#LDSConf – Helaman 12

CLICK HERE to read Helaman 12.

This repeated cycle of the people falling into the pattern of the Gaddianton Robbers until nearly being destroyed, repenting and being delivered and blessed, and then becoming proud and seeking after wealth and power again until falling into the pattern of the Gaddianton Robbers shows how very weak we are.  We also see how merciful God is to so quickly forgive us, and what grace He has toward us to provide the way.

And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him (verse 1).

So, Nephi says, we see how every time the Lord does try to prosper his people, even with temporal increase (physical and financial blessings), and show them mercy (delivering them from the destruction they chose), and “doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people”, that is when the people – when we, who are so very weak – “do harden their hearts and do forget the Lord their God, and to trample under their feet the Holy One” (verse 2).

This – our own bad behavior and poor choices and neglect of each other – requires chastening, which the Lord sends to us through afflictions, so that we remember Him (verse 3).

O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men (verse 4).

We look to Him for blessings, but when they come then we become proud in ourselves and are bad stewards of what we have received (verse 5).  We ignore His counsel, and will not do what He says (verse 6).  His commandments are not oppressive or limiting, but rather ensure that we retain our freedom and our happiness.  What we think sets us “free” by breaking His commandments is only an illusion, actually dragging us down into captivity and bondage.

Even the dirt, Nephi says, is more obedient than we are (verse 7).  It blows where it is supposed to (verse 8), and the earth quakes when it is told (verses 9-15, 17).  There is rain or drought at His commands, and the seas stays where it is put or leaves its bounds when told (verses 16).  The earth hides treasure if it is told to do so (verses 18-19), but people will simply not obey.

But even if people think they do not have to obey God, it does not make God any less God than He is.  If He afflicts them to get their attention, He is still God, and still loves them, and is still trying to rescue them – even if they do not believe in Him, do not agree with Him, or do not listen to Him.

Yet still, the law is the law, and if they do not respond to Him, then they will miss His presence (verse 21).

But those who do respond, will be rescued and enjoy His presence (verse 23).

And we need His presence, even His Spirit, to become.

And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works (verse 24).

The “grace for grace” is talking about what God gives us.

Mercy is NOT giving us what we deserve.

Grace is giving us what we do NOT deserve.

It is by grace that we receive spiritual gifts, and these are what we need to become like Him.

He makes our weaknesses strong by granting us gifts that are the opposite of our weaknesses, so that we can – by Him – overcome them and become more like Him.

And so it is by whether we claim and use these gifts (or not), and practice them and develop them, that we  give evidence that we have accepted His gift.

Detangling Intersections

I got another one of those hot baths!  This self-care thing just might work!  Good job, self-therapist.

We planned to take today off.  By that, I mean take the day off from running around to eight thousand children appointments, and just stay home working together on the house.

I can unpack faster, you know, if it were just me.

And I don’t just mean because there is more stuff here with eight people.

I mean because I could push through and get it done, without stopping to eat or drink water or go to the bathroom, very nearly, and even sleep would be optional.

Here, though, the mornings are focused on study before the children wake, getting the children ready and safely delivered to school, and then we have a bit of time to work on the house before it’s time to bring them home again.  Baths have to start as soon as we walk in the door, while everyone else takes their turn playing outside once chores are completed while I cook supper.

The younger ones also help fold their laundry on their day, and set the table, and clean their room.

Everyone also has violin, piano, homework, “babysit” Kyrie time, and one-on-one art or music projects with Papa.   They also take turns helping me cook dinner.  They love to cook, all of them!

Everyone is in pajamas by the time we sit down to supper, and we do scriptures right after that.  So then everyone brushes their teeth while we take turns with bedtime prayers and bathroom trips.  We almost have our new routine down!  Whew!

We also are getting more and more settled.  We are not finished unpacking yet, and of course Nathan and I have left our room for last so it is a disaster.  But we do have some special corners settled, like where my cello and Nathan’s violin goes:

We also finally uncovered our pew with the quilt Jenn Perkins gave me for winning the ovarian cancer prize, so that I can practice when I am able and the children know we still have our family prayer bench ready.  I’m also using it for laying out the next morning’s school clothes, so that once they get their turn in the bathroom, they can grab their clothes and find a place to change clothes privately instead of everyone waiting to change in their room or the bathroom.

The mess in the window behind the bench is the stuff going to my new office next week, and that’s the concentrator in the background in its new place – out of the way but easily accessible.

We needed air today.  That baby got called home from school for being the wrong color and trying to catch her breath, and she was very glad to see me when I picked her up.  But she was so mad to get stickers back on her face!  She settled as soon as I left them alone, though, and got her air going.  Then she slept until late afternoon and now is asleep again.

I think she is growing again, for one thing, and she has always required oxygen to grow.

We are also watching her closely to see if she develops any sickness or presents any new symptoms since she is being exposed to other children for the first time at school.

There is always the possibility that we are back in the cycle of her outgrowing her airway, but we hope it is not that.

This summer she has had several good weeks and then a hard three or four days, and then several good weeks.  It seems to be a pattern, I think.  So I am expecting her to be better by tomorrow night if it isn’t a new illness coming out, so hopefully she will feel better soon.  Regardless, we have a Pulmonologist appointment tomorrow, though I am anxious to see how that goes since last time was pretty scary in the hospital.  We haven’t seen them since the last time they said she was admitted to be trached and then wasn’t, so we will see what happens.  I hate that it feels “ugly” between us because they are really some of the nicest doctors we have ever encountered.  They aren’t bad.  It’s just hard when they think we are crazy and we feel unheard, but we share a mutual love for Kyrie and wanting to do well for her.  We will be excited to go in and tell them how well she has been doing – until this weekend.

But also, winter is coming, and it scares me.  She has thrived in the sun and fresh air.  The cold and wet air that will come, with all the illnesses from the other children, can be so dangerous for her.  We will get her back on RSV shots and we may have to pull the kids out again, but hopefully she can hang in there.  That’s another reason we wanted her exposed to other children now, to get some germs while she is strong and able to recover, to fortify her against the winter a little.

I was talking with an advocate friend who was mentioning seizures associated with apnea that intersect with obstructive apnea.  She said these are really hard to catch on the EEG, and that it may be part of what happens with Kyrie in some of these episodes where she just stops breathing and doesn’t respond, even though we have tried several times to catch seizures on the EEG and none have shown up.  Regardless, we need more understanding of PRS babies and the (especially long-term) effects of ongoing hypoxia and anoxic brain injury – which counts as TBI.  I didn’t even know that!  I need to talk with my friend Dr. Evanson about this more, but have spent the evening reading journals and making calls to neuro and looking back at Kyrie’s MRIs and other records.  Goodness.

Also, the breathing part of her brain is where her stroke happened, so that also intersects in the same place and can’t be helpful.

In the meantime, life is more simple that mindblowing.  Singing hymns with the children.  Reading scriptures with Nathan.  Kissing babies goodnight.  And kissing them again.  And kissing them again.  And yes, one more hug.  And then just one more.  And then just one more.  And then finally, my hot bath, and a little writing so that my own voice can breathe again, and a little processing of what we can do to help Kyrie who so badly wants to grow so very fast but is still so tiny.

Anber and Barrett, though, are already quite grown up since going to Pre-K, with no more baby fits at all, and not even one screaming incidence in two weeks.  WHAT?  That is equally mindblowing as all the research on Kyrie.  They amaze me, those two.

Kirk, Alex, and Mary loved their first day of second grade, were thrilled to see each other on the playground, and couldn’t wait to chatter (nonstop) about all the excitement when we picked them up from school.  I am so happy that they love school, and so proud of them for the hard work of adjusting to a new school.  They are brave and good, those kids.


#LDSConf – Helaman 11

CLICK HERE to read Helaman 11.

Contentions grew so much with the Nephites, that wars broke out among the people (verse 1). Secret works continued to stir things up toward destruction and wickedness (verse 2), as opposed to humble works of righteousness that would have built people up in faith and testimony.

So Nephi the prophet did cry out to the Lord (verse 3), asking Him for a famine instead of war (verse 4).  This was a righteous prayer because a war meant that the people would be destroying themselves and each other by focused aggression and hardened hearts, while a famine would soften hearts by reminding them to think of their Creator, giving them another opportunity to repent.

The Lord agreed with this, “and so it was done” (verse 5).  The earth was made dry, so that grain did not grow (verse 6), and the people “began to remember the Lord their God”, and also the words of his prophet Nephi (verse 7).

They asked Nephi to pray to the Lord for them, begging that the prophecies of their destruction not be fulfilled (verse 8).  Nephi witnessed this repentance, and their humble behaviors, and prayed to the Lord in their behalf (verse 9).  He told the Lord that the people had repented, even getting rid of the Gadianton robbers that had stirred up so much destruction (verse 10).

God, of course, knew all these things.  He had seen the people’s repentance, and He had heard their prayers.  But since part of their sin had been denying the words of the prophet, part of their repentance was to return through the prophet.  They had, collectively, refused the prophet, and so had, collectively, refused God.  They had to collectively return to God through the prophet, collectively.

This is a type of our Father in that when we pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ, our Heavenly Father does already know our needs and wants, our desires and our concerns.  He knows our weaknesses and our struggles, and He knows our triumphs and joys.  But if we are His child, and He is our Father, then we express that relationship by talking to Him about these things, and we do that through prayer.

It is also a type of Christ, in that the atonement is already there for us.  He has done the work of it already, and it is a gift waiting for us.  But still we must claim it – receive it – by enacting it.  We receive this gift by asking for it.  There can be no mediation without a mediator, and there can be no advocating with an advocate.  So the Savior’s great atoning sacrifice is complete, and it we are still learning to apply it and harness its power.

So Nephi prays for the people, mediating for them and advocating for them, telling the Lord that He does not have to be angry at the pride of the people because the people have humbled themselves (verse 11).  Their humility is their token of repentance that they offer, and so Nephi asks the Lord to offer His sign of forgiveness: the end of the famine (verse 12).  Nephi asks this according to his priesthood duty and office, by the power given to him by the Lord (verse 13).  This power was given to him for the purpose of calling the people to repentance (verse 14), and the people have now repented (verse 15).  Thus the Lord is bound by what He says (D&C 82:10), even to bless the people (verse 16).

And so the Lord did, and the rains came, and the grains began to grow (verse 17).  The people “did rejoice and glorify God”, and they understood Nephi was a prophet with power and authority from God (verse 18).  Nephi, and his brother Lehi, continued their ministry, and Lehi “was not a whit behind him as to things pertaining to righteousness” (verse 19).

This is how the Nephites began to prosper again (verse 20), and the church spread throughout the land, and there was peace (verse 21).

The Nephites, however, are just not skilled at being a peaceful people, and will not submit to God to let His grace give them that gift of peace.  Instead of growing in the knowledge of God, they argue about doctrine (verse 22).  The prophets have to teach them again, preaching to settle the issue and “put an end to their strife” (verse 23).

The Lamanites, just recently praised for their faith and obedience, struggle in the same way.  Some are Lamanites by birth, and some are Lamanites by conversion, and these two groups are warring against each other (verse 24).

Some of both groups rejoined the Gadianton robbers, stirring up the desire for wealth and power at any cost (verses 25-26).  These people “did make great havoc” among both the Lamanites and the Nephites (verse 27).  The Lamanites and Nephites did try some to fight these back (verses 28 and 29), and suffered many losses trying (verse 30).  The people had to return to their own lands instead of being pioneers into the wilderness, because of the many robbers (verse 31), who were increasing in numbers every year (verse 32) and carrying off captives of women and children (verse 33).

The experiences of these afflictions again reminded the people to turn toward God (verse 34), for it was the subtle and small things that led to such big problems.  When they “did not mend their ways” (verse 36), the people were growing in pride – making the problem worse and themselves more susceptible to these robbers – rather than humbling themselves before God and being delivered from this captivity (verse 37).

#LDSConf – Helaman 10

CLICK HERE to read Helaman 10.

After all this happened, the people agreed that Nephi was something-enough to leave him alone (verse 1).  Some believed he was a prophet of God, some mis-understood and thought he was a god (Helaman 9).  The people were divided, but did leave Nephi alone, so that he went back to his own house “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him” (verse 2).

It was during this pondering that a voice came to him (verse 3), and said:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.  And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.  And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will (verses 4 and 5).

God then says, “Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God” (verse 6).   This is the atonement in action, the declaring of at-one-ness, sealing the gap between who He asks us to be and who we really are.  It is sanctification, it is Saint-ifying, it is being endowed with the power (verse 7) to do what He asks and be who He has commanded we be (see the “blessings of grace” chapter in Callister’s Atonement).

In this case for Nephi, specifically, it is a calling to a specific office and role, as he is given the sealing power (verse 7).  This gives him the authority to act in God’s name to seal up the consequences of the choices made – whether destruction or blessing (verses 8-10).

He does not choose the consequences; the people choose by their own behaviors and interations.

He does not declare the judgment; God does that by the laws He has already provided.

He simply delivers the message from the Lord: except ye repent, ye shall be smitten, even unto destruction (verse 11).

When Nephi received this visit, this teaching, this instruction, this gift, he turned around back to the people (verse 12).  He had, so often like the Savior in the gospel stories, been headed to his own place to be still and quiet and rest from his ministry, to ponder the words and what the Lord had done.  But he was interrupted from this respite by being called again to action (see also President Eyring’s talk in Priesthood session in October 2011 General Conference).

Yet already, so soon, even immediately after the miracle of all that had happened, the people hardened their hearts against Nephi, against the word of the Lord “concerning their destruction if they did not repent” (verses 12-13).   Nephi told them again, urging them to repent before they are destroyed (verse 14), and “they did still harden their hearts and would not hearken unto his words” (verse 15).  They even got violent and wanted to throw him in prison, but “the power of God was with him, and they could not take him to cast him into prison, for he was taken by the Spirit and conveyed away out of the midst of them” (verse 16).

And so he continued in the Spirit, by the Spirit, according to the Spirit, declaring repentance unto all the people even until he had declared it unto them all, or sent it forth among all the people (verse 17).

But they would not listen, and refused the call to repentance, which did cause contention in the people as is always the consequence of refusing repentance (verse 18).

Breathe Distinctly

I took a bath tonight.

I mean a real one: a long, hot, no-children-barging-in-and-no-one-screaming-or-crying-on-the-other-side-of-the-door kind of bath.

It was lovely.

As it turns out, our new tiny-house has a fairly large bathtub.  It’s isn’t fancy, and not a Jacuzzi or anything, just large enough in an old-school kind of way to make a legit delicious hot bath.

It’s been four years, maybe five, I think, since I got luxurious baths regularly.  I used to, and when we got married Nathan even started making me homemade sugar scrubs.  It was so sweet!  He is so clever.  But then I was banned from hot baths with the high risk pregnancies, and then foster children, and then moving to a house where our bathroom only had a shower, and then and then and then.

But now I am home, more and more at home with myself after this long journey.

Nathan tells a story about when he used to be a temple worker, before we met and married, and the matron came up to him to talk about husbands and wives.  She told him that men were focused on the hunt, and where the family is supposed to be headed and how to get there.  But the wives, she said, were the gatherers, still walking with their hunter-husband but wandering this way and that along the way – not to stray, but to pick up the needed herbs and fruits and vegetables to make the journey both possible and enjoyable.

This, he says, is why we had to go to Bartlesville, to find our other children and the good doctors and nurses we had there.

And, that ward, he says, was a very smart ward, so that on those rare occasions I was able to pop my head above the water that was drowning us, I could quickly connect in a real way even though there was neither time or energy for girly chit chat.

This makes me laugh, because every ward has served such a purpose in our lives as we have moved.

And our new ward is the one where a pediatrician is in the primary presidency, and where there are nurses in the hallway, and where there are other children with special needs, and other mothers who understand.

This will be the ward where we are not in crisis, mostly because we are so safe here medically, even in an emergency.  An ambulance ride won’t take a half hour anymore, and for the first time all our children will be in school.

All our children will be in school!

I know I am supposed to be sentimental, and am doily-obligated to take pictures of second graders on Monday morning.

But I am also super, super excited for them to be gone.

I will be honest and play the last-day-of-summer card.

Not because I don’t want to be with them, but because it is good and right and as it should be.  They need to go to school, and they need some normal in their lives after these hard years (and especially last year), and we need to fully embrace the miracles that mean we are all healthy and well and safe and strong and thriving.  These are rare days without crisis, and that is okay, and we want to soak them up as much as the rest of America soaked up summer vacation.

I finished my anger essays for my training, and was left with the questions about what my unmet needs are.

So far, they are pretty basic.  I need to eat when my body is legitimately hungry.  I need to be able to go to the bathroom when it is my turn, preferably without anyone needing their shoes tied or shirt buttoned in the meantime.  I need a hot (uninterrupted) bath once in a while.  I need walks at my river, time at the computer to write, and sleep for more than three hours at a time.

I expect that as I continue my training assignments, and practice meeting my own needs more effectively – and enforcing the boundaries that help me do so, that I will become more aware of other needs as well.

It’s easier to see on the outside.

I can see the needs of my children: they need to know we will eat the next meal, and sometimes even need to know what it will be ahead of time.  They need clothes that fit, and ever bigger tennis shoes for school, and safe places to sleep with private places for changing clothes.  They need opportunities to be successful, permission to make mistakes, and the space to explore how you get from one to the other.  They need our laughter, our hugs, and our reassurances about their biological families.  They need our prayers with them before bed, and prayers again in the dark after they are asleep.

We are trying, all of us, together.

Some things are just hard, and take practice.

Oh!  Do you know what is hard?!  Interviews!  I may have a panic attack as podcast and radio interviews start next week.  Goodness.  The idea is terrifying, and not just because of my bad ears.  Yikes.  I really don’t know if I can do it, and the idea of it already has me in hives.  Our first interview was released today, but it came out in print.  You can read it HERE on BlogCritics.

The children are chomping at the bit to go to their new schools on Monday, like pent up animals after the last year of being in isolation for the baby, and then spending the summer doing the book stuff and moving.  I am excited for them to be free, and delighted with their enthusiasm and courage for starting at a new school.  It is all very exciting.

But first, we start at a new ward tomorrow.  Last week we found the building from our new house, and found our classes from sacrament meeting, and met the people who will be our teachers.  This Sunday is legit, where we should all get where we are going and be where we need to be and participate in our classes.  Theoretically.  I may be more anxious than the children!

But not tonight.  Tonight I had a hot bath, and I am very relaxed, and all my children are breathing – one of them is even singing in their sleep.  This is real happiness, despite all we have endured, and I am so very grateful.

“A Word that Breathes Distinctly
Has not the Power to Die”
  ~ Emily Dickinson

Unpacking Movie Day

The best part of being back in Tulsa is all the free activities for children.  This morning Nathan took the children to see a movie at the fancy theater with reclining seats, and they loved it.  What a fun experience for them!

Kyrie stayed home with me to help me unpack the playroom.

By unpack, I mean she is officially a wailing toddler who throws things when she is mad and pulls everything off shelves and out of boxes and out from drawers as fast as I can put things away.

We worked most of the day, and got a great deal finished – despite her assistive efforts.

She was at one point walking around with a picture of President Monson, saying, “Prophet! prophet!”  I don’t know where she got it, but I am delighted she knew who he was.

But the more I work on one area in the house, the more it all blends together into a pile of blah, so I have to move around a bit.

I did manage to cook breakfast, lunch, and supper, however, which is progress since we have worked in the kitchen.

The boys asked for a “man meal of supper”, so I clarified with them what they meant exactly, and we came up with this:

They are so funny.

The house may still be a mess, but we are in routine with one-bathroom for showers and who changes where when for privacy, and their uniforms for school are mostly ready, and their toys are at least out of boxes if not yet nicely arranged categorically like a doily Mormon.

But we are trying, albeit much more slowly as we wear out, and they are happy – which is most important.

Nathan and I will confess readily that after the last five years we have had, we are as excited as the children for school to start Monday, and for the first time ever have all the children in school.


#LDS Conf – Helaman 9

CLICK HERE to read Helaman 9.

At the close of chapter 8, Nephi (the son of Helaman) gives evidence of his prophet-ness by telling the people that their own iniquity has led even to the murder of their leader by his own brother.  When Nephi says this, men immediately ran back to headquarters to check on their leader (verse 1).  As they went, they said that if this turned out to be true, then they should also believe the other things that Nephi has said (verse 2).

When they got there, they found it to be true just as Nephi said (verse 3).  This astonished them, as they had not believed what Nephi said (verse 4).  But now believing, they knew that everything else was true – including the consequences of destruction for all they had done (verse 5).

When the leader had been killed, it was done in secrecy (verse 6).  The people began to gather when the servants raised the cry of murder, and this is when the people found the astonished men collapsed in awe (verse 7).

These people gathered around the murdered leader did not know about what Nephi had said in his garden, and so they accused the astonished men of being the ones who had done the murdering (verse 8), so they bound them up and put them in prison (verse 9).

As word got out about what happened, and the people began to assemble to mourn for the burial of their leader (verse 10).   This is when news got out about what Nephi had said at his garden (verse 11), and so people began to ask what happened to the men who were sent to confirm Nephi’s words (verse 12).   That’s how the people realized those astonished men were innocent, that they only had come to check on the leader after hearing Nephi’s words (verses 13-14).  The astonished men told the other leaders that they did not know who murdered the leader, other than what Nephi had told them had happened (verse 15).

The people then began to say that Nephi “must have agreed with some one to slay” him, so that he could say it would happen, “that he might convert us unto his faith” so that the people would believe he is a prophet (verse 16).  So the astonished men were released, and Nephi was brought in for questioning (verses 17-18).  The leaders bound Nephi, and questioned him before the people, trying to accuse him of murdering the leader (verse 19), even by trying to bribe him (verse 20).

But Nephi remained true to his calling, regardless of what they did to him or of what they accused him, and he continued to call the people to repentance (verses 21-22).  He confronted their plots (verse 23), and confronted them for being angry about being called to repentance (verse 24).

Instead of being afraid of them, Nephi the prophet gets more bold as the opposition gets more conniving (verse 25).  He tells them whose house to go to (verse 26), and tells them to confront that man about this plot (verse 27).  He tells them the man will say no (verse 28), and that then they should ask him outright if he murdered his brother (verse 29).  Nephi says that when they do this, the man will “stand with fear, and wist not what to say”, and deny the charges and try to look astonished and declare his innocence (verse 30).   But, when they examine him, they will find blood on his clothes (verse 31).   Nephi tells them to ask about the blood (verse 32), and then the man will “tremble, and shall look pale, even as if death had come upon him” (verse 33), and that by this they will know he is guilty (verse 34) – even so much that the man will confess to them (verse 35).  Nephi tells the people that he knows this by the power of God, and that it is given to them as a sign that he is a true prophet (verse 36).

So the people went and did as Nephi said, and all of it happened as he had said it would (verse 37).

In this way, the murdered was caught, the astonished men were released, and Nephi was released (verse 38).

Some of the people then believed the words of Nephi and the testimony of those who had been astonished at his prophecy (verse 39), even testifying that Nephi was a prophet (verse 40).