Endings are the saddest part: But they often don’t exist

I bet everyone can agree that there’s always beauty in beginnings.

Driving to the hospital to meet my newborn nephew the other day, getting the keys to that first apartment or the brand new cherry-red car on my 16th birthday. Putting a veil on and carefully tying the back of a brand new wedding dress, accepting that much-prayed-for job offer, the first day on a brand new campus that’d be home to my lifelong memories. Beginnings always carry a sweet smelling perfume of a memory to me. But endings? No. Normally, *unless it’s a boring movie or a canker sore* endings are the stuff that tragedy is made up of.

At least it seems like it.

Recently I got the news that my sister-in-law’s best friend Logann was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. But this time, it’s in its final stages. My sister-in-law had cancer too and died just two years ago. Logann’s sister, Lauren, reached out to me with pictures and memories, and before long I was scrolling through her facebook page, blinking back tears and reading statuses that hint at worsening symptoms. I don’t know Logann much, but I know how it feels to face an ending.

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I carefully clicked through the photos of the young faces of the kids she’ll soon leave behind. The ending for their family is coming, just as it had for Natalie, who didn’t even make it to that last trip to DisneyLand with her kids. Just as it had for my Dad who hadn’t even had the time to acquire wrinkles. Just as it had for countless faces and names from my readers who share pictures and stories throughout my inbox–people who share the general ache of having been through an ending of some sort.

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For some, it’s the ending that comes with seeing a child move across the country with a new husband and a U-Haul. For some, it’s the loss of a career or a divorce that leaves empty drawers, empty halls, and an empty heart. For some, it’s the ending that comes with a severed friendship or a miscarriage that leaves you with empty arms and a few loose ultrasound pictures to prove that a child ever even existed.

Time can seem like a relentless, cruel train that moves fast and uninterrupted. Time stops for no one and quickly reminds us that every day we’re dying or nearing an end of something. Some of us just know when that time will be, others of us have no idea.

It all just ends in an ending, we think.. And the only beauty we can possibly hope for is that there will be a beginning soon after.

But what if we decided to find the beauty before that eventual beginning? Is it possible? Well, today–I learned it is.

Today was General Conference in my church. General Conference is a time when leaders of my church come together to talk about a wide variety of things that they’ve prayed about or felt inspiration to teach. No matter where you are in the world you can listen in by internet or television or broadcasts in meetinghouses. One talk in particular today reached me in a way that made me wonder if Heaven itself wrote that message just for Kayla. But of course not–we all needed to hear it.

The talk was by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He spoke about gratitude throughout the pains of life, understanding in all things, and before ending his talk he simply stated,”There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we’re made out of the stuff of eternity. Endings are not our destiny.”

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Endings don’t sit well with us because there’s often no such thing. We feel the need to keep existing–to keep connected with those we love and to always have another sunrise. We often forget, I learned today, that we’re not dying every day. We’re just continuing.

And if we believe in eternity, then that means we believe that nothing–not even death–can be considered an end.

As children of the creator of a universe dotted with galaxies and stars and life still undiscovered that goes on and on and never hits a wall, we also follow the pattern of creation. We don’t end either.

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Sometimes it’s hard to see simply because we don’t comprehend the magnitude of it, just as we can’t wrap our minds around the nonexistent walls of universe that stretch on forever. But every now and then, like those words that hit me today, the spirit will whisper a reminder.

Lauren sent me a note recently tagged along with the photos of her and her sweet sister that states she’s grateful for time that she has left with Logann–the gift that reminds her this isn’t where it ends. It’s simply a pause. She said Logann spends her days talking about eternity with the kids–a concept that is almost impossible to understand now, but something that will be the only comfort someday and the only truth.

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There’s a beauty in knowing that we’re more constant than the sun–that our eternal value is more dependable than the tides. There’s a beauty in being reminded that what we call endings are nothing more than a flicker of pause in a seamless fabric of eternity–the same fabric that makes up an ever-stretching universe. The same fabric made from our Father’s hands.

When we look at it that way–at least for me–it’s not just the beginnings that seem beautiful. It’s the continuing.

Click here to donate to Logann and her sweet family.

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He is not here: A reminder during a rescue mission

I had the strangest dream last night.

Now, I have some pretty off the wall dreams at times so for me to say it was the strangest is kind of a big deal for me.

In my dream I joined the search of the hundreds of people right now trudging through debris and mud and toppled cars and fences in the Oso area here in Washington, lifting piles of unrecognizable filth to find the victims of the horrific mudslide. This area is close to where I grew up in Arlington, barely a fifteen minute drive, so I had spent time in this place. I had spent summers along these now flooded riversides and jogs against the backdrop of these now crumbled hills. In my dream I vividly saw the stillness of the pastures and the emptiness of the flattened landscape–a grave now to all of those who walked here or drove or worked nearby when the mountains gave way just nine days ago. Oddly enough, even though in reality it’s not this close, I saw my old backyard in my dream as well–flattened. Overturning branches and muck and fighting through tears, I frantically searched and searched. Then suddenly, I heard someone calmly say to me, “He is not here.”

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I woke up from the dream this morning knowing fully well why that voice in my dream had to tell me that. It was about my Dad. And that voice will soon be whispering it to the hearts of all of those still trudging through the remains of the landslide, clutching shoes and wallets and remnants of children and parents.

On the news last night a firefighter, with his hat drawn off his head and dirt surrounding his eyes, said mournfully, “We know this isn’t a rescue mission anymore–it’s a recovery mission. But in our hearts, for a long time, it’ll be a rescue mission.”

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Tears raced to my eyes when I heard the man say that–and the reality of what a rescue mission is followed me into last night’s dream. No matter who you’ve lost–or how you’ve lost them–your spirit goes through a period of time where you’re on a rescue mission. Not usually literally. You’re looking for ways to feel them or sense them close by to bring them into your “present”. You’re hunting through memories and retracing their face over and over as to not forget. You’re half-expecting them to come through the door again, only to be devastatingly disappointed when there are moments that you realize they won’t. Of course, they won’t, you’ll cry. And it’ll hurt all the same. You’ll also relive memories of the moment they died or the place they died or the last time you held their hand–and that moment seems to be where they forever lay.

But it’s not.

To minimize the devastating effects of the Oso and Arlington area landslide is not my intent. My heart breaks for the people who lived a stone’s throw away from me–people who lost children and parents and siblings and neighbors and pets. People who now sit and rest against what used to be a rooftop, looking out at a dismal landscape made up of mud and tears. The loss is indescribable.

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But at the same time I can draw a simple parallel to the words of that one firefighter. Maybe you can too. Maybe those words rang true for all of us who have gone through the sting of loss in one way or another.

The moment where you know for a fact your loved one is truly gone doesn’t always occur at the same time that your heart figures it out. And for a while it just remains a rescue mission. For a while you trudge through the debris of the unrecognizable world around you. For a while you’re looking for the dead in all the wrong places.

As for me, I know I have been. I’ve been angry at times for not feeling Dad as much as I’d like–and have been praying for him to be part of my life again in any way I can muster. I’ve been vividly remembering the day he left us, reliving the night painfully, stuck in that pocket of time as if Dad were stuck there too. But just as the angel told Mary as she leaned against a rolled-away stone and peered into any empty grave for the Savior, “He is not here; for he is risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:6)

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I pray for peace for all of those who still search and wander the debris near my hometown. I pray that their rescue mission can come to an end and that they too will remember that their loved ones aren’t there–but in a place that has risen far above shallow graves. I pray for your own rescue mission to end too. I pray that the angels will find us all at empty tombs, reminding us gently of where we should look instead.

The voice reminds me of it when I look for my Dad in painful memories of his last day in hospice. He is not buried or stuck in folds of memory or fenced into the past. He is not laying idle on a hospital bed. He is not sick. That echoed voice of an angel from the scriptures gently reminds me to leave the debris and remember the promise of eternal life.

That gentle voice reminds me to look up.

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The personal search for happiness: And why there’s no such thing

I’ve learned a lot about myself this past week. A whole lot.

And today, on this sunday morning where my house is still asleep and restless thoughts dance through my mind, I decided to rise early before church and get to writing this.

First off, I learned I don’t do traffic well *Anxiety central*. Secondly, I learned that coconut milk isn’t as good as it sounds *Tried it. Hated it*. Most importantly–there’s no such thing as my personal search for happiness. Let me explain.

This last Tuesday was my first day of training for my new job. And if you’ve been following my blog, you know without a doubt that I was nervous just short of the point of breaking out in hives. But on the long way there *hence my strong dislike of traffic* I prayed and I decided I’d do my best and do everything in my power to do well. I decided that I was going to go above and beyond and prove that I know what I’m doing. This training was about improving and creating ME. Help me to do well, I found myself praying, and grant me happiness with that confidence.

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I arrived early at the training center and found a room filled with desks that made a half-circle. I found my name, cracked open the manual underneath it, and watched as one by one, a stream of new hires made their way in, each face reflecting my own nerves. Finally there was around twenty of us– new ties, ironed skirts, sweaty hands and all. And all I could remember at the back of my mind is during my interview when the manager told me that not everyone in the training group will make it. There are exams, assignments, verbal tests, and on-the-floor demonstrations that have to be mastered to a tee. It won’t be me who fails, I thought. It has to be one of them.

But then training took an odd turn. Instead of diving into the material, talking about the responsibilities, or taking us to individual work areas, the trainers divvied us up into groups and for the first handful of days we were taken back to elementary school in a sense. We had to come up with a team poster and cheer, we competed against other teams for poker chips that’d add up to a prize at the end of training, we went out to lunch and chatted about our lives and we played Catchphrase and team-building exercises that had us laughing so hard that each of us could swear by the end of it we’d found our best friends.

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Without even being asked we started to form a study group to help those in our group who were having a tough time with the material, and we all started to find more joy watching our teammates earn those poker chips than when our own selves did. By the end of the week during an on-the-floor test I wasn’t even nervous for my time up to bat. I was more nervous for one of my teammates who was struggling with a portion of it.

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And it happened without me even realizing it, I think. My original attitude of, “I’ve got this. I’m not going to be the one who fails” quickly turned into, “I want these people to succeed. I care about them.”

And I wasn’t alone. Our CEO must have known what this kind of training meant.

“The trick to being successful,” he told us, “is to surround yourself with good people, treat them well, and help them all to succeed. That’s the trick.”

My training grounds weren’t peculiar.

In a way that crowded room now filled with team posters, remnants of laughter, and fallen poker chips hidden under chairs was exactly what all of our lives are on a daily basis anyway. In life we can easily find where we’re supposed to sit or be, dive into what we need to know, ignore those beside us, and focus on getting it all right so we can succeed. But then there’s the other way. That’s the way that leads to friendship. That’s the way that leads to the focus on things outside of your personal bubble. That’s the way that leads to happiness.

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It’s not a revolutionary idea or breaking news to share *there’s my newsy side coming through* but it’s something we often forget I think. It’s something I forget every now and then since rising above and over-achieving has always been at the forefront of my mind.

The idea stems back to when Christ sat with a loaf of bread and a few fish amongst throngs of people. He was hungry–so he could have eaten. But he didn’t. In John 6 he demonstrates to us the power of thinking outside of ourselves when he multiplies the food and therefore gets even more satisfaction when everyone is well fed.

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We need to multiply our loaves of bread more.

We go through life thinking our troubles are so great that we only have enough time for those problems, and no one else’s . We go through life thinking our financial burdens are so heavy that no way would we have time to alleviate someone else’s. We go through life thinking that the search for happiness is a personal one and helping others is just a bonus. In reality they go hand in hand and finding happiness has always been a group activity.

Careers can teach so many things. Luckily for me, my job started with a game of Catchphrase, fifty-five poker chips, and a lunch talking to someone who lost her dad the day after I lost mine.

Luckily for me, I didn’t find happiness here alone.

And I choose to keep it that way.

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The trouble with waiting on God

So—I’m kind of nervous. OK, more like really nervous. 

Today is the day before I start a brand new position in a brand new place and my stomach is doing the barrel roll because change is one of the most terrifying things that happens in my world. I go through it enough, you’d think I’d get used to it. But I don’t. And today, as I enjoy a day off before the crazy schedule kicks in again, I’ve become reflective. 

I’ve needed this change for a while now. I wasn’t going to where I needed to go–goals weren’t being met and I wasn’t growing the way I should have been where I was. I miserably trudged through work days, all the while knowing I should make a change, but I simply didn’t. “I’m waiting on God,” I would often say. “He must want me here.”

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And today, looking back, I realize the ridiculousness of that saying. Waiting on God. Waiting on him for what? To send a lighting bolt across the sky, the tail of it scrawling a message that tells me what I should do? Waiting on a grand vision? 

Let me tell you, it’s a phrase I hear a lot–always by people who want to make the best decisions and align their lives with Christ–but a phrase that shouldn’t be said half as much as it is. I’m waiting on God for my big break. I’m waiting on God for a husband. I’m waiting on God to start getting along with my estranged child again. I’m waiting on God to tell me if I should start up that business. 

Always waiting.

And that phrase quietly excuses us from creating the life that He actually has planned. 

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The truth of it is, I shouldn’t always be waiting on God. He’s simply waiting on me.

It’s a lesson that’s been hard to swallow because I have the tendency to absolutely love step-by-step directions from the Almighty. Where do you want me to go, Lord? Show me! I sometimes catch myself thinking. Because if he shows me, I’ll most certainly go there. I wouldn’t even hesitate. If I got a sign or some kind of dream or…well, you get the gist of it. I’m that kind of person.

But I have the power to choose for myself. And so do you. The Lord never gave us agency only to tell us later on that we can’t use it or that we have to wait for his cue. The Lord never says in the scriptures to wait for a sign before making a decision to change a miserable situation, to forgive that son, or to put a down-payment on a house for your family. Instead the scriptures say in Proverbs 16:9, “A man deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” 

In D&C 58:27 the Lord also discourages us from hesitancy and idleness but instead says, “do many good things of your own free will.” 

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Blasphemy, you might be thinking. How can Kayla say that I’m supposed to choose a direction and just start walking? I have to get the green light from God!

And I don’t blame you for thinking that. All my life I was Queen of seeking revelation. And sometimes I got just that. Sometimes I felt strongly to do something or felt guided by the spirit to take a certain path. But other times Heavenly Father falls silent–an unresponsive ear pressed against the windows of Heaven, and I would sometimes sit on my knees, wondering why something so important would go unanswered. I think that with many of us the silence of God is  the time when our faith trembles and our doubt seeps through the cracks, whispering lies to our hearts. That’s when we abruptly stand up from prayer, clench our teeth and decide he turned away from us. Or it could be the time when we decide that silence is merely our answer to just wait. Wait on God through misery, long days, depression, brick walls that stop us in our tracks from ever achieving anything we’ve ever planned.

So much of our life is spent waiting.

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I fell into that category. It wasn’t that I was lazy. No, I actually can be ambitious to a fault. I can be hard on myself at times or push myself the extra mile when I can easily be satisfied with where I’m at. But I still fell into the category of expecting God to hand over a blueprint and check off suitable directions. It was too terrifying to do it on my own. What if I made the wrong choice?

In the midst of my decision to leave something I had become comfortable with, a job that was good but not the best for where I was headed, I had to become comfortable with slipping into the driver’s seat and using the free will He gave me for such a time as this.

As I once heard in a sermon given by evangelist pastor T.D. Jakes, Heavenly Father never gave the world a chair. He gave the world a tree and we used our talents and our need for somewhere to sit in order to create a chair. He offers raw talents, raw emotions, raw circumstances and materials–and he lets you create your beautiful life.

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I wonder now how many times I passed up an opportunity to create something within my life simply because God was silent and I took that as a no or as a “just wait”. I wonder how many times in my life Heavenly Father simply folded his arms and waited for me to just work up courage enough to pick the path and then ask for help along the way.

Martin Luther King Jr. once eloquently said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” For too long I wanted to see the staircase. Too many times I simply want an answer on if I’m even ON the right staircase.

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But faith doesn’t work that way. Faith is using free will instead of waiting to be told. Faith is coming to God with a decision, and trusting that he’ll provide along the way. Faith is penning the business plan and investing the money even when the only kind of answer you have in your heart is desire. Faith is moving your feet.

Sometimes there will be days where you have to wait. Sometimes that’s the answer you get. Sometimes the Lord’s timing isn’t quite your timing and he’ll tell you so. But more often than not we’ll come to realize that we have a Father in Heaven who is just waiting for us to MOVE.

Now here I find myself, looking forward to a whole new journey ahead of me, and it’s natural to be afraid. I can’t help but feel fear that takes the form of the big knot in my gut and my pacing back and forth as I try to decide what to wear tomorrow for my first day.

But I also can’t help but feel that for one of the first times in my life I came across a tree in the path. And I decided–finally–to just get to work and make that chair. 

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There’s no such thing as being ‘drunk in love’, Beyonce: And our kids need to learn that.

I must be getting old.

Because more and more our society surprises me. And not in a good way.

The other night one of the anchors at the station that I work at came in with her I-Pod and a wide-eyed expression.

“Have you heard the song ‘Drunk in Love’ from Beyonce yet?” she asked me. No, I hadn’t. In fact, I tend to be horrible with song names, especially when 95 percent of mainstream music all sounds the same anyway.

“Well, don’t!” she warned before I could say anything. “It’s the most explicit song I’ve ever heard. And that’s saying something.”

Well, here’s something to learn about me. If you tell me not to do something, I’m like a toddler with a hot stove. I’ll touch it. And then I’ll regret it within seconds. So, like clockwork, I punched the song title into youtube and could barely get through the entire video–complete with lyrics–before I exited out of the tab and realized my jaw had gone slack. I knew mainstream culture was headed down an ugly path with sexual innuendos and half-naked advertisements and rappers going off about drugs and clubs and trigger-happy gangs. But still, time and again, the media and society prove to me that, oh just you wait–it can and WILL get so much worse.

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I decided I’d never listen to that song again. Until I heard it tonight after stepping into a store on my break to look around and I almost got whacked in the face with the glass door. The kid ahead of me, no older than seventeen, let it fall behind him even though I entered right after him and his blond girlfriend. The couple held a phone between the two of them that played that darn song again and as I walked slowly through the racks and aisles I could hear them chattering over the music and making a mess out of the spring dress aisle. They laughed and more than once I overheard him call her a name no woman should ever be called. When they were in view I could tell she was getting annoyed with him and pushed him a couple times when he touched her from behind and told her she was acting dumb. Drunk in love.

The scene played out perfectly to the music I think.

And somewhere, underneath the annoyance that had built up since getting hit by the door he failed to hold open, I felt a hint of sadness that our kids, some as young as five and others as old as me, are being taught what love is by the lyrics of songs like these. They’re being shown what love is in movie theaters and on billboards and reality TV.

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And the music of the world is loud.

Chivalry slowly dies with each generation as ladies forget how to be ladies and as gentleman are no longer instructed to open the door. Girls are being instructed by these lyrics to raise the hemlines of skirts and put up with being used and slobbered over like a steak because THAT is how you get love. Boys are being told to take control, to seek after sex whenever it’s wanted, and to mistreat their mothers, their girlfriends, and their future wives. Girls are subtly told to look up to the women who are photoshopped on magazines and who belt out sassy tunes about “giving it all up” while boys are told girls SHOULD look that way…and should give it up.

Do I sound old-fashioned? If the answer you came up with is yes, than that proves to me how far we’ve fallen. I don’t know why respecting ourselves and striving for love that respects and strengthens and empowers us has become a vintage antique on a dusty shelf. 

Even Heavenly Father knew this time would come, though. It’s something we all have to prepare for. In Isaiah 5:20 it says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”

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Bitter, drunk love. I couldn’t help but watch these teenagers chat alongside those lyrics as I browsed the store, wondering about the voice of his mother or the advice of her father. Perhaps they were taught everything right and the world just became too loud. Perhaps they were taught only by the world and no one else. Or maybe things have become so perverted, so mangled and distorted–that there’s nothing out of the ordinary with singing along to, “Can’t keep your eyes off my *****, daddy. Drunk in love, I want you.”

I’m not a mother yet and I can’t imagine the difficulties of raising a child in a world that no longer whispers, but screams. I don’t know everything there is to know about child rearing or advising or guiding and I’m not here to say that I do. But I do know that Satan is attacking everything that Heavenly Father put into place. Family. Marriage. Love. Kindness.

And I know that the only way to not be for it is to be against it. Dress against it. Listen against it. Speak against it. Teach your kids against it. Walk against it.

Because we’re falling, and fast. Yes, there’s good in the world. Of course there is. But we still have far to go as society is in rapid decline within the media and within our culture.

There should be more boys opening doors. There should be more girls demanding respect by what they say and wear and do. There should be more role models to look towards other than pop stars in bikinis and actors with three women on their arms. There should be more love–the real kind of love that is slowly becoming old-fashioned and out-of-date. 

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There’s no such thing as being “drunk in love” like the song states. There’s no such thing as love that comes from one-night stands or “smoking all night” or giving in to something that’s so plainly wrong. There’s no such thing as happiness through defilement. 

The scary thing is– the world and all things that tear holes in the fabric of truth know that those messages aren’t real. But it wants you to be so “drunk” that you forget it..

And it wants our kids to never learn it.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has nothing to do with you: And that’s the problem

I sit here in an empty board room at the end of a hall that connects with a quiet newsroom. It’s quieted down now that the evening show is over. But I still hear a TV that buzzes with life not so far off. Explosions. Yells. Sounds that drift all the way to this boardroom from the streets of Kiev all because of a cable line.

And after an *already* 8-hour day at work I realize that I barely know a thing about what’s going on between Ukraine and Russia right now. I’m embarrassed to say that until tonight, I didn’t give much thought to it, even after hearing about it over and over and over over the headset and e-mails and edited scripts. The riots–the bodies in the street–the screams for freedom– has nothing to do with me.

And that’s the problem.

These pictures–

Ситуация в Киеве

 

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–weren’t alive for me. They haven’t felt real. They’ve seemed like old photographs of a forgotten time–a time when maybe my grandfather was young and and still in military uniform. A time I didn’t have to worry about. The pictures haven’t caught my breath until tonight.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m here alone tonight and without images or pictures or video or subtitles all I hear from across the hall are the pops of explosives, the cries of young people, the sudden plea of what sounds like an old woman with a hoarse, frantic voice. Maybe it has to do with the fact that after curiosity got the best of me I decided to nose around cyberspace and learn all I can about the conflict that has tended to go in one ear and out the other for weeks now. What does that mean for you–someone who has absolutely nothing to do with it?

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It actually means a lot. I’m not here to talk about politics. Or foreign relations. Or the billion-something dollars that the U.S. just handed over to Ukraine. Or the side you should pick to be on. I’m not here to argue about policies or who we should help as a country and who we shouldn’t. I’m writing tonight to talk to you about Ukraine and Russia because you’re human and so am I.

And we’re citizens of this world. And that makes all of this our problem.

No, we can’t rise up and solve a crisis overnight. You may not be in a position to hold any political sway or to write to your congressman or to donate funds. But as citizens of this world we’re always in the position to be informed. To face the pictures and the pleas head on and remind ourselves that it isn’t a movie or snapshots from old war photographs–its our brothers and sisters right now.

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It may sound extreme–I realize that as I’m typing this and switching tabs between this blog post, CNN reports, this viral youtube video of a young Ukrainian girl begging for the world to SEE them–I may sound extreme, but so is the opinion that it doesn’t matter. So is ignorance.

In a politically-driven country and world we get swept up in the rhetoric that boasts, “If it’s not about our country, stay out of it”, or “As long as they’re not bombing us, we’re OK”. We forget who we are as Christians–as fellow human beings that share this earth–and join in the chorus of “If it has nothing to do with me, it’s not my problem”. Or we’re too incapsulated by who’s Democratic, who’s Republican–who believes like we do.

I join in that same chorus too from time to time. And I disappointed myself when I do. Me caring about the issue won’t settle the dispute that rages over who has claim to the Crimean peninsula. It won’t grant Ukraine the government it so desperately cries out for or calm the thousands of Russian troops pinned up against Ukrainian citizens. Here, all the way across the world, I can’t do much to show that Ukrainian girl in the video that I hear her.

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But there’s a responsibility to see the suffering–and to get on our knees. 1 Timothy 2:1 simply states: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.”

Not just all Americans. Not just all Christians. Not just the ones who live down the street and can easily be helped on our way to work. All men.

Former Ukraine football international Oleg Luzhny said in an interview with CNN, “Everyone is scared about war. They are very nervous. It’s scary for the children, for the adults, for everyone. I hope the world can see what is going on and will speak out.”

It’s not your problem or mine–or so they tell us.

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But knowledge is power. So is the written word. So is speaking out or getting involved. So is learning about the things that affect schools and homes and villages across the sea.

And so is getting on your knees, not as a sympathetic American–but as an empathetic brother or sister in Christ.

 

Sources:

‪www.marconews.com

‪www.cnn.com

‪www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk

‪www.mirror.co.uk

‪rt.com

www.ktvu.com

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/03/world/europe/ukraine-crisis-fight-over-facts/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

 

A viral post serves as good Sunday reminder

In case you needed a reminder today of something that matters most, here ya go.

I usually don’t share things like this, but I had to share this one. May we all strive to be a little kinder, a little more gentle, a little more mindful of one another.

Just click the link below.

“The Incredible thing an 8-year-old did for a soldier will be remembered for a Lifetime.”

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Happy Sunday,

Kayla Lemmon

The difficult side of joy

I’ve come to realize that I’m very indecisive. So indecisive in fact that I could barely decide if I was. But just this week I decided. I’m indecisive. And I decided something else– It was keeping me from joy.

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I didn’t want to write this post at first because 1) I didn’t think anyone else had this problem. And 2) It seemed like too simple of a concept. But it wasn’t until a conversation I had with one of my best friends the other night that it occurred to me that maybe I’m not alone in thinking there’s one side to joy. I think many of us forget that one side of joy is more rewarding than the other–because we can choose it.

I told my friend a couple nights ago that I’ve officially decided to make changes–to take leaps of faith–and decide to dictate my life and choose to be happy instead of letting life just happen the way it wants. “Well…isn’t that the point?” my friend said.

And it is. But sometimes we don’t get the point until later on in life. Some people never get it.

See, I’ve always been a positive person. Not many people see me without a smile *unless it’s 4 in the morning– because I am NOT a morning person*. I always laugh off problems and I’m a master at sweeping things under the rug and only lifting the rug to inspect the mess when no one else is around and I’m free to sulk on my own and fester in worry. I have a knack for tending to other people’s problems before my own and this very blog post will come as a surprise to nearly 95 percent of my friends. BUT alas–it is true. I sometimes forget that joy is two-sided. And that it can indeed be difficult to choose it.

The first side of joy, I’ve come to find, is the joy that happens to you.

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It’s the birth of a baby. That promotion you’ve been crossing your fingers for. It’s the day where everything is going right, the sun is out, it’s a friday, and the paycheck was good. It’s the moment when you get a phone call from your best friend or you buy your wedding dress and take a look in the mirror. THAT side of joy happens to you without any effort. And it’s our favorite kind. If you deny that–well, I’m pretty sure you’re either lying or you’re just a saint.

Then–there’s the other side of joy. The joy we choose.

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This is the side of joy, I’ve come to find, that can be difficult. It’s difficult simply because it doesn’t exist unless you decide to create it. This is the kind of joy that comes after a year of agonizing through a job you hate and finally deciding to quit and take a leap of faith that another job offer across the country will be better for you. This is the kind of joy that happens after you lost the person you love the most and all you want to do is watch Netflix in bed–but you decide to put on your shoes and go visit someone who’s sick. This is the kind of joy that happens when NOTHING is going right about the day, the paycheck is small, it’s a Monday, the car broke down, the baby won’t stop crying–and you decide to just BE happy anyway, laugh, and take note that the roses in the front lawn have just started blooming. This is the kind of joy that happens when you break free from an oppressive relationship–scared to be alone–but deciding it’s time to make a change. This is the difficult side of joy, and not just for indecisive folks like me.

It’s difficult to choose joy I think, because as humans we have that famous catchphrase that “Life happens” or “You-know-what happens” *Curse word not included*. And in turn, we let it happen–and we become these objects that are just acted upon over and over and over, tumbling and bruising and drifting. We easily fall into a sense of security with just letting the day pan out the way it may and reacting to everything simply because we’re not letting anything react to us.

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I don’t know about you–but I decided I’m not an object. 

I decided I need to–And YOU need to– start deciding more frequently that life is too precious to live under the authority of paychecks, commitments, fear of change, insecurity, opinions of others, or the whims of chance.

We weren’t created to be acted upon.

In 2nd Nephi 2:25 it clearly says: “Men are that they might have joy”. I’ve heard that scripture a lot. But I never realized until recently the big fat “MIGHT” in the sentence. It doesn’t say we will have joy. It doesn’t say we are given joy. It says we might have it.

But the stipulation is us.

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We’ll have joy if we decide we’re worth it. We’ll have it if we aren’t afraid of change. We’ll have it once we simply decide that it’s what we were created for after all. We’ll have it once we put effort into the gospel and time into those we love. We’ll have it once we realize that we write our own story and can choose what becomes the conflict and when the page can just simply turn without a second thought.

I realize that there are situations where it can be hard to choose joy. Chemical imbalances, mental illnesses, PTSD–and a multitude of other problems and ailments can change or alter the way one thinks or responds. And I’m thankful that there’s help for those kind of situations. I’m not minimizing the pain and frustration that come with that. But with the proper help or medication, there comes a point where you regain the ability to choose again.

We were all given that ability as soon as we came into existence.

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We come into contact with so many decisions every day. What to wear, what to cook for dinner, what to do first on a busy to-do list at work, what time to show up at the meeting, what to say to that sour-faced cashier. And we do it–even easily most of the time. But we often skip out on the choice to have joy. And that’s the most important choice of all today.

So, why not make the choice? As my friend would say–Isn’t that the point?

My husband wasn’t my first choice

In just a few days it’ll be the two-year anniversary of this day:

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It was one of the best days of my life when my husband got down on a knee in the middle of an Idaho winter and chose me to be his wife. And tonight, nearly two years later, I’ve run into some old pictures and some crumpled up notes–and all the while I hear my husband in the kitchen banging around pots and pans as he attempts to clean a messy kitchen– still here by my side two years later. Phew. We made it here *I know, not the longest marriage in the world, but it’s something*. Through some of the hardest challenges–the most uncomfortable months of combining belongings, sharing covers, mixing finances, spiraling through two major deaths together, crying over stupid things and learning our way through hours of silent treatments…We made it here…we’re making it through the next “part” of it. But how?

The how of it all has been on my mind for a good week now. I couldn’t figure it out. Not until I found this tonight.

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And that’s when I realized the secret. My husband wasn’t my first choice. And that’s how we make it.

I wrote this in the back of my old set of scriptures years ago. It was long before I met Matt in the middle of a crowded Mexican restaurant in Idaho. Long before I dated all the wrong guys and cried over break-ups that wouldn’t matter. Long before I realized I WASN’T going to grow anymore, contrary to my hopes, *so 5 foot 2 would have to do*–but l did have plenty of growing up to do on the inside. Long before I changed course half a million times and made a hundred bad decisions that taught me the best lessons. All I knew all along was I chose God first. And with that choice, no matter what, I was at least getting there. I was making it. I was becoming.

On that winter day two years ago when Matt held out a ring I decided it would work simply because I didn’t put him first. Oh and here’s another shocker–I wasn’t first to him either. Heavenly Father always took the driver’s seat.

It seems like an unromantic notion, really, when I first say it. It’s not the usual lovey-dovey blogging style…or any kind of style really. But whether you’re single, dating, engaged–newly married or have been married for fifty years, it applies to you too.

If God isn’t your first choice, all other choices will disappoint.

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If I didn’t know the loyalty of a kind Father in Heaven, I wouldn’t know how to spot out that great quality in Matt–or even more importantly, how to expect it for myself. If I didn’t feel beautiful simply because the Lord expresses how beautiful I am throughout the scriptures, I might not believe it when Matt said it for the first time. If I didn’t know how it feels to try and faithfully follow the commandments of God, even when it meant losing friends or staying home alone on a friday night, I wouldn’t ever know what it takes to faithfully stand by a husband, even when it’s easier to walk away.

Loving God teaches every other kind of love, simply because it’s the strongest relationship you’ll ever have.

Years ago, on an old couch in the center of an apartment living room, my bishop at the time had come over to visit me when I had gone through a broken engagement. As expected, I was feeling sad. But worse than that, I was feeling worthless. I thought I’d lost everything. I had forgotten for a moment what I had learned quite a while before that.

“What people tend to forget,” my bishop said quietly that day, “is that we aren’t supposed to wait for the right person. We’re supposed to become the right person. Once you put God first, everything else will get straightened out.”

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And he was right. He’s still right, even now, years later, in this little apartment in Washington, hundreds of miles away from where I learned to love God before anything else. Pictures scattered about my crossed legs, remind me once again of that choice.

It’s not an easy choice, either, for anyone. It’s easier for a teenager to give her heart, soul–even her body–to a boy who will soon fade into a memory and leave her with nothing. It’s easier to stay with a man who abuses and cheats and lies simply because he’s the only “love” you’ve ever known. It’s easier to search for someone to fill the void rather than realize the only void we’re ever born with is the void that exists before coming to know the Creator again. It’s easy to make our first choice something other than God, and then watch everything crumble on a foundation made of sand. I’ve quickly learned over the weeks and months (and now years) that if Matt were my first choice–we couldn’t possibly make it. I realize it more and more as I watch relationships around me struggle and young girls get pregnant and left behind and women act as contestants on a reality show boasting a single bachelor–teaching women that the key to finding yourself is finding the love of a man.

But it’s not. And it breaks my heart that the lie is so rampant. It hurts me that I once believed it too.

Choosing God first is a decision that has saved my marriage–and my life.

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It gives me an escape. I can get on my knees when a fight erupts to ask for help on an issue. I can have the trust to forgive Matt or myself of anything that happens along the way in the marriage simply because God forgave me first, long ago when he sent the Savior. I can gain the capacity to love–even when my husband is hunched over a toilet, sick as a dog, or gripping the steering wheel in less-than-attractive road rage moments–all because God loved me unconditionally from the start. And I can have more gratitude for all the little things he does every day to make me feel special–doing the dishes, making me laugh after a hard day, even when he doesn’t feel like laughing–things that are easy to overlook.

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But THAT is how marriage works, I’m coming to learn. Even with my little experience and my young, *sometimes naive* rationale–I’ve come to learn at least that these first couple of years.

And I’m coming to realize how fantastically romantic it actually is–despite what the world fakes–to say that my husband wasn’t my first choice. That I chose to love God long before I knew Matt’s name.

And because of that one decision…choosing to love my husband every day is an easy choice.

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Time doesn’t heal all wounds: The loneliest part of grieving

You shouldn’t be grieving anymore.

I’ve been telling myself that a lot in the bathroom mirror lately.

And some well-to-do people have told me that in their eyes lately when they ask me if I’ve been feeling better and I suddenly feel obligated to say yes, I’m doing just fine.

Grieving is a lonely business–especially when enough time passes to convince everyone around you that time has healed the wounds. I’ve never faced it before–not like this.

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My Dad has been gone almost three months now. If you’re new to my blog–my Dad died of cancer in December, and it still feels like it just happened last night. I know that doesn’t seem long at all as I sit here and type this, but there’s an unseen push to just “be better, darn it”. The sting of the first shock has worn off for those around me. I don’t visibly wear the death in my eyes anymore. I don’t put my head down at my desk or file for bereavement time or look toward the date on the calendar that’s set for a funeral. It’s done. Everything is done.

Except for the pain.

Maybe you’re at that stage too–months, maybe years, after someone you love leaves your life because of death or divorce or time in the service. And a world that once stood still to honor the “much understood” tears is now in full motion again, expecting you to be alright. YOU expect you to be alright. But in some ways it feels like it’s getting worse and worse and you’re more and more alone in the pain that you’re no longer allowed to constantly share.

At least that’s how it feels for me.

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It’s scary to put my thoughts–vulnerable thoughts, at that–out there on the line. But I started this blog with the intention of sharing every part of this journey we call life. And this is an ugly part of it.

 

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, I’ve realized. Time just changes them.

Time transforms how you have to deal with the wounds.  Time makes it easier to wait to cry until you get in the car. Time gives you some “good days” where you can better turn toward positive things or enjoy a good time or distract yourself with work or church activities. Time makes it easier to get dressed in the morning and put on makeup without having to re-apply the mascara three times. But time doesn’t heal it.

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There was comfort almost in knowing that everyone knew at the same time that I was grieving my Dad. There was a subtle comfort in the sympathy cards that came in stacks in the mail and the phone calls and text messages. I didn’t think so at the time, but now, as the cards stop and the calls stop and the nights become a little quieter–pain becomes more raw because there was a comfort in knowing that everyone knew. People had their minds on my Dad.

Last night on my way home from work I flipped on the song that Dad dedicated to me and my family before he died. In the song (Compass by Lady Antebellum) there’s a line that says, “When it’s all said and done, you can walk instead of run. Because no matter what you’ll never be alone.”

And just like that, I decided that walking is best for me.

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And I have to stop trying to run to the finish line. Because at this point, I don’t even know if there is a finish line to this.

But how do you walk? How do you give yourself the mercy and the grace to say, “You know what, I’m still not ok. And that’s ok.”

I turned to my scriptures for help, just like I had when my Dad took his last breath. And I subconsciously turned to Gethsemane. Because right now, that’s where I’m sitting. My friends who surround me seem to be fast asleep at times–there with me and good-hearted, but unknowing. And in the darkness I’m on my knees with the Lord. 

And the first thing I read was John 17:9 when Jesus, completely and utterly alone and bearing the pains of every single broken heart that would ever be, began a prayer that included, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine.”

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(Painting by Liz Lemon Swindle)

In those moments in the garden–moments where the Savior faced the beginning of the most unimaginable pain to ever be felt within the earth’s history–he decided to pray for you. He decided to pray for me. His disciples. He didn’t just feel the pains of grief right when it strikes. He felt the dull ache of grief after months and years pass–the ache that gets locked away and festers in a lonely heart. He felt, in the moment, how it feels to wake up from a dream where they’re alive again–only to lay very still while looking at the ceiling and realizing that it wasn’t real. He felt it all– and in that moment he prayed.

This isn’t a pity party. It’s not a call for extra visits or more sympathy cards. I just have a feeling that I’m not alone in the stage of grief that isn’t openly talked about merely because of the stigma that things should get better within a set amount of time or “you have a problem”. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who wonders why “time” hasn’t held up his end of the deal. And I’m pretty positive that I’m not the only one out there trying to be the “strong one”, only to beat myself up when that doesn’t work out as planned.

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But I’m trying to remind myself of the simple truth that the Savior of the world went on his knees for me. In lonely darkness he pleaded for my heart to be healed. And in a way no one else will ever understand…he understands.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, I’ve come to figure out. You will too, if you haven’t already.

But I’m glad to know who does.