Dates with God, Chapter 5: Part 1, Emma’s Letter #5

Here’s Chapter 5: Part 1, Emma’s Letter #5 of my fictional book, Dates with God, about four women who take the Mothers Who Know Class. If you haven’t been reading all of my excerpts, you are missing out! Start by going here to read the first one. 

In this part, Emma applies the “Stony Pool” story to herself, organizes her pantry despite her lack of Tupperware, learns from Lehi’s example, makes her own Liahona for her own wilderness, comes face to face with her two decades-old stupid conversation as a Franklin planner rebel, and decides to limit sugar with a firm determination. God blesses her with a dream that shrinks her problems down to the size of a dinner plate. If you want to know more background information and terminology used in this fictional letter, please read the 5 star amazon book Like Dragons Did They Fight by Maurice Harker and Lucas Reynolds, and take my Mothers Who Know Class.

Emma’s Week #5

Dear God,

 

Today in class we heard the Stony Pool story written by Maurice Harker. I find it so fascinating. It’s about a guy who goes to the beach. He sees the sign to avoid swimming in the tidepool because of the danger involved with the rocks and the waves. So he stays away and then he lies down on the beach to relax. He falls asleep and then a sneaky prankster comes up and injects him with heroin so he’s stoned.  After he wakes up, he feels horrible and then he sees the syringe in his arm and thinks he did it himself. So he’s stoned and he also feels even worse because he thinks he is the cause, when really it was the deviant prankster who cowardly ran away. Then the guy stumbles over to the tidepool and ends up getting caught in the rocks when the waves come in because he was too stoned to comprehend the sign or remember that he had seen it before.  The basic idea is that a person can get attacked so subtly by satan getting him stoned, after the person falls asleep, that that the person thinks that he did it to himself. This is just like in the story how the guy saw the syringe that the deviant prankster left in his arm and thinks that he did it to himself. He doesn’t know that satan is the culprit because satan blindsided him.

 

Hmmm…so how does this apply to me? Does satan attack me subtly after I let my guard down and fall figuratively asleep? I do know of some activities in general that I can eliminate so that I don’t “fall asleep on the beach” like the guy in the Stony Pool Story. I hate to say it, but maybe for me I need to severely limit my Internet usage. Like only do it for 1 hour a day, max. Also, I am thinking of making a list of what to do when I am online, before I sit down and do a single click. Then I am going to keep the list taped on the screen right by me to keep me on track, like a Liahona or compass to guide me. The Liahona guided Lehi’s family in the wilderness. When I sit down at the Internet, I am about to enter a wilderness and I need a compass to guide me.

 

I can see how that happens in my life. Especially with yelling at my kids, fighting with my husband,  and eating sugar. I have to realize that sugar for me is pretty much like porn. I touch it, and then I want more and more, and I end up eating way more than I should because I feel so awful. Last Valentine’s Day I ate 2 dozen pink frosted sugar cookies. They tasted so good going down but I felt so crabby afterward. It wasn’t pretty. I don’t want to feel that way again. OK, God, I commit to Thee to keep it out of my house. Having it in my house is akin to the guy in the stony pool story who chooses to lie down on the beach. Lying down on the beach makes him much more likely to fall asleep, and that makes him so ridiculously vulnerable to getting stoned by the enemy. Having sugar in my house makes me figuratively fall asleep at the beach, putting me in direct line of an attack from satan. So I’ve got to keep it out of my house.

 

In regards to yelling at my kids, I can see that there are certain activities that make me more likely to yell at them, or lose a battle, akin to falling asleep on the beach so that I am vulnerable to his attacks. Number one is eating sugar. Number two is staying up late on the Internet so that I feel tired and snappy the next day. Number three is not working with them on their chores, and letting everybody play. Then when it’s bedtime I all of the sudden call them all to do their chores and I tell them to do them while I keep playing on the Internet. Then I get mad because they get distracted. I finally figured out that if I just get off my rear and do the work WITH them right after dinner, they actually don’t get distracted as much and we get the work done. Sometimes I just have to get them started, and then I can actually sit and read aloud to them while they scurry around working. When we have a really fascinating book we are in the middle of, they are more likely to stay on task working while they listen to me. If I can’t read to them for some reason then I will play an audiobook.

 

After the dishes are done and the toys are put away, then we watch 2 funny videos on YouTube, if they got done within 30 minutes. If they got done in 45 minutes they get one video.  If it takes longer than that they get no videos and they just have to get ready for bed when they are done. I actually learned this from Jill in class this past week. She has struggled with the same thing. I was thinking of the scripture from D&C 58:26-27 “…be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” Jill and I talked about this in class. As we talked we realized that anxious in this context doesn’t mean to be fearful, but it means to be eagerly looking forward to something. We decided that part of being agents  “unto themselves” and not being acted upon means we have to have something to look forward to, some reward, to help us be motivated to work hard to do something, or get involved in a good cause. Our kids are the same way. In other words, we have to have vision! Then at the end when we do get the reward, our vision is reinforced and it primes us for next time. I’ve been applying this principle to all sorts of activities in my very own life. Like I give myself 45 minutes of Internet surfing time after 3 if I got my morning routine done by 10 and the homeschool and lunch and clean up routine by 2. For each deadline I don’t meet I have to subtract 20 minutes. So If I miss both deadlines I only get 5 minutes. It really motivates me!

 

I’ve noticed that I am less likely to even want to slip into those old habits of fighting, yelling, and eating sugar when I work on nurturing myself. This helps me stay at a Level 0. A big self-nurture habit I’ve noticed is getting to bed by 9:30 and having lights out by 10 PM, instead of my original goal of 10:30. Another one is making sure I get enough whole, good fat every day, like butter and cod liver oil. The sleep and fat definitely help me to feel much more even-keeled, so that if somebody spills milk I can just go with the flow (pardon the pun) instead of getting bent out of shape about it. I can just remind the kids where the rags are in the kitchen and help them clean up. It has helped a ton that I finally bit the bullet and organized the kitchen and dedicated a drawer, low enough for the kids to reach, for rags. So I am learning to structure my life,  really my whole environment, with sleep, and food, space and time management with a schedule for me and the kids, so that I am much more nurtured. Then because I nurture myself, I am better able to nurture them.

 

All of this fits in with another thing I learned about lately which is the Plimsoll line. The Plimsoll line is named after a guy, Samuel Plimsoll, an English politician. It is the line on the outer hull of ship that marks where the water has to hit the hull in order for the boat not to sink under a heavy load. If the water goes above the line then then the boat is in danger of sinking.

 

Wow, this concept came at the same time that I joined a Mom’s Night Out discussion group. Every month we discuss a book on the first Thursday of the month and on the third Thursday of the month we discuss a General Conference talk. We discussed Elder Bednar’s April 2014 talk about burdens. I realized that burdens are just part of life. I am always going to have some kind of burden. It’s part of being mortal. It’s going to be a long time when I don’t have the burden of filling up the fridge and pantry, and then keeping them organized, pulling out the gross stuff that went rotten, and then planning meals and supervising clean up of meals. It’s going to be a long time until I am released from the burden of child discipline. But I can be yoked to Christ, and because of that, my burdens are light. The yoke he offers me is the covenant to follow Him. I’ve noticed little things lately that happen in my house that can load me up with greater unnecessary burdens and put me WAY past my Plimsoll line. In addition to not enough sleep before 11, and too much sugar, it involves other things. Like the counter right by the garage door getting piled up with days’ worth of mail, papers and clutter. Or not having clean underwear when I need it. It really bothers me when I open up a drawer and I have no clean underwear! Or the kids putting their shoes by the front door instead of on the shoe shelf in the front closet. Another thing that puts me past my Plimsoll line is having to scramble to fix lunch. When I make menus on Sunday afternoon and then go shopping on Monday that keeps me WAY above my Plimsoll line. I hate foraging in the fridge  for food to fix lunch. I hate finding ingredients in the fridge instead of ready-made lunches. But if I plan the menus, I don’t mind so much putting the ingredients together. A bonus, I’ve noticed, is that when I involve the kids in the planning of all the meals, not just lunch, they are much more desirous to fix the food! I have a page dedicated in my Girl Power Journal to listing all the little things I notice that make me sink below my Plimsoll line.

 

So how does the stony pool story apply to my husband. Hmmm…how does Satan sneak up on me in my life with Clark? I’ve never really thought about this before. Clark just seems to be the source of all the bad in our relationship, but I guess it’s really satan and Clark is his unwitting dupe. Or maybe I am the unwitting dupe? Or maybe we both are! Satan is working really hard to get me to feel so frustrated about Clark. I realized the other day in class that satan wants me to stay mad at Clark. It’s so hard though to deal with this anger! I feel like shaking Clark and saying, “Dude, wake up! Start being a man and take care of your family’s needs! Provide for us so we know that we have a stable financial future, not a dwindling inheritance you didn’t earn and that you have no right to spend!” But that wouldn’t work. He would just go ballistic, yelling at me and say I wasn’t appreciative. That book Lost Classical Womanly Arts that Kate is always talking about says not to attempt to change a man. Just accept him at face value. OK, but….what if the change is for his own good and his family’s good. What if his family is suffering because he won’t change? Then isn’t it OK? What if he has depression? What if he can’t recognize what is going on because he is in such a funk? He can’t even see and appreciate my efforts at being a Becky Homecky Domestic Goddess.

 

Last week I spent the whole week reorganizing. I did the kitchen, the living room, and the bedroom.  I got rid of a boatload of junk. It’s hard for me to organize. I have attempted it so many times. i always get stuck as to how to put things back together to look pretty after I’ve thrown away the stuff I don’t want. Like when I organize a closet or my pantry, I can’t just go to Target and buy some shelf organizers, plastic bins, or canisters. I can’t go buy Tupperware that is matching and has sizes custom picked for the amount of food I have and the depth and height of my shelves. I simply don’t have the money. I have to make things look pretty with cardboard boxes or my #10 cans. This time around I just decided to fight back the tears of frustration and anger about being poor and cover up the cardboard with the recycled cardstock I have from my stash of homeschool supplies and chalkboard labels and markers.

 

I also added flowers in the main living rooms and put up family pictures on the walls. I baked cinnamon rolls and counted them as my three legal treats for the week. They smelled delicious! I curled my hair, wore jewelry and perfume, and talked nicely to him. He didn’t say a word. I have had all the meals on time, the rooms clean, and the kids in bed by 9 PM. I am not only fulfilling my wife and mothering and homemaking duties, but I am going the extra mile! When is he going to work hard for me?

 

Remember what I was saying about Lehi in the wilderness? I was reading the Book of Mormon this morning about Lehi’s family in the wilderness. I found such a cool thing! It’s the Plan for Success, right in the Book of Mormon. It’s in 2 Nephi 5:5-13. It’s in Four Steps.

 

Step #1, in verses 5-6: Follow revelation from God, and that might might mean changing your environment, like leaving a place, like Lehi’s family did, in order to be away from wicked people or tempting things. I pondered over this and realized that I can’t change my environment much in terms of moving into a new house, but I can change the outside stimulus that enters into my senses. I can change my internal environment. I can always be putting positive things in my brain through my eyes and ears and nose. Like positive mp3s to listen to, beautiful surroundings to see, and yummy aromas to smell, like my essential oils. I am going to create a system of listening to the classic books on audio that I’ve always wanted to read, and podcasts about my passions, like nutrition and parenting.

 

Step #2, in verse 12: As Thine children embarked on their God-inspired pilgrim journey to escape wickedness with certain things Thou instructed them to take, I am too. I am to take with me on my journey of escaping wickedness the scriptures (brass plates), and my compass (the Liahona) which for me is my planner full of my plans guided by the Spirit. My planner is my compass because it directs me through the wilderness of my free time in the afternoon, after the kids and I are done with our homeschooling and lunch duties. Sometimes when I am done with lunch clean-up with the kids, I pull out my phone and start checking Facebook. Then I look at the clock and realize that 2 hours have passed! Then the next day I check my planner and think, oh yeah, I was going to do such-and-such yesterday. If I would look first to my compass, or planner, before I went into my wilderness of free time I would not get lost in cyberworld on my phone. Then if I would keep checking it, and then doing my tasks, checking them off, I would accomplish a lot.

 

Step #3, in verse 11: Sow seeds of every kind and raise flocks. My seeds and flocks are my husband, my children, my garden,  my desires for good things, and my relationships with people outside my family, and whatever else Thou directs me to do to fulfill the mission Thou hast for me.

 

Step #4, verse 13: Reap abundance and prosper exceedingly.

 

I pictured my Grandma’s sister. She is the epitome of abundance and prosperity. When I came to live with her sister, my grandma, from Indiana, to go to junior high school in Utah, Franklin planners were a big thing. She always had hers in a tote and carried it with her, along with her scriptures. She ran her own life like a CEO and had tons of checklists. She proudly showed me her unwieldy planner with all the pages, the pouches, and the compartments in the ugly nylon tote cover thing that held the planner.  My inner rebel of organization bristled at the thought of being so scheduled and lugging such a big, unwieldy pack everywhere I went like she did. I used to think that was such a nerdy Utah Mormon thing. I would laugh at the sight. I smugly thought, I don’t need a planner, I can remember my schedule. When I went off to college she tried to get me to go to a Franklin Covey seminar. I didn’t want to and told her no thank you.

 

She thought it would be such a wise thing to do before I went off to college. I thought it was unnecessary. I resisted planning my life in college and even after I got married and started working. After I left my job and started adopting kids life as a mom got hectic quickly. Clark started bugging me to make more written plans, at least weekly dinner menus. I resisted, saying I liked to be creative every day and that plans were restrictive. Looking back at Great Aunt Elaine’s life, however, I have to admit she has accomplished some amazing things since I left home. Like heading up a nonprofit organization to raise money for African orphans of AIDS victims to help them get adopted. Like getting her PhD in neuroscience at age 65. Like being an illustrator of several picture books for kids. Like growing an organic garden every year with the neighbor kids and letting them sell the produce at the farmers’ market. She also helps at a homeless shelter 5 days a week. One time I went to her Relief Society night meeting and saw her do yoga with all the young moms. The rest of the old ladies could not even bend to touch their knees! They just sat there and watched while Great Aunt Elaine was Plastic Woman. I admire her for being so fit in body and mind and social skills with young and old. She is always learning new things and could run circles around Jill and Lauren with her blogging and techno savvy. OK, Aunt Elaine, I give in, I should have listened to you! I still struggle with not having a schedule everyday so I admit I can learn some things from you.

 

Now that I’ve learned how satan whispers inside of me, I am waking up to the fact that he, the dirty rascal, is behind my life as a rebel to planners. When I was in college, his voice said, “I don’t need a planner, I can remember my schedule and all of my assignments. Only dummies need planners.” After I became a mom, it was, “Don’t bother planning your day. It’s not like your some bigwig CEO or anything. You’re just a mom. Just wing it, it’s more easy.” Now that I realize this was satan the whole time, and those were all lies so I would fail at homemaking and mothering, I feel soooo mad! I’ve had so many days where after I get the lunch cleaned up and the little kids down for naps, I feel totally lost. I have a million things I want to do but I am not sure what to do first. Just as if I were in a wilderness. Just like Lehi’s family in the wilderness, I need scriptures and a compass to guide, me every day. I have to admit, I need a planner and I need to actually LOOK at it throughout the day so I don’t get lost. It’s not a sign of weakness to have a planner and to refer to it often. It’s kind of like the children of Israel and the serpent on the pole in the wilderness. As long as they did the simple, easy step of looking at the serpent, they lived. Whenever I heard this story I used to always think, who would be dumb enough not to look. Wow, now I am realizing that I have been dumb enough not to look at a planner by using one. Satan got me to think that for a long time but I am not falling for his stupid lies anymore! Get thee hence, satan!

 

I guess I have been having a stupid conversation for two decades about not needing a planner. Clark was actually right about it. Maybe that’s how Satan works between us. He makes me feel irked or bothered when Clark, or Grandma, or anyone, suggests something that’s good. If I know I am not using that good thing like I could be doing, I get defensive and want to justify myself and explain away why I don’t do it. Please help me to let go of the desire to be irked by good things, and be defensive over silly things, no matter who it comes from.

 

The other night I had a dream. In this dream I was on a cruise. This sad, forlorn old lady who was missing both legs was on the cruise. She was in a wheelchair and had no family. She had a little dog that she treated like her own baby. In the dream I talked to her. I remember feeling so sad for her. She said that all she had was her dog to love, and the only place she had to live was the cruise ship. When I woke up, I started thinking about the meaning of the dream. I remembered earlier in the day, listening to one of my favorite podcasts about prosperity. The host of the podcast had a guest who mentioned that if you think you have problems, maybe if you change your perspective your problems will shrink to the size of a molehill. She said that if your problem can be changed with more time and more money, then it’s really not a problem. After I had the dream and woke up pondering over it, I finally understood what the guest on the podcast meant. The lady in my dream couldn’t get her legs back with more money or more time. She couldn’t get a family with more money or more time.

 

So, God, I thank Thee that all of my problems can be solved with more time and more money. They don’t seem much like problems anymore. I have a passel of kids to love. I get to see them be adorable sometimes. I have a husband who is capable of earning money. These challenges I am dealing with are only temporary.

 

Love,

Emma

copyright 2015 Celestia Shumway

Be sure to check out Maurice’s blog here! 

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