"Look! It's a fender bender in Bethlehem! You see, everyone is so excited to see baby Jesus, so of course there are lots of cars," Elliott said, as he proudly showed me his arrangement of our Nativity scene.
I was never a Mormon. Mormon was an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon* who has been dead for many years. To top it off, someone once bought a handwritten manuscript of Mormon’s abridgment for 35 million dollars!** Trust me… I have not come close to making that kind of money as an author and no one wants to buy my messy original word doc for ten cents.
I have always been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Recently our Prophet announced we were no longer to be called or call ourselves, “Mormon,” or “LDS.” This was major news to the world. We were being “rebranded.”
This was not major news to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had been hearing this for years! Here is a little history behind the shortened or slang term or name, “Mormon.”
In the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, according to Deseret News *** and everything I have been taught, “The church has had a complicated relationship with the term Mormon since its restoration in 1830. Church leaders long chafed at antagonists calling them Mormons and, early on, Mormonites, but in recent decades they have been more accepting of the nickname.”
Let me tell you what I think this means. In early history, there was an Extermination Order allowing people to legally kill “Mormons.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were burned out of their homes, run out into the snow and driven across state lines, massacred, and generally misunderstood. “Mormon” was a slang term used in derision that we adopted ourselves and used.
However, I have speculated, as others have, that it created confusion around whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were Christians. We are.
Here are a few facts about me and some of my friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are not perfect. We are human. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I go to church in an effort to become more Christlike and grow. At church, I have been taught we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father, and I know from many church meetings, that we want everyone to be together as one big happy family again. We are taught to love everyone, no exceptions, unconditionally. We only ask the same in return. Love us as we are and let us work towards the next life as we choose. If you have questions just ask, and I will find someone who knows more than I do to answer them.
I personally don’t need rebranding. I do need people to stop calling me “Mormon.” He is a dead but respected prophet. I also need people to ask me questions, instead of guessing what I believe or telling me what they think I believe.
In all honesty, not much has changed in history, except we have stepped into the light, stopped hiding, and want you to know we hold firm to our belief in the Savior. I want my friends, co-workers, and neighbors to know I was never a Mormon, but I was always a Christian and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
What does it mean to be quiet as a church mouse? This charming picture book
shares the story of how one little boy learned to sit still while his imagination
kept running free. With these fun and colorful illustrations, follow along as a
boy and a mouse discover how reverence shows our love and respect for our
Elliott Dickerson, age 6 thinks, “I like it! Because it’s really cool cause it has that mouse that goes to church. I liked its blue jacket. It is really tiny. It was a new mouse who goes to church. I wish I had a mouse in my church bag. I think I can be as quiet as a mouse when I sit in church. I sit with dad on the stage. He leads the music.”
Nana: Do you think the church mouse will help you sit still?
Elliott: Uh huh. Because it is being quiet and I will copy it being quiet.
Nana Shannon’s Review:
I LOVED this story! I want a church mouse in my church bag too! The art is adorable. There is so much to looks at. I also love that it is a based on a childhood moment in the author’s life (We had a little online chat. Read his interview below).
Elliott’s review is totally authentic. I am an amazing typist. I asked him what he thought and the statement above is all his, word for word. The interesting thing is he made the correlation between the cool little church mouse and his reverence. Elliott loves to sing and make car noises. Reverence is a challenge. I wonder what will happen when I remind him to be as quiet as a mouse.
Quiet as a Church Mouse is a 2017 Association Of Mormon Letters Winner
5 out of 5 Stars! Without a doubt.
About the Author: Stephen Bevan
Stephen Bevan imagined his church mouse at age 5. All those wild Sundays of imaginings are distilled in this book. He and his little church mouse lived in
Montgomery County Maryland, until Heavenly Father took them both to Western Australia for many amazing adventures “down under.” Now those two troublemakers reside in beautiful Cache Valley, Utah. On Friday nights they are telling stories and hammock camping with the scouts but each Sunday
morning they are both trying to sit reverently in church with Stephen’s own wonderful and imaginative children. Learn more about Stephen at
www.bevanstories.com, while you are there see what other adventures he and his mouse have to share.
I grew up with 7 brothers and sisters. Being one of the older children in the family meant I was often the bedtime storyteller. At first, I read stories by others and by the time I was 10, I was writing my own stories for my siblings. Time and teenage years tend to lead you off into new paths for a time. While attending Brigham Young University I majored in Socio-Cultural Anthropology, which included a lot of ethnographic interviewing and writing. I found I loved writing again. Although I have co-written a few research papers no one else has ever read, and a few electronics articles that a few folks have read, my first book is this fun little picture book, Quiet as a Church Mouse.
When I was a little guy about four years old my father was in the US Navy and he was assigned as a Corpsman to the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan. For the next two years, my Dad would be off with the Marines and my Mom was left in Maryland with five children and one on the way! We didn’t even have a car. Nevertheless, my diligent and faithful Mother got up every Sunday morning, fed us, dressed us, and then walked the mile to church. You would think that after walking a mile a four-year-old boy might be tired enough to sit still in church, but not me. I was crazy! Army crawling under the pews, hanging from door frames I had climbed etc. My poor mother had her hands full and everywhere I went my little brother followed. One day my saintly Mother asked me to be as quiet as a church mouse, and I could not help but wonder why I had never seen one of these church mice in all my wanderings through the building? I began to sit very still in hopes of seeing and catching a church mouse as a pet. I tried to imagine what a church mouse might do. Somewhere along the way, I began to hear the words from the pulpit and more importantly feel what those words meant. I began to see Christ for the first time.
The characters in the book are really me and my family. That little boy who finally learns to sit reverently was me. And those two siblings in the book represent my five younger siblings. Though I do tease one of my sisters that the little girl not paying attention is her!
I have seven lovely children who sometimes are more like their me than I could have ever imagined. We have tried to teach them reverence by helping them see the bigger picture. We have never shied away from teaching them of Heavenly Father’s plan. I guess I might be considered a mean Dad, but we just don’t do Cheerios at church– we do have a few books, and a paper where they can write or draw things they are hearing, but they can’t just doodle pictures of dogs and cats. We expect them to listen and they know they will get asked at dinner, “what did you learn today and how can you apply it to your life.” It can be fun to hear the responses from children at 3 or at 14. They see things in God’s plan that sometimes I overlook so sometimes they teach me!
One thing that my children enjoy is as the music plays before the service starts I like to doodle a scripture or gospel scene on the offering envelope, and then incorporate in a scripture. They have taken to decorating their own tithing/offering envelopes.
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… ”
Isaiah 28: 9-10
My Grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and I all walked on this wall along the sea, and now my children’s children walk the same wall. Each one of us learned to walk the wall holding a grown-up’s hand until we all insisted on letting go. Step by step, starting with our first baby steps we learned and grew.
Seaside summer evenings were often spent walking as a family to the ice-cream shop. Twenty or more of us strung out along the promenade or Prom on the beach laughing, chasing children, holding our lover’s hands, pushing baby strollers, or watching our parents, aunts, and uncles smile and talk.
We learned about more than how to balance on a cement wall by the sea. We learned trusted loved ones had rules because they cared about us. We learned through quiet conversations on the mile-long walk to town for ice-cream. We learned by watching the grown-ups hold hands and treat each other with respect. The journey was so much more than a walk on the wall. We were building little people and a large family.
Life is a lot like our walks by the sea. It looks like you are doing dishes, going on a diet, teaching your children how to plant a garden, but you are actually doing something much deeper and wider, you are building love, trust, identity, connection, and a family.
A month ago, I committed to making some health changes. I was going on a cleanse. It absolutely made me giggle. For the first time in my life, I joined a group, bought some shakes, and began a sugar fast. All the laughter covered my terror. Remember, I am the girl on the prom wall. All our major childhood accomplishments were followed by dessert or sweet reward, and family gatherings always had food.
I set a goal. One month without refined sugar, caffeine (Diet coke which always led to needing Hot Tamales and a bucket of popcorn), as well as a TON of other foods like corn, honey, potatoes, and soy that I wouldn’t eat.
A few days ago, I finished the month! I was changed. Did I look different? Was I thinner and prettier? No. Was I changed? Absolutely. But the change was on the inside. I felt healthier. I had gained the strength that comes from setting out to accomplish something, anything, and finishing it. The sense of self-worth that comes from seeing something through, especially when it is difficult. I had endured with honor.
Just like the walk on the Prom, it looked simple, fun and easy but the results I hope will be much deeper than improved health today. Years down the road, I hope I look back and find I am grateful for the things I chose to change, the lessons I learned along the way, and the blessing of inner strength that comes from striving to be just a tiny bit better each day.
Every step we take is a choice. Even when we try to take random road trips through life, we are making a choice. But when we choose a direction and take one small step after another toward our goal we just might find we reach not only reach our destination, we have changed along the way.
Special thanks to Hilary and the group at Designing Health. I may stumble and I may fall, but I have a new network of friends headed the same direction. See you all at the Salad Bar!
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
If you have a pulse, it is highly likely that you have experienced challenges, loss, and even trauma at some point between the day you left the womb and now. If you haven’t there is a high likelihood that you are in a coma.
Howard W. Hunter, an international religious leader once explained, “There must be opposition in all things,” but why? Why, when most of us work diligently to do good things do we encounter barriers and how can they possibly be for our own good?
Many years ago I faced a challenge in a lifetime illness. At age 12, I was diagnosed with an inherited autoimmune disease, likely triggered by stress. The doctor explained that a simple daily medication would help me get through life. What he didn’t explain was the disease would cause weight gain, loss of energy, depression, hair loss, problems with my skin and nails. Those may not be big things to you, but to a young woman, they were massive. All I knew was that I struggled with symptoms no one else had. I didn’t understand why.
Later in life, the additional stress of being a survivor and a move back to my beloved coast triggered a downward spiral in my health. I began my wrestling match with a myriad of symptoms, which included gaining 40 pounds in a very few months while eating fewer and fewer calories and exercising more and more.
I began my wrestle. I had an invisible challenge like so many of us do. I recently became friends with a group of wonderful woman. We support each other’s effort to write and publish. As time passed we began to talk more honestly. Then one day, one of us confessed our lives weren’t perfect. We realized none of our lives were perfect, but they were also perfectly beautiful.
Guess what? No one has a perfect life. Some of us have serious struggles but spend our days caring for others, often with a smile on our face. If you think you are the only person who struggles with diet, addiction, or other invisible challenges you are not alone.
Sherry Dew, in her book, “Worth the Wrestle,” put it best when she said:
“Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle? If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.
We live in a sound-bite world where “tweets,” “likes,” “posts,” and “shares” have become the way we keep informed and share ideas. We are accustomed to expecting instant answers. But the most compelling questions in our lives rarely have quick, easy, Google answers. That is because receiving revelation and gaining knowledge, particularly divine knowledge, takes time.
It takes a wrestle.”
Nothing is ever a straight path. My life so far has been a series of hills with hidden valleys containing some pretty hefty challenges. The difference is, I know now, I am not alone. I am entitled to drop to my knees and get the answers I would never have come to on my own. And in my wrestle with survivorship, health, healing, family, love, finances, jobs, and the weeds in my garden I will be building muscle, spiritual and personal muscles.
I am not done wrestling and I don’t ever expect to be done. What I am done doing, is looking for an easy answer. I hope to continue to build my spiritual and physical muscles daily. The face you see in the video above is a full fifty or more pounds lighter, and healthier than before the struggle began. I wouldn’t trade the journey, the knowledge, my new friends, or my time on my knees for anything, even sugar and diet coke. I hope I can keep it up! But if I fail, I will wrestle some more.
Just remember, my answers will not be your answers. I am an author and feel compelled to write my feelings, what I learn, and ideas. The direction you choose and the mountains you climb are all yours. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.
So when all else fails, drop to your knees and wrestle.
Because change is so emotionally charged and can be so difficult, businesses everywhere practice something called change management. Simple but useful ways to roll out change which can work surprisingly well in the business of family and self-improvement.
Tips and tricks for managing change in your life (And the way I stumbled through mine!):
1. Clearly define your reasons for making a change. Make a list of why this change is important to you. A sense of urgency or importance can motivate us to follow through. For example, finding out you have high blood pressure or are close to a disease like diabetes can become your motivation for that diet you have always wanted to go on, but couldn’t quite walk past gelato.
In my life, I have had many motivators for change. Sometimes my motivations come from a sincere desire to improve myself and other times they come at me like a freight train and run me over, like finding out your husbands company is closing and you are going to have to change the way you pay your bills. Wherever the need comes from, what you chose to change and the direction you take is up to you.
2. Plan your strategy. Map out your change. You can either take it in big bites or little baby steps. Put in in writing and hang it somewhere you can revisit and rework it as you progress. If you are like me and use your phone or computer more than paper, make a note or calendar invites to remind you of the path you have chosen.
Be sure to include rewards in your plan. For example, if you decide you want to go back to school, plan a reward of a movie out with friends after you complete your enrollment forms. Then plan a weekend away after you pass your first finals. When I returned to school, with 5 kids at home, my finals reward was a night at the laundry mat to get caught up and I loved it.
3. Start by changing your environment. If you have decided it is time to diet, start by cleaning the ice-cream out of the freezer. Toss any temptation with vigor and remove barriers to your success. If you have decided to stop a major habit like smoking, but find hanging out with your friends leads to smoking with them, consider adding friends to your circle who don’t smoke.
In a positive way add what you need to your environment. Shop for healthy foods and buy those cute workout outfits you have always wanted. Big changes may require big reminders all around you. Small changes can start with baby steps. If you have clothes in 15 sizes and have successfully completed a diet, gift your clothes to someone in need and spend time rewarding yourself with a clean closet where workout clothes are always ready to go.
4. Build consensus. Sometimes together is better. Explain to your family and friends why this change is so important to you. Let your close friends in on your sense of urgency and ask them for support. Tell them specific ways they can help. For example, instead of saying to your husband, “Don’t buy Ice-cream.” Tell him ways he can support you like, “Let’s find all the healthy restaurants in town,” and, “Let’s take a healthy cooking class together.” Try to get buy-in.
This is a great time to investigate groups, classes, education, or anything that will help keep you focused and give you support. When I decided to spend the first month of my life without refined sugar, I joined a cleanse group. Not only were they knowledgeable, but they were fun! Our leader gave us information while we laughed at our struggles and supported each other. We even used acupuncture in a group and it was a hit! I will miss the group when it is over.
Ask for help. For example, if you have decided you want to start working out by walking every morning, enlist friends. It is a lot easier and safer to walk in the early morning hours in a group than it is to walk alone. And, if you know your friend is waiting for you on the corner, you are more likely to walk even when the weather is bad.
5. Remember balance. If you are planning to take something away, be sure to replace it with something healthy. For example, if you decide to give up midnight snacking, create a midnight bath and book routine to take the place of your friend chocolate.
7. Sustain and evaluate your change. Give yourself permission to care for yourself. When you choose to grow and improve, your children and hopefully your extended family will grow and learn by watching and supporting you. Any positive change can be good for others and is not time wasted. Map out ways to integrate your new found strengths into your daily life for the long haul. If you have lost weight, plan ways to sustain your new healthy lifestyle. If you have given up a bad habit, plan good habits to take their place.
If you fail, no problem! Revisit the need and make a new game plan. Sometimes we make a change, and we decide to change back. I remember in my twenties thinking I wanted to be on my own, but when I brought my first tiny baby home, I wanted my mother (At least for a few days).
8. Accept defeat as a learning experience. You are always better for having tried. I promise you have learned something. We all fail. I have lost count of the number of times I have failed. We had a standing family joke when I was growing up, “We will start that diet…Monday!” Diets may be an easy lift for you and feel insurmountable to others.
I remember my abject terror when I first approached a college campus, and I remember feeling like a failure when I had to step out of classes to care for my family. Life is ups and downs, but hopefully, the rolling hills will gradually raise you to where you want to be. And if not, my guess is your view during the journey will be spectacular. I personally feel the place I stand right now is just a pause on the journey. My struggles and hard work, coupled with my higher power has brought me to this place, and the view is spectacular.
Change is a risk. I hope your risk has great returns.
And the journey continues…
Ready, Set, Write Podcast crew spotlighted Safe House today on their new show, “So You Think You Can Write!” I am so excited! I am a huge fan of this fun bunch. If you dream of being published they give great advice. It’s a hilarious way to laugh your way through the struggles of the first chapter and writing a great hook. Enjoy!
Look around our world and see how God feels about perfection. There are no two mountains in the world that are exactly the same. There isn’t a wave that washes onto the sand that is the same as another. Every human has his own face, hair, skin, heart, height, weight, and singularly individual soul. Every mother knows her child’s unique cry. This is His work and His glory and He is perfect.
As humans, we seek the rare, the unique, the unusual and call it treasure. One of a kind is desirable. Art which is symmetrical, balanced, perfect, with one red flower in the center or one tree in the middle of the painting is called static or in my opinion baren, without joy, bland, and boring. The most beautiful models in the world have something unique about their face, large lips, large eyes, or an odd nose.
Olympic athletes recently tried to make perfect time, perfect movements, and perfect scores. All worthy goals. The entire world held their breath as ice-skaters reached for perfection, ached when they fell, celebrated when they succeeded. Perfection is a worthy direction, but failure doesn’t mean we are lost.
In a recent talk by my favorite LDS speaker Jeffrey R. Holland titled, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually,” he reminded us all that, “If we persevere, then somewhere in the eternities our refinement will be finished and complete.” He admonishes us to seek steady and healthy self-improvement without the self-loathing, eating disorders, general misery, and toxic perfectionism.
But what is perfection?
Today my grandson, seven-year-old Elliott gained a new scar on his forehead and a trip to the emergency room. His mother sent a group text and his uncle drove two hours to help, his father came home, his Nana made dinner, and his family all over the world sent love and looked at his new imperfection. In my world, the love that was shown Elliott was perfect.
Holland said of the Savior, “I testify that in this and every hour He is, with nail-scarred hands, extending to us that same grace, holding on to us and encouraging us, refusing to let us go until we are safely home in the embrace of Heavenly Parents. For such a perfect moment, I continue to strive, however clumsily. For such a perfect gift, I continue to give thanks, however inadequately. I do so in the very name of Perfection itself, of Him who has never been clumsy or inadequate but who loves all of us who are, even the Lord Jesus Christ….”
Storms roll into the Pacific Northwest Coast and change the beach, the trees, our world in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a good storm. The power of the wind and water change rolling dunes to flat sand or new cliffs. Trees are tested, dead branches are torn from trunks, deep roots hold while others give way.
Today I ran the beach after the storm. Everything was wiped clean. Logs had been washed into the dunes and it was a new and different kind of beautiful.
Storms of all shapes and sizes roll through our lives, test our roots and strengthen us as we wrestle with the wind. Storms can change us in minutes. I think they can leave us a new kind of beautiful, molded by experience.
Isn’t it interesting that the creator of this world didn’t create manicured lawns with perfect white picket fences? He created majestic mountains, raging oceans, cascading waterfalls, frozen tundras, and storms. His creation is a work in progress. Storms still change it daily.
How many times have I stood looking in a mirror for an imperfection, a new wrinkle, a misplaced curl, signs of my storms? How many hours have I wasted angry at the storm?
Today, I worked on embracing all my imperfections as visible signs of the storms in my life. I believe in goals and choosing the direction of my journey, but I also believe in having compassion for myself.
I may have been broken by storms, shaped into someone new, changed forever, but I like what I have become. I am a testimony of endurance. One more day, I choose to lean into the wind and journey on.