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.”

Image

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. 

Image

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.” 

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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. 

Image

Giving up on the quest to be extraordinary: And how it will change your life

My dad was an ordinary man.

He rose at dawn to go work at an ordinary job, tossing his lunch pail in the back of a maybe less-than-ordinary pick-up truck that lacked a solid floor on the passenger side. 

Image

He was quiet and attentive to conversations already begun–and he could pass through a room quickly without gaining much notice. He had a daily routine of reading the paper at half past six and watching every Seahawks game in his chair–it was only interrupted by play time with us kids–an ordinary hobby for many dads.

When I was a child I remember feeling sorry for my Dad. He mentioned he used to want to be a doctor before he decided it wasn’t for him. And in his youth he didn’t make much of a stir in his hometown newspaper or in sports–he just spent afternoons at the river’s edge with a fishing line and a can of worms. Ordinary things, really. 

Image

But me? I didn’t want ordinary. Not at all! I wanted to be extraordinary. I paraded around in dancing dresses, hosted backyard carnivals in the summer, auditioned for every school play, and dreamt of the day I’d see my name on a hardback book. I wanted to leave a positive legacy behind. I wanted to be ANYTHING but ordinary. And I loved my Dad so much–I used to cry that he could never be an important doctor.

And that mindset followed me well into my life. It wasn’t a mindset of pride or self-love. It was the desire to change lives and be known for something good–something special. But that desire, I’ve come to learn, is the desire of so many others who leave nothing behind except for a granite stone, piles of money, and bylines that quickly get shoved into archives. The desire to be great, if that desire is a sole purpose, will completely cloud over what really makes you someone to remember. But the desire to just live life fully and completely with love for people being your main purpose–THAT desire and THAT quest can change your life forever.

Image

As for my father with his “ordinary” life–I’ve come to understand the beauty of such ordinary things now, and the importance.

Since his passing, I’ve began to take notice of things he left behind. Ordinary things. Sifting through his things after his passing, I noticed old notebooks filled with notes from church sermons and past General Conferences–notes that he took to heart and lived. Notes he never shared.

My mother found stacks of receipts from his monthly tithing slips–tithing that she never knew he paid when she stopped going to church for a short time and he would sit alone in the pew every sunday.

Friends–from the job that everyone said he was “stuck in” for years and years–have filtered through the front door and across our social media pages, telling stories of a man with quiet faith, great love for those around him, and kindness. Always kindness. Even my father’s insurance agent from five years back called with tears in his voice, just to tell us that he’ll always remember Dad and the way he was so patient.

Image

Ordinary watches and worn-out wallets–thin from years of use–are now our flecks of gold. Yellowed photographs of summers at the river and tanned arms against a lawnmower are now precious heirlooms.

The ordinary, simple things that I once thought were like “every other dad”. But now, to me, are extraordinary. And he never tried to be.

Image

I think it’s easy, since we live in a world dedicated to proving how “special” we are or how “unique” we are, to measure ourselves at the end of the day by how many awards line our desk or how many nods of approval we get for special projects at work. But putting all of our efforts into that kind of journey distracts from the truly extraordinary. We shouldn’t give up on success within the world and careers we hold, of course–but we should also remember where true success lies.

Like being the mom that finger paints with her toddlers and doesn’t care that some hair dipped into the blue. Like being the friend that sits at the lunch table with the bullied kid in complete silence, just offering a presence. Like being the dad that works a 9 to 5 at a completely ordinary office and always makes sure to make every single ballet performance. Like being the artist that paints, that writes, that sings, that creates–just to make life more relatable, or more beautiful, for at least one person.

Image

How beautiful the world is when we count the little moments that make up our memories, our goodness, our friendships, our faith. How beautiful it is to leave behind something much greater than anything tangible, even while losing ourselves in ordinary tasks.

How beautiful that is. And how extraordinary. 

It really does matter where you come from

I read a little sign hanging in a window just the other day that really got me thinking.

It simply asked, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” If my research serves me correctly, that’s a quote from Danielle LaPorte.

I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately.

Image

Maybe it’s because just this last Sunday my baby nephew had his baby blessing during church service. With heads bowed we joined in prayer as his Daddy blessed him.

Dressed in an adorable white little outfit and looking out at us with wide blue eyes, the quote came to me once more. Simply because my nephew had just come from God’s presence. He had no biases, no strong opinions on worldly matters. He had no conditioned ideas of himself brought on by teasing classmates or snide co-workers yet. He hadn’t yet looked in the mirror, making assumptions about what people saw. He’s new. Untouched by the world–and untaught by it.

Image

But in time, he’ll grow. Just like we all do. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.

It wasn’t Heavenly Father’s plan to keep us in a tiny shell, unable to form words or beliefs. It’s His plan for us to grow, hit bumps in the road that bruise our knees, possibly grow so old until we wrinkle and smile without teeth, and to find joy in relationships that come along, and in hard work and sacrifice. And it’s also His plan for us to slowly remember who we are again and where we come from as we turn our minds to Him, so the giant circle can be completed and we can return to where my baby nephew just came from.

Image

Too many times I want to forget the past because it’s painful. Because *I know this all too well* I messed up. I fall into the thinking of, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter about then, it only matters who I am now.’ But if I take it back even further than that–I won’t find mistakes or missed curfews or those awkward middle school haircuts *yeesh* or those heartbreaking teenage years–if I take it back far enough, I’ll remember my divine heritage. I’ll remember I’m a daughter of a King and that I was sent here at a very particular time to fulfill my callings. It really DOES matter where I come from.

Because the world will tell you it doesn’t.

Image

The world, just like it will to my nephew eventually, will tell you that you shouldn’t be an artist because artists don’t make enough money. The world will tell you you’re fat when you see the stretch marks across your stomach that gave you your children. The world will tell you that you’re a nerd just because you’re extremely good with computers. It’ll tell you that you’re not very good at making friends so it’s better to just sit alone. It’ll tell you that with all the mistakes you’ve made, there’s no coming back now.

The world will lie.

I think back to days like these–this was my third grade class. (I’m the one with the thick brown bangs and my hands up…I know. Yikes.)

Image

We grew up together and eventually graduated together. I think back to the innocence that didn’t sort us into groups of “cool” “uncool” “smart” or “awkward”. It was a time when we didn’t let the world whisper into our ears and teach us about what makes someone pretty or successful or worth listening to. We were just kids–who somehow, deep inside–still remembered our divine worth.

And I think we can still remember now, even neck-deep in the sludge of words and scars and perceptions and false lessons. We get glimpses when we read our scriptures or fall on our knees to pray or hold our children. We have glimpses of memory that sustain us.

And I think that once we get a good grasp *even if it’s simply by faith* on where we’ve come from and who we really truly are–that’s when we’ll remember where we’re going.

And at that point–the world won’t be able to teach you any different.

I’ll believe what I want: And Phil Robertson can too.

When I write posts on this blog I avoid any talk about homosexuality.

I just don’t go there. You might think it’s because I’m Mormon. Or because I’m so passionate about it that I might just blow up and scribble hate speech all over the page. Not so.

The reason is actually because I have dear friends–and family–who are gay. And I love them. They’re some of the best people I know for darn sure.

But then, a situation arose that I just couldn’t brush aside. Phil Robertson was suspended from the show “Duck Dynasty” by A&E for expressing his opinion–and distaste– about homosexuality. You can read the interview here.

phil robertson

Was his opinion blunt? Sure. Was it a little coarse? Uh…yeah. Not the way I would have worded it, or you probably would have. But have you SEEN the show? It’s not exactly a walk through the daisies. These are rough-around-the-edges hunting men with their feet in swamps and their chins in dirty beards and their mouths running with witty off-the-wall comments. That’s the point of the entire show and it reflects the kind of people they are. But all of that bluntness, coarseness, and red-neckedness aside– it was his OPINION. And the last time I checked, our constitution protects that right. Right…?

As a Mormon journalist in Seattle I confront gay rights and gay movements ALL the time. I’ve written stories about it, I’ve walked right past parades in the city, I’ve sat next to people who LIVE the lifestyle. And I often get asked if it’s difficult to work in that kind of environment or face issues like that or interact with people like that who are so different than me. And the truth is, it’s not.

book of mormon

As a Mormon–actually I’ll go as far as saying as a Christian, since Phil and I have that in common–we’re called to stand true to our beliefs all while holding fast to the belief that we’re called to love. I love my gay friends for who they are–and in return, they love me for who I am. It doesn’t mean we agree on everything.

No, I don’t agree with homosexuality. There, I said it. But you could have guessed that from my religion.

Just like Phil expressed, I don’t personally feel that the practice of homosexuality is right or that it’s obedient to God’s laws. But having said that, I DO agree that everyone has rights to live in the ways in which they feel is right, even if that’s different than me. I may not agree with them, but I’ll love them. Because that’s what Christ would do.

holding hands

And just as I have the obligation to love and accept and give freedom to those who practice or agree with homosexuality–THEY have the obligation to afford that to me as well. I have the right, protected by this great country, to practice any religion I want and believe what I want and express whatever I want to say. If you get that right–then so do I. And so does Phil. Even if he does say it in a blunt kind of way or “hurts feelings”–it doesn’t matter. It’s his right to speak about what he believes–and he hasn’t committed any kind of hate crime while doing it.

opinion about gays

I’m tired of living in a society where it’s protected to speak out about gay rights and it’s socially acceptable to march in the streets with flags and voices raised in unison about marriage equality–but it isn’t acceptable to talk about God at work or to express a view contradictory to a politically correct stance or to say “Merry Christmas” because– Heaven forbid–the phrase has Christ’s name in it.

gay pride

Our country was built upon long-standing principles that protect you just as much as they protect me. If you’re Buddhist or Christian or Mormon or Athiest…if you’re supportive of the principle of homosexuality or you’re personally against it…if you’re pro-choice or pro-life…if you have a strong opinion about everything or little to no opinion at all–our constitution says you’re protected. Since when did that get so forgotten and smeared and erased that our people have become silenced?

That doesn’t sound like my country anymore.

Is it really land of the free and home of the brave…or land of the oppressed and home of the politically correct?

He knows how it feels to be sixteen

Well, it’s happened.

I knew it would.

Ever since my little sister was born, her perfect little self bundled up in a pink striped blanket and a little hat the size of my 7-year-old hand too-big on her head, I knew it would happen. One day, she’d grow up.

book to ash

 

And since I’m 7 years her senior and get the–honor?–of going through things before she does, I knew that one day she’d get her heart broken. Or that a boy would be mean. Or that someone would make fun of her and it’d be up to me to tell her they’re wrong. I guess I was just in denial that it would happen any time soon *or ever, really* because I just couldn’t handle it.

But yesterday, it did.

It’s a long story so I won’t get into it all (also because that’s her business), but part of it I suppose is my fault. I’m protective of my sister *like too much, maybe* and I saw something going on that was hurting her, and my entire family, as a result. An unhealthy situation, you might say. And now my sister is left with a broken heart. And in her words, “the world is ending”.

pumpkins

I remember that feeling. You probably do too. Or if you’re a teen–sixteen, seventeen, eighteen maybe–you probably know what that feels like right NOW. And if I’m correct, you feel like it’ll never get better. Life just…sucks. Right? And everyone can tell you that this isn’t your whole life, that time heals all wounds, that as you grow and learn and experience life, those wounds you’re experiencing now will feel like NOTHING ten years down the road. I mean, I tried to tell my sister that. But of course that didn’t work, because right now the world is ending. And how dare anyone say different?

I felt helpless watching my sister go through this yesterday because I love her more than life. But nothing could stop the tears. No one could convince her that she needs to keep herself safe and sometimes being hurt now saves you in the long run. And deep down, I knew nothing would work. After all, nothing worked for me at that age. I had to carry the illusion of the world ending–I had to cry into my teddy bear and write in my journal that I hate my parents. It’s just what happens while you’re growing up. But for us who look back on that time, we helplessly want to CONVINCE those teenagers that they’re wrong–it WILL get better, and it’s not that bad compared to what’s about to come later in life.

silly girls

And that’s when my former bishop came over to the house and talked to us and I brought up the subject. His response was simply, “How do you think Heavenly Father feels with US even, when he has a much bigger perspective?”

And right then and there, it hit me. Heavenly Father, our perfect and loving parent, has been through it all. He knows what it’s like to cry over a boy in junior high or feel the stab of rejection at prom. He knows how it feels to lose a job in your twenties or have a spouse cheat. He knows how it feels to lose a parent–or a child– or face a doctor when they tell you it’s cancer. He knows how it feels to get older or weaker or to start forgetting things. He knows how it feels to die. But more importantly–he understands the joy at the end–the growth through the journey– and the reason to all things, simply because he has the bigger picture.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” -Jeremiah 29:11

And how many times, through scriptures, comfort by the spirit, and revelations does he try to convince us, just like I tried to convince my sister, that everything will work out for our good? And just like my sweet little sister, we fail to believe it. Because we haven’t ever faced something so hard.

holding hands

I still go through those times, of course–especially now, while laying beside my dad as his breathing is getting more labored every day, or dealing with financial struggles or hardships at work–where Heavenly Father whispers to me that I will overcome. That he knows my struggles and also knows I’ll conquer them. But like a sixteen year old again curled up in my bed, I sometimes simply can’t believe it.

But I have to trust.

There’s nothing I can say to make my sister feel better right now. Because life is a process you just have to experience for yourself and overcome each day. It’s a small, teeny oh-so-tiny tiny glimpse of what Heavenly Father feels for us and the sorrows he must feel when we shake our heads and say, “No Father, this isn’t fair. It won’t get better.”

holding girl

Because it will. And he knows that, just like I know my sister will get better.

He knows our pain and he knows the joys to come.

And he knows, girls *and guys*, exactly how it feels to be sixteen.

The gift of a prophet: And why we’ll always need him

Right before General Conference started this weekend I recounted to my husband my first General Conference experience when I was 19. I told him about how I had notebook paper neatly folded in half to take notes–quotes on the left side and feelings on the right–and how my heart pounded in excitement to hear the prophet for the first time. *A bit over the top maybe, but it was awesome*

I love looking back and remembering how that felt–hearing him speak and give me direction for the first time.

All my life I had gone without knowing who he was or what a prophet was even needed for. And then, just like that, I suddenly knew I would always need him.

Over the five years I’ve been a member the excitement and fire has died down a little as I prepare for General Conference–yes, I still love that time of year when I can hear guidance from the pulpit–but of course, with time, I have gotten used to being under the direction of a living prophet. It’s just become a natural part of my life.

But then, this happened.

prophet with boy

A young boy ran up to the front of the conference center, and the prophet leaned down to take him by the hand.

And suddenly, I remembered it all. The excitement, the awestruck wonder–the amazing gratitude that filled my heart as I quickly jotted down notes. I remembered how blessed we really are to have a living prophet in this day and age–a man who is just as much a prophet as Adam, or Moses or Abinadi or all the others who went about God’s work and spoke truth. And just as much as this sweet little boy needs him who ran up to grab his hand, I need him. You need him. We all need him simply because in this broken world where we are overwhelmed with the noise and booming voices of those pointing us toward different paths, we need the voice of the Master–the voice we recognize as the tour guide down the right path.

I saved that picture of the boy as soon as I found it drifting around my newsfeed on social media, saving it as a reminder to myself that we will always need a prophet’s voice, and reminding myself to be more like that child. To trust and follow the spirit and elbow my way through crowds and doubt and opposition just to get to where I know truth and light is.

kids and jesus

Conference finally ended *It always seems to go by way too fast* and I found myself enjoying different blog posts and updates from members of the church who took away something from conference that aids them in their lives. And then, I stumbled across this. Now, I’m not trying to accuse the author or the New York Times of anything and a lot of what the author said in the article is true and well-written. I’m just going to relay how I became slightly saddened at how this article has circulated around the walls of friends and family and complete strangers who (in many cases that I’ve read) are suddenly questioning the authority and validity of our prophets and are suddenly crying out for reform. This article, along with some other things I’ve read, says it was told that the “church” makes mistakes. When in reality, President Uchtdorf and other apostles in the past have said that “people” make mistakes but the church and it’s doctrine is always true. But never ever was it mentioned that revelation, guidance, or inspiration is just told to us off the cuff and eventually may go down as error. His talk wasn’t a PR move to cover dirty tracks. On the contrary, it was said that although everyone is human, prayer, supplication of the Lord, and inspiration from the Lord goes into the preparation of the words given to the church.

Many of the quotes this weekend have been taken out of context.

“The prophet will never lead us astray” is something we hear a lot and it’s often misconstrued as meaning the prophet is a perfect divine being who can do no wrong. But that isn’t correct, as we’re all well aware. The reason the prophet won’t lead us astray isn’t because he’s infallible– it’s because the Lord won’t let him.

pres monson

This twist of some General Conference words this weekend have not only sparked articles, but has somehow given ammunition to movements within our own church, such as the Reform Mormonism movement. As I’ve delved into reading about these different organizations and writings it saddens me that suddenly the consensus is either that we don’t need a prophet OR that the prophet is just a really great teacher, but changing the church and seeking “pure truth” is a personal battle and one we don’t need a prophet for. It’s saddening. And it’s been a personal battle for me to see active, great members decide that the world’s loud, politically correct, “love means not having rules” voice is more worthwhile to listen to. Because it isn’t. And it never will be, even though I realize that saying that isn’t going to be popular.

We live in a time where good is called evil and evil is called good. We live in a time where it’s confusing how to vote or what stance to take when so many of us want to be kind and good and loving but certain mandates of the Lord are called intolerant or mean. We live in a time where it’s not popular to read books written thousands of years ago or to spend a whole weekend watching hours worth of talks by men and women whom most of us have never personally met. We live in a time where faith is synonymous with ignorance and declaring something as a sin before God is somehow declaring that we aren’t being Christlike. It’s a scary time.

And because of this, I thank God for a prophet.

teaching about prophet

I thank God for little children who nudge their way down an aisle of a conference center to touch the hand of the person they know with all their heart counsels with the Savior. I’m so grateful we have personal revelation as well as revelation from God’s mouthpiece, just as it was thousands of years ago. It’s evidence of God’s unending love.

The world is changing and ideas are reforming and of course it’s okay to seek answers and go on that personal journey toward truth. I also realize that we sometimes are given revelation from the mouths of prophets that revolutionize how we’ve been doing things for a long time–such as missionary age. But we wouldn’t have been given that inspiration that has amped up mission efforts without the voice of a prophet, for example.

I’m personally glad that the majority has clear minds and hearts that wish to do good and seek truth and have personal inspiration in their daily lives.

But let us never forget that we need a prophet, friends.

And let us never forget what a gift it really is to say that.

Cyberbullies: the “friends” you invite inside

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.

He created water and plants and animals *obviously I’m paraphrasing here but bear with me*.

And he created man and woman–his crowning creation.

And that crowning creation had to learn how to keep this planet revolving through communication, hard work, family relationships, and expression. This crowning creation evolved over thousands of years, learning what it takes to survive–and thrive–together.

In those days, days that our parents and possibly even we got to enjoy (when we only had one world) it was hard to confront a neighbor about the dog that keeps peeing in your yard. It was guilt-riddling when you accidentally voiced how someone’s new haircut looks bad, and you had to deal with watching the tears roll down their blushing cheeks. It was sometimes hard to express an opinion different than someone else’s because you were worried that he or she might take it the wrong way–and that was TERRIBLE because you CARED about them. I remember those good ol’ days–and I’m not even THAT old.

But then, God’s crowning creation decided to create their own world. A new world. Cyberspace. Complete with walls, streams of popular music and videos always playing in the background, instant letters that pop up before someone’s eyes within seconds of sending–even without a stamp. In this world we hang a picture of ourselves and invite friends in, even friends we don’t know. We share our photo albums and quickly leaf through others’ as well. We laugh (lol) and we cry ( 😥 ) and all the while we hide.

socialmedia

We hide behind brightly lit computer screens, sometimes thousands of miles away from the person we invite inside our “domain”.

And suddenly, with the creation of that new world which popped up not even that long ago– so many of us have forgotten that the “friends” or “followers” or the voiceless profile pictures that we interact with on a daily basis are people just like us, another one of God’s crowning creations, hidden behind another computer screen.

And with that lapse in memory as we live within our comfortable cyber houses and decorate our cyber walls, so many people become people they never would have been in the world we were supposed to live in–the one with real water and mountains, real expressive faces, and real houses full of real friends.

Cyberbullying, a new term that had to be coined because of the fact that it takes place in a new world, is causing God’s crowning creation to turn against one another with cold-heartedness that comes because we’ve forgotten each other. We’ve forgotten that in this simulated house we’ve built, we have real guests who will at some point leave, and take with them what we’ve said.

Just a couple days ago I heard this story.

A 12-year-old girl–a pretty, smart, sweet girl– jumped off of a building and killed herself. Why? Because the visitors within this cyber world, the ones cowering behind computer screens, told her to. They told her that she’s hated. That she deserves to die. They called her names and continuously jabbed at her–not even giving a second thought before hitting “enter” or “post”. Day after day, even after she shut down various forms of communication, they got through to her. And finally, that cyber world meshed with her real world. And she jumped, just like someone told her to. It took less than ten seconds for someone to type that–someone who probably doesn’t even know her in this real world. Ten seconds stole the life of someone who had been alive for 12 years.

girl

Cyber-bullying is real. It’s not some abstract, horrible story we hear about in the movies. Open your newsfeed. Read comments on a blog. Sift through comments on a news story or pictures in an online album. I promise that within minutes you’ll find a trace of it. You most likely have even been a vicim of it. I know I have. And that’s because not all cyber-bullies would be real-life bullies–some of them are kind, responsible people in the real world.

In real life, those bullies have to look into the eyes of the ones they call names. They have to see someone wince with pain at every insult or shrink back in fear over a threat. They have to hear responses from those they converse with and learn real-life stories told with real pain or real emotion. The emoticons such as this: 😀 or this:  😦 are actually the sounds of someone laughing, someone crying. But in cyber land, they are silent. The only sound we hear is the tapping of our fingers against the keys and our own thoughts–thoughts sometimes riddled with rage or selfishness.

We are still God’s crowing creation. And we still share this beautiful, REAL earth with beautiful, REAL friends and even strangers who come along the way. And whether it be your cyber place, complete with little updates about your day or photos from your last family vacation, or your real home, complete with conversation, manners, and handshakes– be a good host.

facebook

Because your visitors, your friends, and your followers will leave at some point, looking up from cyberspace and into the real world.

And they’ll remember how you made them feel.

I wish the cyber-bullies who hurt that precious 12-year-old would understand that. I wish they’d realize she took those words with her, long after she exited that online realm and took a leap off a very real, dangerous tower.

I wish everyone would realize that sticks and stones sure do break bones, but words–those matter too.

Even in that other world that we ourselves created.

Related articles

http://stopcyberbullying.org/

Armies of angels and marshmallow hearts: The signs of an eternal family

I can never read straight through The Family: A Proclamation to the World without stopping at a certain paragraph.

It’s impossible, actually. My eyes will read and re-read a few lines at the top until I look up from the page, imagining certain faces that come to life when those words are read.

These lines read: “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”

Eternally. It’s a concept that is too large to imagine. It’s a concept that doesn’t conjure up images of galaxies dusted across a black universe or golden gates piercing endless blue skies. Not for me, at least. Instead, I see faces.

The first face I see is usually the face of my uncle. His name is Uncle Tom. And when I see his face, he’s smiling as he usually was, a glimmer of mischief in his eye as he plans his next joke, an easy smile as he props up a baseball cap onto his head to itch the hair underneath–a random memory I have of him from early on. I usually imagine him holding me as he reads to me from my arsenal of books I’d bring over to his house when I was tiny–or I see him holding my left hand as my Aunt holds my right, walking down a forgotten pathway somewhere in the recesses of my memory. I see him wink at me again, just as he did from his bed right before he left us, lifting his hand to hold mine–telling me he’ll watch me from Heaven as I take on the world. He’s eternally there. Unaged. Untouched when I read this from the proclamation.

uncletom

I then see the face of my sister-in-law, Natalie. And usually she’s laughing–one of those big, crazy laughs that have the rest of us busting up within seconds. I see her throwing her mane of curly hair over a shoulder as she shoots pictures with her beloved camera, seeing the world through a different lens. I see her sitting on the dressing room floor of a bridal shop with me, laughing until tears come down our faces, because we had ripped the back of a dress that I was trying on. I see her holding one of her children on each hip, still strong enough to support their little bodies. Still breathing without the support of oxygen. Unaffected by cancer.

Image

Shortly after her, I see the face of my cousin Kenny. A spunky, rebellious guy with a twinkle in his eye and a way of making life into a roller coaster of adventure. I see him scheme with an exaggerated rub of his hands as he cheated his way into winning the game of Clue each time we played. I see him singing terribly to Leeann Rimes. I see him untouched by the hand of a murderer. Safe, smiling, cheeks flushed from his last adventure somewhere.

I see my Great Grandma, also known as Grandma Ducky. And when I see her she’s usually still at the lake she’d take me to, bag of bread in hand, chuckling her raspy chuckle as I’d throw the bread and nervously back up as swarms of ducks flocked to my feet. I see her dancing with me in her arms,  and I smell tobacco and sweet perfume on her sweater. I see her arranging photo albums again, her crooked hands stroking the pages with each passing memory. She isn’t asleep in bed, a heart monitor by her side. She isn’t in a coma anymore, passing quietly beyond the veil. No, she’s awake.

And then, I see my dad. He’s a family member who isn’t gone, but right now he’s bravely fighting cancer–waking up each day with renewed energy and positivity despite his paling skin and dire diagnosis. But I still see him as I read those lines from the proclamation–and he’s not sick. I see him with a full head of hair–thicker than mine sometimes. I see him picking blackberries with me in our backyard and creeping out to our pond to catch frogs with me and dump them into our bathtub, much to my mother’s dismay. I see him from across the altar in a chair next to my mom as I got sealed to my husband, smiling proudly in a bright blue tie.

Image

With these lines of the proclamation I am given the renewed perspective that there is no end. And the love of family is far stronger than the distance created by death. They feel close to me when I read those eternal words and when I remind myself that relationships are perpetuated beyond the grave. It’s as if they never left or are never going to leave.

Elder Holland once said something that underscores the truth of this principle: “In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike…you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection.”

Those words ring true in so many ways. Those who love us always will, even from beyond the veil. I’ve felt them so many times–their encouragement, their concern, their love.

When my sister-in-law passed away it was a day before my birthday. We were at my parent’s house and my mom set in front of me a slice of cake and hot chocolate, trying to bring whatever joy she could into the house. Tears slid down my cheeks, and I grabbed my husband’s hand. In a silent prayer I asked Natalie to just send a sign that she’s ok. I don’t know why I needed it when I so clearly believe in the world to come, but during that kind of pain, I did. Nothing happened right away–no bold voice from the sky or extraordinary vision. But as I reached for my hot chocolate I looked down into the mug and saw it. A heart. A heart perfectly formed from melted marshmallow. To some, it may seem crazy. To tell you the truth, I haven’t told a soul until now. But to me, it was all I needed. OF COURSE Natalie would send me love that way. She was creative, funny–and she knew I’d know it was her.

Image

The sweet truth of eternal families is all around us if we simply choose to take notice and choose to believe.

Sometimes those loved ones will ride to your rescue on unseen chariots of fire.

Sometimes they’ll smile at you in your dreams.

Sometimes they’ll whisper love to you when you read the Proclamation to the Family or bend your knees in prayer.

And sometimes, they’ll simply send you their love with a marshmallow heart.

Image

**This is a blog that I wrote for the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” celebration. I was honored to write for this! Many thanks to Monserrat, the creator of this celebration, for asking me to do this. You can find my post, as well as many others, very soon on her wonderful blog at http://chocolateonmycranium.blogspot.com/.

At the banks of a river: A mission tale

I’m laying here in bed, laptop on my lap, watching the morning light make patterns on my black sheets through the blinds, and I can’t help but write today. My husband left hours before to go fishing–a pattern he’s picked up recently since the salmon run started and I’d dare say he’s addicted to it. *Fishing counseling coming right up* I don’t have a clear memory of him leaving–just a kiss on the forehead as he said he’s “Gone fishin'”. Just like a true fisherman would say 😉

But the fact that he’s out there fishing on a beautiful day like today, standing very still at the water’s edge with his line in the water, hoping for something just as big as the days before, puts this idea on my head that I can’t shake. He’d probably laugh if I told him what it’s reminded me of, but it’s true. He’s always been a fisherman, of sorts, to me.

Let me rewind the clocks a little bit to explain what I’m thinking.

About a year before I met Matt, I had a sudden desire to serve a mission. Yes, I was ambitious and adventurous and I wasn’t really the “I want to go to school and get married” type–though I have no qualms with people who are like that. It just wasn’t in my blood. I wanted to serve a mission purely because I wanted people to have exactly what I was given when I was baptized–a second chance. So I hurriedly did my mission papers, attended mission prep, and daydreamed about what it would be like to wear that tag and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. But that spiritual high turned into something else very quickly. As I began praying about serving a mission (and not just wanting to) I began to receive a different kind of answer. I got this feeling that I indeed had to serve a mission, just not this kind. It wasn’t a right step to take because I felt there was something else I had to do. 

Needless to say, I cried. A lot. I felt like a horrible person for feeling that I didn’t feel right about serving a proselyting mission. I had SO many amazing girlfriends who had served or were currently serving, and I was the biggest advocate for missionary work. So why didn’t I feel right about going? It deeply disturbed me but I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I went to my bishop within a week of struggling over it, and told him I felt I shouldn’t go. And that was that.

But the guilt sometimes still found me–until I found Matt a year later. And he taught me something about missions.

When I told Matt I hadn’t served a mission–he was the only one who’s ever looked at me with a dumbfounded look and said, “Yes you have.” He’s the only one who explained to me that a mission doesn’t have to include a name tag–sometimes God has a different mission in store. But always, no matter what mission it is, it always includes love. And it always includes patience.

When I see Matt fishing, I can’t help but think of his words. How patient he is. How persistent. How now, even years after returning home from Africa after serving for two years, he’s also a fisher of men. He knows his mission isn’t over, and he knows that mine isn’t either. Just like with fishing, you start small. You wait for hours, days, and sometimes years wondering if your testimony will ever make a difference, sometimes feeling downhearted when people you care about turn away and want nothing to do with the things that you hold so dear to your heart. You might see family struggle with uncertainty and trials–you might have a dear friend who loses faith. And it disheartens you when they turn their face. But as I was taught, you start small, just like with fishing. You sit on the banks and wait. And if something gives a tug and then turns to leave, you don’t cast your pole off in frustration and never come again. You just wait. And you keep casting your line.

littlekidsmallfish

How different this world would be if we all realized we’re on a mission. A mission to love–and therefore, a mission to save. Whether we’re the Relief Society President, or someone who enjoys sitting at the back and taking notes to share with her children later. Whether we’re a bishop or someone who just loves to help people out, moving their furniture as they move into the neighborhood, or bringing over soup when someone is sick. Whether we write poetry or stories or paint pictures or teach a Kindergarten class–we’re on a mission.

And with this knowledge, my guilt and the heaviness I had carried for so long has melted away.

I’m a missionary. You’re a missionary. It’s not an entitlement or a title of superiority–it’s an honor. A service.

We start small, a kind word or action at a time, one talent shared at a time, one testimony told at a time–until we realize we’ve helped to change a life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether it started through friendship, comfort, words of advice, or a dish full of casserole.

mattmissionbigfish

Because after all, it’s the man upstairs who does the fishing. We’re just the ones sitting on the banks for him, patiently helping to reel someone in from the swift current of life. Patient, still, and unhurried, eyes lost on deep waters.

Just like a true fisherman.