Saturday, 23 April 2016

Feeling Worthy

Many moons ago, I screwed up big time. It was a doozey. I refer to it as my "What the hell were you thinking" era. Because it was my late teens - early 20s, I also refer to it as my 1/4 life crisis. I didn't have to wait for a mid-life crisis. As a fiapoko overachiever, why not squeeze in an extra one for kicks. 

The magnitude of it all left me reeling. Naturally with my family and real friends, but mostly with me. It took a long time to make things right with God, but even longer to make things right with me. 

People would say, "Oh, you haven't repented properly". Honestly, I just wanted to knock their teeth out. Of course there are steps to repentance, but there is not a template for every single step. No check list. Nothing you can highlight to make sure you're on the right track. My belief is that it's like this because everyone's journey is unique and how you get there is as personal as understanding that Heavenly Father knows us by name, like Brother Joseph, meaning it's not just our names He knows. 

And so began my journey.

I was invited to serve in Church. In many different callings. Some just happened to be in leadership roles. I would happily pray for my family, for those who I had stewardship over and for anyone else. Just not me. I didn't think I deserved it. 

So He spoke to me in the best way for me - through others. There is this genuine love you feel for others when you serve them. You visit, teach, help, just do whatever they need and in return my experience teaches, that you find what you need. 

Full credit to Satan. He's a smart guy and this is one of the best tools in his toolbox. Making people feel unworthy, making sisters feel unworthy. He can see the domino effect. You do something wrong and it's too hard to bounce back. You do something wrong and can't face people. You do something wrong and it's easier to stay home on a Sunday. You've fallen from grace and you should just stay down. His game plan is clearly spelled out in 2 Nephi ... 'for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself'. All men, means us and our families. So why not start with the heart of the home and that's most of his work done. 

A few months ago, we had an Auxiliary Training and one lady spoke about ways to help with reverence in Primary. She came to her last point, and said something along the lines of "Just fake it".  I was at the back of the room, preparing for my presentation and looked up. She continued to talk about how she doesn't like teaching a subject at High School, but her students wouldn't know it because she went through the motions and 'faked it'. I think the hair on the back of my neck stood up for all the wrong reasons. I thought, what is she talking about! As usual, with my life lessons, the fault wasn't in the teaching here - it was in my listening. I have thought about it a lot since, and for me the lesson wasn't about being fake, it was about endurance. It was when you're exhausted, unsure, doubting: Just keep going. There's the good old 'Do it for the kids'. The kids will grow up and get on with life, and you're left to face yourself. Do it for you. 

There are moments when I fall back into "I am not worthy" mode or I forget myself. It's been nearly a year since I was called into Stake Primary. Not long after I was called, I went to see my Bishop and explained about my big doozey all those years ago. I said I remember doing what I needed to do, but I don't remember saying sorry and I needed the Lord to know, through His servant, that I really was sorry. He didn't skip a beat as he spoke about instant forgiveness and love. 

Again, I have never felt as if the Lord didn't forgive me, it was me. I recently ramped up my temple attendance. Whenever I go, I sit there and try to think about what my Dad would want me to do. When I was home last and sat at his graveside, I thought the same thing. Every single time, I can hear him clearly in my mind, 'Just shut up and get on with it.' It cracks me up every time. 

Yes, Satan has a good game plan. He really does. He will throw diversions, uncertainly our way because he lives for our misery. 

However, there is a better Plan. One that takes work and effort like most good things because it brings happiness. 

Do these feelings change? Yes. Does this one thing hang over me like a cloud raining just on me? Not anymore. Because you live, learn and love yourself. Yes, yourself. 

And so the journey continues........... and like Dad says, 'Just shut up and just get on with it.' 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

My First (Palagi) Massage

One of the ladies I Visit Teach at church (touch base with at least monthly to make sure they're ok) is studying to be a massage therapist. Last week she posted that she was looking for volunteers, as she needed practical experience as part of her course. I thought, 'Hey, if you can't help one of your visiting homes in this way, how can you?', like the post and she quickly contacted and booked my appointment for tonight. 

My experience with massages is very limited. When I was working at the bank, they would have people come around during the end of financial year to give massages and they would come to my desk and I'd say 'Don't touch me' and let them go off on their merry way. 

My other experience is either getting my youngest daughter to walk on my back when I felt the need to get rid of a kink here or there. 

Like I said, my experience with massage is very limited. 

I get a reminder message (how professional) this afternoon about the appointment with the added 'if you would like your legs to get done, please bring underwear.' Pass on getting the legs done.

It got closer to the time and it did feel a bit weird. I hardly know her, even my sisters haven't seen my back fat... How does this whole massage thing work? What am I supposed to wear? What if the massage table cannot hold my mass? What if I fart accidentally? All very valid questions. 

In true island fashion, I rock up with my own lavalava just in case the towels aren't big enough for me. 

She hands me a towel asks me to put it over my back like a cape. Mind drifts as I picture myself as Super Girl or Wonder Woman. She leaves to give me privacy and then it's time to get ready and I get on the table. 

It holds firm. It holds firm and it's not shaky. I holds firm, it's not shaky and I can move around a bit without feeling like it may collapse under me. Yussssss! 

She comes back in and does her thing. I close my eyes and try not concentrate on my poor boobies that are taking the brunt of my weight. Every move is slow, calculated, tender and firm all at the same time. I can tell she is really thinking about what she is doing and even though she may be traumatised by my back fat, she is doing a fabulous job. 

I'm in heaven. 

Then she asks me to roll over. Huh? She is the ultimate professional. Screening her from me for my privacy and comfort. And it's for her protection.. her eye protection haha. She finishes by tenderly massaging my arms, hands, and face. 

I'm back in heaven. 

It's time to go home and I'll be back again when she needs me again (because I'm a great Visiting Teacher). One day I'll look back and tell people I knew Alice Parr when she was a massage therapy student and they won't believe me that I'm cool enough to know her. 

True Story. 

Thanks for my first massage Alice & all the best. Keep my name on your list for the next time Xx. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Power of Words

The Ephesians 4:29 challenge is all about watching what comes out of your mouth: 

'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.'

Our family started this challenge because we needed it. There's a saying that goes something like, 'The only time you should yell, is when your house is on fire'. Well our house burned down to the ground a few times. The challenge was pretty simple, we all had 30 marbles in our jars. During the week, if we said anything that wasn't uplifting or not nice then you lost a marble and it went into the big jar. The person with the most marbles at the end of the week was given $15 because that's what we decided on together as a reward. 

The first couple of weeks were okay. We went through a kind of honeymoon phase as we worked it out. People would look at us strangely if we would be shopping because every now and then "That's a marble" could be heard. 

There was a period of 'fake niceness', where some were only being nice to try and win the money. There's the stage when people lose so many marbles, they are past caring and the floodgates would open. One week, one child just went up to their jar and poured all the marbles out. There were times when the scrutiny was intense. One time Tarlini lost a marble for calling the microwave stupid. "That wasn't uplifting for the microwave Dad". 

Of course, my Tarlini has won the challenge most weeks so his savings are looking great. It took 8 weeks for someone to beat him, and that was our youngest. I actually won the challenge one week. I was so excited! 

It's nearly been 5 months since we started the challenge, and what have we noticed? We talk to each other more. We sit round the table at times other than dinner and talk more. It's about stuff that means something to us, not just small talk. The children still irk each other now and then, but it's better. I'm actually stopping to think about what comes out of my mouth before it leaves my lips. Amazing. It's still a work in progress but it's better. 

A few months ago Tarlini was waiting to usher his Primary class into their classroom on Sunday and a man confronted him. As in got so close to him, they could almost hongi (touch noses) - confronted him. Something about us talking about his wife or something to that effect. It's laughable really, because if you knew my husband, you'd know he is one of the nicest guys in the universe. Now, it's more believable if it were me, but it wasn't (and I would own it if it were me or I would be looking you straight in the eye as I was saying it). I was at home with my youngest daughter who was sick that day, which is a blessing in disguise because I'm sure my father's genes would've kicked in and I'd be in some kind of disciplinary council... but I digress. He was actually more upset because he could see how upset the other guy was. 

The thing is whatever he said really shook my Tarlini and because of that it shook our whole family. 

So Tarlini decided he would be going to a different chapel for church. My calling in church means that I travel to a lot of different wards to visit etc so I would go to which ever ward, the kids would go to our ward with friends, and he would go somewhere else. Our youngest stopped wanting to go to activities or even church too.

There's a Primary song that talks about a wise and foolish man. The wise man built his house upon rocks and when the weather nutted out at him, the house stood firm because it was built on great foundations. The foolish man built his house upon sand, so when the weather had a go at him, his house washed away because of the sad foundations. 

For us this was one of those checking our foundations moments. 

This experience has actually strengthened us. We were open and honest with the children about what happened. When the rumour mill was in full swing, they were able to bat it out of the ball park a few times. It has given us a teaching moment. Did we want our daughter to hold grudges? No. We are back to being at the same ward all at the same time. Yaaaay! 

I guess the simple message is words have the power to uplift or crush people. Use them wisely and if all else fails, just zip your lip. 

The other thing is, the church is true and sometimes people are people. I get that. I'm one of those daaaaaaaaaah people. 

And ALWAYS focus on not losing your marbles! 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Love & Skittles

I hadn't heard from a friend for a very long time. We have the kind of friendship where we don't see each other often, but when we do it's like we were never apart. We've watched each other grow and it's one of those friendships where you would cut off your right arm for each other. Well, maybe my left arm because I'm right-handed of course. 

Then, I got a message. "What's your phone number, I need to talk to you" You know the things that run through your mind.. is she sick, are her parents sick, is someone dying, is the sky falling in... 

Anyway, here's how our conversation went: 

"I'm in a relationship"
"Yaaaay! Are you happy?"
"It's a same-sex relationship" (Ok, I wasn't expecting that)
 "Are you happy?"

"Yes, really happy."
"Yaaaay! Are you getting married?"
"No, we've talked about that and we're not"
"Cos I'm a really great Wedding Planner"
"I know you are, you dork."

And our conversation just flowed as normal. We spoke about how it's taken her seven years to have the courage to let me know.  We spoke about how the people closest to her have been the most difficult to tell and how she had received some angry reactions. I reassured her that I didn't care about who she loves, as long as she was happy. Actually, I told her that as long as her parents were fine, what I thought really didn't matter. She said it mattered to her. 

When the words came out of her mouth - I hope it was empowering for her. I was surprised but I don't think I paused or inhaled all the air in from my office. 

I love her even more and it makes me sad that it's taken her this long to feel comfortable enough to tell me.  I would also be lying if I said it didn't make me sad because there are few churchie things we won't be able to do together. 

Now, some may say this changes everything because of my faith. Well, quite simply put - it doesn't. Not even the size of a mustard seed. 

There are two things we are all about. Agency and being Christians or followers of Jesus Christ. 

We believe that we came to this earth to gain a body and go through trials and tests to return to live with our Heavenly Father again. The thing is we believe we made a choice and raised our hands to come here. We wanted it so bad, we were itching to get here. It was our choice. Agency is choice - you weigh everything up and make a choice. You can't make people choose what you want them to choose, because then we would be exactly like our brother who fell away. My friend is an adult who has made a choice. She's weighed everything up and decided that this is what makes her happy. 

We are also Christians or followers of Jesus Christ who taught us to treat people as we would like to be treated. In his words, "Love one another, as I have loved you". It's as simple as that. What are you teaching your children I can hear? Exactly that. 

She is still the same person to me. The girl with the beautiful voice that's blossomed into a lovely lady. The girl who had the guts to tell me how much of a jerk I was when I was a teenager hahaha. I still want to know how she's doing, how the family is and how life is treating her. 

The girl who is my friend, my sister, and who just happens to be on Team Skittles now. No big deal. 

In the end she has chosen love. 

And so have I. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Alex The Great

When I was around 14 years old a few of my friends had had enough of school. We would go through the short cut of the Old Road near on the Driver Crescent/Warspite Avenue entrance and head to Beauzami Cresent in Ascot Park. It was the kind of short cut that we were always warned about, but we grew up here and we'd be alright.

We'd always ended up at the Carters, next door to the Fonotis.

Alex was one of the counsellors in our Bishopric. He and his wife Desiree only had baby girl Kehayla then and we would skip school there for days in a row. In hindsight, I can see that he wanted to keep us safe. If we weren't going to go to school, at least he knew we were safe. I'm pretty sure my kids won't be reading this so I won't have to explain the wagging haha.

One day he sat us down and said, "Bishop said you have to go back to school". And we did - because we knew that he didn't have to let us stay at his house and he got a bit of flack from Bishop so we listened.

This morning Alex passed away after battling cancer.

It's literally been years since I saw him last. He was part of the circle when my son was given a name and blessing (like a christening) at church. That's how much he meant to us.

We would laugh at him. He would laugh at us and then all laugh together. He would talk about his passion that is softball, and he was one of the first guys that respected that I could speak rugby and we'd have great conversations.

One day I remember saying to him,
"Hey, can you see this mark on the back of my leg? It won't come off."
"It's called soap and hot water Babe, try it some time!" or he would say things like "You better watch those taro legs are going to get you one day." Man, I should've listened!

I went and visited the family once when I home in Porirua. Desiree was one of my Seminary Teachers so I tried to stop by whenever I was home. I walked into the house and sat there waiting and there was some washing. So I decided to just start folding it as you do. He came out and said "When you're done with that, there's some dishes in the kitchen waiting for you."

That's home.

The Carter home was one of my safety nets when I was a teenager. When he was in Coach mode, he was at his best. I remember when he was teaching one of the girls how to drive. The first thing he said was "The car is a big weapon. Never forget that and you'll always drive safely."

Always remember those that influence your life for the better. I'm sorry I never said thank you but I hope you feel it now.

I'm glad you're not in pain anymore. Say hi to Dad for me and I'm sure you'll have a great welcoming committee and there'll be somewhere up there for you to play softball I'm sure.

Rest easy old guy.  Thank you times a million. Till sweet reunions in the heavens.

Love you Xx

Friday, 24 July 2015

Hoop Dreams & Church Ball

When I was growing up there were two things that were a constant in my life: Church and Basketball.

As a child, I would watch the youth and adults during Ward Nights in awe. I would see elbows fly and baskets being dunked on. I would see missionaries join in on their P-Days and turn into these competitive sports stars, all keen for the win. It was great! 

The biggest competitions weren't school or community tournaments, it was the church ones. Stake Basketball was the big time. The basketball practices would be intense and you really had to earn your game time.  It was at these practices that I learnt to box out, screen, dribble, lay up, shuffle those feet and shoot. 

I wasn't exactly a natural when it came to playing ball. When I started High School I made the basketball team purely on my sister Ama's reputation. I remember the looks the coaches gave each other after they had made that decision and then asked me to do a jump shot.  Priceless. I was so unnatural at it in the beginning that when I was in Beehives (12-13yrs old) and it was time for Stake Basketball tournament, I was a cheerleader. That's right - a cheerleader!  There were four of us around the same age.  

"We're out to win, we're out to fight. 
We're from the East, we're dynamite" 

"That's East! E-A-S-T, that East E-A-S-T
That's E with an Eh and an A-S-T
You put it altogether and that spells East
That's East - Yeah!"   

Oh those cheers! We did have fun but thank goodness there weren't many video recordings around back then. 

The competition was pretty fierce. You were allowed to have three non-members (not members of the church) in your team but they had to attend church at least three times before the tournament. You knew it was nearly tournament time, because some of the best players in the area were at church for three times that year. Yes, basketball is a great missionary tool. 

You would almost taste tension soup between Wards from the first game. No team was underestimated. There may have been a few flying fists here and there (because we all know, we are not perfect) and there may have been one or two wards that didn't really care, but we're weren't one of them. Yes, there were tears when a team lost the in the semi-finals or the finals because everyone was on their way to join Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, John Stockton & Michael Jordan in the NBA hahaha.   

I have fond memories of church ball. Great friends, the soreness the next day and wondering when we could play again. 

Today, over 20 years later we're off to watch our teenagers play in their first Stake Basketball tournament. It's spread over a few weeks. I went to watch my son at one of his practices and even though I tried to compose myself the words 'fell' out, 

"Move you feet son!" 
"Move to the ball" 
"Hands up"

Then the clincher "I want a turn"
"Mum, sit down. Please". 

What basketball has taught me is that after the final whistle has blown there are better wins to be made even if you didn't come first. 

Fitness, sportsmanship, and friendships are great wins. Invitations extended way beyond tournament dates that have changed lives are greater wins and this is what I want my children to learn from the game too. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

To Serve

On Sunday I got a new calling in Church. 

It's been just over 2 years since I've been serving in our ward Primary and it's been such a great experience. The roller coaster got me a few times there, but the ride was fantastic. On Sunday as the Bishopric member conducted ward business and my name was called out as being released from my calling, there were a few gasps. One of the older primary children were sitting in front of me and turned around with her jaw hitting the ground and I patted her back, assuring her that everything would be fine. 

A few minutes later I stood to be sustained for my new calling in Stake Primary. There were gasps again and I laughed a little to myself because I was trying to figure out if they were surprised gasps because believe me, I was pretty surprised when I first heard the news too. 

Surprised? Hell (or Heck) yeah! 

There was a time when I was a covenant breaker, a prodigal daughter, a hater-rater and a not so great person. I know a few people singing a few hallelujahs to that right now and I own that :). It took me a good 6 years to make it right with the Lord, and probably longer to make it right with me.. cos you know that's what us chicks do. There were a few years there when I wasn't even going to church. The blessings I got out of that period were twofold: 1. My empathy levels went up 10000% for less active members (because some people were pretty mean to me) and 2. It reminded me what I really wanted for my family. 

I'm still a hater-rater every now and again (Amen) and I'm certainly no where near achieving that imaginary bright shining 'perfection' badge (double Amen) mostly because I love chocolate way too much. I believe that all we can do is try our best with what we know and I'm trying.  

I have no doubt that my love to serve and the philosophy to help others if you can is a Christlike attribute that my parents showed frequently in word and deed. I see them in my siblings as I watch them serve their families in every shape and form.  There's no greater feeling than serving and helping others both in need and in want.  

It is beyond my wisdom why I have been called in this capacity. And I repeat the words of Alma: 

"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things...." Alma 26:12

I'm looking forward to this new adventure and grateful for the opportunity to meet new people and serve the children within our Stake. 

It's been a long time since this prodigal daughter returned home. It may seem to some that I was never away. The small time away has helped me and has also cemented my testimony, alongside others that if I can make things right - anyone can. World peace is great. Inner peace is way better - just saying :)