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Blog Segullah has been fortunate to have some excellent posts by Guest Authors.

Father’s Day Non-Scents

Teresa with her late husband and his last bottle of after shave.

Teresa with her late husband and his last bottle of after shave.

Freelance editor Teresa Bruce enjoys sniffing out and writing stories ranging from spiritual to silly to sinister. In spare time (ha!) she gardens in her chemical-free Florida backyard that feeds more uninvited critters than people. She’s proudest of raising three dynamic daughters—and a pillow-stealing rescue dog. From experiences of young widowhood she shares “What to Say When Someone Dies” at TealAshes.com.

Last week I stalked a middle-aged man up and down the Publix aisles. I didn’t know him, and (I hope) he didn’t know me, but I hastened nose-first into his wake. He smelled delicious—better than the still-steaming bakery rolls at the entrance or the sizzling deli chicken at the back. I wanted to step into that scent, to ask him what it was called, to put my face near his and—inhale!

The roots of this most recent supermarket stalk-a-thon sprouted when I was young. Every Father’s Day and Christmas, Great-Aunt Ginny gave the men in our family a brand new bottle of Old Spice. It became the aroma of Granddaddy on his way to and from selling furniture and of Dad going to and—even better—coming from church. I’d choke at the stench of kinswomen’s hairspray, but Old Spice was the scent of security. It wafted from the most important men in my childhood. Continue reading

A Joy and A Chore

Megan Goates is a Salt Lake City native with degrees in English, teaching, and writing. She blogs as a form of therapy at tooursurvival.com about raising boys. Two of her four sons have special needs; four of the four have lots of opinions. She likes it that way.

photoThat September morning, piles of dirty carpet and crumbling carpet pad overwhelmed my house. The combination of exposed tack strips and little bare feet turned the dreamy event of getting new flooring into kind of a nightmare.

As we watched for the bus and I kept my mentally disabled nine-year-old son Jack from menacing the tools which littered the floor, the carpet installer watched Jack with curiosity. He nodded and told him hello, then asked where he went to school.

After Jack left on his bus, the carpet man went to his truck and returned with a laminated obituary of a woman with special needs who had passed away a couple of years ago in her early fifties.

“That’s my little sister,” he said.

The high points of this woman’s life were written by someone who knew her well. Some of my favorite parts: she liked Big Red gum, Pepsi, eating out, singing duets with her brother (our carpet guy), and shopping at the dollar store. She had more friends than anyone else in her family and always had to have two dollars in her purse.

Her personality shone from the laminated newsprint.

Later, my toddler and I left for a walk and I considered the carpet man’s sister and her list of simple pleasures.

When we passed the school where the sixth-graders were wrapping up recess, I casually tried to spot my kid in the sea of navy and red polo shirts. I wanted a peek of my eldest in his element. Just before I rounded the bend in the path, half of the sixth grade spotted and recognized me, yelling, “Hi Henry’s mom!” Henry gave me a wave and a “Hi Mom!”

I decided that moment was worthy of a laminated obituary. My simple pleasure: being known as my kid’s mom by a happy crowd of sixth graders.

Before the walk and my celebrity moment by the school, when I finished reading the obituary of a woman I didn’t know, I thanked the carpet man for sharing it with me and handed it back to him.

You know.”  he said. “You understand.  She was a joy…….and a chore.”

At this statement my mind raced through myriad images of my family’s life, like the shuffling of a deck of cards.

I saw myself holding my redheaded baby as a geneticist diagnosed him with a rare syndrome.

I imagined every time a Code Brown covered the carpet, walls, and furniture and squashed my will to live.

I remembered feeling like I lived at Primary Children’s Hospital and at Early Intervention, or at least on the freeway which ran between them.

I recalled kneeling helplessly beside Jack’s toddler bed as he cried, listening when the Spirit whispered “Jack is a child of God.”

I pictured the after-bath miracle when three-year-old Jack, who had never before mimicked things we tried to teach him, imitated my husband opening and closing his mouth, saying “ah” to his hooded-towel clad reflection in the mirror.

I grimaced at the memory of ten years of difficult Sundays with Jack kicking me in the church foyer, screaming during the sacrament, and having no place to fit in during the two long remaining hours.

I tasted the sweetness of the evening two Christmases ago when my family sat together on the couch through an entire viewing of Fantastic Mr. Fox without a single person freaking out.

I swelled with emotion remembering when the bishop asked me at Jack’s eight-year-old interview if I believed Jack knows his Savior, and deeply knowing that he does, even though he can’t say it.

I recalled the recent day when my boys and I walked the long gray windowless hallway leading to the university behavioral health clinic, and I realized that place no longer holds any power over me. Victory and acceptance have replaced anxiety and despair.

I felt the lightness that accompanied a dream I had where a neighbor leaned over and whispered to me at church, “You don’t need to worry what people think about the challenges you have raising your children. You’re doing a good job,” and knowing it was actually God saying it to me.

On that September morning, my mind fanned through the everyday images of parenting a joy and a chore. I solemnly nodded at this knowing man stapling carpet to our stairs, who in five words summarized the essence of my life.

What things in your life are ‘a joy and a chore’?  Also, like “Big Red Gum,” and “being called my kid’s mom”, what are your simple pleasures?  How do life’s simple pleasures make the difficult parts more tolerable?

 

Thinking about GOOD ENOUGH

Today’s Guest Post is by Lauren Elkins, who is surrounded by computer programmers by day and two handsome men (her son and husband) by nights and weekends. She writes on her personal blog, The Sciolist, so that her Mother-in-law in Texas can keep up with their lives in Salt Lake City. 

Good EnoughGood enough.

When you hear that phrase, what do you think of?

“He’s not good enough for her”?

“I’m not good enough at my job”?

“My dirty house isn’t good enough”?

My friend, Megan, shared a link to an article on Facebook the other day: Blessed in weakness: a good enough mother.

This phrase, this good enough, is something I have used often. It all started when I was in a singles ward and the Bishop rounded us up for a Relief Society lesson on dating. Those are the best, right? The nice Bishop, who’s been married since he was 21 and has 9 kids, all happily married, corrals all of the awkward single women in his ward in their regular meeting place to tell them how important marriage is and how amazing his wife is.

Turns out, this Bishop was different.

This Bishop did an excellent job. It stuck. At least with me, it did. The heart of his message was to be looking for good enough. I guess he’d sat down with enough young women who couldn’t find Mr. Right, or were turning down dates with Mr. Not-Right-Enough. Their lists were too long, too demanding, and too unrealistic. Continue reading

Not Just Good, But True

Juliana Wallace lives among the cornfields of central Illinois, working for a nonprofit, raising her two children still left at home and writing not nearly as often as she should. In between chapters of her current project, she blogs at http://skippingpastcornfields.blogspot.com
We are delighted to have her as a guest blogger here at Segullah.
 

pathI belong to a church that claims to be the true church of Jesus Christ, restored by God Himself in modern times. This is a bold claim, to be sure, a sometimes unpopular claim in Christian circles. In a religious environment where the trend favors an “all paths lead to God” philosophy, the notion of a single path seems exclusive, restrictive.

Recently, I broke my usual rule of avoiding blogs that blast the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). I find such blogs and the accompanying comments divisive, contentious and frankly painful to read. However, someone I respect posted a link to a blog, and I took the bait. At the end of the essay, I found a comment that has caused me to ponder. Presumably defending the LDS (or Mormon) faith, the commenter wrote the following:

“I think a very large problem people have is judging a religion by trying to determine if it is “true.” It’s just not what religion is about. Good inclusive and loving religion is about goodness, not about truth. It’s easy to disprove any religion technically – or any other superstition. Rejecting Mormonism by finding it untrue is silly. Judge it for its goodness. No religion is “true.” Religions vary a great deal in how good they are, and Mormonism is one of the very best.”

Religion isn’t about truth? Really? If religion isn’t about truth, then what, exactly, is the purpose of religion? I can join a club or a social movement if I need an organization to help me to do good, effect positive change in the world. But I want something more powerful than that. I want the power that comes with having faith in something absolutely unshakeable, something greater than the universe, something beyond human control. I want truth.

I realize, in my quest for truth, that I will have to sacrifice to obtain it. I may have to sacrifice the comfort of personal habit or public opinion. I expect to work and find myself pushed to my limits occasionally, because I have never had a truly amazing moment of clarity and beauty that came without sweat or tears. In fact, the LDS prophet Joseph Smith once taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”

While Joseph Smith may not resonate with everyone, the concept that the worthwhile things of life require sacrifice certainly seems to resonate with people of all cultures and persuasions. Interestingly, as our modern culture moves away from organized religion, we seem to create our own sacrifices to replace those formerly imposed by the religions we shun. Record numbers of athletes run marathons and ultra marathons each year. Fitness enthusiasts from teenagers to grandmothers groan under the strain of a daily crossfit workout. We eat bitter kale and forego gluten and sugar and meat (which makes the WholeFoods skit by Studio C particularly hilarious). We sacrifice our families and our joy to devote most of our waking hours to our careers. We search and search and search…for truth, though we may phrase it differently.

So I will be bold and declare my search for absolute truth. I believe I have found the avenue (or perhaps the container) for that truth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, not because the LDS church sets itself apart and closes its doors against the tenets of other faiths or the discoveries of science or academia, but precisely because the gospel encompasses and accepts all truth. The grandfather of LDS apostle Henry B. Eyring once told his son, “…in this church you don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true. You go over to the University of Arizona and learn everything you can, and whatever is true is part of the gospel.” I have always loved that quote and have let it inform my life.

Another concept that I find critical in my search for truth and God is the notion that truth comes to me when I act, whether that action involves serving others, enduring with grace or wrestling through to the solution of a spiritual conundrum. Eugene England, an LDS intellectual, once wrote an essay called “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel,” an essay that has proved pivotal for me in how I approach my religious life.

In the essay, Mr. England points out that “the (LDS) Church is as ‘true,’ as effective, as sure an instrument of salvation as the system of doctrines we call the gospel-and that that is so in good part because of the very flaws, human exasperations, and historical problems that occasionally give us all some anguish.” We all experience the frustrations of imperfect leaders, doctrines that may clash with our comfortable existence or with each other, or opportunities to serve with those who may drive us to the point of insanity with their habits or prejudices. But as we seek divine guidance in working through these exasperations, and as we act rather than grumble (or even act while grumbling, sometimes), we eventually push through to astonishing vistas of truth that we could not have understood without the struggle. We come to know Jesus Christ by walking in His footsteps for a time.

Yes, religion should be loving and inclusive, should inspire goodness in the community it serves. And if a religion is to truly save souls and offer the riches of eternity, it should also be true.

What does religion mean to you? If you follow an organized religion (LDS or otherwise), why do you stay actively involved? How have you come to find truth? What activities or process led you to recognize truth?

Be Still

quiet-600x400Sherilyn appreciates stories in all forms, and is especially interested in how art reflects culture. She harbors an irrational fear of sharks and lives with her husband and four children in the beautiful, ocean-free community of South Ogden, Utah. She feels energized by people (especially teenagers) and dreads writing bios.

I’m a talker by nature and profession, and for a week I was entirely without a voice. I thought I had escaped the infections that manifested in my family members as nasty head colds, pink eye, and bronchitis, yet just as their coughing quieted and eyes brightened, my throat erupted in a fire all its own. Within hours, my volume dwindled to mute. The forced silence left me floundering at first. Continue reading