by Robyn

Interview with a Student Midwife

July 27, 2015 in Doulas, Dreams, Education, Faith, home birth, Marriage, Midwives, Motherhood, Parenting, Placenta, Prayer, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

Angela Geurts

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a student midwife? I asked my friend, Angela Geurts, to answers some questions about life as a midwife in training. – Robyn

 

Tell us a little about how you were guided to become a midwife.

Sometimes each of us may feel that we have a calling in the church stamped on our foreheads. For me, it has been the calling of ward/stake Emergency Preparedness Specialist. Not sure how or why, but it seems to be a calling of choice for me regardless of where I live. I’ve learned all about food storage and rotation, using wheat and stored foods, having a home apothecary of natural remedies, etc. After my 5th baby was born at home I realized “Wow, I now have four daughters. Four daughters that will grow up in uncertain times, which may very well need my help during their child bearing years and experiences… and I do not know enough.” My emergency preparedness focused in sharply on how I could be prepared for this eventuality….

The decision to become a midwife was a difficult one for me. I have always valued being at home with my children and supporting my husband as he works to provide for our family. It took me about 2 years of soul searching, scripture study and earnest prayer before I made the decision to enter this occupation of sacrifice, with my husband’s support. Many scriptures spoke to me, but I felt my answer was found in Abraham 1:2; mainly in the line “desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge.” That is what I most desired; to have the knowledge necessary to help my daughters, and women in the church to have a beautiful and safe birth regardless of what the circumstances might be. To have the knowledge, skill set and experience to provide care for them in a home setting. My world view includes the belief that in the near future hospitals may not be available in times of catastrophe or chaos as an option for birthing women, and so my focus is on gaining all the skills that may be needed in such situations.

I also was influenced by the midwives who attended my personal births, and the care and great birthing experiences that they provided for me and my family including Nancy Mooy, CNM (Utah, retired), Michelle Bartlett, CPM (retired), Kathy LeBaron, LM, CPM and Valerie Hall, LM, CPM, with whom I am now an intern. Each one of my personal birth experiences taught me important life lessons and added to my desire for other women to have the birthing options and experiences that I enjoyed. Particularly my home births, where we together as a couple received a great strengthening power from working together and relying on each other; that is when I realized “Wow, this is what birth is meant to accomplish for a family.”

 

What midwifery school and training did you decide upon?

I decided on the National College of Midwifery in Taos, New Mexico, because it was a program that I could complete from home while raising my five children, and it seemed to me the best financial option at the time; according to my financial plan, I could achieve the needed training for state licensure for about $15,000.00.

 

At what point in your path as a midwife are you at?

I am in the beginning of attaining my Primary Under Supervision numbers, with 27 credit hours of academics still complete. For births as Assistant, I have 39 out of 20 required, and for Primary births I have 6 of 25 completed. I will complete all of my academics and numbers by August of 2016 and apply to take the NARM either fall of 2016 or early 2017.

 

What is a typical day or week for you as a student midwife?

A typical week… is basically fly by the seat of your pants… taking care of my home (cooking meals, cleaning – admittedly these activities have gotten fewer and fewer with all the load of midwifery), my five daughters ages 1-17, writing to my missionary son, making appointments and scheduling for the midwifery practice, completing office details like charting, keeping contacts current, and doing MANA statistics, trying to squeeze in 10 hours per week of academic classwork, attending prenatal visits 1-2 days per week, performing massages (for continued income) of 4-6 per week on average, providing placenta encapsulation services and limited doula births, and working on my current church callings (ward emergency preparedness & stake assistant emergency preparedness coordinator). A typical birth load for our practice is about 3 births per month, although births don’t usually happen like that-sometimes we have no births in a month and sometimes 6-7-there is always an ebb and flow to birth work.

 

How has your commitment to become a midwife affected your family?

Being a midwife is one of those professions that require the whole family to sacrifice and bend and flow. Particularly in home birth settings where being on call is something that is constant, and induction of labor is not an option, being ready to jump and go at all times with a young family involves multiple layers of planning and back up plans. Scheduling vacations is difficult, and often needs to be done at least 9 months in advance. There are some good things; for instance, my children often have to step up and take care of younger siblings, meals, cleaning, and planning for alternate ways to take care of their activities and commitments if Mom is not available to help. Finding the balance between meeting my family’s needs and having just the right amount of clients/clinic days/office work is a constant process. The first few years of my midwifery training, working at a birth center one hour from my home I thought was going great and the kids were adjusting and everyone was happy. Then I conceived our 6th child, and stepped back from the rate I was doing midwifery. The relief from my husband and children was tangible, and they often mentioned how happy they were to have me home again. When it came time for me to get back at it, each one of my children had different nightmares about me leaving/being gone/being injured. That is when I realized that though I thought all was well before, it really wasn’t. Finding that balance for my family is something that I intend to seek for direction from the Lord in prayer and humility for the rest of my career.

 

What are some of the blessings and challenges you have faced?

Baby number six takes the cake for being the biggest challenge (and blessing) to my midwifery education. I was half way through my training and numbers when I conceived, and really it’s taken a toll of extending my training a good two years. And accepting that, like in birth, the speed of my midwifery education and control of the outcome is in God’s hands and not mine. I’ve really tried to settle in to the fact that maybe He just wants me to get all the experience and education, and is less concerned about how quickly I accomplish it or whether I become licensed. (Of course, I do not intend to practice illegally, either). I’m just doing my best and relying on, trusting in and following the divine direction that I receive. By the way, there is plenty of ‘no clue what God wants me to do.’ So that just equates to moving forward with what I do know He wants me to do, and trying to let go of the worry over everything else.

 

What advice would you give someone who is considering whether or not to begin training to be a midwife?

With a young family in tow, midwifery learning can begin in the books, long before you ever decide to begin formal training. You might also consider completing doula training or workshops, becoming a childbirth educator, taking a midwife assistant class, and perhaps some courses in counseling women with breastfeeding issues; each of which will give you more tools to help mothers if you decide to pursue midwife. I would recommend purchasing all of Anne Frye’s books including Holistic Midwifery, Healing Passage and Diagnostic Tests. Next in line would be Varney’s Midwifery, and LLL breastfeeding answer book. And of course, learning about dietary needs, herb’s and tincture’s goes right along with midwifery in all its glory 😉

 

What is one of the most spiritual experiences you have had as student midwife?

I think the most touching and spiritual experiences are when the whole family participates in the birth; or when other small children are brought in with mom, dad and the new baby. But for the most part, spiritual experiences for me happen each day, mostly when I am talking with parents about how birth may go, and the type of experience that we are trying to create for them as providers. It is in those moments when I share something that is absolute truth and feel the spirit witness to me that it is true, that is part of each visit day and hopefully each birth. It’s kind of a little divine witness that helps me remember the importance of what I am doing and how I am trying to do it. Most of the time those witnesses are associated with the importance of family, and the way God has designed for families to come about, through the process of experiencing the birth together, and putting their faith in God and efforts towards educating themselves, taking responsibility and preparing themselves for the process.

 

Has working in midwifery affected your testimony? How does your work as a midwife combine with your testimony?

The supreme courts’ recent decision on marriage, and the recent laws that have been passed in my state which have threatened my personal religious freedom (as in mandating that I cannot choose what clients I serve as a midwife without responsibility for litigation) caused me to reflect and soul search about why I am putting so much effort, time, money and sacrifice into midwifery training. This caused me a bit of grief and anxiety for a while, until I came to my real purpose: supporting, upholding and sustaining the family unit through a birth environment and experience that enables, teaches and empowers. Birth is meant to physically draw a couple together in a unified purpose which allows them to experience trial, work, long-suffering and unsurpassed joy together. That is why I am becoming a midwife, and I know in this pursuit I am absolutely using my daily work to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

Watching and learning from my preceptor, Valerie Hall, as she uses and seeks for inspiration and direction with each client and each birth has been a great blessing. There is no differentiation between religion and work, they are rolled into one; together they define each of us. Getting an answer to prayer takes effort, and keeping yourself in a position to receive answers quickly when under pressure necessitates that daily effort is made to pray, read the scriptures, spend time strengthening my marriage and my family… and still it is difficult to obtain answers quickly in times of decision making… so it’s a talent I’m trying to develop and tune into in all aspects of providing midwifery care.

by Lani

The Yoga of Motherhood

March 19, 2015 in Divine nature, Intuition, joy, Lani, Marriage, meditation, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Rebirth, Rites of passage, Yoga by Lani

 

Perhaps the essential purpose of all relationships is to create the laboratory in which we uncover our own divine nature and encourage theirs. -M. Catherine Thomas

In perusing the journal I wrote during my first pregnancy, I chuckled to myself when I stumbled upon these words (written September 10, 2003, just a couple of weeks before I gave birth):

Sometimes I almost wish for a trial or challenge to come so that I can be refined by its fire. . . . I almost hope that motherhood will be a challengeWell, I know that it will be a great challenge. But I hope I will look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow every day. Because I do want so much to develop and become a better, more loving and more Christ-like person.

The very next entry wasn’t until two months later, November 21. I wrote this:

I said last time I wrote that I sort of wished for a trial to come. Well, it certainly came. The first few days and weeks after my baby was born were some of the most difficult of my life. I didn’t get any real sleep until after we came home from the hospitalwhich was two days after her birth. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the new role of mother. I was having difficulty breastfeedingwhich made everything more difficult. . . . Plus I was trying to recover from childbirth (which left me with multiple tears and lots of pain). It was hard for me to do virtually anything because it hurt to move.

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The remaining pages of that journal include a lot of venting about the challenges of caring for a very high-needs baby (who turned into a wonderful young lady, by the way). She didn’t sleep well, she didn’t eat well, she wanted to be held constantly, etc. etc. In June of 2004, I wrote down a passage from a book that helped me put things into perspective: “One of the greatest surprises, and greatest joys, comes as you realize that those have-to’s in your life actually got you where you wanted to be all along” (Emily Watts, Being the Mom). Indeed they have. My four children, and all the have-to’s that come with them, have done exactly what I hoped for as a soon-to-be mother: they have made me into a “better, more loving and more Christ-like person.”

Loveliest of the arts

Back in February I started Kundalini Yoga teacher training, so naturally I’ve got yoga on the brain. What is yoga? Here’s how Yogi Bhajan describes it:

Yoga is essentially a relationship. Consider the origin of the word “yoga.” Yoga, as we in the West understand it, has come from the biblical word, yoke. This originated from the root word in Sanskrit: jugit. They both mean “to join together,” or “to unite.” Yoga is the union of the individual’s unit consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness. The definition of a yogi is a person who has totally leaned on the Supreme Consciousness, which is God, until he or she has merged the unit self with the Infinite Self. That is all it means (The Aquarian Teacher, p. 14).

So the ultimate goal of yoga is union with God. How do we unite with God?

Last weekend in teacher training, our instructor said: “Confront your ego/shadow self until you get to I am, I Am.” After saying this, she shared a story about her early years as a yogi in Brooklyn, NY, living in the ashram. Every morning before sunrise, she went to group sadhana [daily yoga/meditation practice]. She had grown up as an only child, so it was quite an experience being with all of those people. She said that life in the ashram was: constantly having people pushing your buttons, triggering your stuff. As she said those words, I thought: sounds like a family. Isn’t that why God gave us families? To help us confront our egos, our shadow selves, until we get to I Am?

Byron Katie has said:

The people we most need are the people we’re living with now. Again and again, they will show us the truth we don’t want to see, until we see it. Our parents, our children, our spouses and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves yet (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 165).

And Richard Rohr has said:

So we absolutely need conflicts, relationship difficulties, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies, or we will have no way to ever spot or track our shadow self. They [others] are our necessary mirrors (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, The Godseed, p. 168).

Yogi Bhajan called marriage between a man and woman the highest yoga: “Male and female make a union and this complete union is the greatest yoga” (The Master’s Touch, p. 138). Indeed, marriage provides ample opportunities for confronting our shadow selves, refining our behavior, and drawing closer to God. Perhaps it’s because I married a very kind, easy-to-live-with guy, but marriage hasn’t been my highest yoga. For me, it has been the yoga of motherhood that has tested and refined me most of all.

Yogi Bhajan taught that it was the job of a yoga teacher to “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate.” If that is the case, no one has been a greater teacher to me than my children. No spiritual practice has done more to purify my soul than motherhood. Yogi Bhajan said: “The ocean is a very calm thing, but when the winds are heavy and high, then it’s very choppy. The wind represents your egothe higher the ego, the choppier is a person’s life.” Clearly I came to this world with a whole lot of ego to process through. My teachers have had quite a job to do, and they have done it very well.

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Being a mother has required more discipline, patience, endurance, sacrifice, strength, selflessness, service, intuition, love, and reliance upon God than anything I have ever done. Mothers partner with God in a way that no one else can. I put this slideshow together as a tribute to the divine yoga of motherhood.

I remember when Dallin H. Oaks shared this story in conference:

One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”

True. Dogs are lovely companions. But we’re in this life to be refined into godliness. Yoga is the “sacred science of god-realization.” I thank heaven for my four excellent yoga teachers who “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate” me daily.

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by Lani

On Being in Love

February 13, 2015 in Attachment, Fear, Gratitude, Jesus Christ, Lani, Love, Marriage by Lani

Last night I was thinking about being in love. Felice wrote a great post a few years ago about love. In it she quoted 1 John 4:8:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Felice is a single mom in search of a mate, but she thanks God every day that she is in love. She says, “That may not make sense, but I think it is key to happiness no matter what your relationship status” (Source).

What does it mean to be in love? Are you in love? What does it really mean to be in love? Some scriptures:

  • “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
  • “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).
  • “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
  • “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

In my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” in The Gift of Giving Life, I wrote about a BYU devotional I attended on the day after Valentine’s Day fifteen years ago. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the speaker. That devotional was titled: “How Do I Love Thee?“He explained: “The first element of divine love—pure love—taught by [Mormon and Paul] is its kindness, its selfless quality, its lack of ego and vanity and consuming self-centeredness.”

So it would seem that we cannot be “in love” if we are consumed with ourselves. The “natural man” is the ego-driven part of us. The natural man cannot be in love. The natural man is incapable of true love. These words from M. Catherine Thomas‘s The Godseed are instructive:

When a person is born into this world, the ego, with its own agenda and urge to control, begins to enlarge itself and veil the openness and freedom of our spiritual mind. Instead of seeing things as they really are, we see by the dim light of our ego-concerns and fears. Perhaps the main characteristic of the ego is that it behaves like a frightened child (The Godseed, p. 139-140).

It takes a lot of energy to keep the shadow buried and to suppress our multitude of fears. The result is energy depletion. On the emotional level, it is expressed as an inhibition of the capacity to love (Dr. David R Hawkins, qtd. on p. 166).

Fearing and wanting are [the ego’s] predominant emotions and motivating forces (Eckhard Tolle, qtd. on p. 176).

If you try to save your life you will bring yourself to ruin; if you bring yourself to nothing, you will find out who you are (Thomas Keating, qtd. on p. 195).

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept lately… bringing yourself to nothing. It started at the beginning of January at the yoga/meditation retreat Felice taught. During one of the meditations she said, “Bring yourself to zero.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and I have made it my intention ever since.

A few months ago, while I was meditating, I saw in my mind the moon, changing phases. I was thinking about how the gate to the inner court of the temple was opened on the new moon (see Ezekiel 46:1-3). As Felice explained in her new moon blogpost: “It seems to me that if we are seeking Him, there is special opportunity on the Sabbath and the New Moon, when He ‘opens the gates to the inner court.’” I saw in my mind the new moon, empty. I saw the moon gradually filling up with light and becoming full. And then I saw it emptying again. I felt like God was trying to teach me something, but it took some pondering before I gathered it all up.

moon-phases

As I thought about it, I realized that just as the moon and the womb cycle through phases of fullness and emptiness, we too are meant to be continually emptying and filling. Just as the moon goes from full to new, we must pour out ourselves, our egos, our fears, our weapons of war, our grudges, our disappointments, our negative thoughts, our attachment to the world, etc. We must “bring ourselves to zero,” an empty moon, open and purified. Only then is there space for Christ to fill us up. Only with a pure heart, empty like the new moon, can we walk through the gate of the inner court and at-one with Christ, dwell in God, and become full… full moons, full of light, bursting through the dark of the night.

Bringing ourselves to zero can be painful. Unburying and discarding our ego-driven shadow selves is no small task. (Ego eradicator is a yoga technique that helps.) But it is worth the effort because something marvelous happens when we do. We enable ourselves to be in love. And to thank God every day that we are in love.

I’ll close with my favorite scripture of all time:

“Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; . . . that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen” (Moroni 7:48).

 

inlove

by Lani

The Accuser and the Advocate

January 5, 2015 in Atonement, Events, Grace, Jesus Christ, Lani, Love, Marriage, meditation, Parenting, Savior, Zion by Lani

“Cease to find fault one with another” (D&C 88:124).

IMG_1930A couple of days ago, I attended Felice’s New Year, New You Retreat at a gorgeous home in Cottonwood Canyon. We ate, prayed, did yoga, meditated, danced, sang, made new friends, took gong naps, and journeyed into guided imagery. During one of our breaks, we had discussion groups. I attended a group facilitated by Andy Rasmussen discussing how we can create Zion in our hearts. It was AWESOME. We only talked for forty minutes or so, but I learned so much during that brief discussion. Little seeds of truth entered my mind and heart, changing me, expanding inside of me, and altering my paradigm completely.

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One of those seeds of truth has been filling my thoughts ever since, continuing to teach me. As we discussed some of the obstacles holding us back from creating Zion within ourselves and our communities, Andy said:

“Satan means ‘the accuser.’ Anytime you accuse someone, you’re acting in the role of Satan.”

Whoah. This bit of truth shook my entire soul with a deafening impact that echoed for days. Before I say anything else, I want to make a distinction. For the purposes of our discussion here, when I talk about making accusations or being an accuser, I’m not referring to legal matters or matters of serious abuse. There are times when it is necessary to be “accusers” and bear witness of crimes committed. If you have needed to do this, I’m not suggesting that you are, therefore, like Satan. For the purposes of our discussion–how we can build Zion in our hearts–I’m referring to our day to day interactions with people.

Yesterday, as we took our long road trip from UT to AZ, we were listening to Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. She talks about how destructive shame is in our lives. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt prompts us to make positive changes. Shame, on the other hand, keeps us stuck in bad behavior. Brené Brown explains it well here:

The thing to understand about shame is it’s not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” . . . Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake. (Source)

Shame says: “I am not enough. I will never be enough. I cannot change.” Though she doesn’t talk about Satan, Brene Brown does refer often to the shame scripts that run through our heads as “the gremlins.” I think it’s safe to say that Satan is the author of shame, and accusations are one of his primary weapons against us. Satan is the Accuser. We read in Revelation 12 (one of my favorite chapters in the Bible):

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (vs. 10-11).

In our discussion about Zion at the retreat, one of the participants asked a question about how we can maintain pure hearts in the face of difficult relationships or disagreements. I have continued pondering that question. Yesterday morning, as we packed up for our road trip, I asked God and myself: “If Satan would be the ‘Accuser’ in a personal conflict, who would Christ be?” Without skipping a beat, the answer came: the Advocate. Jesus Christ does not induce shame in our hearts. He believes we are worthy of love, no matter what we have done. “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The word translated as “advocate” in this passage is translated differently in other parts of the scriptures:

The exact word is only used elsewhere by the apostle John (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7), where it is rendered “Comforter” (KJV), or “Counselor” (RSV, NIV). Each of the four uses is referring to the help Father and Son provided the apostles through the holy spirit, and from which we greatly benefit in their recorded words. (Source)

Jesus is our advocate, our helper, our comforter, our counselor, and all of this He does with the Father in our behalf. They, together, help us climb out of the pit of shame and into the light of change and peace and love and hope. “The sons of Mosiah went from being ‘the very vilest of sinners’ to being men like Moroni and ‘men of God.’ This was only possible because of the Atonement and the life-changing, healing influence it has on the children of men” (Ronald E. Terry).

I like this explanation of how the blood of the Lamb overcomes Satan’s accusations against us:

There is a passage in Numbers where [Balak] tried to curse the children of Israel. [Balaam, the prophet Balak begged to curse the Israelites] said: How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob. “Can’t you see, God? Look there.” He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob. Now, why not? Well, there was a little lamb that shed his blood, and the blood was taken and spread all over the mercy seat. Underneath that mercy seat was . . . the Ten Commandments. It was a covenant of God. It came here between a holy God and the blood on the mercy seat, which looked forward to the Lamb of God. . . . Because of the blood, I do not see any iniquity behind. The blood answers all of the accusations of the Devil against us. . . . God says, “I don’t see it.” . . . When you take it to the Lord and ask for forgiveness, it is under the blood. It is gone forever. (Dr. J.B. Buffington, “The Accuser of the Brethren“)

What if we not only thought of Christ’s blood but also the blood of each and every person’s mother as the blood spilled on the altar for humanity. No spirit has come into this world without the blood of his/her mother being shed for that birth. And we all must rely on the blood of Christ for our rebirth(s). Can we remember those blood sacrifices when we are faced with someone we might wish to accuse or criticize? Can we remember the blood that was shed so that this person might live and learn and grow? Are we trying to wrench the sins of others out from under the Savior’s blood that has already been spilled for them? Are we playing the role of the Accuser, saying, “Can’t you see, God? Look there.” How do we become Christ, the Advocate, in the face of a difficult relationship problem? Let’s look at the words of Christ for guidance:

  • He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (John 8:7)
  • Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? . . . Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)
  • Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
  • For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)
  • Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
  • Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

One of the primary reasons that the Saints were unable to establish Zion in the 1800’s is because there were “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes . . . among them” (D&C 101:6). As M. Catherine Thomas explains, “The ‘jarrings and contentions’ point to a basic impurity in the human heart, that is, enmity, which can be defined as hostility, hatred, or contempt for another person. . . . [Christ] says that when He comes again, and the veil over the earth is taken off, the powerful glory accompanying Him will consume every corruptible thing of man or beast, that is, will consume any being that has enmity of any degree in its heart (D&C 101:26)” (Light in the Wilderness, p. 152). If we want to create Zion in our own hearts, families, homes, and communities, we have to renounce enmity and become Advocates instead of Accusers.

All of this pondering has led me to want to say/show to everyone with whom I cross paths, particularly those whom I might be tempted to call my “enemies”:

“I am your advocate with the Father.”

When angry or defensive words may enter my mind or yearn to be spoken by my mouth, I want to replace those thoughts with that: I am your advocate with the Father. I want to renounce enmity. I want to reach out to others who may hurt me, to recognize that their actions (no matter how vile) are covered in the blood of the Lamb, to remember the blood of their mothers, and to perceive that any critical words they may hurl toward me are really coming from the Accuser. I want to be an advocate, working with God, to transform contentious situations into moments of hope, healing, and peace. I am your advocate with the Father.

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P.S. I wish I had experienced this epiphany before I wrote my essays on unity in The Gift of Giving Life. Sigh.

by Lani

A Father’s Sacred Support

May 6, 2014 in Book reviews, Dads, Doulas, Giveaways, Lani, Marriage, Midwives, Virtual Book Tour by Lani

Today’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Brooke at Brooke Roundy Photography. Here’s an excerpt:

Personally, my husband WAS my absolute greatest support for both of my births. He was not only emotional support for me, but he massaged my back, provided counter-pressure, was my calming influence (even though he’d tell you that at times he was scared out of his mind ;)), he quite literally held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up. He. Was. Amazing. I did have 3 midwives at my first birth, along with my mom and sister, and then 2 midwives and 2 doulas and my mom and sister at my second birth. But he was my main source of strength and faith.

Here he is with our sweet daughter at 10 days old:

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That guy is actually my big brother. 🙂 Considering how much joy he took in teasing and pestering me growing up, it’s hard to imagine him as a patient, kind, comforting labor support dude, but what do you know, he was! Makes my birth-loving heart proud when I see fathers step up and provide sacred support to the women they love as they work to bring God’s spirit children here.

You can read the rest of Brooke’s post HERE.

Brooke has generously donated a maternity portrait session as a giveaway for our Virtual Book Tour. If you live in UT or know a pregnant lady who does, head over to our Virtual Book Tour page and enter to win!
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by Lani

Disarmament

February 8, 2014 in Adversity, Book, Forgiveness, Lani, Marriage, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Zion by Lani

For [Satan] hath no power over the hearts of the people,
for they dwell in righteousness.
 -1 Nephi 22:26

I originally wrote this on my private family blog. It was August 28, 2011. Felice, Sheridan, Heather, Robyn and I were in the process of selecting the final cover for our book in addition to revising, editing, and polishing the essays and stories we were eager to share with all of you. But Satan was hard at work on us. He did not want The Gift of Giving Life in the hands of the women of the world. He did not want my friendships with my TGOGL sisters to crystalize into the forever kind. But he failed. The book is out there. Little by little, it is touching hearts and changing lives. And the love I have for my TGOGL sisters has deepened with a fierceness that takes my breath away.

We are all together!

This morning I felt impressed that I should share this post, revised today with added insight. God wants you to take the bricks Satan throws at you and build a magnificent house with them. Four ways you can do that…

1) Protect the Achilles’ heels.

Satan has been perfecting his skills for thousands and thousands of years.  He knows where you are weakest. He knows where your loved ones are weakest. An article by Elder Hales, “A Little Heaven on Earth,” in September’s Ensign really struck me.  He says:

achilles-heel2Everyone has weaknesses.  The adversary knows the Achilles’ heel of your loved ones, your friends, your roommates, your brothers and sisters, and your parents.  Do you understand your Achilles’ heel? The secret to a happy marriage [or any relationship] is to protect the Achilles’ heel and not take advantage of the weaknesses of those you know best, love the most, and ultimately can hurt the most.

I know that’s the truth.  I love the image of protecting our loved ones’ Achilles’ heels and our own. If there’s one place we have to reinforce our armor, that’s the place!  I’ve resolved to do better at protecting my loved ones and myself from those awful exploitations.

2) Disarm with love.

Those negative thoughts that sneak into your head–those assumptions, suspicions, and suggestions about a person’s ill intentions–you can pretty much rest assured that those come from the master of all lies.  He wants you to feel hurt and angry and upset.  So, really, when you feel hurt by someone, the counter-intuitive thing is actually the best thing you could do. Put a stopper in your emotional gut reaction, bridle yourself, step back and recognize what’s happening (i.e. Satan is trying to hurt both of you), smile because you’ve beat him in his game, and do the one thing Satan doesn’t want you to do… send love to that person. The people in your life are squeezing you in just the right ways to show you what’s inside of you, teaching you. Some of these people will be crucial in your life’s most important missions. Disarm him (and them) with love.

3) Take courage if you encounter interference.

When you’re feeling especially hard-hit by the adversary, take note.  He will try to tear apart the projects and relationships that have the potential to be the most positive things in your life and the lives of those around you. My sister shared a really wonderful story with me years ago.  I’ll cut and paste it from her email here:

A couple of years ago we had a Stake RS Enrichment meeting where a woman spoke who was from Africa. Her unique circumstances growing up made her ideally suited to translate the Book of Mormon into an obscure native language. She accepted the assignment and then Satan set to work trying to stop her. She experienced extreme trials with her family, and in other relationships, as well as financially, among other things. Listening to those experiences made me wonder if I could/would have given up in her situation. She persevered, however, and was able to finish the task she’d started. She spoke of how glad she was that she didn’t let Satan stop her, and how it was so worth all of the trials she faced, knowing that the people who spoke this language would now have the Book of Mormon. In fact, I remember her saying that the severity of the trials she experienced showed her just how important her assignment was, that Satan would work that hard to stop her. It was a very inspiring story!

There are people Satan is desperate to tear away from you. There are things Satan is desperate to keep you from doing. These are the areas where you must accelerate your efforts. When Satan hits you hard, don’t give up. Arm yourself, fill yourself with love, and work even harder ’cause whatever you’re doing is probably going to be magnificently wonderful… which is why he can’t stand it!

4) Shield yourself, and establish clear boundaries.

nephi-subdues-rebellious-brothers-39641-galleryYes, we are instructed to love our enemies. Yes, sometimes strained relationships are those we should cling to with even more fierceness. BUT… boundaries are important. Shield yourself. Every day. Multiple times a day. Ask God to place a shield of light and love around you. Loving a person despite their weaknesses is good. But allowing someone’s toxic behavior to weaken you is not. If you find there is someone in your life whose behavior is damaging to your soul, establish clear boundaries. Protect yourself and your family in whatever ways God directs you, always sending love to that person. Sometimes strained relationships can blossom into something beautiful. But toxic relationships can also be very harmful. Satan will try to confuse you. But God will guide you to know exactly how to respond to a toxic situation.

*****

When I was in my freshman year of college, a dear friend and I used to repeat a favorite statement to encourage each other: “Bind Satan now.” We know there will come a time when Satan will be literally bound and unable to influence us, but my friend and I often talked about our deep desires to “bind Satan now” within our own hearts and lives, to strive in every way we could to put ourselves beyond his reach.

I often think of the scene in one of the Harry Potter movies where Voldemort gets inside of Harry, torturing him with horrible thoughts and images.  Harry writhes on the floor, in agony.  And then he starts to fight back, filling his mind with happy memories and people who love him.  And love wins.  Voldemort can’t withstand the power of love and flees Harry.  It is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes.

I have felt that struggle between evil/darkness/hate and good/light/love within my own self.  When we feed the love, the light within us burns brighter and brighter until the powers of evil cannot tolerate our presence. As the scriptures teach, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you” (D&C 50:24-25).

That kind of brightness is within our reach. Keep reaching. Keep on pushing back the dark.

by Lani

“Your family is complete”

September 9, 2013 in Babywearing, Dads, Faith, Family size, Guest Post, Holy Ghost, Intuition, Lani, Marriage, Motherhood, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy by Lani

“Your family is complete”
By Katie Winn

As a child and a youth I always admired mothers with large families. I was fascinated with their patience and love. It seemed to me that the more kids you had the happier the home would be. I loved the idea that each child would have a friend at all times and no one would ever be lonely.

I knew years ago that I wanted a large family. The Lord has seen fit that I should have six children. I love being their mother. There was a time during my fifth pregnancy when I couldn’t see an end to my baby creating. I wanted to have as many children as my body could carry. I truly wanted to leave the decision of the number of children I had to the Lord. I was willing to have 9 or more if that was what He wanted. I never wanted to be done.

DSC00027

I remember conversations with my husband about never wanting to be done having kids, and he was not on board. It was a little bit of a touchy subject between us because I couldn’t imagine never having little feet in the house again. He was ready to move on to a new chapter in our lives, one that didn’t include lugging strollers and diaper bags everywhere. A new chapter when we could attend all three hours of church without having to roam the halls with a toddler not quite ready for nursery. A new chapter when we no longer had to change diapers. A new chapter when we no longer find sippy cups in unusual places filled with what used to be milk, but is now past the cheese stage and you have to throw the whole cup away because you know there is no way you can wash it out. I couldn’t fathom having those moments gone from our lives. I was hurt that he felt that way.

When my fifth child was about 6 months old I started to have the aching in my belly again. I had a physical yearning for baby number six. I started talking to my husband about it, and he was reluctant. He knew that it wouldn’t be the end he really wanted. I felt bad because I knew I wasn’t taking his feelings into consideration, but I knew through prayer and the Spirit that we had another baby who needed to come to our home. He trusted me and agreed to have ONE more baby. I was so excited and happy.

I conceived when my fifth baby was a little over a year old. Twenty weeks went by, and we went to our ultrasound appointment. I was really looking forward to it. We already had two girls and three boys. I thought it would be perfect if we could have another girl to even things out. When the technichian asked if we wanted to know the gender, I said yes. As she was moving the transducer across my belly, I saw for myself. We were having a girl. The tech told us what she was, and I was right. We were having our third girl, a perfect balance. Then I heard a voice say, “Your family is complete.” Tears streamed down my cheeks. I was not expecting that voice. I didn’t know what to think. This couldn’t be it! I was going to have many more babies. I wasn’t ready to have this be it. I never wanted to be done, and couldn’t believe what I had heard.

I enjoyed the rest of my pregnancy and looked forward to meeting my little girl. The pregnancy was normal, the birth went well. I snuggled my new baby all day and all night. I looked forward to nursing her every three hours. I loved carrying her in my ring sling. When she was six months old I approached my husband and said, “I think it’s time to have another baby.” I waited for the tingle in my belly, and the yearning in my chest. It didn’t come. I told him that I really didn’t feel that way, but I just had to test it.

I waited for the feeling to come. I have thought to myself that it should be time to have another one. I have friends who have announced pregnancies and had babies. I liked to look at their growing bellies and hold their new babies but didn’t feel the need to have one of my own. I was really done. The desire was not there. Now my baby has grown and is a month away from going to nursery. I have started looking forward like my husband. I can look forward to her going to nursery and being potty trained. I can look ahead (with an aching heart) to my children growing up and going to school and college and getting married. I can look forward to being a grandma. We are moving on to the next chapter, and I am OK with it.

I am grateful for the prompting I received at our ultrasound appointment. The Lord knows my heart, and knows that I was willing to bring as many children into this world as He wanted me to. He also knows my limitations and my weaknesses. He knows my strengths and my abilities. He knows my husband and his needs, too.

I love the Lord and the direction he gives me. I love that I have an eternal family and that my six gifts from God will be with me long after they are grown. I have learned over the years to accept the Lord’s timing. He knows what my plan is, and I am trusting Him in guiding me along the way.

IMG_9112-1Katie Winn is a stay-at-home mom and currently a student with the BYU-Idaho Pathway program. She has been married to her husband, Steve, for nearly 14 years. Together they have six great kids ranging in age from 13 years to 17 months old. Katie is enjoying juggling student life with church callings and the daily duties of being a mother and wife. She feels her calling as a mother to be the greatest responsibility and blessing.

by Lani

Trial of Faith

May 31, 2013 in Adversity, Atonement, Death, Faith, Grief, Lani, Loss, Marriage, miscarriage, Pain, Pregnancy by Lani

Trial of Faith
By Shaylee Ann

My heart ached.
My head pounded.
My faith was tried.
I was in agony.

My womb was empty of the life that once grew there.

I knew before we lost her that I would miscarry.
I was cramping.
I was bleeding.
I was calm.

The compassion I felt for the people I saw as I accepted the loss of our baby was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
I saw mothers with young children, and felt their deep love and concern as they raise sons and daughters in this fallen society.
I felt the pain and sorrow in the hearts of the people all around me.
I grieved for their trials and losses.

I asked the Lord,
Is this what I need to learn?
I prayed that it was, that I had learned it, and that my baby would stay with me.
I knew that my experience wasn’t over yet.
Still, I hoped.

The day came.
Her tiny body left mine in clots of blood and waves of peace.
I prayed, and the Lord was there.
I cried, and my heart was consoled.
My husband came to my side, and we accepted the loss of our baby together.
We distracted ourselves and carried on quietly.
Night came and tears soaked my pillow.

Then came the anger.

Why was my baby taken from me?
Why didn’t I do anything about it?
Why me? Why us? Why now?

I fought in an exhausted haze of confusion.
I didn’t understand.
We loved our baby.
What was happening to us?

I cursed the sympathy and begged for comfort.
I functioned merely on the adrenaline of anger and sorrow.
I wasn’t hungry.
I wasn’t thirsty.
I entertained the releasing thought of death.
Only my husband kept me going.

I gave into the loneliness, the agony and anger.
I questioned God.
I doubted my faith, my abilities, our future.
I succumbed to the numbing, damning influence of the devil.
I lacked confidence in my role as a mother.
I blamed myself.
Again, I wanted to die.

Still, my husband kept me going.

I realized at last that I am surrounded by love.
I am needed.

I craved joy.
I rested in the peace of the Lord.

Morning came, and though the sky was dark, my heart felt . . . light.
I laughed in genuine glee.
I smiled by the grace of His Mercy.

I live, though still in pain, with His healing balm coursing through my soul.

I have my Eternal Companion,
I have the Gospel,
I have family,
I have love,
I have faith.

I miss her with a fierceness that I never imagined would be a part of my life.
I yearn for her spirit.
I ponder on her mission.
I love her.

Yet, I await a new spirit.
I prepare greater than before.
Still, my faith in God, my love for my husband, for my children, and for my life keep me going.

My womb will once more be filled with life.
And I am happy.

fourmonths

by Lani

Bearing Burdens

March 20, 2013 in Adversity, Angels, Death, Family History, Grief, Lani, Loss, Marriage, Motherhood, Savior by Lani

Today, in honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share the story of my great-grandmother, Cassie. She reminds me that I can do difficult things. -Lani

When I start feeling sorry for myself or overwhelmed by all the day-to-day problems and concerns in my life as a wife and mother, it often helps me to think about my great-grandmother, Cassie.

Cassie was born in 1890 in a two-room log cabin in Mapleton, UT, “one mile west of one of the most beautiful mts. in the world,” as she described it. Cassie wrote, “Well you know that the years from 1907 to 1918 were the happiest and grandest years of this mortal life to me.” 1907 was the year she met and married her sweetheart, Edmund, and the autumn of 1918 was the start of several years I can’t even fathom enduring.

In October of 1918, Cassie was approximately eight months pregnant with my grandfather. At this time, her mother-in-law (Grandma Roundy) came by train to visit, but she was unknowingly exposed to influenza en route. Within three days, Cassie’s husband Edmund, their four children, Grandma Roundy, a sister-in-law and family, and Cassie’s sister Ella and her husband had all come down with influenza.

These are Cassie’s words about the days that followed:

Memory you can never forget the agonizing hours I spent in those days and the following weeks and months. We had 3 cows, 4 calves, 14 sheep, and 6 head of horses. They must be fed, watered, and the cows milked twice a day. How my back would ache when all was done for the night. It was almost beyond my strength to endure. Edmund raised up in bed and said the most beautiful prayer I ever heard for me. He asked the Lord to bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that were placed upon me and many more beautiful things.

All of this while eight months pregnant.

Within three days, Cassie’s beloved Edmund passed away. Six weeks later, she gave birth to my grandfather, Edmund. Of this time, Cassie wrote: “No one that hasn’t had this cup of sorrow can understand the awful sorrow and suffering I went through.” And yet, despite her pain, she was able to say, “Thy will not mine Father. All is well done.”

A year later, Cassie married a widower named Moses whose wife was also taken by influenza. Between 1919 and 1923, Cassie gave birth to two more daughters, but she would also lose two sisters, her mother, and finally her second husband Moses. Cassie wrote:

Moses was snatched from me so suddenly I didn’t have time to plead the dear God to spare him to us. I am again a widow and cannot say, ‘Thy will.’ The camel’s back is broken. God has been unkind I feel. He gave me a good husband, a kind father, and now he snatched him home. I cannot forgive him this time. I do not feel submissive. I am miserable and try to feel that I do not love God anymore, but his spirit again softens me and I am ashamed that I pitied myself. I say, ‘I am in your hands, father. Do with me and mine as seemeth you good. All is well, all is well.’ How the days drag on yet always plenty to eat and clothing to wear. Thank God for his blessings.

It wasn’t long until the Great Depression hit, but Cassie managed to raise her large family as a single mother.

On July 20, 1931, Cassie wrote a letter. It was to be placed in a box and opened in fifty years. In it she shared the words she would have her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren hear. These are some of the words she wrote, to me:

Let me here bear you my testimony that I know that God lives, that he can and does answer earnest prayers and faith. I have seen the sick healed. The hearts of the sorrowing made glad. . . . I know that I am writing to a vast amount of spirits unborn that will be born because I choose to fulfill the measure of my creation and have my family instead of following after the teachings of the worldly. . . . . I would that I could look down 50 years and meet you all and shake your hands. Maybe my life of trials and hardships that I am now passing through would be welcomed that great things may follow. . . . You are all literal descendants of the pioneers on your mother’s and father’s side. Don’t fall short of what they expected of their heirs! . . . May health, strength, and happiness and God’s blessings be yours is the prayer of your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, etc.

And here I am, looking back at her, eighty-one years later, living in the lap of luxury compared to Cassie’s life and the lives of most of this world’s inhabitants, and I struggle to say, as she did, “I am in your hands, Father. Do with me and mine as seemeth you good. All is well, all is well.”

Cassie’s strength and courage inspire me to step up, “shake myself from the dust,” stop wallowing in self-pity, and recognize how incredibly blessed I am. She inspires me to do as President Hinckley’s father told him, “Forget yourself and go to work.” She beckons me to set my sights on the vast number of spirits unborn who will come after me, who will look back at me (as I look back at Cassie). What kind of legacy am I leaving for them? Will they feel proud to call themselves mine? Is Cassie proud of what I have done with her genes… her blood, sweat, and tears? What am I doing with my blood, sweat, and tears?

I love these words, shared by Richard G. Scott in our recent General Conference, originally spoken by President Joseph F. Smith:

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. . . . We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors . . . who have preceded us into the spirit world. . . . Those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond . . . can see us better than we can see them; . . . they know us better than we know them. . . . We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; . . . their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.

Does Cassie pray for me, as her Edmund prayed for her, that the Lord may bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that are placed upon me? However small they may be compared to the burdens she endured?

I like to think so.

by Robyn

Birth By the Numbers Part 1

January 16, 2013 in Atonement, Marriage, Pregnancy, Robyn, Savior, Sexual intimacy, Symbolism, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

Birth by the Numbers: A Study of Gospel Symbolism, Birth, and Numbers

One of my favorite videos to show in my childbirth classes is Birth by the Numbers.  It is a very informative short movie by Eugene Declercq, PhD, Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the Boston University School of Public Health, on the statistics surrounding birth and how important they are.  If you have not seen it already, take some time to watch it after reading this post.  He also has a great website called Birth by the Numbers.  But this post really is not about birth statistics. It is about numbers and their symbolism within the gospel and birth.

So I am pregnant, in the second trimester. Being pregnant often brings me to ponder more deeply gospel principles and how they relate to birth and to me.  I have really enjoyed reading The Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo Gaskill.  As I have re-read the chapter on numbers I thought of the significance that numbers represent throughout the process of giving life.

ONE

To begin the entire process of life unity or becoming “one” is required.  In fact, “applicable to all married couples is this command to Adam and Eve: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife. And they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24, Abraham 5:18)” (Gaskill, 113).  This coming together is symbolic of spiritual unity (Gaskill, 114).  We are asked to become one in spirit like the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

TWO

For the oneness of intimacy to take place two different people are brought together.  One meaning of the use of the number two in scripture is symbolic of opposition and separation (Gaskill, 114).  When man and wife are in opposition or separated they are unable to progress.  They need the complementary natures of the other to progress and to create life. There is a second meaning relating to the law of witnesses (Gaskill, 114). Is it coincidence that there are two necessary and different biologic contributions (sperm and egg) or “witnesses” to create life?  It doesn’t seem too far-fetched when reading an additional meaning that the number two has as, “the image of ‘reproduction,’ or ‘life force’ or ‘creative power.’ The symbol is employed in the creation and preservation of the two sexes (see Genesis 1:27; 7:2)” (Gaskill, 115).

 

THREE

The Godhead is comprised of three members: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.  “When the number [three] is used in scripture, it frequently serves to emphasize divine involvement, backing or influence” (Gaskill, 115).  I am surely not the only one to feel divine involvement in my birth experiences.  I feel like God influenced me in many ways as I went to Him for guidance.  There are many examples in the scriptures, “Jesus served a three year ministry, he was tempted three times by Satan, raised three people from the dead, he took three disciples who represented the Godhead into the Garden of Gethsemane with him, he was crucified at the third hour, on Golgotha there were three crosses, darkness reigned for some three hours while he was on the cross, his body lay for three days in a tomb.  The repetitive presence of the number three in relation to the Atonement implies that God was behind this most sacred of events” (Gaskill, 116).  Birth is also a sacred event underscored by a three-fold marriage covenant between husband, wife, and God, three trimesters, and three stages of birth. We also see the number three used frequently in temple worship and its ordinances denoting the idea that they typify or symbolize God (Gaskill, 117).  This thought causes me to ponder its significance as we are constantly reminded that our bodies are temples.  It is likely that many of the processes within our bodies typify or symbolize God.  For more on temple symbolism and birth see these posts: If Birth Were a Temple, Mirrors by Rocky Cordray, and Holiness to the Lord The House of the Lord also by Rocky Cordray.

 

FOUR

Heather points out in her “Two Veils” essay that “the way in which life is created is a four step process beginning with sexual intimacy, followed by conception, then pregnancy, culminating in the birth of a new human soul” (The Gift of Giving Life, 58).  This four step process is deeply symbolic, “the number four symbolizes geographic completeness or totality.  In other words, if the number four is associated with an event or thing, the indication is that it will affect the entire earth and its inhabitants” (Gaskill, 119). Some examples would be: four regions on the earth of north, south, east, and west; four seasons in the year of spring, summer, fall, winter; four great elements of earth, wind, fire, and water; four is the first square number.  Every time life is created (or destroyed) I believe that it alters the earth.  Creating life is miraculous and life altering for sure.

Oh, and there is more.  Tune in Friday for Part 2 of this post!