Sunday, February 17, 2013

"The God Who Weeps" and Emotional Relationships

"That God has a heart that beats in sympathy with ours is the reality that draws us to Him. That He feels real sorrow, rejoices with real gladness, and weeps real tears with us. This, as the prophet Enoch learned, is an awful, terrible, yet infinitely comforting truth."

"God chooses to love us. And if love means responsibility, sacrifice, vulnerability, then God's decision to love us is the most stupendously sublime moment in the history of time. He chooses to love even at, necessarily at, the price of vulnerability."

"God is not exempt from emotional pain. Exempt? On the contrary, God's pain is as infinite as his love."

"Tenderness suggests sensitivity. A loving heart, like an exposed nerve, is by definition susceptible to pain."

"This vulnerability, this openness to pain and exposure to risk, is the eternal condition of the Divine."

These are all quotes from the introduction and first chapter of The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life by Terryl and Fiona Givens. The basic argument of the first chapter is that emotional vulnerability is a divine attribute and that our Heavenly Father chooses to love us even though it comes with the price of experiencing hurt and pain caused by our imperfect decisions.

This has given me a lot to think about. Throughout my short life, I've known those (myself included) who have learned to deal with hurt by limiting the extent to which they emotionally invest in relationships with others, be they individuals or communities. When others inflict harm (whether intentionally or not), a common response is to withdraw emotionally to one degree or another from the relationship. Experience suggests that the less we emotionally invest, the less it hurts when others do us harm. I suppose this is a natural defensive mechanism that we develop over time as a way to protect ourselves and our emotional well-being.

In contrast, the compelling and persuasive argument put forth in The God Who Weeps seems to suggest that the ideal for us is to emulate God by deliberately choosing to love and emotionally invest, even at the risk of pain and hurt, and continuing to love and invest even after experiencing real (as opposed to expected or hypothetical) pain and hurt.

Reason and experience, however, strongly suggest that persisting in harmful relationships is not a wise course of action, as protecting oneself (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) is also important counsel that we are regularly given, both in the secular world as well as the Church. We simply cannot fulfill our covenants to be of service to one another, not to mention maintaining a strong emotional and mental well-being, if we have no emotional resources to draw upon. Thus, protecting those scarce emotional resources seems also to be a goal worth prioritizing, which can be jeopardized by choosing to invest and engage in hurtful relationships.

So how are we to reconcile this apparent paradox of pursuing the divine ideal of loving and investing versus taking preventive measures to protect our emotional health and overall well-being?

One possible avenue would be to recognize that while God has an infinite reserve of emotional strength to draw upon in choosing to love us, we mortals are imperfect and finite, meaning that our "emotional reservoir" necessarily has a limited, finite capacity to handle emotional trauma. While it may be ideal to be able to love and emotionally invest in unlimited quantities as God does, it seems ultimately impossible to do so in our limited, mortal capacity. Perhaps at this stage, we're called upon to emotionally invest to the extent to which we are reasonably able given the depth of our "emotional reservoir," and then to allow ourselves to not feel guilty when we decline to love and invest beyond our realistic capacities. (And this capacity is different for everyone. I sometimes envy those who seem to have bottomless "emotional reservoirs"...) Perhaps this should be done in the recognition that it is an imperfect solution and that as we continue to grow and progress, our emotional reservoirs increase their capacity to love and invest, and that someday we'll be closer to the divine ideal than we currently find ourselves.

In conclusion, this prompts me to consider questions like these: What can we do to increase the capacity of our emotional reservoirs, so that we have more resources with which to love and invest in relationships? Is this something that is "fixed" by our personalities and/or physiologies or can this be increased by methods either secular or spiritual? What, if anything, can we do to foster relationships that are safe for all parties involved to be emotionally vulnerable while limiting exposure to emotional risk? To me, at least, these are some fundamental questions to our efforts to create Zion-like communities using imperfect building blocks of human beings.


I don't remember when I took these pictures, but I just found them and thought they were cute.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Bitter End

Too soon, people were leaving our home. Christmas was over and it was time to get back to the daily grind. We tried to enjoy every second with those that were able to stay a little longer.

Nana made quillows for EVERYONE this year. She made them Everyone received a blanket that was sized to fit them. She even finished off the edges with a blanket stitch on ALL of the blanks. All of them. She has herself and her husband, six children, and their families too. Wow. She even bought fabrics specific to each person. This BYU one is Rob's I think. One of the boys received a Star Wars one and Benjamin received a University of Iowa blanket. This was such a thoughtful and useful gift. They were meant to be emergency blankets that would always stay in the car, but Abby sleeps with hers every night.

She's so pretty. Love my sister.

Kyle wins the uncle-of-the-year award (well maybe they're tied, Ken did take her fishing this summer). When none of us wanted to face the cold, Kyle played with Bee outside in the 'snow' for an hour. She was so happy. Their little snowgirl was pretty sturdy and lasted at least a week.

Lucy loves to play games. Isn't this the cutest outfit ever?

Kyle and Amy celebrated their anniversary at our house. 

Cute boy.

She decided to lock her cousins in their room. I think she was made that they weren't awake yet. 

We replaced the color on house with a color on rocket ship this year. We bought it after Christmas, once they were on clearance. These provide great entertainment for the kids. I love them.

They even let Abigail color on it this year on the nice side.


Soon the house was quiet and everyone was gone. We miss them all. It took me several weeks to clean everything the way that I wanted to. I didn't touch the playroom until last. Christmas was great this year. Thank you to everyone who could make it. To those of you who couldn't, we really missed you. Much love!

Here's a priceless video.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Service Project

I was a little startled to find this spider, and Frodo hanging down from his string, on my kitchen shelf. That spider is lucky that it survived the day.
I wanted to organize a service project while my family was here. Our ward was in charge of taking meals to some needy people one Saturday and I signed us up for dessert. I wasn't about to make cookies and call it good, especially when I saw two of my friends making this cute craft that they found on Pinterest. The pinner even included the free download for the project. I helped one of my friends make these for her daughter's class and then she gifted the leftover whoppers to me. My other friend also gifted me her leftovers. In the end, we made over fifty packages. It was fun and everybody was helpful. They turned out extremely cute.

Daddy loved this shirt that his little girl received for Christmas. 

I love how she is so comfortable with her family. She warms up quickly.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love Them

I love my family. It's probably funny that it is Valentine's day and I am blogging about Christmas still, but that is how my blogging goes. If we're lucky, I will already be blogging about V-day by St. Patrick's day.

We had another special evening where we gathered to sing hymns and Christmas songs. Grandpa gave a devotional at the end. It was neat. I turned on the fire and stayed in front of it for most of the night. The harmonies were beautiful and we all enjoyed the beautiful music and the chance to sing.

Some people were more involved than others.

Kyle and Amy sang for us. So amazing!

Karolyn also sang. I love to hear her sing.
In honor of our families tradition of being musical, I invited them all to sing at church while they were here and they agreed.

On the first Sunday, I sang with my dad, my mom, Rob, and Karolyn. Kimberly was too sick to sing. (Did I mention that everyone in their family was on antibiotics that week and they still made it all the way to my house for Christmas? Now that is dedication.) It was nice.

Kyle and Amy weren't there the first Sunday, so I asked them to sing a duet on the next Sunday. They graciously agreed and we were so lucky to hear them sing in our ward. I love my family. So talented.

Ben and some of the boys enjoyed a day trip to Abraham Lincoln's birthplace. Here is the 'shrine' that encases the spot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Last year Kimberly and I had this genius idea to go Christmas clearance shopping. We had a lot of fun. we found gingerbread houses on sale and decided to buy them and use them the next year. I put mine in the deep freeze and forgot about it. Kimberly brought hers with her this year and I pulled mine out from the freezer. It worked great. The candy was soft and the frosting worked well.

Karolyn was oh so patient as she helped the kids with their houses. She is so creative.

I tried to make trees again like I had last year, but they were not near as successful and my hands hurt form squeezing the frosting bag.
Last year.

This year.

Kits really do make things easier. I went to CVS clearance this year and bought six new kits for $2 each for next Christmas.

Benjamin enjoying some sweet baby time.

Nice glasses.

I always love a good cuddle. Not sure if, or why, she was sad here.

Best husband ever. I love this man.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Snowflake Extravaganza

Cute baby.

Kyle was in charge of the snowflake competition  There were several categories and awards. Some people in my family are extremely talented.

I still have not taken these down. I love them. I won a prize, but I think it was a pity prize. My snowflakes were sub par. :)

Brye made this one?

Bryce again?

Karolyn made this 3D snowflake.

Kyle likes the flames.

Karolyn, or maybe Kyle?

Bryce or Jeffrey?
This was a fun activity.