The truth about ‘changing the world’: And why you fit right in

It’s just one of those days.

One of those days where I open my eyes and it’s not that I just want to write, but I need to. There are days where my fingers just take off and I just pour my guts on to the keyboard and everything just seems to go quiet and hollow for a while. And then there are the days where it’s hard to write down exactly what my heart is thinking and feeling, and my fingers can’t keep up. But days like today–I almost feel like as I type you’re out there somewhere with a letter in your hand, reading my words as they scrawl across the page, so I’m trying to be meticulous about what I say and how I say it. Because it has to be right today.

Yesterday a close friend of mine told a story that I can’t stop thinking about. He was at work when he looked outside the big windows across from him and noticed a man pounding on the window of his car on the passenger side. The man looked around, paranoid that someone might be watching, and my friend looked away and pretended to not pay attention. The man pounded the window again and again, and this time my friend paced across the room, opened the door, and walked toward the man. His eyes were as big as dinner plates. “I just wanted the Pepsi and the change,” the man stammered. My friend looked into the window and sure enough, he had left his Pepsi and some coins in the center console. Without missing a beat my friend opened the door, grabbed the Pepsi and coins, and gave it to the man. When the man asked why he would do that my friend merely answered, “Why not?”

feet

I’m struck by this story, and not for the reason you might think. Of course I’m so grateful to have such Christlike friends who choose to do good every single day. But more importantly, I dwell on the man who saw those few coins and that beverage and wanted it SO BAD. It was everything to him to just have THAT. To my friend, it was something so little and insignificant, something he took for granted as he grabbed it on his way to work. But in that moment, without a moment of hesitation, my friend recognized that this man (although going about it the wrong way) needed it more than him. And who would guess that it wasn’t his car or his stereo equipment or anything jammed in the backseat. It was his soda.

And that’s when it struck me.

We have so much to give that we don’t even realize most of the time–and more importantly, we don’t realize the impact we have on so many when we decide to give it.

girl with kids

Sometimes I photograph clients, or write on my blog or complete little projects and actually convince myself that this is just something small. Something that will pass and fade and something that simply keeps me busy and optimistic. You probably think that too. I’m sure of it. You go through your day and it’s just that–YOUR day. And you just think that these moments belong to you and no, you could never change the world. It’s not that far-reaching.

But I refuse to believe that anymore.

I refuse to believe that in the fabric of eternity you paying for someone’s meal who stands behind you won’t have a ripple effect. I don’t believe that the blankets you crochet only serve to keep new babies warm. And I know without a doubt that what you say to the person struggling at work and that inspirational Facebook status you posted “just because” won’t vanish into thin air. I’m saying this because I know that sometimes it feels like you’ll just disappear someday. Or that in a way you already do or only effect a small group around you.

jesus helping

I’ve learned differently.

This morning, as soon as I opened my eyes I saw my phone blinking. A message from my best friend. She had sent an email with the short little message, “Kayla, if you ever think you’re not changing the world, think again!” The e-mail attachment was a blog that her mom had sent her, a blog that is kept by an inmate named Krissy Hansen who was wrongly put behind bars. I could paraphrase the excerpt of the blog, but I won’t or it wouldn’t be the same or quite as touching as Krissy’s. So here it is.

“My mail today was powerful.  Cards, typed letters, hand written notes, newspaper articles, and pictures.  Most from people I know, but a few from those I don’t.  I have read each of them enough times that if someone read me the first few words from each letter, I would know who it was from.  I have tried to set them all up in my locker, but there’s not room for all of them.  I shared some of the landscape pictures with some of the other girls.  Full color is so needed in here.  Why keep all this good stuff for myself?  I highlighted one of the church articles a friend sent in and gave it to another inmate.  She read it and asked if she could keep it to read again.  My friends on the outs have no idea what a strength they are to those in here.  I am thankful to be able to pass along the goodness.  

I went to Bible Study tonight.  Individual girls talked a lot at the beginning.  And cried a lot.  And felt broken a lot.  A couple of them witnessed to each other their simple testimonies of what they know to be true of trials and how the Savior fits in.  There was a lull in the conversation.  The pastor said, “Keep going, you’re doing great!”  I realized we weren’t going to get to our Bible study of “Your Life in Christ,” but the conversation was much more meaningful and applicable.  There was an awkward silence and then one of the girls said, “All I know is that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”  It was the catch-all phrase that someone always says when someone is having a tough time.  The title of one of the articles I just received in the mail popped into my head.  I had a thought to bring it to Bible study, but I didn’t.  Now I know I should have.  It was titled God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle: I Guarantee It.”  

The other girls all shook their heads and agreed with the comment that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  I silently objected, but didn’t think it was the right time to stand contrary with emotions so raw.  Then I felt that “Be Brave, Be Bold” feeling.  And there was still awkward silence.  
And more awkward silence.  
I felt like the pastor knew there was something waiting to be said and he was patient to let it happen.  Finally I spoke up.  “Actually, I think He does give us more than we can handle.  He doesn’t expect us to handle hard trials all by ourselves.”  I looked around the table, wondering what I was getting myself into – with the full attention of a room full of inmates, going contrary to what they all just agreed with, and a pastor from another church kicked back in his chair that seemed so comfortable with the situation – like he knew this was the way it was all supposed to play out from the beginning of his lesson.  

I shared with them the article I received today.  There’s not a verse of scripture that says He won’t give us more than we can handle.  The verse, I paraphrased, actually says “Those that are heavy laden, come to me.  I will give you rest.”  I explained what a yoke is between 2 cows – to help them share the load together – and how our Savior tells us to take his yoke upon us.  If we do it by ourselves, we will fail.  If we try to be strong and think that we can do this because God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, we will break.  I only know, because I would have broken a long time ago.  Like a single cow trying to pull the whole load by itself, it’s just not meant to happen.  Sometimes maybe He purposely gives us more than we can handle – not because He wants to break us, but because He wants us to turn to Him, to realize, and accept Christ’s help – “Take my yoke upon you,” he tells us.  

I felt like I should take a seat after I spilled my heart on the table for everyone to decide if they agreed, but I was already sitting.  So I waited.  The girl across from me was the first to agree.  Then a few others commented about how that makes a lot more sense.  Shortly after, the pastor thanked me and closed our Bible study with prayer and my heart stopped pounding so loud.  When we got back to the pod, 3 inmates asked to read my article.  It got passed around and ended up in the hands where it belonged all along – with a girl who needed the message the most that it carried.  I could tell she didn’t want to return it to me, so I offered it to her.  She acted like she just received a trip to Disneyland.  (Actually, if she can learn to apply the message, it’s better than a trip to Disneyland!)

I am thankful for the author of the article who was willing to relate her own heartache.  I am thankful for my good friend on the outs who read the article, felt the prompting to send it to me, and then most importantly – acted on it.  She was able to touch a roomful of inmates today that needed to know that Christ is real and He’s there and ready to take this long walk of recovery with them – that it is more than they can handle alone, but that He’s ready to take part of the load.  I am thankful for my own experiences in the past 3 years that relate that I haven’t done this alone.”

I’m not posting this to toot my own horn. Actually, on the contrary. I’m writing this because I believe in the power of change. I believe it takes one voice, one deed, one person, to do good. To change things. It takes you to stop cornering yourself in your little town or your little home or little church group and to remember that you don’t have to travel a great distance or write the greatest American novel or grace the covers of magazines to impact those who will never even meet you. It takes you to give of yourself every single day. You have the power to stretch and knit and change the fabric of the world.

helping elderly

You don’t change the world. But you change people. And little by little, those people change the world.

I cried through that letter the same way I cried over my friend’s story about the Pepsi. What are we to give? And more importantly, what are we to change that we never knew even needed to be changed? An attitude, a heart, a desire, a purpose?

I don’t know if I’m accurately describing my heart right now, but I hope my words are doing their best. I think the perspective of “It’s just little ole me” is what keeps things the same. Because all it takes is little ole you after all.

That is enough to circle the world, even without your name attached to it, a hundred times over through people who were changed directly or indirectly. That is enough within the cells of a state prison or in the villages of Africa or the streets of New York or the banks of a lazy southern river.

You are always enough. I know it sounds cliche, and you’ve probably heard it before. But maybe one more time was all you needed to know it. So I might as well tell you again. It’s not about being known. It’s not about covering the planet with your name. The truth is, changing the world is just a fancy way of saying what it really is–changing people.

And the next time you think that you don’t, well,–I’ll echo my best friend–

Think again.

Advertisements

When the “wings of eagles” aren’t yours: Dealing with mental and physical illness

I write this while flat on my back on the couch.

The World Cup buzzes in the background and I catch myself just staring at it every now and then, almost too weak to type. I’ve been laid up in bed sick for three (maybe four?) days now and it’s close to the sickest I’ve ever been…aside from getting salmonella that one time. *Not fun, by the way.*

It’s been downright depressing. Being held hostage by your body–being completely vulnerable to a stomach that won’t hold anything down, crippling headaches, and a fever that keeps you huddled under a Mt. Everest of blankets is just enough to make the average person’s heart completely weak.

And I’ve wondered–what about the wings of eagles that the scriptures talk about? Aside from my battle with hypothyroidism I’m relatively healthy with little complaints. This illness in particular is temporary. Within a few days probably I’ll be able to continue a normal routine, picking up work right where I left off, writing that book review I’ve had to hold off, and mingling with family and friends who I’ve been quarantined away from this week.

For me, it’s a temporary state of “disability”. But what about the others? The others who write to me about their struggles with mental illness, their battle with autism, their fights with cancer, or Crohn’s disease, or their lives strapped down to wheelchairs or crutches? What about those who have weekly dialysis treatments or have to watch the world go on past them outside hospital windows?

chronic2

It’s been a question that’s been hard to shake. I’ve always heard this scripture repeated:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”

But from a young age it was hard to swallow.

At the age of 7 I watched my mom deal with clinical depression–watching as she heaved into paper bags, wrestled demons, contemplated suicide, and spent nights crying out loud for it to stop. Later in life I watched my Dad–a healthy man with a healthy lifestyle–dwindle away little by little every day by cancer. I’ve watched friends drag heavy chains of manic depression or bipolar disease, whispering over the phone that it NEEDS to stop. And I’ve always wondered why these people–people I love–aren’t granted those wings of eagles. Now as I lie here sick in bed, I repeated these questions to myself.

chronic3

But the truth of it is clear. None of us, upon coming to earth, were promised to be untouched. On the contrary, actually. We were aware that we were coming to a fallen world with sickness, sadness, brains that could malfunction and chemicals that could go out of whack. We knew we signed up for limbs that could fail us, hearts that would stop beating, and eyes that would grow blurry over the years. We willingly said “Yes, Lord” before coming to a world that promised we would need to “wait” upon our strength and trust and hope in the Almighty before every gaining the strength to get through it and eventually get home.

I’ve begun to unravel–bit by bit–why we would do that. The world often preaches that when you have your health you have everything, but this makes more sense to me: “None of us will escape tragedy and suffering. Each of us will probably react differently. However, if we can recall the Lord’s promise, ‘For I the Lord am with you,’ we will be able to face our problems with dignity and courage. We will find the strength to be of good cheer instead of becoming resentful, critical, or defeated.” That was said by a leader in my church, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1986.

blind man

It’s comforting to me that although we don’t have a choice what we face physically–or even mentally–in this life, we do have a choice in who we place our trust in and who we choose to help heal us or hold our hand through the often grueling and painful journey. It’s comforting to me that we don’t ever stand comfortless– and that there is always someone there who has taken it all upon himself, hundreds and thousands of years before we ever took a breath.

Your strength will be renewed within the grand scheme of eternity promised to you.

It might be in this life. It might be in the next. But the promise is clear.

We’ll all mount up with wings as eagles–simply because He is our wings.

And for now, that is enough.

Bald Eagle in mid-air flight over Homer Spit Kenai Peninsula Alaska Winter

“Blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. …For this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come.” (D&C 58:2, 6.)

You’re trying way too hard to get to Heaven

My life—as of late—has done a complete 180.

As I write this there’s a million other to-do’s on my mind, one of which includes the pile of laundry sneering at me from across the room. Oh and I can’t forget the bunny cages. *Sigh* It’s becoming a lot to handle.

A different job. Different schedule. Different faces that I see every day. Different church calling. You name it, and it’s most likely different now. I’m not trying to complain, since we all carry a load, but it’s a good way to preface something that’s been on my mind.

So here I sit–dirty laundry and all.

All my life I’ve worked in journalism, whether it be for the local paper or a news station, so my recent switch to sales and eventually marketing has been a culture shock to say the very least. Especially commission. Good ol’ commission that can make the greatest of people turn into vicious blood-thirsty wolverines. *Not saying that my co-workers are like that, of course.*

When I first began the job after all my training, I couldn’t help but feel anxiety about my commission. How much I get each day depends strictly upon how well I do with a customer and how much they fork over. I dictate grocery money, whether or not my husband can afford his batch of school books, or if my rent gets paid on time. Simply showing up for work doesn’t cut it here. I’ve found myself dwelling on it quite a bit since my first day—and at times I’ve worked myself into a panic. What if I don’t do enough? What if the customer just walks out on me? What if I mess up on a presentation of one of the products and the sale goes south from there? Worries, worries, worries. It never ends.

Image

But then, it happened. As usual, the Lord decided to step in.

The help came in the form of my new manager. As if my manager Mike sensed my tension, he sat down with me just a day or so ago and simply stated that if you come in and just think about commission or how high your stats are, you’ll never find success. Commission takes care of itself when you decide to take care of the people. “Make a friend, make a sale,” he said to me with an easy shrug.

Simple as that.

I stewed on what Mike said all day, turning it over and over in my head until I got home that night.

My husband came to me with a scripture he had in his hand while I made dinner. “The love of many will wax cold”, he read in one verse. “Men’s hearts shall fail them” he read in another. What do you think those verses mean? he asked me.

And that’s when it struck me. Call it a lightning bolt, if you will, or an “Aha” moment. But it was one of those times where everything gelled together, and I was reminded of something I had forgotten.

In every area of my life I’ve been worrying and stressing and focusing inward–and I know I’m not alone in that.

Image

We go through our weeks stressed to the max while trying to earn the most money, have the most crafty and color-coordinated and clean house on the block, trying to get all the ironing and laundry AND dishes done on the same day. Trying to be the one to have the perfect church lessons written out and prepared each sunday. Trying to check off all the to-do’s and then some. Trying to do our visiting teaching each month and attend every activity so we can cross it out on the list.

We’re trying too hard to get to Heaven.

And in turn, our hearts are failing us. Even more so, we’re failing each other.

It’s hard to express how profound this was to me. It was so simple to Mike to toss out the fact that selfless sales are the successful sales. It wasn’t a huge revelation for Matt to read that our hearts are failing us. But for me, the reminders changed everything.

The Savior is a perfect example of it. Not once during Jesus’ ministry on earth did He do anything simply to “check it off” the list. He didn’t heal the blind because it was scheduled for that day. He didn’t tell Peter to give up fishing and follow Him because He assumed it would further his success as a prophet. He didn’t forgive the prostitute because He wanted others to praise Him for His kindness or mercy. He didn’t scream through forty-something lashings to prove his strength to the world.

Image

He did everything because of love. Simple as that.

His concerns were never with where he was going because He knew that would take care of itself. His concern was with us.

 “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, … whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45.)

Image

It’s a reminder I think we all need, whether we’re juggling two jobs or juggling two babies on the hip; whether we’re the head of cub scouts or the head of a company; whether we sit in the same pew every sunday and know all the answers to all the doctrinal questions or struggle to wake up on time. We need to remember that the Lord never called us to be perfect. But He did call us to love.

With recognition of the things that need to change in our lives and the perspectives that need to be adjusted, we can start out on the road to recovery from selfishness.

I hope to be more like that–in every area of my life, really. I strive to be more like Mike, who shrugs at the worry of commission and worries more about the guest who is struggling with a payment plan. I strive to be more like my Dad, who always taught me to “listen more” to others and talk less. I strive to be more like the Savior, who never thought a second about his own entry into Heaven, simply because he wanted to lead us to the gates first. I strive to be more like the sparrow, who depends on the rain and the seeds and the air under its small wings so fully that it doesn’t even give it a second thought that it might not be there tomorrow.

Image

Only then–when we stop worrying about conquering the world–will we find peace. Only then–when our hearts turn outward–will we revive our failing, worried, stressed, self-centered, aching hearts.

It’s time to stop trying so hard that we grow cold to what matters.

 

I don’t know about you, but I want to live the kind of life so that when I do finally show up to those pearly gates– I won’t be standing there alone.

 

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

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

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

At least it seems like it.

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

Image

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

Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image

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

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

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

Image

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

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

Image

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

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

Click here to donate to Logann and her sweet family.

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

happy girl

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?

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. 

God will give you more than you can handle: I guarantee it.

There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike.

All my life, I’ve heard this phrase whenever I go through a rough patch. *And by rough patch, I mean a prickly, gnarly patch that leaves me bleeding to near death*. You’re probably familiar with those kinds of “patches”.

“God will never give you more than you can handle” is the phrase I’m referring to.

more than to bear

And it’s a sweet sentiment, really. The people who say it are speaking from caring and concerned hearts.

BUT–it isn’t true.

I know that sounds harsh, but I promise I haven’t suddenly lost my mind or have become an angry-with-God bitter woman who hates the world. Actually, when I realized the simple fact that God can–and will–give us more than we can possibly bear, it got easier.

And it all started to make more sense.

I’ve often trudged through trials that overwhelm me. Ever since my childhood there have been trials that have made me “grow up” pretty fast. But granted, I know for a fact you’ve had your own fair share too, because that’s the reality of life. But this last trial is the one that shook me to my core and had me searching like a mad woman for answers as to why it was happening–and how I could possibly even survive it.

DSC_3283

I lost my Dad to cancer last month–if you’re a follower of mine, this is old news. But–it was absolutely horrific.

Every day leading up to his death was like walking through every level of hell–slowly– for lack of a better term. There’s no other way to describe it. The images…the sounds…the sleepless nights…the cries for God while we look on, helpless…the torment of rubbing morphine in his cheeks, praying it’ll absorb–but to no avail. The horrible, wrenching pain that came with lifting him up, laying him back down, lifting him up, laying him back down…because he became so restless and cried out for “home” every few minutes. And all along, in the back of my mind, I reminded myself that millions of people go through this, and have already gone through this, very thing. And it is simply unbearable. If you disagree–it’s because you haven’t been there.

SONY DSC

This trial was so consuming that I hate to even put it in the past tense–sometimes it still consumes me. Yesterday, at my Dad’s memorial service, it consumed me all over again.

I’ve suffered from nightmares where I relived the memory over and over mercilessly–I sometimes see his face on strangers that pass and worry that I’m going crazy. I cry over sad songs in the car and torture myself with stacks of pictures and yellowed photo albums. It’s beyond just missing him. And even with a firm testimony of the gospel and with peace that he is exactly where the Lord prepared him for, it is still too much for me to handle at times. It steals my breath–and it can steal my joy.

crying2

So, the other day, I turned to the scriptures. I needed help.

I wanted to know where that phrase was that people kept repeating to me in church and at work and over the phone. Why did the Lord “trust me so much”?! Why did He think I could handle these kinds of trials?

And then I realized: I couldn’t find that quote because it isn’t there.

It never mentions anywhere in the scriptures that the Lord won’t give you more than you can handle. Yes, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 it speaks of Him giving us an escape from temptations so that it’s not too much to bear. But when it comes to pain, trials, heartache, and burdens– not once does it say it won’t be more than we can bear. Instead, it beautifully says this instead:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 28-30)

carrying man

The words struck my heart, as you can imagine. Christ is speaking to those of us who are carrying burdens much too heavy for our own shoulders. And in that one verse he simply states the reason why we are given more than we can handle: It’s so we can come to him. It’s so we can trust him enough to hand over our heavy, crippling burdens and let him carry the load.

You might be heavy laden right now like I was before reading and re-reading and re-reading once again this scripture that has never stuck out to me as much as it has lately.

trsut

You might be shrunken with sadness or drowning in debt. You might be overwhelmingly angry at someone at church or aching under the pressures of raising children or maybe the inability to have them. You might be dealing with a terminal disease and you still have young children. And chances are–you might need your Redeemer to find you on the path and take up that heavy cross you’re dragging. Besides, even he tells us that he’s more equipped to carry it, so why not hand it over?

I’ve come to learn–slowly but surely–why I need Him.

I suppose it’s because of pride that I always thought I could just do things on my own. I’m strong, I’d say. I’m a tough cookie. I can help others through their tribulations while carrying mine all by myself. Well…wasn’t I wrong.

at jesus feet

I didn’t really know what needing him meant until I had no other choice. I didn’t know what it meant until I wrapped my arms around my middle so I wouldn’t fall apart–or the time I choked on tears and yelled toward Heaven. Or the times when I was utterly alone, and the silence was too much to bear. Those are the times that taught me he’s not just a want or a convenient symbol of love or a reason to do good deeds.

No, he’s the very air we breathe.

And he’s the only one who can make it bearable when life is simply anything but.