Sunday, December 15, 2013

Second Annual "Pants to Church" Day

I forgot to take a photo of my outfit for church today. That's because since last year, I've worn pants quite often. And today, I wore pretty close to the same thing as last year. This year, the focus was not just on women's issues, but on those who feel marginalized for whatever reason. Can feeling out of place by wearing pants when all the other women are wearing dresses, make you feel more welcoming of those who feel like they don't quite fit in? I believe so. Here's some bright spots.

Bright spot: Quote from my good friend, who gave a talk in sacrament meeting in his ward. "Could I suggest that we be a bit more meek and humble and imagine a scenario where we are at fault for some of the people who have left?(the church) Bear with me for just a moment. Are we excluding people because they are outcasts in our church culture? Most of you probably haven’t heard, but there’s an event going on today due to a collection of people getting together on the Internet. While I have several reservations about this event for several complicated reasons, there are many women throughout the country who are choosing to come to church today wearing pants and men who are coming to church wearing purple. In essence, in doing this they are asking for a more inclusive culture at church. The knee-jerk reaction to this event is to scoff, make fun of, or explain to these people that our own experiences at church are free from such judgments and they shouldn’t feel like an outcast. I admit to having had all of these thoughts. But when I am at my more humble, reflective times (I think I had one of these about four years ago), I see people who are at the window listening in. I see people in pain at church and I mourn. If we’ve covenanted to mourn with those who mourn, than the first step is to try to understand the source of that mourning."  (Thanks, I love this.)

Bright spot:
A friend in my ward went shopping this week to buy dress slacks for herself, her girls, (and leggings.) Her husband and son wore purple. The entire family discussed the issue last year, wore purple, but this year took it even further. This friend is one of the most inclusive people I know. She sets a warm example to me and to others of kindness first. 

Bright spot: My husband wore a purple shirt. My conservative, obedient to a fault, husband, wore a purple shirt. He came home, ate dinner, took it off for tithing settlement and went back to church wearing a white shirt and tie. (He's not perfect yet.)

Bright spot: My home-teacher's wife came up to me and my friend, spread her arms in a gesture of camaraderie. She  wore a purple scarf  and told us she was wearing it to show solidarity for us. 

Bright spot. When another woman in our ward was puzzled by what my home-teacher's wife said, we explained briefly. "I must have been inspired today," she said. She was wearing purple. 

Bright spot. I've lived in my new ward for over five years now. I have had a hard time because I miss old friends. But lately, I've felt more confidence in looking beyond myself and being a little less shy, and a bit friendlier, and in speaking up and out on issues that are important to me. I'm finding that instead of feeling sad about losing friends, I'm happy about gaining new ones. I think, it may be the pants. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finding Purpose--Finding Joy

Years ago, I was among a large group of relatives at a Christmas party. My uncle wanted each of us to tell something about ourselves. One family member declared that she was working on being happy. Being happy! What a strange thing to say. Just be happy, I thought. How hard is it? That was back at the age when I had everything figured out, under the age of thirty.

Life, since then has taught me a thing or two. Happiness seemed outside of my grasp, a decade or so after that party. The endless lump in my throat. The heavy chest. The tears only a blink away. The utter hopelessness. For me, that first depression was only a mild one, but it taught me what my relative meant. Happiness wasn’t as easy a thing to maintain as I had previously thought.

Now another couple of decades have passed since then and the happiness roller coaster continues. One of the tenets of my Mormon faith is personal revelation. And even though a quick search on shows that personal revelation is talked about by our church leaders literally thousands of times over the years, it’s something that church members argue about. If you bring it up in Sunday School or Relief Society you will find that your personal revelation will be subject to scrutiny by other members. We judge each other’s personal revelation. But see, I don’t think we have the right to do that. By the very name of it, there’s only one person entitled to it—the individual. So if you think I'm off in left field, that's ok, that's your right. And it's my right to be me. 

I have no doubt that some members of my faith have wondered if I’ve gone off the deep end because I post so many controversial things, especially on LGBT issues. And then yes, there’s that other little thing—my feminist leanings. In the last year or two as challenges to feeling real joy have yet resurfaced, I’ve prayed for answers. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and not be able to sleep because of the anxiety I've felt over the way my church didn’t have any real answers for the LGBT community. Over the years I’ve read a few things. I've listened to BYU’s Dr. William Bradshaw. I've read Carol Lynn Pearson’s books. I’ve listened to LGBT friends and parents. I've read about suicides attempts and suicides. My heart grew heavier. I had to take a break and step away from the church for a time. Attending caused me too much pain. The God I believe in would provide a viable path for his children--all His children--not just the straight.

One morning as I lay in bed, after another sleepless night. I was so sad. God doesn’t reject his children and neither should His church. While I was thinking about this an answer came. And it was very clear. “Don’t just mourn. Do something.”

Well, I’m no expert, but I know my heart. A few years ago, I didn’t dare post anything. I didn’t dare write anything on this issue. Even though I felt like it was important then, I didn’t want my name attached to it. But the great thing about personal revelation is that when you follow the spirit, He gives you the peace and confidence that you need to go forward. Finally, I understand that fear dissipates when you exercise faith. And as I am following my purpose and writing my blog, doing interviews, and attending meetings, my peace and happiness has returned.