Monday, July 31, 2017

They Shall Rise Up and Call Her Blessed







 I sit here typing with berry stained hands, loving that I can even do that. We have had a bumper crop of raspberries and found an amazing blackberry patch, so I'm in seventh heaven. We get to snack on berries all day long, and I'm gathering gallon bags full in the freezer.

I pulled out one of my favorite antique Ball Blue Book canning books from 1932, and noticed this saying on the inside first page.








 "They shall call her blessed - this woman, who - loving and thoughtful of future joy and health - secures the goodness of Nature at her best, and cans against the barren sameness of the Winter months. Well does she look to the ways of her household. "

I love that paragraph as it speaks to my inner heart and soul. For me, gardening, canning, and preserving are a way to show my love and support our family in being healthy, staying out of debt, and enjoying the good things God blesses us with.

Tomorrow we go out for more blackberries because I've challenged my husband to try and eat what we have on hand, so we need plenty to go to.  He's very good about that sort of thing, so we are going to see how far we get into the winter without having to buy anything but dairy, meat and perhaps snack things like crackers. It will be fun to see how creative we can get. I will keep in touch.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This Is the Reason I Fight.... A Mother's Day Share...

There are times in ones life that we reflect on the challenges our adult children are going through and wonder how we may have impacted their lives. I still cringe when I think of some of the choices I made after my children's father left. It was a no win situation, but I can't say I handled it very well at all times either.

My heart aches when I see their struggles with exes and life in general. It's not what I wanted for them, although I know that no one has a perfect life without struggles. Even the most faithful of good and decent people have their burdens and trials.

I will say this though, I did try and do some things right, such as trying to keep the home they had lived in a good portion of their life up to the time of our split. I worked odd jobs cleaning homes for people, I worked 16 hour days part of the week, working 6 days a week to keep up with attorney fees, and ended up selling our home, the piano, and anything else of value to try and pay that off. I tried to stay active in church, and struggled with that, primarily because the kids were all mad at me, and weren't with me on most Sundays. It was so hard to go and see all the intact families and not feel so deeply alone, and hopeless. I said no to the men who thought I should hop in bed with them, and no when my children thought I shouldn't have such high standards in dating and finding someone who might respect and care for me in the right way. It was important that they see that there could be a better way.

I spent many lonely hours trying to sort out everything that was going on, feeling abandoned by everyone pretty much, even though that wasn't necessarily true. It sure felt like it sometimes. Not having my own mom around, or parents that really wanted to be there didn't help. It's hard to express all that I want because there is so much that would cause hurt by sharing, so I will leave it be.

I still fight for my children, all grown up, and trying to make their way, through prayer, trying to visit when I can afford to, messages, money, and so on. Is it enough? Maybe not, I'm not sure any more. I constantly feel like I'm chasing my tail financially, always trying to find a way to have the money to go see them, and never quite being able to be there as much as I would like.

To top that off, there's that invisible wall that sometimes is hard to break through when there's been a divorce in the family. Even when my children live close by, I don't see them as much as I should or would like to. Misunderstandings, taboo topics, stressful lives all seem to create a barrier that I don't know how to deal with. I marvel at mothers who can tell their adult children whatever is on their mind and not cause a major rift. Maybe that's just the dynamic of their relationships, whereas I've tried both being frank, and being cautious and I still don't fare well.

I will continue to be a warrior mother in my own way though. I love my children and grandchildren with all my heart. The world they were born into is harsh sometimes, and confusing most times. My stance is to choose the right, and come what may. I will fight for truth, for peace, for faith, for God, as that is how I can best serve my family. I know I still make mistakes, but Heavenly Father is merciful, and lets me know when I need to change something I'm doing, or just stop something.

I Know Where I Stand As a Woman In My Faith and With God




 I was at Missy's Uptown Art in our little slice of heaven, to sit and paint demo while the annual Oregon Mountain Cruise Car show was happening right on our main street here in Joseph. A young mom came into the gallery with her adorable six year old daughter. The first thing I heard this mom say to her daughter was, "look for a painting that depicts either abstract, impressionism or realism." "Impressive!" I thought to myself, so when they wandered my way, I struck up a conversation with her. I told this mom I heard what she instructed her daughter and asked her if she home schooled. She beamed a yes, and proceeded to tell me about the classical music and art units she had been working on with her daughter. It did my heart good to see and meet a mom who took her role as mother seriously, in the way she knew best to do it. I know several young moms who home school, and the results are amazing. These moms all happen to be members of my faith, but I don't know if this mom was religious or not. She sure was dedicated to her little family though, and seemed very content in her role as mom and wife as I watched her interact with her husband and toddler son.

The next day I saw a Facebook post that linked to an article by former President Jimmy Carter. In the article he tells why he left his faith of sixty years because the leaders had done this, "quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service."

He goes on to talk about the way women are treated in various religions and countries, and yes, he's right,  there's a lot that needs to be changed in the way women are treated around the world. I would like to share my thoughts on all of this, as the difference in what I live in my faith, and what others experience, and how they look at leadership roles within religion is striking.

Sunday night as I lay in bed, I was thinking about what I had read, in contrast to what I've been through and done at church and elsewhere. Here's some of the things that came to mind.

1. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we start very young in speaking at the pulpit in church. My first talk in Primary was when I was about six or seven and it was two and a half minutes long. Do you know how long that seems when you are a little child? Eons, no centuries!!!! Primary is our children's organization for those who don't know.  I trembled,  I balked, but no I wasn't forced to give the talk. I was asked that I at least give it a try. I so wanted to do the right thing so I spoke, but I shook the whole way through. To this day I sometimes still tremble when public speaking, but that hasn't stopped me from trying. Some would say it's probably because I'm opinionated and like to share my opinions too much. My family didn't take the opportunity, but each week except for Fast Sunday, we have different families or leaders giving talks from the pulpit in sacrament meeting. Think about that! We don't hear from our bishop every week, everyone has a turn. On Fast Sunday we have the opportunity to share our testimonies with the congregation and that applies to everyone. So our children get leadership training from an early age, both male and female. We are often assigned topics, but are never told what to say, as that is left to us to seek divine guidance on what the Lord would have the congregation hear from us.

2. I can be and have been a valued leader in the congregations I have lived in. As a woman I can be a Relief Society president, Primary President, Young Women president, ward missionary, Family History consultant, or Center director, and more. I can teach Gospel Doctrine to the adult Sunday school class as well. Do I or will I hold the priesthood? No, but I believe in order, and organization. Does this mean I'm any less valued? Heavens no! I have served as a president in all the organizations listed, and have been sought out many a time by my priesthood leaders on my opinion or thoughts on dealing with certain issues or people, as well as how I would implement or organize an event or activity. There have been times when I didn't agree with what local leaders did, but I stood my ground based on church policy and was respected for that stand. In most cases the priesthood men know that if something is to be done, and done right, they ask the women to handle it. Are there priesthood holders who are top down, or micro managers? You bet! They are human, and flawed like us all, but they aren't picked to be in those positions because they are necessarily great leaders. We are all given opportunities to grow through the callings we serve in within our church, and the Lord knows what we need to grow and progress.

3. In our youth organizations the young men and young women have responsibilities as class leaders. They have a president and two counselors in most cases, and counsel with the bishop monthly on activities, as well as goals for the youth. The boys and girls are split up during this time, but they have plenty of opportunities to interact and work together.

4. We as women play a critical role in the plan of salvation. Without us, the spirits waiting to come to earth and gain their mortal bodies would never get that chance. Without Eve, Adam couldn't have fulfilled his mission here on earth. Without our mother Eve, none of us would be here today. We have been divinely gifted with the opportunity to directly work with our heavenly parents in a way that men will never be able to. For them to be the priesthood holders and not women is okay, because we are equal and yet different in the roles we play in God's plan. Our influence for good is immeasurable if we choose to be leaders, and not follow the ways of the world. That may mean different things to different women, but here's one thing I know, and that's that women are valued and cherished in my faith and by our Heavenly Father, and our Savior Jesus Christ.

I'm glad that I know where I stand. I so wish that all women of the world could have this blessing.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Hearts Desire - Broken China Heart Pendant

A hearts desire is...
a smile, a whisper, a kiss
My hearts desire, this.  


Give the gift of love any time of year. This piece will be available at the PFATT Marketplace February 10th.
 



Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Elephant In the Room - Actions Have Consequences

There's so many ways to approach this topic, as the emotions I'm having are washing over me like a river. I'm not one to run to heartache or pain, it's not something I want to dive into and wallow around in, but right now it's almost unavoidable. For far too long though, I've not let myself feel deeply, the profound sense of loss I'm feeling right now. Sure, it's always lurked around in the back of my mind, but I've tried to avoid thinking about it as it isn't productive to dwell on something you can't change.

It's a good thing my husband is gone right now, as I need a couple of days to just sit around and cry when the tears overwhelm me. The quiet and opportunity to grieve alone without having to think about anything I don't want to is a blessing. I'm too emotionally tied into the needs and wants of others, and often deny myself the chance to just sit and ponder and feel.

So where am I going with all of this? What is that elephant in the room that everyone walks around, but pretends isn't there? Even when we bump into it by chance, or slam into it by choice, we act as if it's not there, because we want what we want when we want it, and don't want anyone telling us we can't have that "thing" or do that "thing". We don't want to acknowledge that actions have consequences that impact those around us, often for the rest of their and our lives.

There was a time when most people believed that physical intimacy outside the bonds of marriage was wrong. Everyone knows where babies come from, and at one time that wasn't something to be taken lightly. In fact when girls or young women got pregnant out of wedlock, families found a way to deal with that, either with a shotgun wedding, or sending the girl off to live with relatives, or in a home for unwed mothers. The understanding was that this wasn't something to celebrate, and more often than not the pregnant person lived in shame and carried that around for the rest of their lives in one form or fashion. I'm not going to say that was a good or a bad thing, because shame or guilt can be a motivation for not making the same mistake twice. Often though, the shame and guilt is there regardless of how anyone else treats the situation. Actions have consequences, and in the case of sexual relations, they can have a far reaching impact that doesn't go away for some, ever.

I'm certainly not here to judge anyone, as only God knows the intent and desires of our hearts, and He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the poor choices we all make at times. I've made some very big mistakes myself and still regret them to this day. As I start to gather the bits and pieces of my new found siblings life stories, along with allowing myself to face and deal with the profound sense of loss in my heart, it's something that can't be ignored.

There are many in the world today that say there's nothing wrong with doing whatever you want to do, as long as it doesn't hurt others. But for every action, or even inaction, there is an impact on those around us, for good or bad. Just because it's something you want to do, and enjoy doing, doesn't make it okay. The heartache that I've lived with most of my life, and others in my family as well, comes from the choices of others. The heartache my children have gone through comes in part from poor choices I've made.

As I write this my hearts desire is to perhaps get people to think. In working through my pain, and by sharing my pain, I hope to encourage discussion. We live in a world that would use the story of my heartache, and the heartache of others to justify abortion. They say that if you just get rid of the baby no one gets hurt, but that's so misguided, not true, and is selfish. If my mother had had the choice of abortion, and made that choice, her heartache, pain or shame wouldn't have gone away. Much like the profound sense of loss I'm feeling right now, she would have suffered, as she did anyway. A child is the very essence of who we are. No feeling woman can have an abortion without the emotional impact and sense of loss anyone feels at losing a family member, because that tiny life growing inside the womb is family. That little person is made up of bits and pieces of not only our bodies, but our ancestry. I have two family members I know of that have dealt with life long struggles of alcohol and or drug addiction due in large part to having abortions. Their living children have suffered as well. It has been a heartbreaking thing to see their struggles and not be able to help them.

Part of the discussion we should be having is about the sanctity of life. The mantra from the pro-abortion crowd is women's rights are human rights. How humane is it to brutally mutilate and or poison that tiny life growing inside you? How humane is it to tell your daughter, sister, or other family member that you will be there for them if they do this, and that things will be much better this way? Wouldn't it be much more humane to teach our daughters and granddaughters to respect themselves, to understand that life is sacred, and we must do all we can to keep it sacred? That if we accept responsibility for our actions and don't make another wrong choice, we can find a peace that abortion will never ever bring.

My situation might have been much different had my parents been talked to about intimacy, the why and why not of marriage versus being intimate outside the bonds of marriage. That was something not talked about back then, you were supposed to know.... We as humans are way too smart to put that to chance. We can't assume our children will understand the deeper part of intimacy, the part they don't teach in sex ed at school, that yes, you will have these strong and sometimes overwhelming desires and emotions regarding being physically attracted to someone, and here's why you shouldn't let those feelings run away with you. We should be teaching our children how to avoid getting into a situation where passion rules instead of rational thought. Parents should be taking an active role in knowing where their children are at all times, and help their young people set appropriate boundaries and curfews. Our children should know that the desire to be intimate is God's gift to those who get married, a way to bond a man and woman together emotionally, as well as spiritually. It's part of  God's plan to bring us to earth to live this earthly part of our eternal journey. Without that gift, none of us would be here.

I know so little about my father, but I know enough about my mother and her life story to know that she was a good person who was deeply hurt emotionally and spiritually by the actions of others. She never intended to cause this much pain and heartache in my life, nor do I think did my father.  From the little I've gleaned so far he felt things deeply, and I'm guessing was very hurt by my mother. They were young, and foolish, just as I was at that age. I also had the adults around me telling me conflicting things, and in my own lack of self esteem my life choices reflected that.

In our modern day and age, we should and we must move forward, not backward in society. We must teach our children better than we have been doing! And if they make a mistake, we help them work through that, not by teaching them to avoid responsibility for their actions, but by encouraging them to make the choices that will have the most chance for success and happiness. Regardless of whether you believe in a Heavenly Father, we as earthly parents have a solemn obligation to get serious about this thing we call life, to speak and teach truth. Actions DO have consequences, and that elephant in the room will continue to take up valuable space and time in our lives unless we learn to be unselfish in our actions.

I'm feeling a little better now, as I get this in writing. Oh, that life's lessons could all be as easy as putting pen to paper to work through our struggles. There is a place I can go though, to find help to heal. It's on my knees in humble pleading with my Father in heaven that I can find that peace, and get the relief I need. I have a lot to look forward to in the months and years ahead. I have new found family to get to know and embrace, and what an exciting adventure that will be. That will be a huge part of the healing, not just for me, but my siblings as well, because we are all a part of the essence of our earthly father.

So I am facing that elephant in the room. I don't regret being alive, even with the pain and loss and heartache I've experienced, and am feeling right now. Pain can teach us, it is to learn from, not be embittered by. I will talk about that elephant now, and acknowledge it rather than pretend it's not there. Hopefully it can be used to teach and help others.....



Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Finally Found My Father's Family - Thanks To A DNA Test



Years ago, after a family spat that spanned a couple of states, my grandmother finally got fed up and showed me the photo above. She wanted me to know the truth, which is ironic as it was meant to in part get back at someone who was bad mouthing her and her husband. Mom had passed away by the time I was shown this photo, but as soon as grandma showed it to me I said, "That's my father, isn't it?" She filled me in on the story, and the whole time I was feeling such a sense of relief. That may sound strange regarding just finding out that the man you grew up thinking was your father, wasn't. For me though it answered a lot of questions about how I was treated growing up. 

 Even as a child I had a sense that something wasn't quite right. I always thought it was because I was chubby, and plain, not something you could accuse my two adorable sisters of. There were some obvious times that one person in particular was especially cruel, and I didn't understand that. There were also times I thought I was adopted, especially since I didn't look anything like the parents I was with, or my siblings. Here's this chubby frizzy headed white girl, with two darker and beautiful parents, along with everyone else in the family who were all good looking and trim. It was frustrating at times to figure out where I fit in. Was it because I was fat and homely, or what? Families should never keep secrets, but that's another topic for another time.
 
So I've looked for my father over the years off and on, but with little to go on it was like searching for a needle in a haystack. I had what I though was his name, but that brought up nothing either although my first internet search for him gave me 54 men with the same name. Who knew there were that many French men in the US named Maurice?!  Fast forward to 2016, when I got a DNA test done through Ancestry.com. Talk about intriguing! Not only did I discover that I had nationalities in my genetic makeup I wasn't aware of, I all of a sudden had cousins everywhere, well okay, mostly down south, but there are quite a few! And most of them have French surnames, wow!

I contacted one person because she was at the top of my list of DNA matches, which is one of the great aspects of getting your DNA test done through Ancestry.com. They have the biggest data bank around, and so many people utilize their services that it's the best source I've found for genealogy resources. Couple that with their partnership with the LDS church, and Family Search, and I can search for free. They connect you with anyone who has had a DNA test done through them, and you get a ranking regarding relationship. Some people don't have family trees there, but you can see the surnames you all have in common, that's so cool!

So this person contacts me off and on, and then another member of her family asks for a photo of my father. The next thing you know she is sending me photos, and I'm sitting there crying like a baby, looking at photos of my father and some of his family. She then contacted the son that she knew, and sent him the photo above and he verified that it was his dad, and the rest of the family story regarding siblings. I was up until midnight last night crying and rejoicing and worrying.

 Meet Elmo Anthony Prejean, my father, who has passed on now, but left behind a good wife and three children by that union, as well as three children by a previous marriage. I'm tearing up again thinking about all of this. I frankly thought this day would probably never come. I now have six more siblings, all younger than me, and I was able to talk to one of them today. He is such a nice person, honest and open, and I look forward to getting to know him and his family better. I'm sorry I missed my father, but the good Lord knows what we need, and what's best. I will see him on the other side, and we can get to know each other there.

I'm still a bit befuddled, not quite sure what to say from here except wow! I have a whole new family to get to know, and learn about. My children have another grandparent to learn about. We have Cajun roots, which is awesome, and there's a lot more to learn. Oh the tender mercies of God, and the blessings of believing! I'm grateful for the services Ancestry.com offers and encourage everyone to start building their tree, who knows what fruit that will bear!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Women of Faith - A Call to Prayer For Life

I've been pondering the pro-choice versus pro-life debate for a very long time, as it hurts my heart and soul to think that abortion is thought to be okay by so many now. It occurred to me that there are questions I have about what has changed in society over the past several decades. One is, when did we change from being willing to sacrifice anything for a new baby, regardless of whether they were planned or not? How did women go from believing that the tiny little life growing inside them was a human child, to just a fetus or viable tissue that could be discarded when the timing wasn't right? How many of us were planned by our parents? How many of our moms woke up one morning feeling queasy and thinking, "Oh I must have a bug." to ending up feeling that way for weeks and then finding out that, "Oops! Well that wasn't expected!" How many of us were born into families that struggled a bit financially, or in other ways? How many people do you know that have a life without ever having any sort of struggle?

I had a family member say to me one time as we drove to meet some of her friends for lunch, that she wished she had never had children. The fact that I was pregnant with my first child, and not yet married, made that a particularly hard trip, along with the fact that if she really felt that way, I wouldn't be around either. At that time she didn't know my situation, and I wasn't about to tell her after that, until the engagement was announced. (And yes, I hadn't been taught all I needed to know, and I had so little self respect I got myself in a situation I shouldn't have. Definitely not the way I would recommend starting out married life. I learned the hard way. ) I understand why she said it, as there was a situation in the family that was very heartbreaking for her, her dream of having at least one child married with no issues was dashed. But not ever having children wouldn't have insulated her from heartache or pain. Life has it's hard times, along with the joys. Unfortunately she didn't understand that trials and tribulations are our refiners fire. She didn't understand God, or why he allows others to hurt us at times. Agency is not what most religions I know of teach.

That led me to reflect on the question George Bailey had to answer in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", regarding what life would be like if he had never been born? Do you ever think about the impact you have had on others? What your gentle, strong, calm, firm spirit, or your generosity, kindness, listening ear, teaching heart, and helping hand has done to make someone's life a bit better or easier? Your talent, whether it be the arts, organizational, financial, social, whatever, has surely done someone some good. We all know of someone who is THAT person you can talk to about anything and they listen, and are just there for us no matter what. How about the guy next door who always has a way of making you laugh, or feel good about yourself. Are you that person? What would the world have missed if YOU had never been born?

These questions came to mind because I keep hearing over and over again that pro-lifers are heartless and don't care about the babies that will be abused or neglected. We've had legalized abortion for how many years now and the abuse statistics keep rising. But let's take that thought even further, as in the case of the elderly who are often suffering from more than one physical malady, be it loss of hearing and eye sight, mobility, constant pain due to a physical ailment and so on. If we applied the same logic to our elderly or handicapped and said, "well we surely don't want them to suffer, so why not just end their life? Isn't that the compassionate thing to do?" Of course not!

There are times when many of us wonder, "why me, why did this have to happen?" Sometimes it is what it is, through no fault of our own. Recognizing that there's a higher power out there to help us get through these times is so key to accepting whatever may come our way. A child though, is a blessing, not a curse, yet the outgoing president helped further the notion that abortion is okay by saying about his daughters, "I'm going to teach them about values and morals but, if they make a mistake I don't want them punished with a baby!" My momma always said two wrongs don't make a right. You don't cover one mistake by making another.

There are those out there that would have us as women believe we are victims if the government doesn't ensure birth control or abortion on demand. They say that we don't have control over our reproductive health, as if birth control and abortion are the only answer to not getting or being pregnant. So let me ask you this, if you believe that, how does not having free birth control take away anyone's control over their own body? How would having abortion abolished, except for in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother, make anyone a victim, or not in control of their own health? Anyone is free to go out and buy birth control, and if it doesn't fit the budget, perhaps the  budget needs to be adjusted. Condoms are not out of anyone's price range, and very easy to come by.

I'm surprised at how many women are willingly giving themselves over to those who would use them as a political pawn, or just use them, and then leave them holding the baggage of emotional and spiritual strife due to choices made that weren't in their own best interest. How about making a stand for virtue and morality? How about exercising self control, and having self respect? 

So dear ladies, dear friends and women of faith everywhere, let's send prayers to our Heavenly Father asking that we as women can help our country find it's humanity again. I pray that we can unite as women, and find common ground in caring for children everywhere. I pray we won't be afraid to speak up and say that physical intimacy is sacred, that life is sacred, and anything we do to show respect for ourselves by treating it thus will not only make us better people, but our families and communities will be better served. Pray that hearts will be healed, and women everywhere can find their mother spirit, that tender, loving and gentle but strong spirit we are all endowed with from on high, but have to cultivate to keep. Pray that we can lift each other in trials, and teach each other from our own experiences, that life, and that little unborn life, are worth every struggle, sacrifice and heartache. Pray that they will know they are daughters of a loving Father in heaven. This is my prayer, and may you add yours.....In the loving name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.