temples and adversity – a talk

Dear friends

This is a talk that I recently gave in a sacrament meeting on 20 March 2022.  

The topic I will speak on today is about how through temple covenants we can be strengthened to face adversity and challenges.  

To start, I’d like you to imagine that you are falling, falling from a great height, like out of an aeroplane.  You are actually tumbling, this wasn’t something that you were prepared for, or that you wanted and it feels like you were pushed into this free fall.  The air is rushing past your face so fast you can barely breath, you are somersaulting, and you are panicking.  Then you see you have a parachute, you pull the cord, the canopy opens, you are pulled upright, you gain your perspective and even have a little time to enjoy the view from so high which you hadn’t really noticed before.  Eventually you land safely.  

There was a time in the history of the church when events moved very rapidly, I’m sure it seemed everything was in a freefall. June, summer, 1844 the Saints were settled in Nauvoo, however before the end of the month the prophet Joseph Smith Jnr and his brother Hyrum Smith were murdered.  I will be quoting from Saints, a history of the Church of Jesus Christ for this next section: 

“In the autumn of 1844, the Quorum of the Twelve sent an epistle to all Saints everywhere. “The temple,” they announced, “necessarily claims our first and most strict attention.” They encouraged the Saints to send money, supplies, and laborers to speed the work along. An endowment of power awaited them. All they needed was a place to receive it.  The Saints shared the apostles’ urgency.  

However “state legislators … sought to weaken church members’ political power by repealing the Nauvoo city charter. [The] Governor [of Illinois] supported their efforts, and by the end of January 1845, the legislature stripped the Saints living in Nauvoo of their right to make and enforce laws and disbanded the Nauvoo Legion as well as the local police force. Brigham [Young] – president of the apostles – feared the Saints would be vulnerable to attacks from their enemies. Yet the temple was far from finished, and if the Saints fled the city, they could hardly expect to receive their endowment. They needed time to complete the work the Lord had given them.  But staying in Nauvoo, if only for another year, could put everyone’s lives at risk.  Brigham went to his knees and prayed to know what the Saints should do. The Lord responded with a simple answer: stay and finish the temple.”

Within 6 months, mob attacks began again with smaller settlements surrounding Nauvoo being set on fire.  When the news reached Brigham, he called the Saints living outside Nauvoo to gather to the safety of the city. Hoping to curb mob aggression and gain more time to fulfill the Lord’s commandment to finish the temple, he promised Governor Ford that the Saints would leave the area by spring [1846].  With efforts redoubling after the October general conference, by December the temple’s attic was finished, and the apostles prepared it for the endowment. 

On February 2, after thousands of Saints had received temple ordinances, the apostles announced that they would halt the work in the temple and instead prepare boats to ferry wagons across the icy Mississippi River. 

When Brigham arose the next day, a crowd of Saints met him outside the temple, eager for their endowment. Brigham told them it was unwise to delay their departure. If they stayed to do more endowments, their way out of the city could be impeded or cut off. He promised they would build more temples and have more opportunities to receive their blessings out west.

Then Brigham walked away, expecting the Saints to disperse, but instead they climbed the steps to the temple and filled its halls. Turning around, Brigham followed them inside. He saw their anxious faces, and he changed his mind. They knew they needed the endowment of power to endure the hardships ahead, overcome the sting of death, and return to the presence of God.

For the rest of that day, temple workers administered the ordinances to hundreds of Saints. The next day, February 4, 1846, an additional five hundred Saints received their endowment as the first wagons rolled out of Nauvoo.

Sister Sarah Rich, one of the Relief Society sisters shared her experience and feelings of this time: (Daughters in my Kingdom, 2011, p30).  

“Many were the blessings we had received in the house of the Lord, which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in God, knowing He would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us. For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. To start out … in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in Him feeling that we were His chosen people and had embraced His gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.”

From the dedicatory prayer for Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8) we read (verses 37-39): 

37 ¶ If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;

38 What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:

39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) (Emphasis added).

Think on that – forgive, do, give – whatever happens in the land.

President Thomas S. Monson testified that the Savior’s promise of peace is realized in the temple. He taught: “As we attend the temple, there can come to us a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart. We will grasp the true meaning of the words of the Savior when He said: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’” (“Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, May 2015).

In 1 Nephi 14 v14 we read: 

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.

And Elder Bednar, at last General Conference, October 2021, explained how this is our time, this is us – “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”  

Now, I have a confession. For many years, I simply could not see it, I could not see how temple covenants were any greater or have more impact in my life than the covenant I made at baptism, to follow Jesus Christ, what could surpass that? I completely understood the necessity of temple work, the sealing of families, the vicarious work for those that had died, but I still couldn’t quite see how this was more than the icing on the cake.  And although I completely accepted and trusted that temple worship would strengthen me through challenges, I could not really see or understand the how.  To be honest, until the last couple of weeks that I have been preparing for this talk.  So I hope that as I share my feelings now that you will listen with your hearts and I appeal to your sense of what is right and what is wrong so you will choose the right, especially if you are thinking that you can wait for temple ordinances and there is no urgency.  

So here is what I have come to realise and it is actually very simple so I hope I can explain it without stumbling.  I had simply not heard it explained in this manner though it is fairly obvious.  We understand that there are 2 parts of the priesthood of God, as restored to earth, the lesser Aaronic Priesthood and the greater Melchizedek Priesthood. There are ordinances and covenants associated with each of these that we need.  Aaronic Priesthood = baptism & sacrament; Melchizedek Priesthood = temple ordinances & covenants but also one ordinance outside of the temple, the gift of the Holy Ghost.  

So what is the purpose of the Holy Ghost, in our lives?  Yes, to guide, to comfort and to warn but also that ordinance is the baptism of fire, He is the sanctifier, He cleanses us, He purges us, if we allow Him, so we can become clean and through the grace of Christ, enter back into God’s presence.  He will prepare us to enter into the Lord’s house, the temples of our God.  And thereby progress to the other ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  It is a progression.  And all of this, this covenant progression, this covenant path, is actually the ‘new and everlasting covenant’ (see D&C 132 vv4-5).  Joseph Fielding Smith concerning what is the new and everlasting covenant explained it “is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations.”  And so, I came to understand that the covenants of the temple are so much more than simply ‘icing on the cake’ – they are actually the bread of life, the living water that we need to sustain us through mortality and beyond.  

We live today in the last days when both priesthoods are on the earth.  We need both.  We are meant to have both in our lives, personally.  We are meant to have these covenants and ordinances in our lives, we are meant to progress.   

So, how does the power of God strengthen us through adversity?  Well, I feel that is going to be very personal, according to our needs.  However, here are some thoughts, again from my own experience:

In D&C 84 vv19-21 we read: 

19 And this greater priesthood (i.e. Melchizedek Priesthood) administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. 

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh

Every ordinance provides the opportunity to remember Him and acknowledge His saving role in our lives. Baptism and the bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost remind us that all people must be “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). The endowment ordinance teaches of the Savior’s role in the creation of the earth, of our absolute reliance upon Him to return to our heavenly home. The sealing ordinances offers the assurance that family relationships may endure forever. In the temple, we are constantly reminded that there is “one mediator between God and men”—the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Jesus Christ is our perfect example. He showed us how to develop our relationship with God, how to forgive, how to persevere in the face of great difficulty, how to serve others, and how to find joy.  For me, it is through the ordinances that the character and nature of God is revealed. 

The temples of God are like a piece of heaven on earth.  They can be that parachute when we are in freefall where we regain our perspective and can start to appreciate the view, the life that God has given us, though we are still falling, we are still living life.  I like to feel that as we live worthy to enter into the temples of God, that we are entitled to a little piece of heaven around us.  That we are actually being strengthened through adversity like Elisha’s young servant our eyes simply need to be opened (2 Kings chapter 6): 

16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

In closing, the temples of our God are where our lives need to be.  I know this because we have been warned and forewarned by our living prophets for some time.  We have been told by our living prophet, President Russell M Nelson in no uncertain terms globally within the last 6 months and for us in Europe we heard him and Elder Bednar speak concerning temples in January.  At that time he said (and this is from my own notes): that each time a temple is dedicated, Satan’s power diminishes and that in the temple we are endowed with God’s power.  From October 2021, the prophet said:

“whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants!”

And he gives us this counsel concerning temple attendance:

“Should distance, health challenges, or other constraints prohibit your temple attendance for a season, I invite you to set a regular time to rehearse in your mind the covenants you have made.

“If you don’t yet love to attend the temple, go more often—not less. Let the Lord, through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation.”  

If you are not sure where to start with going to the temple and making temple covenants, speak with your ministers or speak with a member of the Relief Society or Elders’ Quorum presidencies.  You can do this, this is what we are designed to do and we can do it.  

President Nelson said:  “Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear. As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power. Then, when spiritual earthquakes occur, you will be able to stand strong because your spiritual foundation is solid and immovable.”

I know this is true.  I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Lord’s true and living organisation here on earth and I am very grateful to be part of it.  I know the holy priesthood of God is on earth again.  I know that we have apostles and prophets on earth, led by Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ lives, I love Him and we can prepare for his return to earth.  And we can all land safely from our freefall of mortality.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

embrace the future – a talk from February 2021

Dear friends

At church we have a lay ministry and talks and topics for the main sacrament meeting are assigned to members of the congregation, so we never know what to expect each week! Towards the end of last year I was given an assignment to speak in February. It’s taken a while to type up – it was originally hand written – but here it is. I hope you enjoy it!

The topic I was given to talk on is ‘embracing the future with faith.’  The object of this phrase is the future – the definition of future is a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing, or time regarded as still to come.  The thing in this definition is ‘time’. We, humans, have a very linear view of time: it’s either behind or in front of us.  In fact, President Henry B. Eyring once explained that:

“The Lord has given us the gift or inheritance of time.  He invites and encourages us to spend it wisely.  It’s worth investing wisely, not only because we have a lifetime ahead of us but also because we have eternity to come.” Liahona, August 1989 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1989/08/time-an-inheritance-from-god?lang=eng).

We know from the scriptures that in the presence of God (D&C 130 v7) – “all things for their glory are manifest, past, present and future, and are continually before the Lord.”  I learn from this, that our Heavenly Father sees ‘time’ or experiences time similar to how we currently experience space, or our physical world, in 3D, in 3 dimensions.  He has the whole view, He has a different perspective.  So, we don’t see things before they happen, not typically, but Father sees all things.  We can learn to trust that.  We can learn to trust Father, and that’s where faith comes in.  

President Russell M. Nelson has said “our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him” (General Conference, October 2020).  In our everyday lives, we actually exercise a fair amount of faith, or trust in things we don’t or can’t see.  For example, we flick a switch, knowing a light will turn on or off; we answer a phone, knowing there’s a message at the other end, even if it’s a cold call!; we use a key to open or lock things, but we can not see the mechanism.  However, if these actions don’t produce the results expected, we know something is wrong and we ask for help.  We also exercise faith or trust in other ways – I eat food, knowing it will nourish me; I have a fair idea of what foods to eat and in what proportions; I try to exercise regularly and look after my body – I don’t see an immediate change but I trust that it’s benefitting my physical health. And I will keep trying to do the right thing and not be excessive with chocolate and cakes!

Having faith or trust in Father and our Lord is similar.  The Bible Dictionary (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/faith?lang=eng) states that: To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone….” and our faith “must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation.” And that is what we are concerned with here.  So that we can place our confidence in the Lord, He has revealed Himself and His perfect character.  President George Q Cannon taught back in 1891: “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us.  He never has, and He never will.  He cannot do it.  It is not His character [to do so]… He will [always] stand by us” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng).  I am very grateful to personally know that those words are true.   

In April 2011 General Conference, President Nelson gave a talk titled ‘Face the Future with Faith’ where he spoke of combating fears by strengthening our faith.  He explained that faith is strengthened through prayer and spoke of the Prophet Joseph Smith during the horrible, awful days in Liberty jail and Joseph’s intense & impassioned prayers.  President Nelson stated: “The Lord responded by changing the Prophet’s perspective.  He said, ‘know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good’ (D&C 122 v7). If we pray with an eternal perspective, we need not wonder if our most tearful and heartfelt pleadings are heard.” 

So too can our perspective change – we do know enough.  I’d like to share a couple of examples of individuals whose perspective and thoughts on the future changed and helped them overcome difficulties; both physical examples but we can apply them to all types of challenges; you may recognise their experiences from the news.  

Back in April 2003, Aron Ralston, a single man aged 27, was climbing alone in a canyon and as he was descending a boulder became dislodged and crushed his right hand against the canyon wall.  He had not told anyone of his plans and had no way to call for help.  After 3 days of trying to lift or break up the boulder, he was prepared to amputate his arm but had no tools to cut through bone.  By day 5 he had run out of food and water and did not expect to survive the night, but that night he had a vision of a small boy.  In his words: “I see myself in this out of body experience playing with him with a handless right arm.  I see myself scoop him up and there’s this look in his eyes, ‘Daddy, can we play now?’ That look tells me this is my son, this is in the future, I’m gonna have this experience some day.  Now it’s like, I am going to get through this night.”  The next morning, Ralston realised he could fling himself against the boulder to break his own bones.  It took him an hour or so to stab through his flesh and then a 5 mile hike before he met people and was rescued (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/dec/15/story-danny-boyles-127-hours).  Speaking of this incident, Dallin H Oaks (General Conference, April 2011) said, “What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire! When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/desire?lang=eng).  We do know enough of what we can become.  

Last year, as we all know, a pandemic struck the world, reaching the UK about a year ago.  Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a veteran explorer of 84 years old, was one of the first people in the south west of England to become seriously ill, in early March, a couple of days after returning from France.  Robin spent 5 weeks in a coma in a Plymouth hospital and, with less than 5% chance of survival, his family were told to prepare for the worse.  In his words: “I was on a ventilator, experienced multiple organ failure, dialysis, a tracheotomy and severe sedation delirium. When all hope was lost, when family and friends feared the worst, I had a breakthrough moment. Taken by the nurses, my guardian angels, to [the hospital’s] rehabilitation garden, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and I knew that I would live” (https://www.royalcornwall.nhs.uk/covid-survivors-cornish-climb-for-critical-care-garden/). Robin lived and after several months of rehabilitation went on to climb the highest peak on Bodmin Moor.  We can feel the warmth from the Lord in our lives – we can go forward.  

A change of perspective, seeing something different, made all the difference to the future of these two men, for them and their families, when nearly all hope was lost.  

Elder Holland, gave a memorable General Conference talk in April 2016 concerning how we face tomorrow, displaying a picture of children, representing us, running away from a dinosaur, representing tomorrow (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng).  He said: “If gospel standards seem high and personal improvement needed in days ahead seems out of reach, remember Joshua’s encouragement to his people when they faced a daunting future, “sanctify yourselves,” Joshua said “for the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3 v5)… It is the promise of Him who performs those wonders, who is Himself, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God… The Prince of Peace.’”

As we strive to live close to the Lord, the Holy Ghost will give us promptings & guidance, personal inspiration & revelation, including what the future may bring – finding a job, changing job, moving house, studying, where to live, serving in a calling, or even being asked to give a talk.  These are some promptings that I have felt and they have brought comfort and peace during times of change.  

So, we are to embrace the future.  The definition of embrace, to accept something enthusiastically, to welcome with open arms, to hold, hug, accept completely; to take up especially readily or gladly; from the French to clasp in the arms, to cherish, to love.  To me, it’s not a passive action, you do something, you step forward, you reach out your arms, you reach around another person, you tighten your grip, you hold.  

There are so many examples from scripture of individuals embracing the future with faith in the Lord.  I’ve already mentioned Joshua, but specifically as he led the priests and the army of Israel to walk around Jericho over 7 days; before that Moses, leading the Israelites out of Egypt, returning to Pharaoh, probably over months, plague after plague; Elijah and the priests of Baal, he told them to poor water all over the wood before asking the Lord to set it alight; Esther and her people fasting before she went to see the king, to save the people of Israel; Mary, the mother of Jesus, saying ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’ to the angel Gabriel on being told she would be Jesus’ mother.  

And now we are here, 2021.  President Nelson (October 2020) said:

“The Lord placed you here now because He knew you had the capacity to negotiate the complexities of the latter part of these latter days. …

I am not saying that the days ahead will be easy, but I promise you that the future will be glorious for those who are prepared and who continue to prepare to be instruments in the Lord’s hands.

…let us not just endure this current season. Let us embrace the future with faith!” 

And you may be thinking, that’s great but how do I start? What should I do, now, today? We have been given a simple direction on this.  President Dallin H Oaks, in General Conference April 2019 directed us:

“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ encourages us to think about the future. It explains the purpose of mortal life and the reality of the life to follow. …

Our present and our future will be happier if we are always conscious of the future. As we make current decisions, we should always be asking, “Where will this lead?”  …  Take the long view. What is the effect on our future of the decisions we make in the present? … We make better choices and decisions if we look at the alternatives and ponder where they will lead.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/35oaks?lang=eng)

This is a principle that I have applied for some time, with regards to choices in my life and deciding if something is right or wrong.  I also apply it by multiplying up – if everyone were doing or acting or behaving the way I was, would my home, town, country be a better place?  When you think like that and change your perspective, the so-called grey areas quickly fall away.  

So, to embrace the future, to start changing our perspective, starts today, starts with a simple question, where will this lead?  President Oaks did give a warning alongside that counsel, which is equally important:

“…each of us is a child of God with a potential destiny of eternal life. Every other label, even including occupation, race, physical characteristics, or honors, is temporary or trivial in eternal terms. Don’t choose to label yourselves or think of yourselves in terms that put a limit on a goal for which you might strive.”

Briefly I’d like to share an example from my own life.  Back in 1993 I was finishing my 6th year studying architecture; I was also preparing to serve as a full time missionary with a date to report to the training centre that summer.  However, that May, I failed the practical component of my studies.  Amidst the tears and anguish, I made the decision to re-submit my work in September.  That summer I still went to the temple to receive my endowment – the temple is a great place to change your perspective for an eternal view – I got a job, working night shifts in a care home to save money and I spent my days studying and drawing.  I re-submitted, passed and then worked and continued to save more money.  I was eventually re-assigned and was set apart in December .  As I was set apart, I had the distinct impression that it would be longer than 18 months before I would actually practice architecture.  It was.  It was 14 years later, 2007 before I returned to the architectural profession.  And that was 14 years ago now.  I was taught to have a long view!  I am so very grateful to Father, who is not limited by time.  I can always turn to Him and He will help me keep an eternal perspective and I know He’ll do the same for you.  I have learnt for myself that developing eternal characteristics and being His instrument is far more important than those attributes which are part of this world.  

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on earth; I know the Book of Mormon is our latter-day survival guide; and I am grateful for the holy priesthood and that the Lord’s covenants and ordinances help us face the future with faith (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/face-the-future-with-faith?lang=eng).  

To quote Elder Jeffrey R Holland (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng):

“Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

here we go again…

Dear friends

Last week, national lockdown 3.0 began. With over 80,000 people in the UK who have died from the virus we simply don’t know how tough things will get before things improve. Generally people are compliant with the rules; we’ve been told there may be more enforcement; and we’re grateful that the more vulnerable after being vaccinated. My own mother, who’s in her mid 80’s, received her first vaccination injection last week.

Last week, the children began home school again. It’s much more organised than lockdown 1.0 (schools were open during lockdown 2.0) and they seem to be getting on with the work. My Lenovo Chromebook is getting a daily workout with home studying!

Last week, some of the news was showing empty shop shelves in Northern Ireland. Not because of the pandemic, it’s because of Brexit. Those more cynical UK citizens might be saying the pandemic is convenient to keep Brexit/ EU/ border control issues out of the news. There’s definitely not been as much coverage as I thought there would be… but it’s there! Last week’s news was taken over by events at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, USA, last week.

And last week was back to work – I’m so glad I avoided starting on Monday – it made for a shorter first week back. It’s amazing how lazy I can become… so quickly. It’s a good thing I need to earn a living!

2020 happenings – part 4 of 4

Dear friends

And we’re almost finished… this is the last part! I don’t usually write this way but at least you’re up to date and ready for 2021 – which our children are saying will actually be 2020 2.0! What optimism!

10. Sewing machine Some weeks into England’s national lockdown it became mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops. Finally, a renewed use for the machine which we received many years back from a couple moving back to the USA. I found an online pattern and began making them for our family. The hardest thing was getting the elastic for the ears correct – we have small ears! After the first batch, which was made from scraps of fabric I’ve acquired over the years, and when non-essential shops re-opened I bought black cotton fabric to ensure the children had plain ones for returning to school in September. I thought at the start of the pandemic that everyone would be wearing home-made face coverings. The amount of disposable ones littering the streets, not to mention the creation of more plastic waste, is so sad.

11. Writing DM This is a work task which I started in earnest in January 2020. It was to write a Designers’ Manual (DM) to inform the delivery of new council homes for our city. I worked largely independently with my line manager reviewing, in fact he shared an example from a city council (in another country) he used to work for. However it was not a simple task to transform it to our city, particularly with legislation and our drivers, notably the green city agenda. The final document, ratified in July 2020, is over 100 pages and it will be reviewed annually. It’s not perfect but a great start at setting out where we need to be to address the needs of our vulnerable residents and the climate emergency.

12. Braces I’m talking about braces to teeth. Son2 was referred early in 2020 to the orthodontist by the dentist for to a missing adult tooth and all of teeth being out of line. Finally he received an appointment in September, he’s a young teenager so several of his school friends are wearing braces. I’ve always been very conscious of my top teeth being out in front and made some enquiries about a private (non-NHS) assessment. Several weeks later and I have Clarity braces or retainer fitted to my top teeth, at age 51! And it’s probably another 16 months more!! I never went to the dentist often as a child, I remember going around age 15 or 16 asking about braces and the dentist said that I didn’t need them. It’s expensive privately; I did think about it and even the orthodontist spoke with me about it – it being cosmetic surgery, why I wanted it etc. For me, it’s something that will help me feel more comfortable and confident in myself. And it has been painful and uncomfortable, mouthwash is sooooo soothing!

13. BHM Black History Month In September my local RIBA chapter invited me to be part of a national RIBA Instagram campaign for BHM October 2020 being organised by RIBA London with Paradigm Network. They asked for minority ethnic architects to share a book that had inspired them. When I first responded, I wrote to our local chapter person in a ‘by the way’ manner that actually I had been more inspired by one of my Mum’s records ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ than any book, but I suggested a book, Brian Lanker ‘I Dream A World’ Portraits of Black Women who changed America. (It’s out of print now but a fantastic book if you can find a copy). So then, RIBA London contact me and ask me to be on the panel of a lunchtime book club, by RIBA Bookshop, to speak about ‘Young Gifted and Black’. No problem but then I was shocked to see myself on the front page of RIBA Bookshop advertising the event https://images.app.goo.gl/adxbFKAfaitRe5zD7!!! It was really great and humbling as I heard of male black architects being stopped and searched in London almost routinely. For the first time in my professional career, I shared a particularly painful and shocking incident when I was working one summer for an architectural firm. One of the architect’s after looking out the window at some birds, turned back and looked straight at me and said (chuckling), “big, black, bird.” There has been much awareness raised in the last year to the ongoing racism and injustices faced by people of races other than caucasian, white. Like you, we’ve had many discussions in our home about this. And it was around this time that President Dallin H Oaks, a latter day Apostle of Jesus Christ stated:

Of course Black lives matter. That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support.”

2020 happenings – part 3 of 4

Dear friends
Here we go, part 3!

7. No Books I’m definitely embarrassed to reveal but I didn’t read any books in full during 2020! Daur1 gave me a book last Christmas, I think, Four Walls and a Roof by Reinier de Graaf and I’ve read just 35 pages! It’s ridiculous I know given the additional time at home I’ve had! So I definitely need to change that in 2021 and read some books. I confess, during this same period I have taken full advantage of our family’s streaming subscriptions: X-Files seasons 1 to 9 on Prime (I found it too strange with older Mulder & Scully from season 10 but might still watch them); the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, in order, as found in Disney+; Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2 and 3 (Disney+); House, seasons 1 to 8 (Prime – I’ve almost finished season 8 but got sidetracked by seasons 1 and 2 of Homeland on Netflix); Mission Impossible 4, 5 and 6 (combination of Netflix and Prime). I did buy myself a Lenovo Chromebook C340 – it’s 11 inch touchscreen, converts from a laptop to a tablet with a fold, I love it! Son2 started using my Samsung tablet for home lessons when schools closed so I needed something for myself. It doesn’t have a huge memory but it’s fine for my needs and means that finally I have a larger screen for writing!

8. Indexing This is all about family history. As you may, or may not know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I’m a member, has a huge family history library (familysearch.org) One of it’s activities it’s to transcribe older written records into digital searchable data. Indexing is that transcribing process which anyone can volunteer to do. When lockdown started, with the extra time available on Sundays I decided to give to indexing. I felt this was something I could do to serve others. When I started, around April/ May 2020, I found there were a couple of Caribbean records needing transcribing and they became my focus, since that is my immediate heritage. I set myself an annual goal which I surpassed by a few hundred entries. So for 2021 I’m going to keep going and double my goal.

9. 156 Applicants That was how many applications we received for an architectural assistant post job vacancy within our team advertised in November 2020. We took 52 candidates each and three of us – the other senior architect, our manager et moi – shortlisted them down over a couple of days to seven for interview. I am going to do an actual post about this because it’s really important – you’ve got to know how to write a job application so you don’t annoy those that are shortlisting and so you get an interview. We read a lot of irrelevant, uninspiring, unprofessional nonsense!! It wasn’t difficult to get from 156 to less than 10!! Think about that!

2020 happenings – part 2 of 4

Dear friends

OK – we continue! I should say, these aren’t in any particular order, maybe subconsciously it’s in the order of the biggest impact on me but I’m not a psychologist. Mmmmm… but that would make an interesting experiment, what is the priority when we recall past events…

4. CONDENSED MILK During lockdown 1.0 I was released from serving in Pimary (with the children) at church and called to serve in Relief Society, the women’s organisation. And we have had Zoom Relief Society lessons and activities. One of these was on food storage and it seemed to me that each of my sisters had a little store of condensed milk plus a couple of treat recipes in hand. I set about to add condensed milk to our store cupboard and bought a couple of cans. The thing about food storage is that it needs to be things that you actually use. So the cans have have been in our cupboard for a few months and over Christmas I decided I would do something with them. One sister shared a two ingredient coconut balls/ truffles recipe – I tried that 2 days ago and discovered 1. Son2 loves condensed milk from the can but 2. Son2 and Daur2 really don’t like coconut and 3. Condensed milk must still contain lactose because some unpleasant effects on me! That tried, Son2 and Daur2 made chocolate fudge with the second can, lots of dark chocolate and a dash of vanilla essence – very tasty, like chocolate ice cream. Definitely worth trying but, come the revolution, I think there are other things I’d prefer in our store cupboard!

5. CHICKENS For a few years my dear husband has mentioned how he’d love to have chickens. This became a reality for our family this year. As lockdown began and with the furlough scheme in place – basically my husband got paid 80% of his earnings by not going to work – the dream became a reality as over the easter break we constructed a chicken coop and pen. In early May my husband received the call from Longdown Farm that four Warrens were ready for collection, they were about 16 weeks old and would start laying eggs in the next few weeks. My dear husband and children returned home with five chickens! Now I am not an animal lover, I wouldn’t harm animals, but I am not comfortable around them so this was a huge change for me. Son2 loves them – I have since learned that my father’s maternal grandfather was known for being very good with animals and looking after them back in St Vincent so maybe Son2 has that characteristic. Either way, it’s been a big change for us all. And then, at the end of July, as we began to feel comfortable that 5 was really enough, dear husband received a call that the seven – yes SEVEN – other chickens that he’s ordered we were ready for collection. And so in a few days, pen 2 was erected, coop 2 was already constructed as an outdoor coop, and 1 warren + 4 bluebells + 2 black chickens (we think they are australops but we’re not sure) joined our garden (which did have grass!). So we have 12 chickens, 2 flocks, keeping us busy; we’ve clipped wings, scooped poo, cleaned coops, scooped poo, purchased another composter, scooped poo, woken with the sun (we were so happy at the shorter days as the winter solstice arrived), scooped poo, and of course, collected (and sold and eaten) lots of eggs. My husband reminds us, this is our food storage and we did have a fantastic tomato harvest this summer! So, come the revolution, omelettes round at ours!

6. SAVINGS I feel this blogpost has a particular theme, not intentional, about storage and preparation, always important. So, financial savings is an area that I wanted to improve. Although we don’t live beyond our means, we also don’t have any substantial savings, apart from pensions and the house. So I, personally, wanted to save, properly, no dipping into, a financial reserve, somewhere. This is where I discovered a great investing app, early this year, MoneyBox. Initially I set it to save £3 per week – I knew I wouldn’t really notice that, with a payday boost of £25. I chose the medium risk investment option. And then the pandemic and markets crashing. However, I decided this was a good time to increase investing and put up my weekly savings to £5 and changed my investment options to adventurous. I stopped looking at it on a daily basis. And recently I decided to remove the payday boost – which I kept forgetting and it came as a shock a week after payday – and put up my weekly savings to £10 per week, which was essentially the same total amount per month. At the end of 2020 my investments have increased by about 5%, loads better than any regular savings account. We have a very low interest rate in the UK which is great for the mortgage repayments but not for savings. This is a long term thing, and I know there will be losses as well as gains but I’m in it for the long term and happy with my choice. It was easy to set up, easy to use, the hardest thing is I never quite know when money is going to be transferred from my main account into MoneyBox but that’s been okay since I don’t do that much shopping anymore.

More happenings this past year to come soon – it’s almost time to lock up the chickens!!

2020 happenings – part 1 of 4

Dear friends

I do hope you are keeping well! Lists are great, aren’t they? At this time of the year many of us can not help but reflect. We are poised to never use these four digits to denote a year, though maybe a decade, the 2020’s.

Formal new years resolutions are not really my thing but I do like to reflect on the previous year and see where improvements can be made – I guess that it a resolution by a different name. However, I don’t beat myself up for not achieving something.

So here’s my 2020 happenings – and I’m not being paid to advertise but I will be sharing some great products/ places/ business/ apps that I’ve come across. To be honest, each of these could be a blog in itself – I already have 26 draft blogs!! – so I’m going to have to keep this very factual and lose some of the fun details so as to not lose your interest! It’s also going to have to be published in parts since I keep thinking of things to add!!

  1. DRIVING On one day in April 2020, middle of UK lockdown 1.0, I drove approximately 550 miles between 0630h and 2200h. The round trip was Southampton to Heathrow (70 miles) to Manchester (195 miles) to Central London (205 miles) to Southampton (80 miles). The reason was to pick up Son1 who was re-patriated from his assignment in Vanuatu Port Vila Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and take him to his university town home. Heathrow Terminal 5 was very surreal in the middle of lockdown. It was a bittersweet occasion for us all – there had been no confirmed covid-19 cases in Vanuatu but he was still repatriated, although the only missionary returning to Europe (which was in full lockdown), along with those traveling back to the Americas or Asia, via Brisbane and Los Angeles – it was a very long 24 hours for him! He opted to be re-assigned for his concluding 3 months and served in the Birmingham England Mission until being released from full time missionary service in August 2020. Son1 was blessed and was offered a job within one week of finishing and is now studying and working in Manchester.
  2. EXERCISE Since last year I had joined a university gym close to work and was in the routine of attending at lunchtimes or after work. I had created my own rowing-weights-elliptical routine and was feeling the benefits as lockdown 1.0 started on 22 March. Within a few weeks I realised I needed to have some exercise back into my new working from home routine. So, I downloaded the BBC Couch to 5k app, chose former Olympian Michael Johnson as my trainer and began in the back garden. I reached week 9 as chickens began taking over the garden and the grass was disappearing. So as we entered autumn and I was not going to return to the gym. So I researched and I discovered a great YouTube channel Fabulous50s. Discovering how to create a playlist, I’ve added a 5 minute stretch, a 15 min cardio walk, and a 30 min cardio walk – it’s interval training (30 sec exercise + 30 sec walk or jog or dance) and so great; I love them! My aim is to keep my heart in good condition and I added the 30 min routine so I can build up to at least 150 minutes exercise per week. This has kept me going through lockdown 2.0 and I hope continue to do so as our area is in tier 4 restrictions, basically lockdown 3.0.
  3. CHURCH On Sunday 15 March 2020 we were due to attend stake conference (a large regional church meeting held twice yearly) but a couple of days before that all church meetings, worldwide, were suspended due to the pandemic; all members were encouraged to have home church, having the sacrament at home if there were a priesthood holder to administer it. It was September before sacrament meetings began again in our local unit, broadcast to those not attending in person. I have no doubt this is a huge weight on our bishop, our local congregational leader, who is always in attendance; he must feel he has no choice while the rest of us do make a choice, in person or at home. The wonderful, great thing is that the Lord had been preparing us with lessons etc. being home centred – church supported through the ‘Come Follow Me’ program of scripture study. 2020 was the Book of Mormon and it has been great to do this with our younger two children and to hear their thoughts on spiritual matters.

And here’s what else is coming up over the coming days before 2021:

  1. condensed milk
  2. chickens
  3. savings
  4. no books
  5. indexing
  6. 156 applicants
  7. sewing
  8. writing DM
  9. braces
  10. BHM

Mayflower 400

Dear friends

Growing up in Southampton means that you know about at least two famous historical ships – the Titanic and the Mayflower. And this year is 400 years since the Mayflower sailed from this port town.

The thing that impressed me most about hearing the story of the Mayflower is that it’s about a group of people that fled religious persecution. It’s essentially the story of a group of people who wanted to live and worship differently than the dominant religion at the time and were being persecuted for that. They gathered together, got a ship (the Speedwell), and sailed from Holland to Southampton where they met the Mayflower ship, which had set out from Rotherhithe, London. The Mayflower was carrying 102 passengers who wanted to build a new life, in peace, across the Atlantic Sea. Half of those passengers died within the first year in their new home (mainly from disease having arrived in November 1620). But essentially they were colonisers, settling where other people already lived. That always seems to end in pain for those who lose their land for no other reason than someone else wants to live there! This website gives a great in sight into the full story of the event and it’s position in terms of native Americans and the colonisers: https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/.

So, these past several months one of my work projects has been conservation work to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial (aka Mayflower Memorial) here in my hometown, originally constructed 1913. As it is literally a 5 minute walk from my former primary school, I can’t tell you how many times, over 40 years ago, I saw the memorial and heard the story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

The commemoration weekend here is in 2 weeks – 15 August 2020. Despite knowing about the commemoration date for the last, well, hundreds of years, the Culture team were a little slow to get going on the conservation work and had to be rescued (financially) by the Property team. An exemption request submitted to Procurement was eventually approved and a specialist main contractor was appointed in February. However with stone to be sourced and carved, completion of the works for the commemoration weekend was always ambitious. And then, the pandemic was declared!

The first half of the contract took place in the stonemasons yard with lots of photographs being sent showing the stonework progression. I really wanted to go to the mason’s yard so was rather disappointed that the pandemic meant this was too high a risk to take, especially with 5 of us at home, since the yard was in another town.

However, with site works commencing in May, I was finally able to visit site and hold external site meetings, rather than conference calls. And this past week, with copper Mayflower ship back atop facing West, the upper layer of scaffolding came down to reveal the refreshed mosaic dome, renewed stone work and, at night, a beacon light shining out from it’s quirky Art Nouveau/ Arts & Crafts style fire basket metalwork. The memorial isn’t the tallest of columns, about 15 metres or 50 foot. And it’s location means that most people in town probably will never see it, unless they make an effort.

But it is a story, an event that happened, 400 years ago and, like with any real event, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am descended from people who, not wilfully, were transported across the Atlantic Sea from the African continent to work and effectively colonise islands of the sea. Many of them died within months of arrival, from disease, from hard labour, from abuse, from broken hearts. Though there is no specific monument with their specific name that I can definitely say they are my descendants, I still feel proud that somewhere in my family history, I am descended from survivors.

“Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus,…

“… life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.

“How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

“Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony.”

Russell M Nelson, Prophet and Apostle, April 2020 General Conference

it’s never too late to…

Dear friends

I actually started writing this post more than a year ago! And I know it’s almost been as long since my last one but it really is never too late! And that applies even in the changing world that we’re now experiencing.

So, last year, I learnt that it’s never too late to… use a pumice stone.

As my 50th birthday approached last year, I really felt I ought to embrace it. I’m not seen as immature; I have life and professional experiences and, at church, I’m probably observed as a ‘seasoned’ member. Don’t you love that adjective – seasoned, well flavoured, marinated!

Anyway, my feet; they’re wider and longer than the average woman; shoe shopping has always caused me great anxiety. I have flat feet, my arches fell during my university days – with great pain – which probably contributed to developing a painful bunion during pregnancy with child 4, eventually leading to a bunionectomy (is that the word?) and six weeks on crutches with a toddler 😲.

My feet became neglected and my hidden secret. I hid them in shoes, behind socks and tights; and in the summer I hid them behind chunky man-sandles which are very comfortable but don’t look great with Sunday dress!

So as my 50th birthday approached, this was part of me that I knew I had to do something about. I thought about a pedicure but there’s no way I could let anyway see, let alone handle, my feet – such was my complex. Then as I was browsing through Primark, looking for chinos and treats to post to Son 1 (he was at the time serving as a missionary in Vanuatu), I found in the men’s toiletries section a pumice stone, only 75 pence!! And I knew this was for me 🙂

Back home I watched a few YouTube videos on technique and my feet rejuvenation journey began. It didn’t end with the pumice stone. A few weeks later, browsing in a shop, I spotted a pair of white, strapless, sandles, wide fit, size 8, knocked down in price! They fit; they were mine; I wore them to church with everything, even on the cooler summer days!

It’s a small thing, I know, and it probably sounds quite silly – I’m a 50 year old woman and I had neglected, ignored my feet. But I can tell you that the while experience made a big difference to me, and the relationship I have with my physical self.

That 75p pumice stone is a small thing but represents that I can change, and improve. And same principle can be applied to anything and anyone. Maybe your pumice stone is a book, a kind act, giving up something, or doing something different. It might involve walking towards someone.

Either way, it’s going to take some action on your part, on my part. And some belief that the action is going to bring about a change. Simply remember, it’s never too late.