Sunday, January 29, 2006

Her attempt to castrate him was the hidden issue in their divorce. It was a second marriage for her, a first for him. As a white haired, older diabetic, he had impotence issues. As a woman whose only other experience with a man was a twenty-something in the prime of life, she took that problem as a personal affront. She could see and accept no other exploration and refused to do anything that could lead her to any other conclusion that he had to be made to pay and had to be rejected in turn.

So it is with many people and God. They lose a spouse, a job, a child and decide there is no explanation for what has happened other than that God is unworthy and must be rejected. Sometimes the issue is obvious, such as a parent who has buried too many loving children, sometimes hidden, like a man's anger at God after losing twenty pounds did not reduce his triglyceride levels.

I finally found out about the secret when we were at the end of the property division. The knife was old and battered and obviously her separate property. He would not give it up. I and the other lawyer wasted hundreds of dollars of time before I finally offered to buy a better knife for him if he would turn it over -- and then he told me the truth.

I saw the two of them together, six months later, happy, remarried, embarrassed to see me, but wanting to tell me too. She had finally found the truth, complaining to other friends who were her age, and realized that he loved her, that the physical realities they had to deal with were not a reason to leave her husband or her church, and that there was more to life than the bitterness she had embraced.

Everyone experiences the harshness of life at some point, in ways that are either real or imagined. Sometimes the hurt we feel can not be avoid, either because our perspectives are too blind or the pain is too great. Sometimes when we cry out to God, if we cry out to God, the only response is that the feelings and pain we share with him are true, and do not offend, and that the Holy One knows we are suffering and does not condemn us.

It is what comes next. Do we let those feelings blind us, do we hold to them until they drive us to harm others or ourselves, or do we decide to find reality, beyond our human perspective.

In mediation, in law, in my profession, over and over again I deal with people who have locked themselves into false perspectives. Like someone who has fallen into a hole in the dark, they have a moment of disorientation and hurt, but they have stayed in the hole and made things worse when they could just walk out if they only would.

On this blog I am really writing only for other parents who have buried children. Especially at this time of the year, following the anniversaries of December 26 and January 26, when Courtney died and when Jessica died, with Robin's death date to come, the feelings are with me.

I know that the feelings are intense, that the experience seems to offer only one lesson -- that God is false or unworthy -- and that so many find it a terrible time, especially in a culture that in a very neo-Calvanistic way sees any tragedy or loss as proof of failure and God's disfavor (we have not come very far from Job's friends and they way they treated Job until God reproved them).

But over, and over and over again I meet people, I have experiences and I feel the greater truth. In this life, nothing is perfect and all die. The gospel makes us more aware of how unfair life is, not less. As Paul noted, without the resurrection, our knowledge would make us "of all men, most miserable." But there is more, and there is a peace that people find, if they don't hold on to the mistaken perspectives they find. In the end, nothing can separate us from the love of God but ourselves. As it says: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" - Romans 8:38-39.

I, too, have been persuaded that if we do not refuse to heed, Christ stands at the door and knocks, and nothing other than our own will can separate us from the love of God. May each of you find that peace.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In memory of Jessica Christine Marsh; February 12, 1986 to January 26, 1993. She was almost seven and I miss her today as much as ever.

I should note that I read a lot of posts today on other blogs from people writing about how life is unpleasant and even God cries. But it is life, and there is so much good as well, which can take us home again. May you each find your way in peace and grace.

Monday, January 23, 2006

We celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary by going to Hot Springs, Arkansas. A co-worker of my wife goes to the Arlington every year and just loves it.

The town was charming, the land is beautiful, the history (including Al Capone, Mae West and others) was entrancing and the historic baths were really fun. First time I've done that sort of thing, I'm going to have to do it again.

Best of all was the time Win and I were able to spend together.

As a general rule I would suggest a different week-end. We didn't know it, but this is the week-end that the race track (dating back to 1890) opened. Luckily, found us great rooms at a great price (though not at the Arlington). We got a discount from them and an additional discount from AARP. Who knew turning fifty would get me a discount at hotels?

Had some wonderful meals, though Win and I ended up splitting a lot of meals and leaving food behind -- servings just keep growing. Much to my surprise I lost another half pound over the week-end. With the rain, we came home a day early and I just finished a great morning making breakfast for the kids and walking my yougest to school.

I still have today off, and I plan to spend it with Win.

I'm so glad to have had her in my life the last twenty-one years. May anyone reading this share the best of life with someone they love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In the middle of chaos I turned fifty. Instead of a birthday party, I attended a work function for my wife, wedged between emergencies. The Church Christmas party and program had blown up, mostly because the person who was doing the program broke her back in a rollover accident. While she didn't have a choice between the two, now that she is recovering she has commented that all-in-all it wasn't such a bad alternative. You know the drill.

But, as I look forward to this year, it is almost as if I had turned thirty-six again. My weight is almost to where it was then, I have a six year-old in the house again, the weight training I started three years ago actually has me stronger than I was hoping to get then, and I'm back to being my natively cheerful self, feeling real emotions. I'm thinking about writing projects, probably the same ones (more or less) than I was then, including a book on mediation and a book on negotiation.

I've even quit snoring.

It is almost as if my life has started over. Given the number of long lived people in my family, I've probably hit the mid point and am starting over in a lot of ways. It is tempting to treat this entire year as a birthday celebration -- but I'll skip the cake. After all, I'm enjoying having lost weight.

I'll write another post when I get back in town, but we are soon to be off to celebrate our wedding anniversary. As always, a compromise date, so not everything is starting over, but everything does have hope and joy once again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

One thing that surprises me about life is just how happy I am. As Rachel has gone through the stages of getting older and reprised her sisters a bit, bringing to mind a certain baby, a certain almost two year old, and a certain child who almost turned seven, I have had to re-encounter a great deal of emotion. In addition to the Christmas season and going through it with a six year old one more time, I've started Seth Roger's diet. Weight loss aside, food no longer serves to insulate me from emotion. I feel emotion much more strongly.

The funny thing, so to speak, about it all is that the dominant emotion that I feel, day in and day out, is happiness. It makes sense. Before everything, my native state was being happy. Now, I really enjoy my job (my secretary has finally adjusted to the fact that I respond to new files with cheerfulness, as if I'd been given a present -- we are in house and she is used to attorneys groaning when they get difficult work). There is a nice blend of repetition and variety in what I do -- and I win a lot.

A co-worker once referred to my family and I as "the Stepford bunch" -- because with the sickness and the other problems we still like each other, and it is still a joy to walk Rachel to school, talk with Heather and just be with Win.

Sometimes things catch me by surprise. Burying three children will do that to you, even now. But just as often they are good things, like just how steadily positive life has been. Sure, life has annoyances (we just had some kids out on a lark drive down the street bashing in windows and they got Heather's car), but they just don't seem worth getting riled up about (our insurance had a guy out to replace the windows first thing Monday and Heather's Volvo is as good as new again, or will be once she gets it waxed and polished).

I hope that anyone visiting my blog finds joy in life as well.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A friend of mine, AnneGB, really has a lot to say.

This guest post is by her, and it says things that I think are important for each of us in the new year.

Post, by annegb

I've made a big deal out of the fact that I am an alcoholic and also attend Al-Anon, an organization for people who have friends or relatives who are addicts/alcoholics. It's a character defect, I think, because it makes me different, ie special, in this traditional LDS Utah town where I live. And I live to stick out, for some cruel quirk of fate.

There is another reason, also, though. It doesn't bother me to admit I'm an alcoholic, I'm not embarrassed, and I want to empower others in my position to get help, to abandon the shame. So I am not all ego.

However, the purpose of this post is not my hubris or iconoclastic tendencies. I have learned something from my inconsistent attendance at AA and Al-Anon meetings. I have grown from applying those principles.

I want to share here a couple of things I have learned which have blessed my life. One is not more important than the other, but one is my main point.

First, I have never heard anything in a meeting, (which is similar to a blogging "meeting" where the "chair" will introduce a topic, share on that topic and open it for discussion) either from the chair or those who choose to share, that is not in harmony with the restored gospel. Never. I have never read anything in all the literature, and it is considerable, and I've read, and re-read most of it, that is not in harmoy with the restored gospel.

I listen carefully to the conference talks and am delighted when I hear speakers talk in a way that is in harmony with Al-Anon principles, like turning our will over to God. I assume these men are not members of AA, so I also then conclude that this is a principle from God.

Which brings me to my main point today. Turning our will and lives over to the power of God. This is the third step of AA, Al-Anon, every 12-step group: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the CARE (note that important )of God, as we understand Him."

How a person does that, the process, is different in each person. No one tells us exactly how to do it, it's predicated on working the first and second steps, which I will not dwell on today.

It is basically an inner process. Some people do it more formally, a formal prayer or written process, then continue to follow up daily, or at least regularly, with a re-commitment to turn it over. These are the lucky ones.

Some do it less formally, but still consistently. Some, like me, do it great for a week, then forget there is a God, get defeated and come crawling back once in awhile.

It is work, that daily turning over of my will to God. I have to get down on my knees (this is my own condition, I do not believe it is necessary to always have formal prayer, indeed, I think it takes many forms), and say the words "God, I give this day to you. This is what I want/need to do today. But if you have other plans, I surrender. I will act as if I am going to do these things, but if other things come up, I will assume they are from you and I will RE-act accordingly."

Then I tell Him about my needs or responsibilities for that day. I pray for my family. I used to ask Him for specific things for them, like "let Jared stop drinking" or "let Sarah not get in a wreck" or "let" something. "Let" seems to be a word I've adopted.

But now, more often, I ask Him to guide my words and actions. I ask Him to help me respond in a way to my children and loved ones that will bless their lives and ask that His will be done in their lives. I've structured my prayers differently. Less control issues, more surrender.

Now, again, I say, for me, this is work. A long prayer for me is about twenty minutes. A normal prayer is about five minutes. But then, I talk fast, as you could imagine. The attitude I approach my morning prayer is the same attitude I approach cleaning my oven.

"Oh crap, it has to be done. I will watch the news first. Maybe a glass of juice. Oh, yuck it is so dirty. Maybe tomorrow."

Same with praying. I think about it. I don't jump out of bed and get on my knees. I talk myself into it.

However, and this is the punch line. It works every time. That doesn't mean my days go perfectly or I do everything I want to do, or I am nice all day. It just works. That's the only way I can say it. I work. Things work out well on those days I turn over to the Lord. Things get accomplished in an almost miraculous way.

So that at night, my prayers are just "thank you for the help today." My night prayers are almost always very short prayers of gratitude.

After all that hemming and hawing and putting off, taking that 5-20 minutes to turn things over to God makes the rest of the day flow. I might even take a couple of hours to decide to do it. To pray and turn it over. Then the real miracle happens.

I don't do it every day. I don't even do it every week. I am a work in progress and very much flawed and lazy.

My New Year's resolution this year is to pray every morning. I urge you, as well, to try some type of regular "turning it over" as opposed to whatever you might think a well-behaved latter day saint should do. There is great power in giving control, will, and power to our God. It is a quiet and wonderful thing, though, and it is a slow, daily process, not a big "blessing-of-you."

I hope this has made sense and in my awkward way. I fought this concept for many years because I didn't trust God to do the right thing, which would be whatever I thought should happen. I had to struggle with and learn that only God's will can ultimately bring peace to our lives.

God bless us, every one this year.

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