Building

I have these thoughts sometimes that I want to write about so I can get them sorted out in my own head. But I always feel like it takes me too many words to work through it. So I am going to try to be concise here, but bear with me.

Here are two verses of scripture (God is speaking): "And ye shall build it [the temple] on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it."
and
"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy." (Doctrine and Covenants 124:43-44)

Here is how I read what was happening in these verses:
  1. Some people had an idea of where to build the temple. It seemed like a good spot to them, but they weren't sure if it was "the right spot."
  2. God revealed to them that, sure enough, it WAS "the right spot." The very spot He had intended, in fact.
  3. (That means they were probably getting revelation and feeling spiritual direction on the matter before they even knew it. That's why the spot felt "good" to them in the first place, why they "contemplated" it at all. But they weren't sure at first if it was merely their own feelings or if it was God's will.)
  4. In spite of that coincidence of God's will and their own will (both wanted to build in the same spot!), God gave them conditions for success: "IF ye labor with all your might," THEN He would "consecrate" the spot and "make it holy"---that is, He would make that spot as good and right as they envisioned it would be.
Here is how I've seen this simple pattern carried out in my own life (obviously, there are also times when the pattern has NOT applied):

1. I think about a big decision, what "spot" to settle myself in for the next little while. I begin to develop a preference. I think, "This is what I feel like choosing." But I'm not sure if it's truly right; if it's God's will on the matter.

2. After a time, I receive some sort of confirmation that indeed, it IS God's will as well as my own. Sometimes this confirmation comes in the form of a sort of glimpse of where that path will lead. Not a vision really---more of a wish or hope, an "envisioning" of what will result from the choice. Obviously I have a vision, in that sense, of what will eventually be built on that "spot" I chose to build on; that's the reason I wanted to build there the first place. But I think this vision of "what could be" is enlarged, maybe, or focused, by revelation and the spirit.

---Now---here is the interesting thing. Once I have envisioned the eventual results of my choice, and even had them confirmed by the spirit, I might think, "I have seen the future---now I can wait for it to happen. Hooray!" But . . . . that's not right. Because in order to make this thing real, I must

3. "labor with all my might," so that God will actually REALize/"consecrate"/"make holy" that "vision" which was really just a hope or a possibility when I glimpsed it. In other words, if the beautiful results I "envisioned" (and thought were true premontions when I made the choice) are not happening yet---I just need to keep working harder, and eventually, God will "consecrate" my efforts and make that vision real.
[Of course I say "eventually." It's always "eventually," right, since we never know the timetable? :) But still a true principle, I think.]

And I'm sure there are situations where this doesn't apply---like of course there are times when our will and God's will DON'T line up, or where our "vision" of things to come is really just wrong. But I guess it just struck me that even when we ARE making the right choice, the choice God wants us to make, we're STILL not "guaranteed" anything UNLESS we work at it "with all our might." That's what makes the possibilities turn into realities. So maybe, if there's some vision we once thought we glimpsed, but it isn't becoming reality like we hoped it would, maybe the vision wasn't wrong or untrue---maybe we just still have more work to do on making it real.

Which is really not that revolutionary of a concept, I guess. But I can see it at work in my own life. When I was making the decision to marry Sam, for example, I tried hard to follow all the counsel I'd heard in Marriage Prep. classes and so forth: make sure you choose someone that is your best friend, but don't get caught up too much in emotion; follow your heart, but also make sure you follow the spirit; there is no "one and only," but "just anyone" won't do either; don't expect a bolt of lightning, but expect that God will answer because it's so important---etc. It's already hard to recognize true revelation, I think, and in such a decision you feel so much worry about getting it RIGHT---this one thing, I must get right!

So, I tried to go about it correctly. I figured out what I wanted to do, and I prayed about it and tried to listen objectively, and I wanted so badly just to KNOW the future. And I didn't get a vision, exactly---but I got something which is hard to describe, but which I'm sure is not an uncommon feeling. Kind of an "envisioning," like I said before. In some ways maybe it was merely a hope or a daydream: "Won't it be such fun---think of how cute our little home together would be---what an adventure, our kids will be so adorable" etc. But then it was more than that---it was kind of a conviction that these things could be, and a glimpse of how they might be, and an overall feeling of: YES---if you choose this---it could be something wonderful, astonishing, miraculous.

Anyway, that was enough for me at the time, and now, already, those good things I "envisioned" have been realized in many areas. But not the way I might have thought; not in a gentle, passive way like I was a spectator watching a movie of my future gradually unfold and become my reality. More like this: that reality has come as I have wrestled with it, as I have done things I didn't want to do or didn't know how to do, or as I have made mistakes and then tried to repent of them.

Just like the Lord didn't consecrate that spot of ground for the temple until the saints had "labored on it with all their mights." And when they'd built up that monument to the Lord, using their hearts and wills and possessions and time, then he was able to show it back to them and say: "See? Just as I promised you---just as you envisioned it---but now, through your labor, even holier."
5

Thinnings*

*with great self-control, I resisted the urge to call this post all the things that first came to mind, like "dining on thinings" or "dinning on thinnings" or "in the thick of the thinnings"---feeling it would be unseemly after my comments here

I thinned my lettuce garden yesterday, leaving me with what are apparantly called the "thinnings" (as a novice gardener, I learn a lot from the internet) but what look like the cutest, tinest, greenest little baby salad you've ever seen. (The picture doesn't show how tiny and cute they were. Some of you real photographers could do them justice.) They were SO tender and good---spinach and arugula and other spring greens, and I tossed in some oregano and some lemon thyme from the herb garden too.

We ate them with parmesan cheese and lemon juice and olive oil on top---very simple and summery.

And also with these:
Scrambled eggs with chive blossoms, which delighted the boys. I read somewhere that you could eat the chive blossoms, so ever since my chives flowered we've been looking for an opportunity to do so. They taste like chives. (Surprise!) Maybe a little stronger. They're good.

And smoothies: (strawberries and raspberries have been on sale, so we're having these nightly now: no recipe, just plain yogurt and frozen fruit and honey, blended up. Yum)


And these, which are just rolls made from the artisan bread we love so much (okay, there is a recipe for that, from Beth, here it is):


I think it's my favorite kind of dinner. No recipes, everything ready in 20 minutes (well---because I keep the bread dough on hand in the fridge all the time, so it was no trouble), but tasting like a fancy restaurant. And tasting like Spring-almost-Summer. (Sprummer? Sumpring? No; heavens no! Please forgive me for making that attempt.)
7

He thinks he is a person.

But he's too little to be a person! Isn't he?
4

Nice

(The Argument, by Norman Rockwell)


There are certain questions I have that keep me vacillating between their answers at various times of life. I move back and forth between feeling that the answer is really more to focus on this---and then later I decide that it would be better to focus on that---and so forth. I always feel like it's a bit weak to always answer everything with, "Well . . . you just need to have a balance"---but I suppose that really IS the answer, often. Or at least, you decide which side of the balance YOU want to be on, but you can't really decide it for anyone else.

The thing I've been questioning this time is how to be a nice person. Like, instinctively nice---kind, charitable---(not "nice" in that belitting way people use to mean you're boring or weak)---so that your first reaction is to think of someone else's feelings and not your own pride. I think at various times in my life I have assumed I was like that---but that's mostly because I was thinking about the times when I wasn't really upset or provoked. It's like that C.S. Lewis quote about rats in the cellar and how what we do when we are provoked or taken by surprise or not "at our best," is a pretty accurate measure of who we really are.

So when I'm "surprised" by some situation---someone is rude to me, or a store clerk is unhelpful, or a "customer service" person is unsympathetic or inflexible---then I have a hard time wanting to be nice. I want to be rude back (sure, usually I am too scared to actually say what I want to say, so I resort to glaring or muttering some passive-aggressive comment or whatever---but the point is I WANT to be rude and I AM, in my heart!) and give that "bad person" "what they deserve"---which I am, obviously, not qualified to decide, but I think I am.

Now, I've also been thinking about K's sort-of-related post here (and even more, the comments) and there are a lot of good points there about how sometimes we really need to stand up for ourselves and our families, and we need to learn when to say no to things even if we feel like it's "rude", and we need to speak our minds and give our own feelings weight and not just let ourselves be trampled over. All this is good and I applaud it, endorse it, agree with it, etc. etc. Don't get the wrong idea here: I don't want to be someone that can't speak up for what I think is right, and I don't want women to feel that their opinions are not worth giving, and so on.

But . . . but . . . the problem is, I am so quick to think I am right. So there are many, many situations where I go out of it with this righteous indignation, thinking I'm so justified in being angry, and later when I am more rational, I realize my own motives and emotions were not really as pure and unsullied as I would like to believe they were. Sure, that lady could have said "I'm sorry, but our policy is no returns" in a kinder and more sincere voice. Or okay, maybe she could have made an exception for me. She didn't have to look at me like I was an illiterate cretin who couldn't read my receipt, right? But do I really have to spend the next 45 minutes dwelling on how unfair it was and feeling hot and mad and wishing I had made some snide comment (which I keep trying frantically to come up with)? And how much can I really assume about what she was thinking about me, anyway? How do I know; I can't read minds, or even facial expressions with perfect accuracy. And what does my (over)reaction say about MY level of kindness and tolerance?

If it weren't important to stand up for yourself/your family, I guess it would be easier. Then I really could just say "I'll be compliant at all costs, I'll never protest something even if it's unfair." But the fact that there ARE situations that warrant making a fuss is what makes it hard, I suppose. It's so easy to start to think that every situation warrants making a fuss . . . that I am always in the right just because I "deserve better" . . . that I and I alone have purity of motive ("The best for my family!") and that no one who threatens my conception of how things should be has any justification at all.

I guess I'm just wishing it was less instinctive for me to fall into the above thought patterns, and more instinctive for me to react by thinking, "Well, she probably meant well," or, "That's okay, it's not a big deal," or, "I'm the one who is over-reacting" or "I should try to handle that more graciously next time." It's like once I've opened the floodgates of being resentful about some perceived injustice, I forget all the things I'm trying to practice about being charitable and being kind and giving others the benefit of the doubt. I just dwell on how "it's just not fair"/"it's just not right"/"I'm a nice person and I don't deserve this."

Which is exactly my (sad but true) point: I'm NOT really a nice person. Not by instinct; not when push comes to shove (if that means what I think it means) :). So I can't just assume that if I "feel" like I'm right, I AM right, and I'm justified in saying whatever I need to get my point across. I can't assume that my own feelings should always take precedence (because sometimes I really AM better off saying "yes" to something I'd rather not say yes to). I can't rely on my own (nonexistent) moral superiority to show me who is right in any given situation: I need to rely on God's spirit instead---if I can figure out what it's saying. And I can only do that, when I'm being humble and kind, the best I can.

And maybe that's the only way I'm ever going to figure out when to be bold and "stand up for myself" and when to just let it go, when to subside and maybe even let myself be trampled on, just a little. Because I don't "deserve" good treatment at the expense of someone else's welfare. And when it comes right down to it, I'd rather be kind and generous and forgiving than "in the right." (Now if I could just remember that for more than 10 minutes at a time! . . .)
8

Brothers helping each other

Last year when we played at playgrounds, Malachi was pretty happy to just sit in the stroller or sit by me in the grass while the other boys did more adventurous things. Sometimes I could even sit and read while the three of them played. But, this year that's obviously not going to work. Malachi wants to move on to bigger and better things, and he is convinced that he's quite capable of doing anything his brothers can do.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, to see how ready the older brothers are to help the younger ones with things that are hard for them. In fact Seb quite willingly showed Malachi several places I would rather Ky NOT have tried to climb ("Come up here, Mal-chi! Climb up that ladder!"). It makes for a bit more nerve-wracking playground time (I cannot take my eyes off of Ky for a second), but it's so cute to see the three of them following each other around and trying to do all the same things!


Abe giving detailed instructions on where to climb next: "Okay, Sebby, move your other foot on top of that rope. Now grab this one with your arm." etc.




Ky climbing---not afraid (I had to keep stopping him from trying to go up ladders and such, which he really is not capable of doing yet.)

Seb demonstrates the binoculars

Tiptoes (I love baby tiptoes)

Brothers peering at each other



At last, Ky found something he could do over and over again without me coming over to pull him down and say, "Too high for babies!" And Sebby was happy to help out.

3

Lemon curd

I've found a couple recipe ideas I really like lately on this blog. One was for lemon goat cheese tart, which turned out really yummy (I love goat cheese). The three layers work wonderfully together--kind of like lemon bars, but with the added bonus of a cheesecakey layer too. Mmm. It was one of those recipes where it took me forever because I kept trying to modify for things I didn't have (I don't have a tart pan, for example, but springform worked okay, and broiling in the oven worked instead of using a "kitchen torch"), but with some improvisation it worked.

My favorite part, though, was the lemon curd I made for the top layer of the tart. Have you made lemon curd before? I hadn't. But right now, it tastes SO good to me---refreshing and summery. It's pretty sour, but in a good way. I like to eat it just plain! I made a big batch and so far we've eaten it in crepes with strawberries (which Sam made for Mother's Day breakfast yesterday---yum!), on top of ice cream (wonderful), and in the goat cheese tart. I also want to try it on angel-food cake or between layers of lemon cake, maybe in a trifle, and on scones. And I've had this lemon curd marbled cheesecake in my "to try" recipe file for a long time, but I never seem to have three packages of cream cheese on hand. It sounds good though!
I used this recipe rather than the one called for in the tart recipe---because it uses whole eggs rather than just yolks, and I prefer not to have the leftover whites to deal with unless I have to:

Lemon Curd (from Epicurious.com) (I doubled this and still wished we had more. But then, maybe you won't be as obsessed with it as I am rapidly becoming.)
(UPDATE: I've changed the amounts to reflect the doubled recipe, as that is the one we always use.)

1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest, optional
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits

You just whisk the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and eggs together in a saucepan. Turn the heat onto medium-low and stir in the butter. Then cook it (keep stirring so it won't scorch) until just to boiling point---it will get thick and look like pudding. (It takes 6 minutes or so.) Turn off the heat as soon as it's about to boil, stir it, transfer it to a bowl, and stick a piece of plastic wrap to the surface (so a skin won't form). Then you can keep it in the fridge and use it in things all week. If you are a generous person, you could also package it up in cute little jars, like this.

Shall we have a lemon dessert party sometime soon? Who's in?


5

Boots

I came across this old picture of Sebastian and it made me laugh. That was good because sometimes I forget to laugh at that boy. And he really is very, very funny.
2

California coast

After the redwoods, we drove out to the coast and found a place to stay out there, so we got to go running together on the beach the next morning---which was awesome. (We almost never get to run together anymore!) The light was so beautiful.





3

Green

For our anniversary this year, Sam arranged with my Mom to take care of the boys (all three boys!) for a few days while we drove to see the redwoods in California. It was SUCH a great trip. I love trips with the boys, really, but it was amazing all the things you can do without kids: have long conversations, eat dinner at 9 p.m., stop driving when you feel like it, NOT stop driving when you feel like it, go hiking without carrying anyone, eat without having to feed someone else's bottomless mouth, and did I mention long conversations?

We didn't really have anything planned---we just drove, talked, listened to music, and stopped whenever we felt the urge. The redwoods were amazing (Sam was in HEAVEN---you know how he is with natural/geological phenomena. And so artistically inspired! He couldn't wait to draw it all. Here is one of his drawings) and we hiked for hours enjoying the trees and the quiet and the greenness. (I am always struck by how green everything is when you get out of the desert. I love it.) Northern California is beautiful!



Forget-me-nots. I love them---that color of blue is so unusual! (I'm also partial to them because I wore forget-me-nots in my hair at our wedding reception.)

Big, big trees. Unbelieveable, really. Sam and I kept talking about how our minds couldn't even really process just how BIG they were.

Some of the groves had "Cathedral" in the name, and it does seem like that. All those vertical lines, pointing your gaze toward heaven. You can't help but think about God's power.
2
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