Saturday, May 28, 2011

how tally does it...

tally makes me happy. she just emanates all things good. she is witty and fun and creative and uplifting. she is ridiculously talented at the viola and has a wicked good fashion sense. she is just all around darling. and i'm so glad to call her a friend. 

here's how tally does it...

I’ll be honest – and this is just the way I am (sometimes too honest) – I hate talking about my trials.  I am grateful for them and the positive change that comes through tackling adversity, but I hate talking about my trials.  

I’ve dropped hints here and there that our T + T life isn’t perfect, but I just don’t have the courage or desire to put everything “out there.”  I’m not sure that keeping these challenges to myself makes them any easier to bear, but I’m so afraid of being judged for reacting improperly, being pitied, or having others worry about me.

That being said, I hope you’ll forgive me for not being specific about what my trials are.  I hope that what I have to say can help someone out there, as this epiphany I had about 4 months ago has definitely helped me see the good inside the seemingly unbearable.

Here it is.  It’s only taken me 28 years of living to learn this one thing: 

The Lord places people perfectly.

I like to think of my Father in Heaven as the perfect choreographer.  He knows exactly who to bring into our lives, and when – people we’ll click with, people we’ll be able to open up to, people who need us – friends, family, old classmates, neighbors, even people we only observe for a split-second (or secretly stalk through the world of blogs – I have a few of those!).  

To me, nothing is by chance.  The Lord places specific people with specific experiences in our paths at specific times to strengthen us, and teach us specific lessons.

My Mom has been able to talk me through my most recent trial because she experienced it in her own life.  A few months ago, my sister faced a completely different trial, and I realized that it matched up perfectly with a different trial that Mom had faced.  My Mother-in-Law likewise has overcome things in her life that are exactly the things I have and am going through.  Is any of that coincidence?

In January I started running with a gal in my neighborhood, only to realize a month later that she had been through a trial that I am currently facing.  I came home from our run, and thanked my Heavenly Father for someone here that I could open up to (we call our runs “Therapy Sessions”).  

Women need women.

When Taylor and I moved to Seattle last October, and the distraction of unpacking was finally over, I was left with too much time to think about the hard things.  I was lonely, and a little depressed and overwhelmed, but knew I would feel guilty if I made someone else worry, so I kept it to myself.    

The phone rang.  It was the Relief Society President (we had lived in Seattle maybe 3 days).  I lived near Seattle Children’s Hospital - could I visit some families in need?  Could I take a meal to this person?  Could I pay a visit to this elderly woman?  Immediately she filled my days with visiting, helping, and listening.  

The past eight months that Taylor and I have lived in Seattle, I have met the most incredible women who are facing greater trials than I would ever be able to face.  To share a few:
  • A mother who had lost a son to cancer, had a daughter who had survived cancer, and was currently taking care of a younger son in the hospital battling leukemia.  A week later, her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She used her free time two write a book about fairies that lost their hair, which was published and has been distributed in hospitals around the country.
  • Another whose two-year-old son is still battling a heart defect, Down Syndrome, deafness, and leukemia.  She and her son spent over 18 months at the Children’s Hospital, and yet with every visit I was leaving with renewed perspective and optimism.
  • A young mother with 9-month-old twins, one of which is fighting leukemia.  She has lived and slept in the hospital off-and-on for the past 6 months, with her husband in military training out of state.
  • Another young mother, 8 months pregnant, in isolation with her two-year-old daughter who is fighting leukemia.  They will continue to be in isolation after the baby is born.
I know it wasn’t by chance that the Relief Society President would call at that specific time in my life to visit these specific people.  They each had such different personalities, lifestyles, and attitudes, and I felt that with every visit, I walked away having learned a specific lesson that I needed to learn at that specific time (and I don’t think I ever disclosed my trials to them).   

It is the wonderful people around me – those I’ve known my whole life, and those I’ve known for only a few weeks – that help me do it.  Their examples inspire me to make more out of my life, to push through trials, to have hope, to smile through the struggle. 

When life seems unbearable, even if you’re not the most talkative, outgoing person in the world (I definitely am not), get out and meet new people.  Visit someone.  If you need to, ask someone who may know of someone who needs a friend, or someone to talk to.  It will seem random to you, but I promise you that the Lord will place people in your path that not only need you, but you will find that you need them.  

Women need women.  It’s true!  Even shy women need women.  Anti-social women need women.  The outgoing women need women.

The Lord really does place people perfectly.  Take the time to think about the people who have had a strong influence on your life and you will see, through the who, how, and when, that the Lord really is the perfect Choreographer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

how kathy does it...

i. love. kathy. but i'm pretty sure i'm not alone. i've never met someone who doesn't love kathy. if you know her, you love her. if you don't,  you will. kathy is genuinely interested about others. she listens. she remembers. and it makes you feel good. so good, in fact, that i'd like to put her in my pocket and take her to new hampshire with  me. i'll find a way.

here's how kathy does it...

Tonight, while out running, I was encumbered by negative self-talk.  My thoughts were centered on my frustration with my breathing, my body, my iPod, myself.  I was seriously considering turning back for home when I saw a grandmother walking arm in arm with her daughter who was also arm in arm with her daughter.  It was so sweet to see 3 generations of women supporting each other and it made me smile.  I immediately noticed a spring in my step as my thoughts shifted to recognizing goodness.  I felt grateful for that beautiful moment and my focus changed because of my gratitude.  The run never got easier.  I wondered whether I was up for it, but I kept going and finding so many reasons to be grateful along the way.  This change in focus made me feel unstoppable and it is the reason my family started our nightly tradition years ago.

Right before we say goodnight and tuck our kids into bed, we go around and each person shares their favorite part of the day and tells something they are grateful for. Sometimes we are grateful for the sun and the stars, sometimes for brothers or sisters, sometimes for parents and grandparents, sometimes for good food, our home, our friends.  And sometimes we are grateful for a cozy blanket or the snail habitat we made in the backyard.  No matter the declaration, the blessings are all important and worthy of our appreciation. It’s a simple celebration.  It is beautiful.  It is the way that I get from one day to the next with hope.  

Over the last few years I have felt the weight of the challenges that life brings to everyone.  I have found myself bound by negative self-talk.  I have felt overwhelmed with the decisions and challenges that have become a part of our lives.  I have wondered if I am up to the task of parenting.  I have wondered if I resemble the person I have always wanted to be.  I have found myself looking forward to a different time rather than feeling content.   

For me, the best antidote for self-pity and frustration is to find something to be grateful for.  The moment I do, I get proper perspective and I feel God’s love.  I recognize that all of life, including the most challenging trials are a gift.  A wise woman, Melody Beattie declared:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." 

Our nightly expression of gratitude is as pivotal for me as the grateful moment I experienced on my run. It is glorious because we go to sleep with the lovely memories of the day.  We create more space in our our hearts and minds for the happy moments, the lessons learned and we celebrate life.  Even when our trials seem numerous, our triumphs feel more profound.   It makes me smile and when I smile, I feel unstoppable.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

how anonymous does it...

i'm a little sad that anonymous is anonymous, simply because now i can't adequately give her the praise she deserves. but, rest assured, anonymous is wonderful in every way. some of you know her...and your lives are blessed for it.

here's how anonymous does it...

As children I think that everyone has some kind of idea what their life might be like when they "grow up." I know I did. And when people asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" my answer would vary from year to year, sometimes even day to day. I have wanted to be an elementary school teacher, a music teacher, a professional musician, a therapist, and there was even a time that I wanted to be the first female President of the United States (I have no idea where that one came from). But every time I would answer someone's question, I would think to myself, "what I really want to be is a wife and a mother."

Well, that didn't happen. Or rather, that hasn't happened yet. I guess there is still time, but being single and a member of a religion that puts so much focus on the family makes me feel like a loser, even at the ripe old age of 28. I suppose it's mostly my fault. I've never been good at flirting; I'm much too shy to put myself out there. I've always been the gal pal - the girl who has friends who are boys, but never a boyfriend. I haven't been on a date in years. And as far back as I can remember I have always thought less of myself, and I tend to make degrading comments about myself in a joking manner, but some part of me feels like they are true. Part of me no longer believes that I am even meant to get married or have a family. I don't say that to make you feel sorry for me, it's just an observation I've made about my life.

I do have a great job as a nurse on a labor and delivery unit. It is an amazing place to work - I get to see miracles every day. It's wonderful to see a family come together be it for the first time or the tenth time, but it is also a constant reminder of the inadequacies in my life.

My life is not without its blessings. I am buying a house, and I live near my parents, who are a constant support to me. I recently changed which group I go to at church, which has been nice, but hard. I am no longer the oldest girl in a group of singles where the average age is at least 7 years younger than me. Instead I go to church with families, where I at least have friends my age, and people who care that I am there. I also joined a single's website, which is something I swore I would never do. I haven't had much success, but I am trying to do something that is totally outside my comfort zone. And even if I never meet "the one", I hope to make more friends and to become more comfortable with myself. 

I also realize that I have the time to do things for myself, like crafting or reading. I also have the freedom to travel, or leave town at the drop of a hat, if I so desire. And while I still try to be frugal, I have the money to have nice things and new gadgets - I have never really had to live without anything. I have an amazing family and great friends who love me and are there for me. So even though my life has not (perhaps yet) turned out the way I thought it would, I still feel like a very blessed person.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

how kristen does it...

kristen and i met nearly four years ago when our husbands began working together here in california. we became fast friends and so did our little girls. with monthly cookie frosting parties and game nights, frequent pool dates, and an annual girl's trip, i've come to know kristen quite well. when i think of her, i think of goodness. she doesn't have a mean bone in her body. she is beautiful, truly beautiful, on the inside and out. and i'm oh so happy that her family lives just a few hours from where i will be moving this summer - because she can come to visit. 

here's how kristen does it...

Isn’t it interesting how death is often what makes us reevaluate life?  The worst day of my life was April 23, 2006.  My younger brother, Matthew, was serving a mission for our church down in Argentina.  He’d been on his mission for 21 months and was just 3 short months away from returning home when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking along side a road with his companion.   

He was just 21 years old, in the prime of his life.  I will never forget the phone call from my father as he told two of my sisters and me the terrible news that our brother had been killed.  Never before had I felt such complete devastation.  I never knew that kind of pain was possible to endure.  It took over my entire being.  When you’re immersed in that level of despair and pain you wonder if you will ever feel joy again.  You wonder how your life will ever be normal again.  There is a hole in your heart that will never be filled.   

Since that day, I’ve had several people ask me questions such as, “Has this affected your faith in the Lord?  How do you forgive the Lord for allowing this to happen to your brother?  Shouldn’t the Lord have protected him?”   

As hard as this loss was for me and my siblings, it was much harder on my parents.  Only since becoming a mother myself can I even partially understand the hurt they must have felt, far beyond my own.  My mother is an incredibly faithful person.  She determined immediately after losing her son that she would not allow this to shake her faith in the Lord, nor would she allow herself to become bitter.  Because of her and my father’s example, we too never let it shake our faith in God.  

We learned that bad things happen.  Each person has his own agency and makes his own decisions.  Sometimes these decisions affect others, like in the case of my brother.  However, we also learned that the Lord has a plan for each of us.  We must suffer in this life but our loving Father in Heaven will never leave us to suffer alone.  Our Savior suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Besides taking on our sins he suffered every pain and affliction that we would endure in our lives both physically and emotionally so that he could succor us in our times of need.  While at this time I’d never felt such intense pain, I’d also never felt such intense love from the Savior.  

About a week after my brother was killed, while my family was in the throes of unimaginable grief, Matthew’s belongings were shipped home from Argentina.  In his belongings was a handwritten letter to my mother.  He had not yet had the chance to mail it, and I believe that it was written for the purpose of comforting my family after the tremendous loss, a tender mercy from the Lord.  In this letter, it was almost as if Matthew knew that his life on earth was coming to an end.  He wrote, “I feel that I am nearing the end of a long journey.  The journey, I think, has been a quest for myself. I have been searching for who I am and who I am to be. I started with just a general idea that I wanted to be the ideal me. I have found much success but also much failure in this endeavor. Coming on the mission was the key.”  He goes on to explain how when searching for himself he failed, but when he changed his objective to serve the Lord and gave himself over completely to the service of the Lord, he was able to find himself.  He saw that incredible vision of who the Lord intended him to be and in turn, became closer to his Savior.  

Bitterness has no benefits. It serves no purpose except to hold us back from healing and being truly happy.  I believe that we have a choice.  We can choose bitterness and anger or we can choose to allow the Savior to help us heal.  We can learn from our experiences and trials and become stronger, better people.  

It’s been five years since that dreadful day.  At the time that my brother died, I was three months pregnant with my first child.  Today, five years later, I am the mother of three amazing children.  Becoming a mother has been a humbling experience.  I often feel inadequate in so many ways.  I used to think that I knew a lot, and it’s at those times when I insist on doing things my own way, that I seem to fail miserably.  I struggle every day with how to let go of my need for perfection and control.  How to be okay with a house that is far from spotless, how to have patience with a three and four year old who very often find just the right way to irritate and get at each other, how to adequately teach my children to be responsible and choose the right, how to survive on very little sleep, how to be all these things that I think a good wife and mother should be.  It is when I realize all that I DO NOT know and lean instead on a loving Father in Heaven that I seem to find my way.  

I feel the influence of my brother daily.  I feel his encouragement and his reminder to draw closer to the Lord.  I feel gratitude for the bounteous blessings in my life.  I recognize that all of these blessings come from my Father in Heaven.  His greatest desire is for us to be happy.  Matthew definitely knew this.  He concluded his final letter to my family by writing, ”And so begins another leg of my journey, which I have only very recently correctly identified, as my journey home. Home to my father in heaven and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Home to eternal life and eternal progression. Home to peace and happiness everlasting. My eternal home. I am on my way.”

I would like to think that I too am on my way.  I now realize that I may not know much but I DO know that through the atonement, the Savior made it possible for me to be with my brother again.  I KNOW that families are forever.  We will be together again and this is the greatest desire of my heart.  So, though I might never know exactly “how” to do it, how to be a good wife, mother, friend, daughter, etc., I do know “why” I do it.  And that’s enough for me.