Sunday, 28 August 2011

Essential things

While attending the temple has always played an important part in my life for the past 31 years I have never truly understood or felt its real impact until about 4 yrs ago.

There were many overnight trips to Hamilton from Wellington and later from Whangarei where we would travel for long hours on a bus, work in the temple literally through the night and return by bus in the morning and where I would find myself exhausted for days afterwards. I was always amazed to see the elderly brothers and sisters, some well into their 80s do that trip each month with such enthusiasm. I loved listening to them chatter on with each other in Maori and I figured I would love to have their excitement for the temple. I knew even then that I was missing something!

When I was married in the temple a small piece of the puzzle appeared. OK so this was a place where families were united forever. It brought a very special spirit to me when I was able to see all four of my teenage children do temple baptisms for our ancestors but even then I just knew there was more to these temple visits.

In every aspect of my life in the gospel I try to reach a point where I am not motivated out of a sense of duty but out of a sense of love. It was finally towards the end of 2007 that this LOVE for the temple hit me and hit me hard. As I have mentioned before in an earlier blog it was during a visit to the temple that I finally received the revelation as to where the Lord expected me to go and I finally got it! This was the house of the Lord which meant that He was in there and I am visiting Him at His place, spending time talking to him and vice versa. I finally caught the vision that the temple is a place of personal revelation.

This was confirmed again during a week in the temple in Frankfurt in July 2009 when I received the message from the Lord that things were going to get tough for me but that I didn't need to worry about Rebekah (Lol that last bit came right out of left field.)

In the past nine months I have been blessed to spend 3 days in the temple in Madrid, two weeks in Frankfurt in April and July of this year, a wonderful weekend visit to the London temple with the Paris Stake Relief Society in April and last week I spent a day in the Preston temple with the Single Adults. (Not bad for someone with extremely limited resources!)

I have developed such a hunger to be in the House of the Lord in these past visits. The more that I have gone the more I have opened my heart and understanding that the Lord actually wants to speak to me, the more I have been privy to some very sacred experiences. Going to the temple now is not just important for me. It has become essential in my bid to have a personal relationship with my Saviour. I am looking forward to General Conference when I hope they will announce that there will be a temple built in France!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Oh to be a child again!

Ask any of my children and they will tell you that I am the most immature of all of us-and they are probably right!   I just love children and being a child right alongside of them.

There is a train in the Paris metro that is driverless-you can sit up front and watch as the train barrels through the metro tunnel. Many parents bring their children up front so that they can pretend to drive the train. Their eyes are as wide as saucers. I am in this train many times a week and I love to sit up front with the children. To the horror of the parents I start to play with the children and I give them encouragement on how to "drive" the train. "Freins doucement" (brake carefully) I tell them as we come into a railway station. As I see a train coming towards us from the other direction I act in mocked fear, "Mais non, attention! Evites l'autre train s'il te plaƮt!" (Oh no, careful now! Please avoid the other train!)

Each time I start to play with them, after looking at me in surprise, they get really serious about their task of driving that train. Recently a young girl of about 8yrs "drove" the train for a number of stations with me, going through all the motions of starting up and stopping the train. She and her parents then got off at the Gare de Lyon, about halfway along the train's journey. As she was about to go I looked at her with a face full of concern, "Mais qui va conduire le train maintenant?" (But who is going to drive the train now?) Her reply was so calm and so mature compared with my pretended panic. "Mais vous, madame!" (in other words, 'You Madame') Then as she got onto the platform she kept looking back to make sure that I was taking my new task seriously. I dutifully waved back at her with one hand on the little handle right at the front of the train in pretense of driving. She smiled knowingly and took off hand in hand with her somewhat horrified parents.

It is these kind of moments that help bring me to reality amid all the pretense and playing. Children are our most precious resource and playing with them heals my heart and makes me forget for a brief moment the pains and trials of the adult world. Rather than bringing children too soon into our world, let's all go into theirs more often.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Time to get serious

If you have come to read one of those delightful, funny blogs then you might want to leave around now because this one is going to get real serious.

As I have been travelling around a great deal in the region recently and meeting so many people I have been touched by the number of women who have come to speak to me once they realise the nature of my calling. Their messages to me have all been so similar: they have expressed the hope that the introduction of LDS Family Services in France would result in things improving for them as women. As I have listened to them I have stepped into a cultural world that I do not understand and that literally upsets me.

I would like to share some of what these brave women are saying in the hope that their voices will be heard, sometimes for the first time. While naturally I am not going to discuss individuals and their heartfelt secrets there are some common themes that I think need to be shared.

Firstly, there are a number of women who have had the heartache of going through a divorce as a result of their husbands being unfaithful. Unfortunately what they have in common is that as women they have been blamed for their husbands straying with the reasoning that if they had kept their husbands sexually satisfied and if they had worked on keeping them happy the unfaithfulness would never have happened. As I have heard this story repeatedly I have been both incredibly saddened and disgusted at the same time. I have been open in my opinion that there is NEVER an excuse for being unfaithful to a spouse! That the responsibility rests squarely with the unfaithful spouse and no-one else.

One of the worrying messages in all this is that sex is to be gratified, that men somehow have these base desires that need to be catered for or they cannot survive. What a hideous way of seeing something so beautiful that the Lord has given as a gift. Maybe I am naive about this but the minute that we start saying that the wife has a responsibility to take care of the sexual appetites of her husband the magic of the relationship just went out the window. Making love with our spouse is a totally unselfish act by both parties but just having sex catered for is more about selfish self-gratification.

These women went on to report that as they have sought to rebuild their lives that they have often been shunned by their former friends and associates that they had previously shared with their former husbands. Blaming them for the marriage failure has resulted in an ongoing stigma against them in their communities. They have struggled on their own with the grief of the loss of their marriage with little empathy or support.

These issues would be serious enough but some women here in France have expressed similar problems when their husbands have been physically or emotionally abusive. They report that the advice they have received has been along the lines of, "Keep quiet and just accept it" or "If you work harder to please him then he will stop the abuse". Unbelievable advice that just breaks my heart and raises the temperature of my blood! It is insulting to the men involved to think that they could not control their abusive urges and take responsibility for their actions. It is doubly abusive to these women who have need of real ways to stop the abuse in their lives.

The same is true for the children here in France (as with other countries as well, I know). It appears in this patriarchal, very traditional society that children's rights are at an all time low. An extreme example is in the fact that France only instituted a specific law against incest in January 2010 although it was able to be prosecuted under other legislation.  The shutters on the windows of the homes and apartments reflect a very private society, a state of affairs that keeps sexual and other forms of abuse deeply hidden. In a small space of time since I have begun this calling I am already seeing evidence that the problem of incest and sexual abuse in general is no less a problem in France than in my home country of NZ or in other country in the world. I had expected a large, what I believed to be modern culture to be much further ahead in its fight against child sex abuse but here there is a mountain of work to be done to bring it out from behind the shutters so that it can be stomped on and stamped out.

I am probably putting the cat among the pigeons now but my last word in this blog is for the children again. I have a strong belief that smacking children is not the answer to changing children's behaviour or to discipline. Every single parent I have questioned has admitted that when they have smacked their child they have felt anger. When we as parents smack our children it is not discipline, it is an expression of our anger and we teach our children that it is OK for those feelings to be expressed in violence. I was told by a young teenage girl recently that we could not be good people if we were not smacked. That message just scared the heck out of me and left me frightened for the future of our society. It is time to understand the messages that we give our children and to motivate them to change using more constructive methods.

I am feeling suddenly very overwhelmed by what lies ahead.