The End? Or the Beginning?

If you are new to A Cow in the Ocean thanks for stopping by and I hope you will stick around. Follow us here or on facebook. If you are an old reader happening back and wondering what inspired a post after such a long silence well I’m getting to that. And I hope you too will stick around to see whats coming. I think its going to be exciting! Since its been so long since I wrote regularly and so much has changed I thought perhaps it was time to consider a new name, But in the end we have been A Cow in the Ocean for so long it just didn’t feel right. So over the next week as we start the new year I will be doing one post each day telling the story of this cow in the ocean and getting you all caught up and ready for the new journey we are embarking on.

There is an old story about two catholics and a protestant living side by side. The protestant holds a bbq every Friday and the Catholics struggle with the smell of cooking steaks while they dine on fish. Finally they convert the protestant and the priest sprinkles him with holy water stating you were born a Protestant, you were raised a protestant, now your a catholic. But when Friday rolls around and the sweet aroma of cooking steaks reaches the two catholics They race out to remind their friend of his obligation to only eat fish only to find him sprinkling the steak with salt and repeating you were born a cow you were raised a cow, now you’re a fish. Very often in my first few years as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints I felt this way. I felt as though all the dunking in the world couldn’t make me a “Mormon.” Growing up “FLDS” I was taught strict rules about the interactions of men and women and that dating, developing feelings for a member of the opposite sex would only frustrate the process of finding the spouse that God had in store for me. A process that would be arranged largely by parents. As I sat in my singles ward pretending that I fit in, pretending that I knew what I was doing and that the idea of being asked out on a date wasn’t absolutely terrifying, pretending that I had gills and fins and a sleek slim tiny body like the rest of the fish in the ocean I still felt like a cow. I made fish faces and swam with the school pretending that my hooves and utter and hair covered back belonged. But no matter how you looked at it I was still in fact a cow.

As the years went by and through many of my blog posts I shared with you some of my awkward, funny, and terrifying moments of dating and life in happy valley singlehood. Here are a couple of my favorites.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/its-not-me-its-you/

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/creeper-101/

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/where-are-the-sean-connerys-and-harrison-fords-of-the-world/

In my Facebook newsfeed this morning a picture showed up. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. It brought back a rush of difficult memories. This photo was taken at my best friends wedding. We had been room mates for six years and this moment was just the beginning of the complete unraveling of my world.

A relationship I had held out a lot of hope for had just ended for good and the hole that it left in my heart would forever leave a scar. At the same time my friends relationship progressed to marriage and my little band of room mates forever disbanded retreated to different cities and plans for the future. I seemed to be the only one left behind, with no plans, no friends and no sense of direction. I had just turned 31 and my time in the singles ward had expired. I was officially a marriage failure, a menace to society and unwanted. My desire for a family remained so strong I often felt strangled by it. The loneliness felt like a huge shadow threatening to engulf me and swallow me whole. I picture myself standing ragged and starving in front of a vending machine full of snacks putting in my dollar and pressing the button to no avail. Over and over again I put in a dollar, press the buttons and wait but nothing comes for me and dejectedly I walk away until the next time that the hope of a family becomes so strong that I try once again and the taunting machine full of forbidden sweets laughs at my hopeless persistence.

At some point just a few months before this I had a dream that gave me just enough hope to hold on to. It wasn’t the dream itself as much as it was the feeling it left me with. In the dream I was sitting on my bed pouring out my heart to Heavenly Father about how much I wanted a family. Suddenly the door opened and in walked a strapping young man, He was tall and strong and so handsome. He looked at me with the greatest love in his eyes I had ever seen. I felt safe and protected and honored and loved. He wrapped me in his strong arms and promised me that he and his brothers and sisters where coming to me, that I needed to be patient just a moment longer and to not give up hope. I had always thought about having infants or small toddlers, never a strapping, tall young man. But the love that I felt for him and from him could have never been described except as a mothers love. I knew in that moment I would willingly without hesitation give my life for him. He comforted me then he left.

As he did, a girl entered the room. She had so much spunk and fire that I could feel it in per presence. Her dark bouncy girls and bright eyes sparkled with a love of adventure and enthusiasm for life. She shared some of her hopes and dreams with me enough for me to feel pride in this powerful spirit daughter of mine. She was everything I had ever hoped for her to be.

Next to her stood a quiet, peaceful little boy. Tow headed and quiet he simply filled the room with his love and presence. I knew of his love for animals, for the down trodden, for the forgotten. I knew he had a heart that would talk for long hours with his sister and I about his hopes and dreams for his future but for now his intelligent, open heart and mind were absorbing likes sponges everything around him. I begged them not to leave me but when the time came they left me with promises that they were never far away and that it wouldn’t be long now. Waking to loneliness was exquisite pain after the heart full to bursting that I had experienced. I found myself counting the short years from 31 to 40 and thinking that my window for having three children was closing fast.

This was me six years ago. Between jobs, between wards, between roommates, at the end of a relationship, finishing my last year of school with no clue where I was headed. Oh how my heart ached. This was the same month that I wrote this post.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/its-only-the-beginning/

I wrote it in hopes that writing it would help me feel it but It seemed like the end of everything.

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What gift will He have for you?

It was possibly the hardest day of my life up to this point. I sat in the Celestial room of the temple pouring my heart out to God. (For those of you who may not know what this is or have never been there let me give a brief description. A temple is house that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints build for GOd. We believe that it is literally a home for him on earth. Because of this and because we believe that not only does he reside there but it is in this place that he provides a way for us to bless the lives of many others it is made as perfectly and as beautifully as we can make it. The Celestial room is the most special place in the whole temple and is a place that represents the ultimate heaven for us. ) This room, this special place inside a house dedicated to God usually brought such peace but this day I couldn’t seem to stop the tears.

I sat in the furthest corner I could find my head down my face shielded by my hair falling over my shoulders and I sobbed. My head was pounding from the intensity of the emotion, my hands were full of tissues all but dissolved from the abundance of tears. I felt HIs presence there, I felt peace in the room but my heart ached so much I had a hard time allowing it to penetrate. When I felt that I had my tears a little under control I moved to a couch nearer the center of the room. I looked up into the gleaming chandelier above me that seemed to reach down from heaven almost touching the huge bouquet of flowers of the earth sitting on the table below. I felt my Fathers presence and I knew my tears mattered to him. I spoke to him silently. Father, I know you are here, I know you love me, I feel your spiritual hug, but today I just need physical arms, I need flesh and bones, I need a hug!

Celestial-Room-Mexico-City-Mexico-Temple-752x440I lowered my head, looking at the ball of tissues in my hand, I took a deep breathe determined to pull myself together. A pair of white slippers walked into view, a white dress floating above slender white ankles. They stopped in front of me. I looked up into the eyes of a girl I barely knew.  She had been in my ward but had left a couple weeks earlier to serve a mission. She smiled at me. “I thought I knew you” she said.

“I thought you were on your mission?” I asked.

“I am but I am still at the Missionary training center across the street and today is our temple day. Its so nice to see a familiar face” she said as she sat down next to me. “How are you doing?”

Her question was sincere. My answer was not. “I’m ok.” I said not very convincingly.

“Can I give you a hug?”She asked.

The tears rushed forth again as I saw the Lord fulfill my request within a matter of seconds. I hugged her probably harder and longer than she was expecting. I’ll never know if she knew that she had been the Lords arms for me that day. I’ve never seen her since then but she taught me something very important.

The Lord has no limits. He loves us deeply, he counts every tear we cry and when he can’t physically put arms around us he sends others to do the job. When he can’t physically feed us he sends others with food. And when he can’t literally teach us he sends others with a message for us.

This weekend is General Conference. It is a time when LDS church leaders who have been praying for months about what message the Father would have them relay to us will speak to us of the impressions and answers they feel are the most urgent for us to hear. What will they say? What questions do you have? What will you hear?

I promise you that if you have a question or a request such as I had that day in the Celestial room. The Lord will respond to you this weekend during conference. Ask, wait, listen, and you will hear his answer. Whoever you are, where ever you sit He is there he is listening to you and he will answer you.

For me as I drag my heavily pregnant body through the day I will be listening for a message of encouragement for moms who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in the day to day struggle of raising toddlers. I will be listening for messages of how to navigate the struggles that come with marriage, I will be listening for advice on how to find balance in my life and peace in my heart. I will be trying to draw more strength from Him and less from the world around me. 21752026_1968995749988057_3585119812092829969_n

What are your questions? If you care to share leave me some comments. We can listen together!

But what about the children?

How would you respond to a mother in this scenario: A woman marries a man in the temple, time passes, they have children, raising them in the church. One day the husband tells her he is gay, that he has always known it but tried to do the right thing and married a woman in the temple. He cannot go on in the marriage and they divorce. The couple share custody of their children who they continue to raise in the church. After time the ex husband finds a partner and they live together. Children still go to church every Sunday, they have family home evening every week, pray every morning and night, sing primary songs together on car trips and attend baptisms of all their friends, anxiously waiting for their special day to be baptized. Then this policy is made public. How do you respond to this mother and how does she explain to her children (at next Saturday’s baptism service of their good friend) that they can’t be baptized? How do the children explain to their friends why they aren’t going to be baptized?

This is one of many responses to my recent blogpost about the change in church policy. As I attempted to respond to her I realized that my response needed to be more than what I wanted to put in a comment. So here is a bit more about this policy change. I realize that to those who are asking questions like this to try to poke holes and condemn the church for the policy change will still have plenty to say. There is nothing that could be said that would help that. However, for those who ask genuinely out of concern for those difficult cases such as the one above I hope what I have to say can help.

First we have to look at the root of this problem. The problem is not that a child can’t be baptized until 18. the problem is that these children can’t and others can. And I can see why this would be a concern.

My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Growing up there was no Santa, no tree, no presents etc. Most of the time I didn’t really notice or care. When I was about 9 years old I started taking piano lessons and every year around christmas time we would go to group lessons and recitals and people would ask us what we got for Christmas. I was embarrassed to say nothing so my siblings and I would look at the catalogs find some things that we wanted and tell everyone thats what we got. This was just one of MANY ways that I knew I was different from all the other children around me. Honestly, it didn’t hurt me. I got a little envious sometimes and occasionally I felt embarrassed but over all it wasn’t something I considered a hardship.

It could have been different though. If I had a parent or two, or grandparents who felt like this was a major issues and a hardship for me I imagine I might have felt the same way.

Mother and Daughter Talking

Mother and Daughter Talking

I stand by my original position that there are very good reasons for this policy change. How ever there are many that will face some challenges because of it. So to literally answer this woman’s questions: If I found myself in that situation I would tell my children that their situation is unique and that the Lord has asked them to wait a little extra time to be baptized and then we would continue to go to church, attend primary, young men, young women, etc. the same as before. And when times are hard and they feel the difference, because they will; when their friends are getting baptized, receiving the priesthood, passing the sacrament etc. I would tell them stories of others who have faced difficult times in a similar way. I would tell them about the faithful black saints who attended church for years, some of them peeking in a window when they weren’t even allowed inside. They didn’t know when this would change but still they held on faithfully until it did. I would use it as a chance to teach a very important lesson that todays society in general needs to know. That life isn’t fair, was never meant to be “fair” and that we never had a promise that it would be. I would also teach them that those that face difficult situations with grace and dignity are the ones who we look up to and respect. When they ask “but why me?” which they probably will. I will tell them that the Lord had confidence that they could handle it. Just like he knew that Anne Frank could handle her challenges, that the stripling warriors could handle losing their fathers, that Joseph and Emma could handle losing so many of their children. Many people faced challenges that others around them did not and could have asked why me. And maybe they even did, but the point is you use faith and courage and face those challenges and you come out on top.

If they were old enough to understand, I might explain how important it is that the church keeps a clear line on where it stands on certain issues and that this policy really changes very little for them in terms of how they can participate in church, and how they will be perceived. And if that is the price that they are asked to pay to draw a clear line. Its not such a big one.

I’ve been asked to make similar sacrifices for similar reasons and I can tell you its not so hard. Our attitude is everything! We can make or break this experience for our children. Lets use it as an opportunity for them to show what they are made of!

Discrimination Against Children From Same Sex Marriages? What Is The Church Thinking?

imagesActually I don’t like to say what someone else was thinking since clearly I couldn’t possibly know. And since I haven’t personally spoken with the twelve or the first presidency about this I honestly couldn’t say. But I can tell you that this ISN”T uncharacteristic of the church. This isn’t NEW or even DIFFERENT from what people should expect. (all things that I have seen a lot on Facebook lately) Let me tell you why. Most people may not be aware but the EXACT same limitations have been in place regarding children from polygamist families for many years. Now having come through that process myself I can say that these guidelines are in place for a good reason.

To begin with, let’s make a few assumptions. Lets assume that the teachings of the church are true and as part of that lets assume that same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s laws. ( I guarantee you this was part of the thinking for the 15 men who made this decision) Let’s also assume that another teaching of the church that the spirit can not reside in the presence of sin is also true.

Now lets imagine that these guidelines were not in place. Imagine that you are a say fifteen year old living in a same-sex family. The missionaries come and teach you that your family is living in sin. The very foundation of your home is an abomination to God. As a fifteen year old that’s a lot to handle. So imagine that you actually believe the missionaries and decide that you want to be baptised. That puts a strain in your family that no fifteen year old should ever have to deal with. Your church, your religious beliefs are saying one thing, your family another and you are caught in the middle without the option of leaving home. Now I realize that  conversion to the LDS church or really any church for that matter would put many people in the same position. The key here though is that this is a pretty MAJOR part of your life. And you shouldn’t be put in that kind of position until you are truly old enough to deal with the consequences. I think 18 is the earliest something like this could be handled. Legally its the earliest that you could make the choice to live a different lifestyle.

Imagine you have just been given the gift of the Holy Ghost but your ability to enjoy that gift is hampered by the fact that you are constantly surrounded day and night by “sin” Imagine your religion tells you to honor and obey your parents and in the same breath tells you your parents are living in sin.

On the other hand imagine you are a member of a same-sex couple. Your child (who is not yet even 18) is being approached by missionaries who are teaching them that you are living in sin, that your lifestyle is offensive to God. I can tell you that I would FREAK OUT on those missionaries. I may even file a law suit. Either way they have NO right coming into my home and teaching MY children those kinds of things.

Looking at it from that perspective I would say that the LDS church’s position on this issue. Is not only typical of the church, it is brilliant, it is kind, and it is absolutely the right decision. If a person from such a family wants to join the church once they are legally an adult, ready to live on their own and take on the consequences of their actions then the church can give them a green light. Before then its NO for a very good set of reasons. I also love that the church gives any person who was a child in these or similar circumstances a chance to meet with a member of the 12 before baptism. They need a little something extra, they need the personal touch of that meeting, they need a chance to have their questions answered and their hearts touched by the men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. I love that the church offers this kind, loving, supportive set of guidelines. And I am glad they were in place for me.