I wrote this song for my daughter’s baptism and I thought I would share:
Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Alma 32:21)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
There are certain things that I do know. I know that there is a God. I know that the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ has worked miracles in my life. I know the Book of Mormon brings me joy. But there are a lot of things that I don’t know. I don’t understand all the answers and I can’t answer all the questions.
But if I did have all the answers, then I wouldn’t have faith. If I knew everything perfectly, I wouldn’t need faith.
And I like faith. Because I am not capable of understanding everything right now. I can know some things, but not everything. And faith means I don’t have to know everything right now. I don’t have to have it figured out.
Faith means that there is hope in dark places. Faith means that there is more to life than I understand. Faith means that there is help and happiness ahead. Faith means that there can be unexpected miracles that bring joy.
I can have faith. I can’t have all the answers. But I can have faith.
Information is so easily available that we can basically find whatever information we want. Some of it is incredibly useful, but some of it is also inaccurate and even destructive.
When I teach my kids in school, we don’t combine religion with other subjects. I teach science from a completely scientific perspective. We watch lots of videos about evolution because my kids like animals. I also teach creation, but I teach it separately.
Religion for me is a matter of faith, and I approach it very differently than I do any other area of study. Even when I try to be intellectual about it, I don’t care very much about proof. Faith is faith, and faith is good when it brings me joy and blessings.
There are a lot of questions in the world and there are a lot of evidences for one thing or another. What we think and believe changes, and it can change really rapidly. So we almost completely rely on other authority for what we know. We often believe things that are completely false because it’s our instinct to immediately believe something. We’re not very good at being skeptical and really figure out what is true and not. Either we believe everything or we believe nothing. Knowledge and truth can seem slippery and confusing.
But I do believe in truth. And I believe in can be found in a lot of places.
I don’t think truth is intellectual. Sometimes the most important things are our own experiences and our own feelings. And while truth is not relative, our own experience and viewpoint is relative.
Truth may not always seem consistent because we don’t fully understand something yet. And I think truth can be more complicated (and a lot simpler) than we want it to be. It’s not always a matter of true or false. Sometimes it’s both at the same time and exists in probability instead of yes or no. Sometimes we see contradictions where both sides are right.
Sometimes we are asking the wrong questions, so there is no answer to the question. And if knowledge is a puzzle, then sometimes we are using the pieces to build the wrong puzzle, which is why we might find holes and unsolvable problems.
We just can’t understand everything. And that’s okay. I don’t understand it, but I’m going to keep living anyway.
I love learning in lots of different ways. But in all the complications and theories, my favorite sort of truth is something that I can’t really express and I don’t even know if I fully understand it.
The greatest joy I have found is in my family, in my church, and in trying to love and do good to others. I don’t always understand everything about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I do know that it has brought me direction in my life, purpose, hope, and happiness.
I love going to church and reading the scriptures. Whenever I wake up and read scriptures first thing in the morning, I have better days. When I pray and try to follow the promptings I receive, amazing things happen.
And that’s truth right there. I make mistakes and I’m wrong. I have questions and I don’t understand. But I don’t need proof, because I have hope and I have happiness, and that’s enough.
My life necessitates that we aren’t really that busy. We have to spend a lot of time together as a family. Sometimes we moan and groan and complain about it a little bit, but we also laugh a lot and really enjoy quite a bit of the time we have.
I know that a lot of people get really busy and they have a lot going on. I have used that excuse, but it’s usually not very accurate. Yes, I am busy sometimes. I may have a lot on my to-do list. Or I might have lots of places to go and do things. But it never lasts that way for a long time.
I hope that as my kids get older and our life changes, that we don’t get too busy to do the really important things. Sometimes family time doesn’t seem that urgent, but it is. The best moments are not always on the schedule or show up on any list. They exist when you are paying attention and you see the people in front of you.
I know that there are enough activities and busyness in the world to fill up several lifetimes. But I still want time so that I can wash the dishes with a kid next to me, play the piano while they fall asleep, read my kids a story, teach them something new, and listen and be there without having to rush somewhere else. I need those moments.
And when I am busy, when there is so much to do, I have found that I can include my kids. I once stuck my computer screen onto the TV so the kids could see what I was doing. I’ve talked to my kids about my plans and what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m happiest when I include them in doing things, even if it takes some effort from me. We can love and support each other when we are busy, so that we aren’t busy alone.
I don’t want to be caught up in filling up our lives so that we don’t have time with each other anymore. Relationships are always more important than accomplishments.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made quite a few changes lately. I will try to list most of them. Sometimes it seems like a lot, but changes always happen. It has been accelerated, but I think part of it is that these changes all work together.
- Church on Sundays was shortened to two hours.
- We now have a home-based curriculum, Come Follow Me, and lessons in Sunday school, seminary, primary, and youth organizations relate to that curriculum.
- Visiting and home teaching were changed to ministering.
- High priest groups and elder’s quorum were combined into one elder’s quorum. Relief society and Elder’s quorum now have increased responsibilities in order for the bishop to lead youth.
- The young men’s presidency was discontinued. The young women have a new theme with increased class flexibility.
- Children and youth change classes in January and young men can be ordained in January instead of waiting for their birthday.
- Youth and children activities were changed to a worldwide program that is home-centered and church supported, that is more flexible.
- There were some changes in the temple, including making it a bit shorter.
- Temple recommend questions were revised and published.
- Many, many temples were announced.
- Women and youth can now witness ordinances.
- Increased emphasis on the church name.
- Missionaries can have increased communication with their families. Sister missionaries can wear pants and missionaries get their calls online.
- Most church pageants were discontinued.
- There were changes to policies regarding the children of LGBT parents.
- Book of Mormon videos were made.
- A new history of the church was started and published.
- There will be revisions to the hymn book and children’s songbook.
I have been nervous sometimes about any upcoming changes. Sometimes change can be hard. I’ve had weird dreams sometimes when something happens in the church and it isn’t right and I just feel weird and sick inside. And then I wake up and I’m glad it’s a dream.
But these changes haven’t been hard at all. They have been wonderful and exciting. They’ve enabled me and my family to come closer to Jesus Christ and learn together. It’s allowed more unity and more flexibility. I feel so happy when I think of them, and it makes me rejoice a little bit inside.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a change at all, more like things are settling and evolving into what I always thought they would be. I was doing ministering before it was called ministering. I had increased my gospel instruction in the home before Come Follow Me. I even had two-hour church for a while when a church building was being renovated.
The Lord prepares us so that when things change, we are ready, and the changes don’t seem that big at all. Even in my own personal life, as I have gone through some changes, when I rely on the Lord, nothing is too hard or too jolting and everything just settles into place exactly as it should.
I love that feeling of being able to start to see the big picture instead of individual puzzle pieces. Things just feel right inside–I feel peace and joy.
It’s been an exciting time. I can’t wait for what is to come and I know that I don’t have to be afraid. I can trust in the Lord.
Sometimes we accept the worst solution because we can’t have the best. But the better thing is available and right in front of us.
- You decline $40,000 because you can’t have $80,000.
- Because you can’t save $20, you end up spending $30.
- You might stay up too late, and instead of going to bed, you stay up even later.
- You might be hungry, and instead of eating something adequate, you stay hungry.
- You refuse to eat a chocolate chip cookie because you really wanted ice cream.
- You might need to exercise, but because you don’t have time for a two-mile jog, you do nothing.
- Because you can’t solve a complete problem, you don’t solve any part of it.
- Because you can’t get an A, you might fail a class instead of getting a C.
- You don’t write anything instead of writing something that’s not quite right yet.
- You don’t help someone because you’re afraid that you can’t do enough.
- Or in an attempt to find the perfect place to live, you end up miserable living where you are at.
Just do the better thing in the first place instead of waiting for something perfect to come along.
And sometimes when you go forward with what is good enough, then the best option becomes available.
Recently, I’ve been learning how to laugh at myself and my life.
A few weeks ago, I hit a deer. While on a deer hunt. In a new-to-us minivan that we had literally just replaced the brakes and tires in a few days before. It was so completely unfortunate that I found it hilarious.
A lot of misfortunates are just sort of funny.
The populations of the towns I live in have been decreasing for a while. We lived in a town of 5,000 people. And then in a town of 200 people. And right now I don’t even live in a town at all. If you discount temporary and seasonal residents, then there is a population of about ten where we live, and my family is six of that.
A few years ago, on my daughter’s birthday, I took a wrong turn and ended up driving an hour in the wrong direction, adding two hours to our trip. I will probably never mess up a birthday quite as badly as that. Only up from there.
Sometimes it’s good to laugh instead of worry. Laugh when you have no idea what you’re doing. Laugh when you fall over. Laugh when you are sick. Laugh when you accidentally ruin things. Laugh when you get lost. Laugh at your ineptitude. Laugh when you are afraid. Laugh when you’re confused.
My kids have had the weirdest journey through schooling. My daughter had seven kids in her kindergarten class and about 14 in her first grade class. She went to three months of second grade in public school. She is currently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and she will finish two weeks after starting it. I go to the library and she gets ten or more books, and in a few days, she’s read them all.
My son has gone to three months of half-day kindergarten and some preschool. He reads small chapter books now. He is learning third grade math, and he basically has a calculator in his brain.
And I thought that I wasn’t good at homeschooling. My kids love worksheets (they do them for fun sometimes). I got them handwriting books to improve their handwriting, and they not only finished them, but they keep asking me to get new ones. They engage in their own science experiments. They read and read and read. They love puzzle books. They explore outside, make lists, and ask really good questions. The fact that I thought I wasn’t very good at homeschool is sort of hilarious because my kids have learned so much.
And I’m currently enrolled in public school (online college classes) while I homeschool my kids, which is also sort of funny.
I can worry about things and feel guilty and cry. Or sometimes I can just laugh.
The other night, I wanted to sleep well, so at 1:30 in the morning, I tried to find my daughter’s special blanket so that she would stop waking up. Well, it took me over a half hour to find it, and then she kept waking up anyway, and I ended up losing quite a bit of sleep. Because I wanted to sleep well in the first place. It would have been better if I would have done nothing.
I am reminded of this quote:
I remember loading up our children in a station wagon and driving to Los Angeles. There were at least nine of us in the car, and we would invariably get lost. Instead of getting angry, we laughed. Every time we made a wrong turn, we laughed harder.
Getting lost was not an unusual occurrence for us. Once while heading south to Cedar City, Utah, we took a wrong turn and didn’t realize it until two hours later when we saw the “Welcome to Nevada” signs. We didn’t get angry. We laughed, and as a result, anger and resentment rarely resulted. Our laughter created cherished memories for us. (from “Come What May and Love it” by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.)
Instead of being annoyed at my husband, I can usually laugh instead. I can laugh when ever I accuse someone of being cranky, because that inevitably means that I’m the cranky one. I can laugh instead of fight, laugh instead of blame, laugh instead of wallow in my misery.
Life is messy and chaotic and unexpected and it’s good to just laugh at the absurdity of it all sometimes.
Have you ever said that you were sorry when you didn’t actually do anything wrong?
I have. Sometimes I find myself constantly apologize for myself, as if I was a constant inconvenience and never doing as well I need to.
Apologizing can be necessary and a really good thing to do. Saying I’m sorry when I have hurt someone is meaningful. But have said it too much, to the point where my existence almost became an apology. But I don’t have to apologize for existing, or for having weaknesses, or for never always doing everything quite right.
I’ve heard from a few different places that you can substitute “I’m sorry” for “Thank you.” We say things like this: I’m sorry I’m late. I’m sorry for not doing better. I’m sorry for not getting it done. I’m sorry that I talk so much. I’m sorry for having emotions. I’m sorry I’m not perfect. But we can say this instead: Thank you for waiting for me. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for spending time with me.
When we are always apologizing, we just end up sticking shame on ourselves and clinging on to unrealistic expectations. It makes other people feel incredibly uncomfortable sometimes, because they often want to help and be with you and they don’t mind the inconvenience because they like you.
Sometimes apologizing is simply a reflection of our own insecurities.
I have been trying really hard lately to let go of unnecessary guilt just like I’m letting go of unnecessary apologies. They are the same thing, really. We can’t ever change what happened, but we can know that change is possible now and in the future.
So I have to let go of what happened and look forward to doing better. I am so glad I get to keep trying. There is so much hope in the world.
I’m not going to apologize for not being perfect, because no one is. But I can be grateful that I can keep trying. I’m grateful for hope. I’m grateful for letting go of expectations and knowing that I am worthwhile and being okay with myself while still striving to improve.
The first year of homeschooling was difficult for me. It did not always go well. We had some amazing days, but at the end of it, I just felt like a failure. (I wasn’t a failure, though. My sister challenged me about why I felt I had failed, and I had to reframe it in my mind. Failure is just a framing device anyway, a way of labeling what happened even when the label doesn’t fit.)
We had some good moments and my kids were actually learning, even if we lacked consistency. But I was also learning how to do it better. And I wanted to keep trying.
This year, I’ve been trying to completely eliminate that failure label. We won’t fail at homeschool. We’re going to keep trying through rough days. I’m going to keep adjusting expectations, changing things up, and becoming better.
I feel like I do a really good job some days. I love learning, and that filters down to my kids. They read so many books. Their handwriting has improved. Their spelling has somewhat improved.
I’m also improved at being a teacher. I had no idea what I was doing at first, and I’ve practiced and I’ve made mistakes and I’ve persevered even when I didn’t want to. There was a lot of complaining and I still don’t want to do this long term.
But I’m glad I kept trying. I was not that good at being a homeschool mom. But now I do okay. Progress can be slow and seem impossible, but it does happen.
I read a few articles lately about people leaving their 9-to-5 jobs in order to live the life of their dreams. And it sounds like a good story. It makes me question for a minute: would I be happy if we were financially independent and self-employed in some creative task?
I think the answer is no. I enjoy having my husband’s predictable income, sending him to work five days a week, and having the safety of good benefits.
Some people like to take risks, but I don’t enjoy it much. I’m not afraid of it and I’m not limiting myself through my fear; I just prefer stability. It’s like when I go to a theme park and I feel pressured to ride the intense ride. Sometimes I do. And it’s okay, but I don’t enjoy it enough to actually pay money to go get motion sick.
I always wanted to be a writer, but in my adult life, I realized that I despise promoting myself. Which means that I would also hate being a successful writer.
I get caught up in what other people think is successful. It might be nice to go to nice schools and get high-paying jobs. It might be nice to travel all over the world. It might be nice to get a homestead and work from home. But just because someone else loves their life doesn’t mean I would love their life.
I have to be careful: I asked myself the other day if I wanted to pursue graduate school because I actually wanted to be in that environment or because I felt it would be prestigious. Did I want to tell other people I had a specific degree, or did I really want to actually get that degree?
I really enjoyed working as a legal secretary, even though it was a low-paying job that didn’t require many qualifications. I have to look at myself and what I want to do instead of just copying someone else’s success.
Being true to yourself sometimes that means abandoning dreams. Sometimes that means being completely normal and boring and eating vanilla ice cream because you like vanilla.
There are things that I know about myself: Money does not motivate me. I never want to be famous. I don’t enjoy taking huge risks. I like working on computers. I like spreadsheets and math and paperwork. I like being told what to do. I like teaching and I like creating as well.
Ultimately, I want to live in a way that helps other people in small and simple ways.
If that means my life is boring, then I’ll live a boring life.