Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hidden Gems--Power

Have you ever looked up the definition of that word? It's pretty awesome.

the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. (from Google)

I had a powerful moment when reading about power at the end of the Book of Mormon a few weeks ago. And in starting the Book of Mormon, there was that word again, exercising power over me, striking something in my mind and calling my attention.

Moroni 10: 7 (second to last page of the Book of Mormon)
"And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever."

1 Nephi 1:20 (third page of the Book of Mormon)
"But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."

The power of God is one of the things I've been pondering in recent years. I've learned a few things about that power, and having access to it. As both of these scriptures mention, FAITH is a key factor in accessing the power of God. Another thing that is important, is VIRTUE.

Have you ever looked up the definition of that word?

behavior showing high moral standards. (from Google)

In the New Testament, a woman presses her way to Jesus, unbeknownst to Him, and grasps his clothes believing this alone will heal her. She is healed, and this is how the story is related from the Savior's perspective:

Mark 5:30 "And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?"

It was his virtue, that gave him the power to heal her. And this woman wasn't the only one to see the power of God in Him manifest by his virtue.

Luke 6:19 "And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all."

A powerful example of the access to God's power that virtue can provide is the story of Joan of Arc. I love this documentary done by BYUtv

Along with FAITH and VIRTUE, there is something else that provides access to the power of God, and that is HUMILITY, or I sometimes prefer the word MEEKNESS, because it implies another key ingredient: SUBMISSION.

A good reference for this idea is a talk by Richard C. Edgely called "The Empowerment of Humility."

Monday, January 30, 2017

#52Stories Goal Lessons for Children and Grandchildren

What would you want your children or grandchildren to learn from your example about making and achieving goals?

#1 Keep it Simple
I think about this quote a lot: "When eating an elephant take it one bite at a time" (Creighton Abrams).  There is also a scriptural reference for this principle. Alma 37:6 reads in part, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." This is important because it keeps us from getting overwhelmed; increases the likelihood of achievement; and allows us to live life in fullness while still working on specific goals. I think having too many goals or the grandiosity of goals causes us to neglect other more important things in our lives.

#2 A Little Organization Goes a Long Way
I'm taking three classes this semester which is more than I've ever taken at a time in graduate school. I knew it would only be possible if I organized my homework assignments to make sure I was getting everything done. I got out a calendar and wrote out what I needed to do every day throughout the semester to achieve the goal and hopefully do well in the classes. Instead of feeling stressed, I simply look at the calendar each day and do the assignment for that day. It is allowing me to do something that wouldn't be possible otherwise without a great deal of stress.

#3 Be Flexible
Nothing ever works out quite the way we think it will. At times, when I perceived that I had failed at a goal, I would give up. But giving up is never necessary. We may need to readjust, reorganize, or ask for help. We may need to give ourselves more time, or come back to something after a break, but if we are flexible, we can overcome the opposition that we can always count on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

52Stories Hidden Achievements

What are some of your hidden achievements--things that were challenging for you, even though they may seem simple to someone else?

This is a good question. It's sort of funny because I decided to skip the question about academic achievement, which is something I feel I have a lot of, and that mentally came easily for me. Emotionally, though, it was a different story. I have severe social anxiety. This is only something I've discovered in the last few years. I think I began to understand it when I went back to graduate school because after having worked on my personal awareness for several years, I was now keenly attune to the panic I felt when in a room full of strangers, especially when there was high pressure, like a teacher who might ask a question, for example. :)  I knew going to school was difficult because I was "shy," but I really had no idea what was going on or how challenging it had been for me from elementary school through college, especially at times or in classes where I didn't have a friend nearby, or when the teacher would use me as a quiet buffer to sandwich between two kids who wouldn't stop talking to each other. The interesting thing, though, is that now that I'm aware of it, it is improving. Every class gets a little easier. Awareness is awesome! Knowledge is power!

Friday, January 20, 2017

#52Stories Failure

What role has failure played in your efforts to achieve your goals? Have you learned as much from your failures as you have from your successes?

Writing and getting published seem appropriate topics for these questions. I got so many rejection letters when I was trying to find an agent and/or publisher. It wasn't just failure, it was failure stacked upon fat failure. It was excruciating at times, so much so that I decided to quit more than once, only to pick the pen back up again because that's what writers do. Failure can be discouraging, but I'd have to say that sometimes it only fuels the fire more. It can make me more determined to achieve a goal. And as for learning, I learned WAY more from my failures than from my successes. There is no comparison. My writing improved exponentially; my ability to write a query letter was perfected; and my skin thickened so much that sometimes I don't feel human anymore. :) I think that's a good thing, anyway. I love failure. Failure's my favorite.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hidden Gems--Nephi's Record

I just finished reading the Book of Mormon again and, therefore, started it again. I love reading this book! I decided to record some of my thoughts during this read and I'm calling this series of blog posts Hidden Gems.

Sometimes I look forward to reading 1 Nephi, and sometimes I dread it. It can be difficult to listen to Laman and Lemuel complain, or if I'm in a complaining mood it can be difficult to be reminded how unhelpful that is and that I need to stop it. But I love Nephi. My opinion of him has evolved over the years. I used to see him as a bit prideful and/or self-righteous. And he may have been. We all have our faults. One of mine, for example, is fault-finding. Thus, my previous opinion of Nephi. I'm trying to focus on the good in others, and Nephi had a ton of good. He was pretty much a fireball of faith and determination. He endured a lot, and was loyal to his God and his people. He was hard working and kind to his brothers, especially his younger brothers. He loved, honored, believed in, and obeyed his parents. He was good with his hands, and made plates to keep a record and built a ship and a temple. He repented. He suffered. He rejoiced. He was am amazing person.

(I'm sure someday I'll write a post about Joseph Smith and my testimony of him as a prophet, but I felt impressed to mention a part of that now. As a writer, I know what it takes to create a story. I know what kind of thought, time, and effort goes into creating characters, plot, etc. If Joseph Smith were a fraud, his characters would be less distinguishable from one another and much more flat. But they are real. They are so real, it is astounding that people who believe Joseph Smith isn't a prophet do not regard him as a literary genius. From what I've seen, he is either a prophet or a fraud. Nobody gives him any sort of literary credit even though he wrote a book about the length of five of my books put together with a "plot" and "setting" so intricate that it takes intense study to even comprehend. His characters each have unique voices, personalities, and spiritual gifts. In short, it isn't his book at all. He translated the personal writings and journals of real-life human beings. Becoming an author has only intensified my testimony of this book. I loved this explanation of the Book of Mormon I saw recently by Elder Christofferson, one of the current twelve apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.)

A year or two ago, I was having some specific doubts when I began reading the Book of Mormon again. By the way, doubts are like little gnomes in your brain, don't you think? Mean and ugly gnomes. Anyway, I was blown away on the first page when this scripture hit me with a wave of Nephi's strength and testimony.

"And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge" (1 Nephi 1:3).

The Spirit flooded my mind and it was like Nephi was saying, "Look, sista, this is my journal. This really happened to me. Believe it." I was given spiritual insight into what it feels like for someone to not be believed when they were relating the true events of their life. The Spirit testified to me once again that the Book of Mormon is true, and it happened on verse 3!

I'm glad I'm writing this down because even after a long time, it is still having a profound impact on me and it's good to have it recorded.

In thinking about this now, I think it relates to the 13th article of faith. In part, that states "we believe all things." I think for the most part, when people are relating a story, they are telling their truth. Others may have seen it differently, or may have explained it using different points and highlights, but most of the time, we can believe that people are relating their true perspective. More than that, I believe that Nephi was a prophet acting in obedience to commandment. This gives him even more credibility. I am sorry to have ever doubted him. I shouldn't like it very much if someone read my journal and doubted my experiences were true, or thought some things were fabricated or embellished. I know the scriptures are true, and I'm grateful for this prophet who took the time to write down his thoughts and experiences so that we could learn from them.

Monday, January 16, 2017

#52Stories Physical Achievements

What has been your greatest physical or athletic accomplishment? How did you stay motivated to reach the finish line?

A few things came to mind when I read this question. Giving birth, for example! It was never an easy thing for me to carry a baby inside my tummy. My body seemed to detest it, actually. I experienced severe, constant nausea for the first few months, varicose veins the second half of each pregnancy that got worse with each pregnancy, and had a hernia during the first pregnancy that caused a lot of pain. By my third pregnancy, the physical difficulties began to take a toll mentally as well. So worth it, though! I always envied those that had an easier time with it.

Another thing that came to mind was the Halloween Half Marathon I ran several years ago in Provo, Utah. It was especially satisfying because my training got interrupted by an injured toe and despite the set back I was able to finish strong and ran the whole time with the exception of bathroom breaks. I never had any desire to do a longer run and this one was even a bit too long for me. 5Ks are perfect and 10ks are a good challenge for me, but this will by my one and only longer than those.

I love playing softball and it was awesome to make the JV softball team my sophomore year in high school. I didn't play at all my Jr. Year and went back to recreational play my senior year. Our team took first place. One thing I learned from my experiences was that while I love to play and win, it is simply fun to play. I didn't enjoy how competitive it was my sophomore year (and that was only JV). To this day, I cannot stand to see a coach or a parent yell at a child in the name of winning, no matter the age or team.

Motivation has come in different forms. Sometimes, I motivate myself by pushing myself. I actually love the feel of hard, difficult things, like running uphill at a fast pace, for example. With each of the above, I simply wanted the end result so I pressed forward despite all the setbacks and difficulties. Keeping focused on the destination helps, and looking for the good along the way. Pregnancy had its high points, too. Like feeling the baby kick, listening to the heartbeat, choosing a name, etc. The softball team came with awesome coaches, lots of learning and growing, and great teammates. The half marathon had beautiful views and gave me the opportunity to spend a little time with my cousin who ran the same race.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

#52Stories Gratitude

Here is another question I wanted to answer in Family Search's #52 stories challenge.

What is something you taught yourself to do, without much help from anyone else?

This seems like a trick question. I feel that everything I know how to do I had a great deal of help in. I describe myself as being "self-taught" at the piano, but in reality I still had help. My mom taught me a bit when I was young and answered my questions as I went along. She also played the piano a lot which taught me by example. I also had a lot of music instruction in orchestra growing up which helped me learn other instruments.

It is the same with writing. I learned from teachers, classmates and critique group members over the years. Not to mention the encouragement of family and friends. When it came to trying to get published I turned to books and blogs to learn the ropes and SO MANY PEOPLE that I don't even know helped me learn how to query agents and publishing companies, market, and format a book in Word, which I imagine is a bit like performing oral surgery without any training. Come to think of it, oral surgery is probably easier.

There are other things that I would consider "gifts," or talents that are more of a spiritual bestowal. But I know where those came from and I did very little to earn them on my own, in this life at least. I have been able to develop these some through learning, study, and practice, all of which have come to me through the help of someone.

In short, I love to learn, and have a lot of determination and am capable of exerting a lot of effort. But I've always had help from others along the way. And I'm grateful.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

#52stories New Year

I love this idea from because it is helping me decide what to write about. :)

Last week's question was "What goals do you hope to achieve this year?"

I like to set little goals as I go along throughout the year so I've decided not to set any big goals at the beginning of the year. Last year I had one goal--to be optimistic--and that served me well all year long. This year I'm thinking of KINDNESS, to self and others. I would also like to improve in the areas of organization and preparation. These two things have also become awesome allies in my life. Things go smoother and I get more done and if feels great.

Speaking of which, I need to go do some planning for this week.

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Tired of Hobbling

This is a picture of my ankle eight days after I sprained it.

This picture is on day eighteen. I think it's getting better even though it looks mostly the same. I'm hoping for an injury-free 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

For Hungry Readers

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read the book yet, maybe wait to read the epilogue.

Escaping Neverland
by Melissa Lemon

Note: Please see copyright information on sidebar.

              Peter closed the bathroom cabinet and leaned toward the mirror, inspecting his smooth chin. Jane would love it. He smiled as he thought of the way she playfully recoiled every time he’d tried to kiss her over the last several months. Since facial hair was an anomaly on Neverland, Peter had made experimenting a bit of a hobby over the years—sideburns here, a goatee there, nothing too crazy.
                “How many jumps do you have today?” Jane called from the bedroom.
                “Three,” he called back.
                Peter inspected the crow’s feet taking shape around the corner of his eyes until a sparkle caught his attention. A white, wiry hair stuck out from the side of his head, just above his right ear. He reached for it, using the mirror as a guide until he grasped it between his fingers. He debated yanking it, but only for a second. The word monumental came to mind. Peter knew what this meant.
His mind drifted back to all those years ago. After leaving Neverland, he and Jane had struggled for months just to scrape for food. She sang on street corners for every meal and their train tickets back to London where they were able to find Jane’s nanny. They’d been too afraid to seek out the Talley Man and knew it best to disappear as soon as possible. Jane’s nanny Olivia had been ecstatic to see her. They’d embraced for so long Peter grew uncomfortable waiting on the front porch of where Olivia now worked as a nanny for a wealthy family.  Then one of the children had come to the door.
 Peter grew faint as he remembered. He leaned on the bathroom sink and drew in a deep breath. Even the short interaction with the child had sent him into a panic.
                Jane had never left his side. Through name changes, fake ID’s, therapy and dead end jobs she’d been more loyal than the Never blue sky in Summer Quarter. After she asked him if he was ever going to propose, they’d married, but with one stipulation.
                “No children?” Jane had asked, looking so forlorn it had nearly broken Peter’s heart. “Ever? What about therapy? You haven’t had a panic attack in months, not even around children.”
                “You almost done in there?” Jane called, snapping Peter out of the past. He turned on the faucet to finish rinsing his razor.
                Jane opened the door. “I’ve got to go. I’ll see you at the pub later? I’ll be singing something new that I wrote last week.”
                “Of course. Wouldn’t miss it.”
                “Sounds serious,” she said, giving him a pouty look. “Want to tell me about it?”
                Peter sighed. She really did need to get going, but he didn’t think he could wait the entire day to tell her. “Do you remember when I proposed?”
                “You mean when I proposed?” She pointed to her chest, her collection of bracelets sliding down her arm. She wore skinny jeans, ankle boots and a graphic tee that said “Have a mice day,” and was complete with a picture of a small, realistic looking mouse. She’d begun designing graphic T-shirts shortly after he’d finished training as a sky-diving instructor. Many of her T-shirts had been designed with a bit of Neverland inspiration, like the one with a drawing of the Talley Man’s face on a coffee mug that said, “Have you seen this mug?”
                Peter forced a grin. “No, I proposed.”
                “After I gave you the idea.”
                Peter shook his head, opting to give up the age old argument rather than engage in her invitation to banter.
                “Look,” he said, pointing to his head.
                “Look at what?” She stepped into the bathroom and peered up above his right ear.
                “Do you see it?”
                “See what?” Then she gasped and covered her mouth, probably hiding an enormous smile.
                “Peter, you’ve got a gray hair.”
                Peter looked in the mirror once more. “I think it’s white actually.”
                “Peaceful,” she said. “Aging is peaceful, just like the white fairies, remember?”
                Peter nodded. “I remember.” He leaned on the sink again, awash with emotion. He peered at his reflection once more, thinking of what he would look like when all his light brown became “peaceful.”
                “Are you okay?”
                “You don’t remember what I said when I proposed, do you?” He glanced in her direction, his hands still pressed against the counter for support.
                “That’s because I proposed to you.” She tilted her head and grinned, taunting him with those facetious eyes. “You shaved?” She reached out and rubbed his face. “Finally,” she said, and Peter received her peck to the side of his mouth with glee.
                He grabbed her hand before she could take it back and held it to his face. “I’m sorry I didn’t propose first,” he said. “But do you remember what I told you? And what I said about getting older, and gray hair?”
                Her phone began to ring and she fumbled trying to grab it with her free hand until Peter took it and silenced it. Only then did it seem to dawn on her. Her expression sobered, and all of her previous rushing seemed to vanish. “Peter, if this is a joke—”
                “I’m not joking. You know that really isn’t my style, especially when it could hurt you.”
                “You told me you wouldn’t consider having children until you started to get gray hairs.” She pulled her hand away from him, and she looked as though she was trying to process not only the memory, but the idea of it, her brain probably ignited with imaginings of their own little brood.
                Peter nodded. 
Her eyes brightened. “Children?”
                Peter smiled at her. How could he not when she grinned like that?
                “Our own children?”
                “Well, I was thinking we could start with one. See how it goes.”
                Jane let out a laugh and threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him over. Peter held fast, sinking his face into her neck. She sniffed and he pulled away to check for tears, which she not only wiped but insisted on denying the existence of.           
                “I’m fine, really. Awesome actually.” She continued to swipe her cheeks. “Now I’m going to have to fix my make-up.”
                “You look perfect,” Peter said, an adoration that he could not contain swelling in his chest. “As always.”
                She hugged him again, this time squeezing him around the middle. “Love you,” she said.
                He held her close and planted a gentle kiss on the top of her head. “You’d better go. I’ve got to finish getting ready, too. First jump is at ten.”
                She slipped away from him, blowing a kiss as she walked out. He guessed she’d have a hard time erasing that smile for days. Wouldn’t hurt her stage appeal, though. Peter loved watching her perform, and after their recent discussion, was all the more anxious to see and hear her tonight.

*   *   *

Peter’s last jump of the day had been a bit later, causing him to miss Jane’s first few numbers, but she looked electrified when she saw him come in. Peter ordered a sandwich at the bar and took a seat at a table facing the small stage stashed in a corner as Jane finished her current number.
                As Peter paused his chewing to applaud, Jane spoke into the microphone. “I wrote this song today after a rare and lucky strike of inspiration, and I’d like to dedicate it . . . to Peter.” 
                 A warmth flared in Peter’s cheeks. He hated when she mentioned him. For a moment, he bowed his head, self-conscious about the stares that might be coming his way. Trying to forget it, he took another bite of his sandwich, the salty beef and perfect bread nearly melting away the embarrassment. Jane picked a tune on her guitar, and as soon as the words began, Peter grew uneasy again. She’d written a few songs about Neverland, and it always unnerved him the first time he heard them. He checked over his shoulder to make sure the Talley Man wasn’t there. Even though he knew better, that they were now safely tucked away in Ireland, with a new Irish surname, and were careful to avoid having their pictures published in any way, it always frightened him to go back to the memory of it, at least in this setting. Peter’s worries increased when he realized the song was not only about Neverland, but him as well. He tried to relax and just enjoy the sound of her clear voice, and the picture of her sitting on that stool, legs crossed, arms hugging her guitar, and eyes closed so she could just feel the song. By now she was to the chorus.

"And you never thought you’d get away, from the fear that lived inside.
And I watched you time and time again, try to push it from your mind.
And even though
We made mistakes
I’d do it all again. I’d come to Neverland again.
To help you escape."

Enthralled, Peter focused on the words of the second verse.

"When insects glow in every shade,
And the seasons never seem to change.
When clouds and streams come and go
But everything else stays the same.
Try to remember where you’ve been,
But don’t forget where you are now.
All the lovely things you’ve seen
Are coming back to you somehow."

An instrumental bridge led into the chorus. Peter closed his eyes this time, and just listened, imagining himself standing on the cliff at the Black Caverns, looking out over Endal Ocean. No pirate ship threatened; not even a glimmer of fear could reach him. Gold and white fairies danced around him, and the perfect Summer Quarter sky enveloped him with warmth. The music slowed, and Peter thought he could feel the spray of a runaway ocean wave.

"And you never thought you’d get away, from the fear that lived inside.
And I watched you time and time again, try to push it from your mind.
And even though
We made mistakes
I’d do it all again. I’d come to Neverland again.
To help you escape."

The guitar finished, with Jane oohing along. Peter opened his eyes just in time to meet her gaze and see that smile, not the playful one, but the one that reminded him of the dimmed blue of the Never sky in Spring Quarter. The color of dawn. The color of a fairy who feels calm again after being worried. The color of reassurance.