Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Love Devotionals Addendum

This morning I read an email from a friend, responding to the Love Dares we started yesterday. She wrote: "I just checked Day 2. I think I will be stuck there for a while, it is a lot to process." That got me thinking.

It's valid and also important to go at your own pace with this challenge, and with any other. Change is like yoga; you only want to reach as far in the moment as a healthy stretch will take you, and never into a place of pain. It's not about competing or keeping up. It's about breath and form and learning to move in ways that free and strengthen you and ultimately extend your range and discipline. It's personal, individual.

That said, it's still so easy to get hung up in ideals and perfectionism. I'm not saying that's where my friend is, but calling herself "stuck" is telling. Is she actually having trouble understanding today's concept, or is it more that she's not approving of her own efforts? Did she make a difficult start this morning, or get tripped up somewhere, and now feels that she has to keep starting over till she gets it right? Maybe I'm projecting possibilities here, but these are some of the ways that I often get stuck.

I have another friend, someone I've known and dearly loved for most of my adult life. She's an incredible person, though like the rest of us, she's a maddening mix of humanity and transcendence. She's someone I know for a fact is always working to become a better person, and she does a great job, but has a hard time accepting herself as good enough while she's in process. Ask her how she is on just about any day and she'll sidestep you with a cheerful bluff: "Peachy!" I know that kind of sweetness is what she's aiming for, but I suspect she feels rather like the rough, inedible pit.

Where I live there are peach orchards. Every year at the height of peach season, I make worshipful remarks about the perfection of ripe, juicy, just-picked peaches. They command all of my senses. There's nothing more flavorful, more fragrant, more gorgeous, or more delightful in the world! I admit it; I am a devotee. 

Over time "peach" has come to mean something very fine, attractive, desirable, and perfect. Ask your grandmother—a pretty girl was once commonly referred to as a peach. And really, who wouldn't consider that a compliment? 

The thing about sweet peaches and perfection is that they bruise so easily. Have you noticed? Do you ever grip the concept of perfection too tightly? Idealism doesn't hold up well to much handling, and the bruises turn quickly to rotten spots.

The challenges shared on this blog, like most challenges, require a light touch, and also a tough skin. The majority of us would probably agree with football coach Vince Lombardi that: "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." But don't let's confuse ourselves by thinking that a perfect practice session always looks like the desired end result. Think back to yoga. Before you learn even the most basic position, yoga asks you to breathe in a new way. The first time you manage to take a deep, slow, controlled breath you are doing yoga. And you are doing it perfectly. One breath, then two, then three. Then maybe you get distracted and go back to your old way of sucking the air. But you did it! You did yoga for a whole two minutes! Your practice was perfect even though it hasn't yet begun to resemble the incredible postures you've seen the experts do. You're building a foundation.

This morning did you get up and read the 2nd Love Dare? And then did you forget and grump at your spouse? Yesterday I was really sick all day and at a couple low points gave my husband the incomparable pleasure of hearing me whine about how much I hurt. That didn't fit the program, but I did have some moments of perfect practice when I put away negativity—in fact, I sent it packing. To live a perfect day, or even a perfect morning, is way beyond my reach, and it will be until it isn't. I'm still just trying to learn to control my breathing. 

A few years ago I was at girls' camp with the young women from our ward. We camped with several other groups, including one made up of mostly ASL speakers. They taught us to sing and sign a song around the campfire one evening, an old favorite of the women of Scripps College. It's a great one to have in the ol' repertoire:

Girls can never change their natures, that is far beyond their reach
Once a girl is born a lemon, she can never be a peach.
But the law of compensation is the one we always preach: 
You can always squeeze a lemon, but try and squeeze a peach.

Here's to being the kind of fruit that can withstand a good squeezing. And—how's this for irony?—not only can a little lemon juice enliven endless kinds of dishes, but it can also help keep a whole lot of sliced peaches (or any other kind of fruit) fresh. Sounds like a satisfyingly divine nature to me.

I hope you let yourselves enjoy and move freely through these Love Devotionals, as well as any other challenges you decide to try. If you "mess up" a day and don't feel so sweet and peachy, you certainly can choose to stop and repeat the assignment till you begin to feel better about your performance, and that will probably produce good results, but you might be surprised to learn that you can also make wonderful gains by letting go of your own picture-perfect ideal, and simply moving on to try the next suggestion. Be forgiving of yourself and keep squeezing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

40 Days of Love Devotionals

Only a few hours from now the clock will strike November, the time when our thoughts naturally turn to the approaching holidays. This season reminds us to give thanks and examine our relationships with God and others. We focus our attention on gift-giving and worry about what to offer that will best express our love and care.

I know bloggers who, in years past, have spent each day of November writing down their gratitude for someone or for some way they've been blessed. It's a healthy tradition. When I've tried it myself it's been such a lift, and a bright light. The more gratitude I express, the more strongly I feel it, and the more my mind opens up to the endless reasons I have to be thankful.

What I'm suggesting for our first shared challenge is a variation on that theme of daily gratitude. This challenge is meant to help us become better spouses and grow more loving, joyful, and secure in our marriage relationships.  

HOLD ON JUST A MINUTE, those of you who are single or sad! Before you tune out because you aren't married, don't want to be married, have given up on your marriage, or believe you have no prospects, etc., pause and consider how you can experiment with this challenge. Find out what it has to teach you about love, and how it can help you either prepare for marriage or simply improve the way you relate to the people who are close to your heart. I promise you can discover ways to apply this challenge to your life. Don't let discouragement get in your way. Learning to love is never a wasted effort; whatever your situation, it will help you be your best and most fulfilled self.

So. Are you ready to try something lovely and life-changing? This is a FORTY DAY CHALLENGE. That's right, 40! Unless, of course, you decide at the end of forty days that you'd like to extend the experiment even longer (and really, you just might decide to once you begin to enjoy the payoff).
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to carve out a few moments for yourself each day before you go about your life, and have a private Love Devotional. There are two parts to this devotional: study and reflection time, followed by application. You will be invited to take one specific action each day, but as you explore ideas you'll likely come up with additional ways to practice what you learn.

If you are a Latter-day Saint you may already be familiar with the resources on the Church's website, Please visit the main page and find the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and enter "marriage." Up will come a customizable menu of all sorts of articles, lessons, scriptures, talks, videos, audio recordings, and text—many incredible resources to encourage and inspire you. Browse the offerings. Make yourself a reading list if you like. Jump in! Choose something to enjoy every morning and let your heart and mind be fed and taught. Ask yourself questions. Make notes, make plans. Be with the information in ways that work best for you.

The second part of your devotional is a Love Dare. These come from a wonderful pair of Christian authors who wrote a book on understanding and practicing unconditional love in marriage. These "dares" are meant for husbands as well as wives, so if you are married, you may like to share what you're reading with your spouse. But do remember that as far as this challenge goes, the point is to work on lifting and improving you, because that's the one person you have been given responsibility and absolute freedom to control. Be careful not to give in to the temptation to try to turn this into a fixer-upper project for your spouse!

The authors of these Love Dares reference many fitting passages of scripture. They don't use the exact translation of the Holy Bible that Latter-day Saints are most familiar with, but you can easily locate corresponding references in the King James Version, if you want to follow along and study additional references.

These Love Dares can be so helpful and hopeful. They are focused on good, sound relationship principles, and as I said before, there are many ways to apply the concepts to other important relationships.

This challenge will officially start tomorrow, November 1st, with the advent of Thanksgiving. I hope you will decide to join me in doing these daily devotionals through December 10th. If you are really pushed for time in the mornings, and it feels too much to do all at once, perhaps you could start your day with a Love Dare, and then find a marriage topic at to study later in the day, or to read and ponder at bedtime.

Best of success to you. If you come to this challenge too late to join in on November 1st, don't let it stop you. Today is always a good day to begin.

The next challenge for A Few Good Women will come in a week or so, and it will be a quick and easy one, I promise!

Now, read on and follow these wonderful links, friends—

The Love Dare
Love Dare Day 1
Love Dare Day 2
Love Dare Day 3
Love Dare Day 4
Love Dare Day 5
Love Dare Day 6
Love Dare Day 7
Love Dare Day 8
Love Dare Day 9
Love Dare Day 10
Love Dare Day 11
Love Dare Day 12
Love Dare Day 13
Love Dare Day 16
Love Dare Day 17
Love Dare Day 18
Love Dare Day 19
Love Dare Day 20
Love Dare Day 21
Love Dare Day 22
Love Dare Day 23
Love Dare Day 24
Love Dare Day 25
Love Dare Day 26
Love Dare Day 27
Love Dare Day 28
Love Dare Day 29
Love Dare Day 30
Love Dare Day 31
Love Dare Day 32
Love Dare Day 33
Love Dare Day 34
Love Dare Day 35
Love Dare Day 36
Love Dare Day 37
Love Dare Day 38
Love Dare Day 39
Love Dare Day 40


Hello! I'm Georgia, I'm a member of the Relief Society, the women's organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the moment I also happen to be president of this organization, within the congregation I attend; it's a big but rewarding responsibility. I love the women and families I work with and serve. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can do a better job.

I've had an idea tumbling around in my head for a while, and it feels like the right time to put it out there, and get some conversation started. The idea is all about challenges. I intend for this blog—which is not only for the women of my Relief Society group but also any friends who wish to join us in exploration—to be a clearinghouse for challenges aimed at growth and greater happiness. Many of the challenges which will be posted here will be quick and easy to accomplish. Others, like the first one, will invite deeper investment. I think both the one-offs and the longer-term projects have the potential to produce some great results.

Will all of the challenges be suitable for everyone? Hopefully so. You may find that your particular life circumstances will require you to use your imagination and make adaptations, but that's perfectly okay. There won't be any pop quizzes, grades, or homework checks. These experiments in joyful living are just for you, for us. And for goodness' sake!