I heard the word “strive” six times at church on Sunday. The idea of striving — of trying, of struggling — is a bulwark tradition of our faith. We are an industrious bunch, like bees in a beehive (except for those worthless drones.) Some of you will recognize one of the temple recommend questions in the words Do you strive . . .? I always cringe at the question. Because I know the “right” answer is Yes. But I can’t say Yes. I say, “No. I don’t really “strive”. It’s counterproductive for me. I simply nurture my divine desires and then I surrender to God the best I can.”
There’s a deep, bitter chill, and for me there’s a thrill
In hearing the battery start.
The car engine purrs, the heater fan whirs
And thaws out my middle-aged heart.
I’m not blaming Cupid for being so stupid
To flash his wee bum in this cold. Continue reading Seasons: A Valentine to My Spouse of Many Years
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? — Matthew 5:13
The grey sky drizzled and, despite my umbrella, an hour after I’d greeted a friend for lunch, my clothes preserved dampness against my skin. I didn’t have time for this detour, but I trusted her recommendation and so sloshed my way into the adjacent shop.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The wall was covered in salt. Salt of many colors.
Salted memories. Salts of possibilities.
As newlyweds in a shoebox apartment almost three decades ago, my husband and I pinkie-swore to eat only healthy foods: no sugar, no fat, no salt. (No flavor.) We forced down weeks of unwanted leftovers neither of us wanted (even when fresh-served). Before long, we relented.
Oh, what a difference a few key ingredients made!
Still, we were on a college couple’s budget, so when recipes called for celery-, garlic-, onion-, or seasoning salts, I balked. Unable to justify their counterparts’ bottled costs, I stirred in chopped portions of the appropriate veggies and tossed in a pinch of salt from a generic cardboard cylinder.
When our kids were little, I faced a meal-maker’s dilemma. Granddaddy’s health required strict sodium limitations, but he was a proud Southern gentleman who wanted food with flavor. (Translation: Everything needed a little more salt.) It was up to me to find the wherewithal to make it savour-ful while obeying his doctor’s commandment: Thou shalt not salt.
Shopping took forever. I compared sodium content on every label.
I didn’t have time or space or energy to cook separate meals for Granddaddy and the rest of the family, so I attempted to create palatable foods everyone could
be happy put up with. So-called salt substitutes tasted awful. In those pre-Internet days, I experimented with alternate seasonings. The absence of flavor-enhancing salt screamed for the inclusion of herbs and spices, but Granddaddy had no tolerance for anything he called “spicy,” like the meekest of salsas labeled “mild.”
I dropped my firstborn off at college and dropped in on a friend from my own college days. Sitting at her kitchen table, I picked up a shaker and asked, “Did one of your kids put salt in the pepper shaker?” If not, I didn’t want to consider the source of the visible speckles.
“It’s natural salt,” she said. “It includes the extra minerals most companies process out to make it look white.”
Hmm. Hadn’t occurred to me that salt — its absence or presence — might have other health-related elements to it.
It cost more, but after following up my friend’s assertions with my own research, I bought it that way, too.
In the first months after my husband died five years ago, the flavor of food was irrelevant. If I remembered to eat, I ate. What it was or how it tasted didn’t matter. For a time, I tasted only the salt of my tears, but I stopped noticing that, too. Sometimes people asked why I was crying when I hadn’t realized I was. I knew I had a lot to live for, but life, for a time, lost its savour.
A few weeks ago, my thirty-years-ago college roommate — the woman responsible for me meeting my late husband — came to town. We ate lunch at Disney Springs (a complex owned by Walt Disney World but located outside its theme parks). It was harder getting there than I anticipated. Traffic, weather, construction, and mentally reviewing incomplete work tasks meant a stressful commute. I practiced deliberate, calming breathing (… in-two-three-four … out-two-three-four …) as I made my way to our meeting place.
The moment I saw my friend’s face (and soaked in the warmth of her hug), my morning stress slid into the rain-shedding puddle at my feet. Our meal was almost as delicious as the act of catching up in person.
Before we parted ways — she to return to her final Florida itinerary and I to return to quality time with my daughter and tending client projects at home — my friend suggested I take a few minutes for myself, by myself, to browse a few shops — just for fun. She thought I’d especially enjoy one filled with seasonings and spices.
So, convincing myself a few more minutes away from my to-do list wouldn’t hurt, I stepped inside — and came face to face with the inanimate wall of salts that nevertheless spoke to me. I grinned and pulled out my phone, taking pictures (like the tourists around me) of flavor combinations I’d never considered from parts of the world I’ve never been to. “I could make that,” I thought. “I could go there …”
One day, I will.
What are your salt memories? Where might salt inspire you to go?
There seems to be some uncharacteristic upheaval in the church lately, similar perhaps to some of those periods of strife in the Nephite church. It makes me wonder, as I and many others feel batted about by conflicts between conscience and conformity, compassion and consensus, what we’ll be facing in the near future as a body of saints. There seems to be a sharpening divide between “liberal” and “conservative” members, and for moderates like me, that can be highly disconcerting. The danger, of course, is in taking a stand on either “side” and declaring it the “righteous” side. Anyone can find scriptural or modern prophetic quotes to bolster their position. Even prophets say weird things sometimes, sometimes even “in the name of the Lord”. Years later, we read it, and say “Huh?” Or if it’s helpful to our cause, “See?”
I have no ken for politics, I do not keep up on the bloggernacle or read the Ensign, and I’m not currently involved in church councils. All I’ve got is my own gut, my own spiritual practices, a few close friends, and church hallway gossip. And I’m worried. I’m alarmed at the number of strong saints leaving the church, many of them close friends and family. These are people with deep convictions and real relationships with God. I honor and trust their spiritual acumen, so when they jump ship — or more alarmingly, are pushed overboard — I get upset.
Based on my own deep convictions and powerful personal revelation, I’ve decided to stay in the church. (Read about that here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/stay-in-the-church/) But that makes me all the more anxious to help make the church I love the Zion it is meant to be. I know I am not alone in this divine desire. But the critical questions seem to be: how can I be a true saint in this era of divisiveness and rubbed-raw feelings? How can I be obedient to the counsel of church leaders when it conflicts with my conscience? Whom do I believe? What does an “approved by the Lord” Latter-Day Saint look like?
I actually enjoy engaging these necessary questions daily. For example, does God care if you (as a female) wear pants to the temple? No. It’s even in the temple rules. But have you? Would you? Would you be self-conscious? Would you judge another sister you saw arriving in pants? How about jeans? How about dirty, torn jeans?
Does God care if you think differently about a gospel topic than your Sunday School teacher? Or does He just care that you think? Do you speak up in charitable disagreement? Should you? Should you not?
My friend, Jan, rides a motorcycle. She’s also my Stake President’s wife. When a General Authority stayed at their house during an ecclesiastical visit, she felt obliged to ask him if that was OK. Not the motorcycle. The motorcycle + female + church position. Should she feel obliged to ask?
I am hopeful that this current fiery trial in the church will burn away the pettiness, the unchristian judging, the over-reliance on tradition and human authority that so pervades our church culture, at least in the First World. I’m hoping those recent lessons on Unity will help. I love the “I Am a Mormon” campaign, because it highlights for members and nonmembers alike the fact that there is no one right way to be a Latter-Day Saint. The one right way is YOUR right way. Now I know some commenter will say, “There’s only one right way” and if we’re talking about the Savior, yes indeed. But no matter what color your hair or your skin, no matter your sex or sexual preference, no matter if you’re single or unsingle, fat or thin, wealthy or poor, or anywhere in between — this is a church for all God’s children. Of course, He (and She) gave commandments to obey, leaders to guide, and fellow saints to support. All for our sake. My rallying cry is to fix our eyes on the Savior, listen like crazy for the sound of His voice, and love one another. That’s all.
I was leaving town on December 8th for the winter so I went visiting teaching earlier than usual. Afterwards, I decided to stop in unannounced at another ward sister’s home to say farewell. I hadn’t seen Cora Lester* for a while and the last time I’d heard, she was in remission from last year’s terrifying battle with thyroid cancer.
She looked weary and was recovering from pneumonia. She shared the devastating news that one of her daughters living in another state had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, and that another of her out-of-state daughters had brain cancer.
Cora, whose heart is oceanic in its compassion and generosity, seemed broken and bowed under the weight of these challenges. She felt helpless to give anything “more” than empathy, a shoulder to cry on and her ears to hear her family’s sorrows and stories. Continue reading Present