Friday, November 30, 2012

A Heavy Load

I met with the bishop last night. I will be back in a few weeks, and we set up a regular visit every few weeks to help me figure out how to be happy. I’m really grateful for such an amazing bishop. mormonadunloadHe’s a really good friend of ours as well, and I am confident that between his help and my efforts, if I can muster some motivation, I will be able to heal and work through all that is going on. Bishop said I am suffering from battle fatigue. I think that is a great way to put it.

This week I am going to work at being more motivated. More motivated to pray, study the gospel, take care of myself and the house and the kids.

I’m taking it a step at a time, and if all I can manage one day is feeling motivated enough to do the laundry and play with the kids, well, that’s better than vegging in front of the TV, right?

I prayed earnestly for the first time in a while last night.

It felt good.

I think I’m going to be okay.

Tiffany at an ensign, waving posted this video on her blog today for her 5 things for Friday post. She’s a wise woman. After listening to the acoustic version a few times on my phone I realized that I needed to own this song. This might be my theme song for the next several months. Or maybe just for the rest of my life.

If you had some heartache that made you cry a thousand tears
Then let me tell you now I know just how you feel
And that heavy weight of sorrow that you've carried for so long
Will soon be gone

'Cause I believe that there is something more than I can see
I believe that there is someone holding onto me
Sometimes I won't feel it, but that don't change a thing
'Cause it's by faith that I believe

Thanks, Tiffany – I needed that today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Letting myself be happy has turned out to be harder than I thought.

I’ve been thinking about the atonement for the past few days, after we had our Teachings for Our Times lesson on Sunday about President Uchtdorf’s message (which ironically was the General Conference Book Club talk for last week).

For some reason my testimony of the atonement and my understanding and conviction that it is the key to happiness and can help me bear pain and disappointment doesn’t seem to translate into something doable. I can’t figure out how to use the atonement to help assuage the pain.

Something I thought about on Sunday was how I healed (am healing) from the loss of my brother. For a while I didn’t heal – I was too busy to deal with the grief – but once I faced the grief head on, and allowed the atonement to work in me, I felt the healing. I still feel it every day (for that trial). The loss of my brother will always be a hole in my heart, but it is much less painful now than it was two years ago.  I feel like I was able to heal because nothing was ongoing. Once the initial shock was gone, there was not much left to do other than heal. There are always little moments when it’s harder – like when we’re taking family pictures, or on his birthday, or on the anniversary of his death, or when I watch someone else deal with the loss of a loved one. But in general, the pain is past. The trial is, for the most part, over.

This trial is different.

It may never be over. It may never end. Things may never, in this life, get better – at least not the way I want them to.

And I think accepting that is hard for me. Learning how to live with the situation how it is feels like giving up. It feels like being okay with things the way they are is failure. Accepting that I don’t have any power over this situation is like accepting defeat.

I guess I just don’t want to endure pain for the rest of my life. This is a spiritual and emotional pain, rather than a physical one – but I think the concept is the same. I can’t imagine living in chronic pain. I know there are people who do it. A good sister in my ward is in constant pain and confined to a wheelchair. There are actually two sisters in our ward in that condition. How do they stand it? How do they find happiness? It wasn’t their choice to be in that situation.

I think deep down I feel a little bit like this trial is my fault. I feel as if there is something I could have done. If only I had made this decision, or that decision, I wouldn’t be in this position.

Sometime in the past year I remember thinking to myself that Heavenly Father wanted me to be in this position. He knew before I did the pain I would be in. He knew it a long time ago, before I even saw it coming. He knew when He told me to make the decision I made that would lead me to this place. He knew this was the only way I would learn the things I needed to learn.

I read this quote from Orson F. Whitney earlier today in a General Conference talk by Elder Robert D. Hales,

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.

I loved what Bonnie said about tanning leather on my most recent post at Real Intent:

You would think that the strongest leather comes from hides with lots of flesh left on them, nice and thick, that haven't been treated too badly. In fact, the strongest leather comes from well-scraped hides that have been acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun, then acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun, and acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun. Unworked leather cracks under pressure. Well-worked leather is soft and supple, water-proof and flexible. We don't grow strong by being left alone.

Tender. How do you tenderize something? Usually by beating it repeatedly. Ever seen a meat tenderizer? They come in different varieties, but almost always they have some kind of prongs or texturized surface. Ours is a very scary looking hammer. If you want to cook some really tender meat, you beat the meat repeatedly with the scary hammer. How do we become tender? By being beating, spiritually, emotionally, sometimes physically. By undergoing trials and adversity.

I once wrote about the three sources of trials and adversity in this life. Suffering is usually caused either by our own sins, the sins of others, or just by the natural conditions of this world. The suffering I experienced when my brother passed away was part of the natural conditions of this world. No one made him get cancer. His cancer wasn’t a result of some sin he committed. It just happened. It was tragic and painful, but it just happened. This trial is hard for me because I can’t help feeling like I am suffering it because of a sin I committed. I keep wanting to simply repent and make it better – but I can’t because it isn’t my sin to repent of.

Elder Hales said, “In this mortal life, each of us is going to experience pain in one form or another… It often comes as a result of our disobedience to the commandments of God, but it also comes to those who are doing all they can to keep their lives in line with the example of the Savior.” I have been spending all this time thinking that this kind of pain shouldn’t come to me because of the way I was living my life. I made good choices, so I shouldn’t have to experience this trial. But life doesn’t work that way. All the good choices I could ever make can’t stop others from making bad choices.

I really liked the last part of Elder Hales’ talk where he talked about how important caregivers are as we are experiencing pain. “There are times when, no matter how independent we may be, we must entrust others with our care. We must surrender ourselves to them. Our caregivers are those who assist in the healing process.”

If you know anything about me, you know that I am fiercely independent, strong willed, and incredibly head strong. In fact, earlier this year when my husband was gone on frequent business trips a member of our Relief Society presidency called me and asked if I needed anything. She commented that she wasn’t too worried about me because she could tell how independent I am, but she wanted me to know that they were there if I needed anything. I told her that she’s right, I can take care of everything, but it was nice to know they were thinking about me (and it was – it always helps me take care of myself when I know people are thinking of me).

So “surrendering” to outside help is something I would not consider doing. Last fall when I was having some emotional issues my husband made me see a therapist a few times. I would never have made the appointments on my own. A few months ago I finally broke down and talked to the bishop. It felt good to talk to him and get counsel, but I didn’t go back, thinking I could take care of it from there.

This week I am going to work on finding some caregivers. A person in chronic pain probably sees a doctor regularly. I think I should probably learn to surrender to some caregivers.

Surrendering to the ultimate Caregiver is probably going to be the hardest thing for me. Elder Hales said,

The Lord is our ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to the Lord. In doing so, we give up whatever is causing our pain and turn everything over to Him. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee”. “And then may God grand unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son”. Through faith and trust in the Lord and obedience to His counsel, we make ourselves eligible to be partakers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that one day we may return to live with Him.

Giving up the thing that is causing me pain is going to feel like defeat. I don’t know how not to feel like it is. I don’t know how not to feel like I have somehow failed. I don’t know how to do it, and I am pretty sure that is the thing causing me the most pain.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Letting Myself Be Happy

(Of Regrets and Resolutions – by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

I haven’t been participating in General Conference Book Club so far, although before conference I had every intention of doing so. Then disaster (or Satan) struck and I was left with not much desire for spiritual things. But I am learning a little more about patience and endurance, and although I don’t feel completely back to “normal”, or fully engaged spiritually, I do feel as if some healing as been going on, and I’m ready to jump back in – especially when there is a conference talk that speaks so much to my predicament.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, “I thought that living the gospel was supposed to make me happy. But for the past several years a sustained happiness has been elusive.”

I walked on the treadmill this morning to President Uchtdorf’s words of wisdom speaking to me from my desktop computer. He so wisely said,

So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial.

Ask my husband and he will tell you that I am constantly getting onto him for saying things like, “Well, when I’m done with my undergraduate degree I will be happier.” Or “When I’m only going to school and not working and going to school, I will be happier.” Or “When I get promoted I will be happier.” Or “When we are living in another country I will be happier.” I tell him all the time, “If you’re not happy now, you won’t be then!”

So this wasn’t completely new advice to me – I’ve been spouting it at my husband for years. But when President Uchtdorf added “the end of a challenging trial” my jaw dropped just a little bit.

Brothers and sisters, no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.

So isn’t it better to see with our eyes and hearts even the small things we can be thankful for,rather than magnifying the negative in our current condition?

This can be a very hard thing to do, especially when the negative is literally a huge rain cloud covering us. I have tried to find the good things in each day, but the challenges and trials have seemed to outweigh even all the good I could find in the world.

But I am learning that the good doesn’t make the bad go away.

Just because there are beautiful things in life – new babies, rainbows, kind people, the gospel – it doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad things. People are still murdering and robbing and there are still tornadoes and floods and earthquakes.


So being happy isn’t so much about life being all sunshine and roses. It’s not about not feeling pain. It’s about deciding to be happy regardless of the pain. I guess I am still learning exactly how to do that.

I think a lot of my recent emotional roller coaster is due to pregnancy hormones. I am definitely aware that chemical imbalances can keep a person from choosing to be happy, and I think that in the past few months that has definitely been a contributing factor. But I am still not quite sure that is all. I am certain that there are things that I am supposed to be learning from this trial. Maybe focusing on those lessons and learning to be grateful for them will help me find happiness.

How do you let yourself be happy? Have you ever had times in your life when you didn’t feel able to make that choice? What was helpful for you?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Vessel Without a Sail

Today in Sunday School we are talking about how Mormon felt about the Nephites as he watched them decline in their spirituality.

He likened them to a vessel with no sail or anchor or any way to steer.

When we read this scripture it reminded me of another kind of vessel that didn't have a way to steer, but rather than being blown about by satan, it was guided carefully toward the promised land.

When the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to build barges to take his people across the ocean to the promised land, there was not a way to steer them - no sail, no anchor, no rudder.

The brother of Jared asked the Lord:

The Lord's answer is instructive:

The Lord comforts the brother of Jared and instructs him - they do not have to worry about steering the vessels because God will steer them.

The difference between the ill-equipped vessels of the Jaredites and the ill-equipped figurative vessels of Mormon's people is the connection with God.

Mormons people had hardened their hearts and were not influenced by the Savior anymore, which left them to be influence by satan.

The brother of Jared and his people were humble, seeking the Lord, and so they were guided by His hand - their vessels were steered by Him.

Have you ever felt as if the Lord was guiding you even though you may not have had the resources to steer?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Lie of Perfection

Earlier this summer I wrote about spending “some” time in the scriptures every day. Today I was thinking about that again.

I know you all have been missing me on the blog (don’t tell me if you haven’t – I like to pretend I am important), and if you read my most recent post on Real Intent you might understand why I have been out of commission for a while. It’s hard to write about spiritual things when you feel utterly non-spiritual.

In short, my soul has not been doing a lot of delighting lately.

Part of that is pregnancy hormones (antepartum depression, anyone?), and part of it is a lack of patience and accepting God’s will. Cheryl wrote recently about how she always thought curve balls would come in a certain way, and the curve balls actually came in different forms than she had anticipated. I think part of my failure to endure is because the trials and adversity that I am experiencing are exactly the last thing I thought I would ever have to endure. I thought that because of choices I had made that I would be protected somehow from these trials.


God can’t/won’t/doesn’t (not sure which one) usually protect us from any trials. He gives them to us maybe a little too willingly for our tastes, but He knows that we can handle it. And He provides a way for us to overcome or bear them. Every time.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

You’d think I had failed seminary with all the scripture mastery verses I seem to be forgetting these days.

You’re probably wondering at this point what on earth the title of this post has to do with the actual post. Well, nothing, yet. I got distracted.

This post has to do with me learning (again … funny how Heavenly Father has to teach us the same lessons over and over and over again … if only I would learn it the first time!) that I do not have to do everything all the time every day.

What does that mean?

It means that I do not have to study the scriptures for four hours a day. One verse, even reading my favorite verse is sufficient, and if I have time one day to study for an hour or so, then great. But forgoing scripture study because I can’t study the way I want to or think I should is a dumb reason not to study the scriptures.

“Spend some time in the scriptures each day.” – Sister Beck

It means that I do not have to clean all three bathrooms in my house all the way in one day. There is no way I can feed my children, dress my children, eat healthy food myself, and keep the house reasonably clean, plus have a little time to read or do something relaxing/recreational and clean all the bathrooms all the way in one day. It’s just not possible. Even if I think to myself “I have no plans today, I can do the bathrooms today.” Ha. Not likely, and I am probably just setting myself up for failure. However, not being able to clean every corner of the bathrooms every day does not mean I should never clean the bathrooms at all.

The other day I wiped down the counters and called it good. And guess what? I felt like I had done something! I didn’t need to be perfect. Today I cleaned all of one bathroom, (the counter was already wiped – ha!) and mopped the kitchen floor. There are still dishes to be done, but the floor is clean.

I don’t have to do it all, all at once.

“Oh, please. Just let the Savior cover this day.
Let Him cover my inability to do and be everything I need to be and can’t be today.
Please let the atonement cover it.”
Becca Riding, Cover Me, I’m Going In

The lie of perfection is that it is required of us to be 100% perfect 100% of the time, or we are complete and utter failures.

Hello – we are, by virtue of our mortal state, imperfect, and thereby “failures” (through this lens of this lie of perfection).

The hope comes in the atonement, and in doing the best we can.

Yes, I am applying the atonement to cleaning bathrooms.

Because of the atonement, I can wash the toilet in one of my bathrooms and feel like I have done enough. Some days it might be an entire bathroom, and some days it might be all three bathrooms but not the kitchen floor. Some days it might be one load of laundry and we eat frozen corn dogs for dinner.

The atonement covers all that. (if you haven’t read Becca Riding’s post about that over at Diapers and Divinity, you should. It is excellent).

One of the commenters on that post said, “As a mother I tend to put things off til the moment when all is well and no one needs me” But someone or something will always need us, and we cannot do it all, all at the same time, perfectly.

Thank heavens for the atonement.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of “perfection”? Or do you rely on the Savior’s atonement to perfect you, rather than your own works? Do you do nothing, for fear of coming up short? Or do you realize that no matter how much you do, you will always come up short, and then do as much as you can and let the atonement cover everything else?

Image Credit: Heath Robbins

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

By the Voice of The People - FHE


Today is election day in the United States of America. In our country, the voice of the people rules (well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s basically true). In our country, we get to choose our governing officials, and then we get to tell them how we want things done.

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. (Mosiah 29:26)

Last night at Family Home Evening, we talked about what it means to vote, and why it is so important. Talking to a kindergartener and a preschooler about political responsibility was fun – and a bit of a challenge.

We talked about the President of the United States of America (who my son knew was Barack Obama – I’m such a proud mama!). Then we talked about how every four years we get to decide who will be the president. V was very much convinced that we should elect Mitt Romney because “Barack Obama has already been the president!” Makes sense, right? Everybody gets a turn! Gotta love 5 year old logic.

Of course, then we talked about how if the president has only been president for four years, we get to decide if he has been doing a good job, and if we want to have him be president for another four years. Then we talked about how to choose a president (or other officer – we stuck with president because senators and state and city governments are probably a little complex for kindergarten/preschool citizens to grasp).

We asked our kids things like, “Should we vote for a president because we like his tie? What about because we like his haircut?” Our kids were pretty smart and knew that we shouldn’t vote for a president just because we like how he/she looks.

Then, how should we choose a president? (the kids didn’t have any quick answers, which was fine, because that’s what the lesson was all about).

To answer my own question, I decided to share with our kids the First Presidency’s statement from 2008 (which they read now around every election time) about participating in the political process.

Fullscreen capture 1162012 74303 AM.bmp

A lot of the words were too big for our kids to understand, and if you have small children you know that losing a child’s interest is basically a death sentence for FHE, so I had to paraphrase a lot of things in child-friendly terms.

We focused on a few things from the statement:

1.) “the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy” – we talked about our responsibility to vote. I also explained “public policy” – how things like funding schools is a public policy. We also talked about fiscal responsibility. We talked about how we give the government money (taxes) and then the government spends the money on things that should benefit us as a society. A lesson in economics was a little beyond our kids, but they understand the basic – that it’s better for the government to spend our money on food for hungry people rather than toys. They also understood that it is good for the government to help other countries, but we can’t spend money that we don’t have.

2.) “Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest.” All we did was read this sentence, and my five year old knew how to choose a president: “Choose a president who is wise, good, and honest!” Smart kid. Because partisanship is a little more complex, rather than talking about political neutrality, we simply talked about how both President Obama and Mitt Romney are good people. It’s a little over simplified, but I think it provides a good basis for political neutrality. And we’ll have this FHE every two years – building blocks. We’re just laying the foundation right now.

3.) “study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully” We really focused on the “prayerfully” part. We talked about how my husband and I have been studying the issues and candidates, but that we pray for help to make good decisions in the election. After our mock presidential election, my husband and I talked about a few of the issues with the kids.

4.) “then vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.” The “actively support” part is what I have never been particularly good at. I don’t like campaigning, and I don’t care for party politics. It’s my goal to be more actively supportive in the next few years of the people/persons I support in government. I hope that our Election Day FHEs will become a safe place for our children to learn how to be politically active.

IMG_2601After our discussion, we had a mock election. I made up some simple presidential election ballots. I had a picture of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and next to each picture a little box for the kids to mark. I wish I had made a polling booth because it would have made the experience a little more real.

As our children mature, we will add things to the ballot – propositions, senators, etc. My hope is that by the time our kids are in high school we will be holding FHE mock elections with actual sample ballots from our area.

We talked about how in an election we are not required to share our vote with anyone. We don’t have to tell anybody how we voted, but if we want to tell people how we are going to, or how we did vote, we can.

We tried really hard not to influence our children’s choices on their ballots, but the winner won by a landslide. (okay, it was unanimous)

Our kindergartener had a fun time counting the ballots, and I told them I would take them to the real polls today and let them help me vote.

This morning the first thing they asked me when I woke up was “When are we going to the pool?!” (last night they were saying “pool” and we made sure to clarify – not the pool where you swim, the poll where you vote. Didn’t make a difference, they still say it “pool”

This morning they were telling my friend that they were going to the “pool” today. Her response, “ I hope it’s an indoor pool! It’s too cold to go swimming outside!” My kids stared at her blankly, wondering what on earth swimming has to do with the election! I explained that they meant the polls.

I hope my children aren’t utterly disappointed with their (and my!) first experience voting. (I’ve only ever voted via absentee ballot! So I am excited for my first “real” voting experience!)

How are you teaching your children to be responsible citizens? How do you teach them about the political process and political participation?

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