by Robyn

Book Review: The Sacred Gift of Childbirth

May 11, 2016 in Book, Book reviews, Doulas, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Pregnancy, Preparation, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

The Gift of Giving Life has a friend!

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth

It can be lonely when you are the only LDS birth book on the block so it is nice when a new friend moves in right? We think so.  It is wonderful that more voices are testifying to the sacred nature of the childbearing process. So when Marie-Ange Bigelow asked us to review her book we jumped at the opportunity.

If you have read our book, you may be wondering how The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby is different or the same as The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth.

So first, what do we have in common?

Both books testify of the divinity of the childbearing process and desire to empower women and families with knowledge to make informed decisions regarding the birth of their children. Both utilize scriptures and quotes from apostles and prophets and current research. They each teach the importance of trusting God in the process and using personal study and revelation to guide decisions. And we both recognize what a “gift” childbirth is!

What is different about it?

Author

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth (SGCB) is authored by one person whereas The Gift of Giving Life (TGOGL) is authored by five mothers in addition to dozens of voices highlighted in different birth stories and essays.

Length

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth is shorter, 167 pages to TGOGL’s 544 pages.  This may be less intimidating to refer to someone than a book that is over 500 pages. (But the variety of stories and essays do make TGOGL very readable. 😉

Content

Charts & Worksheets

In The Sacred Gift of Childbirth, most of the chapters are followed by questions to ponder about the material presented. In addition, helpful charts are included to weigh the pros and cons and benefits and risks of common choices a couple may be faced with.  There is even a “Birth Preferences Quiz” included that can help a woman decide what kind of birth she desires.

Research & Statistics

Both books have up to date research and information regarding choices in childbirth.  The statistics included in SGCB are more recent and in more abundance than TGOGL.  TGOGL was not necessarily centered around providing recent research but around re-establishing the divine nature of pregnancy and birth.  For this reason TGOGL includes a larger variety of birth stories, quotes and scriptures.  The way I would describe SGCB is that it is more research centered than TGOGL is.  That makes it a nice companion to TGOGL.  It’s a little more of how to navigate the conflicting information a woman might hear about childbirth. It’s like having a quick reference guide packed with helpful research, charts, and worksheets but from an LDS perspective.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Couples simply cannot make wise birth choices without understanding the physical, physiological, and spiritual aspects of birth” (4).

“There is no other time than procreation when a couple can come so close to being Godlike.” (96)

“When we partner with our Heavenly Father and put our faith in Him, we don’t have to wonder if things could have gone differently” (101).

My favorite part of the book is the discussion of how marriage can be strengthened through the physiological process of birth put in place by God and manifested in the release of certain hormones throughout the process.  This not only takes place for the mother but for the father as well, “A father’s oxytocin levels will rise during the birth of his child, which will innately encourage him to bond with his child. Through bonding, a hormone called vasopressin will also be produced. Vasopressin helps a male feel dedicated to his spouse and child and brings out a man’s protective role. While the more well-known hormone of testosterone contributes to a male’s libido, vasopressin tempers a man’s sex drive and encourages monogamy” (111).

A few more thoughts:

This book does have a strong message about natural childbirth and its benefits.  This may not be the goal of every woman reading this book or possible for every woman but the author explains, “When we partner with our Heavenly Father and put our faith in Him, we don’t have to wonder if things could have gone differently. . . When you plan for a natural birth, do everything you can to accomplish that goal, and make your decisions with the Lord; you can be assured that you will always end up with the best-case scenario for your particular birth.  Most of the time, things will progress smoothly and go well. If they don’t, you will know that you did everything you could” (101).

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth will increase your faith in God’s love for us and His ability to magnify us through the process of establishing our families.  It will arm you with the spiritual and scientific power to make the right decisions for your family regarding childbirth.

So if you are wondering where you can buy this book, it can be found on Amazon.  The hardcopy retails for $12.99 while the kindle version is $5.99. Happy reading!

by Lani

Celebrating Life on Mother’s Day

April 23, 2016 in Abortion, Adoption, Adversity, Depression, Fertility, Grief, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Loss, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Waiting by Lani

 

Image SourceMother’s Day can be really hard.

Hard because you want to be a mother, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Hard because you recently lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth.

Hard because you’re healing from an abortion.

Hard because you have been waiting to adopt for a very long time.

Hard because you weren’t able to have as many children as you wanted.

Hard because your mother passed away, and you miss her terribly.

Hard because you wish you could spend more time with your children.

Hard because you’re a single father without a partner.

Hard because you’re a single mother, and you’re tired of doing it alone.

Hard because you’re unable to be with your husband or wife because of military, work, or other reasons.

Hard because your stepchildren reject you.

Hard because your mother struggled to give you the love you needed.

Hard because you struggle yourself to be the mother you want to be.

Hard because your mother was brutally abusive.

Hard because your mother committed suicide.

Hard because you gave your heart and soul to raising your kids, and now you never hear from them.

Hard because you long to know your Mother in Heaven.

So hard.

It’s OK if you love Mother’s Day. It’s OK if you hate Mother’s Day. Your feelings about Mother’s Day are valid and real, and I want you to let yourself feel them. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hide your tears. Because I believe Dr. Aletha Solter’s words about children are also true about adults:

No matter what the source of stress, children will not feel better until they have been allowed to cry and rage as much as needed (Tears and Tantrums, p. 12).

Sometimes we will cry and rage for years.

I can’t take away your pain. I won’t take away your pain. Your pain belongs to you. But I do want you to know that I celebrate you.

I have carried some heavy rocks in my backpack. One of the heaviest was labeled: no-will-to-live. It was so heavy that when it was gone I felt like I might float right up to cloud nine-hundred-and-nine from the relief of it. I never could have imagined how much joy and hope my future would hold. I thank God every day that I chose life. This Mother’s Day I have so much to celebrate.

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These words quoted in our most recent General Conference are brutally true:

Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure. –Thomas S. Monson

I know you have carried, are carrying, and will carry some of your own heavy rocks. You too have known indescribable sorrows. You have dragged yourself, bloody and bruised, over piercing paths and menacing mountains.

But.

You are still here. You are still breathing. You have successfully endured. All of your days. And all of your nights. And you are still here.

That is why I celebrate you.

Yes, let’s celebrate mothers. Because there are some inspiring and remarkable mothers out there, and thank the Lord for those nurturing souls who heal humanity with their presence. Yes, let’s celebrate women. Because women give life in so many ways beyond what happens in the womb. But even if you don’t personally feel like celebrating anything on May 8th this year (and that is totally OK), I will still be celebrating you.

That’s what Mother’s Day will be for me this year… A celebration of the gift of life. A celebration of the ones who gave us this messy, brutal, exquisitely beautiful thing we’re living every day.

I will celebrate those who have had the courage to give life, and with an extra measure of compassion and awe I will also celebrate those who have had the courage to give life a chance. And to keep giving life a chance… day in and day out… even when those days are full of ache.

I am so glad your mother gave you the gift of life. I am so glad you exist. And every day that you choose to keep going is a gift to humanity and yourself.

On May 8th I’ll be holding you in my heart.

hollandquote

Sale begins April 24th

Sale begins April 24th

by Lani

Processing Motherhood with Poetry

August 16, 2015 in Abortion, Family size, fasting, Fear, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Parenting, Pregnancy by Lani

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

So we moved this summer. In the process of unpacking, I found a composition book with notes, freewriting, story ideas, and poetry from the Creative Writing class I took at BYU during the last semester of my senior year. I was newly pregnant with my first child at the time and thus processing a lot of my mother issues. As usual, one of the ways I chose to do this was through words. The following are two poems I wrote in the early months of 2003 and another written more recently.

This first poem is about my stepmother. She came into my life when I was about three or four years old. My dad met her while attending graduate school at BYU after his marriage with my mother ended. Unfortunately, he was no longer allowed to teach seminary as a divorced man. So he went back to school full time and worked to support our family as a single dad of six. I was the youngest, and desperately in need of maternal love and affection. My dad’s new girlfriend, a former elementary school teacher obtaining her doctorate in neuropsychology, could work magic with small children, and I was smitten from the start. She introduced us to literature, art, history, theater, cultural diversity, music, and lots of new foods. Who I am today I owe in large part to her influence.

Seeds

581653_594088200611546_572607400_nLooking up
A pair of small blue eyes
Soaked in all the love that she emanated
From her tall, beautiful figure.
A little hand,
Fingernails stubby from nibbling,
Grasped tightly
Her warm, slender fingers,
Safe.
A child’s ears
Swallowed her voice–
Drank in deeply the tales
Of Arabian Nights and
Trees that gave and gave.
The growing heart
Embraced the seeds she offered–
Words, knowledge, safety,
Love.
And the seeds still grow.

The next poem describes many women who have mothered me over the years: my mother, my sister, my grandmother, my stepmother, my aunt, and others. As I pondered my pregnancy and the path of motherhood, I thought a lot about these women and having had a rather non-traditional upbringing wondered whether I would be a “successful” mother.

My Mothers

I’ve been saved so many times
By gentle hands and soothing words.
She, with the instincts of life and nature,
Drew me to her.
In nights when only light and noise were solace,
She rescued me.
When the darkness and the silence were unbearable,
Or when I wept, incapable of expressing my fear,
Surrounded by familiar prisons, she pulled me out.
She had so many faces, so many names,
But her heart is called Mother.
Mothers.

mothers

Some of my “Mothers”

And now my own heart strains
As the title bursts upon it.
It hurts, but the pain is also joy.
I fear the title.
Mother.
Can I be Mother?
Will nature teach me how to be a
A Savior–
A Mother?

Now, 12+ years later, I am Mother to four (and a half) children. I wonder all the time if I am really capable of taking on any more, but the truth is I have wondered this every time I have been pregnant. Somehow my children have turned out remarkably well, whether because of or in spite of my efforts. I try to remind myself that, even when I’m not nurturing them as well as I think I should be, they have a life full of love, consistency, and security that I could only have dreamed of as a child.

This last poem I wrote just two years ago. It has been on my mind a lot the past few days. Last week I discovered that I am presently pregnant with another girl. This was a bit (a lot) shocking as I had been anticipating the arrival boy-child who has been visiting me for the past four years. But one of the things that has enabled me to open my heart to this daughter is remembering the millions of girl babies who have been eliminated in areas of the world with boy-baby preference. Girl babies in these areas are far too often aborted (sometimes by force), killed at birth, abandoned, or channeled into the horrific sex-slave trade. There are 163 million females who would have populated Asia but are “missing” because of gendercide. That is more than the entire female population of the United States.

Two years ago, on June 2, 2013, I organized a day of fasting and prayer to raise awareness about this heart-breaking problem. Early that morning, I was awakened by the words of a poem forming in my head, demanding to be written. And when I re-read it now, carrying a daughter in my womb, my heart cries, “I hear you! I want you! I will be your mother!”

3:00 a.m.

When I hear
A baby cry,
Her voice
Her song
An invisible vibration of longing
Penetrates my mortal shell,
Gliding through flesh and bone
Like a delicate silver thread.
It throbs with urgency
As it wraps around
And around
saveagirlAnd around
My heart,
Bleeding ache.
And now
A hundred
A million
A hundred million
Tiny threads,
Bursting with a deafening silence,
Pull me from my sleep
Like newborns in the night,
“Wake up,”
Their silent voices throb,
“Cry for us,
Scream for us,
Mother.”

 A slideshow I made for the June 2 day of prayer… Some of the girls in the video were the daughters of people who participated in the event…

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 Robyn

Back to the Basics: Why You Should Read to Your Kids

June 10, 2015 in Education, Guest Post, Parenting, Power of Words, Relief Society, Uncategorized by Robyn

I was excited to get this blog post in our inbox about the importance of reading to our children.  I will never forget the first Relief Society Enrichment meeting that I attended after my first baby was born.  It was a presentation on reading to your children.  My baby was only about a month old but I immediately started reading to her from that day on.  I am forever grateful that another woman shared with me her passion for reading to her children.  My family is forever changed by it.  I know it prepared my children for school but more importantly it strengthened my relationship with them.  I have never regretted the time I spend cuddled with my children reading.  I especially love finding my children reading to each other.  And as I read with my children I also remember my mother’s voice reading to me before bed.  It was a treasured time.   I knew I mattered and I enjoyed the adventure and warmth of listening by her side.  I hope this post ignites in you a passion for reading with your children.  –Robyn

 

(Image credit: jbird via Flickr Creative Commons)

(Image credit: jbird via Flickr Creative Commons)

Many of us have fond memories of our parents cuddling with us in bed, a book propped up on their laps and our little fingers eagerly reaching over to help flip to the next page. Those nights spent reading books with our parents will always be treasured, and it’s unfortunate that not many children are able to experience that nowadays. In a world where time is moving faster than ever and parents hardly feel like they have time for all their responsibilities, they often dismiss reading as an unnecessary activity, unaware of all the benefits they could be missing out on. If you haven’t read to your children in a while, here are some reasons why you need to reconsider:

1. Reading Helps Build Language Skills Reading aloud with a child doesn’t just help them become more familiar with sounds and the words of your language, the healthy exchange of ideas is also essential in helping them construct their own sentences. There have been studies that showed that children who are read to do better in school, and this can be attributed to how a child’s vocabulary expands as parents read to him. With a better grasp of the language and the ability to communicate, they’re able to perform better in school.

2. Reading Makes Them Better People The imagined worlds of books help thrust kids into situations they otherwise wouldn’t experience in the real world. As a blog post on Tootsa MacGinty explains, the regular reading of books can help “create empathy toward other people, because literature values humanity and celebrates human spirit and potential, offering insight into different lifestyles while recognising universality” – a good excuse to pick up a book if ever you needed one!” By reading to them, we help our kids identify with the different characters in books, and appreciate their situations and learn how to react to them.

3. Reading Together Strengthens Bonds When your kids reach a certain age, you’ll find that they’ll be spending less and less time with you, and the cuddle time you used to enjoy when they were younger will be few and far between. Reading together helps recreate this cuddle time and strengthen your relationship. As you go through a book, make sure you ask your child about their opinions on the story and the characters, as this will give you the chance to get to know more about your child, and his or her interests.

Do you still read to your children? What do you think is the biggest benefit you can get from reading to your kids?

Author Bio: SleepyMum Ram J is an advocate of childhood literacy, and she has dedicated much of her life to helping parents rediscover the joys of reading to their kids. When not spreading the word of childhood literacy, she sometimes volunteers at local daycares.

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

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 Robyn

My Divine Teacher

May 12, 2014 in Gratitude, meditation, Motherhood, Parenting, Power of Words, Robyn, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

“And a little child shall lead them”

Isaiah 11:6

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My posts are just going to be have to be a lot less wordy. I struggle to find the time to write but I really do benefit from processing my thoughts into a post.

I’m grateful for motherhood. It is hard and I struggle with feeling like I am getting much done. Lately I have wanted to be able to put more time into studying my scriptures and meditation. I miss the “aha” moments and stream of revelation in the early morning hours. Alone time is hard to come by. Anyway so about a week ago, I was feeling this way, sitting with my cute little toddler playing on the floor when I had one of those “aha” moments. God reminded me, “She is your divine teacher, learn from her.” I nodded. “I know, I know. Thank you for this reminder,” I answered.  And I also knew that I was being told that I was to be learning from each one of my children.

We are told that we should become like our little children, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

I cuddled with my 4 year old in my lap during fast and testimony meeting last Sunday. After several testimonies she leaned into my ear and said, “I just know that He is Risen.” And that was that. So simple, real and authentic. She taught me. We don’t have to be wordy. And I took those words to heart. Simple testimonies. Shorter posts. Thank you Divine Teacher.

“If we have a heart to learn and a willingness to follow the example of children, their divine attributes can hold a key to unlocking our own spiritual growth. ” Jean A. Stevens, Ensign, April 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Robyn

Inward and Outward Ordinances

January 31, 2014 in Menstruation, Parenting, Priesthood, Puberty, Rites of passage, Robyn, Symbolism, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

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Faith In God, My Gospel Standards, and The Gift of Giving Life

“That they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”

John 17:3.

I was recently released from serving in Young Women. My new calling is to teach the Valiant 10/11 year old girls.  In addition to that I am also their Activity Day leader.  I have been studying the Faith in God program with new eyes, looking for ways in which it prepares a girl (or boy) to give life.

The entire purpose of the Faith in God program is that each girl and boy of the age of accountability is set on a path that will bring them to know God and Jesus Christ.

The program is split into four sections: “Learning and Living the Gospel,” “Serving Others,” “Developing Talents,” and “Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.”

All of the requirements are identical for a boy and girl until you reach the section on Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.  The choice of scriptures for these sections is not a coincidence:

For the soon to be Young Women: “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” D&C 87:8.

And for the soon to be Young Men: “The Priesthood of Aaron . . . is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances” D&C 107:13-14.

Did anyone else catch the significance of comparing these two scriptures next to each other? These young priesthood holders administer in “outward ordinances,” which begs the question, what about the “inward ordinances?”  Inward ordinances happen inside a holy temple, in “holy places.”  There are the washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings we have all been taught about that take place in holy temple buildings.  But we are also told that our body is a temple.  If you have read Heather’s essay, “The Two Veils,” you are aware of some of these inward ordinances: intimacy, conception, pregnancy and birth.  I would add to that list, menstruation and lactation.  These girls are preparing to shed blood as did the Savior.  They are a holy place where ordinance work will take place beginning with menstruation and continuing through other the other inward ordinances.

As our girls become young women we must teach them the sacredness of their bodies and that they are places of holy ordinance work symbolizing the mission of our Savior. (Boys need to be taught their bodies are sacred too.  This could be a whole other post. I’m just concentrating on the role of girls preparing to be young women.) The point I am trying to make is that if we do not teach them what that means they will be confused as to why and how to express the power they hold within them.  Why be modest?  Why avoid harmful substances?  Why keep the Gospel Standards?

It is easy to misunderstand the importance of inward ordinances.  It is easier to understand outward ordinances and their significance because of their apparent visibility but that does not mean they are more important than inward ordinances.  The fact that inward ordinances are so misunderstood speaks to how sacred they truly are. 

As a girl becomes a woman she experiences changes in her body that are symbolic of the Savior’s life giving properties.  Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life.  The curves she develops give her body the strength and shape to carry life within her and bring it into this world.  Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life. Her breasts grow so that they may eventually be filled with living water to nourish her baby just as the Savior’s living water is meant to nourish us. Her body begins to ovulate and shed blood as did the Christ.  Whether inward or outward we should always, ask ourselves, “in what way does this ordinance testify of Christ and His Atonement?”

Each of the sections within the Faith in God program is preparatory to coming to know God and Jesus Christ.  In order to truly know God we become like our Heavenly Parents.  Part of that is reverencing inward ordinances.  We must help our boys and girls keep baptismal covenants, learn and live the gospel, serve others, develop talents, and prepare for more ordinance work in the young women and priesthood programs.

How do we help our boys and girls understand inward and outward ordinances?

  • Utilize A Parent’s Guide. It is a manual by the church for parents to help with teaching our children about their bodies and intimacy according to their understanding and age.
  • Participate in Faith in God.  Attend scouting or activity days.
  • Celebrate and teach them about the inward ordinances. Consider a coming of age party for your daughter as she nears puberty.
  • Put together a special binder/book of information for your daughter about the changes she will experience. 
  • Attend the new General Women’s Meetings with your daughters (or boys the General Priesthood Meeting with their fathers). It seems God has much in store for our girls and we must be ready to help them understand what is coming. Study both the Women’s and Priesthood sessions.  Teach your daughters and sons what was discussed at both.
  • Listen for those informal, spontaneous moments when you can talk about these topics and bear testimony of their significance.  Don’t have this conversation just once. Leave the lines of communication open for questions.
  • Go on “dates” with your child. They need not be extravagant, they just involve one on one time. 
  • Be aware of how you talk about your body, motherhood, and fatherhood, etc.  Our children tend to mirror our insecurities.

I have already been learning a great deal from these powerful girls who are on the cusp of becoming women.  They are smart.  I have to prepare for their lessons studying not only the primary manual but the adult Sunday school lesson as well.  Their questions are thoughtful and reflective.  I feel a great responsibility to give them what matters most.  I seek the spirit every week as I prepare to teach them.   

I would love to learn from you. What have you done to teach your children or primary kids the significance of inward and outward ordinances?