Best book ever!

November 7, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews

The Gift of Giving Life Review of the Week

Oh my goodness! This book is incredible! If you only read one book about pregnancy, this should be it. It gives a whole new perspective on pregnancy and being a women.

Everything is from a spiritual point of view. It’s insightful and answers so many questions.

Love, love, love!

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon!

Buy the Gift of Giving Life Here.

We love our readers. We wrote this book for you!

We also love getting feedback from you about the book. It is so great to read reviews of our book on Amazon. To say thanks, we are going to highlight a review a week.

Laboring Through

October 3, 2015 in Adversity, Depression, Doulas, Fear, Gratitude, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Pain, Uncategorized

So Elder Holland hit another home run. I’d say his talk today ranks right up there in my heart with “Like a Broken Vessel” from two Octobers ago. Today Elder Holland honored women and mothers and the ways their service is nearer to Jesus Christ’s role as deliverer than any other service in mortality. He called mothers “messianic figures” and “saviors on Mt. Zion.” He even publicly thanked our dear Mother in Heaven.

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All of the talk was beautiful, but do you know what my absolute favorite part was? My favorite phrase Elder Holland uttered today was this: “laboring through the battered landscape of his despair.” As Elder Holland spoke of a mother striving to bear up her son as he traveled through the darkest days and nights of his intense anguish… I can’t even really describe to you what I felt inside. Perhaps those words and that story impacted me so deeply because I know so intimately what the battered landscape of despair looks like and feels like. Perhaps more intensely, however, I know the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the gratitude that can be felt toward those who have labored with us through the battered landscapes of our despair and anguish.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking a lot about where I was last year. I went to my blog and re-read old posts full of the raw reality of what I went through. The more time passes, the more I forget just how bad it was. But in those moments of remembering, I felt it all come back to me… the utterly bleak and painful reality of what I had experienced. But the overriding and prevailing emotion I felt that night was gratitude. Gratitude beyond my capacity to describe. Gratitude so intense that it gathered with fierceness in my tear ducts and flooded down my face for a very long time.

One image kept coming back to me and renewing the flood of my tears. It was an image of me lying on my friend’s tan leather couch, our kids playing in front of me watching something on Netflix, my friend sitting at her kitchen table sewing together a quilt for her youngest son. If someone were to take a snapshot of that moment, they might conclude all sorts of things. They might wonder why we were “ignoring” each other. They might think it odd that I was seemingly sleeping through my visit with a friend. They might question the depth of our friendship. But all of those assumptions would miss the profound beauty of what was happening in that room.

I couldn’t tell you how many days I spent on my friends’ couches last summer. Sometimes I could have semi-normal conversations. Sometimes all I could do was stare at the wall or ceiling and try to breathe. Sometimes I closed my eyes and attempted (usually with very minimal success) to sleep. My friends really didn’t understand what I was going through. But it didn’t matter. I never once felt like a burden. I never once felt like an intrusion. I knew I could just be… just be… in whatever state I was in, and it was OK. If I wanted to talk, my friends would talk. If I was paralyzed by my body and mind and could only endure, my friends held space for me to endure. They played games with my daughter and fed her lunch. They made it OK for me to do whatever I needed to do. They sat with me, but not in a way that made me feel like a spectacle. They sewed quilts, did their dishes, folded laundry, but all the while bearing me up with their presence, their willingness to witness my pain, their open doors and couches always there whenever I needed them.

As I lay on my friend’s tan leather couch, my body was wracked with agonizing withdrawals, my mind was a whirl of fear and darkness. I didn’t know when the darkness was going to end. But in that moment, despite the fear and pain overwhelming me, I knew I was loved. I knew I was safe. I knew that I had support anytime I needed it. I knew that my friends and family believed in me, prayed for me, and most importantly that they were laboring with me in that landscape of horrific despair.

Elder Holland thanked mothers for their pure Christ-like love and service, and I myself do feel deep gratitude for my mother’s efforts to lift me in my deepest days of darkness. But beyond that I feel gratitude more profound than human language can convey to all the people in my life who labored and bore with me last year through my life’s most painful test of faith. Thank you. More than I can say.

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Watch with Me

July 13, 2015 in Adversity, Atonement, Breastfeeding, Dads, Doulas, Jesus Christ, Lani, Pain, Sacrament, Symbolism

Yesterday Kevin Barney posted “A Feminine Insight to Gethsemane” on By Common Consent. He explained that, as a man, it had never occurred to him to relate Christ’s longing to “let this cup pass” to a woman’s yearning to avoid the pain of childbirth. His post and the comments are worth checking out, especially the ones plugging The Gift of Giving Life. 😉

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Our wonderful Robyn Allgood is the author of a beautiful essay, “Birth in Remembrance of Him,” examining the connections between Christ’s Atonement and childbirth in The Gift of Giving Life. Here’s an excerpt:

The blood that was squeezed from Christ for us has the power to give us eternal life, while the blood that a woman sheds for her baby gives physical life. The work of labor often causes a woman to sweat as she exerts pressure to push her baby out. As the baby moves through the birth canal, mucous and other fluids are squeezed from the baby’s nose, throat, and other orifices. This squeezing or massaging of the baby prepares the baby to live outside of the womb. In this way, the labor that a woman experiences is benefiting her baby, just as the labor the Savior endured for each one of us is for our benefit.

Just last Sunday we attended Gospel Doctrine in my parents’ ward and discussed Christ’s experience in Gethsemane. As we discussed the Apostles’ difficulty staying awake to “watch with Christ,” our instructor suggested that Christ’s agony and the heaviness He felt were likely so intense and overwhelming that His apostles may have, on some small scale, felt it in the energy pervading the area. Because of their deep love and connection with Christ, they may have been experiencing some sort of “sympathy pains.”

asleep-in-the-gardenThe scriptures say that “when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). Our instructor suggested that it may have been that they were not necessarily “asleep,” but rather literally unconscious from the depth and intensity of the agonizing atmospheric pain they, as mortals, were incapable of withstanding. Personally, I have on a few occasions felt a pain so intense that I have fainted from it. I think our instructor was definitely onto something, and I think hers is the best explanation I have ever heard for the apostles seemingly “slacking on the job.”

When Christ asked them to “watch with Him,” I think He was, essentially, asking them to “hold space” for Him. I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of holding space lately. Holding space for someone enduring a difficult experience is both an honor and a challenge. Our Gospel Doctrine instructor last Sunday explained that when Christ said, “pray that ye enter not into temptation,” scholars suggest that it meant something more like “pray that ye will not break under the weight of this hard trial.” It seems that Gethsemane was not just a difficult test for Christ but also for His Apostles.

posteriorAs she shared these insights, I also found myself thinking about childbirth. My second baby was posterior, facing my front, or “sunnyside up,” which is not ideal for the journey through the pelvis and birth canal. It wasn’t easy pushing her out, and I was making a lot of noise.

As I worked to push her out, my stepmother was on my left and my husband was on my right. At one point I looked at my stepmom, and I could see that she was crying. When I asked her about it later, I learned that they weren’t tears of joy as I had originally suspected. She was crying because it was so hard for her to see me in that kind of pain. Almost simultaneously, to my right, my husband was bent over, and at first I thought he was vomiting. In fact, he was having a hard time staying conscious and was on the verge of fainting. Though they were not enduring the pain themselves, they were having very real and visceral reactions to it.

After the hard work was over

After the hard work was over

I don’t know if Christ’s apostles could see Him as He prayed. The scriptures aren’t entirely clear. Perhaps they could see Him or yearned to help Him. Or perhaps they could simply feel a small portion of the heaviness and pain projecting from Him as He accomplished the Atonement. They offered “sacred support” in much the way fathers and doulas support their wives and clients through childbirth (see “A Father’s Sacred Support” in The Gift of Giving Life). They could not remove His burden, but I suspect they were able to feel some of the weight of it as they struggled to remain conscious.

It is not easy to hold space for someone in pain, and the Apostles were holding space for the most intense experience of pain that has ever occurred. This perspective has given me a deeper appreciation and respect for the disciples Christ chose to “watch with Him” as well as a heightened sense of gratitude to all those who have “watched with me” in childbirth and other intensely challenging or painful experiences. Their service was a beautiful gift to me.

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The Yoga of Motherhood

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

 

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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God Keeps His Promises, part 2

October 15, 2014 in Adversity, Depression, Fear, Lani, Personal Revelation, Priesthood blessings, Waiting

Back in March I wrote a post called “God Keeps His Promises.” Feel free to click over and read it. The main part I want to draw your attention to is this:

I wondered, “Will I need to take this medicine for the rest of my life?” . . .

In another priesthood blessing, God answered my question: “You will be able to be happy without medication.” He didn’t tell me how long it would take, but I was satisfied with just knowing that someday I’d get there. And so I went on, taking my medication, feeling grateful for my rescue from the darkness. . . .

About a year ago, I started cutting back on my dose, little by little, very slowly, adding in supplements recommended by readers and friends to ease the withdrawal. I took a dose last Tuesday, but when I was due for another dose I felt restrained from taking it. The next day I felt restrained, and the next, and the next. I didn’t hear a voice, but I felt a message in my gut: “You’re ready. It’s time.” . . .

The other night, I asked for another priesthood blessing. He said, “God wants to remind you of the promises He has made to you. He will keep those promises.”

It has been seven months. Five of those were excruciating on many levels. Once again I’m taking medication… the same medication God prompted me to stop taking in March. Once again I’m depending upon a pill to remain calm and happy. Needless to say this has been a confusing year.

For much of May and June, as I battled severe anxiety and depression and finally surrendered to the necessity of re-medicating myself, I wondered, “Why would God tell me to stop taking my medication if I was going to crash without it?” Then I stumbled on a video that brought me a lot of peace. It shares a story told by Jeffrey R. Holland…

I took a dead end. Clearly the wrong road. Retraced my steps and got back on the right road. Why did I feel that the dead end was the proper road to take if it wasn’t? When I saw this video, my heart flared with the Spirit and I felt like Jeffrey R. Holland was speaking right to me. Now I can know with a certainty that I’m on the right road for me. I also know that my dead-end detour this summer served many purposes, many of them probably unknown to me, but some of them made clear to me many times over. It was not a waste. Many lives were blessed by it, including my own.

But what about God’s promise that I would be healed and be happy without medication? When I told my (Mormon) psychiatrist about those promises, he encouraged me to re-read a couple of talks. One of them I have adored since I first heard it spoken: “Like a Broken Vessel,” also from Jeffrey R. Holland. He urges:

If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.

This message from a friend also helped me come to peace:

Through prayer, meditation and personal revelation I’ve learned that it’s possible for me to have bipolar and be perfect/whole/complete. And it’s part of God’s plan for me to be medicated. . . . That was God’s answer for me. Not to be healed. For now or for this life? I don’t know. I know I will come forward in the Resurrection whole and perfect and I cling to that hope.

We live in a fallen world. For some of our brains and bodies, the world’s fallen nature has a deeper impact. My pure immortal spirit wanted to flee my fallen body so desperately this year. Enduring the darkness was excruciating. But, for now, medication is God’s compensation to me for the disparities between my spirit and my body. For now, a pill is what is making my brain and body bearable for my spirit. For now, the healing power of God has not removed my body’s weaknesses but enabled me to thrive in spite of them. It is not the healing I wanted or expected, but it is a healing of sorts. But mortality is brief. I will spend most of my existence free of medication. Someday I will be happy without medication. Until then, I’m OK with it.

Don’t Quit, Keep Playing

May 4, 2014 in Adversity, Atonement, Depression, Grace, Lani, Savior, Thoughts

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The Sunday School and Relief Society lessons at church today were so inspiring, and I felt impressed to spill some of my thoughts about those lessons onto paper (or screen) here.

First, for whatever reason, I get really excited when I find scriptures that demonstrate the humanity and weakness of the Lord’s prophets (Mosiah 2:11 and 2 Nephi 4:17, I love you guys). Seeing their struggles helps me let go of shame about my own. Maybe you’ve always known about this time in Moses’ life, but I must have been asleep that day in seminary. I’m not a prophet leading thousands of frustrated people to the Promised Land, but these verses (from Numbers 11) were a gift to me today:

11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? . . .

14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

The footnote for “out of hand” in the last verse lets us know that it could be translated as “immediately.” So Moses was basically saying, “God, this is too hard. If this is how it’s going to be, please just kill me now.” I turned to my husband, grinned wide, and laughed as I heard those verses. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve uttered words like that to God and my husband on dark days. Moses, you are a guy I can relate to!

Then, in Relief Society, the lesson was about grace. It seems such a hard thing to define something so divine as grace. I still don’t feel that I could necessarily give you a definition of grace. But I loved this story our teacher shared from President Faust about a young piano student:

His mother, wishing to encourage him, “bought tickets for a performance of the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. The night of the concert arrived and the mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall. While the mother visited with friends, the boy slipped quietly away.

“Suddenly, it was time for the performance to begin and a single spotlight cut through the darkness of the concert hall to illuminate the grand piano on stage. Only then did the audience notice the little boy on the bench, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’

“His mother gasped, but before she could move, Paderewski appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And then, leaning over, the master reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

“In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and time again, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And as we do, He augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He is right there with all of us, telling us over and over, ‘Keep playing’” (Source).

As I heard this story, my eyes welled up with tears. Sometimes, playing my little “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” feels like the hardest thing in the world. And the Master’s request, “Don’t quit. Keep playing,” feels like the tallest order ever given. Endure to the end? Really? I so often respond, as Moses did, “It is too heavy for me,” and in my darkest moments, “Kill me, I pray thee.”

But grace. Grace.

God told Moses: “Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel. . . . and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).

Grace comes to us in so many different ways. For me, in my life, grace has so often come to me in the same way it came to Moses here… people. God gives me people to help me bear my burden–doulas to give me counter-pressure through the hardest contractions. In October of 2012, after surviving many months of intense darkness and despair, I wrote a thank you letter to some of the “doulas” who had been the grace that kept me going. To them, I said:

And now, looking back over that valley of heartbreak behind me, I can see just how beautiful it was. Your words and actions have illustrated in vivid detail the beauty and perfection of God’s loving, tender mercies. You have painted a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering. If I hadn’t needed you so desperately, I would never have had the privilege of witnessing those countless acts of love and friendship.

Grace is the reason I’m still here. Grace is the reason I haven’t quit. Grace is the reason I keep playing my little song. Grace is the Master turning that feeble song into something beautiful. Grace is God painting a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering.

Grace is yours too.

Don’t quit. Keep playing.

Disarmament

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

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.

Becoming Zion: Book Recommendations

January 17, 2014 in Book reviews, Divine nature, Intuition, Jesus Christ, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Music, Preparation, Savior, Temple, Zion

So I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with Zion. Can you feel the momentum like I can? Things are happening. We are being prepared for big things. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I feel in my gut that we and our children and grandchildren will build Zion, we will BE Zion. I want to get there as quickly as possible. I’m done with darkness and misery and suffering. I can’t wait for light, truth, love, peace, wholeness, and Christ in our midst!  During a recent trauma-release session with a therapist, I was asked to go to a “special place” in my mind. I chose to place myself in the center of Zion’s temple because there was no safer place I could imagine. It was awesome, at least in my imagination.

Maybe you’re as eager as I am? If so, here are some books you might love (if you haven’t read them yet)…

81pYSv-cBJL1) The Triumph of Zion: Our Personal Quest for the New Jerusalem, by John M. Pontius 

I started reading this book at the end of the summer last year (after reading another of his books, Visions of Glory). The vast amount of information contained in The Triumph of Zion made me overlook its minor flaws. I learned so much from this book about Zion, translation (the spiritual kind, not the language kind), the Second Coming, etc. There is a lot of repetition and rehashing of the same information, but I tried to see it as an intentional gift to really embed the information in my brain rather than as an editing mishap. If you want to better understand what needs to happen in order for Zion to be built, this is a great resource.

 

64982762) Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life, by M. Catherine Thomas

After two separate strong, wonderful, spiritual women recommended this book to me, I knew it was time. I think I have marked almost every single paragraph in the book with my red pencil and stars and circles and notes. This is one of my new all-time favorite books ever.

If you know Truman G. Madsen’s work, it may interest you to know that his review is quoted on the back cover of Light in the Wilderness: “This remarkable and penetrating book deals with some of the toughest spiritual issues of our time.” I discovered Truman G. Madsen as a teenager and devoured all the books my stepmom had by him. She later gifted them all to me, and I absolutely treasure them. In fact, Truman G. books were the only spiritual books I could stomach during my battle with anxiety/depression in 2012. He was the thread that kept me connected to God. I love him. Light in the Wilderness reminds me a lot of Madsen’s style.

M. Catherine Thomas is a convert, a mother of six, has a PhD in ancient history, taught at BYU and the Jerusalem Center, and has served four Spanish-speaking missions with her husband. I hope I can hear her speak someday. I love her! Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Everything in the Cosmos is playing music based on its particular configuration and vibration. The spheres are full of music. The elements of our physical world play the music given them by their Creator, but . . . we shall see that Man can choose to a degree the energy by which he will vibrate and the music that he will play” (p. 39).

“One day our former glories will be unveiled again; meanwhile, just the knowledge that we are full of unutterable wonders can light our way–yes, can cause us to question our current perceptions of reality and expand toward greater ones” (p. 64).

“But setting aside a human tendency to be gripped by fearful or miserable thoughts, we can quietly, deliberately, and deeply entertain the possibility of the opposite of what the thought is tempting us to believe. What might be a truer way of looking at this situation?” (p. 82).

“How important it is to realize that like is drawn to like: intelligence to intelligence, truth to truth, light to light (see D&C 88:40), but also anger to anger and pain to pain. We will draw to ourselves the sort of energy from unseen beings that we ourselves entertain” (p. 186).

I can’t wait to read this book again, and again, and again. It is like a manual for becoming pure in heart, becoming Zion.

 

97803408243753) The Mozart Effect, by Don Campbell

As I’ve written before, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Zion’s builders/inhabitants it is this: they SING. Over and over and over the scriptures declare that Zion is home to those who sing “songs of everlasting joy.” I got a copy of The Mozart Effect for a few dollars at Goodwill last year and promptly started devouring it. I learned so much about the healing power of music and song from this book. It’s dated (making reference to cassette tapes, etc.) since it was written back in the 90’s, but the information is still as pertinent as ever. If you want to have a better understanding of why Zion’s inhabitants will spend so much time singing (and making music, I’m sure), this book is a great overview.

 

babyandhandxsm4) The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth

Ha ha! Really though. I have long felt that we were inspired to write our book when we did because it would play a part in preparing the mothers of Zion to birth and raise the most powerful spiritual army that has ever lived. You may have heard the phrase often quoted by birth advocates: “Peace on earth begins with birth.” I absolutely believe this is true. And Satan knows it too, which is why he has worked so hard to disempower women in their life-giving journeys from the very beginning of their journeys. If he can throw a wrench in a mother’s views about her body, about her own strength, her connection to her baby, her faith in her intuition from the very beginning, he’s gone a long way toward accomplishing his efforts to weaken families. But if we can strengthen a mother from the very beginning, if we can lift her and support her and help her discover her own power and intuition, we have made huge strides toward weakening Satan’s influence over that particular family. The Gift of Giving Life can strengthen the mothers of Zion, and the mothers of Zion will help usher in a millenia of peace. This army of peace is being unleashed upon the earth even as we speak, and it is growing. So exciting! If you haven’t read our book yet, we hope you will!

Do you have some other Zion-focused book recommendations?

Please share in the comments! 

Healing Prebirth Wounds

January 15, 2014 in Abortion, Atonement, Dads, Energy Healing, Jesus Christ, Lani, meditation, Miracles, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Prenatal influences, Savior

 

“I have come to know that faith is a real power, not just an expression of belief. There are few things more powerful than the faithful prayers of a righteous mother.” –Boyd K. Packer

Back in October, I wrote about discovering that my youngest daughter had come to this earth carrying wounds from a previous womb experience. She had been aborted by another mother. As I explained in my previous post, my daughter spent much of her toddlerhood in a state of distress, anger, sadness, and angst. Once I understood why, I felt compelled to do whatever I could to help her heal.

In June of 2013, I attended a meditation retreat taught by Felice. While there, I learned the meditation “Ra Ma Da Sa” for the first time. I learned that this particular meditation is a powerful healing prayer. We sang Ra Ma Da Sa at the retreat, and it was so beautiful that it penetrated every inch of my body and sent my spirit soaring.

The complete mantra is “Ra ma da sa sa say so hung.” It means sun, moon, earth, infinity, totality of infinity, I am Thou. Or, as I like to say, it’s basically a very condensed version of D&C 88:7-13:

This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God.

All healing comes from Christ, and His light infuses and gives life to everyone and every thing in the universe.

After returning home after our summer trip to UT, I decided that I wanted to sing/chant “Ra Ma Da Sa” every morning for 40 days with the intention of helping my daughter heal from her prebirth wounds. So I did. And it was life-changing.

Before I tell you more, I want to also explain some more background. I learned when my daughter was born that she was likely originally sharing my womb with a twin. Since then, I have received line upon line more and more information about her twin, my unborn son. I feel he is a powerful healer-soul, his name is Elijah, and he very much wants to come to our family, in part because he is very close with my daughter and his presence will help her (and me).

Four days into my 40 days of “Ra Ma Da Sa” I had a powerful “vision” type of experience while meditating. It was early in the morning and my daughter was still asleep. As I chanted on her behalf, I envisioned where she was and sent my love to her. Then I saw (in my mind) my unborn son, Elijah, appear at her side. He laid down by her. And then, suddenly, it was like her spirit was in pieces floating around her body. Elijah started gathering all the pieces of her spirit in the palm of his hand.

A few moments later, the Savior appeared at the foot of the bed. And Elijah handed all the pieces of her spirit to Christ. In the palms of Christ’s hands, the pieces fused together in white light. Elijah gathered more and more pieces and continued handing them to Christ, and in His hands they continued to glow and combine.

At the end of the meditation, I kept feeling the urge to cup my hands to receive her glowing spirit. Finally I did. I held her re-combined spirit in my palms. Then I put my hands to my chest and put her spirit into my heart. I told her, “You can be whole now, Baby.” And I filled my heart with love for her. Then I moved my hands from my chest, outstretched in front of me and set her free. It was amazing.

The next day, my daughter was awake while I meditated. When I started “Ra Ma Da Sa,” she sat on my lap and grabbed my arms to wrap them around her. So I sat chanting with my arms around her until she got up. A little bit later she came back in with her baby doll. At first she pushed her doll toward me and put its arms around my neck. Then she sat down in my lap with the baby on her lap and told me to hold the baby. So I continued chanting with my hands holding her arms and both of our arms around the baby. At that moment it seemed so clear that she was presenting the baby doll as her inner child—the spirit who had experienced prenatal and premortal traumas. And we were cradling that part of her in our arms while I prayed for her in song. It was only one of many beautiful, tender moments we shared during those 40 days.

There were many days, however, when my daughter’s behavior seemed to be getting worse. Her anger, neediness, screaming, and obvious emotional pain weighed heavily on me, and I wondered, If this meditation is supposed to be helping her then why does she seem worse than ever? But I carried on, hoping things would settle down eventually. Sometimes the process of healing stirs up subconscious resistance.

For 40 days I prayed in song for my daughter’s healing. And slowly, bit by bit, it came. Gradually, her energy shifted. The angst that had been so much a part of her presence dissolved little by little until it was just gone. She was, quite literally, a new child. But it wasn’t just her. We were all new. She opened herself up to connect with her father in a way she hadn’t ever done before. And simultaneously, my husband felt an intense love for our daughter, unlike anything he had felt for her before. It brought him nearly to tears when he told me about it, and he doesn’t cry.

Once freed from her pain, we watched my daughter soar. While she hadn’t been very verbal before, she suddenly began speaking in sentences. She blossomed socially, becoming a much more chatty and talkative companion. Where I used to feel weighed down by the pain radiating from her, I now could feel her peace and joy. Extended family members who visited couldn’t believe the change in her. She was free!

Another mother who is raising a former-castaway asked me last year:

When I discovered that my daughter had been aborted, it made sense to me why she is the way she is and the love I needed to show her. But I was thinking, why would her soul need healing if she was in heaven in Christ’s presence? Wouldn’t you think being in his presence would heal those wounds?

Her question led to lots of pondering and seeking. The answer that came to me, was this…

In many near-death experience accounts, we see that individuals are often given a choice of whether to return to their bodies or remain in heaven. I believe this emphasis on freedom of choice is a universal principle in God’s plan. As I pondered the aborted children waiting in heaven, the impression that came to me was that some of them are completely healed by Divine Love. But I felt impressed that it was all governed by choice. Some of those children choose to receive complete healing of their previous womb trauma. Their pain and sadness are completely swept away.

IMG_6114However, I believe the aborted are also given another option: to retain a portion of their memory of the experience and their pain upon returning to Earth. I feel that some of these children accept a mission to bring to light the reality of their existence and the truth about the trauma experienced by the aborted. They retain their “scars” just as Christ chose to retain His scars… as a testament to the world. They take up this bitter cup in order to share their truth so that future souls can perhaps be saved the anguish they have suffered.

When all of these impressions washed over me, I was in awe of these courageous souls. I began to weep as I looked down at my own daughter, recognizing the immense greatness of her soul, willing to carry such a painful burden so that others might know the truth. What strength! What love!

What a privilege to have been chosen to bear her, love her, and play a small part in helping her heal. I pray her experience and mine will aid others in their own paths to healing.

If you’d like to learn more about the “Ra Ma Da Sa” meditation

and try it yourself, see Felice’s post HERE.

A Glimpse of Heaven

November 6, 2013 in Adoption, Angels, Attachment, Book reviews, Depression, Holy Ghost, Intuition, Lani, Miracles, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Zion

Glimpse_of_Heaven_Joanna_Oblander_coverBack in the summer of 2012, when I had pretty much hit rock bottom emotionally, I received a review copy of A Glimpse of Heaven by JoAnna Oblander in the mail. She and her publisher had contacted me a few weeks before asking if I would be willing to review the book on this blog. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. There I was, struggling to retain my will to live, and I opened up the book to read this on the very first page:

“At day’s end I sat on my bed overcome with convulsive tears. My will to live had been obliterated. . . . Holding onto life had proven itself too hard. . . . My emotional avalanche had battered me so severely that I was unwilling to consider giving life another chance. . . . I was done.”

As JoAnna drifted off to sleep, fully intending it to be her last night on earth, an angel appeared, pulled her spirit from her body, and took her to view heaven, more specifically her pre-mortal preparatory experiences and commitments. After all she saw and felt, she knew she could no longer follow through with her suicide. She would choose to keep fighting for her life. As she describes later in the book, “I, like all of God’s children, was a wreck worth salvaging” (p. 79).

At the time, I wasn’t reading or writing much at all. But JoAnna’s story pulled me in. She had been where I was. She had inhabited those awful depths of despair. And she had lived to tell of a better day. Perhaps I would too. Though I was initially drawn into JoAnna’s story, and despite the book being very short, it has taken me over a year to finally finish A Glimpse of Heaven and feel ready to post this review.

A Glimpse of Heaven covers more than just JoAnna’s brief visit to heaven. It also contains other powerful spiritual experiences, including several pre-birth experiences with her soon-to-be children. If you’ve been following me for awhile you know that I adore pre-birth experiences. So I loved reading about JoAnna’s.

One of the things that struck me as I read the book was just how much JoAnna and I have in common. It was so validating to read about her search to find the son she had been told through the voice of the Spirit to find. In the years she spent searching, she was given more and more information through personal revelation about this son, including his name and the name of the young girl she would find him with. I myself have also been given specific details about a son I have yet to bear. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if I’m making it all up, but at the same time the things I have been taught through the Spirit about my son feel very much real. The connection I feel to him is real. Reading JoAnna’s specific spiritual guidance about her future son felt like another witness from God that I’m not crazy. Mothers really can be given specific details about the children who will be coming to their families.

Another piece of JoAnna’s journey that struck me was her family’s struggle with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Here’s a brief summary of the condition:

“Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships” (Source).

After adopting two orphans from Russia, JoAnna’s family learned first-hand what RAD was and how painful it can be for those who are dealing with it. Many children who have experienced neglect and/or abandonment in their infancy or early childhood later struggle with RAD. Joanna’s adopted children were among them. She said:

“If there is one lesson I have walked away with after having lived with children with RAD, it is that we must make sure that the infants and toddlers of our world receive the love and nurturing they need. Our children are priceless, and we must not take our responsibility for them lightly” (p. 75).

It breaks my heart to think of all the children out there in the world who do not have loving caregivers. Mothers have so much power! Loving mothers are key to the normal development of children’s brains. Zion, the pure in heart, will never be built without loving mothers to protect those pure hearts in their infancy. We are literally molding the future of humanity. That is no small thing.

I’m grateful A Glimpse of Heaven appeared in my life when it did. Though I found the structure and organization of the book somewhat scattered, it has many treasures to enjoy in its 111 pages. It would appeal to women struggling with depression, women waiting for future children, women seeking to adopt, those with chronic health difficulties seeking relief, and those who enjoy near-death experience accounts. You can read more about JoAnna and A Glimpse of Heaven on her website HERE.