Book Review: Elf Tears, by K.A. Stoddard

Elf TearsIf you’re a fan of high adventure, fantasy, magic, dragons, unicorns, and elves, (like I am) Elf Tears is a great read. It’s a fun story with nonstop action and great characters. Stoddard’s done a fantastic job weaving a beautiful plot with great characters.

With powerful symbolism, Elf Tears carries a strong message of redemption, forgiveness, and the power of genuine compassion that goes far beyond great entertainment.

Elf Tears is also an A+ clean read, which I am happy to recommend to adventure readers of all ages.

Available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Marriage is Not Hard

Maybe Jenni and I are just weird, and maybe we’re naïve, since we’ve only been married 10 years, but we feel like marriage isn’t hard. WeddingMarriage is not tough. Life is tough. Life stinks sometimes. It can be excruciatingly painful and hard, but marriage is one of the best systems for dealing with the difficulty life presents. Having someone to talk to, to lean on, to reach out to, to serve, to help, to confide in, to love, to cry with, to hold, makes life manageable.

Even the genuine differences of opinion, and different views on various topics aren’t difficult in marriage. Pride and selfishness are hard, and cause problems, but pride isn’t marriage, and selfishness isn’t marriage. Those things hurt marriage, damaging our best system for dealing with the difficulties of life.

Life is hard. Sin is hard. Pride and selfishness are hard, with or without marriage. Marriage is not hard.

What I’m talking about is less intended as a statement of “fact,” and more of a statement of perspective. And while words alone do nothing to dramatically change the day to day experiences of life in an extremely challenging and cruel world, a change in the way we see the world around us can. What I’m promoting is a paradigm shift: an entirely different way of viewing marriage.

I see marriage as a perfect ideal. Marriage is selfless, kind, generous, loving, patient, empowering, binding, synergistic, and even exalting. Marriage is something that goes well beyond the simple addition of two individuals entering a life-long partnership. It’s the essence that takes that initial partnership and turns it into the germinating seeds of divine companionship. Marriage, as an institution, ordained of God, is perfect. It lifts, it deepens, and it expands. It has no flaws, and it always pulls people together.

People, on the other hand, are flawed. People are imperfect. People are emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and physically unstable in countless ways. We’re mortals living on a very, very mortal world. Life on this earth is intended to be hard. It’s intended to be infuriatingly challenging, almost to the point of impossible, for one simple reason. We are the direct offspring of God. No simple life would suffice to teach embryonic deities the essential lessons to become all that our Father intends us to be. Life, in all its stages, was never intended to be easy.

God sends us here because He knows what we have the power to become. He has given us the tools necessary to become like He is. There’s a reason that the family is central to God’s plan. It’s not just a way of keeping us organized. It’s not just a way of saving us from loneliness. Marriage is an exalting organization. It’s an endowment of power, the very seed of exaltation. There’s a reason that the sealing covenant is called the covenant of exaltation. Marriage, most especially temple marriage, actually begins that process.

And yet, in all of this, we’re still imperfect, flawed, mortal beings. But we’re learning. We’re growing. We’re failing (a LOT), and if we’re taking the right approach, we’re learning from our failures and becoming better. That process is hard. It’s really hard. But it’s not the exalting powers and gifts given by God that make it so hard. It’s the imperfect, flawed, mortal parts of ourselves that make it hard.

I don’t deny that life as a married person is hard. Life as an anything is hard. But marriage itself—that ennobling, binding, wondrous blessing that strengthens us as a couple and as a family to endure the crosses of life—is not hard. It’s wonderful, liberating, and joyful.

The problems arrive when I act against my marriage. When I am selfish, when I am prideful, when I forget to exercise the power God has bestowed upon me in order to bless, strengthen, and love my wife, I am being a problem. And at those times, I need to change. I can’t act against what I know is right without hurting my marriage, and marriage is the very embodiment of everything I know to be right.

That’s why I can never blame marriage for any of life’s problems. Marriage lifts. Sin pulls down. Marriage exalts. Pride and selfishness damn.

When I find that I’m not measuring up, I don’t blame my marriage, and I don’t blame my wife. I try hard not to allow myself to get too discouraged with myself, either. And the simple way to avoid discouragement is to change—to humble myself, apologize, and change my behavior. I know I won’t be perfect in this life, but the journey is so empowering and ennobling that I can’t give it up, I can’t stop. And I certainly won’t ever throw away one of the best tools available for making that happen for both me and my wife. We’re in this for the long run. We’re in it forever. It’s not eternity or bust, it’s just eternity.

And we’re going to make it work, together.

February Facebook Fast

Cover

So how about it? Are you up to the challenge? For one month—specifically, through the month of February, no Facebook. Logoff, and other than websites that use Facebook to login, No logging back in until March. It’s just for a month—and the shortest month at that.

I’m going to do it. And just so you know, I love Facebook. I have nothing against it. Obviously, like any potentially good thing, it can become a serious time-waster, but it’s a great way to keep in contact with friends and family.

This is just for the challenge of it, really. Are you with me? Think you can do it? Eh? Eh? When your done, come back and tell us how it went, what you learned, what you missed, and all the many things you got done in February 🙂

Oh, and you’re welcome to steal the image above if you want to make it your cover photo so your FB friends know where you went.

How To Get Yourself a Bowl of Cereal

A 19-Step Guide for Parents of Young Children

1. Decide to get yourself a bowl of cereal. This is a big one. Without the conscious decision, it will never happen. You’ve got to approach this whole-heartedly, or the enormity of the task will overtake you, and you will decide it’s not worth the effort.

2. Get out of bed. Ignore the sounds coming from the other room (so as to avoid discouragement at the thought of trying to get a bowl of cereal with all that going on).

3. Put on a robe and glasses. The importance of this will become more obvious later, but yeah, you’re kids don’t really want to see you in your underwear.

4. Take a deep breath, and step out of the room. No seriously, take a deep breath. You’ll be glad you did. Just don’t let it out yet.

5. Change the youngest child’s diaper. Hence the need for the deep breath.

6. Run the dirty diaper outside to the trash. Now, aren’t you glad you put the robe on? Ignore the awkward glances coming from your neighbors. You may want to stand on the heater a few moments when you return to melt the snow between your toes.

7. Wash the bowl of the youngest child. The other kids will wash their own bowls, but not the littlest, and believe me, you don’t want to be eating cereal without supplying the youngest with a bowl of cereal, too.

8. Wash your spoon. I don’t know who got it out and soiled it, but there you have it.

9. Pour the kids some cereal. The order of pouring the cereal doesn’t matter, but the order of pouring the MILK is crucial. Make sure you get milk LAST. In fact, just to make sure, don’t get your milk yet. Just get everyone else’s. Oh, and don’t let the other kids pour their own milk, or it will be gone before you get any.

10. Let the dog out. You don’t want to miss this step.

11. Let the dog in. Potentially you could leave him out while you eat your cereal, but the excessive barking may upset your neighbors. It’s up to you on that one.

12. Pour your own milk. Now the countdown to sogginess begins, so before doing this one, make sure no extra steps have shown up that are waiting for your attention.

13. Put the milk and cereal away. If you don’t, both will be magically wasted and gone before you come back for more.

14. Ignore the incessant demands for bread for toast. The kids can finish their cereal before they make toast. Plus, you haven’t eaten anything yet.

15. Break up the fight between the two middle children. Give them a brief lecture about kindness.

16. Take your cereal in your bedroom. Unfortunately, this is also essential, unless you want 1, 2, or 19 more steps randomly showing up before you get to take the first bite.

17. LOCK THE DOOR. Otherwise step 15 will be useless.

18. Say your morning prayers. Ideally, this would be done before step 1, but if you’re like me, you forgot. Oh, well. That way you can ask a blessing on your meager breakfast at the same time.

19. Eat your cereal.