Monthly Archives: May 2019

Me, Identifying with Sariah When She Complains

I’ve crawled out of my sick-cave to write down a couple of points which have stuck with me since I re-started reading the Book of Mormon again this month.

Before I begin, allow me to pay homage to the divine gift which are antibiotics. Better living through chemistry, friends. I’ll drink a Diet Coke to that, and I’ll pour one out for my dad, who is nodding his silent agreement right now, I’m pretty sure.

While I’ve been sick, I’ve spent a great deal of time reading about the restoration of the Gospel and the early days of the church, which is A TRIP, people. And, because I finished reading the Book of Mormon recently, I also undertook that familiar Latter-day Saint U-turn move of immediately beginning to re-read that book of scripture which is the keystone of my religion. It was during my reading of the familiar stories of Nephi’s family that something new stood out to me.

In 1 Nephi, when Nephi and his brothers are gone, attempting to recover the ancient records they are commanded to retrieve, Sariah, their mother, snaps. Do we blame her for losing her mind? I personally don’t, but let’s let Nephi explain, “For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.”

At this point, I thought to myself, “I too would feel some righteous indignation. She has followed him into the desert for year after interminable year, and now her four sons are possibly dead. But, I forget what happens here. Is Sariah chastened for not blithely following or trusting her husband, the prophet? Because ugh. If that’s what happens next, I’m going to lose my mind a little bit and possibly throw something.”

Amazingly, that’s not what happens next.

This is what happens: Lehi speaks to Sariah about the undeniable visions from God which compelled him to lead his family into the wilderness and into the dangerous undertaking of recovering the records and sailing to the New World. “And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem to obtain the record of the Jews. And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.”

This was the first time ever in my recollection that the middle-aged woman of the story, and her emotional state out there in the wilderness, stand out as a key part of this retelling. The point of these verses is Sariah’s comfort.

God could have struck her down with boils or lightning or serpents for complaining and doubting. Instead, God compelled her husband, the prophet, to empathize with her in her trauma and sorrow. He gave Lehi the words to comfort Sariah, and then he returned her four sons safely to her.

The only woman in this household of males needed comfort, and God provided it.

This little vignette, which really is ancillary to the story of her sons escaping death at the hands of Laban et al, spoke to me because it proves that our Heavenly Parents know the hearts of women. They understand women and they care about how they feel.

Here she is, the wife of a prophet and mother of another prophet, feeling bereft and helpless. And yet, Sariah’s emotional state could’ve been written off as not the point of the story, or beneath our notice because she’s a woman.

But it was important enough to make it into the modern translation of an ancient book of scripture. To me, this says, that even when cultures or traditions do not afford equality to women, our divine parentage does.

The world is rife with abuse and sexism, but those things won’t exist when Jesus reigns.

The Gospel in its purest, truest form isn’t sexist, lads. I needed to know this for myself, and I left those verses of 1 Nephi feeling God’s love for everyone who has ever felt marooned in the wilderness, sidelined by the complexity of life, and defeated by circumstance.

Waning May; Tiny Letters

Dear Reader,

I’m still here, just not here, on this blog much, which you likely already noticed. I don’t have much to say, currently. This is how one loses blog readers, I am told. Reader, tell that to my psyche which is just quietly doing its thing and can’t be bothered to write stuff.

Dear Month of May,

You are rainy this year, and cold. You are full of doctor’s appointments and therapy appointments, and specialist appointments for my children. You are rolling forward like a freight train to the end of the school year. You are a beautiful month. You are ephemeral. You evaporate into the ether before I feel I can fully enjoy your beauty. Ah, May. You’re a slippery, lovely thing.

Dear Giant Church Doctrine/History Books I am Currently Reading,

What is it with you guys and your old-paper-smelling ways that sucks me in? Why haven’t I cared about you before? Did you always intend to just sit there fallow on the shelf until I had another intense spiritual journey, and then you felt you’d make your move? Also why am I treating ye olde inanimate objects like sentient beings? I’m currently reading three of you bad boys right now, for a combined total of like 1800 pages with copious end notes. And dang it all, Giant Church Books, I’m enjoying you. Does this mean I’m boring?

Dear Early Church History,

You are really a lot to take in, you know? I’m inspired, but also aghast at so much of the difficulty that transpired during your watch. And I just ordered Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s newest book today, so I’m clearly not ready to be done with you. And no offense, Early Church History, but I am really glad I did not live when you were roaming the earth. I’ve always felt I would’ve made an awful pioneer, what with my love of indoor plumbing and hair product and automobile travel and NOT being attacked by mobs. Blessed, honored pioneer, indeed.

Dear Soda,

My back is once again telling me I need to let you go. But I love you, soda. And I would like to ask the universe if I am not allowed to have ONE vice. Am I? Allowed one vice? (The universe is telling me “sure, but your back will hurt, so yeah”). So, dear crisp nectar, I’m not giving up on you. I’m just backing away slowly, a bit.

Dear My Sons,

We’ve had the talk about summer, and the routine, and the expectations. We will again have this talk, possibly on repeat. Let’s all stay calm and not fight, okeydoke?

Dear Parenting,

I’ve never been dismissive of the wild ride you’ve taken me on. It took you some time to break down that entitled naivete I exhibited in the beginning, but we got to this place where I accept that you are this insane melodramatic rodeo clown entity in my life. And you aren’t languishing, dear dear dear difficult Parenting, even as the guys get bigger. I found that out yesterday as we found a new therapist for a certain kiddo who doesn’t want to go to therapy or be different or have autism. You are really something, Parenting. I’m not going to say what you are, but you really are SOMETHING.

Dear Freezing Cold & Wet May Weather,

I get that you do what you want, but I’m just going to come out and say it. You’re kind of a bummer.

Dear Me,

I like that as you enter the more fully entrenched years of your forties, you are embracing it by being you and liking it. Exhibit A: your bangs. They’re cool because you think they’re cool, and you’re like, “look at me I’m fabulous bangs bangs bangs.” Exhibit B: You’re less tuned into the toxic messages of diet culture and consumer culture and the you’re-not-good-enough culture of capitalism. In this house, we do not vilify carbs or succumb to the insidious idea that we are defined by our possessions/looks/hobbies/travel. Come to my house, we happy here. Exhibit C: Your politics, which we won’t talk about here, but which have evolved and which are the result of more critical analysis and thought than before. Good job, you.

Dear Thirty Minute Nap I Took Today,

I love you. You saw me and you gave me exactly what I needed.

Hey May

I submitted my grades yesterday, thus wrapping up another semester of teaching writing to university students. I realized that during every single semester that I’ve taught over the last four years, events in my life have presented some variation of a huge, hulking challenge that has threatened to derail me.

In other words, there was never just teaching. There was also my life going up in differently colored flames due to one thing or another.

I have to imagine that the same is true for my students. No one goes to school (or work or anywhere) in a vacuum. We carry our hardships within us; they are part of the fabric of our being. It’s something to be aware of, and is a great justification for kindness, yo.

Anyway, as I reflected, I pulled out my phone and made this cheery little list of the things that have (for me, outside of class) characterized each semester for years:

  • teaching while Jack lived at home and was literally beating up me, his brothers, and the appliances/windows/sinks/toilets/whole house
  • teaching while placing Jack into residential care
  • teaching while grieving
  • teaching while my dad was dying
  • teaching, again, while grieving
  • teaching while Jack was being hospitalized in a neuropsychiatric unit
  • teaching while Jack was being kicked out of his group home placement and transferred to another one, three hours away
  • teaching while handling the sensory issues and neuroses of various other children, including but not limited to being able to: eat food, go to school without melting down, be flexible and less rigid about ideas/routines/situations, and be responsible enough to handle a bit of independence
  • and, inexplicably, teaching while undergoing an inward spiritual awakening that exceeds everything I’ve ever learned before about spiritual things

Occasionally, in the midst of a semester, I’d think to myself that it would be really kind of amazing to not have some outside tragedy happening at the same time, like clockwork, predictably, all the time.

Now I think I’m at a point of accepting that a) apparently this is how my life works, and b) God has seen me through each semester plus tragedy so it’s all going to work out somehow, someway.

I’ve written extensively in the past about each of the things on the above list, except for the last bullet point. To clarify, I have written continuously over recent months about the intense and consuming awakening of my spirit, but I haven’t shared it. This is not because I’m hoarding the things I’m learning. It’s because I’m not at liberty to share them.

I’m letting the spirit lead out on this one. And currently, what I’m getting is this: be quiet and listen.

Inward things aren’t visible, and yet they’re real. This is an education.

At some point, I might be at liberty to talk about it. For now, I’ll just say that I’m learning to be more attuned to frequencies which aren’t spoken aloud. If this blog seems a little quiet and reclusive, this is why.

So in regard to the semester which has just ended, my non-teaching life wasn’t facing major tragedy (yay) but it was a time of major change.

To end this (possibly unsatisfying post), here are a couple of other observations courtesy of moi.

  • I love my job. So much. Working with a rotating bunch of undergraduates every semester is delightful and I love them. Teaching is such a gift in my life, and knowing my students and former students brings me happiness. They are amazing humans.
  • In the seven and a half years since Truman’s birth, which was the unwitting beginning of the worst years, I’ve been to the depths and back. But if I hadn’t experienced the trauma of a preemie, two more kids with special needs following Jack’s diagnoses, living in Poo Town, and the onset of puberty making Jack super violent, I wouldn’t have come to the point of complete submission to God’s will that I did. Perhaps I’m possessed of a prideful nature. Maybe we all are. Whatever the reason, I needed to have my life leveled in order for me to be ready to receive the big lessons my Heavenly Parents were waiting to give me. So, I’m grateful.
  • Through recent experiences I am learning to understand my children better and wow, they are remarkable people. Maybe this is the point of all this–knowing my people for who they really are.
  • Change is possible. Growth is possible. Miracles are real, and my life is Exhibit A regarding this.
  • I love cookies. Frosted sugar cookies. Big, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate fudge cookies from Sodalicious which are basically brownies pretending to be cookies. I love them all. This is neither here nor there. It’s just the truth. I stan the cookies.