Marriage took everything out of me

I got married young. And fast.

To some, that’s a bad combination. But it wasn’t to us. I was nearly done with schooling and he was somewhere in the middle, and it would be…well, perfect.

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But then I learned something. The part that romance novels and Hollywood and love gurus don’t talk about when you’re getting ready to be fitted for a dress and testing wedding cake. It was a truth that had me shocked and keeled over in tears when it first hit me. And I remember saying it out loud and watching his face from the bathroom door completely change as I said it.

“This marriage is taking everything out of me!”

Looking back on that night, almost three years ago now, I’m glad I realized it. I’m glad I learned that marriage does, in fact, take it all out of you and it never gives it back.

And you know what? I’m grateful for all those things that it never gives back.

But it took a while to be thankful for it. Because when you first get married you cling to all the things that in reality decays a marriage. The things that are comfortable. The things that make you right. The things that tell you this isn’t the fairytale you thought it would be and this is actually hard work.

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But looking back now, I can’t help but feel thankful for that night when I shouted that it was taking everything I had inside of me. Here I am now, sitting beside an imperfect man who stresses out over nursing exams and keeps his crusty cereal bowl on the nightstand, and I love him more than I ever have. Imperfections and all. And that’s because of the daily process of letting marriage refine us.

Marriage strips you of selfishness.

It robs you of impulsiveness.

It teaches you painful lessons of compromise and scolds you to pick your battles.

It brings you to your knees in prayer when your spouse is hurting and you suddenly realize your own heart hurts too.

It binds blind ambitions and prioritizes what matters. It makes you rethink your dreams and steals the dreams that suddenly hold no more weight in your heart.

It burns down the towers of bad habits and hammers out expectations that disappoint.

It takes it all out of you little by little.

But yet–three years later, and still on the beginning trailhead, I see that it gives back a whole lot more.

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I’m grateful for the woman that marriage made me into. I don’t think the old Kayla would ever allow myself the same grace to have a messy apartment every once in a while in order to take that extra nap I need. But Matt did. So I do.

I’m stronger now and more resilient simply because I chose to stay–to work hard–at something that was difficult. I got up from the bathroom floor and decided I wouldn’t quit this time around like I had quit so many things in the past. That Matt was worth it. And I carried that virtue into every detail of my life, working harder than ever before for things that are worth it.

I bite my tongue more, practicing kindness and love for people who often seem undeserving. I choose to redirect frustrations and calm arguments and we’ve chiseled away at all the rough edges that comes with learning how to work through the meaningless, “But I think I’m right” debacles.

I’ve learned to be a whole lot more spontaneous. From adopting bunnies from cardboard boxes to deciding one day to drive to the ocean “just because”, Matt has taught me to seize life by the reins. No need to pencil it in or be logical about it.

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I’ve learned to love. A lot. When I said “I do” I thought that was the pinnacle of it all. That I had reached the point where I understood what true love is. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single day is another lesson in how to love and it’s taught me so far that love isn’t given to you, it’s worked for and chosen.

Love is dirty laundry, two separate blankets on the bed to stop early morning tug-o-wars, netflix, make-upless faces, mascara on his dress shirts, texts to get milk after work, and lots of hugs after a long, bad day. Love is admitting you’re wrong, listening when you’d rather talk, and surrendering when you’d rather say the last word. It’s opening yourself up completely and letting everything fall out, letting your inner being be replaced by something that is refined and smoother and more equipped. Love is a daily choice.

I look back at my wedding pictures and smile.

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Such a beautiful day for so many reasons. It was the first day of the journey toward becoming SO much better together. I see two people who are just about to learn what love actually is. Two people who truly won’t give up, just like their wedding song stated. And I see a girl who eventually let marriage take everything out of her.

That’s all it really takes, after all.

Sure, we have miles to go. Years to go. Lots more lessons to be learned and lots of experiences to be had. We have children and moves and losses and celebrations and milestones up ahead. But I’m thankful we learned a lesson that some people, years and years in, still have yet to grasp. A painful lesson, but a rewarding one at that.

Marriage will beg to take everything out of you.

Let it.

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Motherhood is for everyone

Her name is Jasmine.

Actually I think her name is something else but she told me she likes to change her name every day for fun. I guess yesterday was a “Jasmine” kind of day.

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She loves the color purple. She wants to be a soccer star when she grows up.

She smiles all the time and pretends she’s a princess. And yet–life is hard for her.

Throughout the day I learned that Jasmine’s sister died, her mother can hardly take care of her, and she’s never met her dad. So she comes here after school to play, get help with math homework, and have something to eat.

I wasn’t sure what to expect yesterday when I went with my company to do volunteer work at a group home. But I certainly didn’t expect to meet Jasmine–or any of the other twenty-something kids who seemed to just blow in with the wind.

These kids come every day after school since they have nowhere else to go. They’re wandering souls not yet immune to the poison of a hard world.  My heart couldn’t help but break as I scanned the room that day. A group of teenage boys sat alone at a table playing a card game and erupted into laughter and playful jests as soon as someone won. A toddler sat on someone’s lap, his shirt soaked with apple juice. A group of young girls with braided hair and pink shoes formed a circle in a far corner, talking with their hands. So many kids. So many struggles. So little moms.

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And then, of course, Jasmine broke my train of thought.

“Do you have kids?” she asked me. I shook my head no.

“Well, you can be MY mom now!” she exclaimed during snack time.

And the words struck me.

Maybe it struck me because I’m not yet a mom–and because of medical reasons, it’ll be awhile before I am. Maybe it struck me because motherhood always went hand in hand in my mind with pregnancy, painting a new nursery, or driving a car strapped down with car seats. It never really struck me before that moment that I can still be a mom. So can you.

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It really is the most sacred calling.

I have a world against me on that opinion– I realize this. You might be too.

Bloggers, columnists, extreme feminists and modern-day thinkers join in a fight against motherhood. Motherhood is restricting, they’ll say. Motherhood is a 1950’s approach to oppressing women. Motherhood, some say, is for those women who don’t have any other ambitions in life or for those who wind up chained down. And with this line of thinking we slowly forget what being a mom even is. We forget that it’s all about reaching out to someone who needs it. It’s about selflessness. Mentorship. Nurturing. Compassion. God’s work.

I think back now to not only my amazing Mom, but the countless other women along the way who loved me, taught me, sacrificed for me, and wound up on their knees for me. They were women who had no children of their own, women who had quite a few mouths to feed at home, women who were young, women who were so old that I only remember them in my early childhood memories. They were women who taught me patience or music or writing well or faith in God. Women who stayed after school to help me with long division. They were strong, selfless, beautiful women consistently taking on the role of mother. Those are the women I remember.

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We aren’t called to live a life dedicated to ourselves. It’s never the reason we came. And I’m tired of living in a world where selflessness is equated with weakness.

Elder Holland once said in an address, The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.”

It’s always been worth it.

Eve understood this when she stepped out of Eden just so we could be born. Sarai understood this when Abraham told her their generations would be as numerous as the stars and she thanked God for it. Mary understood it when she rearranged her entire life and lost friends and a good reputation all to make way for the Savior. Jesus himself understood the value of motherhood when some of the last words he spoke were to John, asking him to take care of his mother. From the beginning of time we’ve been reminded of our responsibility to God’s children and the eternal principle of it. Why have we forgotten?

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Be the woman that changes everything for someone. Jasmine’s simple, childlike plea reminded me of the urgency of it all.

Whether you have six children or no children, whether you grew up in a home with a mother who loved you or a home without one present–be someone’s rescue, if only for a period of time in their lives.

Be someone’s mom.

Oh, and I promise you–it’s not old fashioned to change the world.

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Being a Mormon misfit: And why that’s totally OK

When I went to school in Idaho I loved a certain spot in the Rexburg temple in the waiting area of the baptistry. Each time I went there I sat right there–in that same spot– just because of a certain picture.

It was a painting of the Savior holding a little black sheep, right beside the pew in the back. I would stare at it and think about everything that it meant to me. Essentially, it seemed that I was actually the one in the Savior’s arms in that picture.

The misfit. 

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And if you’re reading this and you’re a misfit too–perfect. I’m glad there’s two of us. Or three. Or maybe even more than that. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not alone in the category of “Mormon misfits”. So welcome, friend.

How am I a misfit, you might ask? I simply don’t fit the conventional mold of what an LDS woman should be like, or I should say, what an LDS woman is often like.

I have a tattoo, to start. A huge one, actually, on my ribcage. I wasn’t always a member, and I have physical signs to show it–that also includes a scar on my bellybutton from a past piercing.

I work long hours while my husband goes to school and I have an “I want to be the CEO of every department” mentality *Well, I’m just a writer and not a CEO, but you get the point*

I can’t have kids right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the desire–it’s just the way my body works because of an ailment that can only be fixed with expensive treatments that we just can’t do right now. And it constantly hurts–like a bruise that just won’t go away because it keeps getting poked at.

I can’t sew. Like, at all. I can’t even hem a pair of pants. And during Relief Society craft nights I’m pretty darn useless. And I haven’t canned even one jar of peaches in my entire life.

I question pretty much everything. I’m not saying I’m a doubter–ok, sometimes I am, and that’s a downfall. But mainly what I’m saying is I’m the type of person who analyzes everything and tries to figure out why things are the way they are. I think that’s why I over-studied the history of the church and even went on a week-long church history tour where I spent over an hour staring out of the window that Joseph tumbled from. I just wanted to know and feel it for myself, not just hang on to the coattails of others.

I’ve never really fit in with Relief Society. I try–but it’s hard for me sometimes. I love the women, I do, and this isn’t me saying that I don’t. Actually, on the contrary–I find myself being overly critical of myself because I wish I could be more like them. They’re all so–perfect. At least in my mind, they are. They come in with their line of cute children on sundays like a mother duck and her ducklings, and they seem to know everyone and have time to make soup for all the sick members and cook for the missionaries every Tuesday night and do their visiting teaching every single month. Perfect Mormon women, in my eyes.

Anyway, I could go on and on with my list of how I’m so different–but I’m not going to turn this into a trilogy of me. But if you’re a misfit I’m sure you have your own lengthy list and together we could make a seven-book series.

But lately it’s been heavy on my mind–this whole black sheep thing. Because sometimes you just don’t want to be.

And just this last weekend when I forced myself to go to the Relief Society broadcast (and even the food and mingle get-together beforehand which is very un-Kayla of me) the nagging feelings were very prominent.

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I sat down at a table that on one half had sister missionaries and on the other half had mothers. The sisters chatted about investigators, school before their missions, and how tight the waist bands on their skirts have gotten while out on their missions and being fed all these good dinners. They’re cute girls–but I couldn’t relate much. So I decided to tune into the women on the right side of me. One woman chatted about how she could barely take a shower today because of her colicky baby and one said she couldn’t either because of the puddle of Elmer’s glue her son left on the carpet and another lady busily talked about her last C-section and how she thinks she’ll be induced in this next delivery. With my freshly washed hair and newly painted nails and absolute absence of any glue-smearing child, I decided I didn’t really fit in at the table.

But then the broadcast started. I chose a pew where I didn’t really know anyone and to be honest…yeah, I started watching it with a stink of an attitude. But that changed when Sister Reeves (The 2nd counselor in the General Relief Society) started talking.

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Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly pinpointed the sister she wanted to talk to, out there somewhere in the world, who just doesn’t fit in to the cookie-cutter mold of an LDS woman or family. I felt like everyone had stepped out of the chapel as she spoke. She spoke about wounds you might carry that make you wonder where God is, and the things in your life that separates you from the norm. And then she told a beautiful story of the Provo tabernacle that was gutted with flames earlier this year. After the horrific event, members started questioning why the Lord allowed it to happen. But then, at the General Conference following the fire, President Monson announced that that gutted tabernacle would soon be revamped and dedicated as a new temple of the Lord. People couldn’t believe it. Mouths dropped. But it was true. And just like with us, she reminded, sometimes the Lord allows the fire so as to make us into a beautiful temple.

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And then President Monson spoke–and he too, spoke to the misfit. Maybe not everyone caught that–but I sure did. He spoke about how everyone is in a different situation. Everyone has different journeys. Everyone is entirely different and sometimes takes a walk through the thorns. But no one is alone, for the Savior has walked the EXACT path you have, and continues to walk it, even now, WITH you.

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With my face in my hands, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love wash over me. In that moment, I felt the arms of Heavenly Father literally wrap around my little misfit self and remind me that I’m EXACTLY who I should be and that being a member of the church doesn’t mean I’m supposed to carve myself into an ideal “LDS woman” image. It means that I can be just as I am–scars, questions, lack of sewing skills and all–and add to the rainbow of color that this gospel stands for.

You don’t have to fit in. We aren’t called to be the same. Yes, we all follow the same straight and narrow path and there are commandments we all need to abide by in the same way–but we can still be different.

I’ve always known it, I guess, deep inside. But often the culture makes you believe something that isn’t really even there. There seems to be a phantom ideal image that lurks in the minds of everyone and makes them believe they just don’t fit. But it isn’t true. Don’t buy into that thinking.

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After all, as a member of the Mormon church, aren’t we really supposed to be misfits anyway? We’re supposed to think a little differently and all see the world a little differently, all the while on the same path toward salvation. I think sometimes we forget that–and that’s why we expect so much from others and ourselves.

As President Monson so sweetly said, the Lord has a specific love for you. Unique, different, beautiful, misfit you.

So, fellow Mormon misfit, come along this journey with me, because we all belong here on this path.

Bring your dinners that you often burn to a crisp, bring your lack of love for skirts, bring along your battle scars and wear them as a badge of how far the Lord has brought you, and bring questions and different perspectives that no one has acknowledged before.

Come along this journey, black sheep, and find comfort in the arms of the Savior of the world–the original misfit himself.

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