Monday, April 20, 2015

Values -

Every morning I open my email mailbox, and I can always expect a great thought - that really becomes my mantra for the day. I love what Values.com does to spread truth, positive thinking, and goodness on a daily basis. Perhaps you've seen their billboards around; one of my favorites is:

Shrek 14x48

At yesterday's service I referenced several Values video clips. I seldom do a sermon without one Values video. One of my favorites is: 


Such a simple message, and quite the reminder to get outside of myself, daily. All of their clips are similar - short, sweet, touching, to the point. 

I love words, and a visual reminder of what I need to be working on really helps me be my best. As touching as images are, the images of the alphabet talk to me - I dream in words, language is my language - more later! 

When I give a sermon I look for images, with words, that are able to speak to me, to those I'm serving - regardless of their stage of recovery (aren't we all in different stages of recovery), that is a quick reminder of the best in all of us. This one really resonated with where I'm at right now: 

Wednesday new

If you have a minute this week to check out Values.com, I know you won't be disappointed (website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). They have been such a positive influence in my life. They provide me with that daily "check in" - and in a selfish world, I need this. 

This week's theme is "Appreciating Nature," and just this morning this quite arrived: 

Monday

What a reminder - and as soon as school is out, I will feed my soul with a little wilderness! Happy day - 


Sunday, April 19, 2015

2 Year Anniversary -

Two years ago yesterday I had my last cancer treatment. Two years ago today I had my port removed.

I often have people ask me when I'm considered cancer free - and if that date is determined by when I began treatment or when I finished.

For my type of cancer, two years post-treatment is a big deal. My cancer has a typical reoccurrence of two to five years. The first two being the most crucial.

Today I'm declaring myself cancer free - today, tomorrow, and beyond.




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

God Doesn't Give You More -

Have you heard or shared the phrase, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle"? Oh my goodness, I really hate this phrase, and all of its cousins - "God must sure love you to give you this trial," is one of those nasty versions. Or how about these, after the "trial," "What did you learn?" "Have you learned your lesson, yet?"

And think about it - is it our humanness, our way of comforting someone when we don't have other words, or a way of justifying hard times? Is it our way of self-cheering through hard times?

Well, the context for this seems to be 1 Corinthians 10:13:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 

Yet, if we look at this scripture carefully, it is talking about temptation, not suffering, not pain. Temptation, and through His grace, if we are faithful, we will turn to Him rather than turn toward temptation, and then, we can handle the temptation.

Am I making sense?

Hardships such as bad health, sick kids, anxiety, these are things of this world - and so we deal with the natural consequences that come with this world. God doesn't give these to us, we don't ask for these hardships, they are just a part of this natural world.

So when I had cancer, that wasn't God's love showing up in the disguise of a lump in my chest. That's the natural world - there was suffering that went along with this, there were hardships, sure, there was growth and knowledge and experiences gained, but this was no gift from God! Cancer is a bad disease that is somehow related to this world, earth, not a temptation! And when my pain was too much to bear, I didn't buck up because God said I could handle this, I crumpled, and ran to His arms for comfort.

A parent doesn't whip a child just to see if they can stand/bear the whipping! My God is a God of love, who will be there for hugs and comfort when natural suffering appears, and He will be there for me when temptation arises - because I know He is near, and with His help, I will rise above the temptation.


Matthew 26:38-39, when Christ is in the Garden of Gethsemane, we here him asking for help, for relief, when he prayed, Christ turned to Father because of pain;

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 

When life seems to throw us more than we can handle, we turn to our Higher Power for relief, for comfort, asking for His mercy and grace.

So I'm calling BS on "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." I am officially protesting the use of this phrase and asking for a ban of it - unless used in context!





Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cowboy Serendipity - and Step 3 -

"Today I Baled Some Hay to Feed the Sheep the Coyote Eat," is one of the best book titles ever. This 1983, short self-published book by Bill Stockton is about his life as a sheep rancher in Eastern Montana. My grandfather gave this book to me. I cherish this gift. 

In Stockton's preface he writes, 

"I dedicate this book to all those people who have never experienced the commonness of death, birth, and the uncommonness of life; to all those people who have never been out in ten-below weather extracting a rotted fetus from a mother ewe. . . . Welcome to the terrible, wonderful life of raising sheep."

On Friday my brother, Scott, flew in from Santa Cruz to spend a few days with my folks. On Saturday Scott and I returned home from a few days' rest in Zion. This morning my father became very ill. This morning I had 3 guest speakers coming to talk at my worship service, on their spiritual journey through sobriety. This morning I called the ambulance to come and get my dad, my Scott took care of the worship service, and I spent, until early afternoon, at the hospital, ER, with my mom and my brother. Dad is spending the night - still running tests - intestinal issues this time. My brother is with him. My mom is resting, the service went well, and I am preparing for work this week.

This book title runs through my mind whenever I think life is just calming down; something happens, and lo and behold, everything runs as it should. Just like a row of dominoes erect, yet ready to tumble, life does that - all erect, all in order, and then with one push, life begins to tumble, in a well-ordered fashion.

Today I had no time to look back in retrospect. I was given the gift of seeing this domino tumble happen in real time. And I am a true believer that as I've struggled to turn my will over to my Higher Power (my challenge for April), this is what happens - I step away from controlling, and the order is there, without my panicking and micro-managing. And - the hand of God has been a part of my life. And though I've titled this Serendipity - it truly is that chain of events that went off seamlessly - I'm going to give credit to my Higher Power for watching over me and my family, for knowing our needs, and for trusting me enough to trust His hands.

The more I try to control, the more I realize I have no control over anything but my own actions and my response to the actions of others. It is what it is - just like Stockton wrote, "So it goes."


(This 19 minute video of Stockton's book is beautiful. Watch!)




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Being a Professor -

I love teaching. I never thought I would be a college professor. I wanted to be a city planner, an arts council director, an event coordinator. Well, really, I wanted to be a chaplain, but that was my last post.
When I received the call asking me if I would teach a folklore class at Utah Valley University I was flattered and very scared.
I'm an introvert - and introverts don't like talking in front of groups of people - but mostly I was afraid of talking in front of people I knew, not strangers, so I said "yes." And I began teaching. And I realized the classroom was the perfect place for an introvert - because the material was what was onstage, I was just presenting the star - and I could take backseat to the subject.
I've honed my skills over the years, even picking up a World Civilization course for several years, and teaching writing for the past 10 years.
This has worked, for years and years (12), and I have loved teaching. I come home exhausted, from performing, but sharing with my students has been a highlight of my life.
Gaining knowledge has been a love of mine - I'm a firm believer that the continual pursuit of knowledge is part of my mission. Teaching has been about learning - not just course material, but learning about life, through my students. I've learned what's important to them, what's not, what they worry about, their strengths, their weaknesses, personalities, learning styles, relevant topics of conversation, language (dank), and I have lots of faith in the younger generations - my students are good people, and I trust them.
And over the years many students, after leaving the classroom, after the semester's over, have become friends.
Noelle - Once visited Scott and me - roller skating to our home in a hot-pink bikini. Noelle and I visited yesterday - she is still learning, experimenting, pushing the edge, and engaged in life.
Cortney, Jayson, Nick - Jayson, a former student, walking his younger brother, Cortney, down the hall the first day of the semester, and turning him over to me. Nick, Cortney's husband. Nick (my cancer journey photographer) and Cortney are "mine," and I am so proud of them.
Joey - A boy from the South who stole my heart. He pushes the envelope in every feasible way. He was my personal renovator for a season, without complaint. I love him. He makes me smile.
Jon and Natalie - Jon taking classes first, then Natalie, and then packing and unpacking boxes for me, cooking dinner, making chocolates, giving blessings, and making awesome jewelry. Natalie sat in the back of the classroom, and now she's finishing her MA in art history. Beautiful people.
Andy - Too smart, too beautiful, too, too, too. And we connected over philosophical matters. And he wrote for me, and I've written for him, and we share.
Taylor and Jeff - similar to Jayson and Cortney; one brother introducing the other to college and classes. And these two are so similar in looks and voices, that I've had to catch myself to not call them each other. Taylor just finished painting my house - and we had fantastic conversations. Jeff - I'm glad he's not off to graduate school with his brother. I get to keep him a little longer.
And these are only a few, along with Danielle, Sharee, Clint, and my own kids, and children of friends, and neighbors. Kristee, Kennadi, Hailey, Natalia, Sage, Jerrilyn, Matt, Enoch - folks where I'm really vulnerable, yet I am confident - I am my best when I am authentic, and that is a good place to be, as a teacher, most of the time.
My biggest deepest concern is this - when the semester is over, will they be better people than when the semester began. My biggest prayer is that as well. I also pray that what I've learned from them will not fade over time. I want to take them all home. Give them a key to the house. Tell them a plate's always at the table for them. Yet . . . good-bye's are part of all of us growing. Although I may forget a name, I never forget their faces, the impact they have on me - do they know how powerful of an influence they are on me?
I'm constantly reminded of this: "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." The road goes both ways, both ways.



Friday, April 3, 2015

Being a Chaplain

A couple of weeks ago Genelle Pugmire, from Utah's Daily Herald, interviewed a group of LDS women who are chaplains.

Her article was published today, and it is here:
http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/central/provo/lds-women-chaplains-the-errand-of-angels/article_1f67a776-d519-5324-b122-51477eccd357.html.

While this article focused on LDS women, I was disheartened to read a Facebook comment by Paul Rogers, "Aye, and their alterior motif  is to get members as their programmed to do under the mind control of their male leaders. I wouldn't let them anywhere near my family." (All spelling and grammar errors are Paul's.)

And since I am off Facebook, my response is here:
"Dear Mr. Rogers, I would like to invite you to my house for a cup of Pero, maybe have a piece of banana bread. Let's have a visit. Let's chat about spirituality, and then when you are ready to leave, I will ask you one question - to which are you now converted - Mormonism or chaplaincy?"

Good Night Irene - biases, stereotypes, blindness - we are so afraid of new or different, that we often shut the door on having amazing experiences.

I helped a family on Monday whose baby died. They asked for a chaplain - I hustled to the ER to be with them. I hugged, held hands, found a safe space outside for them to smoke, wiped tears, covered them in warm blankets, moved folks from one room to the next, directed family traffic, answered questions. Not once did someone ask me my religion, not once did anyone ask what group I represented, not once. Instead - the grandmother said, "You were here with me 3 years ago when my son died. I am so grateful you are here today. I recognized you, and I know you can be of comfort to us."

I helped 20 clients this week, all in various stages of recovery. We talked about the value of knowing our stories, knowing how to tell them, when, where, and how to be safe with our stories - and how to move forward, knowing we are the masters of our own ships. I quoted St. Francis of Assisi, "For it is in the giving that we receive."

This Sunday's Easter sermon will be on hope, spring, beginnings. No hellfire and damnation, no guilt, no converting.

That's it - chaplaincy isn't about me!!! My role is to watch, listen, be engaged, and be present. I serve - whether it's through lessons, holding hands, conversations, hugs. It's about being a comforting presence to those I serve.

“Service is a smile. It is an acknowledging wave, a reaching handshake, a friendly wink, and a warm hug. It's these simple acts that matter most, because the greatest service to a human soul has always been the kindness of recognition.” —Richelle E. Goodrich 



I am blessed.



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Healing - Dream

My grandmother Jensen is my guardian angel. All of my life she has been the person who has always been there for me - and even since her death (she would have been 101 last Dec. 26), she has show herself to me - through memories and promptings. I have heard her voice, I have felt her hands, I have been comforted by her love. Several months ago I had a "vision" one day while meditating.

In this vision my grandma held me in her arms. This was a shriveled, crumpled, dehydrated, wrinkled, version of me. I was lame, weak, lifeless. She held me like a mother holds a newborn - gently, lovingly. Grandma and I were at the space between life and death, she was on the death side, and I must have crossed over, because she scooped me up and headed back toward life.

Grandma seamlessly crossed through this veil, walked into a room divided - with men sitting on one side, women sitting on the other, all dressed in white - sitting, reverently waiting.

There was an empty seat for me in the front row, with women on both sides and women behind. She gently moved my body from her arms to the chair, positioning me in the chair so I was sitting, barely. I could see me slumped in the chair, still weak, sitting very low, without any strength to re-position myself.

Grandma said, while moving both arms opened and acknowledging the women in the room, "These women will help you heal." Then she left. I woke feeling a sense of sisterhood that I haven't felt in years - 12 years.

Last night I read, "The greatest thing in the world is love. And if we keep that always in our hearts, and give it as a message to those about us, we will be blessed and will be instruments in blessing those with whom we associate." (Clarissa S. Williams, 6th Relief Society General President)

Today I spent time with my sisters, and we  nurtured, loved, and blessed each other. Today I spent time with two friends, and we nurtured, loved, and blessed each other. I was reminded of my grandmother's message to me - and I know that when I care for, I am cared for.

Grandpa and Grandma Jensen, Me and Tyler, Mom and Dad, 1981