It isn’t a sin to get mad at God

Here I sit in the early morning light and my whole house is still asleep except for me.

There is a decorative pumpkin already on the coffee table and a candle that smells like cinnamon. And every now and then a chill creeps in through the open window and reminds me that it’s that time of year again. Fall. And then winter. And the holidays.

And it makes it hard to write.

I love the holiday season–making ornaments in school out of macaroni and drinking cider at pumpkin patches and eating too much cranberry sauce and decorating the tree to Bing Crosby. But then last fall happened, and no matter what Dad had said, it still changed everything. This time last year Dad was coming home from the hospital. He decided to quit chemotherapy. He decided its ok to go home and die. And I decided that the changing leaves would never look the same.

hospital bed with dad

And it’s maddening.

So the other night I announced to my husband with teary eyes, “It’s been a year, Matt. And sometimes I am still just SO mad at God.”

It’s not that I have trouble believing in him. I’ve never really had that kind of trouble. And besides, how can you be mad at someone who isn’t there? No, the trouble I had with Him was figuring out why sometimes it feels like He turns his back. Like He’ll take away the best you have, He’ll let you scramble to make ends meet, He’ll watch as you pray for something that simply never comes. He’ll be silent when you demand answers. And like a child at her parent’s closed door, I weep. I stomp my foot. And then, “I hate you!” and storm off. 

fall time

You might wince at reading that. And it’s ok. There are many people who believe you shouldn’t EVER be mad at God, let alone hate Him. And part of me envies those people. Part of me wonders if I’ll ever get to that point where trials don’t make me shake a fist at the sky. And part of me wants to tell those people it’s ok. It’s ok to get mad at God.

So since Fall is making its entrance I’ve been thinking a lot about all of that this week. And it wasn’t until someone asked me a simple question that I’ve come to grips with something. The other day someone at work randomly asked me, “Kayla, you being a literature person, what do you think is one of the greatest love stories ever written?”

So I pondered *because I’m a literature geek* and thought through the hundreds of romances I’ve read so far. I thought about the plot lines so many of them follow–There’s a protagonist and by some event that protagonist falls in love. But the person the protagonist falls for is challenging. Sometimes forbidden or unreachable or unaware. The obstacles arise, including fights or misunderstandings or hurt along the way. But then the end always comes and somehow love wins out. No matter how it wins, it seems to. And the thing that makes it romantic? The protagonist always believed it would.

And it hit me.

I know the greatest love story ever written.

It all began with a protagonist who created light out of darkness and who formed love with his very hands. That protagonist loved so deeply that he let his great loves leave his presence and wander–for years–far away. Some of them decided they didn’t love him anymore. Some hated him. Some simply forgot. And there were others. Others who loved him. Who believed they’d be back with him. Others who had so much faith until the winds picked up and they blamed him for knocking them down. But the protagonist loved. Always loved. He even watched his own son die a horrible death to save the wanderers from a horrible fate. He wept and tore the skies open when his great loves were the hands to kill. Years would go by and he’d watch his great loves make up stories and theologies as to who he was. He sometimes waited to be talked to for a very long time. But he always waited and he always loved. Because out of every love story, He is the protagonist that loved the most. He’s the one who knew the end of the story and understood when those he loved hated him and asked “Why me?” He cried with them and laughed with them and he sat behind a closed door, his hand gently pressed against it, as his own child screamed “I hate you!”, yelling much too loudly to hear anything he had to say.

But He always loved.

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My heart gave out a little when I thought this all over the other day, and I still think about it now as another chill sweeps into the living room and makes my sleeping bunnies rustle in their cages.

God is part of the greatest love story ever written–and so are we. He has a deep compassion for us that we so rarely have for Him. It’s amazing, really.

It’s going to be natural to be the characters that wander. It’s in our description. It’s in the plot.

He’s going to understand when we struggle–because that’s what this world offers–and He’s even going to get it when we blame that struggle on Him. But He loves us through it all and keeps giving us new moments, new days, new opportunities to come back to Him and to find joy.

He understands that when we’re angry at him, we’re caught up in moments where we forget how much He loves us. And how He’s on our team.

mad at god

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things. And the greatest of all good things is God.”

The pages turn and I enter in to a new Fall. Some enter in to new lives after a big move or new, overwhelming schedules after a baby. Some are waking up to a new day without limbs or a new week without a job. One by one the pages turn and if we let it, we forget who’s turning the pages. We get angry at who does. And we forget that:

“God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God! For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.”

It isn’t a sin to get mad at God. It isn’t evil to stumble and wonder why. Look at Job. And Jonah. And Jesus himself, who thought for a brief moment that God had turned His back. But we must rise from it. We have to remember.

jonah

It takes faith to remember that as we scream and cry at the closed door there is a Father on the other side, forehead pressed against the door, eyes wet.

And He just waits.

Because only we can open it again.

 

 

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Forgiving Cain: And everything else we owe to the undeserving

In the past, challenges have usually turned my mind toward Christ. But something that just happened recently turned my mind toward Cain as well.

 

Yes, that Cain.

 

The Cain who killed his brother thousands of years ago and has his story shared over and over countless times in countless Sunday school classes and in between the yellowed pages of countless Bibles tucked on shelves all over the world. The Cain we talk about in direct comparison to his obedient brother—the surest sign really of a fallen world. The symbol of slipping beyond the forgiveness of an ultimately forgiving Heavenly Father.

cain

That Cain, in particular, has been on my mind since a couple days ago.

 

I got a letter from someone who hurt me pretty bad three years ago. I thought the damage was beyond repair. Actually, I was fairly certain that if I ever saw him again he’d have hell to pay. Out of all the people who had ever made mistakes in my life, offended me, or treated me wrong, they all fell short of the bitterness I tended to have pent up toward this man. Without rehashing the story, it was simply unforgivable.

 

But that was three years ago. Seasons changed. I grew and learned. And between then and now I learned the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn: That forgiveness is owed to everyone, even the ones who never ask for it.

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What a painful lesson that is to learn. It’s painful because you crave for justice to be served. For “I’m sorry” to finally be said. It hurts simply because you feel like you’re the only one bearing the cross. And for three years I’ve wondered ever so often why I had to give this man that forgiveness. Was it just so that I could move on?

 

Contrary to what the world says, the answer to that is no.

 

We’re commanded to forgive all men—not just the repentant ones. The commandment isn’t in place just so we feel better either. The forgiveness we give is mercy that we owe simply because Christ forgave us first–before we even asked for it.

on cross

I didn’t know the repercussions of that kind of forgiveness—the hardest kind—until I opened that letter. I never thought I’d hear from him again. In fact, for the last three years I’ve imagined him going through life without a second thought about me or the damage he caused. In a way I didn’t even care to hear from him again. But then the letter came. And it all made sense.

 

He asked for forgiveness. He asked, sincerely and deliberately, for me to understand that the hurt he caused had ultimately led to such suffering that his whole world began to fall apart. His faith was shaken—his family crumbled—he had fear that the blessings would never come.

 

And then—three years later—it was my duty, out of all people, to tell him that they would. That I already forgave him, long before he ever asked for it. That he was free simply because I was told to set him free.

 

But why? you might ask. Why should you forgive the woman who walked out on you or the man who beat you for years? Why should you forgive the father who drank too much or the stranger who ran the red light and killed your sister? Why should you forgive the church that kicked you out or the friend who betrayed you?

 

Why? Because you’ve been given grace too, even in your most undeserving of moments.

 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a leader in my church, once said: For our own good, we need the moral courage to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Never is the soul nobler and more courageous than when we forgive. This includes forgiving ourselves.”

 

We talk about Cain’s fall, his rebellion, his turning away from God’s voice and his unforgivable sins. But how often we forget that Eve—a mother stricken with grief for both of her lost sons—had to forgive too. Not even she was exempt.

eve

So neither are we.

 

Cain, in the pages of my Bible, reminds me of my obligation. So does the letter in front of me from a man that sat in the pages of my past. Because these aren’t just stories. These are reminders.

 

Father, forgive them.

 

Words always given to the undeserving. Words first given to us.

 

prisoner

 

 

To the mom who ‘has it harder’ than me: I’d like you to think again

To the mom who has it “harder than me”,

I have a confession.

As a blogger, I hate open letters.

I try to steer clear. But here I am writing one. I just can’t help it.

I feel that writing this to you is mainly for me anyway. Or for anyone who may—down the road—decide that what you taught me today is something valuable for them as well. It’s worth being talked about, don’t you think?

I met you last night, as I was ready to head home for the day. You and your husband weren’t too much older than I am and I was willing to stay an extra hour or so and help you out with what you needed.

During that extra hour we talked about the chubby-cheeked kids on your cell phone screen and we chatted about your husband’s job, which takes him away a lot. I listened to you tell me how you juggle it all and I complimented you for your strength.

You asked me if I had children and then—“well, are you going to?”

I hesitated sharing, but I told you no, and it might be a while before I do.

You didn’t pry.

I appreciated that.

We could easily be friends if I was on the other side of the counter.

money

But then today happened. You called me, pretty upset, because of a mistake that happened that I had no control over. I tried to resolve it and even felt bad that you had to drive a half hour to the nearest location to get things in order. Really I felt bad. And you had a reason to be frustrated. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter because we’re all warranted to get frustrated from time to time. It’s what you said after all of that.

“I know you don’t have kids, but not all of us get the easy life,” you said into the phone. “You wouldn’t understand how it is to be a busy mother. You wouldn’t get it, would you?”

When you first said that I think I said something about my manager taking care of it later. I think I hung up. I think I choked a little as I remained professional all the way to the bathroom. And that’s when I cried into the bathroom sink.

Why, you might ask?

Because you’re right.

I DON’T know what it’s like to juggle two kids. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn every which way by little hands and sticky faces. I don’t know what it’s like to have everything you have.

But I wish I did.

What you don’t know about me is my struggle with infertility.

tiny feet

What you don’t know about me is the fact that last night when you showed me that picture of your children a pain struck my heart and I absolutely loved hearing your stories about how you can’t get them to sleep in their own beds.

What you don’t know is there are battles unseen that I combat every day that you have been freely given.

What you don’t know, my friend, is that you happened to choose the very battle I wrestle with and tried to use it for …what? A discount? Justice? Some kind of “I’m right and you’re wrong” speech?

What you don’t know is that you taught me a lesson.

I went from crying in a bathroom sink to sitting down and examining the way I speak to people. I’ve been writing a list of all the things I’m blessed with that some might lack and all the things I might say that are insensitive to that fact. You made me think about me.

One of my favorite quotes is from Plato. Even thousands of years ago he seemed to just get it. “Be kind,” he said. “For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

stuggle

I’m deciding to be thankful for you today.

I’m thankful that I was able to sit back and examine the unkind thoughts I had toward you when you said those things—that I was able to realize you might be fighting a battle too.

Maybe you woke up in pain. Maybe a loved one is fighting cancer. Maybe you were up at two in the morning with a sick baby. Either way, there’s a battle I don’t know about. Just like my battle.

I’m thankful that the words that hurt me are now words that encourage me to look at my blessings—my great job, my writing, my fantastic family, my entourage of friends and mentors who teach me how to simply be better—and to remember that those things aren’t promised to everyone. The battlefield has all kinds of weapons…all kinds of dips and valleys and shadows that spatter over our lives and strengthen us in some capacity to fight in the war.

soliders

For you, it’s the sleepless nights and the messy minivan. For me, it’s the quiet nights and the spotless car that wouldn’t mind some Cheetos on the floor if it meant an extra set of little hands.

I needed to write this more than you needed to read it, really. So thank you.

Good luck in your battles, friend.

Because we’re actually in it together.

 

 

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.

jasmine

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.

snack time

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.

help with math

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?

mary

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.

with kids