Preparing for an Eternal Family

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in my Church Ward about preparing for an eternal family. I feel prompted to share sections of this talk, after all, the blog is called Dreaming of the Temple, inspired by the exploration of my spiritual, as well as temporal, experience. If this post appears as unfamiliar territory, a sense of context can be gained here.

Introduction

I felt completely unqualified to make any remarks on this topic whatsoever; I am not confident that I have fulfilled my own hopes for spiritual preparation before starting to grow our family, let alone those of the Church. I still feel uneducated in the full doctrine, history and organisation of the Church, there are elements of Scripture that are still unknown to me and, despite considerable dedication, at the time of the talk, Samuel and I had not yet been sealed in the Temple (an outline of what this entails can be found here).

Other than suggesting that Heavenly Father enjoys irony, why was this topic assigned to me?

There is a considerable part of me that is always cynical, perhaps not an attractive quality, especially not typically admired in religious circles, but personally I think a pinch of metaphorical salt is healthy (literally from a nutritional point of view, not so much). In this instance, the cynic in me was thinking, ‘Sure you want me to talk on this, I am the current first time mum in the Ward’. However, being asked to speak in Sacrament meetings is not to be taken lightly, so I set about giving the topic some serious thought.

The conclusion I came to was that our little family presented an example of the principle ‘endure to the end’, and thus, that the work does not stop after receiving the sealing ordinance. Being sealed is an exciting prospect and full of spiritual significance but it is not the culmination, or defining feature, of a relationship or marriage. It is an increase in commitment to each other, not an opportunity to relax, at the risk of taking this blessing for granted.

Spiritual and Temporal Growth

I have frequently struggled with feeling that, despite what I consider my best efforts, I do not live up to the ideals of the Church, a sensation now exaggerated by preparing for parenthood; seemingly growing increasingly idealistic, judgemental and competitive. For instance, there are some that don’t yet classify me as being a mother, and others who would tell me that I am already doing everything wrong. I know that this is not a unique experience, and it applies to religious experiences too.

One of my favourite talks from General Conference is by Elder Holland from October 2017 ‘Be Ye Therefore Perfect… Eventually‘. Yes as a couple we are preparing for an eternal family, but everybody’s spiritual and temporal journeys are different. For me, I had hoped to have a stronger grasp of the doctrinal points of the Church and Scriptures before having children, but I also know that what is more important is that I continue to study and learn and I look forward to the fact that my child and I will be able to grow in the Gospel together.

Make Your Home Like the Temple

Looking back, I am still not sure exactly what the obstacle was to our initial sealing attempt in June last year (the delay of our second in June this year was due to the delights of pregnancy complications). We both held active recommends and I had just completed the Temple Preparation Classes (Samuel served a mission, so had done this years before). When there were changes to the Bishopric, however, we were told the date we had chosen was not feasible.

This was upsetting, not only because of our desire to be sealed as a couple for eternity, but because the date we had chosen held personal significance. But through the emotions, I received a strong impression that not being sealed at that time was because there was about to be a considerable change in our circumstances. Sure enough, a few weeks later, we found our house and moved away. For me, the change in location, and being in a more local Ward, has greatly strengthened me spiritually, has aided my recovery from mental illness and resulted in both of us feeling more settled, resulting in us preparing (now commencing) to grow our family.

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Bumps in the Marital Road

Last Saturday was my first Saturday off in six months. With my husband working 9 to 5 or sometimes longer on his PhD project at the university and the emphasis placed to spend Sundays at church and religious activities, when I work weekends it really limits the quality time we get to spend together.

It has been showing.

We got married when we were both students and our schedules were all over the place for the first year of our life together. We agreed that, as it was Samuel’s Masters year and because he worked seasonally at the supermarket which would have meant missing our first Christmas as a married couple, he would stop working. I continued to work as I had been at my storytelling job for 4 years already, it was relevant to my degree and it gave me continuity and routine which helped the with severe mental illness I was experiencing at the time. Before the harassment started, my place of work was were I went for grounding. The office is underground so there was no signal and it gave me an excuse not to be contactable. To not respond when I was feeling overwhelmed. When I couldn’t cope. My place of work means an unusual amount to me.

Summer 2017 was a very intense time for our marriage. We’d been married for a year and were in a good place but we were done living in a one bedroom flat in the middle of the city. It was advertised as one bed, but really should have been one person, as we couldn’t both be in the kitchen at the same time if we wanted to have a bin as well. So we started looking at houses. We didn’t imagine that we would actually be able to buy, it’s famed that no one our age can. But we wanted to daydream at the very least.

We got lucky.

But we were £3,000 short of the deposit. So I started working 3 jobs. It was crazy. One of them was my long term storytelling job, one was at a concert hall and the other was in a museum. It was meant to be a straightforward visitor service job, but morphed into tour guiding and helping arrange a summer activities program which provided really great unexpected work experience. So it was a really beneficial, as well as crazy, time. I decided/insisted that as I was working so much (most of it very relevant to what I was hoping to do following graduation) and Samuel was likely to be starting a PhD three months later, that he shouldn’t work. He needed a break, someone needed to keep on top of the housework, and if we throw a fourth schedule into the mix, we just wouldn’t have seen each other. As it was we saw each other first thing in the morning and for about half an hour before we went to sleep.

We made it.

We bought a house. Now the situation is reversed. I am on reduced hours, just ticking over at my storytelling job, which I still love but is no longer my safe place. As a physicist, Samuel’s PhD is funded, so whilst he is technically studying, it is fundamentally a job. He works very hard and is extremely good at what he does. Our subject areas compliment each other very well. I find it highly appropriate that both our birthdays are in January, the month named after the Roman god Janus. Janus was depicted with two heads, because he looked forward and backwards. As an archaeologist I look back to the very beginnings of humans as a species and Samuel, being an experimental physicist working on technology, is looking forward. It also gives me confidence about at least one aspect of us potentially becoming parents – we have homework covered. Our other running joke is that Samuel does the numbers and I deal with words. Sorted.

Our issue is that because of all the studying, the crazy summer jobs and the recent house move, we have never really got into an established routine. We are beginning to get there now but we still haven’t quite found our rhythm. As we are approaching our second anniversary, and with the addition of our dear dog, this is starting to apply a little bit of friction. As far as I am aware this is healthy and usual in all relationships let alone marriage. We are definitely benefiting from no longer being in that one bedroom flat, as we can now be more than 5 meters apart and means I can be less distracting whilst Samuel is working and I can read my book quietly whilst Samuel watches television (Samuel is severely dyslexic so you wont find us reading together).

As a result of not having a stable, consistent rhythm to our daily routines, we have become very snappy. We haven’t fought or had slanging matches but as I say there has been some friction. I think that’s the right term. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and get irritated from time to time. One of my biggest flaws is my temper, so I definitely get irritated more than is reasonable. I am very grateful not only for my husband’s patience and ability to forgive when I fly off the handle but for our ability to communicate with each other. As we got married so quickly, I don’t think that we would have managed if we weren’t able to talk about anything and everything. As I always say, we don’t necessarily recommend getting married three months after meeting, but it is working for us. We are truly very happy together. The importance of communication is made evident in every sit-com, film production and in most real life scenarios. Whole plots of plays, books, tragedies and comedies begin with a miscommunication, failure to communicate or a double meaning.

Having last Saturday off was amazing for us. Even though I was unwell with the flu, headlining fever, dizziness and nausea (how have I managed to come down with this twice this year? There have only been two months thus far?!) so we didn’t go anywhere or do very much, yet still it gave us some space to just be us. I was actually supposed to be off volunteering in central Scotland so being ill was perhaps a blessing in disguise? I described our morning in yesterday’s post. It was bliss. What really made the difference was that we didn’t have to be anywhere. We had to take our dog for a walk but other than that we had the day to ourselves. Usually one or other of us is rushing around in the morning and heading out to work. On Saturday, we could just be together and enjoy each others company.

This weekend was a big lesson for me in the importance of making time for each other. Compromise and communication are as important as everyone says they are in marriage or any other relationship. Let’s face it they are important principles in friendship as well. But the concept of date night is something that I will certainly be paying more attention to from here on.

Morning has Broken

It is so rare for my husband and I to have a day off together. He works all week long in the lab at the university completing his PhD and for the past 6 months I have worked every weekend. The only time off we have had together has been when we are visiting family and whilst we are all very close, its not exactly quality couple time. But recently my timetable changed so I am now only working alternate Saturdays. We have a day off that coincides.

I mentioned how one of my reasons for starting a blog was to have a space for reflection that could document significant events and feelings but was not as personal or emotional as a diary or journal. But I did start writing in a jotter on our last day off and I haven’t felt so contented for so long. I have been happy during the last few years. I’ve not been depressed, suicidal and miserable the whole way through but the general upward trend in positive outlook has been quite recent. I really wanted to document this moment so I thought I would share it… online… which still doesn’t feel completely usual yet… despite how much I seem to be doing it now…

Typically, I have flu to mark the occasion of our shared day off, but even feeling disgusting can’t spoil this morning. 

I always wake up earlier than my husband. I have never encountered someone worse at mornings than Samuel. After giving him a snuggle, I got up to let the dog out into the garden and then we headed back upstairs. Samuel had his head under the covers so I was able to open the bedroom curtains without the sunlight disturbing him.

My intention was to read, but looking out of windows and daydreaming has always been one of my favourite past times and so I thought I would write down what I was feeling in that moment.

As it is early in the morning on a weekend there are very few cars or people about. The air is still, no breeze, no movement. Despite the spring sunshine it is still bitterly cold outside.

This is rather typical of Scotland. There is a week of extra daylight, sunshine, flowers and a slight temperature rise commonly followed by bad weather and snow…

The birds are chirruping to one another and as the new spring leaves are only just starting to bud, I can see them hopping about in the branches of the hedge below the window. It feels like the first time this year that it has been this light this early in the morning, but it might well be the first time that I have been still enough to notice. 

Our bedroom window is south-facing and I can watch the sunlight get brighter as I sit and write in my notebook this morning. 

A few doors down our neighbour has a holly tree shaped into a sphere and it means I can always glimpse life growing outside our window. 

Even though I am full of flu, I know that the air will smell of damp earth, sweetened by the sugar of fresh spring grass. It is the smell that, for the last few days, my dog has carried into the house on her paws. 

My husband is lying beside me,  not quite awake, nor fully asleep. Although strictly speaking she shouldn’t be up here, the dog has crept her way onto the bed and is nestled under his outstretched arm. She’s snoring softly and twitching in her sleep as she dreams. 

It’s the mornings we dreamt of when we lived in our pokey city flat. The double bed took up almost the entire bedroom (we couldn’t fully open the wardrobe doors) and only one person at a time could fit in the kitchen. Our bathroom was so small that my brother-in-law could only just get through the door.

But here we are. 

In our new home, with the sounds of the countryside all around us. With the sun warming a new season and shining on all the new life it brings with it. This lie in is renewal for us as well, as a family. It’s a time when as individuals we have the chance to refresh, recharge and reconnect with each other. On Sundays we have the chance from spiritual renewal at church. The week can be very fraught. We haven’t spent much quality time together recently, but today is new and fresh. 

And So It Begins…

Today, I had a breakthrough. The best thing was that I really wasn’t expecting it and that made me appreciate it more.

I might have been a little overzealous in my post New Year – New Month. At the end of that post I said that my husband and I had transitioned to a vegan diet and were trying to conceive. This is true, but I may have been a little hasty. As I mentioned yesterday, my husband and I had talked and talked about it and finally made a decision (about veganism and babies) and then seemed to get caught up and going sideways rather than forwards.

Just before Christmas, which seems a lot longer than just two months ago (it’s hard to believe it was before I had started blogging!) I became a vegetarian. I’m not sure exactly what prompted the change, or why I hadn’t made it earlier! I think it must have been adopting our dog Lassie that triggered the transition which really had been a long time coming. I knew how unpleasant the meat industry is, even on free range farms, and at the end of the day eating meat means death for the animals we eat.  But I had just been accepting this as inevitable and I am not sure why. I guess I simply hadn’t given it any serious thought.

I really have no excuses. Whilst I knew very little of veganism until I met my brother and sister-in-law, I was raised by vegetarian parents. I myself however did not grow up strictly vegetarian. My mother was (and still is) quite anaemic and as I was a child who hated green vegetables, she thought that a monthly intake of red meat was the way to go. I never actually enjoyed eating it, but it became habit and then convenience. As a student cooking mince was simple and the majority of to-go pasta, salad and sandwich options were either chicken or cheese (which I disliked and was quite violently allergic to growing up). But it was just habit as I prefer vegetarian meals, finding them a lot more colourful and flavoursome than the alternatives containing meat and since becoming vegan I haven’t missed them at all. In fact, I found no longer eating meat and dairy products easier than ceasing to consume alcohol when I became a Mormon.

There’s one other reason I think it took me a while to embrace being vegetarian and that was the false association I made with the diet and one particular story my mother shared of when she was expecting me. One day during her pregnancy, two of her teeth disintegrated. My mother has always hated milk and therefore doesn’t drink it, however she eats a fair bit of cheese so it was not, as I had assumed, that she had cut herself off from calcium. That being said, it is a useful reminder of what can happen if you adopt a diet (of any kind) and fail to keep an eye on nutrition.

As soon as I had made the decision to become vegetarian, veganism seemed a forgone conclusion. Especially as one of the principle reasons for making the transition was the information which I had recently learnt about the environmental impact of pastoral agriculture. Perhaps it should have been obvious but it wasn’t until recently that I realised the huge amount of greenhouse gasses, land exploitation and food waste that this kind of farming produces (Jenna Bardroff, One Green Planet, 2014).

My immediate thought once I had made my decision was to research, research, research. I knew that in the near future (we are still pre-New Year and blog at this time) my husband and I would be trying to have children and I wanted to ensure that I had made the transition to vegan before that happened, because whilst a vegan diet contains all the nutrition for a very healthy pregnancy, I did expect there to be bumps and pitfalls along the way. I didn’t want to add the strain of growing a person to my body as it adjusted (for the better) to this new diet and I didn’t want any slips to have an impact on that growing person.

I also anticipated that my husband’s commitment to eating meat would pose a huge challenge, especially as he does the majority of the cooking in our household. When we got married this seemed to be a very practical arrangement. At the time of our marriage I worked more and was studying at the same time and he was more passionate about food. I can cook but I don’t get excited about it and it shows in my food. Samuel’s food on the other hand is fantastic. But now I was hoping that he would cut out a lot of his key ingredients when he was cooking at home. I very much consider that what he eats elsewhere is entirely up to him. To try and ease us both into the changes I was suddenly so enthusiastic about, I signed us up to Veganuary.

There was a considerable amount of groaning. Mainly because Samuel really struggles with change. The whole way through he has actually been very enthusiastic, but every time a new ingredient got used up and removed, he would almost panic. This is how anxiety manifests in my husband. It is very different to me. I enjoy change, experimenting and mixing things up, but Samuel can get very concerned even if I suggest changing the orientation of the furniture.

Flash-forward to the end of January. I had just got Samuel on board with plant-based milks (we like coconut and soya, almond is still something we are working on) but was struggling to get him to consider plant-based butter alternatives or cutting out meat long-term. I had joined a couple of vegan pregnancy forums to learn as much as possible about diet and the additional nutritional cares of expectant vegans. One day a number of films such as Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and What The Health were being discussed in these groups. I fancied watching them and my husband and I quite often watch something in the evening to relax so I suggested one of these. I really didn’t expect much.

I was in for a huge surprise. I was watching his face throughout the film and saw him react when it referenced the accumulation and concentration of dioxins throughout a diet that is based on meat and dairy and the negative health effects they can have, especially for unborn children. I found his reaction particularly touching and it was clear that he had suddenly made the connection between food and family. When the documentary had finished, he turned to me and said OK.

I was aware that there was a possibility that it might just have been a shock effect. He was bombarded with facts and images and he reacted the way a lot of people do. After writing The Jungle to try and highlight the plight of workers in the United States meat industry in the early Twentieth Century, Upton Sinclair said: ‘I aimed for the Public’s heart, And… hit it in the stomach’. I was wondering which of these What The Health had hit.

It not only hit, but it stuck. So feeling very optimistic at the start of February I struck out and said we were going vegan. But we are both very anti-waste so it was never going to be an overnight transition. We had a pat of butter, ice cream, egg noodles, egg pasta, gravy cubes and jars of sauce to use up. We gave the meat we had in the freezer to friends and relatives but Samuel did seem to be dragging his heels a bit. I wanted to give away as much as possible and start over. Samuel needed time to transition. I had been committed to becoming vegan for almost two months, he had only just made the decision.

Today though, I went through the cupboards to see what we had left to use up and found a few lasagne sheets and one final jar of sauce. So, finally, our transition is complete and so is one of the circular thoughts that I was getting so concerned about yesterday. There are others, but the process of preparing to be expectant parents has definitely begun.

Dreaming of the Temple: Part 3

Dreaming of the Temple. I have mentioned before the associations these words conjure for me. The temple is a literal place, it represents calm and tranquillity with oneself, surroundings and circumstances. However, I’m not just dreaming of one day going to the temple and being sealed to my husband, that is not were the dream ends. There is a huge emphasis on family in our church, and especially at the temple. We have the belief that families are forever.

When my husband and I are sealed any children we have will also be sealed to us. This is not just children born following the sealing ceremony, but children who were born before, and if a convert’s parents choose to join the church years later they also have the opportunity to be sealed to their children and future grandchildren.

For us, dreaming of the temple represents our hopes for our family. We have not been married very long and as a result currently have no children. We have been discussing starting to try and conceive and, I’ll be honest, it has thrown up more questions than we thought it would.

Call me naïve, but I really thought that once we had told each other that we both wanted to have children and we felt like we were in a good place to do so, that that would be it. We both knew that this is what we wanted, it’s one of the reasons we got married when we did and we even bought some baby books we saw in the window of a charity shop that we passed on the first day of our honeymoon (as a joke gift to ourselves).

But since that initial decision we have been going round in circles. I created this blog as a thinking space, and that is what it is going to be over the next few days.

14th February

This date is like Marmite: people either ‘love it or hate it’. It’s the day were everyone is focused on relationships. My husband and I are approaching our second wedding anniversary, but we hadn’t even met this time two years ago.

Our Story
My husband and I met whilst I was investigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was a life-long member, a returned missionary, and I had just started meeting with the missionaries. The timeline is simple.

February
Most people laugh when I tell them the story of how I met the missionaries. All converts get asked their story and mine is not particularly exceptional. They laugh because I remember the exact time. It was 11:50 A.M. on the 4th February 2016. My friend and I were about to deliver graded presentations and had two hours to practice (we were both suffering from undiagnosed depression at this time and had finished them the night before).

An Elder asked me for directions to Sainsbury’s outside the university library. Obviously, he didn’t actually want directions, he wanted to talk about Jesus. I am terrible at disengaging from any form of conversation. It doesn’t matter if it is a sales person, a Mormon missionary or a charity worker, once they have stopped me and started their spiel, I can’t escape. I was desperate to get rid of him because I was preventing my friend from practicing her presentation and I really didn’t want her grade to be affected because I couldn’t disentangle myself from a pavement conversation. To end the conversation I gave him my number. In fact, I corrected him when he wrote it down wrong. This was because I felt sorry for him. His companion (I didn’t know anything about Mormons at this point and didn’t realise missionaries travel in pairs) was standing at a distance and I thought he was alone on a cold day in February. I also imagined (again wrongly) that most people had not been very pleasant about being stopped and asked to chat about Jesus Christ. It turns out this is not an unreasonable assumption, one of my husband’s companions was chased by a man with a meat cleaver! Anyway, in February I started meeting with the missionaries and investigating the Mormon church.

March
I finally attended a Sunday service at the local LDS church. The missionaries told me that they wanted to show me a church film at our next meeting and someone of the same sex as the Elders would need to be present. This was because we would be meeting at the church building rather than in a public place, like a café or the local park. It’s the same principle as adults who work with children not being with a child alone and it’s the same when two Sisters meet with a male investigator. It’s not a lack of trust it is just for security because unfortunately in the past there has been inexcusable behaviour from both missionaries and investigators. The reason that it is a member of the church of the same sex as the missionaries is because it otherwise appears a bit like the worst double-date imaginable. However, there is something that perhaps needs to go on record and be considered.

This was the second time I was going to be meeting with the missionaries at the church and the first time had been dreadful. It was, in my opinion, worse that the worst double-date that I can imagine. I was not in a good place at this time. I had been in an awful, manipulative relationship and a whole host of other instances of sexual harassment and assault had followed. Then I turned up at the church (I hadn’t been to a service yet) and was met by three men. The two missionaries I had met before, the third man I knew was going to be there but I had never met him. They decided to start by giving me a tour of the building but for some reason hadn’t turned any of the lights on… I was in a gloomy building with three men I had met twice or not at all. The man they’d brought along to help teach was silent almost the entire time. When they showed me the font I stood as far away as possible because I honestly wasn’t sure what they were going to do next. I had gone through five months of traumatic experiences involving men and this was not a positive encounter for me. But then along came Samuel.

April
This was the month that I got baptised, on the 21st April 2016. I already had a belief in God when the missionaries stopped me in February. What I had never had was the spiritual connection that I had heard people talk about, when people say that they were in conversation with God. I did find that with the LDS church which is why I became a member. As I mentioned in a previous post my conversion was not complete at this time, but I was convinced that this was where I was supposed to be, perhaps because I had found someone I wanted to be there with.

I didn’t join the church for Samuel, but there is a possibility that I wouldn’t have joined if I hadn’t met him. When I was in my baptismal interview, I was asked whether I believed that the gospel had been restored to earth. I responded that I wasn’t sure. In short, I wasn’t convinced. I knew that I was finally in a good place and that I was beginning to feel spiritually good once more (I hadn’t been to a church since I left home for university and I had begun to feel disconnected with my faith which truly saddened me). The Elder conducting the interview was very concerned by this, the interview that usually took around fifteen minutes took about two hours for me. It’s safe to say that despite popular belief I didn’t join a cult. The Elder asked me what would happen if I decided that the Book of Mormon was not true (if it were a cult they wouldn’t have been willing to have members who didn’t believe core parts of the doctrine) and I told him it wouldn’t matter. Now we are at the part where most people get confused. How can you be part of the Mormon church and have doubts about the book the church is named after?

For me the answer is really simple. The lifestyle that comes with being a Mormon: going to church on Sunday; not working, shopping or going out to dinner or the cinema on a Sunday; not drinking alcohol, tea or coffee; not smoking or taking drugs, was going to be my lifestyle now. Samuel and I were engaged to be married.

It was not the whirlwind romance that you might be expecting. I really don’t know how this man did it. He met me at the lowest point in my life (between his proposal and our wedding day I had almost dropped out of university, was given the opportunity to postpone my dissertation and final exams for a year and had seriously considered suicide). I had almost completely lost my sense of humour and believed that there was no part of me that was worth loving. Samuel and one of his brothers lived together at this time and I was living in their living room because if I was left alone there was a significant chance that I would cause myself harm. For me, that he could fall in love with me and give me constant care when I was almost incapacitated by my own mind makes him very special. I should also mention that we had discussed and agreed that we would get married even if I never joined the church.

What prompted me to say ‘Yes!’ when he proposed three weeks after we met, was the conversation we had when we decided to risk entering into a relationship. I say risk solely from my perspective. I had been through a lot in a very short amount of time and had not had a positive relationship in over three years. The last proper relationship I had been in before the disaster of 2015 ended with a broken engagement. Before you panic, I had known this man a lot longer and we had been in a steady relationship for a lot longer as well. But it all ended in tears. The man I walked out on in 2015 had cried too, hysterically (but I’m not sure about that as he raped me a few minutes later). Anyway… the point was that I was worried that I was going to take the heart of the lovely man I’d just met and metaphorically jump up and down on it until it was pulp. That was how I saw myself – a relationship wrecker and heart destroyer, unworthy of love.

What changed everything was his quiet acceptance of how I was feeling. That he was willing to give me space and time to heal. He still does. This was a huge contrast to what I had experienced over the past few months. A friend had asked me out and started sending hurtful text messages when I politely declined. A fellow student and I had dated briefly, but I decided it wasn’t a good idea two months before our dissertations were due and we broke up a few days after going out. This student then proceeded to message and call me. One night I was at the house of one of the youth from the church with a lot of other investigators and new converts watching Disney movies and he called me seven times in a row. This was about a week after Samuel and I first met. With all that was going on I guess I needed to offload to somebody and he was kind and close enough to listen. When we were sitting in my flat a week later, talking about whether or not we should risk dating, he told me that he’d wanted to ask me out earlier, but when I had told him everything that was going on he didn’t because he could see that I didn’t need anyone else telling me that they liked me; that I just needed a friend.

That’s what we are. Best friends. We both collect rocks, are academic geeks who love their respective subjects and Star Trek. Samuel is good at maths and I’m the one who reads and writes all day. We have the same attitudes, hopes and dreams. He is the only man I have ever met who put my needs before his own desires. That’s why I married him three months after we met. We don’t suggest others rush out and do the same, but it worked for us. We eloped to Gretna Green and since that day I have started to get better. It has taken a really, really, really long time but with the support and love of a very patient man, I know that my tomorrows will continue to get brighter.

 

 

Dreaming of the Temple: Part 2

If my last post was about Why (it wasn’t supposed to be it just came out that way) then this post is more along the lines of how. Not the mechanics of blogging (there are lots of good posts out there containing tips for new and future bloggers) but about the way I decided to go about my blog.

I settled on a name long before I decided to take the plunge and start sharing my thoughts and feelings on the internet. Dreaming of the Temple. For me it means a lot of things. I suppose it also represents the gradual evolution of the blog itself. My initial idea was to create a blog based around spirituality. More specifically my own encounters with missionaries and eventual conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (popularly known as Mormons – not the ones with multiple wives, before you ask).

In The Church of Jesus Christ, the Temple is a very real, physical place. It is considered sacred and the ordinances and ceremonies that take place inside the building are not discussed beyond its walls. Some feel very uncomfortable about this (we are quite often referred to as a cult) but in reality it is just a continuation from the doctrinal principles that can be found in any aspect of Church literature, should you be so inclined to read it. The ultimate ordinance is known as a sealing. In essence, it is the belief that whilst marriage is ‘until death us do part’, a sealing makes that marriage last for eternity. I like to think of it as putting a GPS tag on my husband, making it easier to find him after we die.

Without turning this into a debate on the reality of life after death and the various different attitudes and perspectives surrounding the subject of religion, the crux of this initial blog idea was to map my journey to the Temple. I have been a member since the 21st of April 2016, but my conversion was certainly not complete when I got baptised. I had faith that that was were God wanted me to be, and that it was the Church I was meant to join, but a number of the doctrines were very far from what I had been brought up believing. Therefore, in this instance Dreaming of the Temple is very literal; I wanted to get there, but sometimes it seemed almost impossible.

In addition to being a literal place, the Temple itself is highly symbolic. Almost every aspect of the building, its interior and the artwork displayed, represents something more than its physical self. The Temple is not just a place to feel spiritually close to God, it is also a place to feel close to family. The Church of Jesus Christ places great emphasis on the importance of family and the majority of the ordinances performed inside the Temple concern living or deceased relatives. My husband and I have a great many hopes for our own family, so whilst this was initially about me dreaming of going to the Temple, it is also about the dreams that the Temple represents.

Shortly after baptism all Church members receive a patriarchal blessing. This is a blessing from a senior member of the Stake that is intended to provide guidance throughout your life. In my blessing it was advised that I endeavour to make my home like the Temple. As I started to think more seriously about actually creating a blog, not just scribbling notes on scraps of paper, I realised that whilst my spiritual struggles might have been a primary motivation for me, they probably weren’t that worthwhile. After about a year of indecision, my husband and I graduated from university and bought our first house. This was an exciting prospect and as we both grew up in the countryside we were glad to move out of the city. As ever, there were a number of small interior projects to undertake to fully make the property feel like our home. We discovered many characteristics of the house that had been covered over and concealed. Amongst these were several fireplaces, original woodwork and historic wallpaper. I thought these might have the potential for some blog material.

But that material would be about converting a house into a home. What making your home like the Temple really means is emulating the atmosphere of the Temple; as a peaceful place of rest, somewhere to find solace, filled with love, joy and happiness. When you go to the Temple, even if its just stepping into the grounds, the peace becomes almost tangible, and you are able to stop caring about all the concerns or worries that you had before. You are there with one purpose and all the deadlines, commitments and to-do lists have no part in it. Prayer is very similar to meditation; it is reflective, focused and has been found to relieve stress. In the ideal, the home should be the same. The door should close and work should be left outside or, if you work at home, left at a specific place of work. One of the principles of mindfulness is having specific rooms for specific purposes.

So Dreaming of the Temple is both literal, symbolic and is about striving for tranquillity within the home and within the self. For me that is one of the biggest challenges in looking to fulfil my patriarchal blessing. I have enjoyed our DIY projects; decorating, gardening and furnishing our home over the last few months has been a really fun marital project. I would always hope that any visitor would feel welcomed, happy and be able to sense the love in our home. But I am not a calm person. I have always had anxiety, my biggest flaw is a quick temper, and since developing depression my emotions have surged and dipped more than ever. It was this that led me to become truly serious about starting a blog. I have had various experiences with counselling, some good and some bad, and I know that I am very self aware. I am a very open person and frequently talk about my mental health and other life experiences, but it can still be difficult to talk to friends and family. There are always feelings that you are burdening others, that you might be judged, or that they don’t completely understand how you feel or what you are/have been going through. I was after a space to explore why I felt the way I felt, to be able to dissect some of the more traumatic experiences in my life and to spend time appreciating what I have. The primary aspect of my blog now is mental health.

I am still not up to speed, or particularly confident about blogging. It’s something that I have been contemplating for a number of years and its concept has changed several times. It is very daunting and in the words of Winnie the Pooh:

‘you find sometimes that a Thing that felt quite Thingish inside you
is quite different when its out in the open and has other people looking at it’
( A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner, 1928)

But I hope that all the different things that I am personally exploring; my mental health, my efforts to become a calmer, more tranquil person, the physical changes to our home, the preparation to have a family, will be encompassed by the blog name, Dreaming of the Temple.