Sunday, August 22, 2010

church videos

I don't know if its a well known fact, but it is an established fact within my mind that I am not entirely comfortable with media as missionary work.  Its something inside me that is insecure.  I know all the advantages, but I am not secure enough inside to stand up should somebody make fun of me, attempt to engage me in arguments that can't be won, insult me, or otherwise do anything other than click "like".  And yet, on occasion, I do share, and yet have I been persecuted.  But still, I have a gnawing discomfort about it.

So when facebook started showing me side-bar ad's for videos titled "and I'm a Mormon" I really kind of thought to myself, what? Now we're going to attempt to validate ourselves by pointing out famous people who are also Mormon? I thought to myself, aren't we confident enough in our faith that we don't need to go name dropping?  And then some names started popping up that weren't familiar to me. I questioned myself, wondering if I'd really created such a vacuum in my home by turning off cable that I wouldn't recognize these names?  I refused to click.

It turns out I had it all wrong.  Its not about name dropping.  Its about encouraging members of the church to be their talents, their passions, their strengths, and then also being a Mormon. Here's what I found:

Just the right ad popped up.  I don't know what was different about it, maybe because the woman featured didn't "look like a Mormon" (ie: she wasn't wearing multiple layers of jewelry on top of multiple layers of t-shirts topped off with multiple layers of teased hair topped with a giant blossoms posing as cherry on top of that frilly yet modest sundae of fashion...not that the look isn't kinda cute, I actually like it, but you all know exactly the look I'm describing, because 2/3 of your RS showed up to church today dressed like that). Maybe it was because it said she was an artist.  I don't know why I clicked. But I did.

Of course I can't find the video a second time to save my life, or I'd post it here for you to see.  But watching this video, this woman, this artist, she answered for me a deeply smoldering question I hadn't even fully formulated yet.  My question was "why don't I feel like 'one of them'?" The answer is "because that's not what Heavenly Father created you to be.  Earlier in the week I had come to a realization that my social circle at church did not need to be the definition of me.  I have found so much confidence, self acceptance, social acceptance, and happiness outside of my church community lately, that I've really begun to think deeply on what role church plays in my life. I had realized that I didn't need to be struggling to become socially engaged with women I don't fully understand in order to be a "good Mormon".

What does that mean?  I think it means I can take a load off!

Not too long ago I was a week away from never going back to church.  I felt miserable there.  And not for any good reason.  I couldn't put my finger on my unhappiness.  I felt like I was surrounded by unhappiness, by women trying to be something homogeneous and safe and as wholesome as vitamin D milk, who didn't really want to be that.  I felt like I was surrounded by misery, boredom, and women trying to be someone else's idea of what they should be.  I was having conflict because I found something I loved that was exciting, physical, enlightening, energetic, healthy and didn't involve in anyway chocolate, bread dough, whole wheat, or crafting scissors, and I suddenly had no idea how to relate with this group of women on a level other than the gospel.

And then this video clip.

What did she say? I'm not 100% sure, but what I heard was "that image of what I was supposed to be was something I made up! Heavenly father wants me to be me!"

And I got to thinking.  Where in the scriptures does it say put your passions to rest, do not seek to discover your talents, be like everybody else and get along? NO! This is NOT what we're taught! And yet, many women of the church are receiving this message loud and clear.  What are we doing to each other and ourselves that we receive this message, even though this is not the message sent? WHY do we hear this message?  Is it the "anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report" thing? Is it the advice to temper our tongues? What is it?! Why do we feel the need to be homogeneous to the degree of sacrificing our talents, opportunities to strengthen our understanding of the world around us, to go outside our bubble and seek other worthy knowledge?  Where did we get the idea that a "good Mormon" defines herself by the perfection of her scrapbook, the freshness of her ground wheat, and the perfect balance between modest and hottest in her wardrobe?  Where did we get the notion that a "good Mormon" is a church mouse?

Well, I went back to church, because I know what I know.  I KNOW God the Father and His Son and the Holy Ghost are three individual beings.  I KNOW that the Book of Mormon is a book of scripture, written by prophets of old.  I am certain that other books containing holy writings will be found across the globe.  I cannot walk away from my church and expect to have this knowledge sustained elsewhere.  I decided to keep going because I don't know enough yet, and I want to be in the service of my Father in Heaven while I'm learning.  I don't have the personal discipline to learn it on my own with nobody guiding me, teaching me, or giving me the opportunity to teach. And now I know that I can go, I can serve, I can do my best and my best is good enough for my Father in Heaven.

And I think maybe that's a tiny portion of where we've gone wrong.  As women, we've forgotten that our best is always good enough for Him.  Sure, sister Jones might think our best is lame...and chances are good if she does think our best is lame, its because it makes her feel inadequate in some way, but so what? Love Sister Jones anyways, help her find out what HER best is, greet her with a friendly smile, and keep walking till you see the next sister that doesn't know why she's there.  Find your passion, chances are good your talents and passions are not what everyone else's are, and that's a GOOD thing! Imagine what a boring world we would live in if all of us really were the Stepford Wives we seem to be trying to create within our social network of church.

I am so glad I watched that video and received the message that Heavenly Father doesn't want me to be just exactly like each one of my RS sisters.  That he wants me to explore my own strengths and talents and then be able to say "and...I'm a Mormon".  That's different, isn't it?  and I feel comfortable again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hello Again

Recently it was brought to my attention that it had been well over 3 months since my last post.  To tell the truth, I was surprised that it had been that short a time! The last three months have been a whirl-wind of activity.  We have learned and grown so much as a family and as individuals.

Looking back on these last many weeks, I can truly see Heavenly Father's hand in our lives and feel so blessed for the opportunities He has brought our way.  The blessings have been so abundant, that for the first time in memorable history, we (me) have been able to recognize the blessings in things that would normally have ruined the day, week, or month in the past.

The lack of blogging has come directly from our nearly full time involvement in planning and preparing for a statewide martial arts tournament.  Having only ever been to one tournament prior, I guess we (JP and I) were not mentally confined to the "traditional" ideas about how to throw a tournament, and we got crazy with an idea, and then the idea became a question, and then the answer to the question became "YES" and  I will admit at times I felt thrown into a roll I was not prepared to fill.  But when push came to shove, being urged to move forward and take the lead was the best thing to happen to me, JP, or our marriage, in a very long time.

What did we learn?  We learned that people like to help, and they want to say "YES".  The economy has not put a damper on excitement about new opportunities, unique ideas, or the entrepreneurial spirit.  We learned that small businesses can be incredibly generous, enthusiastic, and kind.  Corporations have a lot of red-tape, and can be difficult to navigate, but can sometimes still come through with surprising levels of generosity.

We learned that there are some amazing things happening in our community.  Downtown Mesa was once a thriving neighborhood and business center, but has been plagued by lack of quality housing to bring services into the downtown area.  The neighborhoods circling the downtown center have had their own challenges, and many businesses have not kept up with the neighborhood's needs, leaving empty real-estate and business' associated with a different quality of life than most would prefer.  But that's all slated to change as Mesa's leadership plans to renovate, rejuvenate, and re-invigorate the downtown area.  And that being a group who seeks to improve the landscape of lives through hard work and discipline, you become a really good fit for groups who seek to change the landscape of lives by literally changing the landscape.

We learned that sometimes you have to make somebody actually tell you "NO".  And that until they've said "no", either they're just putting off disappointing you, or they intend to say "YES" but they need more information before they can confirm their desire to help.

We learned to partner together, to know which one of us has the right attitude, personality, or motivation to get something done.  We've learned that we can trust each other to accomplish the goals we've set, but also that communication, clarification, and consistency are key to accomplishment.  We've discovered that just because Lisa knows what she's talking about, doesn't mean JP has picked up on the same vision and vice-versa.  We've learned to say to the other "This is what I understand you to mean,_______________ is that correct?" (and have discovered at least 50% of the time, one of us has completely misunderstood the other!)

We've learned that we can't make other people share our vision.  We've learned that sometimes safety measures appear to be barriers to success.  We've learned that there is a balance to be met between safety and success.

We've learned that we need not just one checklist, but many.  We have a plan to create a "control binder" of sorts for tournament planning.  That binder is the reason I'm awake right now as thoughts began to flood my brain after I turned the lights out to sleep tonight.

We've learned that sometimes people will make you responsible for their success...and that we cannot shoulder that responsibility.

We've learned that some people will over-invest, others will under-invest, and both will be disappointed in the results.

We've learned that it might be interesting in the future to relay more demographically specific information to help those prone to over investing understand what an appropriate investment might be for a group like ours.

We've learned that when it comes to small businesses, the owner's personality has far more influence on our purchasing decisions than the product.

But we've also learned that Heavenly Father wants to bless us.  That He will bless us, and He will bless our efforts when we are engaged in something unselfish which suits His purposes.  We've learned that He will use anybody willing to do His work, and not just members of any specific church.  We've learned that our peers like us, that hard work is more respected than talent, and that its O.K. to not be 100% the winner 100% of the time, and that joy can be found in the success of others.

We've learned that a dead-battery at the end of a long and exhausting day (week) doesn't have to be a gut-wrenching stress inducing problem, but that we can ask for a jump and be grateful we can make the necessary purchase the next day.  We can be grateful we weren't stuck in a rainstorm, at the side of the road, or in the middle of a bad money month.

Mostly, I think, we've learned to be grateful.  Not just for the success of the tournament, or the blessings of friendship we enjoy, but for each other, our health, and the unique opportunity we found ourselves with this summer.

And speaking of being grateful:
Big thanks go to POOL together, Arizona's first collaborative market (seriously you guys, the day will come that you won't visit the greater Phoenix area without visiting POOL together. Its going to be that cool)
All of the POOL merchants, especially those who made generous sponsorships, and or donations to our silent auction.
Grand Master Han's Martial Arts of Arizona, but also of Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and California, plus other's I can't remember off the top of my head.
Vic Villont for putting in the good word for us at Pepsi Co/Quaker, and Liberty Lumber.
But most especially for all of our friends who let us do what we thought needed to be done without worrying about rank, or experience.  There were a number of times we were not sure if/how we should proceed, we worried that we might step on toes, or be seen to think we were more than we were just because we were having some success with the task at hand.  As it turned out, we were the only one's worried about being too successful.  Which leads me to my final thought: Being fearful of success is a CROCK! and I've been living in that crock a long, long time.  I'm glad the crock has been broken and that lump of stinky cheese has been set free.  Some things just don't get better with age, and fear of success is one of them.