Thursday, April 24, 2014

Safety is Not in Numbers

I'm at Segullah today with an extension of ideas expressed in my last post about Doug's parents returning from New Zealand.

I am writing about standing up for what you believe, even if it means standing alone. Obviously, I write from a Mormon perspective. But this isn't just about religion. It's about having courage. Wherever you land religiously, I would guess you want your children to be principled and moral. You want them to be willing to stand strong in the face of hard things that could drag them off course.

Hopefully, what I say will resonate with you. No matter your faith.

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My story today is actually their story. These lovely people who are members of the LDS church in Queenstown, New Zealand. Their small numbers do not reflect small commitment. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Their devotion and welcoming arms made me better, stronger. And their words have given me courage in recent months to say what I think, to stand up for what I believe.

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LDS chapel, Queenstown, New Zealand. Lake Wakatipu behind.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Especially Good Friday

After hot cross buns and our traditional Easter walk (more on our Holy Week next post), this event made it an especially Good Friday.

Doug's parents, who have been serving in New Zealand as Public Affairs missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the Pacific Area, returned home!

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Here's the Arveseth clan. (Minus the Pennsylvania and Brigham City Arvys, who couldn't make it.)

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To say we were buzzing with anticipation is an understatement. The constant peering down the terminal, children on tip-toe, and pulse rates rising, made for some serious cumulative energy.

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Amanda and Sydney made Jim and Renae a bright pink sign. I can't remember how they took to calling Jim, "Fred." But it stuck. And not just at home - on the mission! Poor guy.

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And then we saw them. For a brief flash of smile. Before the grandkids literally buried them in a group hug. So deep we couldn't see their faces for about ten seconds.

When they surfaced, they were in tears. 

I didn't expect this reunion to be so tender. But it was. And their faces, so totally undone, undid me too. 

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There was so much emotion as we threw our arms around them. I have never seen Jim so tearful. In this picture he is looking at Eliza.

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It was so beautiful as he pulled each grandchild close. Had I been a traveler in the same terminal, I'm not sure I could have looked away. 

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It was obvious to me when we were in New Zealand that they were doing a great work, changing lives, helping those in need. They willingly did everything asked of them, even when it meant new territory, new learning curves, and leaving their comfort zone.

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But it was even more obvious as I watched the grandchildren interact with them Friday evening that their service has changed our family. My children admire them so much. We all do. Because they were willing to leave every known thing for the unknown. Willing to miss baptisms, birthdays, performances, and family trips, to share the message of a restored gospel. And that is what we believe.

We believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church, in its original form, restored to the earth in our day. Complete with every piece, part, and principle Christ taught. We believe it is a vibrant, living church. One that can bless all lives. 

A bold statement? Yes. 

Do we respect other religions and the enormous good they do? Absolutely. 

So the church's message, is simple. "Come and see. Come and see if we can add to what you already have." 

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I love Jim and Renae for consecrating all. For leaving home and family, and using their own financial means to make this mission happen. It was a sacrifice.

But as members of the LDS church, we covenant to give all we have for Christ's gospel. And I am grateful my children have seen this first-hand in the lives of their grandparents.

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I love this photo, of Spencer coming in from behind for a leg hug.

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This is the moment Jim saw Dwight, his old missionary companion (who later became his brother-in-law). They served together in New Zealand in the 1960s.

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Renae waving to her sister.

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Gordon, happy to stand close to his Poppa Jim.

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And as I was getting ready to shoot this group shot, Spencer reached up and planted a kiss right on Jim's cheek. Unsolicited. He couldn't resist.

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I missed the moment and asked Spence to do it again. But he was too embarrassed. 

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Doug's parents served with a bright light and true compassion. One Maori woman told Renae as they were leaving, "You two were different. From the first day we met you. You weren't afraid of our brown skin."

In the past this woman had watched missionaries hold back, seem reticent to jump in to a new culture, with new people, in a new part of the globe. But not Jim and Renae. They are kind to all people, love all people, and find a way into everyone's heart.

How they love those islanders!

I wanted to finish all my NZ posts before Jim and Renae came home, but... it didn't happen. So I hope you won't mind, if over the next month or so, I post the rest of our pictures and experiences there.

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Best part of the airport? (Besides Jim and Renae.) The moving sidewalks.

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We returned to Jim and Renae's home, where we had been cleaning, washing linens, stocking the fridge, and preparing for their return. The grandkids made a darling Welcome Home sign with the Maori greeting, Kia Ora!

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And this sign was made by their life-long group of friends, who I'm sure can't wait to get together for dinner, a round of golf, and some ridiculous laughter.

Did you know there are more than 150 LDS missions in the world that do not have senior missionaries?

So I have to say to those of you contemplating a senior mission, Go! You are needed!

Of course we missed Jim and Renae, and they missed us. But really, it was a blip on the timeline here. On the NZ timeline, however? It was momentous. And now, it feels as if they never left.

And for those of you my age? We ought to plan now, so we can serve a senior mission. Set aside funds, talk about it, make sure our children know it is something we plan to do.

All of us know fear. It is the subtle restrainer. The paralyzer. It make us hold on to things too tightly, feel inadequate, ill-prepared, and incapable. But what it really does is keep us from doing what God needs us to do.

I  love these words from Joseph Smith,

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

That is the kind of work I want to be a part of. 

I risk sounding preachy in this post, I know. But this is a cause I will always stand behind. The truths found in the LDS church have made me who I am. They have given me freedom, peace, and perspective unlike anything else I have found in the world. And when I think of Christ giving his life on that dark Friday in Jerusalem, it seems a very small thing to give our time and means to do what He would do for others.

We love you Jim and Renae! Welcome home!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Because of Him

This short video is absolutely worth watching. (the go-to website for questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) posted it yesterday. This website is also a great resource for families, with a selection of short bible videos to view in preparation for Easter.

Feeling light after seeing this. Grateful for second chances, new days, and new beginnings.

Everything is possible, because of Him.

p.s. Palm Sunday thoughts in yesterday's post, as well as a link to our traditions for Holy Week. So begins my favorite week of the year.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lines Written in Early Spring

It's a rainy Palm Sunday with dark clouds sweeping in from the west. And I am remembering this exchange from Lloyd C. Douglas' book, The Robe. 

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Demetrius, a Corinthian slave on assignment in Jerusalem, sees Jesus making his way into the city. For one instant, their eyes meet, and Jesus' gaze "communicated some sort of stabilizing power that swept away all such negations as slavery, poverty, or any other afflicting circumstance."

Knowing Demetrius had caught a glimpse of the Galilean, he is questioned by a visiting Athenian.

'[Is he] crazy?'
'No,' muttered Demetrius, soberly - 'not a king.'
'What is he, then?' demanded the Athenian, piqued by the Corinthian's aloofness.
'I don't know,' mumbled Demetrius, in a puzzled voice, 'but - he is something more important than a king.'

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More important than a king. 

So we are making preparations for Holy Week. Pulling out our Easter lanterns, considering the last week of the Savior's life, planning our Easter walk, and finding the right branches for our Easter tree. (More on our traditions here.)

Hard to believe yesterday the sky was blue and I was thinking of WordsworthThe thousand blended notes he heard, the birds he saw hopping and playing, the budding twigs he noticed, spreading out their fans. 

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Reclined in a grove, he thought about what man had made of man.

What has man made of man? Such a question. And I have something to say on it. Thoughts I've been trying to find the courage to say for a long time. But now is not that time.

So I won't wax melancholy. There is too much leap-happiness in the air. Too much color and newness. Today, I want my lines to be about the goodness of man, and all the beauty Wordsworth saw in early spring.

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The same beauty I see here. 

In our yard.

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On the faces of my children as they burst out of doors. 

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In the trees, as they puff blossoms pink and white. 

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The daffodils are unfolding.

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Some still nodding like lemon drops.

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Martha's bartlett pears are glorious. An explosion of cloud-white petals.

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The yellow tulips are crowding, reaching, with so much anticipation.

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And this little guy zipped into his footies, with converse shoes on top, hoodie tied tight, and backpack with bunny dangling behind, has been cracking me up. His baseball cap reads, "I love Mommy."

"I'm adventuring," he says.

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And up he goes. To the top of the crabapple tree. Gordy's favorite perch of late.

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Friday Eliza and her friend Katherine (who sadly went home before I got out my camera), made a dozen mud pies. And mud shakes.

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Prettiest mud pies I've ever seen.

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At one point, all the girls were crowded into the corner, painting toe nails.

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Sami and Lilly sang Frozen songs and danced with Ana and Elsa.

I love Friday afternoons. No homework. Nowhere to go. Just an open window of time. To play with friends. To explore. To be.

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On April 1st (the week of our Spring Break), it rained and snowed, and rained some more. I woke with a fever that lasted 48 hours. (April Fools on me). But we made the best of it.

I told the kids after lunch, "I have to lie down. My body is shutting down. Just don't kill each other. Okay?" And then I crashed.

When I woke up they were donning rain gear and stomping out to the gutters, happy as could be.

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By Thursday I was starting to feel human again, and it was obvious from the bickering and complaining that we all needed an outing! So we went to Deseret Village for Baby Animal Days. It was love at first sight for Sami.

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The baby chicks were our favorite.

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Pony rides were a close second. 

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A shave at the old-fashioned barber was third. This is Spencer, being very brave.

And friends who studied in Jerusalem with me, do you recognize the barber? It's Brother Bawden! Sweetest man. Still taking tours for the LDS church, and still as kind as you and I remember him.

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Otis the duck came in fourth. But not by much. The kids were enamored by all the animals.

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And now for a bit of an update.

A few weeks ago my Dad decided to check himself into the ER for chest pain. Thankfully, he didn't wait. An angiogram and one stent later, he was lying in the recovery room, having dodged a whizbanger of a bullet. 95% blockage in one of his arteries. 

Good thing he's an ER doc and recognized his symptoms immediately. Funny enough, he has practiced emergency medicine for so many years now, everyone on staff (at a hospital where he doesn't practice) had worked with him at some point or another. The ER doc, the nurses, the cardiologist, the heart surgeon. All of them knew Dr. Bob.

So grateful he was in good hands. And so grateful he listened to that quiet voice that encouraged him to go in.

Can't even begin to think what we would do without him. 

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And last Thursday night, I read at our Motherhood Realized Launch event. We had over 70 women there. All devoted, good mothers with unique skill sets, circumstances, and challenges. Conversing with them was by far the highlight of the evening.

If you haven't heard yet, our book did not make the NYT bestseller list. We think it was fairly close as our goal was to sell 7000 copies by March 29th and we sold just over 6000.

This was a learning experience for all of us. No one really knows how to get on this prestigious list. But we did the best with what we knew. Only the really big publishers seem to know where the NYT will pull numbers from on a given week. It's not necessarily total sales they use, but how well stocked your book is in various brick and mortar stores. And our publisher was working tirelessly all week to do just that. We were up against some tough competition though, including What to Expect When You're Expecting and all the diet and how-to books. 

But we are thrilled with the success. and are becoming their own bestseller lists. And we topped the charts on Amazon: #1 in Motherhood, #1 in Parenting, and #27 in books overall. That's pretty fabulous. photo motherhoodrealizedquote_zps945ac5f5.jpg
One lovely lady who attended the event, made this poster for her blog. Read Taralyn's recap of the event here, including her thoughts on the book.

Kinda weird to put my own quote up there, but she was hoping others would repost it. Taralyn, thank you for this, and for your kind words.

Wishing you holy days this coming week. Days of insight, spirit, and light.

As I sat with my primary class in church today and listened to Martha teach about the Atonement, I thought again about the miracle of Christ's suffering for us. That he can literally take our sins from us and put them on himself, remove the disappointment and angst we feel when we've made a mistake. Free us, give us liberty to move on, gift us complete understanding.

Where else will we find such a champion? Yes, much more important than a king.

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