Tender Mercies

I woke up this morning to a beautiful blue sky. Birds were singing, the sun was shining and the dog was pawing at the back door to go outside.  I opened the door to let him do his business.  As I closed the door to get back to my morning routine, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.  It was my crème brulee torch, sitting outside next to the grill.  We had grilled out the night before and we sometimes use the torch to light the grill.  I subconsciously brushed it off and went about my morning, getting the kids cereal and milk, picking up messes that I had been too lazy to clean up the night before, and getting everyone ready to start the day.  I had a slightly uneasy feeling as I went about my chores and was prompted to look back outside.  When I did, I again saw the crème brulee torch, but this time, I felt strongly inspired to bring it inside right now instead of waiting until another time when it would be more convenient for me.  I followed the prompting.

I went about the rest of my morning, completely forgetting about the situation with the torch.  I loaded the kids up in the car and we went to the gym.  It wasn’t until we were headed home from the gym that I realized why God saw fit to intervene in my life this morning.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the heavens opened and the rains came down.  The rains came down hard.

Oh the peace and joy I felt at knowing the God was looking out for me.  I was so grateful that I had been in tune enough to feel His promptings this morning.  I know it was due to the fact that I had not let contention into our home this morning so I was able to be in touch with the spirit.  Now I won’t have to suffer from a soggy topped custardy treat.  We will be blessed to have the indulgent crunch of a flame-caramelized sugar crust on our crème brulee.  I will not have to worry about a torch that would have been ruined had I not been spiritually prepared to see the hand of the Lord in my daily life. And for that I am eternally grateful.  #tendermercies

Maybe I should go back to church next fast Sunday so I can let my light shine and inspire others to be amazing, just like me, so that God will sprinkle just a bit more privilege down on their lives, just as He did mine. 😉

Also, here is a recipe for the most amazing chocolate crème brulee EVER!  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/chocolate-creme-brulee-recipe.html#

We Need To Set Some Boundaries 

It’s Saturday night, 9:30.  My husband is out of town on business.  My mother-in-law texts:  “Do you want me to pick up the kids in the morning and take them to church?  I thought you could use a break.”

As I read the text, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I’ve seen lots of exmos on the Internet talk about the need to set boundaries with their TBM family members.  I’ve read horror stories about TBM grandparents secretly having their grandkids baptized behind the parents’ backs or interrogate the kids to find out if their exmo parents drink alcohol or coffee or tea.  My story is not so dramatic (thank goodness!) but really got me thinking about the need to set some boundaries with our families.

A few months back we sat down with my husband’s parents and told them that we no longer believe the truth claims of the church.  They obviously knew something was up, but we finally told them what it was.  The awkward Sunday morning texts of “should we save you a seat?” have slowly tapered off since that conversation, but that just led to these new offers to take the kids for us.  Usually we have an excuse because we have planned something fun to do instead of church, but this time, I had no excuse.  I could make one up, but I didn’t want to lie.  The more I thought about how I wanted to respond, the more frustrated I got.  My response ended up being a simple “no, thanks.”

What I really wanted to say was “yes, I could use a break.  I could almost always use a break.  Can I take you up on your offer to help out sometime besides Sunday morning?  The kids are actually the main reason I don’t want to go to church.  I really don’t want them there.  I might not mind going to church myself every now and then if it wasn’t for the kids.  I miss my friends from church.  I miss the feeling of community.  I think maybe I could even find uplifting messages in the talks and lessons.  But I know how to separate the crazy stuff from the edifying stuff.  My kids aren’t capable of making that distinction yet.  I don’t want them sitting through primary being taught that they are better than everyone else just because they were born into a Mormon family.  I don’t want them taught that modesty is all about the length of a sleeve or a skirt or that their value lies in their ability to repress all things sexual.  I don’t want them to be taught obedience over critical thinking.  I don’t want them to be taught that their parents or their parents’ friends are bad people for drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol.  I don’t want them to be taught about a God who would never let a prophet lead the church astray and then never mention polygamy, polyandry, the priesthood ban, or sketchy banking schemes.  So, no, I don’t want you to pick up my kids and take them to church.  I know you mean well and you think you are being that praiseworthy grandmother who takes it upon herself to make sure that even though her child has strayed, she can at least make sure her grandchildren are raised in the church (you know the one…there’s at least one of these grandmothers in every ward).  Or maybe you just think its an easy time for you to watch the kids for me since most of that time they are in primary and you don’t even have to watch them yourself.  Whatever your motivations, please don’t ask anymore.  If I want the kids at church, I will bring them myself.  But don’t hold your breath.”

In defense of my mother-in-law, and for full disclosure, she does offer to help me out with the kids at other times too.  For the most part, we really enjoy living so close to them, but its definitely time to set some boundaries.

Changing Moralities: Did I Lose My Morals When I Lost My Religion?

I’ve been wrestling with my conscience lately and I’ve decided its time to hash out my feelings and thoughts in writing.  Throughout this whole journey of losing my faith and coming to terms with life outside of Mormonism writing has been my therapy.  For me, putting my thoughts on paper gives them credence.  It helps me solidify my views and helps me gain confidence that my opinions are valid.  So today I am tackling the extremely controversial topic of abortion.  

I think it is important to start with the disclaimer that I am not 100% set in my opinions on this topic, or really any topic for that matter.  One benefit of leaving religion is that you learn to be more open to being wrong.  I have not researched abortion at all so I’m going from my gut feelings right now.  There may be arguments that could still change my mind either way.

While I was a believing Mormon, and blindly agreed with any church teaching, I had no moral dilemmas when it came to the topic of abortion.  I was okay with it in cases of incest or rape or when the mother’s life was in danger, but otherwise I was completely against it.  When someone would argue that a woman should have the right to choose because it is her body I just fell back to the usual excuse of “unless she was raped, she should have made her choice before she had sex.”  I still agree with this partially.  I do believe that if you are not prepared to be responsible about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.  (But my opinion on the matter is not stopping anyone from having irresponsible sex…)  If you are irresponsible about sex, are you really going to be responsible about raising a child?  But the more I’ve thought about the whole abortion issue, the more I’ve realized that abortion is not all about irresponsibility like I had previously assumed.  In my mind, the only people having abortions were young, unwed, sexually promiscuous women.  And maybe that is the majority.  But its not the whole story.

I probably wouldn’t have given the issue too much more thought except that I just recently had my third child.  Having a third child was a big decision for me and my husband.  The hardest decision we had with our first two was when we wanted to have them.  We already knew we wanted at least 2 kids.  When the decision became not when to have another kid, but if we should have another kid, the narrative changed.  And when we no longer believed God wanted us to have lots of kids or that any pregnancy that might have happened was part of the divine plan for our family, the narrative drastically changed.

No more belief that there are spirits waiting to come to our family.  No more eternal family dynasties to be built.  No more prescribed stance on issues to keep me from thinking for myself.

So my husband and I finally decided that another child was something we actually did both want.  We were slightly hesitant, because as anyone with at least one child can relate to, we were still struggling to keep up with the kids we already had.

My first two pregnancies were fairly easy, but this last pregnancy was definitely the hardest. By the end of it, I undeniably appreciated the argument that a woman should have a choice about what she wants to put her body through more than I had before.  You see, even an “easy” pregnancy is not easy.  The physical and mental things a woman’s body goes through during and after pregnancy are not pleasant.  So when someone argues that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy should “just” carry the child and give it up for adoption, here’s what they should keep in mind: morning sickness (from nausea to vomiting to food aversions to smell aversions, etc), headaches, heartburn, sore back, sore feet, sore breasts, sore everything, exhaustion, constipation, gas and bloating, swelling everywhere, feet growing out of your shoes, acne, gagging when you brush your teeth or wear a shirt whose collar even brushes against your throat—these are totally normal and MILD side effects of pregnancy.  Then comes the labor and delivery.  I’m sure most people are familiar with the horror stories here, so I won’t go into the details.  But don’t forget the after-birth issues like post partum depression, breast engorgement and mastitis, bleeding for weeks and even months after delivery, stiches, hair loss, uncontrollable emotional outbursts, stretch marks, weight problems, more acne, more constipation, sore vagina and butt, etc.  9+ months is a long time to be miserable.  (I know it is not miserable for all women.  I know a few crazy ladies who say they love being pregnant.  But from my experience, that is the exception, not the rule!)

I knowingly chose to put myself through these things.  I knew it would be a huge sacrifice and I knew it would be worth it for my family.  But a woman who is not prepared to make this huge sacrifice should not be vilified.  It is not selfish or vain to say “no, I don’t want to have to go through that.”  I think women who do put their children up for adoption are true heroes.  But that doesn’t mean that the women who choose a different route are weaker or less brave or don’t care about others.  Having a say in what happens to you and your body is something that should be respected.  You should have a choice.

Next comes the argument of when does life begin.  As a Mormon, that was easy.  I believed in the pre-existence.  I believed that all people lived as spirits before being born into this world to receive a body.  There was no question in my mind that abortion meant you were killing a child.  A child that was meant to be a part of your life.  Without belief in the pre-existence, I don’t know when I think life begins.  From my experiences bearing children, here is how I personally see it. I didn’t feel anything for at least the first 5 weeks of pregnancy.  There could have been a baby growing or there could have been nothing.  I was not emotionally attached to anything more than the idea of a child.  Once I did feel something, it was not a child I felt.  It was nausea and headaches.  By this point, I had gone to the OB and had seen the initial ultrasound that yes, there was actually “something” growing inside me.  But with the first two kids, all I saw was a speck.  With my last child however, I had my first ultrasound at 11 weeks.  I was very surprised to see that the thing growing inside me actually looked like a baby already.  I never felt any of my children move until about 20 weeks.  So for me personally, I guess I feel like “life” started somewhere around 10 weeks.  But I had planned for and wanted these children, so I can’t say if I would feel differently if my pregnancies were not conceived under the same hopeful circumstances.

Then came the OB appointments were we needed to decide which tests we wanted to have done that could show certain genetic conditions.  I decided I didn’t want to know.  I really respect my husband supporting my decision on this.  I never really opened the topic up to much discussion, because honestly, I didn’t want to have to think about it or deal with the hard questions at the time.  In hindsight, I hate to think of the pain and internal struggle that less-than-ideal test results would have caused.  I have had the experience of knowing and loving children with severe disabilities.  But even in my ultra religious days I struggled with the idea that God would purposefully allow people to be born this way.  I’ve seen some of the struggles that their parents face and I can’t even imagine how hard that life would be.  Right now, as I am writing this, I feel extremely guilty.  I don’t want to even write the words.  But here goes.  If I had known I was carrying a child with a severe genetic disorder or birth defects, I would have very seriously considered terminating the pregnancy. (Please don’t hate me!)

The last experience that really caused me to question my stance on abortion is the experience that I am living right now.  Having three children has been a really hard change for me.  The thought of accidentally getting pregnant right now scares me to death.  Yes, we use birth control.  But the thought that we could be the .001% is enough to make me panicky.  So while I’m waking up at all hours of the night to feed my precious sweet baby who I love dearly, I’m wrestling with my opinions about abortion.  While I’m screaming at the other two children who I have loved and adored everyday of their lives to please, for the love of God, just do one thing I’ve asked them to do, I’m struggling with my morality.  While I’m listening to another mother say how she can’t imagine life without her new baby and I feel guilty because I can imagine my life with just 2 kids, I’m troubled about what my principles should be.  Raising children is hard.  More specifically, being a mother is hard.  Being the primary care giver for little humans who suck the energy out of you in direct correlation to the amount of joy they bring to your life is hard.  It is a lifetime commitment.  Every day.  You don’t get a day off.  Ever.  Even if you are not physically with your children, you worry about them, wonder about them, think about them, love them.  This is no small thing.  You should be able to choose this.

I guess the conclusion I’ve come to, for now, as I’ve guilted myself back and forth over my beliefs on abortion is this:

Politically, I am pro-choice.  Personally, I am conflicted.

When I came to the realization that I no longer believe in a higher power who is concerned with my moral choices, I was adamant that I would not be what my Mormon friends and family expect me to be: a person who wanted to “sin” and has left all morals behind.  I now consciously try to be a better person than I was before.  But I also try to think more critically and examine different points of view than I would have considered before.  My religious friends would probably read this and think I’ve lost my morals and turned into a baby-killing, ethically-delinquent sinner.  That is not me.  It has taken personal courage to allow myself this internal debate and I hope that can be respected.