Smiling Jesus

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Today this picture was shown in the gospel study womens group, Relief Society, I attend each Sunday. As the teacher asked people to express what they saw and how they felt there was beautiful discussion and comments. The room was full of the spirit. Although, I was unsettled because I do not care for this piece of art. Don’t get me wrong I love my Savior but somehow this picture doesn’t speak to me like other ones do. That is the beauty of art. It speaks to us in different ways. I hesitated and wondered if my comment would be of any benefit but I thought maybe there are others in the class who think what I do. I shared for them.  So, I raised my hand and said something like, “The beauty of art is that it speaks to us all individually just like two people can read the scriptures and each take home different messages. I love that women can see this picture and pick up beautiful qualities of the Savior. I can appreciate their sentiments and love the Spirit in the room. Although I agree with comments that are made and love the attributes of the Savior that have been expressed, I do not like this painting and I wouldn’t put it in my home. I prefer a more reverent image. ”

Usually I don’t mull over in my mind what I say in Relief Society. If I feel prompted to say something, I just say it. Often, when I am preparing for the lesson, the Spirit will remind me of moments that I can share, or the Spirit will prompt me to ask a question and I’ll try and be brave enough to ask. But today was different. I felt alone and isolated in my comment. Maybe it’s not okay to express a countering point of view, maybe I should have kept my mouth shut and just went along with the discussion. Does it really benefit others to hear a different perspective or are they offended if we don’t all agree?

Ironically my daughter came into the room as I was composing this blog post and saw the picture and said, “Oh, creepy.”

Well, I can’t change the past but I can move forward. It was our ward conference and the Stake Relief Society presidency was visiting. After the meeting, one of the women approached me. She thanked me for my comments. She told me of the story that their womens group was changing the art in their room and she brought this picture for consideration. The group voted and they were equally divided for and against the picture. She also showed it to her family with the same results. I appreciated her kindness and concern for me. Today she was a tender mercy for me and reminds me it’s okay to speak your mind. God created me with all these wonderful ideas and insights and desires and it’s okay that we don’t all agree. As long as we respect and listen and learn from others. That is why we meet and learn together.

I prefer this picture… even though it is quite similar

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Take a look at the left half of the painting:

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The coloring is darker. The lines are harder. Notice the broad, squared shoulder, the set and focused eye, the determination in the mouth. This is a just God who fights the battles of those who follow Him and keep His commandments.

Now look at the right side of the painting:

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Smiling Jesus

Bataclan

change_homeSometimes our lives are changed in a moment. This was true of Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène.  She decided to attend a concert at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris on November 13, 2015. This was a concert no one would forget as terrorists opened fire in the concert killing 89 innocent people.

I have always loved France and Paris. It’s my mothers native land. I served my mission there. Much of my family still lives there. On my sweet sixteen I walked the streets of the Champs-Elysées. I have lived over two years of my life in that country. To use the verb love doesn’t quite do justice for my sentiments of that place.

I was horrified over the attacks as many others. It was interesting to see peoples reactions. Forever in my mind will be the actions of Hélène’s husband Antoine Leiris. Three days after his wife’s death he composed a letter to his wifes’s killers. I find great comfort, strength and wisdom in his words.

“On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. He went on to say, “You’re asking for it, but responding with hatred and anger is falling victim to the ignorance that has made you who you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security? – you lost…We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies… every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom … Because you don’t have his hatred either.”

– ANTOINE LEIRIS

 

I love the strength, passion and love that is read through out the letter. I hear the encouraging echos of forgiveness. I hear a greater Teacher using a grief stricken father, husband and friend to teach us how to react to cruel acts of hatred.

When people acclaimed Antoine as a hero, I loved his response. “I am not, who knows if tomorrow all this will change and I look at people untrustingly or I’ll feel hatred but I wrote this to stop me remind me. What’s happened happened. We will be sad- for the rest of our lives.”

I think it profound to write down a reflection of how you always hope to act. Is there something that pausing and evaluating a situation that allows us to see an experience for what it truly is? Can we “be still” in extreme grief for significant reflection? Perhaps when we deny the natural man immediate reaction and thoughtfully contemplate how we can choose to react we have greater clarity and control. The Spirit can whisper gently possible outcomes that may not come if we are otherwise consumed. I am touched by Antoine’s example as many others were too and I hope I can apply it.

Many reached out to him and his son with sympathy and kindness. Antoine exclaims  “Some of the letters I received were beautiful. They made me understand I was not alone – it is important to know that deeply. One said: ‘I want to respond to blind hate with blind love.’” Another, signed simply, “Philippe”, startled him with its post-script: “You are the one who was hurt and yet it is you who gives us courage.”

Perhaps we are a reminded of a greater Example. One who was acquainted with ultimate grief and sorrow and who reaches out in compassion to lift all those who suffer seriously. Perhaps the reason so many of us are in awe is because it reminds us of One who always acted with grace, reflection, patience and courage.

This next part I quote right from the article. “There are two support groups for those affected by the terrorist attacks: “Life for Paris” and “13/11/15 Fraternity and Truth”. Antoine belongs to neither. His default position used to be that he did not want to meet anyone who had suffered comparably. But he recently twisted his own arm into taking part in a French documentary and found it a revelation: “Sometimes, you have to go beyond yourself because you don’t know everything, you have to be humble. I learned that this was not a mosaic of stories, it was one story. Whether you lost a friend, a son, a love, a leg – or just innocence – it is the same story and it is about absence. Those people will not come back and you have to live with it, live with the loss.”

I hope you have enjoyed this mans story. My sister was the first to tell me it. At the music awards of that year one man discussed it. When I heard this story I was compelled to know more. I used it in my gospel doctrine class and I am glad to be reminded of human courage. I think it is part of what the enobling power of the atonement can do.

Since then Antoine has written a book about his experience. Here is the review on Amazon. I have not read it yet but look forward to one day.

Here is the overview on Amazon.

“[Antoine] Leiris tells the full story of his grief and struggle. You Will Not Have My Hate is a remarkable, heartbreaking, and, indeed, beautiful memoir of how he and his baby son, Melvil, endured in the days and weeks after Hélène’s murder. With absolute emotional courage and openness, he somehow finds a way to answer that impossible question: how can I go on? He visits Hélène’s body at the morgue, has to tell Melvil that Mommy will not be coming home, and buries the woman he had planned to spend the rest of his life with.

Leiris’s grief is terrible, but his love for his family is indomitable. This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris confronts an incomprehensible pain with a humbling generosity and grandeur of spirit. He is a guiding star for us all in these perilous times. His message—hate will be vanquished by love—is eternal.”

Let me know if you have read it and what you think.

Here is a website where I got the most of the quotes.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/16/antoine-leiris-you-will-not-have-my-hate-interview-paris-attacks-helene-bataclan

 

When interviewed recently by Kate Kellaway of the Guardian Weekly about his new book, You Will Not Have My Hate, Leiris said, “When you are plunged into shadow you have to find some light in yourself. It is an instinct.”

I just loved this thought and didn’t know where to use it… but I thought here worked…

 

Bataclan

Mothers

A photograph of flowers and a quote by Sister Sheri L. Dew: “Few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of … the mothers who bear with us.”

No other subject causes such joy and guilt all wrapped up into one beautiful bundle called motherhood.

Today is my mothers birthday. I wanted to write somewhat of a tribute to her. Now, I do not mean to cause pain or open wounds for those who had mothers that did not provide a loving, safe and nurturing environment. If mothers day talks make you cringe, then this post is not for you. I do not pretend to portray a perfect mother with no flaws, but perhaps it is in now being a mother myself that I see the imperfections with more compassion and love. And with more perspective I can see clearer the beauty, strength, passion and courage my mother possesses.

I have always been really proud that my mom was born in  different country. Even though I couldn’t communicate with her in her native tongue til I was 16, I loved that she was from France. She would often mix up expressions but we loved it. I remember being dumbfounded when people would express, “I love your mothers accent.” I never really considered her to have an accent. I guess now that I am older I can hear it but I love the way she has mastered two languages.

My mother has always been intelligent. She has taken the counsel to “seek ye learning out of the best books” very seriously. She has always loved reading. She’s read the classics and I think her favourite is Tolstoys’ Anna Karenina. She loves reading. I can remember coming home from school to see my mom curled up with a novel. I also loved her reading to me. At night my parents would always read us stories and make sure they caught up on how our day had gone. I have snippets of memories being curled up to her as she read me excerpts from the Friend or books. This is a tradition I have passed on to my own children and I am grateful to her for it.

My mother has loved learning. She loved school and always achieving her best. She set a very high standard of excellence and expected us to to do the same. When teachers wanted to send my brother to a different class my mom refused. She ended up attending school with him to be his personal aid and make sure that he achieved. She attended with him through the years and even sat through Math 30 with him. What an example of love and sacrifice for a child.

My mom always had to fight for her testimony. She has always loved God. She had to sacrifice greatly to be a member of this church and has never taken her membership lightly. She is devoted in her studies and has always found comfort in Jesus and our Heavenly Father. Shes been a bedrock foundation for me and my testimony. I realized that I owe much of what I am to her faith. I feel much like the armies of Heleman who declared, “We do not doubt for our mothers knew it.”  I am foreverly grateful to a mother who taught me the truths of the gospel. She showed me how to build a foundation on Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. She taught me to understand the promptings, feelings and whisperings of the Holy Ghost. I know my mom has always loved the apostles and prophets and sought counsel from their teachings. She would not miss general conference because she loves hearing their inspired teaching.

My mom is an example of service, love and forgiveness. I remember her getting chemo treatments and someone would bring dinner to the house the first week. The second week she would feel better and by week three she would be delivering meals herself. When I asked why she wasn’t just relaxing she would just answer simply, “because I can.” My mother handled her divorce with grace. I remember her being kind to my father and including him on our birthdays or others activities. Even though it must have been hurtful to have my dad their she did her best to not make it too hard for us. This is an ongoing struggle but she has always encouraged us to be kind and forgiving and loving towards others.

I guess my mom is truly my best friend. I don’t think you can ever fully appreciate your mother until you have a child of your own. I remember a little while after my daughter was born feeling overwhelmed with gratitude thinking, “I had no idea… thank you mom for everything.” It was equally heart wrenching when a few months after Claire’s birth I would be watching her battle stage three ovarian cancer. I thought, now that I finally want to listen and hear and learn from your counsel, you might be gone.” I am so grateful that the Lord gave me more time to hear and learn from her. I love her.

My mom is not perfect. We definitely have our disagreements and quarrels. But I love that she draws on the power of the atonement to overcome her weakness and has taught me to do the same. That through our Savior we both may work out our own salvation and dwell as an eternal family.

I don’t always get the privileged of being able to hear my own words or interpret my writing. I know my mom has made the comment about me being critical about how she raised us. I don’t ever mean to portray that. I hope when she reads these words she may be reminded of the adoration and gratitude that I have for her love, faith, service, kindness and friendship. I love you mom and happy birthday!

 

Mothers