Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do Something Courageous -

A couple of weeks ago at church the speaker gave the congregation a challenge - "Do something courageous." He then shared the story of his grandmother who bravely sought out "truth." I thought of the saying, "Courage begins at the end of your comfort zone," and I wondered what I could do that would take courage.

I thought about dying my hair pink. I thought about getting a tattoo. I thought of jumping off the high-dive board. I thought of driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought about eating escargot. I thought of shaving my head. And really, these wouldn't take courage for me, just a little bit of dare.

So I thought about the things I've done that are courageous. And I found a common tie to all of them. This is my definition of courage:

Courage is having the second child. Courage is having the second chemotherapy treatment. Courage is getting married for the second time. Courage is shaving my head before my hair falls out. Courage is quitting my job to do cancer full-time. Courage is asking my husband to sit by me while I throw-up, for the third time that day. Courage is crying for my mother to hold me in her arms while I weep in exhaustion. Courage is asking my neighbor to help me change the sheets on my bed. Courage is going to the gym bald, puffy, weak, gray, exhausted. Courage is smiling. Courage is getting back on my bike. Courage is climbing to the top of the mountain, the second time. Courage is job-hunting. Courage is saying "no" to the job I need but don't want. Courage is having a mammogram three months after finishing treatment. Courage is going shopping with down-soft gray stubble covering my head and no hat. Courage is returning to the classroom with chemo-brain. Courage is becoming friends with women who have cancer. Courage is listening to other women's stories. Courage is sharing my story, my truth.

Courage comes with "doing again" what was hard the first time. 

As I have pondered the speaker's request, I have come to a great realization. I'm a survivor, I'm stronger, I'm a hero, I'm a warrior, but more than anything, I'm a courageous woman - I got back on that bike after I fell and blew out my elbow, I had my second chemo after the first made me so deathly ill, I share my story - in all of its utter-truthfulness. I am courage. This, this is the face of courage. And I am proud to wear the scars that tell my story.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move beyond that fear.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

These are My People - A Nod to My Pioneer Heritage -

July 24 is Pioneer Day - a day much celebrated in the Mormon world. Well, I am proud, yes, proud, to say I come from these Mormon pioneers. I am strong, resilient, stubborn, committed, diligent, tenacious, and I know how to put one foot in front of the other and move forward - living in the hope of a tomorrow.

I have often thought of my female ancestors and all they gave for their convictions. They are my people, and I'm no stranger here -

Mary Taylor Upton Simmons Robinson is my surviving ancestor; she was with the Martin Handcart Company. Her parents and her husband died on the journey; her mother and her husband died at Devil's Gate, now known as Martin's Cove. Her dad died at Fort Laramie, one month earlier. Their names are listed on the wall at Martin's Cove's visitors center. Mary is listed as Mary Upton there, and her husband was William Upton. Joseph and Harriet Sidwell Taylor are her parents. Mary was born at Cotton, in, the Elms, England. Her family converted to the LDS religion there in August, 1845. She married William Upton in 1855 and along with her parents they immigrated to America. They joined the Martin Handcart Co., and headed west. Her father, Joseph, became sick and died October 8, 1856 of malnourishment and fatigue. With her feet wrapped in gunny sacks, she, William, and her mother traveled to Martin's Cove. Their clothes froze to their bodies, and Mary's mother died. That same day her husband also died. A shallow grave was dug in the frozen earth, and mother and husband were buried together. 

A group of men were sent by Brigham Young to rescue the pioneers at Martin's Cove. William Burt Simmons was 58 years old when he left Bountiful, Utah to help. When he rescued Mary, her feet were black and frozen. He took her and a group of pioneers to his home where they were nursed back to health. Mary married William Burt in polygamy in March 1857. They had five children. When Burt died in 1866 her youngest child was one year old. In 1867 she married Joseph Robinson who had four wives. They had four children. 

Mary was 69 years old when she died. She didn't like to talk about her experiences traveling to Utah. She had thinning grey hair and wore it in a bun. It is said that she had a serene and pleasant personality.  

Amanda Chipman Simmons was William Burt Simmons' first wife. She and Burt had six children. She was 46 years old when Burt married Mary Taylor Upton, whom they had nursed back to health from the Martin Handcart Company. Amanda received personal revelation that Burt should marry Mary in polygamy. She said, "Unless you have been touched by the spirit, one will never understand a polygamist marriage." She was a seamstress and made clothing and household fancies. 

Ann Shelton Howard was born in England in 1816. Her family of eleven children converted to the LDS faith, and her husband, Joseph, became a branch president for the church. When an opportunity came to travel to America, the Shelton's oldest two sons were sent over to work and earn money to bring the rest of the over. It is said that Ann was a loving mother, affectionate, and generous. She weighed about 200 pounds and had auburn hair, which she wore in ringlets. The family arrived in America and left Nebraska headed west in August 1864. On the journey, her daughter, Matilda (6 yrs. old) died in August, and another, Tamar (3 yrs. old) died in September. Broken hearted and weak, Ann died in October 1864, 300 miles east of Salt Lake City, at Little Bitter Creek. She was buried there. She never did see her two sons. 

 Song by my good friend, Sam Payne.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When The Cross Seems Heavy -

When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Serenity Prayer - Big Change Ahead!

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
Courage to change the things I can, 
And the wisdom to know the difference. 

Scott and I watched a movie on Sunday evening. One of the lines in the show was a rework of the Serenity Prayer.

"And the courage to change the things I cannot accept."

Oh yeah - it really does take courage to make changes. Acceptance is hard enough, but courage to change what is not acceptable - that's where I'm operating these days.

Be courageous - stay on the path that I know is the correct path and "be ye unafraid" of changing.

Change usually means action, but for me, change needs to be that state of "being" rather than "doing." The "change the things I can't accept" means I don't like the anxiety, crazy, stress-ridden life I'm leading right now (sometimes I feel like there's so much make-up work to do, catching up from 2 years of being AWOL). I have myself back in the frantic life I led years ago, and I don't like this. The courage for me then is saying, "stop," I can change this way of doing life - I don't have to live at this pace, I do not have to accept this way of life, damn it!

So today, today, I've turned down 2 jobs, turned down 2 volunteer roles, and I'm refocusing. I'm going to make time to meditate, weed my garden, get my work done, and enjoy my chaplain class. That's it, and this is change, and change takes courage.