Sunday, January 29, 2012

Working in the Temple

Yesterday was our last day as workers in the Detroit temple.  Try as I might, I could not stop time.  The more I prayed, the faster it seemed the time flew.  Thankfully, I was not asked to relinquish my name badge.  It remains pinned to my dress as if to say "You'll need me again someday."  I wonder if my husband feels similarly about his white jacket? 

It was working in the temple that enabled me to slow down and see my blessings for what they were.  It was working in the temple that gave me the patience to strive at a job I could hardly stand, and the strength to reach for something better.  Time after time, patrons would say things like "You have no idea what you have done for me in this moment."  They were right, I had absolutely no idea.  There were days when it took everything I had to walk through those doors and let the world fall away, days when I was so preoccupied with my own struggle... but those moments of pure grace made my soul sing. 

I will miss working in the temple, but I look forward to the day when I can do so again. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Beginning Another Chapter

Well, here it is.  Just when I begin to feel comfortable and relax, Heavenly Father shakes my snow globe.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was interviewing for a job.  It was 6 hours away, half an hour out of my hometown.  I didn't think anyone would take me seriously, and to be honest, I was surprised to be asked for an interview.  There was a second interview over the phone a week later, and it was here that I considered "wow, this must be more competitive than I thought."  A week after that, one day after my thirtieth birthday, I got a very apologetic call from the girl who interviewed me.  She said she had known that I was right for the job the day of my first interview, but she had so many other interviewees, she didn't think it was right to offer it to me right away.

She should have.  It would have done wonders for my anxiety these past few weeks.

Here I am, getting ready to pack up enough clothes for a month and help my husband winnow my things a bit.  Clothes that don't fit, no matter how much I love you, you are going to the clothing barn for someone else to wear and feel awesome.  That includes you, wedding dress!

There have been approximately four times in my life where I have directly felt the hand of God.  This is one of those times.  (For those of you who are interested in the other three, they were joining the Church, meeting my husband, and moving here.)  It has been very difficult until recently to see the blessings I have here in Michigan.  I recognize that my ward family here loves me like crazy, and not just because I'm Chris' wife.  I'm thankful for my mother-in-law who gets my jokes, keeps me company when I am lonely and is gentle with my sometimes incomprehensible sadness, loving me through it as my own mother has done so many times.  I'm thankful for the friends I have here who have helped me become a better version of myself than I could have ever hoped to be on my own.  I am thankful to be so near a temple, wherein I can do the Lord's work.  I have been so blessed to be a worker there, and I am grateful for the experiences of all-encompassing grace I have had within its walls.

Now it's time to stretch and see how capable I have become.  I know that being here has prepared me for something amazing, and I feel much the same as I did when emerging from the waters of baptism.  Anything at all is possible. 

Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee—
Lord, I would follow thee.

 Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?

Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper—

Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother—

Lord, I would follow thee.  

Text: Susan Evans McCloud, b. 1945. © 1985 IRI
Music: K. Newell Dayley, b. 1939. © 1985 IRI
Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, #220

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Moohana and the One Cow Wife

I am not worth eight cows.  I am worth one cow.  Her name is Moohana, and she is filled with buckwheat and lavender, a "warm snuggly" for those naps I take when my husband is at work.  Thankfully, we no longer barter bovines as a measure of our love, or I might feel jilted.  However, according to the stuffed animals my husband has gifted to me over our courtship and marriage, I am worth three horses, one Pegasus, a panda bear, and three dragons.  And Moohana.  :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Love to See the Temple...

Recently, Chris and I have decided that Wednesday nights would be our time for FHE.  This evening over a dinner of cheap (but awesome) sushi, he asked what I would like to do for our activity.  Out of nowhere, I blurted out "I want to make a sugar cube temple!"  Two boxes of sugar cubes and an unknown number of glue sticks later, we have the McGinnis home temple.  It kinda sorta maybe looks a little like St. George, but with a Moroni.  (We couldn't make a temple without decking it with our Moroni!)  We are going to spray it with shellac so that it doesn't attract ants and we can keep it, then next week, we're going to landscape!  It's a little crooked, but it was made with love, and the whole time we were working on it, we talked about the blessings that have come from working in the temple. 

This has been a wonderful evening! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

(Trying to) Mind the Gap

A couple of years ago, I attended Relief Society General Conference at the Youngstown Stake.  At the time, I was newly baptized, but frustrated.  I was tired all the time; my days lasted from 6AM until nearly midnight.  I wanted to be married in the temple, but I didn't quite know how that was going to happen.  I couldn't see my faith through my frustration, and I was upset.  The gospel was turning my life upside down, and most everyone I loved thought I was losing my mind.

That night, Sister Barbara Thompson gave a talk called "Mind the Gap" that I think of every now and then.  It was exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.  She spoke about the gaps we encounter as Saints; improvements we need to make, the difference between our actions and who we really have the potential to be as daughters and sons of our Heavenly Father.

Once again, there is a gap before me.  I know what it is that I want to be, but I'm not doing all I can to make it happen.  I want to fulfill my callings.  I want my husband to come home to wonderful dinners and polished linoleum.  I want to be a Celestial wife, and yet I find myself falling short.

There was a saying that was popular when I was in high school.  I don't know if it's still in use, but it ended up in three out of four of my yearbooks.  "Shoot for the moon.  If you miss, you'll still be among the stars."  I get it.  Really, I do, but to be honest, it's not good enough.

I don't want to have to question where I will end up.  I don't want to second-guess myself for the rest of my life, beating myself up for whatever infraction.  I know that the gap lies within me, and within my own perception, but it's there, and I'm calling myself out.

I don't do all I can to fulfill my callings.  If I did, the ward directory would be full of pictures instead of grey silhouettes.  My fellow temple workers would never have to miss me, or scramble around to fill my spot on Saturday morning.  The Relief Society president would know every month just how my visiting teachers were doing, and Primary would never want for a substitute.

My house would be presentable; my husband's size 14 clodhoppers would be off the floor where they currently threaten to trip up anyone who chances to walk into our apartment.  Mostly me.

Instead, the pictures I need to submit are chilling on my camera's HD card.   I generally miss a temple session once every three months.  In my time as a visiting teaching coordinator, I have never been able to reach one of my sisters, and the others in my care call me every now and again to update me on their last three months of visiting teaching.  I have subbed in Primary once.  My husband took over the lesson.  I sat back and felt small and said nothing.

...and my house is a mess.

I wish I could fix just one thing.  If I could excel in something, or even just feel as though I'm doing all I can, I don't think the rest of it would hurt so much.  Because it does.  It's an ache that rarely goes away, this feeling that I am so much less than what I was created to be.  I'm trying to mind the gap and reach for that woman I know I can become if I just learn to rely on my Savior... but the gap is so wide, and I feel as though I am losing focus of what really needs to be done.

It's miserable work, being an unhappy Saint.  We are not made for unhappiness, and the state of my mind these last few days feels so contrary to all I know.  This post has been difficult to write.  It's a strange thing, seeing my spiritual pain on a page for all the world to see.  I know it will get better.  What I don't know is when or how...when that is what I need most to know. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holding my Worries in Check...

Okay, I'm just going to throw all of this out there:

My anxiety is through the roof.  This interview process is taking forever.  I wish I could just know for certain, yes or no. 

If I don't get this job, Chris and I need to consider a change in our living situation anyway.  With the way things currently stand, we will never be able to move out to Utah. 

I feel as though I ought to find a second job.  I've been considering applying at Oliver T's, but I like so much of their stuff, I fear that our diet goals would fly out the window.  Hello, cupcake! 

If I do get this job, I worry about staying active and temple worthy.  I know we would, but each ward is at least 45 minutes away, and the temple is 2 hours away.  It sounds petty, doesn't it?  I'm sorry.  It's still a worry, especially in wintertime.  

I'm worried about living without my husband for any length of time.  To those of you who are widowed or have husbands who are over the road a lot, I'm whining.  Again, I'm sorry.  I don't deal well with stress, and Chris manages to hold me together quite nicely.  Eight weeks of high stress and no husband sounds miserable to me. 

Whether I get this job or not, I want the sleep lab to be organized.  I don't want whomever comes into that job to hate it within two weeks because it's an organizational nightmare.  

When I sat in the temple yesterday, I felt like Heavenly Father was saying "Just calm down.  Everything will be okay.  I've got you, and everything will turn out fine."  I know that.  I believe Him...

so why do I still feel fragmented by all of this stress?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's Not Adding Up!

Over the last three days, I have really put some effort into reading my Scriptures.  My goal is to read all of the Standard Works in one year.  I'm focusing especially on the verses in the Joseph Smith Translation.  Last night, three-fourths of the way through the Book of Numbers, I realized something.  In less than one week, I have read the equivalent of half the Book of Mormon. 

Little alarm bells started going off in my head.

It would be completely different if I read the Book of Mormon to savor each verse and look up each notation.  Then, I could understand if it took me six months.  Lately, however, I start reading, get to about the middle of Alma, and set the book aside.  Indefinitely. 

The war chapters have always made me uncomfortable.  Fourth Nephi has always made me cry.  But in the past, I have always been able to slog through them.  I like to think that I know the Book of Mormon well, and it upsets me that the last time I tried to read it, I was unable to finish, especially since I should be able to read the entire book (and read it well!) in under a week!

Last weekend, I went back to the Ohio Valley for an interview.  I had to go by myself; Chris was at work.  It's a six hour drive, and once I had gotten into Ohio, I decided to stop and get something to drink.  The moment I walked into the rest stop, I was overtaken by anxiety, the likes of which I have not felt in years.  Quickly, I got a drink, got into my car, and drove until I reached my mother's.  Since then, I have been plagued by unease that crops up in the strangest of places.  After my interview, I was so tightly wound up that I left Mom's and traveled to Alliance so that I could, in theory, be closer to my husband if I decided at any point in the night to drive home.  On Monday, I attended a counseling group through LDS Family Services.  I knew that I was safe.  I knew I had nothing to fear, and yet there I sat, hugging myself and refusing to look anyone in the eye.  I wanted to disappear. 

It is frightening to me that there are so few places in which I feel comfortable, and that in places where I should feel comfortable, I'm not.  I'm not sure what it is that has made my anxiety worse, but I have a feeling that the answer to overcoming it lies within the pages I have been neglecting.

Tonight, Chris and I are going to the temple.  If I can't relax there, I will know that I am dealing with a problem that is much bigger than myself and much worse than I thought. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Mountain of the Lord

Today, I caught up with my Scripture reading goals.  Along the way, I came across Genesis 19:17, which says, in part, "...Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."  Chris looked at me and said " want to move to Utah???" 

Let me explain.  I have a hard time moving beyond the past.  My inability to forgive myself has been my greatest stumbling block as a Saint.  I have tried and tried to distance myself from the person I was before I became converted to the gospel, but she crops up every now and again, reminding me of some particularly loathsome trait or grievance committed, or bades me look back and leave the faith I have embraced.  Lot's wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.  In Matthew, Christ says "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."  I certainly don't want to be good for nothing!

When I visualized the plain, I saw the iron rod pictured in Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life.  The plain was vast, though, and many found it easier to let go of the rod and wander off.  To me, this symbolized complacency.  The restored gospel is not something about which one can be complacent.  In having faith and exercising that faith, we strive to be better than ourselves.  We reach heavenward, enduring all manner of suffering and pain in this life so that we may have everlasting joy in the next. 

As Latter-Day Saints, we are asked to make and keep sacred covenants.  It is here, in the temple, the mountain of the Lord, that we make these holy promises.  I can testify to you that more than once I have escaped for my life to the temple!  It is a refuge from stress and worry where I can think clearly without the distractions of the world getting in the way.   I am my best self there, the woman of faith and hope that I strive to someday be at all times and in all places. 

This week, make an effort to get to the temple.  If you aren't there yet, make a plan to get there!  I promise you, the peace you will find there in the presence of your Heavenly Father is better than anything this world can offer you. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Things I Miss...

I miss Utah.

I miss the mountains; the temples...I miss my friends, all of whom are now returned from the mission field.  I miss running and laughing in the rain barefoot past the gates at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, my heels kicked off in a fit of pique.  It was 60 degrees on the 20th of October.  I miss kissing my husband under the branches of an oak tree while our crazy friend ran around looking for his lost Subaru amidst the parking lots full of Conference-bound cars.

I miss the sun-burnt rocks of St. George; walking down the street at 7:30 in the morning without a coat because it was warm as deep springtime.  I miss the feel of the sun on my face as I sat on the cool stone steps of the temple and lost myself in a moment of sheer grace.  I ache to return there, to that place where I instantly belonged; where I could be alone, but was never lonely. 

Someday, I will live there.  I will dance along the sun-drenched streets in bright, pretty sundresses while my children sing me songs of the pioneers.  I will take comfort in the cool shadows of the mountains; I will work patiently and diligently in the temple.  I will serve my Lord as a simple, happy, Latter-Day Saint woman.

On Friday of this week, I am interviewing for a social work position in Wheeling, where I'm from.  It is far indeed from Utah, but I miss it as well.  I miss the familiarity and comfort that comes from being somewhere you know.  Few things have changed in the Ohio Valley since I was a baby; the people are polite and kind to one another, more so than here. 

I miss my family; my friends.  I miss being able to find my way home from anywhere within a 50 mile radius.  I miss the hills.  I miss knowing where to get good food without having to go to a chain restaurant.  I miss spending time with people who have loved me as long as I've lived and who continue to love me just because I'm still here. 

Someday, I will live there.  I will relax in the deep softness that is the love of my family.  I will begin a career that I never imagined for myself.  I will lift my eyes to the hills that cradled most of my life and that of my family.  I will go to the temple at least once a month.  I will serve my Lord as a simple, happy, Latter-Day Saint woman. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Meditation: An Experiment

I've made a few observations about myself lately, regarding my off-kilter eating habits.  Most notably, I binge when I am alone.  Today, I set aside 20 minutes to see what it felt like if I forced myself to simply exist in the quiet.  Essentially, I forced my own company upon myself.  If you don't think that's possible, you should try it. 

Here's what I found out: 

1.  I would rather sleep than be utterly mindful of myself for 20 minutes.  When I felt myself wanting to doze, I opened my eyes and refocused. 

2.  I am impatient, and get bored with myself easily.  I only made it 14 minutes before checking the timer on my phone. 

3.  My center felt uncomfortable at times, like a large  lead ball resting against the most painful point on my spine.  At other times, it felt light and airy.  These were the times when I noticed the clock ticking or the dog breathing across the room.

4.  I didn't think about food at all, other than remembering the clementine I had for a snack because I could smell the orange oil in the peelings on the table beside me. 

What this told me is that if I can embrace the pain and boredom, going through them and making the realization that they are not as difficult as my mind would have them seem, I will not need to binge in order to numb the pain or boredom that I encounter when I insist upon being completely, mindfully myself. 

I chose to pray as I sat quietly.  It was a good time to be still and know the presence of God.  I wondered how long I have been living without being an authentic version of myself.  I feel as though I have been dragging my body around like so much luggage, looking to Heavenly Father and saying "Really?  THIS is what you're giving me??  And what, exactly, am I supposed to do with it???"

It's taken me a long time to actually want to be kind to myself, and even longer to realize that Oreos and M&M's are not love letters to my soul; they are torture devices to my hips, and large quantities of them will probably shorten my time here on earth.  The Adversary would love that, I'm sure, but I'm not going to give him the satisfaction. 

This is not about being thin.  I'm not on a diet.  I do realize, however, that I have a problem that is much bigger than myself.  With the help of my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, I can and will overcome this.  My goal right now is to feel better, and I am exercising and putting aside food I don't need.  If I occasionally feel that I NEED an Oreo or a couple M&M's, I will have them, and move on.  If, because of the changes I have made, I lose weight, so much the better. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's 1:30, and I just woke up. 

This is not the start to the New Year that I wanted.  I wanted to get up and go to Sacrament meeting.  I wanted to come home, get into comfy clothes and do a light workout.  I wanted to eat breakfast at a decent hour (it's not F&T Sunday until next week). 

However, over the last week, I have been battling a sinus infection... and losing.  For the past two nights, this nasty little bugger has been particularly hateful.  If I even try to sleep, I am rendered unable to breathe through my nose.  Sleep is nonexistent or fitful, and in either case, I wake up the next day with a migraine.  This morning, I had finally gotten comfortable... and the alarm went off.  I made some unintelligible, congested troll noise, and my worried husband fed me Coricedin and herbal tea and rubbed my back until I fell asleep.

Here's hoping that your New Year's Day is the perfect start to 2012.  Say a little prayer for the bleary-eyed girl in the corner with the uncooperative sinuses, please!