Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Updated Wedding News

So today I met with a dear friend, and sister in our ward, Donna; who is making my dress for me.

It is SO good to go to a place like Joann Fabrics and be with someone knowledgeable enough when looking at patterns and material.

After going through several pattern books, I finally made my decision on the dress. It is going to be gorgeous! Two types of material, a gorgeous trim, it's really going to be stunning. I can't wait.

So now the dilemma, discuss it with my husband, let him in on "the big secret", or play the blushing bride" part and keep the dress a mystery until the special day?

While we've been married, legally and officially for the past seven years, this is a brand new adventure for us. This whole process, which we are treating as if it is our "real" wedding, is truly turning out to be as stressful and daunting as a first-time wedding.

There seems to still be so much to do... arrange a photographer, hair-stylist and make-up, flowers... I am still not 100% set on a colour theme, but do I really need one? There are so many beautiful colours to choose from, how do I choose just one? Buttercup yellow, orange, spring green... goodness me, how does one narrow it down to just one? And looking at wedding sites and magazines just confounds the issue even more, as one colour scheme is nicer than the other, but all are nice.

Then we have to deal with budget... or the lack there of.

Thank goodness for the wonderful members in our ward who are pulling together to help us make this a beautiful day.

As I have explained the premise (in past posts) about why we do this, I have pretty much left emotion out of it thus far. So let me explain the emotion and symbolism with this special day from my point of view...

When I was sixteen years old, I was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while living in Australia. After some discussion, investigation, and much prayer; I came to know that this was the true and living church of Jesus Christ in these last days. The Spirit which came over me was an intense and powerful witness to this fact, and one which I was not able to ignore then, or since. I determined within myself that this was the church, and these were the people whom I wished to align myself with.

At that time, I became very good friends with a girl who was LDS, and she was primarily responsible for teaching me many things about the gospel and life as a Latter-day Saint.

One of the things that she taught me was the importance of temple marriage, and also how important it was that we remain pure until our wedding night. She showed me photos of the temple, (mainly the Salt Lake City temple) and produced a very romantic ideal of eternal marriage and life in the eternities with my eternal companion.

My 16 year old mind was now filled with the romance of meeting and then being proposed to by a returned missionary (of course, he was to be a "return with honour" missionary), and then being led by him to the beautiful temple, there to kneel across a beautiful altar and make covenants to be together as a husband and wife forever.

I held on to this image in my mind, even when I married my first, non-Mormon husband where a temple marriage would not be possible. After he died, my hopes and dreams of my temple marriage started to diminish. But, being one who never gave up, I kept my hope... and my faith, alive.

Eventually, I met my beloved husband Ben. He was a returned missionary... "returned with honour" missionary no-less, and my hope returned. At the time we decided to marry, we were not ready to marry in the temple. But we persevered, and we prayed, and we kept our faith alive.

Finally last year (2009), we made the decision that this was the time for us to make these eternal covenants to each other.

One of the major factors for this decision was that we have, over the years, lost seven babies in miscarriage. The knowledge that there are seven babies across the veil waiting for an eternal family, has pushed us to take the steps needed to make our marriage eternal. Will this help us in our deep desire to conceive and have a baby of our own? All I can say is that faith and determination keeps us motivated. Whatever happens, we know that this decision and this step will bless us in more ways than we can even conceive at this present time.

The covenants entered into when we are sealed in the temple, are not ones to be taken lightly. They are binding upon this earth as well as in heaven... "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Matthew 16:19)

So while I have focused on many of the temporal preparations for this amazing day; the dress, the suit, the flowers, the cake, etc... etc... etc..., the spiritual preparation and focus is even more strong.

And while I have been married temporally for the past seven years, Ben and I are embarking on our eternal marriage; and yes, the nerves, the excitement, and the "blushing bride" syndrome is all there.

This is a most exciting adventure, still tinged with some jitters of the desire for that "perfect day", but what it comes down to is this; at the end of the day, its not about the dress, the flowers, the hair, the cake, or any of those earthly and mundane things, its about Ben and its about me. Its about the eternal covenants that we will make that day. Its about the extreme sacredness of those covenants, and its about the intense love which we share.

But... all this said, I still wonder... do I tell Ben about the dress, or leave a little bit of mystery to the day?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Facebook Detox

My husband and I often have a battle over the computer and the activities which occur on the computer.

For him, his addiction is video games; and for me, Facebook has become rather addictive especially as it is a great avenue for catching up, and reconnecting, with friends from primary (elementary) and high school in Hong Kong and Australia, as well as other friends which have crossed my path over the years.

I have two predominant accounts on Facebook (yes I know, that is technically not allowed... but having a girlfriend who is a friend on both accounts, who works for the legal department of Facebook, nothing has been said, so we'll keep mum on it); one for business purposes only and the other, for play. And where have I found most of my time landing? Of course on the side that is set aside for play.

As I have found that I have lost my husband to his video game, he backfires and tells me that he has lost me to Facebook. Is there a double standard in what is better and what is not? Yes and no. Yes in that the content is different, but no in that both are extremely addicting, and anything that can separate a family for extended periods of time without any real productive results, can be detrimental.

Most of you who are friends, or regular readers of our blog, know that Ben and I are planning to enter in a very sacred covenant of Celestial Marriage (also known as Temple Marriage) on May 15th this year.

Since we've determined to do this and set the date, we have been hit left, right, and center with adversity. And when I say adversity, not in the sense that we've hit against brick walls, but rather in subtle and small ways which, added up, become mountains.

As members of the Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), we've been counseled that Satan finds very subtle ways to intercede in our lives, straying us from the straight and narrow path, and leading us into a vast void of temptation and unfulfilled promises and lies. When we err on this side, we are headed in a one way street to destruction and devastation.

Distractions and discouragement are some of Satan’s most effective tools. He finds ways to help us make excuses about why we can’t do this or that. He gets us involved in wasting our time and resources in things that lead us away from improving our lives and developing our talents. He blurs our focus by diverting our attention. This can happen to the very best of you.Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy

(See http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=afee15e67b5b2210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD for full article)

And while I've been frustrated with my husband's playing of his game, I too have been distracted with Facebook. Oft-times in the past, I'd easily stay up all night on Facebook chatting and reconnecting with old friends, now living in different parts of the world, instead of finding myself where I was supposed to be, in bed next to my husband.

When I realised how destructive that activity was, I curbed it, only now oft times finding my husband seemingly preferring his game to being in bed sleeping.

What to do?

We are getting sealed in the temple in just over a month's time.

I have recently suggested to my husband that this sacred day is akin to having a baptism in that all our past mis-deeds towards one another be forgiven and forgotten, and that we have a chance to start over again. But how can we start over again if there has been no work done? Can a road simply be re-paved over cracked and dangerous pot holes, or does it have to be worked on a bit, smoothed over, before new asphalt can be laid?

So today, I made a decision for myself and suggested same for Ben; I'm giving up Facebook for one month to focus on growing, and preparing myself spiritually and temporally for our upcoming Temple Wedding, and I suggested that he give up his video games to prepare also.

This afternoon, I posted my last "update" on Facebook. In it I stated that I was going to take a break from Facebook for one month to focus on personal things. While I am saying "See ya later" to Facebook, I will still check my email and will still blog; but the thing which has been really getting in the way of my priorities, I am joyfully sacrificing.

During this next month, my goal is to read the scriptures daily, meditate daily and with real intent. I plan to visit the temple at least once a week. I plan to blog about this and how I am doing. In this month without Facebook, I intend to spend more quality time with my husband and smooth over any rough patches which may still be lingering so that when we kneel across from each other in the holiest of holy places, we will truly be there in purity, and with a spirituality that washes us clean of any negativity. In this, we will end our temporal marriage and begin our journey in an eternal marriage.

And while Ben has resisted my suggestion that he gives up his gaming for the next month and instead focus on other, more productive things, he is open to it.

While the outcome is still unknown, I know that the sacrifices which we are making will bond us together in a stronger, and more spiritual manner.

So, after my final update on Facebook for the next month, and catching up on last comments and emails, I logged off for the last time for the next month... How did I feel? I actually felt a bit of a weight lifted. For too long I have been updating, chatting, and getting caught up. Now I feel as if I can manage to have a bit of privacy, at least for the next month, without my nearly 400 friends (on my private page) knowing what I am having for lunch or cooking for dinner, or where I am going, what I am doing, or anything. Right now, I feel relieved to have that burden lifted.

This leads me to ponder on how it became such that lives are no longer kept private in this day and age of social media. We update constantly on what we are doing, where we are going, who we are seeing... Does anyone really care? So why are we putting it out there? Its akin to the parent who insists on showing you their portable photo album of their child's life almost from the moment of inception... do any of us really care, or are we just playing nice in our comments?

What really are our priorities today? And what are we teaching the next generation about priorities?

Family is always first, that has been most people's motto; and it certainly is within the church and in my family; so when did we start putting "updates" and "Tweets" and video gaming ahead of the family?

Today, I learned of friends who have separated because of his video gaming habit. While I know that she is not the easiest person to live with, escaping into a void that is the mindless side of the internet, never solved any issues. Escapism in general never solved any issues. But we do it because it is easy and it is accessible.

The same internet where we can learn vast amounts of information at the press of a button, or a Google search; can also result in detriment. I think there comes a time when each of us has to make that decision whether they are going to do what is easy, or make sacrifices wherein the blessings and rewards are immense and eternal.

This is my goal, keep reading and we'll see what develops.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend 2010

This Easter weekend was filled with awe and first time experiences for us.

On Friday, my Dad celebrated his 88th birthday. The week prior had not been a very good one as his health has been deteriorating and earlier in the week, the Ottawa Heart Institute said that there was nothing that they could do for him, or would do for him. His heart is so weakened that any kind of treatment they can do for (his kidneys) could possibly kill him. Of course I have my own theories which tend towards my beliefs in Canada's socialized health care; but I'll keep them to myself here.

But on Friday, my Mum said he was doing better and that he had a really good day. Two nights before I spoke with him, and quite literally, it broke my heart. He could not string together a single sentence without having to take a long, deep breath between words. I'd never heard him sound so bad.

However, true to form; he and I were able to make each other laugh. Call it a coping mechanism on my part, whenever things start to get too dire and dark, I tend to find something to make someone laugh and alleviate the moment. It seems Dad has become like this in his wise years.

So we are on the phone, and understand that both my Dad and I have hearing impairment, but his is much worse than mine. And we're talking about the lovely Easter Pageant that Ben and I will be attending the following night on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple (http://www.easterpageant.org/), and I tell him "Next year you'll have to..." he interrupts me and says, "What's that Leyla, you're going to go have sex now?!" That ended the conversation as we were both laughing so hard.

The following night, Ben and I went to the Easter Pageant with a woman we've just met and the missionaries. We had a great time and afterwards went over to Denny's for some hot chocolate... wouldn't you know it, their hot chocolate machine was broken down. But the company was great and as we were about to rap things up, a blast from our past walked in. A former friend who we'd not seen in about five years came running over with all the gossip of her life over the years.

We were looking forward to the 180th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this weekend. It was the first time that Conference occurred on Easter weekend since 1999 and won't occur again until 2016.

Part of our preparations include getting as many snacks as possible to keep Ben awake through all sessions. As he has sleep apnea and narcolepsy, he falls asleep easily.

Saturday morning, we got up early, I made French toast for breakfast and we set in to watch conference on BYU-TV (one of the advantages of living in this part of the world).

President Monson opened conference with a wonderful message, much laughter, and the opening of the Spirit. The day progressed well and the messages most inspiring. As we came towards the close of the afternoon session, Ben tapped me lightly on the arm, "I think we might have a baby bird."

Our budgies had five eggs which
Lucy had been well incubating for the past month or so. In fact, she'd taken SO long in incubating that we wondered if they were duds or not.

But sure enough, we could hear the definite "peeps" of a baby. Later I opened the nest and saw the little critter. SO tiny it was, about the length of the first digit of my index finger. And SO ugly it is cute; naked of feathers, with big black dots that seem to take up its entire head (where the eyes are).















video


Sunday's sessions were very inspiring also, although with snacks almost all gone, it was a bit of a battle keeping Ben awake for the entire four hours.


After the final session, as we were preparing to head next door to our neighbours for Easter dinner, I had a little lay down with the cats. Well, Sayge has put on a tremendous amounts of weight and I thought she was shaking the bed while cleaning herself. The bed was literally moving back and forth and I was starting to feel a bit "sea sick". I looked down and saw her and Ainey both looking up at the ceiling fan; obviously she was not responsible for moving the bed. So I said out loud, "Well if you're not moving the bed, who's moving the bed then?!" As if the clear air would answer me back. Then it stopped.

I looked up at the ceiling fan and saw that the chain and fob were swinging back and forth.

I called Ben and told him that I thought we might have had an earthquake. Of course, he didn't feel anything so didn't think that that was what it was.

Well, immediately I started to think that I should get back on my blood pressure meds ASAP cos I was getting vertigo even while laying down... that's pretty bad.

A half hour later, I finally got round to turning on CNN and learned about a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Northern Mexico (and while I was watching, they increased the magnitude to 7.2). I immediately told Ben. And yes, the reports DID say that it was felt in Southern California, Northern California, Seattle, and... Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona! YAAY! I am NOT crazy and I didn't have vertigo!!!

Glad to learn that I was not the only one who thought she was crazy when I asked my neighbours at the party later if they had felt it; two had, two had not. The two who had thought that they were going crazy too.

Easter weekend this year was awesome. There is something about having General Conference, my Dad's birthday, the birth of a new life, and an earthquake on this sacred time of year that makes one feel edified, glorified, and know of God's existence. In all these blessings and experiences one can't help but feel turned towards the Lord, and align oneself in thinking of the glory of so many experiences in one weekend and think of the sacrifice that He made for us, His resurrection, and our knowledge that we too can live after death and become resurrected.

This weekend, we were counseled to not make others feel unwanted, unloved, or judge others. We were taught against judgment but to (seemingly contradictory) use excellent judgment in making decisions. We were told that it is not a matter of "if" trials would come to us, but rather "how" they would come and how we choose to react to them. In the midst of trial and tribulation, we can find solace in our Lord and Saviour, and know that we are never alone.

And we were warned of the dangers in our midst's; such things as negative imagery that we can so easily view, hear, and watch how such seemingly innocent shows are being invaded by small, but spiritually deadly words, actions, and views.

What was really amazing was that we were counseled that we are in the last days and that we have been taught that in the last days we would be plagued with wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, and the water levels rising and many deaths. In the past three months, there have been two great and devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and a great tsunami which hit the Samoan islands. Not two hours after conference ended, it was most interesting to not only hear about, but to feel the earthquake in Northern Mexico.

A sign of the times? I think that we are in a place in history where we can no longer ignore the signs around us. Maybe the Mayan calendar is right, and we should expect the beginning of the end in 2012. From a documentary I saw last year, they believe that 2012 will just be the beginning and by 2016 our world will be completely different from the one we live in today.

As we were counseled this weekend, in the midst of trials and despair, it is then that we need to seek to the peace and solace of the Lord and our Heavenly Father, for it is truly only in Them that we will be able to be armed with the fortitude to continue and "get through".

There was a lot of lessons which left me pondering this Easter weekend. I hope that you too had a wonderful one, that you were blessed with much to ponder and that you too, were edified.