Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do Our Words Have Power?

Don't only practice your Art,
But force your way into its Secrets,
For it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Our words express what is deep in our souls. If our words don’t convey appropriate ideas and emotions, then we need to take a step back and evaluate our language.

I have a nasty habit. When my daughters push my buttons, and they do so frequently, a slew of swear words flies from my mouth. This ugly habit began a long time ago when I first struggled with postpartum depression and had uncontrollable rage. The rage has been subdued but the tongue is still unbridled.

As a writer, my words are my craft. They express who I am. I would never dream of writing vile, filthy words. So why would I speak them?

We know of the power of words. Words have raised nations. Words have freed the tormented and oppressed. Words can destroy souls. One tiny word spoken in malice can crumble a person and leave a mark forever.

Does what you write define who you are? When you are practicing your art and forcing your way into its secrets, does it raise you to the divine, or does it clamp shackles on your wrists and ankles and cut into your soul as much as your flesh?

When I started out as an author I promised my work would be clean. I should do the same for my spoken words as well.

As it happens, a great lesson at church spoke directly to me.

All my quotes are taken from a General Conference talk by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke these words in The Tongue of Angels:

The Prophet Joseph Smith deepened our understanding of the power of speech when he taught, “It is by words … [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed.” Like all gifts “which cometh from above,” words are “sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.”

It is with this realization of the power and sanctity of words that I wish to caution us, if caution is needed, regarding how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves.

Words are sacred and must be spoken with care! Great men and women know this. How we must realize this too! Elder Holland continues:

There is a line from the Apocrypha which puts the seriousness of this issue better than I can. It reads, “The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.” With that stinging image in mind, I was particularly impressed to read in the book of James that there was a way I could be “a perfect man.”

Said James: “For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

Continuing the imagery of the bridle, he writes: “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.

“Behold also … ships, which though they be … great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm.”

Then James makes his point: “The tongue is [also] a little member. … [But] behold, how great a [forest (Greek)] a little fire [can burn].

If we bridle our tongues, we can control our whole body. And though that might be a small thing, it can have everlasting results.

A Book of Mormon prophet learned about the actual power of words. Helaman 10:3–10

And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.

And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.

Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.

 And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.

 And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass.

You could consider the same true for Moses in the Old Testament. Did he not call down the ten plagues? With his words did he not part the red sea?

Oh, how sacred are the things which fall from our mouths!

Elder Holland continues:

What of the unbridled tongue in your mouth, of the power for good or ill in your words? How is it that such a lovely voice which by divine nature is so angelic, so close to the veil, so instinctively gentle and inherently kind could ever in a turn be so shrill, so biting, so acrid and untamed? . . . Words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined . . . There is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind, including gossip or backbiting or catty remarks. Let it never be said of  . . . [us] that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity . . . [burning] . . .”

We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don’t say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child’s view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child’s faith in us and their faith in God. Be constructive in your comments to a child—always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget—and to forgive. 

Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good … [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. …

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. …

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

How do you value your words as a writer? I’ve committed from this point on to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous in my words. I’ve decided, because I feel my inspiration has come from God, that if I want to start my writing off on a positive and intuitive note for the day, I should start my mornings with a daily devotional to realign myself with my purpose and goals—start with spiritual and physical preparation so the words I write have power.

And hopefully, if I can excel in this habit, it will translate into my verbal language also.

How about you? What do you do to give your words power?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Premonitions are Real

I have to document what happened last night because the prior time I had a real, fear-inducing dream, it foreshadowed an inescapable, debilitating event in my life. So here is the account to the best of my memory.

I woke roughly around 1 a.m. I am not one hundred percent sure, because as the usual case, I drift out into the kitchen and get a drink and look at the clock. If it is earlier than 1 a.m. then I’m like, okay, I have plenty of time to fall back to sleep. I don’t need a sleep aid, just yet. But it is hard to remember things when you are blurry with waking. I was pretty confident though.

In this case, when I woke, a helicopter was flying over my house, shaking the entire structure. The commotion was so terrible, I fully expected to see a spotlight gleaming through my curtains or see flashlight beams creeping through my yard from sneaking snipers looking for a fugitive.

It was possible. We’ve had helicopters do this before, looking for people. I prayed that my house and my family would be safe from whatever the crazy heck was going on outside and rolled out of bed. I’m not sure at what point the ruckus from the helicopter stopped. (Maybe while I was praying?)

After drinking my water, I walked to the patio door as was the typical habit when I woke (’cause often hubby forgets to lock the doors or flick on the motion detector lights). All was well in this respect. As I turned, I distinctly thought I heard something rustle in the corner of the family room. I didn’t turn on the lights. I assumed it was my imagination or the computer doing its regular scan. So I passed by the front door to check its locks and lights, peaked into my sleeping daughters rooms, and slipped back under my covers.

All was well. But did I imagine the helicopter? Why didn’t my husband wake up? He’d be insane not to.

Now if the helicopter was a dream, then how do I know that for sure? And if it was, at what point did I wake up from visions of men in black suits, slinking through my yard, to the reality that the house was actually shaking, and transition to me walking into the kitchen? I couldn’t distinguish the line because I thought it was really going on. I didn’t think part of it could be a dream.

Even so, that little scenario didn’t faze me.

Here comes the terrifying fantasy. I think this next dream was spurred by the noise in my living room and the recent Elizabeth Smart story that came out. I’m not going to go into the specifics, but in a nutshell, my children were “kidnapped” but it was by someone we knew, who was trying to do something as a surprise, and they “borrowed” my children without asking. But in my dream, I went into their bedrooms and found their beds empty and their windows wide open. A panic gripped me, and I thought for sure they were really gone.

I woke, absolutely horrified. I checked their rooms to find them still asleep. When I was certain the house was secure, I crawled back into bed, now thinking I need to read Elizabeth’s Smart’s story and reprimand the person who took my children (in my dream) for being so stupid. But I also laid down with the sure feeling that I loved my daughter’s more than I could possibly comprehend, and this dream filled me with a knowledge that I would do anything to get them back, if such a horrible thing were to happen. (Think Taken) I also felt really bad for not paying enough attention to them lately. So I thought this dream was a reprimand. I vowed to give them more hugs every day and pay more attention to them. I asked Heavenly Father to forgive me, and I fell uneasily back to sleep.

Sometime around 3 a.m. (and I only know the time, because I checked afterward) I woke when someone in the hallway said, “Hello?” It was an unfamiliar voice and I jolted awake. I was so petrified that someone could be in my house. My husband next to me stirred, and I thought he would get up and investigate and grab his police baton shoved under the mattress on his bedside. He only rolled over and resumed sleep. I tried to say that I heard someone say hello and elbow him in the ribs, but my mouth couldn’t move. I couldn’t move, so I laid in bed as still as a rock and waited. If someone had broken in, they would eventually come into the room. But nothing happened. When my powers of mobility returned, I stumbled out of bed and grabbed a baby blanket, as if that would help, (maybe I could snap them like a wet towel. IDK. I was out of my mind.) But the blanket was a comfort as I clutched it to my chest. I checked the whole house over, now thoroughly terror-stricken. Everything was in order, the kids were asleep. A fleeting thought was that one of the kids had spoken in their sleep. But I know I distinctly heard the voice in the hallway. I also thought this could have been a case of sleep paralysis, which two of my friends both recently confessed to me that they have experienced.

I prayed for a long time until I felt peace and drifted into my final slumber before the morning rush of school lunch packing and whiny kid hair brushing.

This morning I am wondering, what was all this trying to show me? I don’t take these things lightly, not anymore.

I had a dream back on 2010 that was a premonition, showing me I was going to slip into my last and worst depression cycle. I didn’t know the meaning of the dream at the time, but after I recovered from my depression, I came upon it scrawled in a notebook, and knew it exactly for what it was. So needless to say, I write all these things down now.
So what could this one mean?

I shudder when I think of the movie Sandra Bullock stars in. Premonition. She was unable to change the course of her fate. Her husband still died. I was unable to keep my depression cycle from coming on. Why the warnings? So we can be more prepared? So these events don’t slam us in the face?

I'm not blind to the truth that the other side guides us and protects us and gives us warnings. I have had many impressions from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the impressions come as dreams. Sometimes they are warnings. They can also come to us in the whisper of a still small voice or a warm, comforting feeling. But they always come as truth.

I am still walking around the house in unease, hoping the meaning will manifest. I don’t have dreams like this without purpose. The best thing I can do is be vigilant and open my scriptures and pray. Especially pray for peace and understanding.

Scared yet. I keep hearing helicopters.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cut It All Down! Spring Garden Cleanup.

Dead stalks.

Leveling day in my garden. I pull out my edge trimmer and raze everything, except shrubs, to the ground.
Today's tools. Hedge trimmer, my friend.

I leave the dead stalks of my flowers up over the winter so the kids can see where the plants are and don't fall on the razor sharp spines in the snow. I mean, have you ever speared your ankle with the stubs of a mum? Ouch.

In twenty minutes I had the front garden beds sheared off. Quick and easy. Then I rake the brush off the plants and at the same time remove any remaining fall leaves. I was careful to not rake to hard and rip my tender plants right out of the water sodden ground.
                            Ta da!

Once every thing is removed, I rake up the piles and wheel them to my compost bins. Four wheelbarrow loads full. The clean up took an hour, so today's garden task was a little more labor intensive, but the wind was blowing so I was in my element.

Tulip coming up.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lenten Roses: Uncover their Beauty

Hello! It's spring out there! The birds are singing and the sun is shining. What snow remains are the piles the plow pushed up. The ground is soggy and the garden looks like a dead mess.

But wait.

I see green.

Blue bells are the first sign of spring at my Maryland home. But they are not the only ones. Hidden Lenten Roses are covered under ugly, gnarled leaves flopped over and buried under brown leaves. They are trying to make their presence known.

Every spring, I cut the old foliage back from my nine Lenten Roses. I don't want to miss the gradual unfurling of the leaves followed by their nodding pale green and mauve petals.

I gathered my trusty tools. My Foxgloves gardening gloves and my clippers (which I sharpen with every use by running a whetstone over them).

Twenty minutes later and my beauties can see the light of this lovely 65 degree day. All those dead leaves fill a wheel barrow. In two more weeks they should be in bloom.


New Foliage

Cleared Lenten Rose patch.

First in my series of spring gardening tasks. Watch me tactical my garden this spring, one day at a time, one section at a time. A few minutes a day is all it will take to make my garden amazing and save my ailing body from keeling over.