  Before they had the temple in Dallas, the members in our area had to go all the way to Mesa.   When we talked about this in class, it seemed the pattern was that when our temple was the Mesa temple, people either had to make great sacrifice to go all the way there, or else they visited Utah temples while there already for visits with family and friends.  When we got the Dallas temple, organized groups would go on bus trips together, so ward days really were a sincere effort and a special experience as a group.  Now that we have the Oklahoma City temple, we often go as individuals or families.  Temples are special places, and special to our families, and so vital for our progress in faith.  The sacrifices of time, energy, and finances that we make to attend the temple regularly and often significantly bless our lives.

Ezekiel had a vision of a temple, and it is packed with layers of teaching for us.

 Ezekiel 43:1-12:

 Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east:

 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.

 And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.

 And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.

 So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

 And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.

 ¶And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.

 In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.

 Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

 10 ¶Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.

 11 And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

 12 This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

This tells us the temple is a place for teaching (verse 11), ordinances (verse 11), and that even the grounds are holy (verse 12). It is celestial turf, a place where the Lord Himself can visit (verse 7), and we go to the temple both prepared for and expecting to encounter Him.

Brigham Young said:

“Brethren, we are the Lord’s, and all we possess; and I have determined, by the help of the Lord and this people, to build Him a house.  You may ask, “Will He dwell in it?”  He may do just as He pleases; it is not my prerogative to dictate to the Lord.  But we will build Him a house, that if He pleases to pay us a visit, He may have a place to dwell in, or if He should send any of His servants, we may have suitable accommodations for them.  I have built myself a house, and the most of you have done the same, and now shall we not build the Lord a house?” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.1, p.376, Brigham Young, December 16, 1851).

In the next chapter, we read Ezekiel 44:6-9:

And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,

 In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.

 And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.

 ¶Thus saith the Lord God; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.

17 ¶And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.

 18 They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.

These verse remind us that we must be worthy to enter the temple (verse 6-9), that workers wear special clothing (verse 17-18), and that the priesthood teaches us to discern between the holy and the profane (verse 23).  Specifically, we read that:

  • The glory of the Lord fills the temple (Ezekiel 43:2, 4–5).
  • The temple is “the place of [the Lord’s] throne” on earth (Ezekiel 43:7).
  • The Lord walks in the temple, calling it “the place of the soles of my feet” (Ezekiel 43:7).
  • The temple is a place where the Lord may “dwell in the midst” of his people (Ezekiel 43:7).
  • We learn about the laws of the Lord in the temple (Ezekiel 43:11).
  • There are ordinances that the Lord wants us to perform in the temple (Ezekiel 43:11).
  • Even the grounds that surround the temple “shall be most holy” (Ezekiel 43:12).
  • Only those who are worthy should enter the temple (Ezekiel 44:6–9).
  • In the temple we learn the difference between holy and profane and between clean and unclean (Ezekiel 44:23).

Only the worthy may enter. Once a temple is dedicated, entrance and participation are limited to those who are able to meet certain rather rigorous requirements.

“You must possess a current recommend to be admitted to the temple. This recommend must be signed by the proper officers of the Church. Only those who are worthy should go to the temple. Your local bishop or branch president has the responsibility of making inquiries into your personal worthiness. This interview is of great importance, for it is an occasion to explore with an ordained servant of the Lord the pattern of your life. If anything is amiss in your life, the bishop will be able to help you resolve it. Through this procedure, as you counsel with the common judge in Israel, you can declare or can be helped to establish your worthiness to enter the temple with the Lord’s approval” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, p. 32).

For the next verses, Ezekiel 47:1; 6-12, we need a map of the area:

map of Judea

 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar.

 Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side.

 And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles.

 Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins.

 Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.

 ¶And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river.

 Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other.

 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.

 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.

 10 And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.

 11 But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.

 12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.

In Israel, the Dead Sea is called Yam haMaved, or the “Killer Sea”.  It’s not just that every thing in it is dead, but that even those things which lose their way and find themselves in it also die.  Nothing lives there, and nothing living is in it.  This is the opposite of living!  Fresh water is active, besides creating the nourishing environment: rivers polish rocks, change the land, irrigate farms, cleanse, soothe with sound, deposit fertile soil, quench thirst, and remain pure because it is always flowing.

Considering these verses, we go back to 43:7, where we notice it refers to the temple as “the place of my throne”, and compare that to Revelation 22:1:

 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

We know that the Savior said he was the living water (see John 4 and John 7:38; also compare Jeremiah 2:13), and that the waters of life are the very doctrines of the gospel, by which we are nourished.  So what in temples bring healing and life?  How have our lives and our families been healed by temples?  If we want healing, or to heal our families, then is visiting only once enough?

Ezekiel goes back to the water, and back again, and back again.  Each time he returns to the living waters of doctrine and ordinances and this fullness of the gospel, the waters are deeper for him.  Every time we go back to the temple, especially when we go regularly and often, we receive more nourishment, more revelation, and more healing.  Our capacity increases, our burdens are lightened, and our families become more united.  We, together with our ancestors, become stronger.  When we take that back home with us, our homes become more peaceful, and our communities receive healing, also, as we “irrigate” those around us.

Ezekiel talks about a literal water that will come forth out from under the temple in Jerusalem someday, but it is also figurative and teaches us these things through symbols.  But there will also be a literal river.  Doctrine and Covenants 133:29 also references this:

29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.

 30 And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.

Joseph Smith also said the river was a literal one, though also full of symbolic meaning:

“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, Etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make his appearance” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843–44, p.286).

Isaiah references this also, even the other temples that will someday be built in Israel, even one on the border of Egypt as a highway to the people (see Isaiah 19, and this essay I wrote about it).

In those same verses, Ezekiel also describes seeing trees, which we learn will be both real (from the land being healed and restored) but also figurative.  We compare this to those same verses in John, where the Savior called himself “living water”, and look again at Revelation 22, this time verse 2:

 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Even the nations will be healed!

Temples have the power not just to cleanse us, and heal us, and restore us to how our Heavenly Father promised our lives could be, but also bring that healing to our communities, and even to nations.  This is the fullness of the Gospel!  We see the same vision in 1 Nephi 8:10-11:

 10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

 11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

The symbols of the water and the tree are interpreted in 1 Nephi 11:25:

 25 And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.

This is His great love for us, to provide this great plan to rescue us, to heal us, and to restore us to being His people as He promised we could be, as He promises we already are.

In Moses 6:57, it refers to Heavenly Father as “Man of Holiness”, meaning He-who-is-holy.  Then it says that the Lord, who is the Only Begotten Son, has a title, a name like His Fathers: “the Son of Man”.  In the New Testament, all four gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) refer to the Lord – at some point – as the “Son of Man”.  But Moses 6:57 clarifies for us the full title:  if Heavenly Father is called “Man of Holiness” and his son is called “Son of Man”, then the full title for the Lord is “Son of Man of Holiness”.  From this we get mankind, kindred, kin, all meaning like-one-another, or the-same-as-the-pattern.  So we get this:

Heavenly Father = Man of Holiness
Lord = Son of (Man of Holiness)

In the same way, if we – who are “the House of Israel” by birthright – do the work to choose the covenant, then we become more than the House of Israel.

We become the House of the Lord.

The House of Israel is a genetic lineage, with promised blessings.

The House of the Lord is a chosen adoption, with claimed blessings.

How do we get from promised blessings to claimed blessings?

By being “adopted”.

How do we get adopted?

We choose.

How do we choose?

We take His name upon us.

How do we take His name upon us?

At our baptism, we declare ourselves willing to take His name upon us.  At the Temple, we actually do so.  At Sacrament, we remember that we have done so.

We are “adopted” at the Temple.

At the Temple, we become the People of Holiness.  We become the House of the Lord.

He gives to us His righteousness, and we give Him our Holiness.  This makes us The House of the Lord.

Holiness to the Lord.
The House of the Lord.

“The House of the Lord” has, like all things – ALL things, both a temporal (physical) and spiritual meaning.

It is, physically, the House of the Lord.  It is a consecrated, set apart space that is His holy house.

But it is also, spiritually, the place we go to become His people, to be adopted, to choose the covenant, to become His people: “the House of the Lord”.

President Howard W. Hunter said:

“I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).

Doula of Death

Any chaplain, or even any counselor, will tell you the training is intense.

Well, the good ones will say that.

The bad ones won’t notice.

You’re not only learning rules and techniques and interventions and styles and theories and mad skills for helping people. You also spend time applying them to yourself, diving into grueling internal work to examine every shadow you can find, learning that the more light you shine the more shadows are revealed. You have to learn to do this always, without getting in the way of the people you are trying to help, so you don’t get in the way of trying to help.

I have ghosts, like anyone else, the most obvious being the deaths of my parents.

Both of my parents worked for the VA for my whole entire life.

This is the VA in Muskogee, and the library in which my mother reigned, in which I learned to eat crackers and crawl and walk and read:

IMG_6551.JPG

I had to go to today after work, to interview for the CPE program next year. I got in, and was offered a $30,000 additional stipend to do the residency program next year, which I had to turn down because I want to keep my job I have and need to be more present for my family than what that program will require, oh, and because I never know how many kids we will have. He even talked about me moving there, and years ago I would have accepted the position in a heartbeat. But I am better at pacing now, even when there is a lot of intensity on my plate, and I knew it was not the best thing for my family at this time. That was hard to do, but the right thing, I know, so I am at peace about it.

So I will start a more individualized plan sometime next year, working in hours after my other work and in between. It will take much longer to finish the program that way, but I am grateful they are letting me do it and providing some flexibility. There will be a weird month where this program and the one at the hospital in Tulsa overlap, and that will be the hardest time, I think.

I also interviewed for another chaplain position at a different hospital, just across the Kansas border but closer to my house than Tulsa.

The chaplaincy interviews were intense, though, grilling me on theories and boundaries and counter transference and all kinds of medical ethics.

Because, as it turns out, that’s what chaplains do.

They pray with people in the hospital when requested, lead the Sunday morning services (including passing communion) at the hospital, provide rituals and rites as requested by patients who are dying or their families, funeral services, and serve on the ethics committee of the hospital.

And that, apparently, is part of why I got called to do this.

I am to become a Doula of Death, and an ethics master.

No pressure, right?

That’s when it all started clicking into place: not just the extra theological classes all these years, but also my dance with death as loved ones passed, miscarriages were endured, and challenges beyond my capacity were met. Everything begins to make sense now, finally, and while I hope to be of some help to someone else, it helps me already to see this. There is meaning in what I have endured, and experience is what has been gained through my deep losses.

And that’s how I found myself full circle at the VA in Muskogee of all places.

I am not seeking a career here, but it will be my training ground for the next couple of years.

And these are halls I walked as a child.

My mother’s handprints are everywhere, and her footprints sound before me.

The feel of my brother laughing echoes around the corner, and my father might burst through the door at any moment to pick us up.

We have chased each other around these bushes, my brother and I, and hidden in the trees. The new building stands where we used to play four square, and the canteen still has a store that sells the most random stuff we would have found under the tree at Christmas.

I answered the hard questions in the interview, about my experiences with death, about angels and sprits, about multicultural healing, about things we can’t always explain. I answered the theology questions, like infant baptism and what it means for deceased baptism and how I will handle that since mormons, like many other evangelical faiths, don’t do that, and rituals for other faiths than mine.

I listened as he read back those essays I wrote a month ago. I watched as he cried, heard as he talked about my writing, and walked through the tour of the hospital, this time as a grownup.

Except, he says, I am like a child in a candy shop, and how do I maintain that when I have endured so much?

Because our circumstances and who we are? That’s two different things, I say.

We can only know ourselves through experiences, and it is experience that marks our progress.

That’s how I know the experiences are not against me, even when they are hard. Really hard.

And these experiences have affected me; I am not naive about that.

But for now, I am accepted and approved, which always feels good to anyone, and I feel at home here. I know it will not be easy, neither practically nor in learning, but I know it is right for me.

And so when I finish the paperwork, before the cold drive home, I walk across the way to visit the library.

And it is more powerful than I expect.

Memories wash over me, in this place my mother built, in this place where I was born and grew, and I feel her here.

And I sit down and weep.

And rather than traumatic, it is perfect: this new beginning in my life starting with a ritual of closure.

It is good and right and as it should be, as I sit and honor her there, and I am good and right and where I should be, as I honor my parents here.

And maybe, a little restitution.

Because what I also know about this whole chaplaincy thing is that I wasn’t called to it just because I am awesome and special, though Nathan would reassure me of truths in that, but so that I can receive preparatory training, so that I can get better at this whole ministry thing.