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.

Believe it or not, Valentine’s Day is for you too.

Today is the day my mom has been dreading for two months to be exact.

She never hated it before–but she decided she hated it this year. She decided that as soon as Dad took his last breath.

And I never thought about it before, not like I did until this year, how Valentine’s Day is for people like my mom. And maybe for people like you, if you’re out there somewhere reading this and simply feeling lonely. I think sometimes we forget that.

We get caught up in the flowers, the chocolates, the romantic dinners by candlelight and the love songs that plague the radio stations on this special day. We tend to put a label on Valentine’s Day as the day for lovers. And it certainly is for that, too. I love romance *and highly recommend it* for all you lovebirds out there. But I also want to reach out to the lonely tonight. You know who you are. You’re the divorced mother who’s sitting alone on a couch tonight as her babies are asleep upstairs, eating chocolates from a box you bought for yourself. You’re the older gentleman who just lost his wife to old age–and now a picture on the mantle keeps you company. You’re the teenager who just got her heart broken for the first time and the world is a little bit grayer today. YOU are the one who Valentine’s Day is meant for too.

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Today, before I went to work, I decided to visit my mom. To bring her flowers just like my Dad would have. My sister had the same idea–and I was proud of her for recognizing the true spirit of Valentine’s Day. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. Not at all, actually. The only reason I’m writing this tonight is because I know there are people out there who feel like this isn’t their day. They could sleep through it and probably feel better than they do right now. But it isn’t true, so don’t let the Hallmark cards tell you something else.

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I know that there are multiple histories and backgrounds and definitions revolving around this candy-heart holiday. But I think the one that stuck out the most to me is the word Valentine, which means (for one definition) “a token or gift given to a loved one, often given anonymously”. You have so much love to give. No matter what your position and no matter who has walked in or out of your life, you always have love. Sound cheesy? Well it kind of is. And sometimes cheesy things are true. And you also always have someone who loves YOU. You might not have a spouse or a significant other tonight. But you may have babies, children, friends, a next door neighbor. If you don’t have that, you have the Savior. Always the Savior.

You are loved and important and cared about and you ARE a part of a day reserved for love simply because the Savior–who gave the ultimate “token of love” to ALL his loved ones–sent the greatest Valentine when he decided to give his life in order to remind us of our worth and the eternal love he showed for us while on his knees in the garden and hanging on a ragged cross. THAT’s the Valentine you received today–and every day for that matter. Because it honestly holds more worth than the “Be Mine” boxed chocolate at WalMart.

Your valentine for today? John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (*for you*), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (words “for you” added)

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(card my sister gave to my Mom today)

Valentine’s Day–Love in general– IS for the lonely. The recently-rejected. The grieving. The bitter. The one stuck at the office. The couple married for 56 years. You.

It’s for you simply because Christ decided you were the “valentine”.

He’s addicted: And it’s your problem too

I struggled starting this blog post.

I struggled because it’s been a personal battle within my mind from previous experiences and pains and heartache. But I couldn’t not write it..

It’s the topic of actively helping those who are addicted to pornography.

The topic is hot on the press right now, especially after President Kim B. Clark of Brigham Young University-Idaho (the school I attended) caused a stir among bloggers and social media after a talk he gave called “Wounded on the battlefield”. After that talk a video was released.

Watch it here: Wounded on the Battlefield

I’m not going to go into the depths of why people find this bizarre or why bloggers are pounding out long posts about how we shouldn’t live to be tattle-tales and that watching a few inappropriate things are in no way comparable to a bleeding soldier in need of care. I’ve already wasted enough energy thumbing through comments and forums where almost every single person defends pornography and sneers at the fact that it’s an addiction–or an addiction that needs outside intervention.

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Today I’m here to only write about why this message from President Clark is true.

And I only know this because for so long I didn’t think it was my problem. I knew pornography was a problem–I felt it in my gut when someone I love so much became addicted. His eyes were different. He became withdrawn. It became such an addiction that he took less precautions to do it secretly–and people found out. But even realizing his family was hurt–or that I was hurt–he kept going. It wasn’t because he didn’t love people. It was because he needed it now. Much like a drug or a drink of alcohol or a blade cutting the skin–it was a feeling that needed to be satisfied in order to function.

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But I didn’t see it that way. I saw something that was disgusting and vile and suddenly labeled HIM as disgusting and vile. I became self-conscious when he looked at me, almost afraid to make eye contact. I didn’t want to be around him often and I even stopped praying for him. I was hurt that he didn’t seem to care. I was hurt that women had to be horrifyingly vulnerable victims in a man’s lustful world. I started to have a hard time with dating–were all men like that? I turned away from a bleeding comrade and essentially left him to die.

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But why would I do that? Over the years I’ve come to realize I wouldn’t turn my back on him if I knew he snorted crack every night. For Heaven’s sake, no. I wouldn’t dance around the topic with him if I saw ugly scars from razor blades all across his arm or if his eyes were sunken and his rib cage transparent from anorexia. So why would I turn away from this?

Pornography is an addiction.

I’ve interviewed doctors, medical professionals, and therapists in the past while doing news stories who all claim pornography is physically damaging to the brain– much like heroin even. It can diminish relationships, cause women to become objectified, and lead to thoughts *or actions* of rape, sexual abuse, or violence.

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It’s a tragedy when it introduces itself like a venomous snake across a computer screen or in the folds of a magazine. It’s a tragedy that our sons and brothers have to pass by a gigantic wall of a woman’s chest outside Victoria’s Secret every time they walk through the mall. It’s a tragedy when the heroes in the movies are the ones who have an armful of women that they can use without any recourse.

But the bigger tragedy is when we refuse to see it as what it is and we turn our backs on those who need us most.

I know how easy it is, especially as women, to say “Well, it’s not my problem. It’s his.” Sometimes turning away may include divorce, unfriending, or just sitting in shameful silence when he’s behind a closed door. I’m not saying that there may not be a point when divorce or walking away is an option–sometimes for personal safety that’s what some women have to do. I respect that decision and won’t speak against it.

But for the most part, in most circumstances, I’ve also learned over time that it was my problem all along simply because I loved him. It’s my responsibility to speak up–to point to the snake with its fangs in his throat–to stand up and initiate help. The Savior bears every single burden–every single sin–every single shadow that wrestles for our heart. What need have we to do the same for those we love?

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(Oil painting by Greg Olsen)

Galatians 6:2 simply states: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Since the Lord has counseled me about this struggle I have–this struggle of hating the sin on that computer SO much that I immediately despise the hand on the mouse–I’ve had plenty of opportunities since to right the wrong. I’ve had a close friend come to me and tell me he has the same addiction. I’ve had people in my life who I’d die for tell me it was an addiction at one point in their past. And more and more, as I work on it, I’m better able to kneel down to that fallen comrade and press my hands against the open wound while yelling out for help. More and more, I’m aiming to remember that the problem of a brother or sister in Christ is mine too.

I realize this is an unpopular belief. It’s not exactly comfortable to talk about and for some young men or even young women, it’s a topic that makes them defensive. Because the hardest part in any addiction is admitting that it’s an addiction. It’s also a topic that can be embarrassing for both sides. I remember not wanting anyone to know that someone I care about is dealing with it. I was a master of disguising shame.

But light is a better friend, I’ve learned. Light heals. Light exposes. Light changes.

Be that light. And “don’t be silent”.

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The war of distraction: And why we’re losing

As I write this I’m distracted.

I’m distracted because this is the world I live in. This is what I’m used to.

At the bottom of the page I see a blinking Facebook notification. I keep looking down at it until I’m tempted to see who it is or what they said. I guess it’s THAT important.

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I’m distracted just like the two kids in front of me in the lounge of this YMCA who have coloring books spread out on their laps but their hands work vigorously at a small game console. Headphones keep out the sounds of the other children in the pool behind them. We meet eyes briefly before they go back to their game and I go back to this white screen…with that darn blinking Facebook icon again.

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I’m distracted because there’s a TV hanging from the corner of the room and they’re talking about the Superbowl. I’ve seen the interviews before but my eyes are still drawn to the players, even though there’s no sound. But it’s something to watch. A young guy in the corner stares at it blankly. Distracted.

So suddenly what I was going to write about doesn’t matter as much now—not as much as this does.

Our world is too distracted. And it’s killing us without us noticing. It’s a war we’re losing.

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We don’t notice because, well, we’re distracted.

We’re sedated by flickering televisions and abstract games that plunge our minds into a reality that doesn’t exist. We’re tranquilized by “walls” and “profiles” and “friend” lists that suddenly define who we are and our importance more than what we do outside of the screen. We’re lulled to sleep by the buzz of media, movies, gossip magazines, chat rooms, text messages, and Candy Crush marathons. Slowly and surely Satan is making sure that our precious bodies and minds are stupefied and no longer needed for contentment.

I think about the days—not even that long ago *although it seems like it to me*—that running barefoot to the neighbor’s door in the summer and asking if “Johnny can play” was the usual way to make friends. Not friend requests. I think about the days when a boy would have to pick up the phone and call a girl, asking her on a date—not when a text message could mindlessly be punched out and sent. Can you remember the days when family dinners were spent around a table where you could see everyone’s eyes, not their foreheads as they checked blinking phones?

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I can still remember it. But my children won’t be able to. And that hurts me to think about.

I often wonder if Heavenly Father toiled over the fact that one day scriptures wouldn’t be “entertaining” enough to read. That it’d be dry for those who are used to slaying dragons over an X-Box or watching a segment of “Who wore it best?” after an hour or two of an awards show that holds no real importance whatsoever. Did that cause him pain? But of course he knew it’d come. The cunningness of Lucifer knew that a good way to trap anything is to rock it to a blissful, distracted, pleasured sleep where the body is completely unused.

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When I was in college at BYU-Idaho one of the first devotionals I attended was with Elder Bednar–a leader in my church. The talk is titled “Things as They Really Are”. I’ll never forget something he said that day back in 2009. It was the voice of warning.

He said, “If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication.”

Wake up.

I say this with a kind of realization—a realization that I need to wake up more too.

Look around.

Participate more in a real world that still has real sunsets and real people and real adventure. Read books that teach something you can walk away with. Turn off the radio and talk to God for awhile. Turn off the phone long enough to share a dinner with your wife.

Don’t let the world rock you to sleep.

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**Writer’s Note: After reading some comments, I wish to write a disclaimer that I do not believe that all technology or social media is inherently evil. Not at all. Without technology, I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t be employed any longer since managing social media and writing is what I do by trade. And I couldn’t connect with those I love who live thousands of miles away. Technology can be a blessing. But in this post, I wished to reflect on all-consuming habits and distractions that take away from life or face-to-face communication or activities. Thanks for reading!

Women in the home are exceptional: A letter to a feminist blogger

Dear Amy,

I read your blog post yesterday.

This one, to be exact: “I look down on young women with husbands and kids and I’m not sorry”.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I was stunned. I read almost every comment on your blog and I know for  sure that I’m not alone in the category of “jaw-dropped-women”. But before you click out of this post and think this is just one more hateful monologue about your writing–let me first say this. Just a few years ago, I agreed with you. I’m ashamed to say it now. But I won’t deny it. I believed the lie. And let me tell you, in a kind way of course, why it’s in fact a lie.

As you can read from my biography and as you can see from all my social media platforms–I’m a career woman too, just like you. It’s always been in my blood. Like you, I get a thrill from traveling. I live off of the adrenaline that pumps through my blood under deadlines. I’m a busy bee–a workaholic at times, even. And I enjoy tackling challenges, probably like you do. And just like you, I’m a writer.

me working

And much like you express in your letter (though I wasn’t exactly as heated about the topic) I tended to wonder why not EVERY woman wanted opportunity to step out into the world and take it in her hands and mold it into the shape she wanted. Why didn’t every woman want to get a degree and climb corporate ropes and BE something valuable and highly-esteemed? I didn’t want to disappear. It wasn’t that I looked down on women in the home, I just didn’t want to be that woman.

You said in your post, “You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids”. And within a young mind, I believed that because that’s what the world whispered to me. Rise above your gender roles, it said to me.

pregnant

But then, I started my career. I bought my own groceries and I paid my own bills. I had viral blog posts *like you* and I had plenty of bylines to stack up my resume.

But you want to know something? I noticed that at the end of the day, when the stories are written and the projects are done–all I want is to come home and talk to my husband. The “ball and chain” people speak of makes life exceptional. At the end of the day, before I go to any CEO or big-wig director with a concern, I’ll go to my mom. Because she created an exceptional life for me. She is exceptional.

my mom

During visits to see my nephews and nieces and holiday functions (that I actually get off from work), I watch my sisters-in-law with awe as they carry a baby on one hip and wipe sticky goop from a toddler’s hair with another, all while carrying on an intelligent conversation with the rest of us. They are exceptional to me.

emily and kids

My greatest teachers in my life never stood at the front of a boardroom. They waited at the bus stop for me. They gave me cough medicine at 3 in the morning. They married me at an altar and promised to put up with my not-so-nice days. They held me when no one understood and they worked odd jobs and sacrificed it all to stay home and make sure I had after-school snacks and help with my math. They raised my nephews and nieces with tenderness that taught me patience and compassion. They showed me what it means to live an exceptional life–what it means to be exceptional.

andy and kids

You say that “doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business”. I know how it may look like that, Amy. But I also know that when I threw up all over my sheets in the middle of the night when I was just 7-years-old and my mother woke up to wash, dry, and fold them right back over my bed, humming a song as she scratched my back and put me to sleep again, she was doing a work far greater than building any business. She was building me.

That is exceptional.

laundry

From the ones raising CEO’s to the CEO’s themselves–every moving part is vital to humanity’s progression. From the mother who wakes up nine times in the night to soothe a crying baby to the lawyer who falls asleep on a desk of work–the dedication and resilience is astounding to me. And exceptional.

As women we need to stand together, Amy. We need to remind the world of why mothers and wives and husbands and those within the walls of our homes help build nations. We need to stick together and cheer each other on for building families, building businesses, building futures, building homes and most importantly–building people.

walking on beach

We need to remind the world of the courageousness and importance of womanhood. That, my friend, is what’s truly and undeniably exceptional.

All my best,

A fellow blogger