My January 2016

I sat and waited by myself. For the first time, I started to think of ‘what if’ and for the first time I started to worry just a little bit.

It started a couple months earlier while I was at my doctor’s office for my annual visit.

“You’re 42?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied with a sigh. I knew what was coming because we had the same conversation a year earlier.

“Have you had your mammogram yet?”

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Three Gifts for a Princess

I like a good Disney movie. Some are better than others. My taste runs in the more contemporary circle. For me, the older “classics” produce the response akin to running fingers down a chalkboard. Not pleasant and I try to avoid watching them. My sister, MZ, likes Sleeping Beauty so I have watched that one more than the one time obligatory viewing to say I’ve seen it. If you remember, a young princess is born and three good fairies bestow her gifts. Two give her the gift of beauty and song. Before the third fairy can share her gift though, a curse is pronounced on the young princess. This causes the third fairy to modify her gift and make it the most practical. Let’s review this for a moment (not to ruin it for MZ), if you had a long awaited baby girl born and could give her any gift – any gift at all – what would you give her?

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Don’t mock my mountain, man

There are three things in my life I keep close to my heart. One is my family. Sure, I can make fun of them and tease them but you had better not. Two is my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And three is my home state of Wyoming (see rule for number one). Nothing turns me off faster or makes me become more defensive than someone mocking my state or hometown. Especially if that someone hails from that one state to the southwest right next to us.

My town happens to sit in a valley between two small mountains. I get tired of hearing how unimpressive our mountains are. I admit, neither one tops the double digit k range. But here are some things to think about before you turn up your nose in disdain.

There are a lot of mountain snobs amongst us. The general consensus seems to be a mountain is not a “real” mountain if it is below 10,000 feet (3048 m). That seems a bit unfair. I mean, 5280 feet is one mile (1609 m) – straight up. That’s one mile closer to heaven, after all. Both of the mountains in the vicinity of my town reach higher than that.

White Mountain runs north and south on the west side of town. It does not tower over town like the Wasatch Mountains over Salt Lake City. But, the peak does reach 7,623 ft (2,323 m). Really, that is nothing to sneeze about, mockers. The highest point is a rock formation called Pilot Butte that stretches to 7,949 ft (2,423 m) in elevation. But the thing to remember is, my town is located in the Rocky Mountains. We sit at 6,759 ft (2060 m) above sea level. So, of course an extra 800 ft is not going to look too impressive.

Aspen Mountain south of us looms to 8,657 ft (2,639 m). And Wilkins Peak reaches 7,650 ft (2,332 m). For the snobs out there, I admit, all under the 10,000 benchmark. But c’mon, still far enough up to take someone’s breath away. Literally.

To compare, Salt Lake City, Utah is only at 4,327 ft (1,320 m) above sea level. The Wasatch mountains highest peak only reaches 11,928 ft (3,636 m). Just barely over the 10,000 ft snob rule. And that’s just the highest peak.   The Oquirrh (pronounced Oaker) Mountains that run parallel on the other side of the valley only reaches 10,620 ft (3,240 m) at the highest peak. So yes, when the valley is so near sea level (not even a mile high) the mountains are going to look quite imposing.

I used Wikipedia for all my numbers. Saturday I spent the day on my mountain. She may not be as big as some, but she’s good enough for me. Enjoy the videos!


The trouble with heroes

Is it possible to be disappointed in another person? What do you say?   Has someone ever let you down? Not lived up to your expectations?

Ah, that’s just it, isn’t it?

It’s technically impossible to be disappointed in someone else. Because when someone lets you down it only means that person didn’t live up to your expectations. The person didn’t accomplish what you deemed him or her capable of accomplishing. We are let down in our assessment of the person. In our hope we have for the other person.

We are constantly assessing and judging. We judge our situation. We judge our lives. And we judge other people. We assess them and determine what they are capable of. Then, when they do not live up to our assessment we are disappointed in them. Is it any fault of theirs if they teeter off the pedestal we stuck them on?

The old man looked at the young man barely standing in front of him.  His grandson avoided his eyes and looked intently at the floor.  His posture bent and if it wasn’t for the wall behind him his grandfather was sure he would have collapsed to the floor.

The old banker licked his dry lips.  “I am disappointed in you, son,” he said slowly.

The young man forced a sick grin and for the first time made eye contact.  “Whose fault is that?  I never asked for the burden of being your grandson.”

His grandfather nodded his head.  He was there when his grandson had been born.  He watched him grow from baby to toddler to a busy child to an aloof teenager and finally to a young man.  He had been present for every life event along the way.  But for the first time, he realized he did not know the young man standing in his office.  How could he be around someone for twenty years and find out you are strangers?


Becoming confident daughters of God – the invitation

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Perhaps you see someone who could stand to lose a few pounds. Someone with imperfections that drive you crazy. Someone shorter than you’d prefer. Let me tell you a secret I have learned recently – mirrors lie. And they are kind of mean.

I could tell you not to trust a mirror. But really, is it not the eyes looking into the mirror that need the adjustment? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why are we so quick to compare our flaws with other people’s strengths? Not only is it not fair, it is dangerous. I do not think anyone will argue that point. The question is then, what do we do about it?

We can start by pointing out the positive in other people. If we are all struggling to find the beauty within – and we know mirrors are of little use for this – then helping someone see her own strength may provide assistance. It certainly cannot hurt, right? If you are like me at all, you really do not need any help in finding weaknesses. But assets? Well, that is a different story.

While I agree this first step will not hurt I also concede it will do little in the long run. It will be like trying to draw water from a well after first dumping water into it. How effective is that? Flatteries of man are fleeting if we do not have something inside ourselves ready to receive and believe them.

Is it possible to quiet the inner-critic and bolster the confidence level in us? I am not referring to sinful pride but rather a healthy pride in ourselves. To be able to say: I know I am not perfect. I know I have weaknesses. I know I will fail a lot in the things I attempt to do in this life. But that is okay. Really. I know I am here for a reason. I know I have strengths. I know I can achieve good things. I know I have potential.

This is what I have found out. An answer like that cannot and will not ever come from outside influences. Outside voices tend to be critical and delve into comparison. We look at an air-brushed model on a magazine and think, “I need to look like that. If I looked like that then I would be happy.” We may not mean to. It just happens when we are bombarded with so many images all the time. There is never any rest from the world’s ideal images.

With the deluge of outside influences we look in the mirror and think, “I do not look like so and so. I do not have so and so’s talent for doing such and such. Why am I not like so and so? How can I possibly succeed without being as good as so and so?” Ugh! What a vicious train of thought we sometimes ride. Instead, we should interrupt the looming locomotive and say, “Wait, I am not so and so. I am me. So, there must be something pretty important I need to accomplish otherwise I would be so and so.” Then maybe we could jump the tracks and head somewhere pleasant.

That brings us back to the original question – how do we go about elevating our self-esteem? Outside voices will fall flat. They just do. It never works. The voice has to come from inside. And it has to be a voice we can trust. A voice we know will always speak the truth.

I am referring to the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost. Imagine what kind of confidence well we could draw from if we allowed the Holy Ghost to speak truth to us. The truth of who we are. The truth of what we can accomplish. The truth of our potential.

This is so important that I have extended an invitation to some of the young women in my stake. But I did not stop there. I also extended it to some of the women in my life.

Here is the invitation – and feel free to join in if you would like to. I invite you to say at least one prayer a day asking to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you. For thirty days.

I warn you it is not easy. You may not want to know. You may be scared to find out. There are forces that prefer you not to accept this invitation and will try to make you forget or will convince you it will not work. Do not listen.

Heavenly Father wants you to see yourself as He does. I truly believe He wants you to find this out. He wants His daughters to be confident daughters of God who rise above temptation, fulfill their potential, and make choices to return home to Him.

I believe the only way to fill our wells is to gain this knowledge – Spirit to spirit. Once we have learned this, felt this, and been shown this, it will not matter how loud the outside voices yell. We will know who we are and why we are here.

You might ask, “But why thirty days? Why not just one prayer?”

For some of us, it will take that long to listen. For others, it will take that long to believe.

That is my invitation and it is open to all. As I always say, what happens if you choose not to accept an invitation? Absolutely nothing.

But what will happen if you choose to accept?

Sweet dreams

Occasionally I dream of my mom.  I can no longer see her face but I can feel her presence.  I simply know it’s her.  Lately, when mom does come to visit in a dream it’s with the “she’s not really gone.  She didn’t die.  She was not as sick as we thought,” theme.  I get this hope inside me.  You know, like the hope Rafiki gives to Simba about Mufasa.  Simba chases after the aged simian and the audience thinks, “Oh, I hope Mufasa is really alive!”

I wake up as disappointed as Simba when he looks at his reflection in the pool of water.  Mom is gone.

When she does make an appearance in my dreams she usually talks to the family.  Or helps us out.  We tend to keep her pretty busy.  Some things never change.

I experienced a rather stressful weekend last week.  Not bad stress just busy stress.  I kept busy from quitting time on Friday to Sunday afternoon.  At times, I felt overwhelmed.  Sometimes inadequate.  I questioned if I am really cut out to do the job asked of me.  Thankfully, I was so busy I didn’t have much time to devote to self-doubt.

By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around I felt exhausted.  I gave my best and prayed it was good enough.  That night I had a momma-dream.  This time we just hugged.  It was a long embrace that lasted until I woke up.

It was enough.

I received the strength I needed to face my week.  Yeah, I got this.

The potential inside

“She needs to toughen up,” my co-worker surmised after sharing a story about her daughter.  Apparently, her fourteen year old daughter’s feelings were hurt by a remark her friend said.  Her mother told us the remark was not that big of a deal and that her daughter is “too sensitive.”

Too sensitive.  I’m aware of that phrase.  I have poured out my soul in prayer to my Heavenly Father pleading to toughen up.

But as my co-worker described her daughter I had a new take on it.   Perhaps, and stay with my ramblings here, perhaps sensitivity should not be viewed as a character flaw.  What if sensitivity is a character strength given to a few souls to make the world a better place?  What if it’s our responsibility to bring some tenderness into this hardened place we call home?

Instead of stamping out this God given attribute, what if we are to learn how to share it?  True, we need to learn how to cope with this gift.  I can understand why the common belief is we need to toughen up.  That prevalent belief is for a sensitive’s soul own good.  Less heartache that way.  But isn’t that forcing someone born with the gift of sensitivity into someone he or she is not?  There has got to be a way to be a happy thoughtful soul who shares the gift of tenderness.

Shortly after this conversation, I went to see Disney’s Frozen.  (By the way, I recommend this movie.  The best Disney animated film I’ve seen since Tarzan)  The movie seemed to continue my train of thought.  I don’t want to be a plot spoiler so let me just sum up by saying it’s about a girl who can’t use her innate talents and is forced to hide.  She becomes somebody she was not meant to be and does not live up to her potential.

Is that what happens to most of us?  We are afraid to use our abilities or maybe we don’t understand them so we live half-lives never reaching our full potential.  We stamp out our gifts until we conform to the world’s standards.   Perhaps we feel if we don’t possess the right talents we are not good enough.  In reality, we just need to learn how to use our own gifts.

Anyone willing to weigh in on this?

Want to hear a song from Frozen sung by the character I mentioned?

The calling that saved me

There are a couple of things you need to know before you read this post.  First, I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We do not have paid clergy.  Through inspiration, members are asked to serve in various callings.  They usually serve for a few years and then are released from their calling.  And asked to serve in another calling.  It is an ongoing process.  Each member has the opportunity to develop or strengthen talents and attributes depending on his or her current calling.

That said, let me tell you about the calling that saved me.

In the spring of 2009, I was called into the Bishop’s office.  As any member of the church can tell you, the night before the appointment is usually a restless night.  For me anyway, my over-reactive imagination tends to get the better of me.

The Bishop welcomed me into his office.  I tried to play it cool but I’m sure I wore my typical worried expression on my face.  We sat down and got down to business.

I still remember thinking he made a mistake.  Young Women PresidenT?!  Surely he meant in the presidenCY!

The words of a former missionary companion came to me.  Mid-mission she was asked to switch from English speaking to Spanish speaking.  Her response, “President, did you pray about this?”  This reply, of course, is a joke because the answer is always yes.  No calling is given without much prayer and inspiration.  This is how I felt at the moment but I’m not bold enough to utter the words.  I accepted.

Growing up I had a gregarious, fun leader for a year.  Sister Jan was truly awesome.  I wanted to be just like her.  It took a year into my calling to accept the fact I am nothing like her.  One night I showed up at my brother’s house crying, “The girls don’t like me!”  He counseled me and gave me a priesthood blessing.  I did not throw in the towel but kept plugging along.

One day around Christmas time I was in Wal-mart.  “Hello Sister Lee,” I heard.  When I looked, there was one of my girls smiling at me and acknowledging me (in public).  True, this girl is a sweetheart and genuinely likes people in general but her small act gave me confidence.  I continued on.

In the spring of 2011, my family received some bad news.  My mom’s leukemia flared up again.  This started a long hard summer.  Through it all, I continued to serve.

By the fall, mom was getting worse, not better.  “Please,” I would pray at night, “don’t release me from my calling.”  I felt like I had more to give.  Mom’s health, however, kept getting worse.

My calling gave me focus and something to think about other than the inevitable that was coming for my family.  It pulled me through a very trying time.  Thankfully I had wonderful counselors who shouldered the load.  My calling gave me something I needed at the moment.  A chance to step out from my surroundings.  I continued on.

Mom passed away in early December.  Grief filled my heart and for a time I didn’t want to do anything.  I told my visiting teaching partner that I didn’t even want to go to church.  I just simply wanted to do nothing for awhile and let the grief consume me.

But I couldn’t.  I had my calling and I still didn’t want to be released.  I kept going and kept busy and did what I had to do.  Again, my calling gave me focus and direction.  ‘Worry about your girls,’ I would think to myself.  ‘Your girls need you.’  And so I continued to serve.

It may seem selfish.  I probably was for praying not to be released.  As anyone who has served in the church can tell you though, we come in with lofty goals.  We want to help others find happiness.  We want to do good things.  But in the end, it’s ourselves that tend to be the biggest benefactors of our service.  At least in my case, the more I give and try to serve, the more I’m blessed.  Blessed with knowledge, strength, and the capacity of love.

I really hope I helped somebody else along the way the past 4.5 years.  But I can’t deny the fact that this calling saved me and pulled me through the hardest trial I have ever had to go through.   During the process I also learned more about myself and found out I’m kinda an okay person.

About 5 months ago, my prayers changed.  Instead of pleading to not be released, I finally learned to say, “Whatever is best for the girls.”  I have now been given a new calling and another Young Women President will continue the work.  As I said, the process is ongoing.  But I will be forever thankful for the calling that saved me in more ways than one.